Chamber of commerce ‘very excited’ about partial reopening of economy

Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Beckles said yesterday that the chamber is “very excited” about Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ announcement that the country will enter phase 1b of the government’s plan to partially reopen the economy, after a month and a half of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Phase 1b allows businesses with the capacity to offer delivery and curbside services to recommence operations within social distancing protocols. It also allows for construction to resume nationwide.

“The chamber is very excited that we were able to get to this point today,” Beckles told Guardian Business yesterday.

“It’s going to be very far-reaching because many of the SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) have started to already take their cue from us. We said look, we’re advocating you go to work and figure out what is necessary to get your business ready to receive orders and process payments using the internet and using technology. So for us, we’re happy to be able to get to the other side of that advocacy.

“I think the number of businesses you will see being able to offer curbside payment is going to be absolutely amazing. They were sitting like horses at the gate waiting for the bell to ring. I think you’ll see many creative ideas too. And then the easiest part is being able to set up at their stores for when they notify customers they are ready on standby, you collect your goods and proper social distancing.”

After declaring a public state of emergency in March, all non-essential businesses were required to close their doors. During the roughly six weeks that businesses were shuttered due to the pandemic, those with digital sale platforms lamented the restrictions on their online businesses despite having a social distancing plan in place.

During a televised national address yesterday, the prime minister said the objective of this new phase is to stimulate businesses through economic activity and to meet needs that are important to the population during this crisis.

Starting May 4, businesses that can provide goods and services through delivery and curbside pickup will be able to do so Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Beckles said in his opinion there is no doubt that the online, curbside and delivery aspect of doing business will be ingrained in local commerce moving forward.

“There is no doubt. This day has been coming. I’m just happy to see it come and yes it is going to be a part of our lives going forward, where you’re going to find that Bahamian consumers who’ve already been practicing with the Amazons and the Walmarts and the Targets of the world, we are already beginning to become a people of convenience,” he said.

“We’re already used to online payments and now you will find that the rest of The Bahamas that was kind of slow in coming to the table is also going to be now practicing online buying and delivery. So it’s going to be a part of our lives going forward and it’s actually going to evolve the mainstream way that we conduct commerce.”

Despite this partial reopening of the economy, the 24-hour curfew remains in effect through the week and lockdown measures remain in effect on the weekends.

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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