Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper said yesterday the government should present a clear picture of The Bahamas’ current economic situation before planning for a November reopening.
He also called for a comprehensive plan to move forward.
“Before we can talk about what the economy looks like in November, we must look to see where we are at the moment,” he said.
“We must look at the various matrix and we can see then how we can forecast moving forward.”
Cooper was responding to comments from Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest, who said that the government is planning to restart international tourism by late-October or early November.
“One day, we hear the minister of finance talk about the possibility of programs running out of money,” he said.
“We heard the minister responsible for the public service and national insurance make a similar comment. We hear similar comments from Bahamasair and Water and Sewerage Corporation. And we know BPL (Bahamas Power and Light) is in crisis.
“Our country is in crisis. We need weekly or monthly updates on the state of the economy.”
Cooper added, “We are concerned the systems that are put in place are not adequately supporting the need. Small businesses are complaining. We understand that the small business initiative has also run out of money, based on public reports.
“And, therefore, we urge the government to continue to pay attention to the health for the economy [and] all of the persons impacted; the unemployed, the vulnerable.
“The reality of the situation is the uncertainty and the fear of the economy, and the economic impact has perhaps now surpassed the fear of the virus itself.”
While Cooper said he is happy with the recent announcement by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis that more businesses will be allowed to operate next week, he said the government must put forth a clear plan.
“[W]e welcome the phased opening of the economy,” he said.
“What we need to see, though, is a plan by the prime minister. We want to understand that we are not going to be in an emergency order type of scenario indefinitely. So, we must see what the next steps are going to be for the new normal.
“We must continue to educate the Bahamian people. We must prepare them for what this new normal is going to look like. So, everyone says that the virus is going to be here with us for a while. So, we need to plan for that eventuality. And we must ensure that we have the legislation in place for social distancing and all of the necessary essentials that we must have in place once the pandemic passes.”
Cooper also encouraged the government to consider the economic plan that the PLP put forward in April.
“One of the things we said was to go hard and go early,” he said.
“That meant to be proactive, be aggressive, raise more money than you think you need now because eventually, you might need it. If you don’t need it, you pay it back. Really get on with the process of buffering the economy.”