AT DAWN tomorrow the year 2013 will be ushered in with a rush of frenzied dancers, ker-licking cow-bells, throbbing drums and joyous Bahamians as the traditional junkanoo parade dances into full swing.
However, if our readers would turn to today’s Tribune Business section, they will realise that unless the nation pulls together in the New Year, demands better decisions from its government and its work force, the Bahamas will be awash in growing debt that will be almost impossible to meet.
Moody’s is back again with much doubt and dire predictions about government’s plans to balance its Budget by 2016-2017. As far as Moody’s is concerned government’s present track record makes this prediction “overly optimistic.”
According to Moody’s the Christie administration, as part of its “balanced Budget” calculations, is depending on “significant improvement in property tax revenues to 2 per cent of GDP in 2016, from 1.4 per cent in 2012.”
"Given weak growth prospects and continued fiscal pressures, we anticipate a slow but steady build-up in debt over the course of the next two-three years. The sustainability of the debt profile will primarily depend on the Government's success in expanding the revenue base, which we view as unlikely."
According to Moody’s "Government forecasts contemplate that a balanced Budget will be achieved by the fiscal year 2016-2017 through a combination of lower current and capital expenditures, and improved revenue mobilisation, primarily through higher property tax yields.”
In other words, although boasting that this is a tax free haven, Government will be looking to burden homeowners with even higher taxes.
However, before Government decides to tax the people it has to take a good hard look at itself and the way it is spending this country’s hard earned dollars to take care of its many hangers on. In other words, the elections are over, most election promises were pie-in-sky dreams, that cannot be fulfilled — yet “the boys are back in town” and have to be accommodated. It seems those who are not members of the elite “club” will be excluded.
Until this matter of wasting public funds on settling election favours — other than collecting the taxes of those who have either neglected, dodged or refused to pay – the Government cannot in good conscience now turn to the public to pay off the nation’s debt.
All we know — and many gullible Bahamians are now starting to realise – is that this country cannot suffer another four years of the bungling, and wastage – yes, and even graft– that has boldly gone on this year.
Mr Philip Brave Davis, Minister of Works and Urban Development, in announcing recently that about $1 million would be needed to repair Abaco’s roads was quoted as saying words to the effect that to find this money government had to “scrape the bottom of the barrel.”
It would be interesting to know from Mr Davis, who heads Urban Renewal, what rational was used to grant an almost half million contract to the relative of a former PLP cabinet minister to clear a tract of land near the CV Bethel School on East Street south. This was a part of the Urban Renewal programme ostensibly to reduce hiding areas for criminals. At least when the roads have been completed in Abaco, the world will be able to see where our money was spent. However, in a few more months, nature will cover the East Street south plot of land with even more bush and Bahamians will have a right to complain that their funds were ill-spent.
Instead of discussing the reduction of the size of the cabinet to save money, there is talk of raising the deputy speaker’s salary to bring it more in line with the Speaker’s. No wonder Moody’s is not impressed.
The public would like to have a list of all persons who are supplied with a government car. They would also like to know if these persons are required to park the car at 5pm at the end of the working day. Are these persons paying their own gasoline or do they have a gas allowance?
There is talk that for the first time some of them have chauffeurs. How are these paid? Surely not out of the Public Treasury? There are reports that some of them are given small Urban Renewal contracts instead of a salary. There are also rumours that some persons in the programme are getting kick-backs in return for a contract.
These are all rumours, which grow in the telling. It is now time before any more money is spent on this programme that there be a thorough investigation and the rumours are either denied if not true, or brought to a speedy end with consequences, if true.
When the PLP came to power they were so anxious to see the FNM gone in taking contracts away that they hurt some of their own people.
We have been told of one person who had a government contract under the Ingraham government. Judging that government on their own low standards, the PLP assumed that anyone who had a contract under the FNM had to be FNM. This was a wrong assumption. However, they took this man’s contract from him and gave it to one of their own.
When he protested, they said that he had to be FNM. His contract was cancelled, because they needed it for a PLP.
He was not only shocked, but heartbroken at such callous behaviour. He informed the man who snatched his contract for another, that he was one of their most loyal supporters. He told them that his mother’s house in Eleuthera was like the PLP headquarters in Hatchet Bay. It is understood that Damien Gomez used it for his headquarters, and in this year’s election it was used by Clay Sweeting.
His mother was a good friend of former PLP cabinet minister Philip Bethel, who ate many a meal in her house. During election campaigns it was the house that was always festooned with PLP paraphernalia. And yet, because he accepted fair treatment under the FNM, he is now suffering under his own ruthless party.
All of this must stop. Hopefully 2013 will see a new government — a government for all of the people, regardless of party affiliation.