Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis yesterday urged the government to establish an economic advisory council to examine the state of The Bahamas’ fiscal and economic affairs.
His comments come less than a week after Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest revealed that the government would have to borrow more than $500 million to deal with the effects of Hurricane Dorian.
During a press conference at PLP Headquarters at Gambier House, Davis said, “I, therefore, recommend the establishment of a non-partisan economic advisory council comprised of the following: the government, the official opposition, the business community, organized labor, the church, and civil society.”
He continued, “This economic advisory council would be mandated to take a critical look at the fiscal and economic state of this country and agree on a social contract designed to provide binding guidelines for expenditure, revenue, wage, and pension reform policies over the next five years.”
Davis noted that The Bahamas is in a “perilous time,” noting that the government has proven to be “incapable of managing” the economic and fiscal affairs of the country.
“It would be incredibly selfish and unpatriotic of me and my political colleagues to watch and do nothing as this administration, through sheer incompetence, drives this country over a fiscal cliff,” he said.
Last week, Turnquest tabled the 2019 Fiscal Strategy Report, which revealed that the 2019/2020 deficit is expected to be $677.5 million, or roughly 5.3 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Prior to Dorian, the government intended to meet a deficit goal of 0.5 percent of GDP by 2020/2021.
However, Turnquest now says that won’t happen until fiscal year 2024/2025.
Yesterday, Davis said, “Our internal analysis places revenue collection at 12 to 15 percent or roughly $400 million below the budget amount since tax exemptions would negate expected tax revenue from the increased economic activities from the rebuilding efforts in Abaco and Grand Bahama.”
He added, “This administration is now at a [crossroads]. It can no longer pretend that it has a handle on this self-created crisis. The inability to collect revenue has severely impacted the ability of the government to respond adequately to Hurricane Dorian.”