Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday that the government is “not in a position” to provide stimulus checks to its citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic, as some countries like the United States, Canada and Turks and Caicos have done.
“Unfortunately, we are not in a position to be able to do that,” Turnquest told The Nassau Guardian when called for comment.
“Trying to compare our situation to the U.S. or even a small country like Turks and Caicos that is supported by its UK parent, is not a real comparison.
“The fact of the matter is, we’re an independent country and our tax base is primarily derived from tourism, and as a result of it being closed down for the last couple of weeks, and no one is really sure when it’s going to come back in any appreciable numbers, we just don’t have the luxury of being able to do that.”
The economic impact of COVID-19 in the country began to be felt by mid-March as tourism came to a standstill.
The fallout has resulted in a lowered credit rating from Standard and Poor’s (S&P), and thousands remain unemployed and relying on assistance from the National Insurance Board (NIB).
Turnquest said rather than cash grants, the government would continue to support the other initiatives intended to help those who may be in need during the pandemic.
“We will continue to support [the Department of] Social Services and the programs that it offers to assist those who are most vulnerable,” he said.
“We’ll continue to provide assistance to the medical system to ensure it is able to handle whatever situations may arise. We continue to provide NIB (National Insurance Board) support for the unemployed program, as well as NIB’s own unemployment benefit program for the 13 weeks that it is available.
“We also have the assistance programs for the various business entities…to help them retain employment as much as possible.
“So, that is where we are at the moment. In terms of direct cash grants, that is not something that we’d consider doing at this time.”