By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The deputy prime minister yesterday slammed the opposition’s criticisms of the failure to hit 2018’s 2.3 percent economic growth target as having “no credibility”.
K Peter Turnquest, addressing the Department of Statistics report that found real Bahamian gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by just 1.6 percent, told Tribune Business: “Overall the economy is doing well and is on a positive path.
“The interesting thing is, if you look at the Department of Statistics’ report, the growth is private sector led versus government intervention. That is certainly quite positive with respect to sustainability. We continue to do our part to create more opportunities for Bahamians to succeed in this economy.”
He spoke out after Chester Cooper, the PLP’s deputy leader and finance spokesman, said in a statement that the Minnis administration must explain why its projection for two percent GDP growth was not met. He argued that the 1.6 percent expansion rate should be “alarming to Bahamians”.
“With the opening of Baha Mar, and record tourist arrivals the current administration had nothing to do with, the booming US economy and no major shocks to the economy, like a hurricane, over the past year, the government must explain why the growth projection was not met,” Mr Cooper said.
“Could it perhaps be the arbitrary raising of value-added tax (VAT) and the subsequent starving of capital expenditure to meet a rigid deficit target the government was told was ill-advised?
“The government will not meet its revenue collection projection; the economy did not meet the stated growth projection. Which projections uttered by this administration should we believe? Where does fantasy end and reality begin? Any growth in the economy is good, but it stands to reason the government is doing more harm to economic growth than good.”
Mr Cooper argued that household consumption had increased because of Baha Mar’s full opening as well as the VAT increase. “Yes, household consumption is up because of Baha Mar,” he said. “However, household consumption is also up because VAT is up – people are paying more taxes. Household consumption is also up because electricity bills and the fuel charge are up, not necessarily because people have more money to spend.
Mr Turnquest yesterday pushed back these criticisms, arguing that the report did not support the opposition’s assertions. “All I would say is that the numbers speak for themselves. They have no credibility in this matter, none,” he said, pointing to the Christie administration’s handling of the country’s finances and the economy during its term in office.