Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest suggested Bahamians can expect the restrictions on the local economy to begin “being softened a little bit” in the near future even as the country continues battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
While appearing as a guest on “A Closer Look” with host Osano Neely, which aired yesterday, Turnquest said the government envisions the reopening of the economy being a gradual process that starts with the domestic economy.
“In the immediate days to come, I think we can anticipate the domestic economy being softened a little bit so that persons whose main business is to service the domestic clientele can start to get back to some sort of business, start to earn some sort of internal revenue, thus sparking the internal economy,” Turnquest said.
Responding to questions about whether The Bahamas could shift to a locally-fueled economy, Turnquest said it could be an option in the short term, but that in the long term it would not be sustainable.
“Long term, we are going to need foreign exchange, and that is because we purchase from abroad just about everything that we consume,” he said.
“So, until we can get a domestic manufacturing industry, a domestic food production industry to the level where it’s able to provide the amount of food that is needed for us to be sustainable, we’re going to need foreign exchange.
“So, as we envision it, the reopening of the economy, it will start very slowly with the domestic market – the local restaurants and shops and wholesalers and whatever, farms and fishing and whatever.
“And as we get comfortable with that and our cases start to stabilize or hopefully reduce, then we will start to look at how we reopen the tourism market, and doing that in a very responsible and limited way until we’re comfortable that we’ve got that under control and we’ve perfected safety protocols to ensure that guests as well as residents remain safe. And then we’ll move on from there.”
At the beginning of this month, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced The Bahamas is in phase 1B of the government’s phased reopening plan, allowing businesses that offer curbside and delivery services to reopen more than six weeks after he ordered non-essential businesses closed.
In his latest national address on Sunday, Minnis also announced that the Economic Recovery Committee, which is tasked with recommending how the government can reopen the economy, has been “meeting regularly” and has formed subcommittees intended to tackle different economic aspects.