Opposition leader Philip Brave Davis bolstered his position on the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) in a statement yesterday, explaining that the document is merely “window dressing to appease the international agencies” and contending that the act can be “dispensed with” at the whim of the government.
Davis, who was responding to criticisms by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest on his position on the FRA, called the act “toothless”, “meaningless” and possibly unconstitutional.
“The act is but a codification of best practices and toothless as it permits for its provisions to be dispensed with due to the exigencies of government,” Davis said in his statement.
“Its measures can be dispensed with at the stroke of a pen and so are largely meaningless. The act is nothing but window dressing to appease the international agencies, which will also allow the FNM to pat itself on the back.
“However, we indicated in the original press release that the PLP always follows what is lawful and constitutional. We have our doubts about the constitutionality of the act because it seeks to fetter the power of Parliament.”
The FRA sets policy that will seek to constrain the government’s fiscal processes and keep the country on a medium-term trajectory toward economic growth, while creating a culture of transparency and responsibility with regard to public funds. When implemented, the bill will require the government to reduce its debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio to 50 percent of GDP over time.
It does, however, allow for the government to spend beyond its budget during times of crisis, though those scenarios, like others, will have to be put before Parliament and an independent five-member Fiscal Responsibility Council.
Davis contended in his statement that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has always been a fiscally responsible body and suggested that the government’s FRA has yet to pay dividends.
“There is a big difference between fiscal responsibility and the Fiscal Responsibility Act,” Davis said.
“The PLP is fiscally responsible. The question of the act is another matter. We believe in being fiscally responsible in and out of government…we have been so.”