Deputy Progressive Liberal Party leader Chester Cooper.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Deputy Leader Chester Cooper says the Minnis administration’s 2020/2021 budget will be “brutal” for ordinary Bahamians.
The budget will be released tomorrow in the House of Assembly.
Mr Cooper’s statement came after Finance Minister Peter Turnquest vowed to deliver social protection and economic stability for residents while acknowledging that COVID-19 will weigh heavily on revenue and expenditure estimates. Mr Turnquest said the budget will be unprecedented. He said he will not sugar coat the problems the country faces.
“The next budget more than anything,” Mr Cooper said, “represents the cumulative impact of a series of poor fiscal decisions in the three previous budgets. These poor decisions started with the disbanding of the revenue task force, continuing with a VAT increase which did not account for elasticity in the economy. The results of the FNM’s budgets have been failed target after failed target and delivered nothing but misery to the Bahamian people. The promise in week ten of this crisis, that the new budget will make sure that no one grows hungry rings hollow. Many Bahamians are going hungry now as the prime minister’s promise of a food delivery network remains just that. The government has a responsibility to protect citizens. Additionally, money allocated and approved but not yet paid out, does little to stimulate the economy and is useless in helping the needy.”
On Sunday Mr Turnquest announced that the government has applied to take advantage of a low-cost emergency loan facility available to member countries of the International Monetary Fund. The $252m facility has an interest rate of 1.054 percent. Mr Turnquest said the loan would come with no strings attached, referring to IMF structural adjustment requirements.
Mr Cooper said: “On the fact of it, 1.05 percent is not an unattractive rate in a market where government 2024 paper is trading at 15 percent, following the recent downgrade and negative outlook. However, the offer raises many questions. We have previously warned about leaving a rainy-day reserve, as well as borrowing headroom. With more than $3 billion borrowed even before Dorian and COVID-19, that Bahamians cannot see or touch, it appears that the chickens may be coming home to roost.”