PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Bradley Roberts praised the government’s 2014/2015 budget and said the Christie administration’s fiscal plan “charts a course for a brighter future through fiscal reform, economic growth and jobs creation.”
“On behalf of the Progressive Liberal Party, I thank the government under the leadership of Perry Christie for its patience, focus and tenacity in navigating this country out of very treacherous waters and dire straits over the past two years,” Mr Roberts said in a statement.
“I share the optimism of the prime minister and thousands of Bahamians that the country has turned the corner and is in recovery mode.”
Mr Roberts said the country’s deficit, which he said exceeded $500m just two years ago, has been cut by more than $200m.
“The economy is finally adding net jobs after a protracted period of bleeding; the government’s fiscal consolidation and reform plans are bearing fruit as there is a clear and critical path to reducing the deficit and bringing unsustainable borrowing under control,” he noted.
Mr Roberts applauded the government for reversing “years of tourism decline and economic stagnation” in Grand Bahama and revitalising the tourism product.
“On the issue of tax reform, the record shows that as far back as 2001, the government of the Bahamas has participated in consultations on tax reform as a necessary component of the government’s sustained fiscal policy reform efforts. Institutions such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Coalition for Responsible Taxation; consultants from the Bahamas Hotel Association and consultants from both New Zealand and the United States in arriving at its proposed tax reform model in the name of Value Added Tax.”
Mr Roberts said the prime minister has shown “extraordinary strength of leadership, patience, temperance” through the consultation process with the private sector over tax reform.
The PLP chairman also hit out at Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr Hubert Minnis for suggesting earlier this year that the FNM would reverse VAT if the party wins the next election.
“I wish to publicly challenge him on these two proclamations: Firstly, Hubert Minnis must publicly and categorically state on what proverbial train he and his party are riding and secondly, in the absence of VAT, he must present his plan to grow government revenue given the increased fiscal pressure and demands on government operations.
“We all know that Minnis has a clear record on how to preside over job losses (some 15,000 between 2007 and 2012) and running up the national debt and deficits (by some $2bn between 2007 and 2012 and a whopping $500m in one fiscal year), but to date he remains clueless on how to grow the economy, create jobs, improve government revenue and draw down the out-of-control budgetary deficits that he and his party left behind in 2012.”
Mr Roberts said the police force and the Ministry of National Security should be commended for the myriad of programmes implemented to fight crime.
“However, the scourge of violent crimes continue to claim the lives of too many of our young men, depriving the country of precious intellectual capital and always poses a threat to the economic growth and stability of our nation.
“To this end, I call on the government to reintroduce the National Youth Restorative Programme as far as current budgetary constraints would permit. The social partnership with the Catholic Church and YEAST formed a workable intervention model and the government must leave no stone unturned in reaching out to our at-risk youth in the fight against crime and anti-social behaviour.”