News – The Nassau Guardian https://thenassauguardian.com News and Views That Matter. Since 1844. Wed, 28 Oct 2020 14:45:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.1 https://thenassauguardian.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/fav_icon.pngNews – The Nassau Guardianhttps://thenassauguardian.com 32 32 Atlantis to begin phased reopening before year’s endhttps://thenassauguardian.com/atlantis-to-begin-phased-reopening-before-years-end/ Wed, 28 Oct 2020 14:44:59 +0000 https://thenassauguardian.com/?p=176789 Atlantis announced on Tuesday that it will begin its phased reopening before the end of the year. In a letter to staff, Atlantis President and Managing Director Audrey Oswell wrote, “I am writing to update you that we will be announcing our plans to reopen Atlantis Paradise Island in the weeks ahead. Currently, we expect …

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Atlantis announced on Tuesday that it will begin its phased reopening before the end of the year.

In a letter to staff, Atlantis President and Managing Director Audrey Oswell wrote, “I am writing to update you that we will be announcing our plans to reopen Atlantis Paradise Island in the weeks ahead. Currently, we expect to welcome our first guests before the end of 2020.

“Atlantis will reopen in several planned phases. Our highest priority is and will always be to ensure the health and safety of our guests and you, our valued team members.

“We are also focused on reopening the property in response to our guests’ pent up demand to visit, which continues to be impacted by COVID-19.”

Atlantis previously intended to reopen on July 15 but changed course as the United States – which accounts for 80 percent of The Bahamas’ foreign visitors – experienced a significant spike in COVID-19 cases.

Atlantis has been closed since March.

Oswell said employees will be notified of the reopening date in time.

“At that time, we will begin the process of notifying you if you will be returning for phase one,” she said.

“We will also provide details on when you should return to work and introduce the new processes and protocols to maintain your health, safety, and well-being while at work.

“Unfortunately, we cannot welcome everyone back for phase one. In the coming weeks, we will share details on how we will support hose colleagues in the interim period, and the milestones Atlantis need to achieve to bring you back.”

Atlantis is the single largest private employer in The Bahamas.

Thousands of furloughed employees were eagerly awaiting their return to work at the end of the month.

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‘No harm from hemp industry’https://thenassauguardian.com/no-harm-from-hemp-industry/ Wed, 28 Oct 2020 12:09:50 +0000 https://thenassauguardian.com/?p=176745 Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana Co-Chairman Quinn McCartney said yesterday that the legalization of a hemp industry in The Bahamas poses “no danger” to the public. Last week, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that the government is considering the legalization of a hemp industry. The Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) said it opposes the move, claiming it will …

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Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana Co-Chairman Quinn McCartney said yesterday that the legalization of a hemp industry in The Bahamas poses “no danger” to the public.

Last week, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that the government is considering the legalization of a hemp industry.

The Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) said it opposes the move, claiming it will do nothing to solve the country’s problems.

Yesterday, when reached for comment, McCartney said, “The hemp industry poses no danger to the Bahamian public in terms of being used for smoking or for any kind of psychotic thing or any kind of buzz.

“…That is an industry that will not, in my opinion, harm the Bahamian economy. It’s not an industry that will cause any social issues.”

He said there appears to be “some misunderstanding” about the hemp industry.

“Some people, they look at hemp, cannabis and marijuana and they kind of just lump everything together, but that’s a different strain,” McCartney said.

“That’s a different species of the plant.”

He said the recreational use of hemp would be of “very little benefit” because of its low THC content. 

The commission recommended the legalization of medicinal marijuana.

In a recent statement, BCC President Bishop Delton Fernander said the council does not “believe that the solution to the challenges we face as a country lies within the establishment of a hemp industry or in marijuana”.

“We fought for years to remove the stain the drug industry left on the reputation of our country,” he said.

“We should therefore steer clear of any invitation to repeat that dark and devastating period. We also believe that now, more than ever, we should invest more into programs and initiatives that advance and uplift our people, most especially our youth, instead of harmful initiatives that could lead to their defeat and destruction.”

Fernander and Bahamas Faith Ministries Senior Pastor Dave Burrows also called for a referendum on the issue of marijuana legalization in The Bahamas.

The Economic Recovery Committee (ERC) recommended the full legalization of marijuana for medicinal, religious and recreational purposes, coupled with an appropriate regime that oversees production, sales and export.

The ERC listed the legalization of marijuana as a “transformative initiative”, noting it would “end the punitive impact on young Bahamians; to free up public law enforcement and judicial resources; and to provide a lucrative niche within the agricultural and leisure commercial segments”.

Minnis said the ERC and the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana both indicate that The Bahamas’ marijuana laws are outdated and must change.

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Darville: Govt needs to shift gears to flatten curvehttps://thenassauguardian.com/darville-govt-needs-to-shift-gears-to-flatten-curve/ Wed, 28 Oct 2020 12:08:01 +0000 https://thenassauguardian.com/?p=176743 Noting that cases are still increasing at an “exponential rate”, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Senator Dr. Michael Darville said yesterday The Bahamas must shift gears immediately as it relates to its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. “With daily positive cases in excess of 110, we must now question the effectiveness of the current health protocols …

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Noting that cases are still increasing at an “exponential rate”, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Senator Dr. Michael Darville said yesterday The Bahamas must shift gears immediately as it relates to its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With daily positive cases in excess of 110, we must now question the effectiveness of the current health protocols and shift gears immediately,” he said as the Senate debated a resolution to extend the state of emergency to November 30.

“The competent authority must shift gears immediately in order to flatten the curve and break this deadly chain of community spread. If this is not done, we believe the current pattern of spread will continue, creating a vicious cycle and putting all of us at unnecessary risk.”

The resolution was passed in the Senate.

Darville said, “Unfortunately, months after curfew, lockdowns, the person-to-person transmission of COVID appear to be increasing at an exponential rate.

“It is time to reset the button and look for new treatment modalities and protocols.”

Darville said it appears that the government appears to have given up.

“The government’s stewardship in finding the right balance between commerce, lockdowns, curfews and the welfare of our citizens has fallen short of our expectations. And it appears as if this administration has run out of fresh ideas or simply given up in the fight.”

As of Monday, there were 6,502 confirmed COVID cases in The Bahamas.

Over the last seven months, there have been numerous lockdowns, curfews and other restrictive measures to fight COVID-19 in the country. More stringent measures were recently implemented on New Providence and Abaco in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.

But high case numbers continue to be recorded on a daily basis.

After weeks of seeing low case numbers, Grand Bahama appears to have seen a recent spike, confirming 65 cases in the past week.

Darville said the PLP COVID -19 task force is particularly concerned about rising cases there, as well as on Abaco and Eleuthera.

“The spikes of new cases in Freeport, Abaco and Eleuthera is cause for great concern in our task force and we believe closer attention needs to be placed in these islands, more resources need to be pushed into the islands, more contact tracers and the execution of free testing particularly in the hotspots on these islands.”

Darville also questioned whether it is wise to lift quarantine requirements for those entering The Bahamas when cases continue to rise locally.

“In the midst of having 100-plus cases per day, we are now going to eliminate the quarantine requirements for visitors and returning residents,” he said, referring to the relaxation of quarantine restrictions for incoming visitors, which is set to take effect November 1.

“We on this side, we do support any well-thought-out plan if we could see it. The Ministry of Tourism presented a plan, so we had the ability to comment on the plan that would jumpstart the local tourism product and get Bahamians back to work in the industry.

“…We are not unreasonable on this side. If we can see a plan, we can comment on the plan and we can help to improve the plan. But the plan must be safe and all risk minimized. Much has been said about the Ministry of Tourism plan. And the big question that I ask the competent authority today is, are we ready?

“…Are the testing booths set up at our ports of entry for rapid antigen tests? Do we have the trained manpower resources or personnel at our international airports and marinas?”

Darville also questioned if the antigen tests were FDA-approved, what will happen to visitors who test positive after arriving in The Bahamas, and whether hotel workers will be tested regularly.

He accused Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis of acting “dictatorially” in his role as the competent authority.

“The measures needed to navigate us out of this crisis are broad as they are diverse,” he said.

“Over the last seven months, the competent authority has displayed, in my view and the view of many citizens of this country, dictatorial traits and refuses to be accessible and transparent to this Parliament and the Bahamian people.”

He added, “The competent authority must take his head out of the sand, become focused and do away with many of the failed policies and protocols that are obviously not working on the ground.  

“We have to press the button and reset where we’re going.”

Darville called for Minnis to present a 30-day plan.

“Lay on the table your 30-day plan to address the issues associated with COVID-19 in the month of November,” he said.

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BPL says over 3,000 customers disconnectedhttps://thenassauguardian.com/bpl-says-over-3000-customers-disconnected/ Wed, 28 Oct 2020 12:02:31 +0000 https://thenassauguardian.com/?p=176741 While Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister said that Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) is not engaged in any disconnection exercise, the company said last night that up to October 23, it has disconnected over 3,000 customers.  “Bahamas Power and Light Company Ltd. (BPL) wishes to clarify information in the public domain regarding disconnections: in …

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While Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister said that Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) is not engaged in any disconnection exercise, the company said last night that up to October 23, it has disconnected over 3,000 customers. 

“Bahamas Power and Light Company Ltd. (BPL) wishes to clarify information in the public domain regarding disconnections: in response to inquiries about the number of disconnections performed between July 1, 2020 and October 15, 2020, BPL confirmed that the number of disconnections was 8,741,” it said in a statement.

“The number of disconnections, taken in isolation as it was, is perhaps misleading, given that the same account might be disconnected and reconnected multiple times.

“For this reason, BPL wishes to clarify that up to October 23, 2020, the number of customers who remain without power due to disconnection is 3,011. That represents 2,542 residential customers, and 469 other customers.”

Last week, The Tribune reported that 8,741 residential accounts on New Providence and the Family Islands had been disconnected.

According to that same article, BPL said it had no plans to ramp up disconnections, however, 9,262 customer accounts still face being shut off for non-payment — that is 7,068 residential and 2,194 commercial customers.

However, when asked about the matter on Sunday, Bannister said BPL was not engaged in a disconnection exercise.

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DPM says Bahamas should get taxes from Facebook and other digital platformshttps://thenassauguardian.com/dpm-says-bahamas-should-get-taxes-from-facebook-and-other-digital-platforms/ Wed, 28 Oct 2020 11:59:55 +0000 https://thenassauguardian.com/?p=176739 After social media giant Facebook announced that it will begin collecting value-added tax (VAT) on ads run on its platform from The Bahamas, Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday that other countries should not be allowed to earn tax revenue from activities taking place in The Bahamas while this country gets nothing.  The revelation that Facebook will begin …

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After social media giant Facebook announced that it will begin collecting value-added tax (VAT) on ads run on its platform from The Bahamas, Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday that other countries should not be allowed to earn tax revenue from activities taking place in The Bahamas while this country gets nothing. 

The revelation that Facebook will begin charging VAT on November 1 for Bahamas-based businesses resulted in queries on social media over whether VAT would be added to digital services and products such as Amazon, eBay and Netflix.

Turnquest said that “most of the vulnerable are not using Amazon or have Netflix so it will not be them”.

“The VAT is charged on these imports just as it is charged on domestic providers,” he said.

“…There is no separate VAT on the customs, freight, and foreign price. There is VAT on the landed cost of a good or service available for sale or consumption in The Bahamas.”

Turnquest said VAT is charged on the value of goods or services consumed and delivered in The Bahamas.

“For instance, Cable Bahamas delivers advertising content in The Bahamas,” he said.

“Cable Bahamas pays business licenses based on that revenue and they charge you VAT on your bill, which they pay over to the government.

“Facebook does not have a presence in The Bahamas and thus no business license to pay. Facebook bills you for advertising or boosting from a foreign state, which you pay via credit card to a foreign state. You do not pay VAT.

“Why should a foreign state earn tax revenue on activities taking place in The Bahamas and we get nothing?”

He said that Cable Bahamas would be at a “competitive disadvantage” in comparison to Facebook, which pays no taxes or license fees for its service in The Bahamas. 

“To make matters worse, Facebook pays taxes in a foreign state on services delivered and consumed in The Bahamas, where the tax should belong as the activity is originating and being consumed in The Bahamas,” Turnquest said.

“Countries around the world have been grappling with this digital and shared economy and trying to set global rules as to who should have taxing rights over services and goods ordered from one country and delivered to another country.

“The generally agreed position is that the tax is due to the state in which the good or service is consumed. So, in Facebook’s case, and other digital providers, they are required by law to collect the VAT and remit it to the government.” 

The notice of the taxation was found on Facebook’s “Facebook for Business” page.

“Beginning on November 1, 2020, Facebook ads in The Bahamas will be subject to a value-added tax at the applicable local tax rate,” the notice reads.

“This applies to advertisers whose ‘sold to’ country on their business or personal address is set to The Bahamas. Add your tax identification number (TIN) in the ad accounts settings of ads manager. You don’t have to enter a TIN. However, if you’re registered for VAT and provide your TIN, your TIN will show up on your ads receipts. This may help you recover any VAT that you paid to Bahamian tax authorities if you’re a VAT-registered business in The Bahamas.”

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As pandemic drags on, Bain Town residents say they are holding onhttps://thenassauguardian.com/as-pandemic-drags-on-bain-town-residents-say-they-are-holding-on/ Wed, 28 Oct 2020 11:55:20 +0000 https://thenassauguardian.com/?p=176737 As New Providence continues to grapple with high COVID-19 cases and tight restrictions imposed by the prime minister, some residents in the Bain Town community said yesterday they are struggling to hold on.  With five children, three grandchildren and no job, Dasalei Joseph said she has been unable to pay her rent for eight months. …

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As New Providence continues to grapple with high COVID-19 cases and tight restrictions imposed by the prime minister, some residents in the Bain Town community said yesterday they are struggling to hold on. 

With five children, three grandchildren and no job, Dasalei Joseph said she has been unable to pay her rent for eight months.

“Sometimes my boyfriend would find a little something, but he is not working like that,” Joseph told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.

“I have been owing the landlord for eight months now and I can’t pay that. I owe light bill and cable bill.”

She said the lockdowns are painful because she is unable to do “small jobs” in order to make money.

Parliamentarians approved an extension of a state of emergency to November 30.

The extension will empower the prime minister, the competent authority, to continue imposing restrictive measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Currently, there is a 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on New Providence and Abaco and weekend lockdowns, among other measures. 

Many Bahamians also remain out of work.

Cleveland Knowles, 76, another Bain Town resident, said he has been without work for months and is living off of small change.

“Things are a little shabby, but you have to hold onto what you’ve got,” Knowles said.

“I hope they open soon so people could [return] back to work. The lockdown ain’t too sensible.”

Knowles, a construction worker, said he is waiting on the government’s signal to return to normal.

“I work all over Abaco, but not right now. I had to come back because of this pandemic,” he said.

“Looks like everyone is out of jobs. Slowly but surely, the jobs [are] coming back. I just hope they would hurry open up so I can go back to Abaco. [I’m] just waiting on them to say ‘go’.”

In early May, Director of Labour John Pinder and Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis both projected unemployment would hit 30 percent.

On Monday, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes said the bulk of people who were furloughed, except tourism employees, returned to work. 

Daquille Missick, a mechanic, said families in Bain Town continue to struggle due to unemployment.

Daquille Missick.

“They have to do better because plenty people in Bain Town who aren’t working, who out here hustling every day, have to feed their family but they don’t have no income. It’s hard,” he said.

Missick said he’s willing to do what he has to, to take care of his son.

“I am going to make it regardless because I have a son. That means any and every way, I’m going to make my money,” he said.

Peter Tracy, a resident of Bain Town and a small business owner, said the pandemic is still affecting his business as it is still closed.

“The pandemic hurt my business but didn’t hurt me,” Tracy said.

“Once I’m alive, there’s hope.”

He said he has never seen this sort of economic fallout in his life.

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More than 9,500 registered for Department of Labour’s job bankhttps://thenassauguardian.com/more-than-9500-registered-for-department-of-labours-job-bank/ Wed, 28 Oct 2020 11:47:39 +0000 https://thenassauguardian.com/?p=176735 More than 9,500 people registered with the Department of Labour’s job bank between March and September, Director of Labour John Pinder said yesterday. “We looked in our system and between March and September there were 9,544 persons,” Pinder told The Nassau Guardian. “But, the only thing is we can’t tell if all of those were …

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More than 9,500 people registered with the Department of Labour’s job bank between March and September, Director of Labour John Pinder said yesterday.

“We looked in our system and between March and September there were 9,544 persons,” Pinder told The Nassau Guardian.

“But, the only thing is we can’t tell if all of those were persons who were affected by COVID. Some may also be persons who were affected by [Hurricane] Dorian.”

He said the figures had increased when compared with previous years.

However, Pinder was unable to provide data from those years.

“There are three categories of persons: persons who are unemployed, persons who are just uploading their resume in case the opportunity presents itself and persons who are also on extended layoff,” he said.

Pinder said the department advises applicants on the areas where to get training that will improve their employment prospects.

“We also try to advise you on areas that are most common as it relates to persons applying for the labor certificate,” he said.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has ordered the closure of non-essential businesses, implemented a national curfew and imposed weekend lockdowns.

The sporadic restrictions have forced some businesses to close permanently. Major hotels and other tourism-based businesses are temporarily shuttered seven months later.

The stagnation of the Bahamian economy has led officials to estimate a national unemployment rate of more than 40 percent.

The latest numbers from the National Insurance Board (NIB) indicated that more than 37,000 people were seeking unemployment benefits and nearly 31,000 were seeking unemployment assistance from the government’s program. 

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Drug convict seeks sentence cuthttps://thenassauguardian.com/drug-convict-seeks-sentence-cut/ Wed, 28 Oct 2020 11:42:57 +0000 https://thenassauguardian.com/?p=176733 A man who was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for his role in a 670-pound marijuana bust has asked the Court of Appeal to cut his sentence by two months. Police arrested Jamal Greene on September 16, 2014 when they found the drugs inside his company van. Greene had completed a shift with Miya, which …

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A man who was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for his role in a 670-pound marijuana bust has asked the Court of Appeal to cut his sentence by two months.

Police arrested Jamal Greene on September 16, 2014 when they found the drugs inside his company van.

Greene had completed a shift with Miya, which had been contracted by the Water and Sewerage Corporation to reduce water losses.

Greene pleaded guilty in November 2019.

Greene, who was not represented, told the Court of Appeal that his sentence did not reflect the two months he had spent on remand before he got bail.

Appearing on behalf of the Crown, Linda Evans could not say how much time Greene had spent in custody.

As a result, the matter was adjourned to November 18.

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PLP says govt is to blame over Eleuthera water debaclehttps://thenassauguardian.com/plp-says-govt-is-to-blame-over-eleuthera-water-debacle/ Wed, 28 Oct 2020 11:38:44 +0000 https://thenassauguardian.com/?p=176731 Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis yesterday said the government is to blame for the suffering of Central Eleuthera residents who did not have access to running water for several days after a supplier disconnected customers.  Davis questioned whether a lack of payment from Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) led to the ordeal. “The question to …

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Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis yesterday said the government is to blame for the suffering of Central Eleuthera residents who did not have access to running water for several days after a supplier disconnected customers. 

Davis questioned whether a lack of payment from Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) led to the ordeal.

“The question to the government is very simple, did the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) pay its bills to the water supplier and if not, is the supplier justified in turning off the water supply for nonpayment just as the government has disconnected the water and power supplies to thousands of its customers for nonpayment?

“The inconvenience caused to many businesses and the suffering of the people of Central Eleuthera, including a possible compromise to their personal health, are due in great part to the negligence of the government who would rather engage in a public spat with a supplier rather than honor its contractual obligations.

“This is indeed regrettable.”

WSC Executive Chairman Adrian Gibson told The Guardian on Sunday that WSC was forced to get an injunction last Thursday after its water supplier in Central Eleuthera cut production because of a disagreement about arrears.

In a contribution in the House of Assembly on Monday, Gibson condemned the actions of the company as “inhumane”, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said WSC has paid the company roughly $4 million in payments for the year. He said $700,000 was transferred to the water supplier in the days before the water supply was shut off, and $1 million had been paid to the supplier in September.

Gibson was also critical of the contracts signed under the first Christie administration, which he said required WSC to provide land, grant concessions, and pay for electricity, consumables and drill wells. 

However, Davis said yesterday that blaming others is irrelevant to the issue at hand. He cited recent reports that thousands of Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) customers had their electricity disconnected in recent months as a result of non-payment, and said the government should “lead by example”.

“Much of the public finger-pointing and the back and forth are mere distractions and irrelevant to the central issue of payment – or nonpayment for services rendered,” he said.

“The government must lead by example and pay its bills just as it demands payments from its utility customers.

“Between July and October, it was reported that the power supply to more than 8,700 BPL customers have been disconnected for nonpayment.

“What is good for the goose must be good for the gander.”

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PLP: No evidence to support Foulkes’ claim https://thenassauguardian.com/plp-no-evidence-to-support-foulkes-claim/ Wed, 28 Oct 2020 11:35:39 +0000 https://thenassauguardian.com/?p=176728 There is “no objective evidence” to support Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes’ assertation that a “bulk” of employees, excluding tourism workers who were unemployed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, have returned to work, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Fred Mitchell said yesterday. “The PLP takes note of the statement in this morning’s press attributed to …

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There is “no objective evidence” to support Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes’ assertation that a “bulk” of employees, excluding tourism workers who were unemployed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, have returned to work, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Fred Mitchell said yesterday.

“The PLP takes note of the statement in this morning’s press attributed to the minister of labor indicating that the vast majority of laid off workers due to the pandemic are back to work,” Mitchell said in a statement.

He added, “By his own admission, his statement is anecdotal and not empirical. He also said that the Department of Statistics has not conducted the requisite labor force survey. The bottom line, then, is that there is no objective evidence to support what the minister is saying.”

On Monday, Foulkes said, “The Central Bank has indicated that they’re of the view — in March, April and May — at the initial beginning of the pandemic that because of all the layoffs, that the unemployment might have been 30,000 or 40,000 individuals.

“But, the bulk of those employees were temporarily laid off. Most of them have gone back to work, with the exception of the sectors that I have already mentioned.” 

As the tourism industry, and eventually, the country, came to a standstill in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment numbers swiftly rose with widespread layoffs.

In early May, Director of Labour John Pinder and Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis both projected unemployment would hit 30 percent.

The latest numbers from the National Insurance Board (NIB) indicated that more than 37,000 people were seeking unemployment benefits from the NIB and nearly 31,000 were seeking unemployment assistance from the government’s program.

The Bahamas’ workforce is comprised of 225,000 Bahamians, according to Foulkes.

Mitchell said anecdotes indicate that “the vast majority of workers” have not returned to work.

He said they are “suffering with no ready money”. 

“Minister, please give us the facts, not stories,” Mitchell said.

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