Wednesday, Jul 8, 2020
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A crisis like no other

There appears to be little rebound in sight this year from the economic plunge caused by COVID-19, as evidenced by the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) June 2020 world economic outlook, wherein the IMF has downgraded its previous forecast for the global economy, projecting it will shrink by 4.9 percent in 2020.

The fund’s April forecast put global growth at -3.0 percent.

The IMF now projects an eight percent contraction in the United States’ GDP for 2020 over its 5.9 percent forecast in April, and projected an 8.3 percent GDP contraction in 2020 for The Bahamas at that time.

Even if its growth forecasts for next year hold, the IMF projects that global GDP in 2021 will come in at around 6.5 percentage points lower than pre-COVID-19 projections.

Terming COVID-19’s impact “a crisis like no other”, the fund reported that, “The adverse impact on low-income households is particularly acute, imperilling the significant progress made in reducing extreme poverty in the world since the 1990s.”

Business owners and workers in the country need no convincing of the year’s bleak economic projections, as hundreds in the tourism industry are becoming the newest entrants onto the country’s unemployment line.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) reports that the global decline in work hours during the first quarter of the year is equivalent to 130 million full-time jobs, and says second quarter declines could be equivalent to 300 million full-time jobs worldwide.

As the country looks forward to its first commercial air arrivals since its border closure back in March, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) notes that global tourism prospects have been downgraded several times this year due to the high level of uncertainty regarding COVID-19.

Its data as of April points to a 38.9 percent decline in international tourism for the Caribbean, with international air arrivals worldwide down by 97 percent that month, amounting to losses of $195 billion in tourist spend.

The Bahamas ranks third among the WTO’s top 10 most vulnerable tourism destinations in the COVID-19 crisis, based on its data that international tourism accounts for 86 percent of this country’s total exports.

St. Lucia ranked second in that top 10 list, which was rounded off by some of the region’s most tourism-dependent countries including Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Since reopening its borders to tourism on June 15, Jamaica has recorded 31 imported COVID-19 cases.

According to visitors posting their arrival experiences online, the country is carrying out rigorous screening and surveillance protocols, with healthcare workers and airport workers fully garbed in requisite personal protective equipment (PPE).

The IMF in its report stressed that, “All countries, including those that have seemingly passed peaks in infections, should ensure that their healthcare systems are adequately resourced.”

During a television appearance last week, former Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands, who is now engaged in the public healthcare system, said shortages exist in the inventory of PPEs in the public health system.

We understand that select shortages also exist within the private healthcare system.

With the country’s borders set to open to commercial tourism next week, and with demands for PPEs that will arise for healthcare workers and all workers assigned to airports throughout the country, a reported PPE shortage is a troubling indication of the country’s level of readiness.

The Bahamas has lifted its previous travel restrictions for China, Europe, Korea and Iran, as the World Health Organization now expresses alarm over a “very significant resurgence” in weekly COVID-19 cases in 11 European countries.

Closer to home, Florida is continuing to break records in its new daily cases of the disease as is Texas, prompting the state’s governor to halt its phased reopening.

And the U.S. Centers for Disease Control advises that only approximately 10 percent of U.S. infections have been counted thus far, which could mean that over 24 million residents there could be infected.

Over 30,000 new cases were recorded in the U.S. yesterday, with over 1.3 million active cases counted — over 15,000 of which were listed in either serious or critical condition.

What this may mean for The Bahamas once U.S. visitor arrivals increase remains to be seen.

But there is one thing that is certain: the road to recovery in this “crisis like no other” remains uncertain.

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