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Ministry of Finance developing COVID-19 contingency plans

The government is putting together a multi-faceted approach to the risks associated with catastrophic threats the likes of Hurricane Dorian and the coronavirus, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday.

Turnquest, who was speaking at the Royal Fidelity Bahamas Economic Outlook, said the coronavirus, on the heels of Hurricane Dorian, presents an immediate threat to The Bahamas’ economy.

“The current global outbreak of the coronavirus is creating an immediate threat to the near-term performance of our economy,” Turnquest said.

“Given the serious health impact of the virus on individuals and the understandable concerns of people everywhere, the government is continuing to exercise an abundance of caution to ensure that we mitigate the growing risk. In fact, the Ministry of Finance has already begun to discuss and develop contingency plans to address the potential economic and fiscal fallout.

“Our ongoing task in the public and private sectors is to manage the impact of these global forces as they collide with our own national development interests. Our economic livelihood is heavily dependent on both trade and travel and the global turmoil we see spiraling around us poses serious potential risks to those sectors, in particular.”

Turnquest added that The Bahamas has been using technology to get ahead of the future effects of catastrophic events.

He pointed to the Central Bank of The Bahamas’ development of a digital currency as a critical part of the country’s post-event strategy.

“We are working with the Clearing Banks Association and domestic microfinancing institutions to promote and facilitate the transition to a cashless economy,” Turnquest said.

“Cashless commerce and other innovative technological solutions can allow commercial banks to operate without the need for a physical presence, which is critical in our archipelagic context.

“I am very proud to say, The Bahamas is truly leading the way in this respect, being the first country to introduce a digital currency, more specifically a Central Bank digital currency, which is not to be confused with a cryptocurrency.”

Turnquest hailed the recent launch of The Bahamas’ digital currency, the Sand Dollar, on hurricane-ravaged Abaco and its cays.

“Through the Sand Dollar, Abaconians can now make payments at local grocers or gas stations right through their mobile devices in real time,” he said.  “The Sand Dollar also allows for feeless peer-to-peer transfers.”

Turnquest added that The Bahamas must be aided by the international community, which will play a critical role in addressing the vulnerabilities Caribbean islands and small island developing states (SIDS) face.

“We cannot allow developed nations to act as though their actions do not impact us, particularly as they are the main contributors to the global climate crisis,” Turnquest said.

“The developed world must share the responsibility for the rehabilitation of economies and nations that are disproportionately impacted.

We are independent nations. We are resilient people, but the promise of multilateralism is that we don’t walk alone and it is time for our international partners to make changes and implement practical solutions now.”

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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