Prime Minister Perry Christie said that the government is committed to altering the country’s recent downgrade by Standard and Poor’s (S & P’s).
Christie noted that there are two rating agencies, S&P and Moody’s. S & P downgraded the country; however, Moody’s looking at the same information as S&P, the same conditions, decided not to do so.
Noting that last month the International Rating Agency significantly downgraded the country, Christie noted that many unforeseen factors contributed to the latest action rating by the institution.
Most notably, he said was the devastation caused as a result of Hurricanes Joaquin and Matthew, within a year of one another.
Christie noted that his government, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), has and will continue to live up to their obligations to the people of The Bahamas.
“S & P’s International Rating Agency has further downgraded The Bahamas, raising the implication that things are not going right, that things are bad.
“Firstly, let us acknowledge that when the rating agency speaks to expenditure not being sufficiently controlled, they also acknowledge that, in part, that is due to the impasse and cost of hurricane restoration.
“We had an extraordinary experience in The Bahamas in having, in the space of one year, two major hurricanes – Joaquin and Matthew – estimating Joaquin’s damage in the Southern Bahamas to be about $150 million, and we are estimating Matthew, in terms of personal damage to Bahamian households to be near $600 million,” Christie disclosed.
“We are talking about a country that has been devastated, not by the decision of the government, but by the allowance of God. There is nothing we could have done, other than to pray that no one lost their lives … thank God.
“We have to accept the reality that climate changes here and even though there may be differences expressed in the country between an outgoing president and an incoming president, The Bahamas needs no further evidence that the sea level rises five feet and stays at five feet, 80 percent of the country disappears.
“We do not need to bring any new science into this, we know, like the Pacific Islands and the leaders of those countries in the Pacific, like us, low lying islands in the Caribbean that we run the risk of natural disasters overwhelming our country and it has to be built into our budget. This is the challenge,” stated the nation’s leader.
Christie noted that his government was faced with the mammoth task of many persons sustaining tremendous damages to their homes, some losing their homes entirely.
“We have an obligation to recognize, always, that there are people who live in our country, who for reasons we can rationalize, would not be able to do for themselves; because they are unemployed, where parents are unemployed, that they have special children or special responsibilities and expenses; where they are in a state of bewilderment happens and where a hurricane’s impact have taken all of their possessions.
“We are going to have to do something about it and we are not going to apologize for doing something about it. We are going to effectively govern this country.
“There are two rating agencies, one called S&P and the other called Moody’s. S & P downgraded; however, Moody’s looking at the same information, the same conditions, decided not to do so.”
The prime minister noted that even with S&P, there was a silver lining. “They said that they will upgrade us from a negative outlook to a stable investment rating. They have a sense that we may be too optimistic about this one development in The Bahamas that led them to downgrade, Baha Mar.”
Christie added that for that reason, he worked assiduously to have the mega resort opened and operational in the shortest time frame possible.
“When they downgraded Baha Mar I began working in my office with a team of persons dealing with the fact that when we had to talk to the officials of banks in China, I had to stay in the office until midnight or 1:00 a.m. in the morning because there was a 12 hour difference. We committed ourselves to bringing about a positive result for The Bahamas.”
The prime minister claimed that people called him a liar when he spoke of a positive outcome for Baha Mar. “However, the day I told him that we have made a breakthrough and had a solution to it, that is the day he told me that he had filed for bankruptcy.
“We worked and worked, we brought about results in The Bahamas that we thought would please and accommodate itself to the position of S&P. We have done something that defied the laws of bankruptcy,” said the prime minister.
Speaking to the government’s newest capital works project on Grand Bahama, Christie said that forging such a partnership will benefit both the contractors, Top Notch Builders and the government of The Bahamas.
“The very basis of our being here, this demonstrates the commitment we have to fiscal responsibility. This Private Public Partnership (PPP) enables the government to avoid borrowing money.
“This is an expensive complex and for it to have happened, either the government had to borrow the money or we introduce what we call this innovation of PPP, where we find a partner who will build a building for us, and we in turn will pay them back, upon the building being completed.
“PPPs bring into play a stronger relationship with the private sector, finding partners who will engage in this work, borrowing the money themselves, complete the building and have a process of turning it over to the government,” Christie said.
Published Thursday, January 5, 2017