PM says trip to Brussels was constructive and successful

Touts transparency and govt’s effort to reduce debt at Business Outlook

 

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnnis told Eyewitness News on Thursday that after the country was blacklisted last year by the European Union (EU), but later removed, he travelled to Brussels, Belgium earlier this week, to meet with high-ranking officials of the European Commission to discuss The Bahamas’ financial services sector and confirmed that the trip was successful.

The prime minister’s decision to travel to Brussels was met with public criticism but Dr. Minnis said he’s comfortable with the decision he made and has no need to defend it.

“Me going shows our commitment to the financial sector which is a great part of our economy,” the prime minister said while addressing reporters at yesterday’s Bahamas Business Outlook.

“We had excellent discussions and interactions. The attorney general was also able to clarify a few concerns that they may have had and they said that they hope that we could have more of these types of conversations moving forward.”

There were critics who questioned whether or not government was abusing the public purse by having so many government ministers, including the prime minister, travel to Brussels for the meeting.

Dr. Minnis asserted yesterday that the public purse is not being abused for government travel.

“Travel is a budgeted item and every minister has stayed within the budgeted item. So, if you review the budget you would know how much has been allotted for travel and therefore you can automatically conclude that we have spent less than what is there,” he said.

Shifting focus back to the success of the Brussels trip, Dr. Minnis said the bilateral meeting was very constructive and provided The Bahamas with a significant opportunity to ensure the commission fully understands the efforts that the government is taking to adhere to global standards.

The government, the prime minister said, has made significant leaps in its fiscal affairs over the last year, chief among them is the enactment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

The Act provides a legally binding framework for responsible fiscal management, and it is a major historical advancement in the management of public finances and public administration for The Bahamas.

As government works to shore up the financial services sector, the prime minister revealed Thursday that government is making great effort to promote transparency and reduce debt.

The prime minister said in the current fiscal year, the government has already seen a 52.0 per cent reduction in the fiscal deficit to $52.0 million in the first quarter, as compared to the first quarter of the previous fiscal year, as revenue, he said, has increased by 13.2 per cent to $513.8 million.

The prime minister attributed this to an increase in collections from stamp tax and value-added tax, while expenditure grew by a mere 0.6 per cent to $565.8 million.  Furthermore, the prime minister said debt repayment grew to $143.5 million from $109.6 million, leaving the country’s estimated direct debt at approximately $7.3 billion as of September 2018.