STATEMENT FROM THE OFFICE OF THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN RESPONSE TO THE HOUSE COMMUNICATION BY THE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER SEEKING AN APOLOGY FROM THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
15 APRIL 2018
Upon my return to the country on Friday 13 April, I learned that the Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest took advantage of my absence from the House on 11 April to raise a controversial communication purportedly answering statements made by me by way of a press release relating to his conduct as Minister of Finance.
It appears to me that I have to take up with the Speaker of the House at the first opportunity how a communication in contravention of the rules and conventions of the House could have been allowed. At the very least I will insist on a right to reply.
As to the substantive matters raised by the Deputy Prime Minister, there will be no apology from me and none is required.
He cannot escape responsibility for the confusion over the country’s finances. The confusion is entirely of his own making by falsely accusing me of attacking public servants and the Central Bank. There was no attack on the Central Bank or the Department of Statistics by me. That is fiction and a further attempt by the Deputy Prime Minister to cause confusion. I repeat, he will go down in history as the worst Minister of Finance ever.
The record will show that the issue of accounting methodology, either cash basis or accrual, was introduced by the Deputy Prime Minister. This was done following last year’s budget debate in a vain attempt to justify paying off bills that he said were left by the PLP administration from the previous fiscal year. The premise was false and the narrative misleading and it was done for political reasons. The aim was to blame the PLP for the high deficit.
Identifying and paying off hundreds of millions in bills only as a pretext to come to the House to point finger, lay blame and level accusations of mismanagement, wrongdoing and a sinful use of public funds were pure political theatre, not sound fiscal practices and good governance. His actions smacked of manipulation to score political points. The theme of supposed PLP malfeasance connected to a high deficit was entirely the invention of the FNM and their propagandists. This was unbecoming and inappropriate. If there was a desire to change the fiscal policy from a cash-based accounting system to accrual based then he need only announce the policy change, plain and simple.
No former Finance Minister has ever done that. The country’s public finances are worse off because of his actions. I don’t want to hurt his feelings but if he were to ask any former Finance Minister they would tell him that his actions were imprudent.
For the record, when you disaggregate the actual figures, the only difference between the PLP’s deficit predictions and the actual outturn was the unanticipated emergency spending because of the hurricane. The PLP did not mismanage the economy. That claim by Turnquest was an utter falsehood.
The Central Bank agrees with those facts and so does the Department of Statistics. In fact, the Minister’s own budget communication agrees with those facts.
We hope that Mr. Turnquest would remain true to his word and permit full cooperation with the requests of the Public Accounts Committee.