Friday, January 27, 2012
Friday, January 27, 2012
With economic growth for 2012 projected at 2.8 per cent and last year’s growth estimated at about two per cent, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham believes the country is making “significant and meaningful” progress, though he stopped short of suggesting that there are no more difficult days ahead.
“A review of our economic situation indicates that the year 2011 ended with continuing evidence that the mild economic recovery which began in 2010 was progressing. This recovery is being propelled primarily by construction and tourism activity,” the Prime Minister said in his New Year’s address on Wednesday.
“Major public sector infrastructure projects and foreign direct investment were the drivers for construction. Holiday travel supported by aggressive promotional activity strengthened the tourism performance,” he explained.
The Bahamas added around 380,000 new airline seats from major tourism markets into the jurisdiction giving the country more non-stop connections to more destinations, according to the Prime Minister.
This includes new flights from North and Central America, and restored non-stop flights from Frankfurt, Germany, after an absence of more than 20 years. New flights from Toronto to Grand Bahama came on stream after more than a 30-year hiatus.
The Prime Minister noted that foreign reserves registered an increase of $26 million for the year, bringing reserves to $886 million at year-end – the fourth consecutive year in which the balance of payments recorded a surplus.
Ingraham said that government debt relative to the size of the economy remains “well below the danger level” and lower than that of regional neighbours and most of the developed and developing world.
“Nevertheless, we will, as soon as it is safe to do so, reduce the rate of growth in government debt and over the medium term return the debt ratio to a more desirable and sustainable level,” Ingraham confirmed.
In the wake of the global economic downturn the Prime MInister said that the government has worked to preserve jobs in the public sector, boost job-creation in the private sector and advance job-readiness and retraining.
Last year, the Free National Movement government updated its National Investment Policy and produced new investment promotion materials.
Ingraham led investment delegations to Canada and to Hong Kong. In the case of the latter, The Bahamas opened a new Maritime Authority office in order to boost business with the “vital” Asia-Pacific region.
And, while the government’s focus is on jobs and employment, the Prime Minister said it is also building a stakeholder society in which all Bahamians can own shares in various public, private and joint-venture commercial enterprises.
This year Bahamians were given the opportunity to participate in two Initial Public Offerings–the Arawak Development Port and the Bahamas Telecommunications Company.
“The opportunity for Bahamians from all walks of life to own shares in vital sectors, such as shipping and telecoms, at generous initial price offerings, is a ground-breaking achievement in terms of national and economic development,” said Ingraham.
The Prime Minister said he was of the conviction that the FNM government had successfully navigated the country through the severest global economic crisis in the lifetime of many Bahamians.
“The Bahamas is moving briskly towards recovery and greater vitality,” he added.