Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest.
By Natario McKenzie
Tribune Business Reporter
FINANCE Minister K Peter Turnquest yesterday touted that "for the first time in a long time" the government has met its deficit target, having recorded a deficit of $222.4m for fiscal year 2018/2019.
According to the Ministry of Finance the deficit is equal to 1.7 percent of GDP "marking the lowest deficit and fiscal ratio achieved by any administration in The Bahamas in nearly ten years" and the first time since FY2012/13 that any government has met its deficit target.
"This is significant in our fiscal history and is evidence that we are serious and determined to put our fiscal house in order, and committed to achieving a more sustainable fiscal position. As we have consistently maintained, our ultimate goal is to achieve sustainable economic growth that allows opportunity to flourish for all Bahamians, and economic and social benefits to be maintained over the medium and long term," said Mr Turnquest, deputy prime minister and minister of finance.
"The success we achieved this year with improving our fiscal balance is only one step in a multi-step process. We are still at the early point of recovery and we must stay the course. Our country is still vulnerable to natural disasters and external economic shocks. Our priorities will continue to be expenditure restraint, enhanced revenue compliance and collection, and implementing policies to stimulate economic growth."
The fourth quarter report also revealed a debt to GDP ratio of 58.8 percent at the end of fiscal year 2018/19, which represents a marginal increase of 0.1 percent when compared with FY2017/18.
"This is the slowest the debt has increased in over a decade. This virtual stabilisation in the debt ratio is an important milestone, and it aligns with our overall fiscal objective, which is to eventually bring the debt to GDP ratio down to the more sustainable target of 50 per cent. The objective is to pursue a fiscal policy that will begin to move the debt to GDP ratio lower over time," said Mr Turnquest.
"Governments of The Bahamas have only met their revenue targets on four occasions in nearly two decades. This means that we have to get better both at forecasting and at collecting revenues on the books. We are well underway in the implementation of the right policy and administrative measures to ensure that we are collecting all revenues due to the Government. This is a compelling priority of the Government, as we implement our fiscal plan utilising a combination of strategies including the establishment of the Revenue Enhancement Unit which is now fully staffed."
"Nevertheless, what is important is that for the first time in a long time the government has met its deficit target - and done so in a way that is responsible and prudent. More so, the outturn represents the lowest such deficit as a percentage of GDP in almost a decade. We have established a fiscal plan in line with the fiscal responsibility legislation and we are remaining true to this plan as required by law."