Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
FINANCE Minister Peter Turnquest said while officials expect some changes to happen in the “family budget” due to the re-imposed national shutdown, decisions have yet to be made concerning the future of public servants.
Noting the government is still on track with its revenue projections, Mr Turnquest also said if the lockdown and tourism fall off continues into the autumn, officials will have to “make new decisions and adjustments”.
The minister made the comments while speaking to reporters ahead of a Cabinet meeting yesterday.
In April, it was rumoured that the Minnis administration had planned to cut civil service salaries and benefits in an effort to reduce current expenditure to assist with the economic fall out from the COVID-19 virus. However, government officials shot down those claims.
Asked about the issue yesterday, Mr Turnquest said: “At the moment, we still have not made any decisions about the public servants and any kind of adjustments there and so hopefully we’ll be able to sustain our current levels and ensure that persons are able to meet their commitments particularly as it relates to getting back to school and all the other commitments that people would ordinarily have.
“Yes, we do anticipate that there’s going to be significant adjustments in the family budget that is going to have to be made as a result of this new shutdown. As you know, we have had programmes in place to try and assist residents as best as possible either through rental assistance or food assistance.”
He added: “The prime minister would’ve talked about (the) food assistance programme that we launched nationally, and that programme is feeding thousands of Bahamians and we will continue to do that as were committed to ensuring that nobody goes hungry to the best of our ability.
“Up to now, we’ve been tracking where we pretty much projected and we’re just about 50 percent of our usual revenue for this period. Fortunately, this is the slow tourist period so we’re not totally off our mark.
“The expenditure is elevated as a result of the social programmes that we’re trying to follow through but the good news is we budgeted for this. We are where we anticipated we would be.”
He also said: “Once we get into the fall, if we continue to have lockdowns and our tourism business is not starting to come back, then as I’ve always said we will have to start making some new decisions and adjustments.”
Asked yesterday about the government’s strategies to contain the COVID-19 threat for when it re-opens the country’s borders again, the minister replied: “So I think everybody will have to admit that there was some unexpected developments as a result of the previous reopening.
“…When we get past this current lockdown, we will have additional tools available to us. We will be a bit more vigilant about the testing and the quarantining. Additionally, there are some exciting developments in term of testing that I think is going to really help us have more proactive handle on the situation once we come out of this lockdown.”