|Laing accuses govt of creating slush fund|
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: Jun 22, 2012
Opposition Senator Zhivargo Laing said yesterday the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has created a $15 million “slush fund” for Urban Renewal spending and was “lazy” in its budget preparations.
Laing said this $15 million was presented as a single line item in the budget and questioned why the government did not detail exactly how the sum will be spent.
“The expenditures in this budget say nothing much except in my view that laziness has prevailed in their preparation,” Laing told the Senate during his contribution to the budget debate.
“Take for instance, this budget proposes that the best that the government could do in seeking to implement its Charter for Governance is to put a line item. . .of $15 million.
“This is the same thing that was done the last time when they said ‘we didn’t have enough time to go through the budget’. So this time around, ‘ready on day one’, the best thing we can do is put a $15 million slush fund in the prime minister’s office.
“I believe that somebody in here must be able to detail for us something about this money and how it could be spent.”
Prime Minister Perry Christie has said that $15 million has been allocated for Urban Renewal and urban development.
The $15 million is included as a line item in the Ministry of Finance for ‘phased implementation’ of priorities in ‘A Charter for Governance’.
Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis dismissed the criticism yesterday.
He said the PLP had little time after the election to complete the new budget.
Halkitis said the figure was presented as a single line item to ensure that some of the party’s election promises are kept. He said access to the $15 million will be approved by the Ministry of Finance and Cabinet.
“We put a fixed figure there and the various ministries will seek the approval of the Ministry of Finance to access funds from that $15 million to implement some of the programs in the [PLP’s] charter,” said Halkitis when contacted by The Nassau Guardian.
“In reality all of the money is accounted for,” he added.
During his contribution to the debate, Laing also made light of the responsibilities of Minister of Grand Bahama Michael Darville.
“Truth be told, I regard the Ministry of Grand Bahama as it is presently structured as a ministry of interference. Ask him what law authorizes him to do anything,” Laing said.
“This minister of Grand Bahama, God bless him, has been authorized to hold meetings. This is a glorified administrator’s office.”
Laing added that the fiscal policies of the new administration do not veer away from the policies left in place by the Ingraham administration.
He added that the new government left in place many of the tax increases it criticized while in opposition.
“[They left in place] taxes that the Progressive Liberal Party campaigned on as saying it was a burden on the backs of Bahamians in these recessionary times — vehicle imports, vehicle licensing increases — yet they are not rolled back in this budget.”