As thousands of Bahamians queued for hours day after day at food stores and pharmacies, Acting Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson said one thing that was encouraging is that the supply chain for locally in-demand items has not been disrupted.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic made landfall in The Bahamas, there were increased concerns regarding how closed borders and slowed manufacturing globally would impact the importation of goods.
“What I would say is that despite the accelerated spending, I think one of the things that is encouraging is that the supply chain has been maintained, in that we have not seen any critical shortages in any particular item,” Johnson told Guardian Business.
“The port continues to receive freight, the wholesalers get their items and the retailers get their items and then we as consumers are able to get what we need; and so even with all of the restrictions in place and even with all of the global restrictions and limitations on trade, the commercial trade network remains robust and imports are still coming in and persons are able to get almost all of what they would otherwise, even with the accelerated shopping that we have seen.”
And with the vast majority of businesses shuttered, and tourism at a standstill, the Bahamian economy is primarily dependent upon the accelerated shopping Bahamians have been engaged in over the past few weeks.
Still, Johnson said, the ‘panic shopping’ won’t offset the severe economic bludgeoning the country is now facing.
“If the hotel sector is shut down and all of the other retail operations are shut down, then the only real substantial commercial activity surrounds the takeout restaurant business and the wholesale/retail food and related items. Even combined, although they are substantial, they are still a very small portion of the overall economy,” he said.
“So, the short answer is no, they won’t offset in any way the reduction in the commercial activity that we are facing. Though they are significant they are still a relatively moderate segment of the economy.”
Asked if there is any silver lining in the bleakness, Johnson said, “I think it’s too early to even make that judgement. The priority truly is health and safety and all those other things really have to be set aside because as you would know the government is prioritizing health and safety, the government has spoken to it several times ensure that the supply chain for basic goods are there, the NIB has made payments on the government unemployment assistance benefit as well as the regular unemployment benefit and so that is to get money in the hands of persons that have been displaced.
“What is encouraging is that the basis of governance and societal structure remains intact, notwithstanding the severe dislocation that we’re going through.”