There is no quick fix to the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on businesses, Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Beckles said, adding that the best way to move forward economically is to create an investment environment for Bahamians to invest in The Bahamas.
Speaking to the role the BCCEC can play in supporting the local business community, Beckles said the way forward comes one step at a time and through collaboration.
“This is an evolving environment. That’s the reason why we continue to engage the policymakers and stakeholders, because the truth is, there is no quick fix to it. Remember, with our foreign inflows taking the beating that they are and the domestic economy taking the beating it is taking, while that is our reality it is still making us push toward greater collaboration, so that we can figure out how best to move this ball forward,” he said.
And with the tourism sector – the lifeline of the economy – closed for the immediate future, Beckles said now is the time for Bahamians to have greater participation in the ownership of local industries.
“What do we need to do, what adjustments do we need to make, what stimulus programs are available? Because the truth of the matter is this cannot be simply resting on the shoulders of government, because government is you and me. When the government has to keep bailing out as it were, then you and I have to pay that bill, so it would be in our best interest to work with the stakeholders, see how quickly we can get foreign direct investment going, look at those projects that are in the pipeline and walk them through the process to start,” he said.
“At the same time, we must look locally and see how we can create an investment environment here where Bahamians want to invest in The Bahamas, where Bahamians want to reach out and partner with other foreign entities to do business in The Bahamas, so that we move beyond the job mentality to ownership and participation. Those are the kinds of things we have to look at in the medium and longer terms because at the end of the day, when Bahamians have a chance to be active participants you get a better result, you get a different result.”
Most businesses have been forced closed for a second time following a second surge in COVID-19 cases.
Many have voiced concern about the impact of prolonged lockdowns on their ability to maintain staff and operations once they come out on the other side of this most recent closing of the economy.
In the face of these challenges, Beckles said the Chamber will continue to advocate on behalf of businesses and for companies to adapt to changing times.
“We will continue our best to fight for them. I don’t believe that anyone wants to see businesses close on any side of the argument and I think we have a collective responsibility to keep pressing and keep pushing because business is what we’re about and we’re going to do our part to represent those needs and continue to work in accordance to what the national mandate is, to keep people safe, to strike the balance so that people can work,” he said.
“And whether that means we have to go back to the drawing board and rethink what we’ve done in the past, rethink online sales and curbside deliveries, whatever the combination of activities needs to be, we are committed to working with that now.”