BY BRADLEY B. ROBERTS
FORMER CABINET MINISTER AND MP
15 APRIL 2018
We all heard the political rhetoric and what we now know to be the fake righteous indignation of the FNM about sinful use and waste of public funds; talk of how they were going to rein in public spending and usher in an era of incorruptible, travel averse, transparent and accountable government.
With the frequent flyer miles these FNM Ministers are racking up coupled with the huge delegations in tow on the public dole, pronouncements by this government on propriety, good governance and fiscal austerity or discipline become increasingly laughable by the day.
I along with countless Bahamians wait with bated breath to hear Prime Minister Minnis provide the cost of his current trip to Peru and London complete with the justification for the size of his delegation estimated at over thirty.
Let us take the Education Minister as a specific example: When Mr. Lloyd raises his sanctimonious and holier than thou head (or voice) again about his favourite topic – waste of public funds, could somebody, anybody please ask the good Minister how is it in these times of fiscal austerity he can justify spending over $70,000 to totally refurbish his office within four months of coming to office? Anybody who visited the Education Minister’s office would know that by any Minister’s office standards, the furnishing and décor were just fine. This is a waste of the people’s money to feed an oversized ego the public treasury cannot afford!
While Mr. Lloyd was immersing himself in opulence at the public’s expense, he was busy firing hundreds of minimum wage public servants to further feed his oversized ego. Lloyd simply did not think they didn’t deserved to have a job.
Minister Lloyd must produce the cost of the redecoration and the justification, after all, he is a member of a transparent and honest people’s time government. Further, did the Minister of Finance approve this? I know former Financial Secretary Simon Wilson and for Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie would not have approved such a ridiculous request.
Talking about waste and mismanagement, this government has borrowed about $1.7 billion to date with little to show for it. A recurring theme and complaint we hear is the government’s inability to manage the country’s finances, its disconnect with the concerns of the common people and its wanton hypocrisy. This all begins with the government’s fiscal priorities and budgetary allocations which places the hapless Finance Minister Peter Turnquest front, center and the driver of this waste that has caused this malaise, public fallout and discontent.
Mr. Turnquest can pontificate all he wants about transparency and sound fiscal practices and make claims about doing all of these great things but where has that gotten the country? In less than one year, this FNM has managed to equal the borrowings of the PLP in its five years in government and the borrowings will continue. The FNM has added to the rate of unemployment through mass separations from the public service yet the government’s salary budget continues to balloon. They continue to preach transparency but the public continues to ask where the $1.7 billion went. The FNM government continues to spend more as they preach fiscal austerity and discipline. They have maxed out the credit of the government and the Finance Minister in particular has demonstrated extraordinarily poor cash management skills.
Bahamians everywhere feel hopeless and fed up with this government. Peter Turnquest is a failed Minister of Finance and has to be seen as the worst Finance Minister ever.
This current waste and FNM voodoo economics are in stark contrast to the Central Bank financial report of April 30th 2017, indicating the country’s deficit just 7 days before the general election and 60 days before the end of budget year to be within the PLP government’s budget projection for the 2017/2018 fiscal year. The empirical data of the Central Bank is powerful proof that the fiscal practices of the PLP government were sound. Any difference between the projected deficit and the actual outturn could only be emergency borrowing due to an unexpected hurricane, an act of God.
Senator Fred Mitchell made the case during the mid-year budget that the reason the government is struggling now because Turnquest wanted to change from cash to accrual accounting causing mass confusion in the reporting mechanism and methodology that was in place for over 40 years. What did the FNM government expect to happen?
I look forward to the work of the Public Accounts Committee and expect full cooperation from the Ministry of Finance. Only empirical data matter, not hyperbole.