The Government has presented its 2005/06 Budget to the House of Assembly, with parliamentary debate expected over the coming weeks. The Budget Communication focused on “matters of national strategic importance”, and represented a number of innovative features:
· the full economic background to the Budget
· up-to-date national accounts data from the Department of Statistics
· a summary Table setting out Multi-Annual Budget Forecasts
In addition to fiscal management, revenue reform, public expenditure management, and the 2005/06 fiscal programme, other specific Highlights of the Budget Communication were:
1. 2005/06 and Medium – Term Economic Outlook
2. Opportunities and Challenges
3. National Information and Communications Framework
4. Disaster Management and Recovery
5. Public Service Reform
6. Trade Issues
The House was advised that the Government intended the 2005/06 Budget to *”create the conditions whereby Bahamians of all social classes can enjoy a reasonable, secure and happy standard of living, whereby families and persons in crisis can receive suitable assistance to ease their pain and their problems, and where everyone participates in the quality which we can all have.”*
Announced at the time of the budget presentation to Parliament was the establishment of a Committee representative of all of the financial services regulatory institutions – the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank, the Registrar of Insurance, the Securities Commission, and the Registrar General – to consider options for consolidating these agencies into one or more regulatory entity (ies).
Also referenced was the recent IMF Article IV Consultation Mission, with indication that the IMF Report will be published in early July following consideration by the IMF Executive Board.
Reportedly, discussions with the IMF team signaled that the Mission generally approves the policy thrust of the Government in targeting key fiscal indicators and putting in place appropriate fiscal policies to realise these indicators.
The anticipated IMF assessment is in line with the significant ratings of the Bahamian economy implied by the A3 rating of the sovereign debt of The Bahamas by Moodys, and the equivalent rating by Standard and Poor’s.