By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamas is just "25 per cent of the way" towards generating the economic growth its needs following real GDP expansion of 1.4 per cent in 2017.
Robert Myers, a principal with the Organisation for Responsible Governance (ORG), told Tribune Business that while welcome last year's growth was still well short of the 5.5 per cent needed to slash existing unemployment in half and absorb all new workforce entrants.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has estimated that an average annual growth rate of 5.5 per cent, sustained over a five-year period, is needed to achieve such an objective, indicating the Bahamas still has much work to do.
"We still need to be at 5.5 per cent," Mr Myers told Tribune Business. "We're just over 25 per cent of the way there. Our GDP still has to come up four times'. There's still a long way to go, and there's still some cost-cutting to do.
"When we're at 4.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent, that's when we get excited. If we get this WTO thing wrong, GDP could plunge again. This is a serious issue. We've got to get this right."
K P Turnquest, Deputy Prime Minister, yesterday hailed the 1.4 per cent GDP growth projection from the Department of Statistics' national accounts data as a further sign of economic recovery.
"I am pleased to see concrete signs of economic recovery based on the 2017 economic data published by the Department of Statistics last week," he said. "The growth in real GDP of 1.4 per cent in 2017 is in line with previous forecasts made by the Government.
"I am confident that when the full weight of the administration's policies take hold, we shall continue the momentum of positive economic growth, reversing the chronic economic stagnation that had characterised the previous 10 years."
He added: "The facts bear out that investor and consumer confidence is finally on the rise once again in the Bahamas. The 13 per cent growth in gross fixed capital formation is a positive indication that businesses are increasing their investment output and economic impact. The 9 per cent increase in household consumption also confirms signs of the economic recovery."
Mr Turnquest, though, conceded that "it is far too early to declare victory in the transformation of the country's economic fortune". He added: "We still have much work to do - and tough decisions to make - to get our fiscal house in order and to reverse the persistent deficits and growth in debt that could derail any economic recovery.
"We also have to quicken the pace of structural reforms and economic transformation if the Bahamas is to keep pace in an increasingly competitive modern global economy. As such, the Ministry of Finance will continue to work aggressively to implement the Government's transformational socio-economic growth agenda that will guide us over the next four years. Throughout, we will be fully transparent and accountable to the people, and we will provide the good governance that Bahamians rightfully deserve."