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The  Opposition’s shadow Minister of Finance, Exuma and Ragged Island Member of Parliament Chester Cooper expressed concerns this weekend surrounding the Government’s 2018 Fiscal Strategy Report, as he believes that nothing in it inspires confidence. 

In a statement issued on the  weekend he said, “producing pretty reports is not a strategy. Just saying it is hoped  that a Revenue Task Force will recoup tax leakages is not a strategy. Arbitrarily raising the VAT exemption ceiling for BPL is not a strategy. These are ad hoc, knee jerk measures.”

We  will say again, as we have done over and repeatedly, that the key economic strategy of the government ought to be growing the economy. They have no vision or plan to do so.

Mr. Cooper said, “in a fiscal year following a record deficit, with no national disaster impacting The Bahamas, and a massive, reckless, pain inducing tax increase, that the government still finds itself in the position of having overshot its own deficit projections by 33 percent would be laughable if the implications were not so serious.”

He added, “the government’s deficit projection now stands at $415 million. As we said, a whopping 33 per cent  higher than initially projected for the 2017/2018 fiscal year.

The minister of finance appears to be particularly triggered over my response to his administration’s hollow Fiscal Strategy Report.

“The public would recall that the Government recklessly borrowed $722million, of which they claimed $400m was to pay old bills. We remind the public that we said it was a politically vindictive and misguided attempt to inflate the deficit in that fiscal year. Unlike the PLPs last year in office there was no major hurricane.”, he said. 

Mr. Cooper added that the revenues fell short of budget by $110 million, which he said the PLP projected and urged the government to pay attention to. 

This included the revamping of the Revenue Enhancement Unit, which he claimed, the current administration “dismantled” for political reasons. 

He said, “we note an across the board under performance in most of the major categories of revenue.  The deficit overshoot therefore cannot be reasonably attributed to one-off expenditure or non-recurrent expenditure such as natural disasters or payment arrears.”

This report, he said, also confirmed that the government overspent its budget projections by $95 million. 

He added, “One has to wonder how on earth, despite firing thousands of Bahamians to cut salary costs by $62 million, and starving capital works by spending $42 million less than budgeted, the government is still spending more than it said it would. Yet many small vendors across the country still complain that they can’t get paid.

“And despite all of the Government’s rhetoric, the national debt-to-GDP ratio has increased from 54.6 per cent  in 2016/2017  to 57.8 per cent  in 2017/2018 in its revised numbers,”  he said.

Mr. Cooper recommended that the government appoint an “Economic growth Czar” to focus on “this all-important strategic objective”. 

Written by Jones Bahamas

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