The Cabinet make their way to Parliament for the budget communication. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff
By SANCHESKA DORSETT
Tribune Staff Reporter
MINISTER of Finance Peter Turnquest stressed the "historically high burden of government debt" as the new Free National Movement administration sets about the task of achieving economic stability and fulfilling campaign promises.
In his first budget communication in the House of Assembly, Mr Turnquest said the outgoing-Christie administration oversaw the single largest run up of debt in the country's history.
He said the country’s fiscal situation is “far far far more bleak” than the Free National Movement anticipated”, and noted that the previous administration has constrained the government’s ability to carry out their agenda, in its first year. He added that the government will be borrowing $400 million this fiscal year.
He also also criticised the Christie administration for “entering into several contracts” months, weeks and even days before the last general election - a practice he said his government would outlaw going forward.
He said the FNM’s goal is to get the governments debt down to a more sustainable level, and to get the government’s fiscal house in order.
Over the next three months, he forecast a review of government programs to determine how value of money can be enhanced, efficiency of services can be improved, and how money can be saved to reduce the deficit.
During his speech, Mr Turnquest said the GFS deficit at the end of June is projected at 500 million, five times the 100 million forecasted by the Christie administration.
He said there is an excess of $320 million in commitments left by the former government, with new bills being found daily.
As a result, Mr Turnquest said the FNM administration is holding the line on expenditure and only providing money for things of the highest priority.
The Finance Minister also spoke of reducing import duties on building materials, reduction in business licenses, reducing duties on electric motorcycles, providing duty exemptions on machinery for ground repair and maintenance and service of sea vessels and cruise ships and also exemptions on imported original artwork, once approved by the national art gallery.
Mr Turnquest added that the government will release a full list of the governments expenditure so the public can see clearly where the vat money has gone.