The government did not produce and table as it should have, the expenditure details or exact revenue figures for the Mid-Year Budget – the information that is the entire point of the process. This is what should have been the key focus of the Opposition and the breaking news for the media today – it instead sailed like Columbus over the heads of both.
This means that the nation and the Opposition will not be able to see and know head for head, ministry for ministry, department for department, how much was spent by the government thus far. But that is precisely what the mid-year budget is for – to show the country the government’s spending and also it’s revenue collection halfway into the fiscal year. It is an accountability and transparency process – a process the government has refused to follow.
Without these details, there is no way for Bahamians to view this information for themselves as they have been able to for the past four years under the previous administration – the administration which created and implemented the mid-year budget process. International ratings agencies cannot see this information therefore either, since it was not produced and tabled.
And as for the Opposition, there is therefore nothing for it to debate regarding the performance of each budget head, and there is no intelligent way for them to propose re-allocations (assuming they were going to do that anyway) because they have no revenue figures upon which to make a rational argument.
The Prime Minister did not give the actual numbers on the revenue side, all he said is revenue is down. What, Bahamas, is the dollar figure of “down”?
So the government therefore, has not produced a mid-year budget report. What it has in fact done, is gone through the motion of a mid-year budget sitting of parliament – designed in actuality to table a resolution to borrow an additional $100 million on top of the half-billion ($500 million) it got borrowing approval for just six months ago.
So today the Bahamian people got swung. The Bahamian people did not get an accounting at mid-year – they got another $100 million strapped to their backs.
So what the Opposition plans to debate next week is beyond me and because there are no details provided, it’s beyond them too. The Opposition, as it absolutely should have since it was the government between 2007 -2012, also did not put the lie today to the Prime Minister’s stated reason for “needing” to borrow another $100 million – facts I will go into in detail later this week.
This is when the Opposition is supposed to be able to speak in detail – because the details were created on their watch. And there is no need for Opposition apologists to try to argue that they are waiting for the debate to start next week to give that information. Waiting? The Opposition’s press conference following the budget communication was TODAY. Therefore what the Opposition needed to tell the country ought to have been said today at its press conference response to the “budget report”, else it wasted both the media and the country’s time with its press conference.
So MPs walked out of Parliament today with their hands swinging – no recurrent or capital expenditure details, just the Prime Minister’s word for it that they are spending pretty much what they said they would. Since the Opposition did not make a mention of this today, Bahamians are left to wonder whether this absolutely outrageous act on the part of the government is fine with them.
It is not, however, fine with any right-thinking Bahamian. More shall follow.
And by the way, for anyone who may be in danger of running into someone who might try to swing them – you table the budget and its associated documents – THEN YOU DEBATE WHAT WAS TABLED. So anyone who knows, but who says “oh the government will give the details next week in the debate” is lying and is lying to you. IF IT WAS NOT TABLED, IT CANNOT BE DEBATED.
This money was spent between July and December 2012. We are now almost into March – so we do not know how much more was spent for January and February.