The Opposition yesterday argued there was “nothing to celebrate” in the Christie administration’s revelation that it is only borrowing $99 million to fund the 2016-2017 fiscal deficit, its finance spokesman saying it had over-burdened Bahamians with taxes to achieve this.
East Grand Bahama MP, K. Peter Turnquest, said: “The Government has been very successful in bringing down the fiscal deficit. This year they say they are going to borrow only $99 million.
“The thing about that is that while they borrow only $99 million to fund the deficit, they also borrow other monies for other special projects along the way, so you have to add up the total borrowing.
“They don’t have to borrow the $500 million that they did when they came in office because they have been taking it from the Bahamian people with VAT.”
Mr Turnquest added: “There is nothing to celebrate here. If they were saying they had brought down the level of expenditure to the point where they were saving $500 million, then I would give them credit; they would have something to celebrate.
“But all they have done is transfer the burden from them borrowing to the public in expropriation through taxes. It’s a ridiculous situation to be celebrating because every dollar they claim and celebrate is a dollar from our pockets.”
During his Budget communication Prime Minister Perry Christie said his administration had achieved a further reduction in the GFS deficit in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.
“We have been successful in containing fiscal pressures this fiscal year and thereby keeping the projected GFS deficit to a level of $150 million, broadly in line with the Budget target of $141 million. This variance reflected the payouts for the CLICO Bahamas liquidation that, for their part, were funded by extraordinary revenue,” Mr Christie said.
“In the 2016-2017 fiscal year, we will build further on our fiscal success with a projected GFS deficit of $100 million. Since the first year of our mandate, and by the end of the 2016-2017 fiscal year, we will have reduced the deficit by $439 million, or by over 80 per cent.
“While the burden of public debt remains unacceptably high, I am pleased to note that, through our fiscal plan, we will have arrested the rise in that burden in the 2016-2017 fiscal year with its first reduction in many years. Thereafter, the ratio of debt-to-GDP will decline steadily.”
Mr Christie said Value Added Tax (VAT) performance continues to be strong, with 6,361 VAT registrants, of which 653 file monthly and 5,708 file quarterly.
“Almost 80 per cent of the monthly filers and two-thirds of the quarterly filers do file on time. And, of those registrants that filed, 75 per cent of the monthly filers and two-thirds of the quarterly filers paid on time,” the Prime Minister added.
“Although not all VAT registrants paid on time, over 90 per cent eventually settle their obligations. The Department of Inland Revenue processes refunds weekly, and has received 1,661 applications, of which $6.2 million have been paid.
“The Department is now focusing much attention on improving taxpayer services in areas of refund management and policy responses.”