Debt committee chair on economy: Still a lot of uncertainty

Economy appears to be gaining steam in the early weeks of 2022, but Smith is cautiously optimistic

Despite positive gains in the economy, James Smith, chairman of the government’s newly created Private Sector Debt Advisory Committee, said things are still touch-and-go.

Eager to strategize on how to chip away at the county’s historic debt levels, which are currently above $10 billion, Smith, who was named chair of the committee by Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis in October, said he doesn’t see much deviation from a strategy that has already been announced by the government.

“You know you’re dealing with the same problem and looking at it through almost similar eyes, so I don’t see much deviation, only in terms of the economy may be a little stronger now than when the earlier plan might have been drawn up. Consequently, it may be possible to make some adjustments recognizing some positive growth in the economy,” he told Guardian Business yesterday.

“But it’s a bit premature to make any projections in the absence of the hard data or the discussions that will be necessary with a group to make recommendations.”

With revenue trending ahead of projections and tourism on strong footing at the end of 2021 into the start of the year, the economic outlook for the country appears to be gaining steam in the early weeks of 2022.

But Smith is cautiously optimistic. He said rising cases of the Omicron variant poses a real threat to the tourism rebound.

“I would hardly call it momentum; there’s still a lot of uncertainty,” he said.

“The cruise lines are obviously coming in but some of them are canceling because of the onslaught of the virus, still, and, of course, rates have gone up in the United States in terms of the virus. That may put a dampening effect on visitors, so there’s a lot of uncertainty driven mostly by the pandemic. It’s still touch-and-go.”

Smith said in the coming weeks, once the prime minister’s travel schedule settles, it is hoped the debt advisory committee will begin to outline a work program, terms of reference and gather information on the best debt management strategy.

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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