CHESTER COOPER MP, SHADOW MINISTER, FINANCE, FINANCIAL SERVICES & INDUSTRY
August 13, 2017
I support the Minnis’ administration’s move to continue the rescue of the Bank of The Bahamas (BOB) through the transfer of $166 million in “toxic” loans to Resolve Bahamas Ltd.
Though I am the Opposition’s spokesman for financial services, I do not plan to take a partisan stance on this issue. Partisanship has no place in Financial Services.
I will also call a spade a spade: BOB has been in deep trouble because of what has happened over several administrations. There is no getting around it.
The Government and ultimately the taxpayers will still be on the hook for servicing the $166 million to be transferred and the $100 million transferred under the previous administration through letters of comfort and promissory notes.
In 2015, the FNM, the then official opposition, marched recklessly against the establishment of Resolve. It now appears that they have seen the light as they walk back this harmful position and fully support the PLP’s policy for BOB’s recovery.
Financial services is a confidence business. In that regard, the PLP plans to work with the Bahamas Financial Services Board and the Ministry of Financial Services to continue to strengthen and advance The Bahamas as one of the world’s top-tier financial services centers.
However, let me be crystal clear: The continued bailout of the Bank of The Bahamas by the government on the backs of the taxpayer is untenable in the long-term. Now that there is bi-partisan support for the notion that BoB is sufficiently important to the national well-being that strong support from the Government is warranted; confidence in the bank itself will hopefully be restored such that no further intervention is required.
An additional step to bolster confidence is for the Government to be resolute that the Board and its professional management team will autonomously run the bank.
I also look forward to the promised debate in Parliament over this latest proposed transfer, as articulated by the deputy prime minister, to better understand the current position of the bank, whose failure must be prevented at all reasonable costs.
We also look forward to the articulation by BOB’s professional management of the bank’s turnaround strategy and path to profitability, including assessing its footprint and product offerings, innovative partnering, cost rationalization, delivery systems to enhance customer service, improving its relationship with regulators and enhancing management if / where necessary.