Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper lambasted the government’s “uninspiring, unimaginative” budget communication, asserting that he doesn’t “believe the numbers” put forth by the minister of finance.
Last week, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said despite raising the rate of value-added tax (VAT) by 60 percent last year, the government will fall nearly $240 million short of its projected revenue target for this fiscal year.
However, Cooper shot that down during a PLP town meeting on Monday night.
“I don’t believe the numbers and I don’t believe the spin,” Cooper said.
“Spin, spin, spin. That’s what they master. They said that the VAT increase would have yielded hundreds of millions more than it actually did. Then they want to tell you that it’s not important if they don’t collect that money, that only the deficit matters.”
Cooper said the government was “too incompetent” to collect taxes during the 2018/2019 fiscal year.
He also called the 2019/2020 budget a “tragedy not comedy”.
“Listen, this budget is not for the Bahamian people,” Cooper said.
“This budget is carved out to not touch the special interest but to keep the pressure on the average man and woman.
“There is nothing in this budget that will improve the quality of your lives or grow this economy, or provide a pathway to add more jobs to the economy.”
He added, “A budget is supposed to set the agenda, inspire confidence and engender hope but this is uninspiring, unimaginative and devoid of hope.”
Despite the revenue forecast shortfall, projected revenue increased by $373 million in the 2018/2019 fiscal year, led by an increase in VAT collected, according to Turnquest.
Although he said the economy performed positively overall, the finance minister acknowledged that government revenue did not increase at the expected pace.
Yesterday, PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis said the 2019/2020 budget has “sealed the fate of this FNM (Free National Movement) administration as the most dishonest in the history of an independent Bahamas”.
Davis called Turnquest “the worst minister of finance in our history”.
“This 15 percent revenue shortfall, without any external shock to the Bahamian economy, is catastrophic and speaks to the high degree of incompetence of the minister of finance,” he said.