NASSAU, Bahamas, Friday May 18, 2012 – The country is in crisis. That was the word from Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie when the newly formed Cabinet met for the first time this week.
"We've indicated over and over that the country is in crisis when it comes to crime and when it comes to the economy, when you have a country where over 34 percent of the people are unemployed, and a country where murders continue unabated, then you know that very radical initiatives are necessary," the prime minister said.
"We want to begin today to examine those initiatives," he added.
Cabinet ministers were briefed on the economic status of the country by Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis.
And with only two weeks until the 2012/2013 national budget is presented to parliament, Christie said that his government won't have much time to make many changes.
"Very clearly the extent of our debt, the deficit that we met in place, the amount of money we have to borrow, will influence how we govern, and how we integrate our priorities into governance," he said.
During its election campaign, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) pledged to implement several key initiatives over the first three months.
Among the projects outlined in the Charter for Governance were to:
• Institute a mortgage relief plan in conjunction with private sector lenders to help struggling homeowners.
• Initiate a plan to lower the cost of electricity.
• Provide details for a referendum on a national lottery and gambling in The Bahamas.
Christie said he has already begun to deliver on the mandate through the creation of the ministries of Grand Bahama and Financial Services.
"It's day one. Give us an opportunity to move. I think we are excited, we know the opportunity we've been given, we are deeply challenged by the circumstances of our economy," he said.
Last December, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that the former Free National Movement (FNM) administration's plans were 'not sufficient' to reverse the then $4.25 billion national debt, adding that the failure to rapidly implement tax reforms 'could jeopardise a sustained recovery' in the Bahamas.
The consultation report also noted that borrowings associated with the government's infrastructure upgrades had made the fiscal position more 'vulnerable'. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)