(April 23,2018) NASSAU,BAHAMAS- ACCORDING to PLP leader Phillip “Brave” Davis the reason for the FNM government’s slippage in the recent popularity polls is because of the “mistruths” they told voters during last year’s election campaign.
There probably is some truth in this because the FNM — like the rest of us— knew that the public finances had been badly crippled by the defeated PLP government. However, few knew the resuscitation needed for the Public Treasury before those election promises could be kept. For example, can Mr Davis explain the need for the million dollar clinics in his district when there was no one to staff them? And, considered on the larger scale of needs, did these islands have a sufficient number of patients to justify such expensive clinics? Yet, to build them, funds were diverted from the Princess Margaret Hospital, this country’s central hospital, which is badly in need of structural repairs, new equipment, medicine, nurses, and the list goes on.
We agree with Mr Davis that the present government must have a vision and a plan, which, he says, has not as yet been identifiable. We know of plans for certain areas, but because of contracts and financial decisions made by the PLP government, the finances are not there to carry out those plans —at least not as yet. Mr Davis wants to know “when are they going to stop blaming the PLP?” That is a question that is difficult to answer, because at almost every turn there is an unanticipated financial roadblock to moving forward – a roadblock left there by the PLP. “Were it not for the PLP, where would the economy be today?” Mr Davis asked. In certain areas – without their legacy – much further ahead than it is today, and in a few more months as more is revealed we should be able to quote chapter and verse of what has gone wrong.
#“What if VAT had not been implemented?” Mr Davis asked, then added: “They said it was stolen.” To respond to that statement is all in a point of view — we leave that to the public.
#VAT was introduced by the PLP government on January 1, 2015. At the time the Bahamian people were told that it was being introduced to reduce the public debt. They were not told that it was to go into the Consolidated Fund and that none of the proceeds from VAT were “to be earmarked for any specific purpose.” And so Bahamians were lied to when told that it was specifically earmarked to bring down the large and growing public debt. In fact in the Consolidated Fund it was commingled with “customs duties, excise taxes, property tax, business and bank license fees, stamp tax and all other revenues earned by the government.”
#Obviously thinking that with VAT they were now flush with money, the Christie government must have gone on a spending spree. The government was told in 2016 that its finances were “in a very dark position.” Instead of going down with VAT, the public debt had gone up. By 2016 the debt of these small islands was $7.604 billion — more than 90 per cent of the national output (GDP). To put it bluntly we were spending far more than we were earning. In the businessman’s world that spelt bankruptcy. And as Robert Myers of the Organisation for Responsible Governance, told Tribune Business at the time there was “no way” the Christie government could blame all the $314 million half-year deficit on Hurricane Matthew.
#Maybe, Mr Davis would now like to answer his own question: Where would the economy be today if it weren’t for the PLP and what if VAT had not been implemented, or, having been implemented, had been used for the purpose for which Bahamians were told it was intended? To us the answer is obvious. As for the FNM’s election promises, many of them could have started if the Treasury’s cupboard had not been left almost bare by Mr Davis’ government.