Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Deltec Bank Gregory Pepin warned yesterday that The Bahamas is running out of time to reinvent the economy in the face of decreased tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pepin, who was a part of a panel of speakers for the Bahamas Business Outlook webinar entitled “Options for a Better Economic Outlook”, said in the current climate where COVID-19 has stalled the country’s economic driver, it is imperative that The Bahamas evolves to benefit from emerging industries.
“The prospect of The Bahamas in the short to medium term is sort of hard to predict in many aspects, because The Bahamas is very dependent on tourism today. I’m usually an optimist, meaning that when there is a crisis, it’s usually a source of opportunity for growth and to create new things. The iPhone was created in 2008 in the middle of the biggest crisis in the financial industry and that’s some proof. But to do that you have to reinvent yourself and right now I’m waiting to see how The Bahamas is going to reinvent itself,” he said.
“Clearly there was some hope and right now it’s still hope. So I hope that the country will still grab that opportunity to rebound and actually get away from being just a tourism-based country, but also a more evolved country in terms of the different industries that could actually be created or developed from here. But I still believe that it’s a possibility that it could be done because the population is young and willing to try and do things, so there is hope but action needs to be done fast, because time is running out.
“We had a conference a few months ago and I think we can count – even a single hand would be too much – the number of things that have been done to the economy to try to reinvent The Bahamas outside of tourism, between the last time we had the conference and today. Since then time is running out.”
Another panelist, Adjunct Professor of Economics and Finance at the University of The Bahamas Robbyn Thompson, chimed in stating that in her view there is always room for optimism.
“When I think crisis I also think opportunities. Opportunities to rest, opportunities to recalibrate, readjust, restart, reinvent and redefine strategic goals, especially for the long term. We obviously did not have power over how the pandemic started, but we do have power over how we’re going to come out of it and our actions today will determine what happens tomorrow,” she said.
“But we have to make certain investments today in key areas to ensure that our economy functions at its true potential in the future. This means more investments in human capital, research and development, diversification strategies, also learning how to become more self-sufficient as a nation, so that we can mitigate the effects of future shocks.
“Most importantly we must recognize the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises or SMEs in our country, knowing that when they fail our country also fails, because they are responsible for most of the GDP in world economies.”
The government established the Economic Recovery Committee in May, which was charged by the prime minister to put together recommendations that will represent a bold vision for a modern Bahamian economy that is stronger, resilient, diversified, future-driven and fully integrated.
That committee is expected to present its recommendations to Cabinet before the end of this month.