The government is leaning on the Economic Recovery Committee to assist in finding solutions to supplement economic growth where the 2020/2021 budget might not go far enough, or where economic indicators may be softer than anticipated, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday.
Speaking to the media during a post-budget press conference, Turnquest explained that the negative effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on The Bahamas have proven to be deep and dynamic, especially for the participants in the country’s main economic driver, tourism.
“The prime minister has engaged the Economic Recovery Committee, which is tasked to think outside the current circumstance, as well as what we have forecast through the end of this fiscal year to be the circumstances as a result of the virus and assuming that we might have moderate to slow recovery from that crisis,” Turnquest said.
“We anticipate this committee will bring back some recommendations that we’ll be able to execute in the medium to short term…so, non-traditional activity. But in the longer term, to help us to visualize and to conceptualize what the restructuring of this economy could look like if tourism takes longer than we anticipate to rebound.”
According to Turnquest, while the two largest resort properties in the country have pushed their opening dates back – Atlantis by one month and Baha Mar by more than three months – The Bahamas continues to have the advantage of many smaller properties on Paradise Island, New Providence and the Family Islands, to pull in much-needed government revenue and room nights as tourism opens back up.
“We’re seeing some pickup in those entities,” he said.
He added that boat and yacht traffic have increased on the Exumas and Eleuthera since the government began its phased opening on June 15.
“We may be shifting from the traditional big volume, big box tourism,” said Turnquest. “We are seeing a move to a more specialty product; a more indigenous product which we anticipate will have an even more impactful benefit to Bahamians.”
Meantime, he contended that micro, small and medium-sized enterprises supported by the Small Business Development Center are also being looked at to grow new business and employment in the country.
“We anticipate 500 entities, new business persons and entities that we have been successful in funding,” said Turnquest. “We anticipate they will carry some of the load through this interim to stimulate economic activity while awaiting tourism.”