Director of Labour John Pinder yesterday predicted that The Bahamas’ unemployment rate will increase to 25 percent as the COVID-19 global crisis escalates.
The most recent unemployment figures, which were released by the Department of Statistics in August 2019, indicated the national unemployment rate had dropped to 9.5 percent, which was the lowest rate in 10 years.
However, as The Bahamas grapples with the long-lasting effects of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic, Pinder told The Nassau Guardian, “I don’t know how we’re going to get past this right now.”
He continued, “Boy, when you have no tourists coming into the country and no revenue being made, people can’t come out and spend money. Boy, this is going to be a mess.
“I can see it (the unemployment rate) doubling. I believe we believe we’re going to end up going 20 percent, 25 percent of unemployment; that’s my estimation.”
He encouraged employers to use the 90-day window during this time.
“It’s a window that an employer has to determine whether or not they make people redundant or not,” Pinder said.
“What we are encouraging them to do is allow the employees to get a letter saying that they’ve shut down for a while so they can go to NIB (the National Insurance Board) and get some unemployment assistance.”
Last week, five major cruise lines — Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises — announced that they will pause their cruise itineraries as a precautionary measure amid a worsening COVID-19 pandemic.
Air travel has also slowed significantly as countries around the world implement travel bans.
On Wednesday, during a communication in the House of Assembly, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said, “The simple yet inconceivable reality we all need to grasp is that there will be no tourists.”
He added, “It is fundamental that we as Bahamians understand both the short and long-term impacts COVID-19 will have on our tourism industry. Life as we know it will be fundamentally uprooted for the next 30, 60, 90 days.
“To convince ourselves otherwise would be of profound detriment to the collective struggle we as Bahamians have begun to mount and will continue to mount, against COVID-19 in the coming months.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said projections reveal that the losses from the COVID-19 crisis could total $1 billion over a four-month period.
He said the government has allocated $4 million for food assistance and social support for impacted displaced workers, $10 million for the temporary unemployment benefits through NIB for self-employed persons working in the tourism industry, and $20 million in short-term loan support for impacted small businesses.
As of yesterday, there were nearly 245,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in at least 160 countries, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
At least 10,000 people have died as a result of the virus.
There are three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
Pinder said the United States should remove its “ban off the cruise lines”.
“It would allow them to travel to countries where it’s kind of safe,” he said.
He said this would allow an influx of tourists during the pandemic.
“They can run some swab tests to make sure the passengers coming off the ship are safe from the virus then it would be the start of business again,” he said.