Categorized | National News


The leader of the Official Opposition Philip Davis says,”Poverty and inequality in our country are becoming entrenched. A recent Central Bank survey revealed that 50% of working Bahamians surveyed were having difficulties making ends meet.” 

Mr Davis said that everywhere he goes Bahamians are saying, “I can’t make it on what I’m making”. Even Bahamians who are working more than one job, losing time with children or sick parents who need them, are struggling to pay bills. The cost of living keeps going up, and people feel like they’re drowning.

“Economic anxiety is not limited to certain areas or segments – it’s widespread.  People who felt comfortably middle class are worried about losing what they’ve worked so hard to gain. People who did OK for themselves are worried their children can’t make it.  People who thought they were secure are being battered by rising costs of everything.

“And yet we have a government that seems indifferent to the stresses Bahamians face, and ignorant about the role their policies have played in bringing them about, said Mr. Davis.

The Cat Island MP said the government raised Value Added Tax by 60 per cent, but failed to raise the minimum wage, and caused mass firings and separations in the public service. 

“For an encore, the government has now slashed $25 million from the public service salary budget. Many Bahamians are worried this is the first step towards another round of firings and separations.

“And now we have a new tax – and yet another broken promise, because the government had promised no new additional tax increases. This time it’s a tax on US dollar transactions. That’s going to hurt many Bahamians and businesses.  It is wrong to keep going into the pockets of Bahamians who can’t afford more pain,” said the PLP leader.

The Opposition leader said, “the government’s decision to delay payments to many contractors and vendors has caused hardship on them and in fact functions as an invisible tax on these persons. I am reliably advised that the promised increases in the contract amounts to current contract holders to compensate for the 60% increase in VAT and NIB fees have not been done. Contractors are forced to lay off minimum wage workers which add to unemployment and misery.

“I was surprised to learn from a government contractor that the banks no longer accept government contracts as security for bridge financing – let’s say to pay salaries until the Treasury Department issues the next check.

“I thought the government said that it was putting policies and procedures in place to improve the ease of doing business in the Bahamas, but many contractors feel that it is becoming more difficult and cumbersome to do business with the government. Things are getting harder, not easier,” said Mr. Davis.

“Frequently, it feels like the government does the boasting instead of the work. There’s that emphasis on propaganda again, their specialty.

The Bahamian people urgently need relief from oppressive cost of living increases.

But this budget is not going to help them.

This is not a people’s budget, just like it’s not the people’s time.

Now, of course, there are exceptions.  If you’re well-connected at the top, well, then, there’s plenty for you,” Mr. Davis said.

He said, “the Prime Minister has announced a series of policy initiatives that in effect transfer state wealth to FNM elites and political cronies. This is the reason they wanted power in the first place; this is what they’re all about.  Here’s what they have promised to do the following in the next fiscal year:

  1. a.Transfer public buildings to a fund created by Holowesko Partners to minimize the ability of other Bahamian individuals and entities such as the National Insurance Board, churches and ordinary Bahamians from renting to the Government. At an estimated $400 million price tag, one can only imagine the windfall the Holowesko Partners stand to gain from compounded interest payments alone.
  1. b.Eliminate business license fees for all banks including RBC, Scotia, CIBC, Citibank and Commonwealth Bank.
  1. c.Ensure that business license and VAT is calculated on the same tax base to reduce the business license fees of large food stores, pharmacies, Morton Salt and others with large zero-rated or exempt supplies.
  1. d.Join the World Trade Organization and reduce the Common External Tariffs (CEF) to an average of 15% in less than 3 years, benefiting large importers and in the process, foregoing more that $100 million in revenue without any articulated replacement plan.

Mr. Speaker, do these policies seem designed to lift all boats, or maybe just a very few yachts? 

“This government has also announced its intention to reduce the deficit to 1% of GDP in the absence of a pro-growth strategy (that is, reduce and starve much-needed recurrent and capital expenditures by approximately $100 million). 

“In the best of economic times, these policies of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance are bad ideas, ones which could send the economy reeling into recession. 

“With 1.6% economic growth, with no money on the ground nor short-term strategic growth prospects on the horizon, this is clearly not the best of times.

“On the issue of a pro-growth strategy, I note the following:

The $65 million paid for the Grand Lucayan, has resulted in the loss of jobs and continued government subsidy with no economic benefit to that island. 

It was reported that the government must now find another $4.3 million to settle with the severed employees there. 

The total expenditure to date is in excess of $100 million. 

The news in Grand Bahama is getting no better.

Of the $8 billion in projects that Peter Turnquest announced were approved by the FNM government since coming to office, he suspiciously named only a handful – 3 to be exact, totaling $181.5 million. 

“Does the government lack confidence in the other projects?

It’s a fair question. Because that’s what happens when a government is engaged in constant spin– we never know what’s real and what’s propaganda. 

This is a government that held a fake signing ceremony for an oil refinery! What a spectacle Oban was. Part comedy, with all the shifty characters and shifting explanations, but mostly tragedy, because of what’s at stake for the environment and our country.

“I have said on numerous occasions that this government is a ‘balance sheet’ government that fails to consider the impact of their policies on the everyday lives of ordinary Bahamians.

I remember Senator Mitchell repeatedly telling this government to put money on the ground in Grand Bahama and the Minister of Finance mocked him. When the government purchased the Grand Lucayan for $65 million, he characterized that as ‘putting money on the ground.’

When the last employment figures were released, this government made a big PR spectacle out of the numbers coming out of Grand Bahama. 

They knew that Grand Bahamians were leaving in droves to Canada, Nassau and Bimini and Abaco in search of better economic opportunities.

They knew that Bahamians were sleeping in their cars and on the beach because they were homeless. 

They knew they (the government) were deferring payments to vendors and contractors and withholding certain benefits duly owed to civil servants.

They knew that the capital budget was being starved intentionally with about half spent by the last quarter of this fiscal year.

They knew they had slashed social service assistance to the most vulnerable and separated thousands of minimum wage employees from the public service.

So surely they had to know that their policies were hurting Bahamians and increasing joblessness, yet they behaved as if none of the suffering and misery were taking place.

Mr. Speaker, all these hurt-causing policies were done in service of prettying up the books — and yet, despite all the pain they’ve caused, the government has missed their revenue and deficit targets for two consecutive years.

In this budget they seem to be doubling down and heading in the same direction.

They don’t get it.  The economy isn’t numbers on a piece of paper, it’s people,” said Mr. Davis.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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