Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday that there is no quick fix that could right now act as a substitute to the country’s chief economic driver, tourism and contended that it will take “patience, smarts and vision” for The Bahamas to find an economic engine to supplement tourism.
Turnquest, who spoke to reporters outside of Cabinet yesterday, said it is unrealistic to think that The Bahamas can get away from tourism as a chief earner of revenue, provider of jobs and genesis of entrepreneurial opportunity.
Turnquest has been asked time and again what the government’s plan is to diversify the country’s economy, especially as COVID-19 has revealed that the tourism sector can be severely impacted for an extended amount of time by this kind of shock.
However, he reiterated that any other economic driver that could come close to the impact of tourism cannot be implemented in the short term.
“It is unrealistic to think we’ll get away from it, the reality is The Bahamas has been dependent on tourism since before independence,” said Turnquest.
“Again, there is no quick solution and anyone that’s telling you that is selling you a dream. There is no quick solution but discipline, patience, smarts, vision will get us there.”
Turnquest said the low-hanging fruit for Bahamians is to get more Bahamians involved in the tourism sector and to move away from a dependence on “big box tourism”.
He added that the government’s investment in small business development through the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) will spur economic growth and the development of new industries.
“Part of the secret is determining how we create more development to happen throughout the country, so that people have more options,” he said.
“Also, Bahamians can participate more directly because the cost of getting into the industry is lower and you only have to build ten rooms or 20 rooms or whatever.
“That’s our challenge. How do we put in place the incentives? How do we put in place the infrastructure? How do we put in place the experiences that will have people come and take advantage and leave more of their dollars here on the islands?
“We’re working with agriculture to see how that can be a part of it. We’re working with the Tourism Development Corporation to see how we can incentivize and create experiences.
“We’re also working with the SBDC to create a culture of entrepreneurship that will hopefully spark developments and activities that we have not yet taken advantage of.”
Turnquest said the government believes these investments in people and business will “pay dividends in the long run”.