With some workers being asked to take leave and many employers seeing less business due to the global impact of COVID-19, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis yesterday called on the government to take steps to help relieve the financial burden residents are beginning to feel.
Speaking during a press conference at the Sir Lynden Pindling Centre at Gambier House, Davis said, “The impact of the virus on our tourist industry has already started to cascade through the economy.
“People are being laid off, or being required to take unpaid leave [and] small businesses especially are likely to come under severe cash-flow pressure.
“With household savings already low or non-existent for many Bahamians, individuals are almost immediately likely to face strains in their personal finances.”
As cases of COVID-19 increase worldwide, many countries have implemented travel restrictions.
U.S. President Donald Trump recently announced that outbound cruise ship activity from the United States is suspended for 30 days.
Additionally, The Bahamas government on Sunday added the United Kingdom, Ireland and Europe to its restricted travel list.
Davis called attention to small hotel businesses that might have to close their doors as a result of fewer tourists.
He said there should be “assistance [for] small and medium size enterprises (SME) and hotels that will be immediately affected and may be forced to reduce working hours and, in some cases, lay of staff”.
“The National Insurance Board must provide temporary unemployment assistance,” Davis said.
He added, “The Central Bank must strongly consider easing credit and lowering the cost of capital.
“Arrangements must be made with financial institutions to temporarily halt foreclosures and demonstrate forbearance with customers regarding loan payments.”
Davis said the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) was “correct” to suspend disconnections, as announced on Friday.
But he added: “It would also be correct and effective to also consider the reconnection of those whose supply have been disconnected as water is an essential component to adequate hygiene.
“It is also our view that it would be correct and effective if BPL (Bahamas Power and Light) would proactively support this national containment effort by similarly following the policy of [WSC].”
Davis also expressed his support for the government’s decision to close schools until April 14.
However, he highlighted that it could prevent some parents from working.
“We must provide support to parents who cannot work because they now must supervise small children, and we should take extra steps to protect children who will be left unsupervised,” Davis said.
“Also, as a matter of urgency, the school closure means that those students who rely on the school lunch program may be find themselves in an extremely difficult situation.
“We must ensure that children who rely on these programs are being fed, and the school lunch vendors who rely on income for their services must be supported as well.”
Last week, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest encouraged Bahamians to be financially prudent due to the “uncertain times” brought about by the illness.
He said government was “devising an economic plan” and “doing what we can from our side in terms of providing incentives and concessions”.