BY Chester Cooper, Exumas and Ragged Island MP, PLP Deputy leader,
PLP Shadow Finance Minister
Today, I have written to the chairman of the Treasury Committee of Parliament for a meeting to examine the state of the treasury, which is our mandate so to do.
Whilst we have received weekly health briefings on the COVID-19 crisis from health officials, we do not receive economic briefings, which is of critical importance.
Sufficed to say, the fear of the economic fallout has, perhaps, surpassed the fear of the virus itself.
This is most evident, by the pain and suffering of the most vulnerable, especially as it relates to access to the most basic essentials such as food and shelter.
A report in The Tribune dated August 18, 2020 under the heading “DPM rejects Bahamas “debt crisis” description, has triggered several questions.
The minister was apparently responding to yet another international organization, namely, Jubilee Debt Campaign that branded The Bahamas as being “in a debt crisis”.
Further, the minister of National Insurance has recently gone on record in expressing concern that the government unemployment program is without funding to go beyond September.
Further, many small businesses have expressed concern about the inability to access capital from the recently touted small business assistance program.
It has been reported that funding for the first tranche of the program has run out, while funding for another tranche that would cover those who were disadvantaged during the second wave, has not yet been finalized.
The Treasury Committee of which I am a member, is being invited to examine the monthly revenue collected and deposits, as well as the balance on the consolidated fund and any overdraft facilities. It is proposed that committee examine the actuals compared to projections as well as comparisons to prior year by month.
In the meantime, we request the Ministry of Finance to provide a copy of the most recent report of the Fiscal Responsibility Council as it would have sight of internal Ministry of Finance reports in preparing their analysis.
The silence of the council is more deadly than the incompetence of the administration in the current environment.
We would also wish to examine all loan documents signed this year, including the documents related to the government’s overdraft and for the Central Bank’s debt sustainability analysis given its new legislation which limits its ability to lend to the government.
The minister, in the referenced interview refers to bridge facilities with multi-lateral lenders such as the IDB, the CDB and the World Bank.
We further renew our call for a review of the loan agreements executed with the IMF.
On April 20, 2020 we issued a plan to mitigate the economic fallout of COVID-19.
We are confident that had the government followed the substance of the recommendations specifically to “go hard and go early” that much of the current uncertainty may have been mitigated.