Min of State for Finance breaks down govt’s COVID-19 economic response plan

Min of State for Finance breaks down govt’s COVID-19 economic response plan
Minister of State for Finance Kwasi Thompson speaks during a press conference on Monday, December 21, 2020. (BIS PHOTO/ULRIC WOODSIDE)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance J Kwasi Thompson yesterday provided a breakdown of the government’s spending for COVID-19 response initiatives and noted that the government has identified five “key things” it aims to achieve to restore the country’s macroeconomic growth.

Speaking at a press conference held “to provide a deeper understanding” of the 2020 Fiscal Strategy Report that was tabled in the House of Assembly last week, Thompson said the government provided $17.2 million in food support since the start of the pandemic response through October.

“With the tremendous support of non-governmental partners, this helped to feed over 140,000 families,” Thompson noted.

He also said the government has planned an additional $10 million to support rapid food distribution to the end of December.

Thompson noted that included in the over $177 million the government has spent through the end of October 2020 on its “comprehensive COVID-19 response” was: $44.4 million in tax credit and tax deferrals that “funded the payrolls for nearly 7,000 private-sector employees”; and $47.3 million in small business grants and continuity loans through the Access Accelerator Small Business Development Center “to protect nearly 4,500 jobs in the small business sector”.

He said: “We (the government) have already committed more than $60 million in additional direct funding to support our essential unemployment programs, food assistance programs and other efforts from November into the New Year.”

The five key steps the government must take “to restore the nation’s economy for sustainable and inclusive macroeconomic growth” were outlined in a Ministry of Finance press statement as: “Continue the dynamic COVID-19 response — this will ensure that the government provides the necessary safety net and support to the vulnerable and avoid a collapse of the economy.

“Recalibrate public finances to reduce spending, achieve revenue sufficiency and curtail the need for future borrowing — this will bring stability to the public finances and allow the government to focus on its medium-term goals.

“Build economic resilience beyond the pandemic — this will allow the government to shore up its defenses to confront future health and climate-related challenges that could pose serious threats to the nation’s macroeconomic sustainability.

“Optimize the government’s debt management to ensure ongoing debt sustainability — the government needs to maintain access to markets, at reasonable terms, for its ongoing strategic financing needs.

“Manage the ongoing fiscal risks proactively — here it is critical that the government continually monitor those risks that could threaten the goal of achieving fiscal sustainability.”

Thompson said: “Implemented together, these actions will ensure that the government has sufficient resources and flexibility to meet the opportunities and challenges of governance for today and into the future, and they will also foster a stable and dynamic macroeconomic environment that can stimulate growth.”