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Bahamas: ‘Don’T Panic’ On $2bn Covid Loan Deferrals

A Bahamian banker yesterday warned against premature panic after it emerged that borrowers sought repayment waivers for almost $2bn worth of loans at the COVID-19 lockdown’s peak.

#Gowon Bowe, Fidelity Bank (Bahamas) chief financial officer, told Tribune Business that such a figure – representing almost one-third of total outstanding credit issued by Bahamian commercial banks – would only become a concern for the industry and wider economy if it persists long after the post-pandemic re-opening.

#He argued that the Central Bank, and the commercial institutions it supervises, will only face having to make “difficult decisions” on regulatory capital, liquidity and loan loss provisioning if the economy fails to rebound from its post-pandemic slump within the next 12 months.

#Emphasising that “we are nowhere near that juncture”, Mr Bowe said it was critical for Bahamas-based commercial banks to have “steady hands at the wheel” to navigate the COVID-19 fall-out. He called for “all hands on deck” to re-open the economy in a safe and sustainable manner, warning that this nation must at all costs avoid the example set by multiple US states whose actions have facilitated a ‘second wave’ of virus infections.

#The Fidelity chief spoke out after the Central Bank yesterday revealed that Bahamian households, individuals and businesses had obtained three and six-month repayment deferrals for a collective $1.85bn in outstanding bank loans.

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