Govt. seeking $4 million contingency fund for coronavirus response

Govt. seeking $4 million contingency fund for coronavirus response
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K Peter Turnquest (file photo)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K Peter Turnquest revealed the government plans to use an additional $4 million from the Contingency Fund to support the Ministry of Health’s response to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

To date, there remains no suspected, reported or confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to officials.

Turnquest said his ministry is in talks over contingency plans to mitigate potential economic and fiscal fall-out as he delivered his mid-term budget statement.

The $100 million loan that established the Contingency Fund was signed in April 2019 with the Inter-American Development Bank.

Some $25m has already been dispersed from the contingency fund to cover public expenses arising from Hurricane Dorian.

The finance minister underscored the current global outbreak of COVID-19 “is creating an immediate threat to the safety of our citizens and the near term performance of our economy”.

“With approximately 3,115 deaths and over 90,000 cases recorded in 73 countries and territories globally as of this past Monday, the novel Coronavirus poses a number of downside risks to the macroeconomic landscape, both globally and domestically,” he continued.

“Given the serious health impact of the virus on individuals, and the understandable concerns of people everywhere, this outbreak poses serious potential risks to global trade and travel.

“This is of particular importance to The Bahamas, as our economic livelihood is heavily dependent on both trade and travel.”

He continued: “In line with the efforts of a number of other governments and regulatory bodies, this administration is taking precautionary measures to protect its citizens, and its borders from this outbreak.

“While the threat of the virus reaching our waters is effectively being managed, we will continue to exercise an abundance of caution to ensure that we mitigate this growing risk. In fact, the Ministry of Finance has already began to discuss and develop contingency plans to address the potential economic and fiscal fallout.”

Turnquest further noted the Ministry of Finance is presently processing a Contingency Fund Application for the Ministry of Health in the sum of $4 million to provide direct support for the ministry in its efforts to ensure that the country is “as ready as it can be” in the face of the emergent health crisis.

He said: “Among other things, this funding will be used to expand preparation of quarantine and isolation facilities; to purchase protective gear for health workers and medical supplies for infected persons; to provide funding for ground transportation and air ambulance services for quarantined and infected persons as may be necessary; and to fund the expansion of health care facilities via temporary arrangements should same become necessary.”

“It is important for all Bahamians to understand that in respect to the Coronavirus outbreak, the government places the safety and welfare of all citizens and residents as its very top priority.

Turnquest added: “Thus, while the immediate additional funding allocation is for $4 million, the government will assess the situation as it evolves. If necessary, the government will supplement this funding to provide whatever resources are required to avoid, or in worse case, to minimize the infection and the spread of the virus throughout the population.”