The COVID-19 pandemic has created both geopolitical, social and economic challenges for all countries.
The Caribbean region including The Bahamas will face major social disruption and displacement; and economic crises due to the collapse of their main economic engines, including tourism and financial services, will be further burdened by mounting national debts.
Full economic restoration in The Bahamas will not happen until the COVID-19 pandemic is contained.
This may take one to two years, according to current scientific projections.
Hence, all social and economic planning must be structured around short-term, mid-term and long-term strategies.
Short-term: ensure safety net for population through feeding programs and adequate food supplies; sustained unemployment benefits through NIB; reopening the economy with enforced health safety requirements; enhance environmental strategies to restore and maintain the beauty and security of our archipelago; meaningful tax incentives for entrepreneurial businesses to open and promote growth; urgent implementation of ease of doing business regulations; digitization of all government services; fiscal responsibility and zero tolerance for corrupt practices in government and public services; enhance strategies in education to meet the needs of our developing nation.
Mid-term: continue promotion of ease of doing business regulations; promotion of tax incentives for new and established businesses; marketing for foreign direct investments; improve educational standards to complement business growth and requirements; implementation of progressive taxation system to replace existing regressive tax system; collaborative engagement with foreign countries through unilateral and multilateral agreements; review of World Trade Organization (WTO) membership; review of CARICOM membership and value derived.
Long-term: full digitization of government services; evolution of progressive taxation system; progressive development of social security system and National Health Insurance system in concert with economic growth; educational opportunities for population locally and abroad to grow the nation’s integration into the global economy; enhance food security through agriculture, mariculture, fishing, and home farming.
The global social and economic crisis will result in greater protectionist polices of the world’s G7 nations and others with strengthening of their borders and economies as they seek to provide security for their populations.
The major international agencies (World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Caribbean Development Bank) will all experience diminished funding while having to deal with increased international loan applications.
The Bahamas must not rely solely on such sources for relief nor wait for foreign direct investments, but must seek to repair the national weaknesses (political, social and economic) within our control for long-term survival.
Idealism and hope must work with realism and pragmatism to achieve results that matter in our Bahamas.
— Dr. Marcus Bethel
former minister of health and environment