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Don't make council a 'political football'

Gowon Bowe

Gowon Bowe

By Neil Hartnell

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A Fiscal Responsibility Council member yesterday urged both the government and opposition not to make the body “a political football” after it became the focus for a House of Assembly confrontation.

Gowon Bowe, who holds the Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) seat on the council, told Tribune Business that both political factions needed to take “a more mature stance” over the role it will play in validating the government’s fiscal performance and compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

He spoke out after K Peter Turnquest, deputy prime minister, and his opposition shadow, PLP finance spokesman, Chester Cooper, traded blows over the council’s supposed failure to submit its report to the House of Assembly by July 31.

House speaker, Halson Moultrie, who ordered that some comments by Mr Cooper be struck from parliament’s record, ended the row by saying that since the council’s five members were appointed by himself he would write to Kevin Burrows, its chairman, to seek an explanation as to why the report had not been submitted by the deadline set out in the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

Mr Turnquest said he previously explained to the House that the council’s report had been delayed as a result of COVID-19 and Hurricane Dorian “throwing everything out of whack” - a situation that still exists today.

Denying that there was any lack of transparency on the government’s part, he said it had also taken time to complete the now-settled Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the council that sets out how the latter manages its affairs and interacts with the Ministry of Finance - particularly when it comes to handling sensitive non-public information.

Mr Bowe yesterday confirmed that the council’s long-awaited MoU had been completed bar the signatures as he urged both sides in the House of Assembly not to politicise its role and work.

“I know this is going to become a political football between the government and opposition,” he told this newspaper. “Both sides need a more mature stance.

“The government does not need to be defensive on what’s happening, and equally on the opposition side there’s no need to create conspiracy theories. The politics of the Fiscal Responsibility Act need to be set aside by both government and opposition.”

Mr Bowe emphasised that the council’s role was “not going to be the protector or arbiter of what fiscal policy should be”, but rather to assess whether the government is in compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act and if it has met its fiscal objectives for a particular year.

And he reiterated that there were provisions in the Fiscal Responsibility Act that allow the Government to to adjust its fiscal forecast when faced with a Dorian or COVID-19 type event, and present a revised forecast and strategy - including how they plan to get back on the path to the Act’s deficit and debt reduction targets - to Parliament.

“Our role is to say to the public there has been an independent validation and assessment of the Government’s plans and performance against what they committed to do, and the report will say what they did and did not do,” Mr Bowe told Tribune Business.

“It’s not for us to craft a new strategy or say what’s appropriate for the Government. That’s the legislature’s responsibility, and the Opposition has a role to play in that.”

Mr Bowe added that the MoU dealt with how the Council will manage its affairs, and issues of who controls its budget and whether it has its own office space. He said the sharing of confidential information by the Ministry of Finance and other government agencies “in a secure manner”, and how the Council interacts with and gains access to public officials is also dealt with.

Comments

tribanon 3 years, 10 months ago

Bowe said: "The politics of the Fiscal Responsibility Act need to be set aside by both government and opposition.”

That's one hell of a lot of wishful thinking on Bowe's part; in fact, totally unrealistic thinking as he well knows.

birdiestrachan 3 years, 10 months ago

He took a real nice picture. he should keep it so when he is old and gray he will have it to look at.. Just SMILE. It will do us all good

tribanon 3 years, 10 months ago

@birdie, are reminiscing about when you looked that good many moons ago? LOL

themessenger 3 years, 10 months ago

You must be joking, you can put lipstick on the crab but it's still a crab and the only place a crab look good is in a pot of rice.

ThisIsOurs 3 years, 10 months ago

the graphic artist likes Mr Bowe. Good instincts!

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