WHOLLY UNACCEPTABLE: Opposition rejects delay in releasing details of $500 million loan

WHOLLY UNACCEPTABLE: Opposition rejects delay in releasing details of $500 million loan

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Opposition continues to demand transparency and full disclosure regarding a recent $500 million Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)-backed loan, with its Shadow Finance Minister calling it “wholly unacceptable” to delay the release of those details.

In mid-January, the government announced what it described as a “landmark transaction” and the country’s largest credit-enhanced financing on the international loan market to date, representing over 50 percent of external borrowing requirements for Fiscal Year 2023-24. The funding will support eligible budgetary expenses, such as infrastructure, education, and social welfare projects.

In a statement yesterday, East Grand Bahama MP Kwasi Thompson noted: “It is evident that Minister Michael Halkitis is determined to maintain the PLP’s policy of keeping secrets from the Bahamian people. This PLP government just took on half a billion dollars in new loans that are supported by a policy-based IDB guarantee, and the Minister’s posture is that the government will disclose the details months after the transaction is completed.

“He wants us to wait for the third-quarter public debt report, when as of February 1st, the second-quarter debt report was due and is now late, unfortunately, typical of all legally required budgetary and financing reporting by this administration. That is wholly unacceptable and the complete opposite of the transparency and accountability this government campaigned on, but which has so far moved the country backward.”

Minister of Economic Affairs Michael Halkitis told Eyewitness News earlier this week that the government will fully disclose all details regarding the $500 million commercial loan as mandated by law, noting that these details will be included in the upcoming quarterly debt statistical report.

Halkitis informed Eyewitness News: “We are obligated to table a quarterly debt statistical report 30 days following the end of each quarter. The report for January has been completed and will be fully reported in the statistical digest at the end of March. The only reason for the delay is due to an innovative structure where we utilized a guarantee provided by the IDB along with a commercial bank.

“The IDB provided the guarantee, enabling us to borrow at a lower cost. The commercial bank partner then packages the loan and sells it to their clients. There is a period where they would prefer we not divulge all the details while they market it; it’s called the seasoning of the debt. We are obligated by law to disclose all government debt.”

To this, Thompson said: “We do not accept the government’s explanation as to why they cannot reveal the interest rates and terms as their first obligation is to the Bahamian people.

“Even if one accepts the weak explanation as to why the interest rates could not be revealed presently, that does not explain why they have not told the Bahamian people what specific policy conditions the government had to agree with the IDB to access the loan guarantee.

“What are the policy commitments that the Bahamian government had to commit the country to? Why is that a secret? The government also must explain why the Financial Secretary and the Governor of the Central Bank appear to be contradicting each other regarding the use of the funds. Which of these public officials are we to believe is telling the whole truth? It is a testament to the sad state of affairs in this PLP government that they cannot be forthright and clear on matters related to the country’s finances.”