Tuesday, Aug 21, 2018
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Aubry: Fiscal Responsibility Bill a step in right direction

Matt Aubry.

The Fiscal Responsibility Bill, 2018 will be a major step forward for The Bahamas, in terms of its ability to manage finances and govern transparently, if it is done right, Executive Director of the Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) Matt Aubry said yesterday.

Aubry’s group, along with other civic society and professional organizations, have been charged by the Ministry of Finance to gather feedback from their memberships as a part of the public consultation process for the bill.

Aubry said while it’s important to understand the possibilities and the limits of a bill like this, it is equally important to recognize that it’s not a silver bullet.

“It’s not going to solve all of your problems. What it can ultimately be is a good guide and access to a transparent process that can bring the sectors together to understand this [is] our objective and this is how we’re going to work at it,” Aubry said in an interview with Guardian Business Tuesday.

“On the continuum of The Bahamas’ move toward transparency, it’s very timely; and even in its current form, [though] I think there are some changes to be made, it is a major step forward on the right pathway.”

One aspect of the bill that Aubry said is the most progressive is the creation of a council that would be charged with conducting periodic assessments of the government’s finances and making those finances public.

The Bahamas Bar Association, the University of The Bahamas, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, the Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants and the Certified Financial Analyst Society of The Bahamas will nominate respective professionals to co-chair the council.

“What I think is important is that they are selecting their chair from their membership, so it is up to that group to determine. It is avoiding what you would see in other types of legislation, where the chair is ultimately appointed, so there are always ways you can make it more independent, but that is a critical point,” he said.

“The other thing that I do like is that, when this council makes its recommendation, as soon as they present it to Parliament they are also presenting it to the public the very same day. So the bill doesn’t have the kind of teeth that one would expect, but the presentation and the direct pathway from the council to the public is an important one.”

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