FNM outlines high budget expectations

‘The Bahamas cannot wait any longer to address the tax reform issue’

East Grand Bahama MP Kwasi Thompson yesterday charged that the Davis administration has significant challenges to overcome in the upcoming budget exercise, and must address the pressing needs of Bahamians looking for relief from inflation in the upcoming fiscal year.

The government announced yesterday that Prime Minister Philip Davis will present the budget for FY 2022/2023 on Wednesday, under the theme “The Way Forward: A Plan for Recovery and Progress”.

The Office of the Prime Minister in a statement said, “Despite the historically challenging economic circumstances in the wake of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic, the government’s vision and plans for ‘A New Day’ remain on course to deliver on the holistic strategies outlined in its Blueprint for Change.”

Thompson, who is also the shadow minister for finance, said yesterday that the Bahamian public has very significant challenges that must be tackled in this year’s budget.

“It will take innovation, creativity, political strength, and will to address them. Thanks to the stewardship of the former FNM administration, the PLP government has inherited a recovering and growing economy. However, there are many major issues that must be addressed by the PLP’s budget,” he said in the statement.  

“First, Bahamians are looking for real relief from the inflation crisis. We have heard promises, meetings, and discussions, however, we have seen no tangible evidence of relief. The inflation crisis must be a top priority and must be addressed in a real way. Bahamians need to understand how they will be able to access the much-needed help.

“In addition to the historic food prices, we see soaring gas prices with no end in sight. This must also be addressed in the budget. Where are the VAT holidays for hurricane season and school supplies left in place by the FNM? The Bahamas government must provide a significant answer to buffer the effects of this global inflation crisis.”

Already, the government has said it expects to incur significantly less borrowing in the upcoming 2022/2023 budget based on current deficit trends.

At the half-way point of the fiscal year, total revenue collections are estimated at $1.2 billion, an increase of $453.8 million over the prior year, led by value-added tax (VAT) receipts that were up 101.4 percent to total $573.5 million.

Additionally, the net deficit was $285.7 million.

Thompson said the Davis administration’s budget must align with its fiscal strategy.

“The government has foreshadowed revenue numbers that must now be followed and projected budget cuts. If the government is to prove its credibility, the budget must be consistent, which means they must have the revenue they projected and the budget cuts they projected. Otherwise, what’s the point in having a fiscal strategy and how can we trust the next one?”

Thompson also highlighted other areas he said the government must address for the betterment of Bahamians.

“Budgets provide evidence of priorities. Crime and the fight against crime must be at the forefront. We must see a real and measurable plan in the budget on what resources will be provided to address the overwhelming murder rate increase,” he said.

“The Bahamas cannot wait any longer to address the tax reform issue. We have studied this issue enough and the government must stop pandering, sending mixed messages, and provide a real plan for tax reform that can provide for the revenue needs of the country in an equitable way.”

 Thompson added, “We again have seen no evidence that any progress is being made on the Global Minimum Tax Initiative. Countries all around the world are embracing the opportunity to provide more revenue but also, The Bahamas has an opportunity to change its own business license system into something more equitable.

“Small businesses are being battered by inflationary pressures. The Small Business Development Centre was a major pillar in the fiscal strategy. Unfortunately, we have heard little about their results in almost a year. Also, has the actual grant program been canceled?”

Additionally, the finance shadow minister called on the Davis administration to outline its plans to arrest the challenges facing state-owned enterprises, Bahamas Power and Light and the National Insurance Board.  

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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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