The government’s revelation that it expects revenue performance to fall short by $185 million this fiscal year was an admission of failure, Shadow Minister of Finance Chester Cooper claimed yesterday.
Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest revealed the expected shortfall in his mid-year budget statement in the House of Assembly.
In response, Cooper said, “This statement today was an admission of failure by this government, which appears to remain committed to its disastrous policies of hitting an IMF dictated deficit target without regard to human cost.
“It appears this administration is managing for the IMF and [credit] ratings, and not for the Bahamian people.”
Cooper described Turnquest’s contribution as “a collection of useless words and delusional predictions”.
He said, “The real story of this budget exercise is one of significant revenue shortfall, a knee-jerk, ad hoc reaction to further curb spending on our already crumbling infrastructure and public services to meet its arbitrary deficit targets.”
Cooper added, “This mid-year statement, like the budget itself, is an example of a government operating with head and no heart.
“The potential projected GDP growth, while good news, and while it has little or nothing to do with this administration, we state that it matters not if the Bahamian people cannot feel the growth in their lives and in their pockets.”
He said, “We look forward to further analysis of the appropriations to see exactly where [Prime Minister Dr. Hubert] Minnis and the FNM will inflict further pain on the Bahamian people in a vain effort to pretty the books and protect their fragile egos.”
The opposition also criticized the government’s “stifling” of a debate on the mid-year budget statement.
“We point out some apparent effort by this government to stifle debate, which is not customary in these matters, and we fully expect that the opposition, all of us, will have our opportunity to say more on this mid-year budget communication during the debate,” Cooper said.
When St. Anne’s MP Brent Symonette moved for the House to be suspended, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis rose to his feet and questioned when the mid-year budget statement will be debated.
In response, Turnquest said that as no resolution was tabled, there was no requirement for a debate on the matter.
Davis said at a press conference afterwards, “That is a fallacy. You don’t need a resolution.
“In fact, I am concerned that we see no resolutions in respect to borrowings, because the government’s own documents and statements suggest that there have in fact been borrowings over the last six months, and no resolution from Parliament has authorized such borrowings.”
Davis said this has never happened before and that there is a legal obligation to have a debate on the matter.
“Under the Financial Administration and Audit Act, the mid-year budget requires the [government to] report to Parliament on any changes to the current budget,” he said.
“It requires them to seek an amendment to any of the appropriations that we may have approved, and we know for a fact that there are a number of expenditures and revenue projections that would have impacted the annual budget, for example, the acquisition of the Grand Lucayan hotel for $65 million.”