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Japanese Grant To Reduce Debt

By CELESTE NIXON Tribune Staff Reporter cnixon@tribunemedia.net THE Bahamas is getting a boost in its effort to reduce the $4.25 billion national debt - courtesy of the Japanese government. Minister of State for Finance Zhivargo Laing yesterday signed a technical agreement with a Japanese special fund and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for a $765,000 grant. At a press conference with Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Yamaguchi and the IDB's country representative Astrid Wynter, Mr Laing said the funds will be used "to support new and existing government programmes designed to strengthen our framework of fiscal accountability". The funding consists of $612,000 provided by the special fund through the IDB and $153,000 which was raised locally. The Bahamas, like many countries around the world, had to increase its level of national debt in order to minimise the impact of the global recession and support the country's economy and financial systems, Mr Laing said. He said that the grant will be used to modernise and reform the Bahamas' financial systems, ensuring they are in line with international standards and best practices. "The focus of this technical co-operation is to support our fiscal rebalancing through improving our current system of revenue collection, with emphasis on property tax administration and strengthening of our debt management systems," he said. Expressing the country's gratitude to Japan and IDB, Mr Laing said the project is a "timely one" for the country, as it will funnel additional resources to government initiatives already in motion in the financial sector, such as the debt management committee. Mr Laing said: "I express the thanks of the government of the Bahamas for this grant facility and remain confident that the relationship between the Bahamas, Japan and IDB will continue to grow as we continue to work in the interest of advancing our countries and their institutions."

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