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DPM: Public debt management bill ready for consultation by Q2

The government is hoping to pass legislation before the end of the year that would finally establish a public debt management office to govern the control of the country’s debt.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said last week that his ministry is actively in the process of finalizing the bill that will establish that office in law.

“We do anticipate that we will have a final bill for consultation by the beginning of the second quarter of this fiscal year, with the view of hopefully having it all wrapped up before the end of the year, according to the legislative agenda. It is our intention to have that done before the beginning of the new calendar year,” he said during a press conference on the launch of Bahamas government registered stock (BRS) on the Bahamas International Securities Exchange (BISX) on Thursday.

“And, of course, that office is intended to give some regularity and structure to all of our debt instruments to rule out the inefficiencies in different types of debt structures, so that we know our overall financial costs as we go forward.”

Turnquest initially announced plans for a public debt management office in February 2019, to aid in providing a legal framework to manage public funds through a public financial management bill, which is also currently under review before heading to public consultation.

The public debt management bill seeks to consolidate and amend existing laws relating to public debt management in The Bahamas and provide a governance framework for the prudent management of government debt activities guided by defined objectives.

In addition to a public debt management office, the government is also proposing a public debt management unit within the Ministry of Finance that would help “eradicate the past practice of inefficiently managing the country’s debt portfolio”.

Speaking to the importance of government bonds being available for trading on capital markets, in terms of managing government debt, Turnquest said, “In general, the change will provide for competitive bidding, real time results, decreased transaction processing timelines and enhanced flexibility in terms of holders being able to transfer their securities and pledge them as collateral in securing credit facilities.

“It will also provide enhanced data analytics at the fingertips of the soon to be established public debt management office.”

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