STATEMENT BY CHESTER COOPER
SHADOW MINISTER OF FINANCE, EXUMAS AND RAGGED ISLAND MP ON THE MINISTER OF FINANCE’S REPORT TO THE HOUSE
The minister of finance’s report to the House of Assembly on the country’s fiscal affairs today provided no new information.
As governmental social assistance programs have weeks left before they run out and people are anxious about losing that little help, the minister says he’ll maybe say something about this at a later date.
As small and medium-sized business owners who were forced to shut down in July and August are still reeling, there was not much additional hope offered for them either.
Despite the government boasting of spending $1.3 million a week, many Bahamians are still unable to access assistance efficiently for the basics of food and shelter.
There is still no clear economic plan put forward by this government, other than to pray tourism gets going again soon.
Clearly the plan does not inspire the confidence of some of the largest stakeholders as they call for more predictability of the emergency orders and widespread testing, as has been the constant recommendation of PLP.
What we heard today was a minister of finance who laid the blame for the failure of the Fiscal Responsibility Council to report to the House at the feet of the Speaker.
This administration should familiarize itself with the requirements of the Fiscal Responsibility Act it authored as set out in Part IV of the Act.
We heard the minister continue to use fiscal responsibility, accountability and transparency as buzz words.
But what we did not see was the report of the Fiscal Responsibility Council that is mandated by law to be delivered at the end of July.
We did not hear or see the details of the loan agreements with the International Monetary Fund, the Caribbean Development Bank, and other loan agreements entered into this year.
We have yet to hear or see detailed reports of the state of the Treasury, as we have requested multiple times.
In the spirit of transparency, it is not sufficient for the minister to say that “the position of the public treasury is secure”.
That is just spin.
He needs to submit the requested reports.
The Progressive Liberal Party intends to soon dissect the fiscal reality of the economy in a virtual forum that should be announced soon.
Meantime, we would invite the minister to add substance to these speeches, as the average Bahamian and business owner is looking for direction, vision and hope.