Aubry: This is prime time for Bahamas to look at economic diversification, digitization and expenditure
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As the country continues to battle the challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic, a governor reformer said yesterday that this nation must craft policies for a resilient future.
Matt Aubry, the Organization for Responsible Governance’s (ORG) executive director, told Eyewitness News that while the government has allocated millions to help impacted Bahamians with unemployment and food assistance amid the pandemic, this nation must move to seriously address issues such as food security rather than simply providing food.
The Ministry of Finance recently revealed that the country’s fiscal deficit in the nine months ending March of this year ballooned nearly 250 percent compared to the same period of the prior fiscal year, widening from $251.3 million to a massive $878.2 million.
“In line with the fiscal strategy, government expenditure increased overall by $99.5 million compared to last year, driven substantially by additional outlays for social assistance benefits ($145 million), finance charges ($43.5 million), public debt interest ($21.8 million) and subsidies ($19.2 million),” the report noted.
Aubry said: “The fiscal responsibility legislation obviously speaks to being able to adapt to various issues that arise but who would have guessed that we would have faced dual disasters at the level that we have?
“There is a huge challenge of having to undertake such significant borrowing as a huge part of what we are going to repay will be interest. That’s a very important thing to consider.”
He added: “The expenditure on social assistance and food distribution is similar to what is happening in other places around the world. I think that as we develop our policy, we need to continue to look towards the future. We need to look at how we are working towards food security rather than just providing food and how are we helping people to be more resilient.
“This is prime time for us to be looking at economic diversification and how we allocate expenditure. It’s not about just putting a Band-Aid on a cut but building a body back better.
“We need to look at how we ensure greater efficiencies, focus on digitization and ensure that we are getting the biggest bang for buck from the civil service.”