Cooper decries lack of economic plan six months into COVID-19 crisis

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper yesterday opined that nearly six months into the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is disgraceful that there is no plan to mitigate the economic fallout and that there is no plan for the future to create jobs or grow the economy.

Cooper, who is also the Opposition’s shadow minister of finance, dismissed the Ministry of Finance’s just released fiscal performance report for the fourth quarter of FY2019/2020 as “yet another colorful fiscal snapshot report” that is “of little use to the Bahamian people at this point”.

“Given the severity of the crisis, the information in this report is dated. We are nonetheless examining the numbers closely and will have more to say in due course,” he said in a statement yesterday.

“The government’s disastrous mismanagement of the crisis has wreaked havoc on the economy, making it worse than it had to be as businesses have been unable to plan and pivot as quickly as the rules change.”

The Fourth Quarter Fiscal Snapshot and Report for FY2019/2020, released on Sunday, shows the national deficit increased by 259 percent over the previous year, landing at $788.1 million, and total revenue was down by $337.1 million.

Although Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest insisted last week that the integrity of the Public Treasury remains intact, Cooper renewed his call for an examination of the state of the Treasury and for a more detailed review of current government finances.

“What we would like to see are the reports of monthly revenue collected and deposits, as well as the balance on the Consolidated Fund and any overdraft facilities. It is proposed that we examine the actuals compared to projections as well as comparisons to the prior year by month,” he said.

“We request the Ministry of Finance provide a copy of the most recent report of the Fiscal Responsibility Council, as it would have sight of internal Ministry of Finance reports in preparing its analysis. We remind that this is now legally mandated under the much-touted Fiscal Responsibility Act.”

Also revealed in the recent Fourth Quarter Fiscal Snapshot is that the government has borrowed $1.095 billion in Bahamian dollars and $445.7 million in foreign currency and remains $8.241 billion in debt.

Cooper asked for more transparency on the government’s loan agreements.

“We wish to examine all loan documents signed this year, including the Central Bank’s debt sustainability analysis, given its new legislation which limits its ability to lend to the government.

“We also would like a review of all facilities with multilateral lenders such as the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank), the CDB (Caribbean Development Bank) and the World Bank,” he said.

“We further renew our call for a review of the loan agreements and attached conditions of all loans including those executed with the IMF (International Monetary Fund).”

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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