ENGLERSTON MP Glenys Hanna Martin speaks in the House of Assembly.
By SANCHESKA DORSETT
Tribune Staff Reporter
ENGLERSTON MP Glenys Hanna Martin yesterday criticised Finance Minister Peter Turnquest for allegedly failing to disclose his interest in Sky Bahamas to Parliament after the government approved duty exemptions for the repair and maintenance of aircraft in the 2017-2018 Budget.
Addressing her colleagues in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, Mrs Hanna Martin said because these concessions "could impact the financial interest of persons in the House," Mr Turnquest was "obliged" to reveal his interest in the company when the debate began.
"I want to raise the concern of a potential conflict of interest of favourable concessions of this budget, Mr Speaker, that might impact the financial interest of members and the rules require that you have to declare that out in the open," Mrs Hanna Martin said.
"The minster of finance declared in his communication on page 50, page 50 speaks about the duties that are being exempted and what I found interesting about this is, in his description he said 'providing duty exemptions for equipment and machinery specifically designed for groundwork and the service of cruise ships and sea vessels' but in fact the actual provision speaks to sea craft and aircraft, air and sea services.
"You have to have an awareness that these peculiar concessions could impact the financial interest of persons in the House. So you have exemptions and there are multiple items for aircraft in this budget and I support incentivising the aviation sector but this talks about the catering for the aircraft, the tyres and so on. So, Mr Speaker, I believe that the minister should clarify whether this impacts him financially... We are obliged when we debate to declare it. It is a part of transparency. It is an obligation. I am saying he ought to have disclosed it and that is what you normally do, if you have interest in something you are debating before the House, you disclose it. I am saying he admits he has an interest, we have tax concessions for aircraft and it ought to be something he put on the table."
In response, Mr Turnquest said before the election he disclosed all his interests to the relevant authorities because he had nothing to hide. He also admitted that he did not realise the aircraft exemptions were in the budget until he read them in the House of Assembly because he had "very little to do" with the changing of anything in the budget.
Mr Turnquest also said Mrs Hanna Martin's implication that he somehow amended the legislation to benefit himself is "misleading" and dangerous to his reputation.
"It is no secret in this place or in public that I do have an interest in Sky Bahamas airline. I have said throughout my budget that this minister of finance has had very little to do with changing anything in the budget, as a matter of fact, it may be interesting to note, that I didn't recognise that was in there until I was reading it," Mr Turnquest said.
"And so when she suggests that this minister of finance somehow amended or proposed an amendment to the duty rates to benefit him, it is a complete and utter lie and that is a strong word. It is intentionally misleading and it is dangerous to me and to my reputation. Secondly, the proposal to eliminate duties on aircraft was made by that side when I was sitting over there, not by me."
Mr Turnquest applauded the former Christie administration for reducing the aircraft duties because he said it will create "the opportunity for an industry that has not been able to rise to the level of its potential".