The Opposition says the Christie administration’s 2012/2013 Budget is a “lame, blame and more of the same” budget and said the newly elected government has demonstrated that it does not have a concise plan to move the country forward.
In an hour long speech, Prime Minister Perry Christie read his communication detailing various programmes that the government plans to implement, including the Urban Renewal programme, and the Swift Justice programme among other initiatives.
“Having promised the world to the people of The Bahamas and having campaigned on the message that the FNM was borrowing too much, the Progressive Liberal Party has presented to the parliament a budget that makes a lame and feeble attempt at delivering a first deposit on its wild promises,” Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis told the media shortly after the House of Assembly adjourned for the lunch break.
“It hardly has any offerings in the budget that represents the new and innovative initiatives it promised the Bahamian people. It has now decided, as it did when it took office in 2002, to turn to the blame game for this lame effort. Ignoring the drastic global economic circumstances that the world has faced these last five years, inclusive of the latest World Economic Outlook Report by the World Bank, as well as the continuous statements made by us while in office about the same, it pretends to be shocked that the fiscal circumstances the country faces. “
The Opposition leader further charged that the government has manipulated the numbers to make the present circumstances appear worse that it might otherwise be by charging off certain expenditure.
“Showing no courage in reducing the large deficit it claims exist, either by taking appropriate revenue measures or expenditure adjustments, it relies now on a number of programmes left in place by us to move it ahead,” Dr. Minnis said.
“Having put in place real property tax caps, and the like and having lost office notwithstanding them, it now returns to the same – nothing new and innovative, just the same. For instance, as he did in 2002, Mr. Christie put some $15 million in the budget for their plan; yet no one can give an account for the $10 million put away in the budget in 2002. We have said before, this is the same old Christie and he just can’t change.”
While making his contribution, the prime minister also explained that his government would be exploring the legality of returning the majority ownership of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) to the government and Bahamian people.
“I think that’s a dangerous and irresponsible statement for the prime minister to make unless BTC is up for sale and the prime minister has a magical wand and finds extra funds to purchase BTC, but it’s a reckless statement,” Dr. Minnis said.
Former Minister of State for Finance and newly appointed FNM Senator, Zhivargo Laing addressed the issue of transparency in the Ingraham administration.
“We projected in the budget this fiscal year a $314 million deficit,” he told reporters. “We also told the Bahamian people that the road project is over budget by $93 million; that number didn’t fly from somewhere.”
“As for those contracts, we signed all those contracts in the media so there was never any attempt to be anything but transparent. What is true is that the funding for contracts doesn’t all flow in one year, they flow over budget cycles but if you want to manipulate the numbers you can charge off cost in a budget and close your books after that you can do so.”
Dr. Minnis added that the Opposition will have more to say on the budget once the debate begins.