While unions deserve the compensation and benefits that should be afforded to citizens, a “practical and reasonable” look at the country’s finances must be considered when demands are being made, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday.
Speaking to the media outside of the Financial Intelligence Unit’s Public-Private Partnerships forum, Turnquest explained that “limiting circumstances” often prevent the government from bearing more financial costs.
“We must be practical and reasonable,” he said.
“There is only so much revenue that we generate that goes to pay all the costs to provide services to people.
“While we all certainly deserve whatever compensation or benefits that we believe that we should have, and in a First World world that we should have and deserve, the unfortunate factor is that we have limiting circumstances.
“We don’t want to go back to a situation where we are borrowing head over heels, uncontrollable borrowing, uncontrollable spending, to the extent that we put ourselves back in a precarious financial position that we have worked so hard to overcome.”
Turnquest said the government has an obligation to the Bahamian people to be wise and prudent in its fiscal projections.
Junior doctors recently went on strike in an effort to convince the government to release their back pay for holidays worked over the past ten years. Negotiations led the government to offer the doctors payment for five of those years, though some manner of compensation for the remaining five years remains under negotiation.
“Again, the negotiations continue in good faith and we certainly hope that will be the case going forward.”
He added that the doctors’ strike and other instances of protest have led the government to decide to bring those stakeholders to the table when budget planning.
He said more and more Bahamians are interested in the way that the finances of the country are determined and spent.
“As the PM indicated in his statement, one of the things we have learned is the desire of individual stakeholders to be at the table when we’re discussing the budget expenditure, in particular, and we will make an effort to do that,” said Turnquest.
“This has been somewhat a learning process in terms of the demand for information today versus even three years ago. That’s a good thing. It speaks to the level of development we have achieved as a people… the education level and exposure level.”