Irma: Govt fearing ‘major financial blow’ 


Tribune Business Editor


The Government was last night fearing Hurricane Irma will inflict “another dramatic financial blow” to the Bahamian economy, matching Matthew’s $600 million damage from a year ago.

K P Turnquest, the deputy prime minister, told Tribune Business that this nation could “ill-afford” another Matthew-type hit given the economic and fiscal constraints under which it is currently labouring.

“We’re obviously very concerned,” he said, as Irma starts to bear down upon the Bahamas with what forecasters believe will be Category 4 winds by the time it hits this nation.

“This seems to be a monster storm, maybe even surpassing Matthew, which we know brought significant destruction to our country and the lives of so many Bahamians.”

Matthew, which struck the Bahamas with Category three/four winds, left an estimated $600 million worth of damage in its wake (and at least $400 million in insurance claims) after it battered New Providence and Grand Bahama - the two major population centres.

Moody’s estimated it cost the Government revenues equivalent to 2.4 per cent of GDP (around $214 million) as a result of depressed economic activity, which added to the $100 million worth of damage inflicted upon the southern Family Islands by Hurricane Joaquin in 2015.

Referring solely to Matthew, Mr Turnquest said: “We know the cost of that event was significant in terms of restoration and loss of revenue, which had a significant impact on the Budget.

“We are very concerned about the nature of this storm, but hope Bahamians have taken note of the experience of last year and protected themselves by insuring their property and taken precautions to protect their property in the particularly storm.”

The Government was also forced into an emergency $150 million borrowing post-Matthew to finance essential infrastructure and public building repairs, and bring relief to storm-ravaged Bahamians. This ultimately expanded the 2016-2017 fiscal deficit from a projected $100 million to $350 million (according to the Christie administration),or $500 million and even $636 million (according to the current government and Moody’s, respectively).

With the Bahamas still “paying” for Matthew and Joaquin, Mr Turnquest agreed that any impact from Irma was especially ill-timed.

“With the economic and financial constraints we have, we can ill-afford another storm of the magnitude of Matthew,” Mr Turnquest told Tribune Business.

“We hope at the end of the day resources will be better managed, but in the best case scenario this represents a dramatic financial blow, particularly in Grand Bahama where we have not recovered from Matthew yet and many residents have significant damage to their homes and the Grand Lucayan is still not open.

“Any further damage will be a great setback which we can ill-afford here.”

James Smith, a former finance minister, agreed with Mr Turnquest that a direct strike by Hurricane Irma on the Bahamas’ major economic centres (New Providence and Grand Bahama) will be something this nation can “ill afford”.

“It depends how we get hit,” the CFAL chairman told Tribune Business, “but you can judge it by what happened with Matthew. It was estimated at $400 million out of our GDP, and if it’s anything like that we will be looking at the same thing. For us, we could be looking at a small disaster.

“It would be a setback we can’t really afford. Let’s hope we don’t see it. You simply can’t plan for these things. We’ll have to pay for it from the Budget, and simply go to additional borrowing. It’s more of the same.”

Irma’s approach, and potential impact, are likely to revive debate around the need for the Bahamas to establish some type of catastrophe or hurricane relief fund to finance post-storm recovery and restoration.

John Rolle, the Central Bank’s governor, told Tribune Business last week that while foreign exchange demand indicated a “small uptick” in consumer spending, the economy was still suffering lingering effects from Matthew.

“There is growth, but we are still feeling the effects of the hurricane, unfortunately,” he told Tribune Business, pointing to Grand Bahama and other hotel inventory that was being taken off-line for repairs.

The Government, already preparing for Irma’s potential arrival, last night warned retail merchants such as food stores, pharmaceutical suppliers and building materials merchants against exploiting pre-storm demand by ‘price gouging’.

Warning that this, as well as the ‘hoarding’ of supplies for so-called speculation and profiteering, were criminal offences, the Prime Minister instructed the Prices Commission to monitor the situation and inform the Attorney General’s Office should any infractions be found.


Well_mudda_take_sic 6 years, 3 months ago

Minnis and KP had better understand that we, the people, will be watching to see if they use Irma as a lame excuse for just about any and everything as Christie and Halkitis did with Hurricane Matthew.


OMG 6 years, 3 months ago

Your so stupid that basic grade one maths escapes you.The PLP borrowed and spent like there was no tomorrow leaving little or no wiggle room for the incoming administration. Any possible hurricane damage affects the national economy and all of us and you can't get blood out of a stone.


TheMadHatter 6 years, 3 months ago

Mudda Sic.....you right 100%. Govts love excuses.

Long time in power now and a word about our BIGGEST PROBLEM that effects everything else.....the cost of power. Well, actually one thing...they want URCA to regulate FPO Power cause they jealous. They want to teach Freeport how to do load shedding cause the power is be on in Freeport too much by Nassau standards.

Looks like they toss the energy saving white boy in the trash just like the last two administrations.

We are doomed. Invest in your funeral plot.


birdiestrachan 6 years, 3 months ago

I was very happy on awaking on May 11th 2017. That Mr: Christie who had done his very best. would be able to enjoy what ever years the good Lord would afford him. Its the peoples time said the FNM. They wanted the job at any cost. so they have it . we shall see what they will do.


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