NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities in the social and economic structure of countries across the region, a Bahamian economist and Harvard University professor said yesterday.
Dr Peter Blair called for a ‘deliberate strategy’ towards economic diversification during a Caribbean Economic Forum on Tuesday night.
Blair pushed back against the notion that country’s such as The Bahamas are ‘locked in’ to tourism, with the pandemic being the latest crisis to underscore the need for economic diversification.
“As a region we have made very specific investments in tourism,” Blair said.
“We have recruited mega resorts across the Caribbean. Tourism is a deliberate strategy. In the same way we need to have a deliberate strategy to diversify our economy.”
Blair underscored the country’s investment in tourism is a deliberate strategy, and pointed to the need to exploit natural resources.
“We can choose to invest in other things. It takes strategy, it takes guts,” he said.
He acknowledged The Bahamas is still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Dorian.
“What COVID-19 has done is exposed some of the vulnerabilities in the ways in which our economies have historically been structured,” he continued.
“This is a great moment amid this global pause for us to sit back, reflect and say why these countries exist, for whose benefit and how are they structured to ensure the safety and prosperity of their own people.”
He said: “Amid the crisis there is an opportunity for us to reflect as individual countries and more broadly as regional counterparts in terms of coming up with national development plans and strategies for really advancing the future of the people of the Caribbean. I see a lot of opportunity to start from zero and really build up a stronger and more vibrant Caribbean.
Blair said the COVID-19 crisis is “unlike any we have seen before”; however, he noted that the crisis has also presented many opportunities.
“The world is changing and innovation is leading that change,” he said.
Blair said the government and private sector each have a role to play in economic development.
“Government can create the legislative and fiscal environment to allow businesses to thrive. In the current crisis, government also has to keep an eye on public safety,” he added.