ECONOMIC Affairs Minister Michael Halkitis.
By LETRE SWEETING
Tribune Staff Reporter
ECONOMIC Affairs Minister Michael Halkitis said the country’s fiscal position is stronger than last year.
His comment came after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that after its annual Article IV consultation with The Bahamas that the country’s fiscal deficit would likely be almost three times higher than the government forecast.
He said more attention should be given to the positive projections the IMF made about the country.
“When we had the closing meeting with the IMF at the conclusion of their mission, that was the most positive closing meeting I have ever had with the IMF, and I have been doing this for 15 years,” he said during a press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday.
“To have them endorse our position that our economy will be growing faster is very, very important.”
Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis told The Tribune earlier this week that he was shocked by the IMF’s deficit projections.
Explaining the prime minister’s reaction, Mr Halkitis said: “When all of us came out of the meeting, it was like, ‘wow, that was the most positive meeting we’ve ever had’. Then, to see a reaction to something and that they have a different projection than we do, we didn’t go in-depth about this piece of information. That is what he meant. It wasn’t raised in that meeting.”
The IMF is projecting that the country’s economy will grow by 2.3 per cent this year, up from its previous 1.8 per cent projection.
Mr Halkitis said this should be the key takeaway from the IMF report.
“They also said they endorsed our policies so far, particularly as it relates to the debt,” he added.
“What has dominated the discussion is this assertion by the IMF that they think we will not meet our deficit targets for 2024, not that we have missed any targets so far in our administration. As a matter of fact, we have met or exceeded all of our projections.”
“We think that we will have a budget deficit of 0.9 per cent in this budget year that concludes June 30, 2024. They think we will have a budget deficit of 2.6 per cent. And so it is a difference of opinion.
“We think we can do it. Our optimism is backed up by the strength of the economy, which is backed up by the IMF revising our growth rate upward and also backed up by the just released information by the BNSI.
“Even in what we consider their worst-case scenario, we are way ahead of last year.”