EDITOR, The Tribune.
AT what point will the media in this country stop treating State Minister for Finance Michael Halkitis with kid gloves and hold him accountable for the shocking, dramatic deterioration of the economy?
Halkitis must be held up to the same standards as was the Ingraham government in managing the economy. We are just half way through the current budget period, yet the deficit is an alarming $314m.
At this current trajectory, the deficit will be $600m at the close of the budget period. Halkitis and Co would have added $2 billion to the national debt.
Nearly a $1 billion in VAT revenue has been collected since its implementation yet we are nearing the precipice of having our dollar devalued after suffering four financial downgrades under the PLP, the latest being a junk status downgrade in December 2016 by Standard & Poor’s, which is a first for this country. How is it even remotely possible to run a $314 deficit in a six month period while collecting hundreds of millions in VAT, in addition to other tax revenues? How is it remotely possible to add $2 billion to the debt while collecting $1 billion in VAT?
Even to a simpleton nothing is adding up with this government. One billion dollars in VAT and virtually nothing to show for it, other than the massive hiring binge of PLP lackeys in the public sector, more particularly the plethora of high priced senior PLP consultants who have been hired, many of whom are already pensionable.
This might be one reason Halkitis has struggled to explain to the Bahamian people how their VAT money is being spent. How can Halkitis say with a straight face to jobless college educated young Bahamians that his administration has hired many senior PLPs as high priced consultants while they are struggling to find meaningful employment in this anemic economy?
Many of these college educated Bahamians who have been fortunate to find employment are working in fast food eateries or are working as security officers – both of which are minimum wage jobs. All the pre-election chatter about Christie being the bridge to Sir Lynden O Pindling is just that – chatter.
Look at the three top posts in the PLP, which are all manned by senior citizens. Never-mind the cliche of believing in young Bahamians; this PLP government does not believe in Bahamians. Period. With the exception of those within their clique.
The current financial quandary the country finds itself in is due to the bungling incompetence and mismanagement of the economy by finance minister PM Perry Christie and Halkitis, whom many PLPs boasted of being far more conversant in economics than former PM Hubert Ingraham during the last FNM administration, when the economy was experiencing severe challenges precipitated by the Great Recession in North America.
PLPs compared Halkitis’ resume with Ingraham’s. Ingraham trained in law; Halkitis in economics. Halkitis is a graduate of St Augustine’s College. Moreover, his alma maters includes COB and the University of Western Ontario, Canada, where he earned a Bachelors degree in economics.
According to his online biography, he served as a private banker, trader, portfolio manager and financial analyst. Based on his academic resume, one can see why Christie has reposed so much trust in him, even though he has played a significant role in helping to run the economy aground.
We believe Halkitis is the brain behind whatever financial policies the Christie government has brought in since 2012. His senior finance minister, Christie, is not an economic expert, having never trained in the field. Whatever Halkitis would have proposed has been green lighted by his superior before it sees the light of day.
Remember, Halkitis was touted in some PLP circles as being a knight in shining armor who would rescue the Bahamian economy that was purportedly devastated by Ingraham and Co.
Yet nearly five years later the economy is worse off today than it was under Ingraham, who was not fortunate to have the added advantage of VAT. The PLP told the Bahamian people that VAT would be solely used to facilitate the national debt reduction. That was the rationale used to implement it. But with a $300m plus deficit in just six month, clearly Halkitis and Co have squandered all that VAT money, and have made a catastrophic mistake in placing VAT revenue in the consolidated fund.
The Bahamian people need to remember that it was Halkitis and his Cabinet colleagues’ decision to stonewall Baha Mar developer Sarkis Izmirlian, who attempted to save his development by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware.
The Baha Mar debacle has helped to cripple the economy. Baha Mar was and continues to be the PLP’s economic panacea for the entire Bahamas.
Without Baha Mar, they really don’t have much of a plan to stimulate economic growth. It can be argued that both Christie and Halkitis are directly responsible for the 2,000 redundancies at Baha Mar, which increased the jobless numbers exponentially. Name me one other PM who has caused that many redundancies by the mere stroke of a pen. While their policy regarding Baha Mar has caused unnecessary hardship to hundreds of families, they and their cronies are living high on the hog. Halkitis has often escaped criticism due to the perception of him being superbly talented in the field of high finances. Yet here we are today with a national jobless rate in the mid to high double digit range and Grand Bahama lying flat on its face. His accomplishments in academia and in the business world have not translated to success in government, as the past four and a half years have amply demonstrated.
Quite frankly, Halkitis should by rights be removed from his post due to his abysmal performance. In any other jurisdiction which has a modicum of competence, he would have been fired outright.
In many newspaper photos of him, he looks like a deer caught in the headlights. Halkitis’ fingerprints are all over this economic wreckage. He is complicit with Christie in their administration’s mismanagement of the economy and must be held accountable.
March 7, 2017.