Cooper: The Minister of Finance and Voodoo Economics

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CHESTER COOPER, EXUMAS AND RAGGED ISLAND MP, PLP DEPUTY LEADER

Hon. Chester Cooper MP Exuma and Ragged Island.

February 21, 2018

The statement by the Minister of Finance was voodoo economics at its best. It was all about prettying up the books and spin without giving us the underlying realities on the ground. While he may boast of improving figures, which we question, we say at what cost? The cost has been unemployment, bad roads and deteriorating infrastructure and no hospital beds. The PLP cannot endorse it and the people of the country deserve better from this people’s time government.

The Government’s mid-year budget statement was another version of blame the PLP. The question that must be asked is: when will the FNM take responsibility for the fact that they are the government?

Just these simple facts amplify the point: Overall expenses are $400 mil more than last year. $1.3billion vs some $900 million. FNM fired 2500 persons, say they saved $75 million but reports today that public service salaries are $15 million more than last year. This needs further explanation.

The mid-year budget communication today by the Hon. Minister of Finance demonstrates what we have been saying all along. This Government has no vision, no plan and no strategy for managing and growing the economy. We heard nothing new. We heard nothing that inspires confidence.

Without fail, the minister of finance presents figures distorted by caveats and double speak to try to knit together something coherent that tries to make the government look good.

However, we all see it for what it is – more voodoo economics from a government that promises much but delivers little.

The lack of economic growth is the fundamental issue facing our economy. Though the minister speaks proudly of forecasts by international agencies, we heard very little today that will grow the economy or even create jobs.

The minister of finance has yet again come to Parliament preaching fiscal consolidation yet coming with a resolution in tow to borrow more money. This time, on top of the $90 million he asked for last time, $100 million more. We will have more to say about this in due course.  

Once again, with the realities of governance and a lack of ideas to move the country forward, the talks change.

The minister of finances insistence on separating expenditure for debt reduction is disingenuous, expenditure is expenditure; we are on cash basis, as he pointed out during today’s contribution.

That much of this debt reduction was to facilitate the current administration’s idea to restructure debt and extend the burden on the Public Treasure associated with it, must have escaped him today.

As expenditure goes up, revenue is on to track to be lower than the year before. There were two major hurricanes in 2016, compared to one hurricane that did not impact as many people in 2017.

Revenue collection should be well in hand.

The government boasts of slashing capital expenditure by around 50 percent. But at what cost?

Look around us. We can see the price we pay.

The busted roads, the dilapidated schools, the crumbling infrastructure, a hospital devoid of beds, crime continues unabated.

Having slashed capital expenditure and having slashed 2,500 jobs from the public service, how is it that the Minnis administration does not have either revenue or expenditure on target?

How are public salaries $15 million higher if the Minnis administration’s claims that it saved $75 million on salaries by firing and sending people home are to be believed?

The minister failed to explain how we are paying for infrastructure upkeep and how we will keep entitlement programs funded without driving up the debt.

As far as growing this economy goes, in recent times we have only heard of repackaged PLP projects particularly in West Grand Bahama, East Grand Bahama and Lucayan.

For the growth he claims experienced in 2017, as he indicated, we can thank Baha Mar for that. Apparently, they’re now fully on board.