Opposition Leader Michael Pintard said the Davis administration must present one coherent message on how it will meet its revenue projections without raising taxes in the upcoming budget exercise.
The budget is typically presented to Parliament on the final Wednesday in May.
Pintard said the Free National Movement is not convinced the government will meet its revenue projections without passing some of the burden on to Bahamian consumers.
“We hope the government will explain its plans to meet the revenue projections it has stated, I think it is around $1.3 billion. They claim that they don’t intend to introduce new taxes, the prime minister has made that statement, but his ministers have clearly signaled that they intend to raise taxes, and so they have to get on the same page in terms of what is the message of this government, in terms of how they are going to reach the revenue targets they have without raising taxes,” Pintard said following the FNM conclave held on Saturday.
“The second is, they have forecasted that they are going to cut the staff of multiple ministries and the allocation to multiple ministries. Again this is confusing because the prime minister has said one thing on the subject, and his ministers have said something else, but if you look at the fiscal strategy that they have released, it’s there in black and white what their intentions are. So we want one coherent message. That is what we need in The Bahamas, that is what the credit rating agencies need to hear internationally, that’s what the funding agencies need in The Bahamas and right now they are sending the wrong message to the national and international communities on what their strategy is going to be going forward.”
Last month, Minister of Economic Affairs Michael Halkitis said there won’t be any surprises in the upcoming budget exercise, and that at most the government is reviewing certain fees it charges to ensure that they are in line with current values.
He said at the time, “We are reviewing certain fees that the government charges – for a service – to make sure that it doesn’t cost more for us to deliver that service than is being paid. And of course even in that case when it does cost more, sometimes depending on the nature of the service, the government would absorb the cost.
“But our view is before we initiate any major change in policy, there will be consultation with the public to get their feedback, particularly from those who are impacted. So there will be no surprises.”
Much hinges on the government’s budgetary plans for the upcoming 2022/2023 fiscal year, as the economy is still recovering from the twin crises of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have cried out about rising inflation, imported from historic highs in the United States; the impact of the war in Ukraine, and the Davis administration’s decision to reinstate value-added tax on the roughly two dozen breadbasket items and certain over-the-counter medicines.
“The public right now is under financial pressure. We are now just seeing a reopening of the economy and persons are beginning to get some revenue, so on the surface of it we have not been supportive of putting additional pressure on consumers,” Pintard said on Saturday.