Categorized | National News

Laing Blasts Christie Administration Over $700 Million Deficit

Former Minister of State for Finance and Senator Zhivargo Laing has called for an investigation into the supposed $700 million deficit.

In a press statement yesterday, the former senator blasted Prime Minister Perry Christie and his government, for what he called mismanagement and their claim to borrow between $100 million to $200 million as a way to “compensate for their reckless acts.”

Key advisor to the Christie administration James Smith recently said that the government needs to borrow an additional $100 to $150 million to make up for shortcomings on commitments, including the Critical Care Block of the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) which could account for some $60 million to complete and $50 million to outfit.

However, Mr. Laing said that it is shameful for the Government of The Bahamas to admit to the world that it overlooked as much as $200 million in expenditure because the minister of finance, or the minister of state for finance or some fiscal advisor said he or they did not “eye ball” the same and that there should be an investigation carried out by the Members of The Public Accounts Committee of the House of Assembly.

“It should also require the government to give account for the total sum of money expended to date on hiring new employees, inclusive of the salaries of those employees; an itemized listing of all contracts signed since the May 7th, 2012 elections and the cost of those contracts; a cash disbursement schedule for all major projects being undertaken by the government, such as the Critical Care Block; the extent of travel by members of the government since May 7th, 2012 and the cost of that travel; a detailed listing of all new vehicles acquired since May 7th, 2012 and the cost of those vehicles; the difference in cost to operate the current cabinet compared to the last Cabinet; the cost of the Urban Renewal Programme in the pushing down of bushes and houses; and the cost of hiring a consultant on the National Lottery who did not give a report,” he said.

According to Mr. Laing, the Critical Care Block under the Public Hospital’s Authority is being funded by the Royal Bank of Canada through a loan that the government has to service on a monthly basis.

“The suggestion that its $50 million expenditure was not accounted for and money must now be borrowed to finance it this year is untrue because the money to build the hospital has already been borrowed from the Royal Bank of Canada, guaranteed by the Government of The Bahamas and approved by the House of Assembly,” he said.

“As for the outfitting of the Critical Care Block, it was the Ingraham administration’s intention not to borrow any money for that but to fund the same through the Medical Infrastructure Fund of the National Insurance Board which was created for that purpose; the same Fund that we were going to use to finance the mini-hospital in Abaco and the Exuma and which the Christie administration would use to finance the mini-hospital it said it would construct in Eleuthera.”
With this, he asked how then could the fiscal advisor in the Ministry of Finance, James Smith, say that the Critical Care Block is an example of a project for which prior expenditure was not accounted and for which additional borrowings would be required this fiscal year.

Mr. Laing insists that the Christie administration’s excuse of not having enough time is not a valid one and as the same bureaucrats who run the nation’s affairs from day to day in the Ministry of Finance should give advice about what expenses exist and must be accounted for.

According to Mr. Laing, there was around the same window of time when the Ingraham administration came into power in 2007 for them to organize finances left from the previous Christie administration, and yet they did not “whine” about it.
The former senator said that the issue should be treated as a matter of great urgency as the recent statements by advisor James Smith could have serious repercussions both domestically and internationally.
Initially the government announced that there was a $550 million deficit which when added to the $150 million amounts to $700 million.
The government is expected to make an announcement on the borrowing in February during its midterm budget.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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