The government has spent $30 million more than was budgeted since May for “surprise” bills left by the former Christie administration, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Peter Turnquest revealed yesterday in the House of Assembly.
Despite the unexpected expenses however, Turnquest said the government is still on track to bring the country’s fiscal house is in order.
He boasted that revenue collections increased by $25 million compared to last year.
“Overall spending not related to debt redemption is down by $67 million compared to last year through December,” he said. “The full GFS deficit position has improved by $92.3 million when compared to last year. This has occurred while still paying off tens of millions of dollars in bills left by the former administration.”
According to Turnquest, present estimates indicate that the Bahamian economy recorded real growth on the order of 1.8 per cent in 2017.
“This renewed buoyancy,” he explained, “stemmed primarily from construction activity associated with on-going foreign investment projects, as well as rebuilding work in the wake of the hurricanes.”
Turnquest also noted that while the rate of unemployment did rise marginally between May and November of last year, it still stood fully 1.5 percentage points lower than a year earlier. All of the islands surveyed posted lower rates of unemployment than had been experienced in November 2016.
He said there is also expected that growth in both the tourism sector and the national economy will be favourably impacted by stronger projected growth in the U.S., The Bahamas’ major trading partner.
“In its latest forecast, the International Monetary Fund has boosted its forecast for U.S. growth by 0.4 percentage points, to a level of 2.7 per cent.”
Turnquest cautioned that in order for the government to hit their projected target, continued fiscal prudence is needed.
“We shall have to maintain expenditure restraint,” he said. “We shall have to maximize our revenue yield. Thus, we must remain faithful to the various restraint measures and initiatives, that were summarily set out in the May Budget and that are critical to this task. And this we shall do.”
During the budget debate last May, Turnquest said the Christie administration oversaw the single largest run up of debt in the country’s history. The Minnis administration also passed bills to borrow more than $722m to cover inherited outstanding bills along with the costs associated with running the country moving forward.
The mid year budget debate will begin next Wednesday.