Wed, May 31st 2017, 06:06 PM
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. K. Peter Turnquest said while the Government’s transformational growth agenda is visionary and critical to the creation of a better future for Bahamian citizens, the very grave condition of the nation’s public finances mandates that it gives the utmost priority to getting its fiscal house in order.
“That is critical to any success that we hope to achieve on the growth and jobs front; ignoring the state of our finances would have deleterious consequences for the viability of our agenda and future prospects for the Bahamian society and economy,” DPM Turnquest said as he presented the Budget Communication 2017/2018 in the House of Assembly, Wednesday, May 31, 2017.
He said the Government is therefore committed, as a first priority, to working diligently in the months ahead to improve on the fiscal situation and prospects that have been left to it.
According to the DPM, to this end, the Government intends to take action on several fronts over the next three months.
He said the Government will undertake a judicious and in-depth review of its expenditure programmes to determine where and how value for money can be enhanced, how effectiveness and efficiency of service can be improved and where savings and reallocations can be secured to both finance the Government’s policy priorities and facilitate a more expeditious reduction and elimination of the GFS Deficit.
The DPM explained that as was announced in the Speech from the Throne, the Government will strengthen the accountability and transparency of the fiscal operations of Government in the Ministry of Finance and as such it has embraced and would vigorously implement the IDB-funded Public Financial Management project details, which are on the Government’s website.
“Also as part of this initiative, to bring transparency and accountability to the Government’s fiscal operations, we intend to table in Parliament a full list of financial subsidies provided to developers so the Bahamian public can see not only where the Value Added Tax (VAT) money has gone but where all of the tax money has gone.”
DPM Turnquest said the Government will also seek to reduce these subsidies to an irreducible minimum and apply a very rigid test on future requests for financial subsidies to ensure that more money is available to finance the operations of the Government.
He said this budget includes funding in the amount of $429 million for 25 State-Owned Enterprises. “This is $79 million more than last year, primarily because of the introduction of National Health Insurance.
“As this is clearly unsustainable, this Administration will develop concrete action plans to transform these enterprises either into viable, efficient and self-sufficient entities or transfer them to the private sector and use any gains from these transactions to retire debt.”
The DPM also noted that in a further effort to enhance accountability and transparency in Government, it is implementing rules and procedures, through the Constituency Capital Grant Act, to govern the use by Members of Parliament of their annual $100,000 constituency capital grant allocation.
“We will introduce Fiscal Responsibility legislation that would make it difficult for future administrations to incur deficits unabated. This law would also prevent Ministries and Departments from introducing new spending initiatives in-year without identifying the requisite financing from within their Budget allocations.”
He said the Government will introduce Public Procurement Regulations to support the amendments to the Financial Administration and Audit Act. “These amendments will make it mandatory for the Government to use transparent bidding procedures when it acquires goods or services from the private sector.
“It will also mandate a certain percentage of Government procurement being available for small and medium-sized businesses.”
DPM Turnquest also explained that the Government will also introduce legislation to strengthen the Office of the Auditor General and provide it with the resources necessary to effectively and properly discharge its responsibilities as mandated by the Constitution, without any undue interference from the Government.
“We will introduce Revenue Administration legislation which, if approved, would formally create the Department of Inland Revenue and strengthen the Government’s enforcement powers and revenue collections. “Individuals and businesses should be alerted that, in this new era of accountability and transparency, this Government will adopt a zero tolerance approach to those who do not pay their taxes. We will be fair and transparent in our enforcement efforts but we will also be decisive,” the DPM said.
By Llonella Gilbert
Bahamas Information Services
Wed, May 31st 2017, 05:58 PM
Wed, May 31st 2017, 05:48 PM
Wed, May 31st 2017, 04:35 PM
ALIV, The Bahamas’ newest telecommunications company, is pleased to announce today that it has signed on to become the official telecommunications partner for the Abaco Chamber of Commerce over the next three years.
“We are excited and pleased to be able to work with ALIV for the benefit of the Abaco Chamber of Commerce and its membership,” said Abaco Chamber President, Vado Bottle. “During the three year agreement, we will be working with ALIV to introduce new programs and benefits specifically for Chamber members with a view to making their businesses more competitive and cost effective as it relates to their communications needs.”
ALIV Chief Officer, Damian Blackburn is excited about the partnership and hopes it fosters more corporate relationships not only on the island of Abaco but throughout the country.
“ALIV is happy that the Abaco Chamber of Commerce is committed to delivering value for the Bahamian business community as we are fully committed to corporate diversity,” Mr. Blackburn said. “This will also allow us to offer the chambers’ members the latest technology as well as providing support for businesses in Abaco.”
The Abaco Chamber of Commerce will be announcing the new benefits at a special ‘ALIV Chamber Mix n’ Mingle’ to be held on June 16 in front of the ALIV office in the Abaco Shopping Centre from 3:00pm to 7:00pm.
For more information on the Abaco Chamber of Commerce, visit http://www.abacochamber.org/
L to R: Ken Hutton Chamber Director, Shara Aliv Rep, Greta Pintard Chamber Director and Vado Bootle Sr. President of the Abaco Chamber.
ALIV is igniting the cellular revolution in The Bahamas and is reinventing how consumers interact with their mobile devices. A true digital lifestyle partner, the ALIV network is built on next generation LTE technology to ensure an unsurpassed consumer experience. With groundbreaking consumer plans, a laser focus on exemplary customer care, ALIV is determined to deliver a never before seen experience for the people of The Bahamas. This is the start of your new day!
Wed, May 31st 2017, 03:26 PM
Wed, May 31st 2017, 02:59 PM
After detailing the country's "very grave" fiscal situation in the House of Assembly today, Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest introduced a resolution to borrow $400 million to help finance the government's projected shortfall for the 2016/17 fiscal year.
Leader of Government Business Renward Wells then introduced a second resolution to borrow $322.4 million for the 2017/18 fiscal year. In total the government intends to borrow $722.4 million.
In his budget communication, Turnquest said the former Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration mismanaged public finances.
"To foreshadow what I am about to discuss, let me be quite blunt: The fiscal situation is far bleaker than we could have ever imagined," he said.
"Our predecessors literally left us with a cupboard that is bare."
Turnquest said the Christie administration's projections for the GFS deficit in the last budget fell $400 million short.
"The deficit outturn in the current fiscal year features a significant deterioration as compared to the fiscal projections contained in the previous administration's final budget," he said.
"While they had forecast a GFS deficit of $100 million, the actual outturn is now expected to be on the order of $500 million. That is an astonishing five times the budget forecast of only 12 months ago."
Turnquest acknowledged that the government's financial position was harmed by the impact of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. Economic activity slowed in the immediate aftermath of the storm and money was needed for the recovery effort.
"Weaker revenues thus account for a significant portion of the $400 million slippage in the GFS deficit in the current fiscal year," Turnquest said.
The projected revenue for the 2016/17 fiscal year was $2.176 billion. However, only $1.96 billion was collected, representing a shortfall of $216 million.
The government also spent more than was projected. Recurrent expenditure in 2016/17 was $137 million more than budgeted ($2.458 billion versus $2.321 billion). Capital expenditure was $310 million, up from the $242 million budgeted.
Total government direct debt at the end of the current fiscal year is estimated at $6.5 billion, or 71.5 percent of GDP.
Turnquest also accused the Christie administration of leaving behind $300 million-plus in unpaid bills. He said "it is possible that this number could increase before the end of the year" as the new administration comes to understand all the deals entered into by its predecessor in the months, weeks and days leading up to the general election.
In the 2017/18 budget, Turnquest announced that the rate of business license tax will drop from 1.5 percent to 1.25 percent of turnover; business license tax for hotels with turnover exceeding $400 million will decrease from 1.25 percent to one percent of turnover; there will be an extension of the City of Nassau Revitalization Act and the Family Island Development Encouragement Act until June 2018; customs duties on specified medical equipment will be eliminated.
Turnquest also said there will be a reduction of import duties on food and beverage products, including milk, yogurt, ice cream, bread, cakes, pastries, chips, salmon fillet, shrimp, prawns, pastas, pizza sauce, fruit drinks, canned vegetables, jams, fruit purees, nuts and soy sauce.
The government will also reduce duty on personal care products, household items and building materials.
Turnquest said the tax relief the government can "responsibly" introduce is severely constrained by the "very grave fiscal position" it inherited. A number of tax relief commitments are being deferred until the government has succeeded in implementing measures to help eliminate deficit financing and lower the debt burden, he added. There was no mention of reducing or removing value-added tax (VAT) on breadbasket items, as promised on the campaign trail.
Wed, May 31st 2017, 02:52 PM
Wed, May 31st 2017, 01:21 PM
BTC hosted a courtesy call with Samsung representatives last Thursday at the Southwest Plaza Flagship store.
Samsung Managing Director, Hanchul Lim said that it was an honor to come to The Bahamas to visit BTC. He was pleased that the public was excited about purchasing new Samsung Galaxy S8.
The device is one of the most popular choices for BTC's business clientele and has been successful in the Bahamian market since its recent launch.
CEO Leon Williams said, “This is a testimony that we don’t order on the grey market and that we don’t go to third parties.
We go directly to the manufacturer. We have been a partner with Samsung now for several years.”
Samsung Latin America Officials representative, Terry Weech expressed pleasure on behalf of the company of working with BTC.
“We are excited to launch the S8 with BTC and we look forward to continued relationship together.”
Weech said that the phone’s global demand is at an all-time high and that workers are busy working around the clock to produce more S8 phones.
ABOUT BTC: BTC is the first quad play provider in The Bahamas. The company offers a full suite of landline, internet, mobile and television services allowing customers to stay connected throughout The Bahamas. BTC is deeply rooted in community and supports a wide range of culture, youth, education and sporting initiatives. These include Junkanoo, Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival, IAAF/BTC World Relays and CARIFTA. BTC maintains a four year scholarship program with The University of The Bahamas and provides funding for the University’s endowment fund. Just recently, the company signed an agreement for the establishment of an Innovation Lab at the University. The company is jointly owned by Liberty Global and The Government of The Bahamas.
Naaman Ellis (BTC CTIO), Leon Williams (BTC CEO), Hanchul Lim (Samsung Managing Director), Loukishia Cooper (BTC Device Management), Trevor Turnquest (BTC CNO), Jonathan Ford (BTC VP/Project Management and Engineering), Terry Weech (Samsung)
Samsung Visit: Trevor Turnquest (BTC CNO), Hanchul Lim (Samsung Managing Director), Jonathan Ford (BTC VP/Project Management and Engineering)
Public Relations Manager
Bahamas Telecommunications Company Ltd.