Members of the opposition said yesterday the 2013/2014 budget is nothing more than a vacuum, and accused Prime Minister Perry Christie of painting a rosy picture of an economy that is still recovering from a crippling recession.
Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis said the government will have to borrow $465 million for the 2013/2014 fiscal year to service debts.
“We in the Free National Movement (FNM) are extremely, extremely disappointed by what we heard from the prime minister this morning,” said St. Anne’s MP Hubert Chipman in the Minority Room of the House of Assembly.
“As you recall last year, the prime minster indicated that there would be no new taxes right at the outset. “Then he commenced the blame game this morning in terms of what state he met the country’s economy in.
“The last piece of communication that came out today indicated a resolution that the government is about to borrow $465 million.
“What that equates to is that the government borrowed $600 million during the first eight months of this year.
“So when you look at that, the government would have borrowed in excess of a billion dollars just in this fiscal period that we are just coming out of.”
Chipman noted that opposition MPs had not yet had the opportunity to review the budget.
“But when we open this budget I can tell you now, it’s going to be a surprise, shock and awe,” he said.
Chipman added that he heard no plans by the government to increase employment amongst young people.
“I think frustration is now starting to set in,” he said. “I think [unemployment amongst the youth] is one of the things, as far as crime in concerned, that is causing crime to go up.”
Chipman said the opposition also took exception to the government’s plans to spend $2 million on new police cars, increasing motor vehicle tax license as well as a three percent increase in banking fees.
“We also heard that…immigration fees will be increased, tourism fees will be increased and excise [stamp] on cigarettes [will be introduced].
“As we debated during the course of the year, the prime minister indicated at the outset of the 2012/2013 budget that excise tax would bring in $148 million.
“That never happened during the course of this year.
“Again he brings excise tax back to the board.”
FNM Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner said, “I must admit that it appears once again that the public’s money, the Bahamian people’s money, is not being used equitably in the development of the Family Islands.”
By Travis Cartwright-Carroll
Guardian Staff Reporter