Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes pledged the government’s commitment to overcome rising unemployment in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic in a Randol Fawkes Labour Day address Thursday night, and called on all sectors of society to work together towards that goal.
“Ladies and gentlemen, The Bahamas is a resilient nation,” he said.
“We have faced many obstacles and difficult periods in our past and we will overcome this present-day challenge. We will rebuild our economy and our nation will be stronger and better than it has ever been.
“However, it will not be an easy task. It will require the concerted efforts and contributions of all Bahamians and residents, the government, NGOs, as well as the public and private sector organizations all working together as one. But, most important, it is incumbent that we use and pool our resources wisely, and we must endeavor to be our brother’s keeper.
“[M]y ministry and the government have been aggressively working to devise ways to stimulate the economy; create jobs and protect existing jobs; devising methods and strategies to support current and developing enterprises; [and] open the discussion and dialogue between the government and key citizenry to find solutions to the many pressing concerns that face our country.
“I wish to fully assure you that we are determined that this war against this menace COVID-19 and rising unemployment will be won.”
Unemployment has reached unprecedented levels due to the economic impact of COVID-19, with the tourism industry in particular being hard-hit.
Roughly 55,000 of the country’s 225,000 workforce have applied for unemployment benefits, according to Foulkes.
Most businesses have closed since mid-March as per emergency measures implemented in an attempt to curb the spread of the highly contagious virus, with those restrictions only just last week beginning to be relaxed.
Due to social distancing measures still in effect, the traditional Randol Fawkes Labour Day parade was not held, but Foulkes acknowledged the meaning of the holiday in his address and thanked frontline workers for their work during the pandemic.
“As we prepare to commemorate another Labour Day on this Friday 5th June, I wish to commend all workers throughout the length and breadth of The Bahamas for their commitment and dedication to the advancement of our country,” he said.
“I wish to also use this opportunity to personally thank all workers laboring on the front lines in the midst of this pandemic: nurses, doctors, police and defense force officers, grocery store workers, sanitation workers and many others.
“We appreciate you. You are our country’s heroes and we salute you for your service and dedication.”