Kwasi Thompson is FNM’s Minister of State for Finance – but is he qualified for the job?
Following the unveiling of its 10-point economic plan aimed at recovering, rebuilding and revolutionizing The Bahamas’ sad state of financial affairs, newly appointed Minister of State for Finance, Kwasi Thompson hit out at the Progressive Liberal Party and its shadow Finance Minister Chester Cooper by calling the plan “irresponsible” and accusing the opposition of “rank populist politicking.”
The PLP says, if elected to govern The Bahamas in the upcoming general election, it will, among other things, recommend that the minimum wage be increased to $250 per week and decrease Value Added Tax to 10% across the board, with a promise to review the rate after a year's time.
Thompson says that it would be impossible for the government to maintain its spending levels with that amount of loss in revenue. He blasted the PLP’s pledge to decrease VAT, saying the government cannot operate by trial and error – something, it may be argued, the Minnis administration has done since its first day in office – and that the proposed 12-month period would lead to a dramatic fall off in revenue in excess of $100m and destabilize the economy. He believes it will lead to the PLP having to reintroduce the 12% rate or increase further to 15%.
He is the Minnis administration’s current chief financial officer, but is he actually qualified to speak on financial matters?
A review of his resume suggests maybe he isn’t.
Thompson graduated from the College of the Bahamas – now University of The Bahamas – with an associate of arts degree in history. He received a bachelor of law degree from the University of Buckingham in the UK and was called to both the British Bar and the Bahamas in 1997. He has served on the hotel licensing board and the National Youth Advisory Council. He is also a former lecturer with The Bahamas Hotel Training College. He was elected to parliament in 2007 for Grand Bahama’s Pineridge constituency. Prior to his Finance appointment, he served as the Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister – a post he still holds – and he also previously served as Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly.
Meanwhile, Cooper's LinkedIn profile notes that he has held top positions within the financial sector spanning more than 20 years. He is the Chairman & CEO of BAF Global Group and President & CEO of BAF Financial & Insurance (Bahamas) Ltd. He was appointed co-chair of the Coalition for Tax Reform that Championed the negotiation with the Government on Value Added Tax, which was ultimately reduced from the proposed 15% to the current 7.5%. He is a former chairman of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation and launched the BCCEC’s Small Business mentorship initiative of 2014, and he has led trade missions to Haiti, Panama and Florida. He is also a former host of popular ZNS TV-13 financial show, “You & Your Money” and the author of “Ask Chester about Saving, Planning and Investing for Retirement.”
The PLP has issued a statement in response to Thompson’s attack on its economic plan saying the FNM Government lacks basic understanding of economics, and has failed to put forward a plan to end the crisis
Cooper, who is the PLP's Deputy Leader and the Member of Parliament for the Exumas and Ragged Island, notes that it was under a PLP administration that the long standing $150 minimum wage was raised to the existing $210. VAT, set to be introduced in The Bahamas at a rate of 15% prior to the previous Christie administration, was implemented during the PLP’s last term in office in January 2015 at a rate of 7.5%. It was increased to 12% in July 2018 by the Minnis administration.
The PLP has always maintained its resistance to the 12% hike.