Thursday, Jul 18, 2019
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Johnson acknowledges need to avoid making political comments

Reflecting on recent statements he made on social media that were characterized by some as inappropriate for a senior public servant, Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson suggested he would not make the same remarks in the future.

“Social media is a sort of give and take,” said Johnson in a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian.

“I was having a conversation with a friend of mine and in hindsight I ought to have addressed the matter differently, given my role, and I appreciate that. And so, it is something I am mindful of as I move forward.”

Following the government’s announcement of the increase in value-added tax (VAT) from 7.5 percent to 12 percent, which took effect yesterday, Johnson made the rounds in the media.

He has also sought to make the case for the increase on social media.

In one post, a Facebook user suggested the Free National Movement won the election based on “misinformation”, noting that Johnson was doing “damage control” after the VAT hike announcement.

Johnson responded, “Misinformation? It has nothing to do with the actual performance of the previous administration? The four downgrades? The massive run up of debt after VAT? The inability to get Baha Mar open? The persistent scandals? In your view it was misinformation that caused the defeat of the former administration? Interesting.”

Former Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis cautioned Johnson to “leave the political talk to the politicians”.

He said he has never seen such a senior civil servant make political statements.

The VAT increase has been a highly controversial issue since it was announced on May 30.

Johnson acknowledged that it is not his role to get into arguments on matters of policy and “prop up personal policy or engage in politics”, but he will continue to engage people on social media.

“People may query, [but] if I have had 400 exchanges, and they found one questionable, that doesn’t seem to me to be a problem,” he said.

“I certainly have to be circumspect and recognize that, yes, I have to be very, very careful and judicious in what I say, but I certainly intend to continue to engage people on matters within my remit.”

Asked whether the government gave him the green light to go on the attack, Johnson said he has received no such instructions from anyone.

“We live in an open democracy so people have a right to express their view and opinion on any matter,” Johnson said.

“Part of the role of the permanent secretaries [and] the financial secretary has always been to speak on matters of fact, matters of budgetary explanations.

“…I was able to go and find, right online, on YouTube, examples of the former financial secretaries giving speeches explaining government policy.

“My role is not to defend the government’s policy or to give views on any particular policy, but it is just to, as part of the explanation, as I’m doing now, to explain matters of fact, and illuminate on existing government policy.

“That hasn’t been different, in my view, from what the former financial secretaries would have done – going to speaking engagements, going on television to speak to that.”

 

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