Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper said yesterday that The Bahamas is in a “fiscal crisis” as he noted that it will take some time for the tourism industry to rebound.
“We are in a fiscal crisis,” he said.
“And let’s be clear that we’ve been in a fiscal crisis for quite some time. We’ve indicated that even before the COVID crisis, we had a lot of concerns about the government’s mismanagement of the economy, excessive borrowing with very little to show. And the [pandemic] has exacerbated the situation.
“Our leader continues to say that it didn’t have to be this bad. I support that view. Seven months in, [there is] still no strategy, no economic plan and, therefore, moving forward, we expect that the economy will continue to experience these struggles.”
Cooper said that the PLP welcomes the government’s decision to get rid of quarantine requirements for visitors, but still has some concerns about the new protocols, which would require visitors to have a negative RT-PCR test within seven days of travel, and then receive rapid antigen tests upon arrival in The Bahamas, and again four days after arriving.
“We are hopeful and optimistic that we will be able to rebound the tourism industry, although we are cautious given that our tourists must come from the US and we are seeing some new surges,” Cooper said.
“We welcome the removal of the quarantine. We do have some concerns about the new protocols. I will be discussing them directly with the minister of tourism, but I know that tourism officials are working hard to see how we can get heads in beds, how we can get tourists back to our shores.
“But this is not going to be what we have been accustomed to. And we ought not expect that the numbers will increase to the levels that they were pre-COVID, simply because of the natural economic conditions, as well as the limitations presented by the protocols themselves.
“So, this is going to be a long, rocky road for tourism.”
Cooper praised Central Bank Governor John Rolle for the job he has done in managing the country’s foreign reserves.
“We are thankful that we have a competent, progressive governor of the Central Bank in place, who has been able to be forward-looking and put in place some changes to the general regimes to ensure that he managed very carefully the peg to the US dollar and the level of foreign reserves that we have,” Cooper said.
Last month, Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest noted that reserves were at a “fairly healthy $2.1 billion”.
However, Cooper warned that there is a long road ahead.
“But we are in the early days yet,” he said.
“This is going to be a long haul. We must continue to monitor how we manage the economy and the reserves, and we continue to be cautious in our approach in doing so.”