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Columns Last Updated: Dec 9, 2018 - 12:19:49 PM

The Fiscal Responsibility Bill and the checks and balances of a country
By Rochelle R. Dean
Dec 9, 2018 - 6:35:07 AM

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The Fiscal Responsibility Bill was presented to the Bahamian people as the sustainable and fiscal discipline to reshape accountability of the public sector. The Bill itself is a step in the right direction for the Bahamas but one can’t help but to think it may be a little too late.

Considering the fact that back in 2016 the United Nations report classified the Caribbean as multi dimensionally poor and with the advancement of technology that gives every single human being access to industries, products and services as well as opportunities all over the world, the idea that the fiscal legislation will have positive impact on the fiscal strategy is still debatable.

This of course isn’t an attack on this Bill and I am the first to support guidelines that will allow proper assessments of the governments fiscal position that won’t lead to inconsistencies that leave the government vulnerable to wrongful dismissals and cases of  civil action much like the recent Algernon Cargill National Insurance fiasco.

I have personally listened to so many people express disgust of a proper fiscal monitoring system that its no wonder the country operates at a deficit which continues to add to the national debt. This forced me to consider why we as a country are so involved or overly concerned about our debt ratio as opposed to our gross domestic product which really is the key to building our economy.

The fiscal responsibility legislation is an endorsement of transparency and responsibility, but are we really a society that is accountable for our actions collectively, and are we even responsible as individuals? This has been my concern as I look around the Bahamas.

The passing of this Bill and the national dialogue leading up to it speaks to the fact that many people will be walking on egg shells as the culture in the public sector changes to individual responsibility much like the ‘cover yourself’ mentality that lives and fuels the private sector. How interesting that this piece of paper will shift the culture and direct so many policy decisions that will lead to individual accountability but also a level of inclusiveness that will be new to the country.

As I think of the many civil servants who will be impacted I can’t help but anticipate the reality that our greatest hurdle is not theft, as most Bahamians always want someone to go to jail. The country will now be able to properly manage the wastage of public expenditure by successive governments. That has been our greatest downfall while we listen to all the political analysts give overtly critical analysis that are questionable and persons like myself want a proper strategy to control government spending.

The idea that we can monitor the people’s money still does not account for eliminating wasteful government practices outside of employment hiring. As I look to a new day I question; how long will we allow politicians to play politics without allowing the Fiscal Responsibility Bill to introduce new policy directives that will particularly develop the Bahamian people and prepare the nation for the harsh realities that will come?

As I look at what this Bill means for the nation’s development I still see politicians wanting to control recommendations for an independent council that should hold them to account. Perhaps this will also restore hope in our executive branch that we want and expect to see a decrease in wasteful practices and a decline in the idea that our politicians, senior officials and our nation are just nepotistic, dishonest,  unscrupulous thieves.

Every single individual will impact the country’s fiscal position through taxation and we are now at the place where behavioral changes will be forced upon us.

Too often we want to focus on dishonest measures but responsibility promotes trust and trust leads to participation which fuels productivity in a nation that is extremely unproductive according to the National Development Plan’s State of the Nation report that addressed the lack of productivity in the country back in 2015. This report specifically revealed that the Bahamas’ workforce is the least productive in the Western Hemisphere.

While the Fiscal Responsibility Bill is a step in the right direction we have to remove the expectation that we may carry; wanting people to be thieves and engaged in underhanded dealings. After all, the measures of this Bill will assist in increasing productivity and will develop better foreign relations with other countries, as well as future structural reforms in the labour market, a smarter society and a better economy.

Rochelle Dean is an academician, consultant and columnist on poverty alleviation from an economic standpoint. She is a former chairperson at United Nations.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his/her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of TheBahamasWeekly.com

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