Tuesday, Aug 21, 2018
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Cooper: More bureaucracy with Fiscal Responsibility Bill

Cooper: What’s the point if govt can simply waive its responsibility to adhere to it?
Chester Cooper.

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader and Shadow Minister of Finance Chester Cooper yesterday said time would be better spent by the Minnis administration if it focused on getting the economy going with fresh foreign and local investment, rather than creating more bureaucracy and hoops for the Bahamian people and the public service to jump through with the draft Fiscal Responsibility Bill, 2018.

The purpose of the bill, which the government made public on Monday and which is currently under public consultation, is to constrain government’s fiscal processes and keep the country on a medium-term trajectory toward economic growth, while creating a culture of transparency and responsibility with regard to public funds.

With no real repercussions for government if it does not adhere to the stipulations in the bill, Cooper also questioned “what the point of the legislation is, if the government can simply waive its responsibility to adhere to it”.

“In addition, whose bright idea was it to only have two weeks for consultation from the public on such broad government commitments to fiscal goals that will surely impact the nation?” Cooper asked in a statement released on Tuesday.

On the same day government made the bill public, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which, along with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), provided guidance on the framework for the bill, released its recommendation to The Bahamas on the implementation of fiscal responsibility legislation.

Though supportive of a sensible, comprehensive approach to fiscal responsibility, Cooper warned government “of handing off to the Bahamian people legislation dictated to it by large global financial institutions”.

“The goals are admirable, but the drastic situation the Minnis administration has painted with regard to government debt has been proven nonsensical, given recent upward GDP revisions by the Department of Statistics,” Cooper said.

“Therefore, a more measured plan to actually grow the economy, instead of slashing what will surely be critical areas of government spending, would be much more effective in shrinking the debt-to-GDP ratio.”

Calling the Minnis administration “drastically incompetent”, Cooper said the current administration should feel exceptionally unaccomplished in failing to forward any economic policy within the past year that has benefitted the economy.

“The IMF has clearly stated once again that Baha Mar is responsible for growth in the economy and adding 4,000 jobs to the workforce in one year,” he said.

“Baha Mar, the smashing success that it is, cannot do it all alone. This government must, at some point, do its job.”

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