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Bahamian Dollar ‘Over Valued’ By 10-20%

THE Bahamian dollar is “overvalued between 10-20 per cent”, the IMF has revealed, warning that this is further eroding the economy’s cost competitiveness.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in its full report on the Article IV consultation, found that the Bahamas’ currency was “17.6 per cent stronger than the level deemed consistent with fundamentals and desired policies” on a real effective exchange rate (REER) basis.

This strips away the one:one peg with the US dollar, and measures the Bahamian dollar’s value against a basket of other currencies adjusted for inflation, to determine its competitiveness.

The IMF said its analysis, suggesting the Bahamian currency was overvalued, had major implications for the competitiveness of an economy still struggling with structural impediments such as high energy costs/unreliability and bureaucratic bottlenecks facing the private sector in its dealings with government.

While the Bahamas’ reliance on US tourists had helped to mitigate the dollar’s appreciation via the peg, the Fund warned it was exacerbating a situation where real wages are growing faster than productivity.

“The currency appreciated 11.25 per cent in real effective terms on average between 2014 and 2015, reflecting a strengthening of the US dollar and, to a lesser extent, the introduction of the VAT in January 2015,” the IMF report said.

“Since 2015, the real effective exchange rate (REER) has remained virtually flat. In staff’s view, the currency is overvalued between 10 and 20 per cent. The introduction of the VAT in early 2015 was a factor accounting for about two percentage points of the strengthening of the REER”

The Fund said the Bahamian dollar’s attachment to its appreciating US counterpart had implications for efforts to diversify tourism source markets, as this made vacations to this nation relatively more expensive for Canadians, Europeans and others.

“From a cost perspective, the Bahamas is among the most expensive tourism destinations and its share in the ‘exclusive’ Caribbean tourism market has been declining,” the IMF added. “The strength of the currency in real effective terms, and real wages growing faster than productivity, have further eroded competitiveness.

“Overall, staff assess the REER to be overvalued by around 9 to 18 per cent in 2016. The model finds that the REER is 17.6 per cent stronger in 2016 than the level deemed consistent with fundamentals and desired policies..... The current level of the REER is around 11 per cent higher than the long-term average.”

The IMF said the currency overvaluation, and tie to the US dollar, gave the Bahamas less flexibility than Caribbean tourism rivals such as Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, both of which do not have fixed exchange rate regimes.

It added that while the Bahamas’ foreign currency reserves of $904 million at year-end 2016 were below the international benchmark of three months’ worth of imports, standing at 2.4 months’ worth, they were above 100 per cent of the country’s short-term debt.

On a more positive note, the IMF is forecasting that the Bahamas’ ‘negative credit gap’ will gradually be closed as bank lending to the private sector picks up to an annual 2.5-3 per cent growth rate by 2021-2022.

However, it revealed that bank ‘spreads’ - the difference between lending and deposit rates - are currently “much higher” than before the 2007-2009 recession due to a lack of economic growth and difficulties in assessing borrower creditworthiness.

“Banks have maintained a cautious lending attitude, particularly as the lack of a credit bureau and of a well-established book-keeping tradition have made it difficult to assess borrowers’ creditworthiness,” the IMF said.

“These challenges have led banks to increase the risk premium on new lending, bringing intermediation spreads to levels much higher than those seen before the global financial crisis. Consequently, the total stock of credit to the private sector has remained flat, leading to a negative credit gap.” This gap was assessed as equivalent to 2 per cent of GDP (around $200 million) in 2016.

The IMF urged the Bahamas to “reverse the self-reinforcing negative feedback loop” created by the lack of GDP growth, and high levels of loan delinquency, on credit supply. It said the enactment of legislation to create a Credit Bureau is also essential to this effort.

The Article IV report also exposes why the 2008-2009 recession hit the Bahamas, and so many families, especially hard as it revealed the high level of household indebtedness and “explosion” in reckless bank lending prior to the crash.

“Households have not been able to fully repair their balance sheets following the sharp economic contraction during the global financial crisis, which turned many loans non-performing,” the IMF said.

“Bank household debt increased from about 40 per cent of GDP in 2005 to a peak of 62 per cent of GDP in 2011, declining only to 57 per cent of GDP in 2016.”

It continued: “Total credit grew at an average annual rate of 10 per cent over 2002-2008. The expansion was particularly pronounced in household credit, with residential mortgage lending and consumer credit growing at average annual rates of 20 and 9 per cent, respectively.

“Business lending, with only a small fraction going into commercial mortgages, expanded only modestly at average annual rates of 3 per cent, although it temporarily accelerated to slightly above 10 per cent in 2005 and 2006. The rapid acceleration in household credit led to a significant increase in household leverage: household debt (mortgages and consumer loans) increased from 37 per cent of GDP in 2002 to 58 per cent in 2008.”

Comments

BahamaPundit 1 week, 6 days ago

In all honesty, it's probably over valued by 30 to 50 percent.

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banker 1 week, 5 days ago

In 2014, economists were saying that it was overvalued by 35%. This was based on the "quality" or lack thereof of the reserves -- IOUs to the NIB and such.

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Baha10 1 week, 6 days ago

Is this the beginning of the end ... as once you value, your currency only ever heads in one direction?!?

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 5 days ago

Here we see the insidious IMF moving in for the kill by unilaterally undermining our country's monetary policy and monetary system. They have taken it upon themselves to announce to the whole world that our Bahamian dollar is not worth one U.S. dollar. After years of sending "hit men" to our shores to get and keep our corrupt politicians hooked on debt, to the point where the foreign currency denominated component of our national debt is now almost unsustainable, the IMF and its related international lending agencies like the IDB are positioning themselves to pull the rug from under our Bahamian dollar and by extension our country and its people. The powerful corporate interests of the developed countries that are ultimately behind these international lending agencies are readying themselves to strike - to buy up our most valuable assets (mainly consisting of some of the most valuable real estate in the world) at a greatly discounted price through their own devaluation (not our devaluation) of the Bahamian dollar against the U.S. dollar. At the same time, they seek to create a much lower cost supply of Bahamian labour for their benefit and the benefit of their citizenry who visit our country to enjoy our pristine aqua marine waters and sea life, and our magnificent beaches on many islands.

WE NEED TO TELL THE IMF IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS THAT OUR NATION PARADISE - OUR HOME - DOES NOT EXIST AND CANNOT BE REPLICATED ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD AND THAT FROM OUR STANDPOINT THIS ALONE JUSTIFIES A BAHAMIAN DOLLAR BEING WORTH AT LEAST ONE U.S. DOLLAR IF NOT MUCH MORE!

And our dumb PM and dumber Minister of Finance stand ready to immediately devalue our Bahamian dollar, without notice of course, to whatever amount the IMF tells them it is worth!!! Here's where we find out if Minnis and K P Turnquest are willing and able to successfully fight the righteous battle for the true underlying value of our nation paradise and it currency, the Bahamian dollar. It's perhaps worth noting that the U.S.dollar value index has fallen significantly over the past several months and is now well below 100. That in and of itself has devalued our Bahamian dollar against all other hard currencies except the U.S. dollar to which it is pegged at 1 for 1.

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Reality_Check 1 week, 5 days ago

As painful as it may be, Minnis and K P Turnquest must now do their utmost to turn our country away from the lending teat ("tit") constantly being put to its lips by the insidious international agencies like the IMF, IDB et al. whose hideous agenda is diametrically opposed to the interests of all Bahamians.

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concernedcitizen 1 week, 5 days ago

Actually if you circle the globe at the same Latitude many places look exactly like us .Have you ever been to Isla mujeres off of Cancun , you would swear you are in The Bahamas .Mexicans coming from there to here would think they are home .Fuji ,The Seychelles .Damm Cuba has 4000 cays that look like ours ..That's part of our problem we have been told we the only ones w/ clear waters ,white beaches etc that we think we can give crap service at outrageous prices and people will keep coming ..The DR is kicking our ass in stop over ,,we are doing the same numbers we did in 1997 ,,we just gouge our guest more ..No one told us to borrow one red cent ,,w the money we took in since independence we never had to , but when we theef ,squander and loot about half the money that comes into the treasury you got to go hat in hand begging ,,

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Reality_Check 1 week, 5 days ago

Not according to the average astronaut who has orbited our planet...nearly all of them say the Bahamas is the most picturesque and ideallic site on earth as viewed from miles up in space.

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concernedcitizen 1 week, 5 days ago

Yes b/c of the Great Bahama bank , I took the astronaut ,Mr Kelly out on a boat tour when he visited one of the family Islands .However tourist don,t see The Bahamas from space they see it from there hotel room ,and more and more are renting home from arbnb etc that are owned by second home owners from the U S and Canada, they see it fromtheir chairs on the beach , etc ..As far as sun sand sea ,,there are many places just like us ,,a lot of the big money is going to Tand C now ..Check out Cayo coco in Cuba on the net ,,tell me that does not look exactly like us ,,the Exuma cays ,,I,m been all over the as a boat captain ,, like I said tourist ain,t looking from space ,,they are looking from a beach chair and want good service

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SP 1 week, 5 days ago

Fidel Castro successfully resolved this issue by causing a 20% exchange rate for the USD to Cuban Convertible Peso.

The Bahamas can do the same!

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happyfly 1 week, 5 days ago

Unfortunately like most of Fidel's communist ideology, charging a 20% exchange rate does nothing to help. Changing your money to US$ still costs 20% more and therefore imports still cost 20% more. And unless you are an oppressive dictator, the black market would take over the exchange of all currency and avoid the abnormal economics of it all

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Reality_Check 1 week, 5 days ago

Now we know why both Davis and Hanna-Martin are vying for the leadership of the PLP. They know whichever party holds power at the time of an official devaluation of the Bahamian dollar will bear the brunt of (and pay a dear political price for) the economic upheaval, public outrage and massive civil unrest. The average D- educated voter will only know and be concerned with one thing when they next go to the polls: "The devaluation of my money happened under the FNM's watch; it didn't happen under the PLP's watch!"

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 5 days ago

You are right. The irony of the situation is that an official devaluation of the Bahamian dollar by the Minnis-led FNM government will do much much more political harm and damage to the FNM party than all of the untold corruption did to the PLP party that occurred during the last five year term of the Christie-led PLP government. In fact, many believe whichever party controls the government at the time of an official devaluation will for all intents and purposes cease to exist simply because the average less well educated Bahamian voter will forevermore associate the huge devaluation hit on both their pocket book and standard of living with that party. Small wonder both Davis and Hanna-Martin seem so bold and brazen....they could well have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain come the next general election!

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Sickened 1 week, 5 days ago

As Well_Mudda says, they are about to pull on the rug beneath us. Their hands are firmly grasped and they are inhaling deeply preparing to yank!

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bogart 1 week, 5 days ago

Article revraled the high levels of household indebtedness and explosion in reckless bank lending.

Now that a Foreign Agency and quite likely a white man has come out with the Article IV Consultation report it with certainty appear that some further investigation as to why this massive bank defaulty of some 1 billion dollars happened.

Plain local common sense would investigated a review of TDSR total debt srevice loan ratio could have been over looked to qualify mortgage borrowers and for loan officers to meet their job targets. Common sense would indicate a ratio of 45% of loans to repay from salary is obselete having been used to get an approved indemnity insurance where mortgage applicant cannot meet equity requirement. The applicant mst also be able to meet projected expenses in home ownership.

Really dumb and stupid to believe this 45% debt service used for 30 some years is still applicable as no expenses a homeownerfaces is the same. Actually 45% is different for the low income marginal qualified applicant when ie an applicant makes 20,000 per month. Could actually afford to have loan payments of 15,00 and still pay household expenses of 5,000.

Any investigation of the ovrr 4,000 mortgage accounts in default is needrd. Any bank or loan officer found to not been due care and attention or neglogent with mortgage loan customers should be jailed.

Bizzarely we have .some 100 million of bad loans in Resolve agency to aggressively sell the homes.. We now have a further 160 million additional bad loans all from the govt majoroty owned BOB bank and with a Board of Directors selected and approved by the govt with only recently 2 Directors to represent the minority shareholders.

And to date it appears all the bad loans were the customers fault only.

Incredible. For start any loan offocer, supervisor or any bank official found to have falsely approved any active politician or past politician loan when they were not quilified should be jailed and the bank officiers repay yhe loan and or have their assets sold to repay loan.

The Bahaman people deserve better not bitter.

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banker 1 week, 5 days ago

The problem is that Bahamians are hooked on easy credit and source deductions. They get a mortgage and they have an appropriate loan ratio, so they go and buy a house. House needs big screen and furniture and tings TV so they go to the store and get payroll deductions for furnishing the house. Then they need a new car, and Christmas rolls around and they run up the credit card and soon there een enough money to pay the bills and live, and the loans become delinquent. Then the hotel closes, or you a get a staff reduction, or tourist doan wanna look at a Florida parking lot that da Bahamas has become, and you get lay off. Then you are fooked.

We would not be in this spot if we were prudent with our votes, prudent with electing men and women of honour, prudent with our personal finances, prudent with using our reproductive organs and prudent with our patriotism. Fact is, we don't control our impulses in any area of our life, and then go cryin' dat da nasty white man is repressing us -- 'cept for mudda/realitycheck/3otherfakenames who is a white man who tinks dat he is da smartest man here and tinks dat he is pullin' da wool over our eyes with his Trumpian multiple personality disorder.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 4 days ago

Government itself is a big part of the out-of-control indebtedness situation of many Bahamians. Government allows up to 70% or more of a civil servant's salary and bonuses to be paid directly to banks like Commonwealth Bank to service the civil servant's borrowings. Of course the major owners of Commonwealth Bank (the Symonette family and Rupert Roberts who owns SuperValue & Quality Market food stores) are very happy with this arrangement, and even lobbied for special legislation to be put in place that would allow a civil servant's unpaid salary, bonuses, life insurance and other benefits upon death to be paid directly to the banks (in priority to the estate of the deceased) to service/repay the decedent's bank borrowings. The Symonette family is truly greedy beyond belief and could not care less about the surviving family members of a deceased civil servant who owes their bank money at the time of his or her death!

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sheeprunner12 1 week, 5 days ago

The real issue is our present HIGH cost of living ........ Top 10 in the world ....... hard to survive as a blue collar worker these days on less than $400 per week.

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