Noting that many of its recommendations on easing restrictions had been taken into consideration, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) yesterday noted it is cautiously optimistic about the ending of curbside service for businesses.
In a national address yesterday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced the end of the 24-hour weekend lockdowns, allowing businesses to now operate on Mondays through Saturdays, adding that the retail sector, including pharmacies, may resume in-store services during this time. Only drive through services would be allowed on Sundays.
BCCEC Chairperson Khrystle Rutherford-Ferguson said the chamber had been lobbying for the resumption of in-store commerce over the past several weeks.
“The BCCEC has been consistent in its position regarding the impact of restricting retailers, restaurants and other businesses to offering curbside pick-up and delivery services. We feel justified in seeing other business-related organizations echo the sentiments that the BCCEC expressed immediately following the announcement of the restrictions,” she said in a statement.
“We are further pleased to see that our recommendations and concerns have not fallen on deaf ears, as seen by the implementation of most of the BCCEC’s recommendations on easing restrictions. The impact of such easing is likely to result in businesses being able to service their customers more efficiently, increase the revenue generated – or lack thereof – over the past few months and bring employees back to work.”
Rutherford-Ferguson cautioned, however, that the easing of restrictions is not sufficient to return to a sense of normalcy, viability and predictability.
“Moving forward, we will continue to advocate for the continued compliance of all COVID-19 safety protocols and the enforcement thereof. The return of the tourism market is a welcomed opportunity for the private sector. Every opportunity to create buffers for the continued operation of this sector must be taken. For many months the economy relied heavily on domestic consumption, which has served us well in the absence of the tourist market and we, the BCCEC, continue to encourage the Bahamian public to shop locally,” she said.
“However, the business community, through tourism, also welcomes the ability to expand its customer base, increase staff levels and better plan for the future. There is no doubt that to continue to navigate the impacts of COVID-19 is a prodigious task, one that calls for community mindedness, individual responsibility and adherence to the safety protocols, namely, wearing of masks, frequent hand washing and social distancing.”
The BCCEC also commended the government’s continued commitment to small businesses. The prime minister announced the launch of a new small business grant program that would provide grants of up to $5,000 to Bahamian entrepreneurs to start or expand their business.
“We are also happy to hear of the new business grants and support programs being enabled through the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC), of which the BCCEC is a founding partner, Rutherford-Ferguson expounded.
She continued, “The BCCEC has been committed to engaging with our members, the wider business community, policymakers, health professionals and other stakeholders in advocating for a balanced approach towards mitigating against the economic and health impacts of COVID-19.”