Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis yesterday accused Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest and the Minnis administration of “driving the country over a fiscal cliff”.
Davis charged that the government’s supplementary budget shows that Turnquest is “not up to the task”.
When he started debate on the government’s midyear budget last month, Turnquest said a combination of lost revenue from Abaco and Grand Bahama in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, along with associated spending and unbudgeted items not related to the storm, is projected to push the country’s fiscal deficit for 2019/2020 to a record $677.5 million.
He said the government is projected to borrow an additional $587.9 million to cover the revenue shortfall and expenditure increase.
But Davis accused the government of poor budgeting and budget mismanagement.
“The minister is failing to navigate the Bahamian economy through this perilous period. Action must be taken before it is too late,” Davis said during his contribution to the midyear budget debate.
“This minister and this government are driving the country over a fiscal cliff.
“That is fact, not opinion, and it is borne out in the data. This fact directly contradicts the myth they have spent years trying to create: that of a government with firm control over the bottom line.
“Now that the facts tell a different story – a story of a government plainly not up to the challenge of managing this nation’s finances – they seek to blame previous governments and the impact of the hurricane. But it is the mistakes of this government that have led to the precarious state of this nation’s finances.
“After all, it is this minister who imposed a massive 60 percent rate increase to VAT to implement a policy of domestic zero rating that was universally acknowledged as flawed and misguided. This policy has made the VAT regime less efficient and is driving this economy into a recession.”
Davis said those who believe that the issues he raised are not a call to action are “in a state of denial”.
“The minister and this government can’t do it by itself, there is an urgent need for a truly bipartisan approach in designing and implementing a strategy to steer this country away from certain disaster,” he said.
“All right-thinking Bahamians should see this supplementary budget for what it is: a last gasp effort to continue the failed fiscal policies of this administration.
“Bahamians seeing this should join the PLP (Progressive Liberal Party) in advocating for this change in approach and the creation of a bipartisan Economic Advisory Council to develop binding policies to guide this and future government inclusive of any PLP led government on tax, wage, investment and expenditure policies for the next five years.”