Thursday, February 7, 2019
By NATARIO MCKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The deputy prime minister yesterday pledged that the government’s finances will be placed “in check”, with “no more runaway trains” leading The Bahamas to the “fiscal brink”.
KP Turnquest, kicking-off the fiscal strategy report debate in Parliament, said: “We are going to restore order to the public finances, and strength to the Bahamian people, by putting the government in check and keeping the government in check.
“That means no more runaway trains leading the country to the fiscal brink. All governments will have to plan ahead, as we are; they will have to be transparent, as we have demonstrated; and they will have to accountable to the people every step of the way.”
He added: “When we get our fiscal affairs in order, we create room for spending to be used for capital needs, such as infrastructure, that creates jobs for individuals. In fact, a three-year capital expenditure plan is currently in the works that seeks to take a hard look at capital projects that are already developed, those in the pipeline, and those not yet developed to see how best we can accommodate them into our medium-term plan, with the aim of garnering fruitful, and sustainable improvements in national productivity and economic growth.”
Mr Turnquest then admitted that the Government’s $95m deficit overrun for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, which resulted in $410m worth of “red ink”, should have been picked up by the Ministry of Finance.
“We acknowledge that our forecasting for expenditure patterns and our budgetary management should have allowed us to pick this up when we presented the budget in May,” he said. “The reality is that this poor forecasting is not a new phenomenon.
“When we examine the last five budget years of the previous administration, we see the same exact pattern. The former minister of finance came to Parliament during the Budget debate with a forecasted budget deficit, and invariably the final deficit number would end up being larger – usually much larger.”
Meanwhile, Dionisio D’Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, said the industry’s growth for the 11 months ending November 30, 2018, injected $300 million in extra visitor spending into the Bahamian economy.
He added that preliminary data showed the number of foreign visitors to The Bahamas increased by “a whopping” 425,000 persons, or 7.7 per cent, for the 11 months ending November 30, 2018.
Stopover visitors, that portion of foreign visitors that spend the most, increased by over 205,000 persons or what the Minister termed “a mind blowing 17.1 per cent”.
“These additional visitors contributed over $300m of additional spending into our economy in 2018,” Mr D’Aguilar said.