Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday that “we’ll starve” if the economy is not opened within the next few months.
Speaking to reporters outside of Cabinet, D’Aguilar noted the recent closure of well-established restaurant Luciano’s, saying that there will be similar “unfortunate events” the longer the economy remains closed.
“I think what that closure says is we have to, as quickly and safely as possible, begin to reopen our economy,” he said.
“You see, if you’re a business, and you have a certain amount of cash in your bank account at the time of the closure, you’ve been slowly burning through that cash, paying some of your staff, keeping key personnel employed, paying electricity, paying rent if you have to.
“And the longer it goes on, and the longer we keep our tourism industry closed, the less resources will be at the end of this journey to restart your business.”
Most businesses have been closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thousands of Bahamians remain laid off or unemployed as a result.
D’Aguilar stressed that while health is critical, the economy is also an important factor and it is “impossible” to completely remove the risk of COVID-19.
“You cannot continue to sustain these losses indefinitely,” he said.
“You have to begin to restart your economy. If your business is starved of cashflow, you’re going to get more Luciano’s and that will present even bigger problems.
“So, yes, it’s a balancing act and there will always be some people say that we got the date wrong. Should we have gone later, should we have gone earlier? I’m sure there’s a thousand businessmen screaming now, ‘Open up the economy. We have so few cases, why are you preventing us from making a living?’
“And then you’ve got people saying, ‘Oh, don’t let nobody in.’”
D’Aguilar also said, however, that, “We can’t live like a hermit.
“We can’t live in lockdown and curfew for the next two or three months because we just simply can’t or we’ll starve.”
Speaking to the restaurant’s closure in particular, he added, “So, I think it just impressed upon me even more that as quickly as possible we have to open our economy to prevent such unfortunate events as what happened at Luciano’s.”