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PM Minnis Mid-Year Budget outlines policies aimed at rebuilding, post Hurricane Dorian
By Lindsay Thompson
Feb 24, 2020 - 9:05:06 PM

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Nassau, The Bahamas – In his Mid-Year Budget Communication to the House of Assembly on Monday, February 24, 2020, Prime Minister the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert A. Minnis outlined policies aimed at rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.

During the House of Assembly’s morning session, the Prime Minister spoke extensively to initiatives underway and planned, post Hurricane Dorian, which struck over five months ago and left in its wake an estimated $3.4 billion dollars in damage.

“Beyond the financial and economic impact, this catastrophic event has forever changed the course of the country in terms of public policy and public administration,” he said.

The Government initiated a comprehensive assessment of damage and costs within two months of the storm, disclosed the results and showed how the impact would alter its fiscal projections for the current fiscal year.

“This is presented in our Fiscal Adjustment Plan as mandated by the Fiscal Responsibility Act, and in the Supplementary Budget,” the Prime Minister said.

He then outlined fiscal and economic policies to help citizens rebuild their communities and restore their lives. 

“We established, for the first time in the history of this nation, Special Economic Recovery Zones (SERZ) for the affected areas, which allow residents to benefit from tax exemptions and concessions on business licences, VAT, real property tax, and the free importation of approved items under this program,” the prime minister said.

“My Government also ensured that hurricane victims were able to access cash resources to begin restoring their lives,” he added: one of the ways being facilitating the expansion of the National Insurance Board’s (NIB) unemployment benefit from 13 to 26 weeks. 

The Government’s allocation of an additional $11.4 million toward this initiative means that eligible victims who lost their jobs as a result of the Hurricane could continue to receive financial support for a longer period, the Prime Minister explained.

Additionally, the Government allocated approximately $10 million to Micro, Small and Medium-size Enterprises (MSMEs) through its Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to assist businesses that were impacted by the hurricane.

“Programmes such as the Small Home Repair program are ensuring that individuals and families receive direct funds to facilitate their repairs, thereby mitigating the risk of mismanaged funds by some on behalf of the Government,” the Prime Minister said

He reported that at the outset of the 2019/20 budget, the Government projected a deficit of $137 million, which has now been expanded to $677.5 million to account for hurricane recovery spending, revenue loss, and a number of other spending imperatives.

“Our government debt, which was forecast at some $7.6 billion, is now anticipated to stand at approximately $8.2 billion at end-June 2020,” the Prime Minister said.

He continued: “We realize that these figures may seem daunting, but I can assure this House, and the Bahamian people at large, that my Government has a plan to restart the economy, and restore the lives of our Abaconians and Grand Bahamians. 

“Apart from the massive package of tax breaks and economic incentives that we granted in the wake up of the storm, this Government has pioneered a number of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projects that will create jobs for Bahamians,” the Prime Minister said.

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