By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamas’ national debt finished 2018 at $8.22bn, having increased by $335.3m last year, although GDP growth meant it fell slightly in proportion to the size of the economy.
The Central Bank of The Bahamas, in its quarterly report for the three months to-end December 2018, revealed that this country’s total debt - the government’s direct charge plus all the borrowings it has guaranteed on behalf of corporations and agencies - rose by $103.5m during that period.
“The direct charge on the government rose by $119m (1.6 percent) over the previous quarter, and by $317.2m (4.4 percent) year-on-year, to $7.497bn at end-December 2018,” the Central Bank said.
“The government’s contingent liabilities decreased by $15.4m (2.1 percent) over the final quarter of 2018 to $722.3m, but rose by $18.1m (2.6 percent) year-on-year. As a result of these developments, the national debt - inclusive of contingent liabilities - rose by $103.5m (1.3 percent) over the three-month period to $8.22bn and by $335.3m (4.3 percent) relative to December 2017.”
However, economic growth ensured that The Bahamas’ debt ratios were kept in check at year-end 2018. The debt directly owed by the government fell from 59 percent of GDP at year-end 2017 to 58.9 percent some 12 months later, with the total debt-to-GDP ratio also down slightly from 64.8 percent to 64.6 percent year-over-year.
“As a ratio to GDP, the direct charge edged down by one basis point on a yearly basis to an estimated 58.9 percent at end-December. In addition, the national estimates of the debt-to-GDP ratios narrowed to an estimated 64.6 percent from 64.8 percent at end-2017,” the Central Bank continued.
Some 65.4 percent, or nearly two-thirds, of the national debt was denominated in Bahamian dollars at year-end 2018, while foreign currency liabilities accounted for the remaining 34.6 percent.
“Public sector foreign currency debt decreased by $82.4m (2.3 percent) to $3.474bn during the fourth quarter, as amortisation payments of $129.7m overshadowed new drawings of $46.7m,” the Central Bank said.
“Similarly, the public sector’s foreign currency debt fell by $10.7m (0.3 percent) vis-à-vis the corresponding period of 2017. In terms of the components, the government’s outstanding liabilities—which accounted for 74.6 percent of the total—decreased by $6.9m (0.3 percent) to $2.592bn on a quarterly basis, while the public corporations’ debt stock was reduced by $75.5m (7.9 percent) to $881.3m.”