Claims that government’s fiscal strategy is being dictated by international regulators like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are a “complete and utter falsehood”, Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest charged yesterday.
In fact, Turnquest chided Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper, who is also the opposition shadow minister of finance, telling him to “do the right thing and apologize for telling fibs”.
Following the presentation of the government’s mid-year budget statement in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, Cooper said the Minnis administration appears to “remain committed to its disastrous policies of hitting an IMF-dictated deficit target”, and “is managing for the IMF and [credit] ratings, and not for the Bahamian people”.
“It is a complete and utter falsehood,” Turnquest said in a statement.
“Neither the IMF, nor any other
international body has ever dictated to or directed this government on any fiscal matter. The fiscal targets and related policies that we have established have been decided upon by the government alone, with no demands placed on the government by any external party – domestic or international.
“We have established a medium-term fiscal strategy, and presented it to the Bahamian people – something that is unprecedented in The Bahamas. We have explained why this policy and related strategies are good for the medium and long-term social and economic viability of The Bahamas.”
Turnquest revealed in his mid-year budget communication that the government will miss its revenue projections for the 2018/19 fiscal year by $185 million. This while expenditure outcomes for the first half of the fiscal year showed a $50.9 million or 4.5 percent increase.
Despite improving the country’s economic outlook last week from negative to positive – with a Baa3 rating – international credit ratings agency Moody’s has suggested government exercise spending restraint for the remainder of the fiscal year in order to meet deficit targets.
Turnquest called Cooper’s perspective on the Minnis administration’s fiscal strategy a futile attempt to distract the Bahamian public from the Christie administration’s “disastrous legacy”.
“We understand that Mr. Cooper and Mr. Davis want people to forget that their side was the author of four consecutive downgrades. We know they do not want people to remember that they ran up the largest accumulated deficits in any single term, despite benefitting from $1 billion in new VAT revenue,” he said.
“But their desperate and futile attempts to distract from their disastrous legacy do not give them license to speak untruths. We call on Mr. Cooper to do the right thing and apologize for telling fibs. We are not optimistic, however, that he will do so.”
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