In his 2015/2016 budget communication to Parliament today, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie, M.P. spoke to the Government’s success in cutting the GFS Deficit by virtually two-thirds, with estimates to have this down during the coming fiscal year by nearly a full 75% from its peak. Plans remain on track, of course, for complete elimination of the Deficit.
These fiscal achievements, he said, are fundamental to the success of the Government’s overarching plan for a better future for all Bahamians. “*By redressing the nation’s public finances, we are placing Government in a financially sustainable position to make the critical and targeted investments and economic and social improvements that we all desire and that are needed to strengthen our country.”*
The Government has committed to focus its attention on three core priorities: to secure a **Safer Bahamas**, a more **Prosperous Bahamas** and, through a world-class education system and targeted social investments, a **Modern Bahamas.** *“It is evident that these three pillars are closely inter-connected and that progress in respect of one will underpin success in respect of the other two. Our plan of action is thus designed to capitalize on the natural synergies and complementarities among these pillars,”* said Prime Minister Christie.
**Fiscal and Budgetary Reform**
The Budget Communication spoke to securing a sustained improvement in public finances and recreating the fiscal room necessary to finance the full complement of the national development plan, including economic renewal and stronger job creation. It also spoke to the diligent pursuit of the Medium-Term Fiscal Consolidation Plan, a multi-year strategy to stimulate economic growth; restrain public expenditure; enhance revenue administration; and secure new sources of revenue.
Prime Minister Christie said the fiscal framework as outlined is consistent with a stronger Bahamas, because it bodes well for business confidence and investments that spur medium-term growth, and jobs. “It empowers us to have more resources to fund the safety and wellbeing of our citizens, and by virtue of being employed keeps more of our youth away from the negative distractions brought on from being unemployed and idle. The framework is also bringing us more in line with the standards of governance and accountability that apply in advanced and modern economies around the globe.”
Total Recurrent Revenue is projected at $2,047 million, a 15.6 per cent year-over-year increase in revenues for 2015-2016, breaching the $2 billion mark for the first time. Total Recurrent Expenditure in 2015/16 is estimated at a level of $2,098 million, including some $154 million in reclassified transfer payments that previously were included in the Capital Expenditure account
In the financial services arena, the Government has committed to maintaining The Bahamas’ position as the premier financial centre in the Caribbean and a leading centre in the world. To achieve this goal The Bahamas must be well regulated. Included in the measures for the 2015/2016 budget is a mechanism through the sharing of bank licence fees to allow Securities Commission, the Compliance Commission, the Central Bank and the Insurance Commission to be funded independently of the Consolidated Fund. In this way regulatory independence is protected without unduly taxing the sector.
In addition, the Ministry of Financial Services has been adequately funded to allow it to work with its private sector partners to actualize the Renminbi trading platform, which is the first for the Caribbean, and also to continue its work in developing innovative products for this jurisdiction.
Other matters addressed by the Prime Minister included Tax Reform; Reform of the Real Property Tax and Business License Systems; Development of Public Infrastructure; Cellular Liberalization; Energy Reform; Creation of Creative and Cultural Industries; Establishment of a Modern Gaming Industry; and the Long-Term Planning for National Development.
On the last, it was noted that Government has modernized its strategic development planning process, implementing programmes and services to bolster the training and skills of our workforce, providing for the critical public infrastructure that is required nation-wide to support stronger growth; and striving to modernize Government corporations. In addition, regulations and Government-business interactions will be streamlined to make the business environment more user-friendly.
In concluding remarks, the Prime Minister stressed again that the future of The Bahamas is a bright one. While there is more work to be done, the Government has begun the process of implementing its bold vision for the future and introducing the novel and innovative ideas needed for fundamental and successful transformation and modernization.
Recognising that Government cannot achieve what is required on its own the Prime Minister called upon all Bahamians to contribute to the national challenge of making The Bahamas a safer, more prosperous, and modern society. *“This is indeed our patriotic duty and I invite all Bahamians to consult our new [Strong Bahamas](http://www.strongerbahamas.com) website that has been created in support of our broader, more open and inclusive framework for public engagement, policy planning and national development.” *