Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. K. Peter Turnquest formally presented and debated the Government’s 2018 Fiscal Strategy Report, a public document that guides the creation of the annual budget. The government’s approach to enhancing fiscal responsibility, both in legislative terms as well as in concrete terms was first exemplified by its actions in the 2018/19 Budget, DPM Turnquest explained during his Opening Statement on the 2018 Fiscal Strategy Report in the House of Assembly, Wednesday, February 6, 2019.
“The fiscal plan laid out in the 2018/19 Budget Communication contains the concrete measures needed to secure the elimination of the fiscal deficit by 2020/21 and to put the debt burden on a clear downward track to more sustainable levels. “And, in order to secure these fiscal gains, we developed and introduced the Fiscal Responsibility Act, as I referenced earlier, that came into effect on October 1st of last year. The Act provides a strong, depoliticized institutional framework for fiscal policy—so as to ensure that no future Government ever again engages in flagrantly irresponsible fiscal policies that could once more threaten the future prosperity of our nation. To this end, the Act contains legally binding fiscal rules that place limits on the annual fiscal balance and the debt-to-GDP ratio.”
He noted that the Act provides for regular and explicit fiscal reporting for public and parliamentary scrutiny and also an independent mechanism for assessment of compliance with the fiscal responsibility principles and objectives and for the provision of advice. “To that end, the Act provides for the establishment of an independent, private sector Fiscal Responsibility Council (FTC) that will be responsible for assessing the Government’s compliance with the general principles, fiscal responsibility principles and fiscal objectives of the Act and advising on fiscal and budgetary matters of the Government. The FRC is to be established in July 2019, in time to review and assess the 2019/20 Budget.” The DPM said he fully expects it to be a very active and constructive participant in the FSR review process beginning with the second FSR in November of 2019.
He added that in order to enhance fiscal transparency and accountability on a timelier basis, the government has also initiated the publication of quarterly fiscal performance reports, with the most recent report—the second of its kind—having been published last week for the first half of the 2018/19 fiscal year. DPM Turnquest said, “We produce these reports not because there is a law that compels us to do so. We produce these reports because it is simply right to keep Bahamian tax payers informed on how their government is earning and spending their money.”