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'No Celebration' As Deficit Shrinks 22%

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The 22 per cent reduction in the Government's first quarter deficit was "exactly what we want to see", a governance reformer said yesterday, while warning celebrations are premature.

Robert Myers, a principal with the Organisation for Responsible Governance (ORG), told Tribune Business that while the $18.9 million year-over-year narrowing was a start, it was "not enough to jump up and down over" yet.

He took encouragement, though, from the fact spending was down by $17.1 million, while revenue was ahead slightly by $1.7 million, as signs that the Minnis administration was "going in the right direction" with its fiscal management.

"That's exactly what we want to see," Mr Myers said of the reduced deficit for the three months to end-September. "The two [revenue and spending] are going in the the right direction, with one going up and the other down.

"To see government expenditure going down by $17 million, and revenue up by almost $2 million, it's a snapshot that things are going in the right direction. If we see that happen in the next quarter, we will have even more confidence their measures are working, and that will cause consumer and investor confidence to rise.

"It's encouraging if it's a net decrease of almost $19 million. It's not enough to jump up and down about, but it's certainly a good start. We've got to hope they continue to do that."

The Central Bank, in its monthly economic report for October 2017, said the 2017-2018 first quarter deficit had dropped to $65.6 million against its counterpart from the previous year.

"During the first quarter of fiscal year 2017-2018, the deficit narrowed by $18.9 million (22.3 per cent) to an estimated $65.6 million, when compared to the same period last year," the regulator added.

"Underlying this development was a $17.1 million (3.2 per cent) decrease in total expenditure to $517.7 million, together with a $1.7 million (0.4 per cent) increase in revenue to $452.2 million."

A deeper look at the Central Bank data showed that the spending reduction was linked entirely to reduced capital spending on infrastructure-type projects, as this "almost-halved" to $34.4 million.

"In particular, infrastructure-related expenditure contracted by $22.6 million (45.4 per cent), as a number of roadwork and coastal protection projects were concluded," the Central Bank said. "Similarly, the acquisition of assets was $8.2 million lower, reflecting in part reduced investments in land."

However, the Government's recurrent spending, which accounts for its fixed-costs such as wages and rents, and is the more important component to get under control, jumped by $13.7 million or 2.9 per cent to $483.4 million.

Identifying the major culprits, the Central Bank said there was "a $25 million (10.4 per cent) expansion in consumption outlays, due to a $16.7 million (9.7 per cent) increase in payments for wages and salaries, and growth in purchases of goods and services by $8.3 million (12.3 per cent).

"However, transfer payments decreased by $11.2 million (4.9 per cent) to $218.2 million, underpinned by a contraction in subsidies and 'other' transfers, particularly related to healthcare services."

Mr Myers questioned the increase in wages and salaries, given the Government's announced hiring freeze, and suggested the rise may have resulted from commitments entered into by the former Christie administration.

On the revenue front, the Central Bank said there was a $15.5 million or 3.9 per cent increase in tax receipts, driven largely by improvements in motor vehicle licensing and business/professional fees.

"The VAT registered a more muted gain of $3.3 million (2 per cent)," the Central Bank added. "In contrast, taxes on international trade declined by $5.7 million (4.3 per cent), due mainly to a fall in import duties. Further, non-tax inflows contracted by $13.8 million (26.6 per cent) to $38 million, as income from non-public enterprises narrowed by $14.3 million (92.6 per cent)."

It is unclear whether the Central Bank data is based on the cash-based accounting system traditionally employed by the Government, or the accrual form, which records spending commitments when they are made, as opposed to being paid. The Government has signalled its intention to adopt the accrual method, widely recognised as giving a truer picture of its financial position and assets and liabilities, by 2022-2023.

Mr Myers, meanwhile, expressed hope that "the era of irresponsible governance is gone forever" after the Central Bank brought its figures in line with the Minnis administration's to reveal a $669.4 million deficit for the 2016-2017 full-year.

While slightly lower than the Government's $695 million figure, the Central Bank nevertheless noted that there had been a "two-fold expansion" in the 'red ink' with spending overshooting by $490 million or 21.9 per cent to $2.73 billion.

This more than offset the $131 million or 6.8 per cent gain in revenues, which totalled $2.06 billion despite Hurricane Matthew, providing further evidence that the benefits of VAT were squandered on increased social spending and pre-election hiring.

"The expansion in expenditure was driven by a $334.7 million (16.7 per cent ) gain in current outlays to an estimated $2.34 billion, as consumption spending firmed by $248 million (24.9 per cent), owing mainly to the $208.2 million (63 per cent) increase in purchases of goods and services," the Central Bank said.

"In terms of the components, the largest gains were noted for rent, communications and utilities ($80.9 million), other contractual services ($60.7 million)--related mainly to payment of medical health insurance premiums. In addition, wages and salaries expanded by $39.8 million (6 per cent), and transfer payments by $86.7 million (8.6 per cent)."

Mr Myers told Tribune Business: "That's where your VAT money went, on hiring more people, inefficiency and waste. They [the Christie administration] tried to buy an election by hiring people they had no business hiring.

"I only pray that the era of irresponsible governance is gone for ever. It's so old news, so old style. The populace know that, and it's why we are where we are. That kind of governance has no place in a sustainable future. I can only hope it's ended, that kind of thinking, and archaic governance is gone for ever."

On the revenue side, the Central Bank said tax receipts - accounting for 90 per cent of revenues - rose by $160.4 million or 9.6 per cent to $1.837 billion for the 2016-2017 full year, including "a $76.3 million (15.1 per cent) advance in taxes on international trade, which featured significant gains in excise and import taxes of $57.6 million (25 per cent) and $22.4 million (8.5 per cent), respectively.

"Similarly, VAT receipts moved higher by $10.1 million (1.6 per cent) to $638 million, while selective taxes on services posted a more muted gain of $1.5 million (5.7 per cent), comprising mainly higher revenue from gaming taxes," the Central Bank added.

"Further, business and professional fees expanded by $42.6 million (29.2 per cent), led by an increase hike in 'other"' license fees ($42.7 million), while other taxes inclusive of property and financial stamps taxes grew by $29.8 million (8.1 per cent). In contrast, non-tax revenue - which accounted for the remaining 10 per cent --decreased by $29.3 million (11.6 per cent) to $223.9 million, reflecting lower receipts of fines, forfeits and administration fees."

Comments

birdiestrachan 4 days, 4 hours ago

No surprise from Robert Myers the Christie Government tried to buy the election. He will do well to note that the FNM Government has not fulfilled not one single promise they made to the "its the people time" voters no removal of VAT on certain items, No free tax Zones, no free University education, along with all the other promises. Also the Government increase in pay these will cost money.

The FNM Government under the FNM papa hired people also. The difference is the PLP did not put them out of work. The FNM was against VAT and Web shops. but they are enjoying the fruits of both not to mention BAR MAR. Wait Mr.; Meyers your song will change.

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HonestTruth 4 days, 4 hours ago

Why does the tribune encourage idiots like the poster above to flood their articles with nonsense and misinformation.

Birdie, every financial statistic available to us let’s us know the PLP mismanaged our funds and spent money like drunken sailors, yet you see no wrong in their doings.

Grow up you nincompoot and stop flooding these articles with misinformation

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realfreethinker 4 days, 3 hours ago

I agree with you. I wish birdie would just go away. They are not use to seeing deficits go down,just spend spend.

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SP 3 days ago

That should be "nincompoop" not "nincompoot", but even misspelled it fits Birdie perfectly!

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truetruebahamian 4 days ago

Birdie - just fly away and stay away before pigeon hunting season begins!

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ThisIsOurs 3 days, 21 hours ago

Why do these guys keep repeating these white washed lies? There's no deficit "shrinking". The Central Bank already said, "your bills haven't come due" and "you havent done any work", that's why you're seeing this extra money. What they're doing Is like saying We're doing great so far this year cuz we have 100 in the bank, this time last year we only had 50, but knowing all the while that the light bill of 49.99 is past due . Shouldn't Mr ?Myers know this?

Same whitewashing they did with the CEB bill...

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Dawes 3 days, 10 hours ago

The headline looks good, then reading the article it states that the reduction was due to a decrease in infrastructure spending and the recurrent expense (pay etc) went up. Driving around you can tell they have cut the infrastructure spending, and will now need to put extra back in (can the Government please make sure they have people who know how to patch a hole in the road so it doesn't start out as a mountain and then over time turn into another hole). In reality they have not begun the hard work of getting the recurrent expenses down and we shall have to wait to see if they have the will to do this.

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TheMadHatter 3 days, 6 hours ago

Dawes you have got to be joking. The big potholes on the corner of Mackey & Madeira were there since Ingraham's time. Christie them just did the paving prior to election for show.

We have always had potholes. That is irrelevant to this discussion.

Myers is right about the numbers but i think he is warning not to celebrate because he doesn't want to inject an element of complacency. I however do believe it IS cause for celebration.

With the exception of some insane and unexplained drive to join the WTO, everything else this Govt is doing financially so far is quite good and necessary.

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ThisIsOurs 3 days, 5 hours ago

No he's wrong. The central bank refuted him and debunked this "surplus" talk. It said there's been no capital works and the "timing" issue contributed the surplus. Meaning we haven't spent any new money on necessary work and we havent paid outstanding bills yet

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sheeprunner12 3 days, 5 hours ago

What is the point in "shrinking the deficit" if it comes at the expense of not paying contract workers (who were hired by the PLP) for weeks and months, not paying civil servants their allowances ....... and not completing MOW contracts that were already in motion?????? ....... This doesn't make sense just for the sake of a lower Budget deficit ...... Stop.Review.Cancel 2.0.

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birdiestrachan 3 days, 5 hours ago

Some folks can not deal with the TRUTH. so they just CUSS and CUSS some more. But the TRUTH stands even when Folks do not like it.

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JohnDoe 2 days, 6 hours ago

Myers should know better than to make such silly comments because he is or should be well aware that the decrease in spending was not discretionary but due to the completion of certain infrastructure projects. Further, because successive governments have used the Treasury as an election campaign slush fund, government spending in the 12 months leading up to an election is always expansionary as they attempt to increase aggregate demand in the economy. Therefore, it will be fully expected that after the election there would be a spending decrease compared to the prior period.

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sheeprunner12 2 days, 3 hours ago

Deficit reduction is relative ........ gross national debt is increasing.

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