CONCERNS AND QUERIES ARISE FROM PLP GOVERNMENT’S FOURTH QUARTER 2022/23 REPORT

Dec 18, 2023

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hon. J. Kwasi Thompson

MP, East Grand Bahama

December 10, 2023

 

THE BAHAMAS – The Opposition remains concerned about the lateness of this report, as it should have been released more than 2 months ago. Presently, there are still four reports that are significantly overdue. The ongoing failure of the government to publish these reports on time diminishes the credibility of the reported information.

While it is welcome news that the country collected 99.9% of the revenue expected in the Budget, we are still concerned that the VAT collected did not meet the expected targets. Given the reliance on a major jump in VAT revenue in this year’s budget, the Government must explain what effect last year’s VAT underperformance will have on the projections for this current year. Additionally, what does this mean for the economy moving forward?

The Opposition is very concerned about the increase in Compensation to Employees by $68 million. Has the government properly factored in the impact of this elevated spending and made adjustments elsewhere in its discretionary spending to compensate? The Government also needs to explain how much of this amount accounts for new employees. The Government seems content to expand the public service without restraint. If the number of employees increased, why did the payments in insurance premiums decrease by $55 million, and have these insurance premium payments just been deferred to the current fiscal year? How much arrears from the last fiscal year got carried over into this fiscal year?

Why did the Government exceed its budget for rental accommodation, resulting in an increase of $20 million? The Government again increased travel spending by over $6 million (over 50%). We again call upon the Government to curtail unnecessary spending, especially on unnecessary travel. Simultaneously, they have decreased spending on social benefit payments by $58.4 million (20.4 percent), and expenditure on social protection declined by $28.8 million (11.2 percent). We continue to demand that the Government increase social assistance to assist Bahamians in dealing with the high cost of living.

It is also unbelievable that they have decreased payments for small and medium-sized businesses by $2.5 million and national disaster recovery by $7.7 million. This continues to be a major need for Bahamians. The PLP has again failed in its $50 million commitment to small businesses.

The report also revealed that the Government has not repaid the Central Bank a dollar on its $232 million facility. Is this the amount borrowed on the Central Bank’s SDRs? The agreement signed with the Central Bank was for just one year. How much money has the government set aside for repayment of this facility? This is again a question of credibility.

This report confirms that the country continues to benefit from the ongoing economic recovery that started under the FNM. However, there are remaining questions. We believe that more could have been done to prioritize increased revenues to maintain and increase social welfare spending and support for small businesses, instead of cutting these initiatives. This administration chose instead to engage in more traveling and more extravagant spending.

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