Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday the government has allocated nearly $40 million in direct funding to address a potential second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the upcoming budget year.
His comments came one day after Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis accused the government of not preparing for the possible resurgence of the virus when The Bahamas reopens its borders on July 1.
“Mr. Speaker, I don’t see anything in this budget that acknowledges this possibility, let alone plans for it,” Davis said on Tuesday.
However, Turnquest shot that down yesterday.
“It’s obvious that the opposition has been ill-informed or has not had the opportunity to review the budget allocations in detail despite having possession of the detailed budget book for over three weeks now,” the minister told The Nassau Guardian.
“A careful review of the budget book would determine that the Ministry of Health has been allocated $21 million, specifically, to address COVID-19 testing, treatment and mitigation, including equipment and supplies.
“Additionally, National Health Insurance allocations have been increased by $18 million, which will in part address the expected additional cost to the primary health care system.
“These allocations, together with other contingencies held by the Ministry of Finance, we believe, will adequately address any flare ups of the virus in the new financial year.”
Turnquest noted the Ministry of Finance has “continuously” made itself available to the opposition as well as the public to address specific questions.
He said that offer “remains open, particularly as we near the end of the debate, when the opposition will have a public opportunity in the House to question the government line by line”.
“It would be good, in the spirit of efficiency and co-operation, if the opposition would avail themselves of the opportunity to submit their questions ahead of time, so that we can address them directly one-on-one or as a group, or through our Bahamasbudget.gov.bs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media platform,” Turnquest said.
“Such a proactive approach could save the Bahamian people critical expense and time, which is often wasted by the opposition in a vain attempt at a public spectacle that often falls flat. We doubt they have reached this level of maturity but we make the offer, nonetheless.”
Some states in the United States, particularly Florida, have reported thousands of new COVID-19 cases in the last week.
The U.S. is The Bahamas’ primary tourism market with more than 1.2 million stopover visitors coming to Bahamian shores last year alone.
Yesterday, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar announced that the government will require all individuals, including tourists, to have a negative COVID-19 test before entering The Bahamas.