Opposition calls for more COVID-19 relief
Urges govt. to address Bahamians locked out abroad
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Opposition leader Philip Davis yesterday called on the government to step in and assist persons unable to fulfill their financial commitments due to fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Davis cited estimates the country could suffer losses as high as $700 million over the next three months.
He said the projection was based on talks with former Cabinet colleagues.
However, Finance Minister K Peter Turnquest told Eyewitness News last night that figure was the Opposition’s own calculation and not the Ministry of Finance.
Davis said: “In our conversation with some of our former colleagues in Cabinet it is estimated that the loss over the next three months will be in the neighbourhood of some $ 700 million.”
The Opposition leader fielded questions on the country’s COVID-19 response during an online press conference on Sunday.
Davis called on the government to bring home Bahamians locked out aboard due to the border shutdown, or to make provisions for them to be accommodated.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced additional measures to fight against the local spread of COVID-19 on March 23. Initial measures included the closure all airports to incoming international flights carrying visitors; however, the entry restrictions were broadened to also include Bahamian citizens and residents on March 27.
As for relief measures, Davis said aid should not just cover the shutdown period, but also extended for up to five or six months.
“We would recommend that in this state of emergency, all obligations by persons that required funding should be suspended.” Davis said.
“Not just during the period of the crisis because once the crisis is over you still have the recovery period.
He continued: “For five to six months there should be some suspension of obligations and the government should be able to pick up whatever those obligations should have been for the persons involved. There should be be mortgage relief, particularly if they can’t work now because of circumstances beyond their control.”
Davis underscored the significant fall-out in the tourism sector, with thousands of workers being displaced,
“The government is going to have to come up with some sort of relief to these displaced workers,” he said.
“We are going to have in the hotel industry alone I suspect 15,000 workers between the major and not so big hotels. That has a significant toll on our economy.”
Davis also backed the reopening of liquor stores during the imposition of the COVID-19 emergency orders.
“These stores employ people that are now out of work. Them being closed and attempting to resist the temptation of opening in the time of crisis requires the resources of police to ensure that they not remain open when their service could be better deployed,” said Davis.
He also noted vendors on Arawak Cay should be allowed to offer takeout services as well, noting that fast food restaurants are being allowed to remain open and profit.
Speaking to the possibility of an extension of the COVID-19 orders, Davis said the Opposition has not been briefed on what factors would inform a decision to extend the order for 30 days.
Davis said he would support a further extension of up to nine or 14 days with further assessment made at that time.
During his national address last night, Minnis announced plans to table a resolution to extend the state of emergency, and emergency powers orders until April 8.