Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. K. Peter Turnquest said in the 2018/19 Budget, the government is giving Bahamians the unfiltered truth about the state of public finances. “It might not be what any of us wants to hear, but it is the reality, and we are addressing these matters with a level of transparency and fiscal responsibility that no other government has done before,” DPM Turnquest said during his Contribution to open the 2018/19 Budget Debate in the House of Assembly, Wednesday, June 6, 2018. He said many of the initiatives intended to drive the government’s economic vision – its agenda for inclusive growth, social progress, environmental sustainability, public sector reform and fiscal redress – have been understandably lost in the fear and frustration over the VAT increase.
“While I will speak more to these frustrations today, I also plan to reinforce the message that in this Budget, the Government has allocated public resources in alignment with its priorities and promises.
“We are not only using the people’s money to stabilize the government’s fiscal position, we are also investing strategically in targeted programs to advance an economic vision.”
He said,” I will proudly subject the People’s Budget to that test, because we are spending the people’s hard earned money, contributed through taxes, on a vision of inclusiveness, social progress, modernization, and fiscal responsibility.”
The DPM explained that the government’s budget:
- Invests in neglected communities and vulnerable populations so they might feel the benefits of inclusive growth
- Improves the competitiveness of the Bahamian workforce so Bahamians have better opportunities for better work
- Fosters a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation with direct investments and development support for micro, small and medium business so Bahamians can better create their own jobs
- Demonstrates leadership in adopting green technology, empowering Bahamians to do the same
- Invests in digital technology to enhance the digital infrastructure of the public service, and to modernize schools and bring them into the digital future
He highlighted a few of the budget lines. DPM Turnquest said the government’s $5 million investment in the Over-the-Hill Community Development Partnership Initiative is only one example of its promise to prioritize the most vulnerable people and neglected communities.
“While we have spoken about it before, it is worth remembering: This represents the single largest investment in a holistic, economic development and community rejuvenation exercise Over the Hill, I dare say, ever.” He said this is a break from the past. “We all know that these historic communities have been represented by prime ministers, ministers of finance and other cabinet ministers for decades. And yet, it was left to this government to demonstrate its commitment to budgeting according to its priorities.”
The DPM said during the Debate, the government will also speak about infrastructure development in the Family Islands; about tax relief measures on basic goods and services for the poorer among us; about tax relief measures and new programmes targeted at the neglected arts and culture community, and other initiatives that will advance the government’s vision for inclusiveness. “Even though fears exist about the dampening impact of the VAT, the fact still remains we are taking deliberate action to directly impact individuals and communities who have been forgotten and under-served for too long.”