Taking pains to explain that the Fiscal Strategy Report is not an economic policy document which lays out the government’s specific economic plan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday during debate on that report that the ultimate fiscal vision of the government is to have a budgetary surplus “with more than enough to freely invest in all of its people, across each and every island”.
The report, tabled by the government late last year, was approved by the House of Assembly yesterday.
“We are not close to a surplus as yet, but the steady march forward will continue and must continue,” Turnquest said.
“If you eat right in the first place you don’t have to worry about going on an insufferable diet.
“If you get your annual checkups and stay on top of your health you don’t have to worry about crippling medical bills, getting sick from something preventable. The lesson here is to put first things first, and our strategy is to do just that. We are going to restore order to public finances and strength to the Bahamian people.”
The minister once again took the former Christie administration to task for its lack of proper budgeting and “reckless” spending.
“The Bahamian people are tired of the mismanagement. They are tired of having to wait for their basic needs to be met. They are tired of having to put their dreams on hold because the government cannot get it together. We recognized this on day one and decided to look in the mirror and say, ‘let’s put the government in check’,” Turnquest said.
“The Bahamian people deserve to know what abundance looks like, what prosperity feels like. Now imagine a government committed to delivering a surplus, which means not having just enough, but having more than enough to invest in the basic needs of the people, and their hopes and dreams.”
Turnquest noted that the Fiscal Strategy Report shows that, “in 2017/18, the economy performed in line with the forecast presented at the time of that year’s budget”.
“However, it also reveals that fiscal performance in 2017/18 was somewhat weaker than budgeted, with the government finance statistics (GFS) deficit posting a slippage to a level of $415 million relative to the forecast of $320 million.
“The deficit equated to an estimated 3.3 percent of GDP (gross domestic product), compared to the forecasted 2.6 percent. That, however, is still a sharp improvement from the $661 million budgetary shortfall in 2016/17, which represented 5.5 percent of GDP. We will review these details again in the context of the mid-year budget review.”
Turnquest also said the Fiscal Responsibility Council is to be established in July of this year, in time to review and assess the 2019/2020 budget.