NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Progressive Liberal Party yesterday rejected the government’s 2020/2021 budget communication, labeling it the “worst in living memory”.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K Peter Turnquest gave a sobering outlook on the Bahamian economy as he warned the government’s fiscal plan will come at “a necessary but unprecedented cost”.
Delivering the budget communication, Turnquest revealed that the country’s fiscal deficit – budgeted at some $1.3 billion – represents the largest deficit to be incurred by any government in the history of The Bahamas.
He outlined a range of tax and duty reductions in key areas hoped to incentivize economic activity and ease the burden on Bahamians in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian and amid ongoing COVID-19 closures.
But during a press conference in front of the Senate following the morning sitting of Parliament, PLP Deputy Leader Chester Cooper called Turnquest’s budget communication “uninspiring, unimaginative, unimpressive and, quite frankly, unbelievable”.
“The precarious financial situation we find ourselves in today has less to do with Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19; however, it represents the cumulative impact of a series of bad fiscal decisions over the past three previous budget cycles,” he said.
“Had this administration not exacted such misery on the Bahamian people under the guise of fiscal responsibility, and instead focused on job creation and economic growth, we would be better prepared to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath.”
Cooper was flanked by other members of the PLP’s Parliamentary caucus including PLP Leader Phillip Brave Davis, Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin, and Senators Clay Sweeting, JoBeth Coleby Davis and Dr. Michael Darville.
The party slammed the government’s intention to borrow some $1.334 billion in order to defray expenditure in the 2020/2021 estimates of revenue and expenditure, in excess of revenue.
“In less than three years they borrowed more than $3 billion gross and close to $1.5 billion net with nothing to show,” Cooper said.
“Bahamians are still asking what in the world they did with all that money.
“…The borrowing this administration has undertaken has been of no material use to this country thus far.
“The lack of financial flexibility brought about by this administration’s failed revenue and expenditure strategy is why we see such floundering in response to Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19.”
The Exumas and Ragged Island MP warned that The Bahamas now finds its “in embrace of the IMF (International Monetary Fund)”.
“We are hat in hand having to accept its no strings attached offer and this is usually where it begins,” he said.
“We fear The Bahamas will have to enter into a structured lending program which will happen before this administration is voted out of office in 2022.
“So when you hear IMF from now on, remember IMF stands for – “It’s Minnis’ Fault”.
Cooper acknowledged that while the government will put its focus on allocating more funds to Social Services, the increases are not robust enough.
“Overall, this is a budget about threading water and not about moving our country forward,” he said.
“If this administration is going to add another $1.3 billion to the national debt we all should have much more to show the Bahamian people.”