NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A Bahamian natural resources lobby group believes fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for economic diversification, particularly to harness this nation’s natural resources for greater economic sustainability.
Larry Bowleg, president of the Bahamas Natural Resources Foundation (BNRF) said: “Fundamentally we have always had an economy that was never really set up to benefit the majority.
“The natural resources have been exploited for years but never officially factored into the economy. Some believe that the benefits of our natural resources should only accrue to a select few. We can’t keep running an economy where we are just waiting on the next crisis. Why should we just be crisis managers?”
According to Bowleg, exploiting the country’s natural resources would ensure greater wealth distribution and ownership by Bahamians.
“We always talk about GDP as well as economic terms and statistics that the average man on the street doesn’t understand or care about. People need and want ownership in this economy,” said Bowleg.
“We should look at this COVID-19 situation as an opportunity and take a proper inventory of what we have, how much of it is processed locally and what can we process locally.
“What are we doing to bring production capacity to these local communities?
Bowleg said: “We always talk about aragonite, calcium carbonite and those types of resources. We also have other mineral resources, we have airspace and sea lanes. We just do not have the infrastructure in place to capture the revenue. We have to play a more significant role in the management of our resources. We are living in a time of crisis where this virus is crippling our economy. We need a properly structured sovereign wealth fund.”
He added: “It’s not about just getting a cheque. We have to dispel that myth. Our infrastructure is not where it should be. We need to ease the tax burden. We have only been in the business of taxing the working poor.”