The private sector will look a lot different and more diversified post-COVID-19, Organization for Responsible Governance Executive Director Matt Aubry said, adding that it will happen naturally because “it just has to”.
Aubry, who is also on the Economic Recovery Committee (ERC), is co-chair of the ERC’s education and labor subcommittee and sits on the public health and social welfare subcommittees, said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted some of the systemic challenges that have been in place for a long time, both in the private and public sectors.
“The private sector will look different coming out of this. I think there will naturally be diversification because there just has to be. Tourism is going to take a while to get back up to full flight and financial services will look different in a world post-COVID,” he said.
“But what about the small and mid-sized businesses that can drive local consumption, what skills do they need? What kind of tech skills that don’t require being out there, what kind of trade skills are going to support industries?
“I think there are a lot of innovative and unique ideas that are going to come out of the Economic Recover Committee, I think a lot of them will come even outside of the committees.”
Asked specifically about the labor component of the post-COVID-19 recovery, given that an estimated 40,000 Bahamians are currently unemployed, Aubry said The Bahamas is not alone in this challenge.
“That’s a challenge that I think everyone is struggling with and it’s honestly not a struggle that we’re seeing for the first time. We had tremendously high youth unemployment before this, one of the highest in the region, Haiti, Jamaica and us. So that meant a significant portion of our youth were coming into the workforce and still not having jobs. And now you can look at that being expounded multiple times,” he said.
“So what is the solution? We need to have a more resilient workforce, we need to have one that is ready. There’s a lot of these pieces that are happening, what we haven’t done is bring them all together. And that’s the opportunity that sits in front of us, we have to bring our collective efforts forward, we need clear objectives.”
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis appointed the ERC in May, charging the body which is made up of ten subcommittees to provide actionable recommendations to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on The Bahamas.
Earlier this month ERC co-chair, Acting Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson said the committee had received in excess of 300 submissions from members of the public and civic society on measurable initiatives to rebuild the economy.
The ERC’s first report is expected to be presented to Cabinet and subsequently the public sometime next month.
Key points raised during the consultative process, according to Aubry, include accountability and looking at innovative opportunities to build the capacity of Bahamian citizens.
“We can’t rely as heavily on the structures of government. We need to be able to move quickly in – it has to be driven not from the government side, it has to be driven from the private sector, it has to be driven from civil society, it has to be driven from media, academics and faith-based organizations as well. Each of those groups has something to contribute and a solution that is heavily informed or driven from one sector you’re leaving the rest uncapped,” he said.