Bahamas PM ‘puzzled’ by US criticisms
Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie suggested on Wednesday that it is “simply inappropriate” for US officials to draw negative conclusions on the success of his government’s plan, based on a “snapshot” of the current situation.
|Prime Minister Perry Christie responds to the US Department of State’s report which highlighted the Christie administration’s failure to live up to many of its campaign promises, during a press conference on Wednesday. Photo: Torrell Glinton|
Christie was responding to a US Department of State report, which highlighted the Christie administration’s failure to fulfill many of its “ambitious campaign promises of economic and fiscal reform”.
The report, titled “2014 Investment Climate Statement – The Bahamas” was released on June 26.
Christie also suggested the report is not objective. He added that the information was likely gleaned from opposition sources.
“Those who wrote the report for the state department… made obvious mistakes in writing that report,” he told reporters during a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister on Wednesday.
“In fact, let me state personally as prime minister my disappointment, because they picked up in a similar fashion of Wikileaks what opposition sources were saying and not what, in fact, is an objective assessment of what the government was saying since being elected. And that’s what I find so puzzling.
“But the message for me is that better days are ahead. And that statement will be the true measure of the success of our agenda for change.”
The mistake that Christie was referring to was the report’s statement that both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s (S&P) downgraded the country’s credit rating in 2013.
Christie pointed out that S&P did not downgrade the country’s credit rating, but rather revised its outlook to negative in September 2012.
He added: “Moody’s announced a downgrade in December 2012, but clearly stated that this reflected the worsening in the government’s balance sheet since 2007, largely on the basis of a low and inadequate revenue base.”
Christie also defended his government’s commitment to fulfilling its promises.
“Unfortunately, some have been led to draw on specific points in the statement to present a negative tone in respect of the plan of action that my government laid out in our Charter for Governance prior to the election and which we are aggressively pursuing during the course of our present mandate,” he said.
“…We were abundantly clear in the charter that, while our plan does offer numerous measures for short and medium-term relief, a responsible government cannot think only five years at a time. As such, we committed ourselves to a true national development plan that reflects a vision for The Bahamas of the future.
“We have been true to our word and we are pursuing just such a plan for the future.”
The report pointed to some of the promises the PLP made ahead of the election.
“Proposed initiatives included the creation of 10,000 new jobs, the implementation of a national mortgage bailout plan and returning the majority shares in the national telecoms company to state control,” the report read. “Two years later, many of these campaign promises remain unfulfilled.”
The report added “lackluster growth and continuing high unemployment” have encouraged a shift in the government’s policy toward a more aggressive and coordinated pursuit of new foreign direct investment as well as a renewed effort to implement promised reforms.
“After consulting with policy advisors — the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and international experts — the [government] acknowledged that its revenue base was extremely narrow and ill-suited to the expanding needs and demands of modern Bahamian society,” the report said.
“This explicit recognition inspired several policy changes, including expenditure cuts that resulted in a narrowing of the deficit by 22.6 percent to $209 million and a growth in reserves to $912 million in January 2014, as well as an overhaul of the existing tax system to include a proposal to introduce a value-added tax (VAT) in an effort to broaden the tax base.”
Christie noted that in his budget communication he outlined the government’s efforts to bolster the growth of the economy and to create jobs.
He said he is very optimistic about the future of the country.