BAHAMAS SCOOP EDITORIAL
I write in response to the Tribune’s editorial dated 9th December 2014 under the heading, “A failed economy and no accurate information.”
In the op ed, the editor bemoans the absence of “accurate information” and describes a national “a state of confusion” but at the same time ironically uses the Tribune’s editorial page to disgracefully spew forth misinformation that will have the deleterious effect of spreading fear, uncertain and confusion in the public domain.
Her narrative on VAT is particularly and disgracefully misleading. Even I, a layman, understand that registered businesses are not losing anything but simply collecting VAT for the government and receive a refund on the VAT they pay on their stock merchandize inventory at the port of entry or from their local suppliers and on the services they provide to their customers where applicable. I also understand that the VAT revenues businesses will collect daily (you know, the government’s money) will be used to fund their operations until such time as they turn the monies over to the government. This ostensibly means that at any given time, a business will enjoy the benefit of a government credit and the government’s VAT money in their bank accounts to fund their business operations. Also, 65% of the economy is service driven and VAT seeks to capture that lion share of the economy that has gone untaxed for many decades. On the issue of public education, the VAT Unit has met continuously with businesses to explain VAT for more than two years. So there is no confusion as the editor would have readers believe.
So all this talk about fear and confusion surrounding VAT is by and large manufactured.
Regarding the Bank of The Bahamas (BOB), their challenges are common to most banks operating in the Bahamas and the Caribbean as they were all exposed to a depressed marketplace due to the recession. As for accountability, the FNM appointed board approved the commercial loans; they are no longer with the bank. The members of the credit board are also gone. The Managing Director of BOB is not a member of the credit board and had absolutely nothing to do with approving these commercial loans. All of the people associated with the approval of these loans are no longer with the BOB. Who were not fired by the Bahamian people on 7th May 2012 were fired by the bank.
As for the politics of this, the opposition FNM should be the last ones to open their mouths about this matter as these loans were granted on their watch and approved by their board. The current BOB board granted no commercial loans. Like the NIB and the PHA, the BOB situation is just another mess inherited by the PLP government that they are cleaning up.
The problem is that people like the editor register their opposition to the current government and its policies by getting up on their public soapboxes and create mischief and confusion by spreading misinformation and repeating the theme of gloom and doom such as “THE SKY IS FALLING, THE SKY IS FALLING” (as long as the government of the day is in place). They normally do so behind a smokescreen of nationalism when in fact they are simply campaigning against the current government.
Regarding the fiscal affairs of the country, the editor knows full well or should know that the current government amended the Financial Administration and Audit Act. Further, the government recently secured a loan of some $33 million from the IDB and has enlisted the bank’s technical support to assist the government in its stated policy of fiscal consolidated which involves tax reform, the establishment of the Central Revenue Agency, upgraded accounting interface platforms and the employment of international best practices. Further, the government just recently launched its National Development Plan to add better structure, forward planning and specific deliverables attached to projects and policy initiatives going forward.
The fruits of the government’s fiscal reform measures were objectively acknowledged by the Central Bank of the Bahamas and praised by international credit rating agencies.
But notwithstanding these difficult but necessary policy measures, the editor conveniently dismissed them and stated that “having lost confidence in the government’s ability to govern, with no Freedom of Information Act with which to question how our tax dollars are being administered what guarantee do Bahamians have that the country’s economy will not collapse before 2017?”
Now I know this is an inconvenient fact for the editor but the economy of The Bahamas is stronger now than it was twenty-nine months ago when government revenue had deteriorated by almost $300 million and the annual budgetary deficit was in excess of $600 million. Today the economy is no longer suffering a net loss of jobs, but a net gain – 8,390 jobs were added in 2 years after 14,500 jobs hemorrhaged from the economy during the previous 5 year period. Projects are no longer overrun by almost 100% or $100 million as was the case prior to 2012. Tourism expenditures and stopover arrivals are no longer at a 25 year low as was the case several years ago, but at the highest level in the country’s history at 6.2 million visitors in 2013. The country is actually attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) with full employment in some of the family islands.
But where was the editor’s voice when the economy of The Bahamas was failing several years ago during the governance of that other Party? Check the record – the editor was busy defending the policies of the FNM, excusing their bad policy decisions, blaming everything on the global recession and blaming the opposition PLP for the decisions the governing FNM made. The editor had the audacity to blame the then opposition PLP for allowing the unsustainable borrowing and spending by the FNM between 2007 and 2012. I kid you not, just check the record. Check the record, the Tribune praised and celebrated the stoppage of some $80 million of public works projects by the incoming FNM government in 2007, a bad policy decision that helped to slow and eventually stall the national economy back then.
Where was the editor’s ‘bleeding heart’ concern for The Bahamas and its economy back then? Where was this righteous indignation we now see on national display by the Tribune’s editor and why didn’t the editor get up on her soapbox and yelled at the top of her lungs that “THE SKY IS FALLING, THE SKY IS FALLING” when the economy was in free fall and the proverbial sky was in fact falling?
Much like the leadership of the FNM, the Tribune editor is at least five years late in sounding the alarm.
She waited until the economy is on the rebound to do so; what a joke!
So as much as the Tribune editor would like for Bahamians to believe that the economy is failing, has failed and that everything else is just falling apart at the seams – the cold, hard and stubborn facts do not support her opinions, her narrative, her spin or her narrow political agenda.