With the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis exposing a technology-deficient public sector, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday that government processes, especially in revenue collection, are “limping along” given the restrictions to interactions the virus has caused.
Turnquest explained that government is looking to the private sector for help to design new ways for the public and government to carry out transactions, so that revenue collection can continue unabated.
“So, this is a very interesting time for us,” Turnquest said.
“It’s going to take a lot of creativity. We know that technology is going to play a big part in that, so we are having discussions with the technology companies as well as encouraging people to provide us with their solutions as to how we might be able to do business, particularly from the government’s perspective, because right now we are sort of limping along if you will, particularly with respect to the tax collection agencies.
“And we can’t carry on very much longer in that mode. We need to figure out the new modalities that are going to come out of this [crisis] to make the interface between the public and the government agencies that receive revenue more efficient and be able to work remotely.”
While the necessity of social distancing has marred many processes, government itself will also have to contend with the special challenge of interfacing with the Family Islands.
Turnquest said government is yet to determine when to reopen domestic travel, as officials continue to try to stem the spread of COVID-19.
One challenge, he said, will be to spur economic activity on the islands, and especially on the Family Islands, while tourism is down.
“We have to see how we can help create and stimulate activity within the islands themselves as well as within the individual islands,” he said.
“We’re not sure at this point when we will start inter-island travel, because we want to make sure that we contain the virus as much as possible.
“This is not going to be easy. It’s not going to be quick, but hopefully working together with the private sector, the public sector, we can come up with a reasonable solution that can allow us to go back to work albeit in a different way and start to create economic activity.”