Stimulus checks in time for Christmas
By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, December 19, 2022 – On their third stimulus check payout of the year the Government has still not figured out a new way to pass out checks increasing the possibility of long lines and disorderly behavior; but undoubtedly those receiving the free cash for the first time are thrilled to have the payout in time for the holidays.
It was announced last Friday that residents who missed out on the first and second round of stimulus checks in the Turks and Caicos would finally be able to start collecting their own.
The payments, only for citizens who did not get one in August, were again scheduled for collection at the Treasury on Grand Turk and Sub-Treasuries in the other islands. That began on Friday December 16th except in South Caicos; those cheques will become available today Monday December 19th.
Individuals approved were instructed to go to the Treasury on the island submitted as their permanent address in the application process to pick up the cheques in person.
Cheques were to be distributed by last name once again, but in Providenciales only. Applicants whose surnames begin with A to J began on Friday past 16th and applicants whose surnames begin with K to Z start Monday December 19, which is today.
The same system was instituted in August but with admittedly a much larger pool of people to serve. Back then complaints about it reaching Magnetic Media were numerous. It wasn’t the first time the government had distributed cheques this way and even after promises that it would not happen again residents are asked to brave the same frustrating process.
Again, there will be cheque delivery for those unable pick-up in person, but that will face delays, as TCI Government warns of resource constraints during this time of the year. To receive this service, approved applicants must send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the applicant’s stimulus application number, telephone contact and full home address.
The government also indicated that application reviews were still ongoing and residents who had not seen their name on the list might yet get an approval.
20 percent increase in WHO assessed contributions, Americas gets 1.2 percent raise from 2022-2023
June 5, 2023 – Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) approved the WHO Programme budget 2024-2025, which includes a 20% increase in assessed contributions. This now takes WHO’s global budget to $6,834.2 million of which the Americas will receive $313.7 million, a 1.2 percent increase from 2022-2023.
This will better facilitate the equal distribution of funds for the Americas as expressed by Dr. Jarbas Barbosa Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director.
“The Americas remains the most unequal region of the world, yet WHO covers a relatively small portion of PAHO’s operational costs,” he said.
He further added that ensuring equitable distribution of WHO funds is pivotal in meeting the urgent health needs of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The decision was made on Monday May 22, 2023, at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, lasting from May 21st to 30th, and came as PAHO Member States highlighted that the Americas needs increased financing and since less than three quarters of the approved budget for the Americas has been funded historically.
Barbosa continued to emphasize that “Sufficient and sustainable financing for the Region is key to addressing the health inequities that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, pointed out that this marks to first time in the organization’s 75 year history, that a significant increase in assessed contributions has been made, and he expressed gratitude to the Member States for having confidence and trust in WHO, maintaining that the increase is symbolic of and reiterates his commitment to enhancing transparency, accountability and efficiency.
Additionally, the budgetary increase for the financial period will also aid WHO in supporting countries of the Americas in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals and the Organization’s Thirteenth General Programme of Work (GPW13) “triple billion” targets:
- One billion more people benefiting from universal health coverage,
- One billion more people better protected from health emergencies,
- One billion more people enjoying better health and well-being.
PM Davis ‘confident’ that Revenue Outturn will near $2.9 billion
By ERIC ROSE
Bahamas Information Services
#NASSAU, The Bahamas, May 30, 2023 – Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis said in the House of Assembly, on May 31, 2023, that public revenue receipts were strong over the nine-month period of July 2022 to March 2023, due to legislative reform, effective policy decisions, strengthened economic conditions and more efficient collection efforts.
“Analysis of the trends of the first three quarters of this fiscal year, and the years prior, suggest that the government is potentially set to exceed the $2.85 billion target set forth in the February 2023 Mid-year Supplementary Budget,” he said, during his Communication on Budget 2023.
“I am confident the revenue outturn at the end of the Fiscal Year 22/23 will near $2.9 billion.
Public spending has remained on track, and is well within the budgeted amount,” Prime Minister Davis added. “For this reason I am confident that expenditure at end of the Fiscal Year 2022/23 will almost reach the target of $3.1 billion set in the Supplementary Budget.”
He pointed out that the primary balance will, therefore, record a surplus of $68.4 million at the end of the fiscal year, a $54.8 million increase from the $13.6 million surplus projected in the supplementary budget.
“Likewise, the overall deficit is expected to improve to $520.6 million, down from the $575.4 million outlined in the supplementary budget,” he said.
Speaking of Government financing, Prime Minister Davis said that The Bahamas’ borrowing costs had begun to experience a downward trend in the previous quarter; but the cost of borrowing rose at the end of March 2023.
“At the end of the third quarter, the total average cost of borrowing for current outstanding debt had risen to an interest rate of 5.55 percent,” he pointed out. “This is notably higher than the previous year’s rate of 4.93 percent at the end of March 2022.
“This increase in borrowing costs is primarily attributable to the higher costs associated with external loan facilities.”
He added that, more specifically, the average interest rate for external financing had risen by 1.99 basis points, resulting in a rate of 5.55 percent as of March 2023, compared to the preceding year’s 3.56 percent.
“Throughout the past year, the interest rate policies of the major Central Banks have been restrictive, with a series of interest rate increases,” Prime Minister Davis said. “These adjustments have been primarily motivated by the escalation of inflation, and the resulting upsurge in interest rates has had an impact on the Bahamas’ external borrowing costs.”
He added: “However, the cost of borrowing in the domestic market has been declining over the past quarters.
Looking at it in more detail, we can see that:
- The average interest cost for domestic loans subsided by 27 basis points to 4.62 percent at end of March 2023, from 4.89 percent in the previous year;
- And the average interest cost for domestic bonds subsided by 3 basis points to 4.63 percent at the end of March 2023 from 4.66 percent in the previous year.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that those statistics affirmed the Government’s latest medium-term debt strategy, which aimed to shift its borrowing away from costly external commercial debt.
“Such debt has seen a sharp increase over the past five years, including recent interest rate hikes,” he said. “This strategic move will enable the government to once again rely predominantly on the domestic market to meet its financing requirements.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, when considering the maturity of debt, or the average time it takes to repay the principal amount in the government’s debt portfolio, a longer maturity period led to a reduction in refinancing risk.
“In essence, prioritizing longer maturities is key to managing debt effectively,” he said. “And so another element of the government’s medium-term debt management strategy is the goal of prolonging the average maturity time of its debt.”
Prime Minister Davis said that, in the face of “unprecedented turbulence” in the global financial markets, the Government was able to maintain its average time to maturity.
“At end of March 2023, the average time to maturity has decreased slightly to 6.7 years, down from the previous 6.8 years in March 2022,” he said. “This variance is due solely to the external loan component, as the average time to maturity on internal debt has remained steady at 7.1 years.”
“This highlights the significance of maintaining a prudent approach to debt management, and aligning this administration’s practices with the government’s optimal debt strategy,” Prime Minister Davis added.
“It is imperative that we continue to exercise prudence in this area to ensure financial stability.”
(BIS Photos/Ulric Woodside)
PM states HCA model not working during budget debate
By ROBYN ADDERLEY
Bahamas Information Services
#FREEPORT, Grand Bahama, May 30, 2023 – The model of the Hawkbill Creek Act, the agreement between the Government of The Bahamas and the Grand Bahama Port Authority, is not working, said Prime Minister the Hon. Philip Davis during the opening of the 2023 Budget Debate on Wednesday, May 31 in the House of Assembly.
The island of Grand Bahama, he said, contributes 12 percent of the country’s GDP, however, there was a decline by 9 percent when compared to the previous year. Tourism, he said, increased in 2022 showing a growth in accommodation and food service.
“Unfortunately, the statistics show a prolonged decline in the Grand Bahamian economy. The evidence confirms the view of my government that the Hawksbill Creek economic model, which was meant to attract foreign direct investment, does not work.
“Furthermore, in our view, the government model of the Grand Bahama Port Authority must change, in order to realize the promise, growth and prosperity we all desire.
“Additionally, the Government of The Bahamas has serious concerns regarding the compliance of the GBPA and its related companies with the terms and conditions of the Hawksbill Creek Act, and its subsequent amendments.”
In the past, said the Prime Minister, administrations have attempted to address the issues however they appear to be “systemic and fundamental.” Decisive action will be taken, he continued, and a separate detailed announcement will be made at another time.
Prime Minister Davis mentioned that even though the GDP for several islands has experienced growth, Abaco and Grand Bahama have not done as well. Abaco, he said, saw a decline of 6 percent in 2022 with its contribution to the economy at 2.8 percent ranking the island as the third largest contributor.
“While there was a slight improvement in Abaco’s economy compared to 2019, it has yet to reach the levels seen before Hurricane Dorian. The decline in the economic activity is directly related to the slowdown in the real estate and construction sectors.”
He continued, “Declines in the real estate sector are directly as a result of a shift to higher intermediate consumption in 2022 from that of the previous two years. In terms of declines in construction, it should be noted that in 2020 and 2021, Abaco experienced significant recovery efforts in the form of debris removal, site preparation and building of damaged structures.
Such efforts bolstered the value added to the island’s GDP during those years. As those efforts wrap up, the industry saw a gradual decline as construction tempered to normal levels in 2022, resulting in a lower GDP.
Additionally, the Prime Minister said the Grand Bahama International Airport will be repaired, and a new healthcare facility will be built. Provisions have also been made for the continuation of an employment program for $4.7 million, along with the construction of a 50-meter swimming pool facility.
The House of Assembly has adjourned until Wednesday, June 7, when the debate will continue.
(BIS Photo/Ulric Woodside)
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