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Bahamas budget deficit estimated at $500 million

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bradleyNASSAU, Bahamas -- Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Bradley Roberts revealed on Monday that the incoming Christie administration in The Bahamas has met a budget deficit of around $500 million, and said he would be ‘shocked’ if criminal charges are not brought after an investigation into the management of public funds by the previous government.


Asked about this figure on Monday, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Perry Christie told The Nassau Guardian he was not sure of the figure that his team had come up with as he was busy preparing the Speech from the Throne.

He suggested that The Guardian speak to Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis confirmed the figure when he spoke to The Nassau Guardian on Monday.

Davis blamed the Free National Movement (FNM) government’s “mismanagement” and “abuse” of the public purse.

Davis, who is the minister of works and urban development, also said the PLP administration has launched an investigation into the former government’s management of public funds and added that criminal charges may follow.

“Now that we’re in, and looking at what the true facts are, we are definitely approaching the $500 million deficit range,” he said after a swearing in ceremony for 10 senators.

“We are doing our investigations with a view to see if we ought to prosecute someone for the abuse that has taken place with the public purse.”

When asked who could face prosecution, Davis said, “Once we find where the trail ends and where the buck stops that will be the person.”

Davis added that the Christie administration will likely have to borrow a little over $500 million in the 2012/2013 fiscal year as a result of the previous administration’s spending and to make good on the new government’s pledges to the Bahamian people.

Roberts made the same declaration when he spoke to The Nassau Guardian after an appearance on the More 94.9 FM program “Real Talk Live” with Ortland Bodie, where he originally made the revelations.

The borrowing would add to the national debt, which is currently hovering at just over $4 billion.

Davis told The Guardian, “We will have to borrow that and borrow additional funds to be able to implement some of our initiatives and programs.”

He claimed the high deficit is the result of the Ingraham administration’s negligence and bad planning.

“The deficit, there is no doubt in my mind, is due to mismanagement, politics and priorities,” he said.

Roberts said that several programs launched by the FNM administration, such as Self Starter and Jump Start, were election ploys that went over budget.

“The budget on the jobs program was $25 million. I understand that will exceed or closely exceed $50 million,” he said.

“The Jump Start program has also gone through the roof, I’m advised. They spent more money than was budgeted.”

“The full details of it are all going to come out in due course. The way I understand some of those were implemented, my God, it will make all Bahamians sick to their stomach.

“Some people never even reported to work and were getting paid. Some people would go to work and sit around doing nothing. Some of those jobs were only given out a day before the election, some on the election [day].”

Davis could not confirm if these programs were indeed over budget, but said he too thinks they were election ploys.

Three weeks before the May 7 election, Christie, who at the time was leader of the opposition, said the PLP would likely have to borrow at least $300 million in order to finance the country’s capital expenditure commitments if it was elected to office.


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