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Prime minister confirms financial setbacks will impact RBDF fleet

TANEKA THOMPSON
Guardian Senior Reporter
taneka@nasguard.com

Published: Dec 19, 2012

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The government has to assess how it will outfit the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) with new ships and upgrade its base given its current financial straights and a recent credit rating downgrade from Moody’s, Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday.

In August, National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage said it would take $200 million to acquire 11 new vessels for the RBDF and upgrade infrastructure at the Coral Harbour base.

The ships will cost an estimated $119 million and the remaining figure will cover costs to upgrade the base.

Yesterday, the prime minister said the government is committed to upgrading the RBDF but added that some things will have to be delayed.

“In being prudent we have to really truly look on a cost benefit basis at expenditures in areas like the Defence Force,” he told reporters after Cabinet broke for lunch.

“We know poaching is a major issue for our country and we have set about trying to minimize that by establishing very good relations with the Dominican Republic.

“...I say that only to say that we need boats, we need to have an effective force in our waterways and the only way we can do that is to commit to capital expenditure.”

Christie said the Ingraham administration had started negotiations with ship builders to buy new ships. He said his government has to decide how it will afford a new fleet for the RBDF.

“The question really is now affordability, whether or not there can be the kind of terms that will enable us to effect the purchases we would wish and really not have to put that great outlay of cash to have that happen for us,” he said.

“So it’s matters that are continuing. We are going to be driven by the need for us to be prudent but at the same time we know we cannot render the Defence Force to be an ineffective force. So it’s a question of how many ships we order, how many we repair and how quickly we can do those things.”

Christie said the government has also encouraged the ship builders to consider building some of the ships at the Freeport shipyard as a way to reduce costs.

Last Thursday, Moody’s downgraded the country’s credit rating from A3 to Baa1.

In addition, Moody’s said the country’s economic outlook remains negative.

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