Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Bradley Roberts says the Free National Movement’s (FNM) “failed” fiscal and economic policies over the last five years are largely to blame for the country’s latest downgrade by Standard and Poor’s (S&P).
Mr. Roberts said the FNM Government’s general handling of the economy made the recession worse for The Bahamas.
On Wednesday, the FNM said S&P’s decision to downgrade The Bahamas’ economic outlook from stable to negative was a direct indictment on the PLP’s handling of the nation’s fiscal affairs since coming to office.
But, Mr. Roberts said former State Minister for Finance Zhivargo Laing “shamelessly” maintained right up to the time of the general election that the fiscal deficit was just $316 million when in fact the deficit was in excess of $500 million.
“The incoming PLP Government was forced to borrow $511 million to pay off the bills left behind by the outgoing FNM Government,” Mr. Roberts said. “Further, many of the big-ticket items in the form of infrastructure projects in various stages of progress must be paid for as the PLP Government is honouring many of the financial commitments made by the former administration. This is what reasonable governments do.”
The outspoken chairman said the FNM must engage in a more rational and constructive national discourse if it is to be taken seriously a viable alternative to the government.
“Bahamians are well aware that the FNM Government mismanaged the New Providence Road Improvement Project (NPRIP) that ran over budget by almost $100 million and caused scores of businesses to shut down. The public knows full well that the 52-week jobs programme was budgeted for $24 million and the FNM ran up the bill to almost $50 million because of politics and without Parliamentary approval,” Mr. Roberts said.
“The BEC project in Abaco was a colossal debacle as over $150 million was spent on this $105 million project and the blackouts continue unabated. More monies will have to be expended to correct this problem. To date, the FNM has failed to own up to its failures in governance in these critical areas.”
He continued, “The leadership of the FNM is in total denial and lacks a modicum of credibility if they believe they can wash their hands of these national challenges they helped to create, stand on the sidelines and point fingers. Having inherited an ailing economy with weak government revenue performance, the government has laid out a sensible and prudent economic rescue plan and the PLP throws its full support behind the government’s initiatives.”
Mr. Roberts said the prime minister remains aggressive in dusting off and reviving projects that were shelved for years. He said this will no doubt stimulate greater foreign direct investment and attack the vexing problem of unemployment.
He also said he is confident that the PLP Government is on the correct strategic path to turn the economy around, put Bahamians back to work and tackle the root causes of crime, poverty and social decay.