Categorized | Business

Gov’t Signs $24M IDB Loan

The government yesterday signed two vital multi-million dollar loan agreements with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to initiate social safety net and trade sector reform programmes.

Together the loans total $24 million. The signing of the loan agreements marks the next step in the process initiated in the House of Assembly when the government passed resolutions authorising the borrowing.

The social safety net reform programme loan is worth $7.5 million and is aimed at helping to consolidate all existing social services programmes and promote healthy lifestyle changes in struggling families.

According to officials, eligible families will receive monetary assistance, while meeting the demands of transitioning to a healthier lifestyle to combat obesity in the country.

Through the safety net programme, officials will be able to strengthen the ministry through a conditional cash transfer programme implementation. It will also finance all technical assistance required to create an effective transfer programme implementation and execution.

Additionally, the money will go towards financing design and analysis of statistical data that will benchmark this component.

Officials admitted that this loan comes at an opportune time as more than 8,000 people in New Providence alone depend on the Ministry of Social Services.

Minister of Social Services Melanie Griffin said she is eager to execute the programme.

“It has been eight years and the need for reform is even more critical. Today, we begin the process and do so with the realisation that reform will not take place overnight; there are many steps to be taken, new systems to be developed and put in place and new processes for the delivery of assistance,” she said.

“I seek the cooperation of the staff of my ministry and the other ministries particularly the Ministries of Finance, Health and Education, Science and Technology, which will play a significant part in the reform process. Additionally, I seek the cooperation of the public, particularly persons who are clients of the Department of Social Services. Change is not always easy and there is no doubt that we have some challenging days ahead as we seek to change what has been in place for years.”

Meanwhile, the trade sector support programme is geared towards improving the facilitation of trade while strengthening the ability of Customs to collect revenue and protect the country’s borders.

The $16.5 million loan will be used towards strengthening and modernising Customs operations and creating an international trade institutional platform which will finance the associated framework, training exercises for private sector and government officials on trade agreements and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), mobilising, customs officers and establishing a Geneva based office for support.

And with The Bahamas still looking to enter the WTO within the next 12 to 18 months, Minister for Financial Services Ryan Pinder said the loan will go a long way into propelling the country in that regard.

“As we proceed towards WTO and a path towards trade liberalisation, having the necessary support structures to not only provide the necessary support for Bahamians in the industry but to prepare them and to have the infrastructure necessary for the advancement for the Bahamian industry in the context of our new economic journey is of utmost importance,” he said.

“This trade sector support loan does just that. It enhances the ability of The Bahamas to be a place of business in the international community. It enhances our ability to be more active and opens up markets throughout the world for Bahamians to participate. Utilising these funds to modernise Customs to build a platform for our trade agenda puts us well on our way to creating an economic model for the country that’s in the best interest for Bahamians.”

State Minister for Finance Michael Halkitis said these loans will be beneficial for everyone in the country.

“We want to modernise the local social services system to make sure we are reaching the people that we need to reach, to make the system more user friendly, make sure we can audit what we are doing and very, very importantly put in a system where we can affect the behaviour of people,” he said.

“In terms of the customs modernisation and the trade sector, the objective being that we will be able to increase the amount of customs revenue generates and they will be able to deliver services more easily that should lead to ease of doing business.”

These loans are the first two the Christie administration got from IDB since returning to power.

The government is also seeking to borrow more funds to complete the New Providence Road Improvement Project (NPRIP) and it also intends to establish a country programme to improve several more key sectors.

Kendea Smith

Written by Kendea Smith

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