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DPM: Fiscal Responsibility Bill will be tabled before HOA’s summer recess

The Fiscal Responsibility Bill will be tabled before the House of Assembly breaks for its summer recess, Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest confirmed yesterday.

Turnquest, who was speaking at the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation’s (BCCEC) power breakfast yesterday, said the government wants the bill passed because it wants increased participation and supervision from the public and private sectors.

“We do value your input and engagement and we want to be responsive,” he said.

On Tuesday the Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) called on government to move with haste to pass the bill. ORG said in a press release that the government must treat the bill the same way it treated the implementation of the 4.5 percent increase in value-added tax (VAT) and move the highly-touted bill through Parliament as quickly as possible.

“The implementation of the Fiscal Responsibility Bill should be treated with at least the same level of urgency as the short-notice imposition of the VAT increase,” said ORG.

The government released its Fiscal Responsibility Bill in mid-May, which sets policy that will seek 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. When implemented, the bill will require government to reduce its debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio to 50 percent of GDP over time.

Besides lowering the debt to GDP level, the law will also require the government to lower the fiscal deficit of 5.8 percent of GDP to no more than 0.5 percent within three years.

Government will also be required to keep its comparative year-on-year current expenditure at or below three percent.

Though the consultation period is finished, Turnquest implored the private sector to read the entire Fiscal Responsibility Bill. He said the government has taken into account suggestions made by the private sector and assured BCCEC power breakfast attendants that there is a provision for a fiscal council and public accounts committee to recommend to the director of public prosecutions criminal action if any rule in the bill is broken.

“There is teeth in that legislation,” he said. “It is a matter of going through the process. We don’t want to end up with frivolous action.”

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