DPM Turnquest response to Chester Cooper - Quarterly Budget Report
Oct 30, 2018 - 7:00:30 PM
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K. Peter Turnquest response to Comments attributed to Chester Cooper, MP for Exuma &
Ragged Island regarding the Government’s First Quarterly Budget
It is indeed sad but revealing that the Official Opposition Spokesman on Finance chose not to join the chorus of Bahamians from across the political divide who today commended the government for its historic step toward greater transparency and accountability in the management of the people’s money.
His comments must be an expression of frustration and disappointment with his Party, knowing their painful past experience. The Opposition had the opportunity to demonstrate leadership and fiscal responsibility, but they proved that they were not up to the task: They were neither accustomed to nor familiar with accountability and transparency standards for public financial administration, or keeping basic promises made to the Bahamian people, for that matter.
Despite the Opposition’s obvious queasiness and discomfort with this new era of enhanced transparency and openness, rest assured that this administration will not allow The Bahamas to go back to the dark days of obscuring the records and disregard for the facts and transparency surrounding our fiscal performance.
During the 2018/19 Budget debate, as Minister of Finance, I promised the Bahamian people to: (1) use new revenue yields in part to begin to close our chronic deficits; (2) to begin to pay down the $300 million in old bills and arrears; and (3) to report to the Bahamian people on a quarterly basis the state of their budgetary affairs – the people’s money – even though there was and is not yet any legal requirement to do so.
Unlike the ever talking PLP that promises and promises and never delivers, today’s presentation of the first quarter provisional results is a promise kept, as is our faithfulness to the use of the additional funding received through the VAT increase consistent with our documented plans as approved by Parliament. Some $39 million of past due bills amassed and unpaid for years under the PLP has been paid with a balance of $131 million to go during the remainder of the year. Another promise kept.
The Opposition Spokesman’s absurd suggestion that the results delivered to date are based upon some contrived “cash management” exercise is laughable and speaks to their feeble effort to downgrade the positive steps achieved by this administration so far with the fiscal consolidation promised. Coming from a Party that left hundreds of millions of dollars in undisclosed, unbudgeted and unpaid bills when they were booted out of office, one would think that the Opposition would remain silent. No doubt, proper cash management is a significant component of good fiscal management but unlike the Opposition, our program does not include the manipulation of results reported.
Clearly, the provisional performance report and its early promising trends stand there for all to see, making the Opposition uneasy. I remain optimistic that barring unforeseen circumstances, the government will meet its deficit targets with no need for further taxes or unplanned borrowing.
This Minnis led administration will stay disciplined, focused and resolute in achieving the fiscal targets set and fulfilling our promises to the Bahamian people.
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