Exuma MP and PLP Deputy Leader Chester Cooper.
By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper yesterday challenged the Minnis administration to “take a more proactive role” when courting investment opportunities.
In a statement released in the wake of Standard & Poor’s (S&P) decision to uphold the country’s sovereign credit rating Mr Cooper cautioned celebrating the credit rating agency’s decision, insisting work still needs to be done as the country looks to sidestep further downgrades in the coming months.
Mr Cooper insisted S&P simply acknowledged the viability of Baha Mar and its contribution to the economy, adding with the openings of the Grand Hyatt and the SLS, and the Rosewood to come, analysts and investors are more optimistic on the Bahamas’ prospects.
“Ensuring the success of this project is critical to the Bahamas and the government should keep a keen eye and a helpful hand waiting with regard to the continued health of Baha Mar,” Mr Cooper noted.
“It is hoped that the government is receptive to S&P’s advice and analysis on the need to focus on economic growth.”
Mr Cooper said so far over the course of its term in office, the government has appointed a committee on the ease of doing business.
However, he noted it remains critical for that committee’s approach to be a comprehensive one inclusive of small and medium-sized local businesses.
“The Minnis administration must take a more proactive role in actually courting foreign direct investment (FDI) and local direct investment (LDI), while ensuring Bahamian participation. We have heard many allusions to FDI, but little in the way of solid indicators that investment is being actively courted or is on the way,” Mr Cooper stated.
“There has been no update in Parliament or in the general public about what can be expected in terms of FDI throughout the Bahamas. Even without confirmation that the credit rating remains at junk, the economy remains anaemic. There is little hope for the jobless and there has been nothing tangible articulated as to a plan for Grand Bahama, which is in dire straits.”
He added: “There has also been nothing communicated about continued mortgage relief for homeowners facing foreclosure or this administration’s commitment to those homeowners.”
Mr Cooper said the PLP has repeatedly called on the Minnis administration to communicate a clear plan for growth and economic recovery.
He added that to date those requests have not been met as the government continues to operate without solutions.
He said he is hopeful that in 2018, the Minnis administration would produce a “fresh perspective” and an understanding that no matter how deep spending is slashed in the public sector to improve the country’s deficit on paper, it will not translate to economic growth or jobs.
In an interview with Tribune Business last week, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest confirmed that S&P’s decision was due in part to the agency’s want to see the Minnis administration deliver on its economic revival and fiscal consolidation plans before returning the Bahamas’ creditworthiness to ‘investment grade’.
The agency also held the country’s “stable” long-term outlook due to the government’s “solid mandate to facilitate economic and debt stabilisation.”
S&P also warned that it could further slash the Bahamas’ credit rating over “the next one to two years” if the government’s finances “do not improve as quickly as expected.”