Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday said the mid-year budget exercise is the most disorganized he has seen in his political career and suggested that the Christie administration did not present the customary budget book because it has something to hide from the Bahamian people.
In the past several years, the government has presented a breakdown of the budgets of all government ministries during the mid-year budget debate.
However, Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis said the government has decided to abandon that moving forward, calling it a waste of resources.
But Dr. Minnis doesn’t buy that explanation.
“There’s no documentation and no mid-year budget for us to analyze,” he said as he contributed to the House debate on the prime minister’s mid-year budget statement delivered last week. “There [are] no figures. And Mr. Speaker, during a standard mid-year budget, figures are analyzed so that you can go through head to head and Mr. Speaker all of that is missing.
“One has to wonder Mr. Speaker, if that was intentional because the government knows that they have overspent and therefore the figures would reflect what has happened. Or Mr. Speaker, the government is trying to hide the figures from being analyzed from the opposition here today.”
Halkitis said while no booklet was printed the Bahamian people were still made aware of the country’s financial position.
“The booklets were not printed because we gave an indication in the [prime minister’s] statement,” Halkitis told The Guardian outside of Parliament. “At the end of the statement there is a table where the revenues are so far and where the expenditures are so far. It also shows the projections to the end of the year. So that information is there. What we did not do is print another budget booklet showing the all of the individual ministries. What we did is we printed a total showing where we are with expenditure and revenue.”
He added that a full budget will be presented at the end of May.
“To go through the process of printing budget books twice a year, it’s really not an effective use of resources. We want people to get a snapshot of where we are,” Halkitis said.
The prime minister’s statement shows that government has revised its fiscal year end expenditure and revenue projections based on the trends up to mid-year.
The recurrent revenue projection has been reduced by $120 million from $1.55 billion to $1.43 billion while the recurrent expenditure has been reduced by $101 million this year from $1.821 billion to $1.72 billion.
Halkitis said the government is now in a position where it has to borrow $100 million in additional funding to cover unpaid financial commitments incurred during the Ingraham administration. A resolution is currently before the House of Assembly seeking to borrow that amount. But Minnis said it’s time for the Christie administration to stop playing the blame game.
He said the suggestions that the previous administration is responsible for the country’s financial position is ludicrous.
However, Halkitis said the government has copies of the previous government’s bills.
“The facts are the facts. [Minnis] has questioned the integrity of the people presenting it and so we’ll have an opportunity to answer and to read off every single bill. This is not something we have fabricated, I have the bills,” Halkitis added.
By Krystel Rolle
Guardian Staff Reporter