THE Deputy Prime Minister last night said the Opposition "should be the last to open their mouths on fiscal propriety" as he hit back at criticisms of the Government's borrowing.
K P Turnquest, pointing to the "massive ramp-up" in the national debt under the Christie administration despite VAT's introduction, slammed Philip Davis for challenging how its successor is running the country's finances.
The Opposition leader had questioned what the Government was doing with its $1.4 billion approved borrowing, but Mr Turnquest retorted: "Make no mistake about it, this last administration had oversight of millions of dollars in inflated contracts of questionable value, and should be the last to open their collective mouths with anything to do with financial matters or fiscal propriety."
Targeting the "excessive use" of taxpayer dollars on schools and clinics in Mr Davis's constituency of Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador, he added that this all fell "curiously" within the former deputy prime minister's territory.
"Under his watch as a Minister in the former government, the Opposition Leader helped preside over a massive ramp-up of government debt even after introducing Value Added Tax (VAT), which added hundreds of millions of new revenue to the Government purse," Mr Turnquest blasted.
"With this dismal record of performance, quite frankly the Opposition Leader and his colleagues are in no position to talk about fiscal propriety. Their government grossly mismanaged the country's financial resources, exceeding their last budget by over $500 million alone, so his critique particularly rings hollow."
Of the Government's approved $1.4 billion borrowing for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, Mr Turnquest said $323 million was to cover this year's deficit, while another $400 million was "to settle unpaid bills" left behind by the former administration.
"Subsequent to the passing of the Budget, additional unpaid bills were identified that have been paid thus far from the current fiscal year's approved budget, meaning our deficit may have been even lower if we did not have to pay these unplanned expenses," the Deputy Prime Minister added.
The remaining amount was wrapped up in the Government's $750 million US dollar bond issue, which was used to roll-over maturing debt issues and repay short-term facilities.
A further $100 million borrowing to redeem bonds issued to Bank of the Bahamas was approved in the mid-year Budget, while some $90 million in credit from the Inter-American Development Bank will not be drawn down until the next fiscal year. "This current FNM administration has now recorded two budget surpluses in the past 11 months, most recently in January of this year, and our aim is to arrive at the point of consistency in this regard, bringing down the deficit and eventually the massive debt accumulated under the PLP's watch," Mr Turnquest added.