Diplomatic Notes

COVID-19 highlights need for economic diversification

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a renewed focus on an age-old debate for The Bahamas. There is a constant banter for The Bahamas to diversify its economy. Some have said tourism is dead or dying. Some have said we have to look elsewhere for our economic savior.

Is it true that there is a need for diversification? Absolutely. It is essential that The Bahamas adds income streams to tourism and banking, and it is very feasible, as some areas of our economy are underdeveloped. Food production and packaging is what one would term “low-hanging fruit”; so is fisheries. There is also a need to look at natural resources like aragonite, sand and even oil, although oil has an inherent risk and incompatibility with tourism.

Diversification is not something the government can just legislate and it’s done. In an open capitalistic economy, the government cannot mandate which businesses its citizens invest in because a market economy is driven by supply and demand and businessmen determine what they are willing to risk their capital on. Government should never own and operate businesses because the results are an invitation for disaster. Government ownership destroys the profit motive and breeds corruption. Governments do not do well owning businesses. The best the state can do is state investment or partnership with business entities as long as there is no government participation in operations.

Diversification is necessary and needed and should be encouraged and promoted, but what about tourism? Is tourism a thing of the past? The idea of the demise of tourism is premature and anyone who suggests it, is severely misinformed. Tourism is a world staple and a continually expanding enterprise. The Bahamas has yet to come close to realizing its potential and tourism remains its most viable asset. Airbnb has expanded the tourism product; second home ownership, eco-tourism, cruise ship islands and onshore port developments are all viable expansions of the tourism product and there is much left to be developed. In addition, dive and bone fishing operations, private boating and sports tourism are all great options. Innovation is the key. Tourism does not have to contract or diminish for economic diversification to take place. We can and should expand tourism while we diversify.

One of the parables in the Bible speaks of the “talents” under one’s care. The parable speaks of the importance of investing and bringing a return on the talents (resources) entrusted to you. Tourism is our natural talent and resource and we should max it out. In fact, we should seek to max out all of our resources to bring returns for the benefit of the people of The Bahamas. Whether it is something as simple as backyard gardening or small fishing for personal needs, The Bahamas can diversify while continuing to expand the tourism product.

• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to pastordaveburrows@hotmail.com. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.

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