McAlpine: ‘Stamp out partisan politics’ for good of Bahamas


Frederick McAlpine

• ‘No one gives a damn’ who had good idea

• But criticises large size of Davis Cabinet

• Ex-minister: We helped ‘turn a corner’


Tribune Business Editor


A former MP yesterday queried the size of Prime Minister Philip Davis’ new Cabinet as he demanded that “partisan politics be stamped out for the sake of The Bahamas”.

Frederick McAlpine, who gained 33 percent of the Pineridge vote while standing as an independent candidate in last week’s general election, told Tribune Business that if a policy, law or investment project is beneficial for The Bahamas and its citizens “no one gives a damn who brought it to the table”.

Besides urging the major political parties to stop competing for credit over such initiatives, he added that if he were prime minister he would have opted for a smaller Cabinet to start with and expanded it if need be.

Speaking after seven parliamentary secretaries (see articles in News section) were yesterday appointed to join Mr Davis’ 22-strong Cabinet, Mr McAlpine said “some serious money is being doled out” through their addition to the public sector payroll.

“This is going to be very interesting,” he added. “You have the Prime Minister saying all hands on deck. I understand the need to have all hands on deck, but there are many persons who have not been on deck before unless in a professional capacity.

“I would have started smaller, and grown as need be. Right out the gate, there are almost 30 persons. Those salaries are high. Seven parliamentary secretaries and 22 Cabinet ministers. That’s high, and some serious money is being doled out. It is what it is.”

Mr Davis’ Cabinet is some six members’ larger than that of Dr Hubert Minnis, which had 16 persons including the latter. With the seven parliamentary secretaries in addition to 22 Cabinet ministers, just three PLP MPs who were victorious in last week’s general election have not been given a job in a government ministry. One of those is Leslia Miller-Brice, daughter of former Cabinet minister, Leslie Miller.

The Prime Minister yesterday defended his Cabinet from criticisms that it is overweight and bloated, arguing that the numbers reflect the extent of The Bahamas’ COVID-19, economic and fiscal challenges and the size of the task facing his government. Many observers are likely to reserve judgment until they see how effective the new government is.

Mr McAlpine, meanwhile, said “everybody should be very concerned” by the recent Moody’s downgrade and the country’s $10.4bn national debt now exceeding the size of the Bahamian economy. “People are very concerned as to where the economy is going, we still have a number of people in the hotel industry on furlough, and many people in this country do not know where their next dime is coming from,” he added.

“It’s fair to say we’re in a very rough place. Homes are being foreclosed upon, and people are unable to meet their mortgage commitments because they are out of work. This is the reality, and I’m just saying that I don’t see us getting any better.”

As to the Davis administration’s prospects for turning The Bahamas’ economy, health and fiscal position around, Mr McAlpine told this newspaper: “Let me say this, and I say it respectfully. This is not a good time to be Prime Minister of any country. If you are going to be prime minister during this particular juncture, you are going to have to be very innovative, strategic and economically prudent.

“It is what it is. It is what it is. It’s very difficult. He [Mr Davis] has the task. There has to be, and I say this with all sincerity, there has to be some kind of national reconciliation. The country is long divided, and to have that economic stimulation or sense of going in the right direction we must, for the sake of the country, stamp out the partisan politics.

“We must do what is right for the country. If it is right and good for the country, who gives a damn who brought it to the table?” Mr McAlpine said the focus now had to be on economic policies to “get us out of the doldrums”, and he urged the Davis administration to focus on collecting existing taxes that are due rather than implement any increases or new ones.

“What they need to do is go after and seek some of the taxes that have not been collected. We must find ways to go after those evading taxes in our country. There are people that owe property taxes, people who have been evasive in terms of Customs duties. We have to find ways to go after taxes that are owed. That’s what we have to do,” he added.

Meanwhile Kwasi Thompson, former minister of state for finance, last night defended the Minnis administration’s economic and fiscal policies for having helped The Bahamas “turn a corner”. He based this assessment on the Central Bank’s 2021 second quarter report as well as Moody’s suggestion that the economy will grow by 8 percent this year.

The latter contrasts sharply with the IMF and Central Bank projections of 2 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth for The Bahamas in 2021, and Mr Thompson’s statement made no mention of the recent Moody’s downgrade or the fact that the country’s $10.4bn national debt is now greater than the size of its economy.

“I am pleased that the Central Bank’s June 2021 quarterly economic review has confirmed ‘that the domestic economy stabilised during the second quarter of 2021, despite the ongoing spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic’. This is confirmation that the economic policies implemented by the Minnis administration were having positive effects on the Bahamian economy,” Mr Thompson said.

“Additionally, it is important to note that the Central Bank has also confirmed ‘that the Government’s overall deficit narrowed during the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020-2021, relative to the same quarter for fiscal year 2019-2020. Underlying this outturn, aggregate revenue increased considerably, led by gains in value added taxes (VAT) receipts, which overshadowed the rise in aggregate expenditure’.

“This is again confirmation that the Minnis administration’s recovery plan was taking shape with increased revenue and narrowing of the deficit. It is clear, while we have a distance to go for full recovery, we have turned a corner,” Mr Thompson added. 

“This is consistent with the Minnis administration’s previous statements, and now confirmed by the Central Bank of the Bahamas. Tourism continues to improve and construction also continues to improve. We also note in a statement released by Moody’s that the economy is predicted to grow by 8 percent, four times faster than the anticipated 2 percent.

It is also clear that Moody’s expects our recovery to be based on some of the same policies, initiatives, and legislative reforms of the Minnis administration.”

In what appeared to be a shot at the PLP’s VAT rate cut to 10 percent, he said: “We are hopeful that before any major economic changes or tax reform, as was pledged by the Minnis administration, there are proper studies, analysis, diagnosis and consultation. Sudden changes, though well meaning, can derail economic and fiscal recovery. We therefore stand ready to assist to ensure the country’s economy fully recovers.” 


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