Tuesday, September 14, 2021
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A RISK management specialist yesterday said he does not foresee “radical changes” to the 2021-2022 Budget regardless of which political party wins Thursday’s general election because the fiscal dynamics have not changed.
Hubert Edwards, principal of Next Level Solutions, a Bahamas-based corporate governance and risk management consultancy, told Tribune Business that he expects The Bahamas “to limp into 2022 at pretty much the same rate” it has passed through this year given that COVID-19 and its high infection rates continue to bedevil this nation.
Agreeing that the incoming administration will “have to grapple with” multiple issues, most linked to health and the economic/ fiscal state of The Bahamas, he said it was unlikely that a Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) or Free National Movement (FNM) government would quickly to seek to pass a supplementary Budget upon taking office given that the revenue outlook will not drastically improve over the next nine-and-a-half months.
Implying that the next administration will have little flexibility or scope to adjust the Budget passed in June, Mr Edwards said many campaign promises will “have to wait a year” for the 2022-2023 Budget to be crafted.
“We already have a Budget,” he said. “In many instances there may be a reprioritising of things vis a vis what was promised on the campaign trail. We have to wait until Thursday night or Friday morning to see where we go in terms of the priorities of the country.
“No promise can be implemented without financing. To the extent that a political promise made on a campaign platform requires significant retrofitting to the Budget it’ll have to wait until the next fiscal year.”
Mr Edwards said the projected $951m fiscal deficit, and consequent increase in the national debt, plus the continued revenue shortfall would all remain regardless of whether a supplementary Budget was passed post-election.
“I wouldn’t anticipate a supplementary Budget with significant increases in taxes if either the PLP or FNM are elected,” he added. “One would anticipate that the level of resources will not change significantly between now and the end of the Budget year. We still have COVID-19, and there’s not likely to be radical changes if any.
“We can be expecting to be limping into 2022 at pretty much the same rate we’ve been at in 2021 so far unless really good news comes down the pipe with people getting vaccinated at a higher rate, and less vaccine hesitancy. I don’t anticipate much change.”
Mr Edwards warned that it was imperative that The Bahamas not suffer the same COVID-19 fate as Jamaica, where new cases in excess of 500 per day have been reported and the country is being locked down over a four-day period from Saturday to Tuesday.
“That’s a significant shift, and we have to be careful not to get there,” he warned this newspaper. “I’m not sure further restrictions are needed here unless there’s significant upward movement like in Jamaica, where they’re doing well over 500 cases per day.”