Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis’ suggestion that the government is considering a proposal that will “force cuts” in all government ministries, including the salaries of public servants, is “irresponsible”, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest.
On Wednesday, Davis said the government “must not allow the country to slip into a depression nor should the government appear to be making things up as they go”.
“I have learned today that the government is proposing matters which in fact might severely reduce domestic spending and demand,” Davis said in a statement.
“There is a proposal to force cuts in all ministries including possibly the salaries of public servants.”
However, yesterday, Turnquest told The Nassau Guardian, “The government of The Bahamas has made no such decision. It is unfortunate that Mr. Davis would speculate knowing full well the angst and anxiety he could cause in the public sector. We are under enough stress as a result of this virus and what that means to businesses and families.”
He added, “For him to add with this kind of speculation to the public domain is just irresponsible. We expect better. His party puts out a statement that they want to help and they don’t want to play politics and that this isn’t the time for politics. It’s time for him as a leader to live up to that. We need leadership now. It’s not the time for politics. The stakes are too high.”
In Davis’ statement, he said The Bahamas needs to ensure that “we do not make the problem of fighting the virus worse” by shutting down the economy to the point that “financial ruin, hunger and depression are the results”.
He said those results must be avoided “at all costs”.
Davis asked the government “to use the best tools of both fiscal and monetary policies to deal with this matter”.
“The Progressive Liberal Party has — from the start of this special period of the fight against COVID-19 — argued that we need to have balance in our policies,” Davis said.
“We have said that we are at war with the virus, not with our people. We have argued that the government needs to ensure that there is cash in the pockets of our citizens and for our businesses, not less.
“In fact, there is something that the Central Bank might do today which would give the government some headroom for the next three or so months without having to borrow any new money.”
Turnquest told The Guardian, “If he has a suggestion for the Central Bank, then he, I’m sure, knows how to get in touch with the governor and he can do that.”
The minister said the Ministry of Finance will also be willing to listen to any recommendations Davis has.
He shot down the idea that The Bahamas is headed toward an economic depression.
“It is a reality that we are going to have very difficult financial times in the short term,” Turnquest said.
“Everybody is hoping — and that’s the best word we can use because nobody knows — that there’s going to be some form of vaccine or treatment in the next couple of months that will help us to be able to reopen the economy to the extent that we have before or even to a lesser extent.”
Last month, Turnquest said projections indicated that The Bahamas’ losses from the pandemic could total $1 billion over a four-month period.
On April 2, he told The Guardian “there’s no doubt that we are going to exceed that” projection.
At the time, Turnquest said the government could not “firmly” say it won’t need additional borrowing following the pandemic.