NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The COVID-19 pandemic has provided this nation with an opportunity to “hit the reset button”, according to Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) deputy leader and shadow finance minister Chester Cooper, who described the circumstances the country presently faces as “quite dire”.
Cooper appeared as a guest on Coffee Break with Apryl Sands on Sunday.
“This has been an incredible opportunity for us to assess where we are and hit the reset button,” he said.
“It’s an opportunity to examine our industries and social programs so if we ever come to a situation like this one and I hope we never do, we have a plan by which we must govern. The national development plan must be the key plank to how we ensure we do not find ourselves ill prepared. In national development plan process we must not just look at the economy but governance as well as our people and ensure there are appropriate safety nets to ensure that the least among us are protected.”
Cooper asserted that the Minnis administration’s “flip-flopping” on policy decisions amid the pandemic has only “caused more pain”, adding that this nation must learn from a crisis like Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19.
“I trust that we are learning from this crisis and be better off when we see another hurricane and be able to anticipate what we have to provide for the poor and indigent and suffering,” he said.
“That is what the government should do. People should have the basic expectation that their social needs will be met.
“The circumstances are quite dire. There will need to be some adjustments and some cost-cutting. That will have to be up to the government and their policymakers. It is my view that the country and people cannot afford another tax hike or increase in VAT at this time.”
He said: “Now we find ourselves with our backs against the wall with very little headroom because this administration has borrowed consistently and excessively and there is very little to show for it. They would likely say it’s all from Dorian or COVID but they must give an account because we are not satisfied with their explanations. Even before Dorian, we raised the alarm about the poor management of the economy.”
Cooper also noted that the PLP would act quickly to advance a marijuana industry and the appropriate legislation.
“This is something we will advance and very quickly, not just for its economic impact but also its entire socio-economic framework, making sure that it’s properly regulated,” he said.
“We are committed also to expunging the records of persons who have been found with small quantities. We think this is important to allow persons to get back into mainstream society with a clean police record to earn money for their families,” Cooper added.