Editorials

Where do we go from here?

We were pleased that the prime minister, who has been absent from the frontlines of the anti-COVID-19 fight in recent weeks, resumed his practice of national addresses yesterday afternoon. Regrettably, but as usual, he did not permit himself to be questioned by the news media.

He provided listeners with information available on the almost daily Ministry of Health COVID-19 dashboard and in its companion press releases: the spread of the disease is being managed on Grand Bahama and on most Family Islands; there is concern with the steady increase of infections on Abaco and alarm that the spread of the disease is out of control on New Providence.

Yet he told us we are opening up tourism.

The prime minister then used his 35-minute address to tell the nation that he recognizes that many individuals are exhausted by COVID-19 and the many restrictions placed on their day-to-day lives and hence the predisposition to disregard protocols meant to safeguard the population.

He said that he has discussed the predicament with the PAHO/WHO representative and his health consultant; that the PAHO/WHO representative will meet with Cabinet on Tuesday, a meeting to which the leader of the opposition has been invited, and then, he will address Parliament on Wednesday.

The appropriateness of PAHO meeting and briefing the opposition separately did not appear to have occurred to the prime minister.

The economy

The prime minister promised in August to deliver a major address on the economy and foreshadowed a report from the Economic Recovery Committee (ERC) in September. Yesterday, he announced that he received the report last Tuesday.

He said the committee benefitted from consultations with 60 companies and received 300 submissions.

He promised to release the report to the public.

The reality is that the pandemic has sent shockwaves through our economy.

Unemployment, which stood at 10 percent at the beginning of the year, may have climbed to more than 40 percent.

With major hotels still shuttered with no firm indication of reopening dates, the deep financial hardship being experienced by many Bahamian families is likely to be with us for many additional months.

The trickle-down effect of a closed hotel sector is exponentially impacting the entire economy. All sectors indirectly reliant on tourism — airlines, cruise ships, taxi and tour operations, retail of tourist items and including sales of souvenirs, straw products, alcohol, restaurant meals and live entertainment — have suffered dramatic decreases in operations if they have not been stopped altogether.

Other businesses, including mom-and-pop shops, are suffering greatly as well.

Many Bahamians struggle to pay bills, rent, mortgages and other loans. Most also have dipped into or exhausted already shallow savings.

With uncertain employment, some furloughed and others terminated, new borrowings, except from relatives or friends, have never been an option.

Indeed, some who could never have contemplated looking to charity for food have found themselves on food lines.

The prime minister previously reported that some 108,000 individuals were receiving food assistance in late August. He reminded yesterday that an additional $45 million was recently approved by Parliament to extend unemployment assistance to December and that an additional $10 million would permit the food assistance program to also be extended to end-December.

We are not alone in this predicament. Reports internationally suggest that for the first time in 30 years there will be an increase in world poverty. Experts predict that the worst impacted will be children who are less likely to go to school, more likely to be forced into child labor and less likely to access nutritious food or quality healthcare.

Increased government spending for income substitution and social assistance including food assistance helps keep people afloat in the short term, but they do not stimulate productive activity when people cannot work.

We look forward with anticipation to the details of the ERC report.

e were pleased that the prime minister, who has been absent from the frontlines of the anti-COVID-19 fight in recent weeks, resumed his practice of national addresses yesterday afternoon. Regrettably, but as usual, he did not permit himself to be questioned by the news media.

He provided listeners with information available on the almost daily Ministry of Health COVID-19 dashboard and in its companion press releases: the spread of the disease is being managed on Grand Bahama and on most Family Islands; there is concern with the steady increase of infections on Abaco and alarm that the spread of the disease is out of control on New Providence.

Yet he told us we are opening up tourism.

The prime minister then used his 35-minute address to tell the nation that he recognizes that many individuals are exhausted by COVID-19 and the many restrictions placed on their day-to-day lives and hence the predisposition to disregard protocols meant to safeguard the population.

He said that he has discussed the predicament with the PAHO/WHO representative and his health consultant; that the PAHO/WHO representative will meet with Cabinet on Tuesday, a meeting to which the leader of the opposition has been invited, and then, he will address Parliament on Wednesday.

The appropriateness of PAHO meeting and briefing the opposition separately did not appear to have occurred to the prime minister.

The economy

The prime minister promised in August to deliver a major address on the economy and foreshadowed a report from the Economic Recovery Committee (ERC) in September. Yesterday, he announced that he received the report last Tuesday.

He said the committee benefitted from consultations with 60 companies and received 300 submissions.

He promised to release the report to the public.

The reality is that the pandemic has sent shockwaves through our economy.

Unemployment, which stood at 10 percent at the beginning of the year, may have climbed to more than 40 percent.

With major hotels still shuttered with no firm indication of reopening dates, the deep financial hardship being experienced by many Bahamian families is likely to be with us for many additional months.

The trickle-down effect of a closed hotel sector is exponentially impacting the entire economy. All sectors indirectly reliant on tourism — airlines, cruise ships, taxi and tour operations, retail of tourist items and including sales of souvenirs, straw products, alcohol, restaurant meals and live entertainment — have suffered dramatic decreases in operations if they have not been stopped altogether.

Other businesses, including mom-and-pop shops, are suffering greatly as well.

Many Bahamians struggle to pay bills, rent, mortgages and other loans. Most also have dipped into or exhausted already shallow savings.

With uncertain employment, some furloughed and others terminated, new borrowings, except from relatives or friends, have never been an option.

Indeed, some who could never have contemplated looking to charity for food have found themselves on food lines.

The prime minister previously reported that some 108,000 individuals were receiving food assistance in late August. He reminded yesterday that an additional $45 million was recently approved by Parliament to extend unemployment assistance to December and that an additional $10 million would permit the food assistance program to also be extended to end-December.

We are not alone in this predicament. Reports internationally suggest that for the first time in 30 years there will be an increase in world poverty. Experts predict that the worst impacted will be children who are less likely to go to school, more likely to be forced into child labor and less likely to access nutritious food or quality healthcare.

Increased government spending for income substitution and social assistance including food assistance helps keep people afloat in the short term, but they do not stimulate productive activity when people cannot work.

We look forward with anticipation to the details of the ERC report.

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