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Govt outlines budget priorities

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Philip Davis will today present to Parliament his government’s 2023/2024 budget, which it said is designed to make strides in national security, bolster economic stability and enhance social welfare – all areas vital to national development.

“This budget serves as a testament to our commitment towards the common good and reflects the highest ideals of governance, transparency, and accountability,” the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) said yesterday.

OPM gave no indication on whether any new taxes will be reflected in the new spending plan, which is being tagged as “A Budget for Security and Progress”.

“In anticipation of this presentation to Parliament, we’d like to emphasize that our approach is comprehensive and aimed at advancing and safeguarding the nation’s progress and fiscal stability,” the prime minister’s office said.

It added, “Our national security focus reiterates our commitment to the safety of Bahamians and our communities. We believe in building a nation where everyone feels secure, law and order prevail, and our borders are protected. We will continue strengthening our institutions, policies, and practices to foster a secure environment conducive to economic growth.”

OPM said the economic security of the nation is equally critical. 

“We aim to create an environment where businesses can thrive and employment opportunities are within reach of every Bahamian,” it said.

“Our initiatives are designed to drive sustainable economic growth, encourage foreign investments, and promote Bahamian ownership and entrepreneurship in our economy. 

“This budget underscores our ongoing commitment to fiscal stability andeconomic dignity for all Bahamians.”

On the matter of social security, OPM said the government is dedicated to ensuring every Bahamian has access to quality health services, education, and essential social services.

“By investing in our people – our greatest resource – we aim to foster a society where everyone can achieve their full potential,” it said.

“The government is devoted to improving social welfare, enhancing our education system, promoting arts and culture, and cultivating our young generation’s skills and talents.”

While OPM gave a broad view of the priority focuses of the new budget, it did not hint at any projections or specific spending initiatives, however.

In its recently released Public Debt Statistical Bulletin for the nine-month period ending March 2023, the Ministry of Finance said total government debt grew to $12.5 billion during the third quarter of FY2022/2023, up from the $12.13 billion held at the end of the last fiscal year.

On a year-to-date basis, public debt was up 5.5 percent, or $670 million since March 2022.

In its most recently released monthly report — the February 2023 report — the Ministry of Finance reported a surplus of $16.2 million, a $49.3 million reversal from the $33.1 million deficit in the prior year.

Revenue receipts totaled $249.2 million, a 26.2 percent ($51.7 million) increase year-over-year.

Expenditure came in at $232.9 million, a 1.1 percent ($2.5 million) increase compared to the same period of the prior year.

The Office of the Prime Minister said yesterday the Davis administration understands the importance of fiscal responsibility.

“We will continue prioritizing prudent management of our country’s financial resources,” it said.

“The government remains committed to reducing the impact of inflation, increasing our resilience to climate change, and improving food security.”