NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As federal government entities in the United States (U.S.)remain in shutdown mode, the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP’s) Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senator Fred Mitchell, on Tuesday spoke of the possible ramifications that the shutdown would have for The Bahamas.
The US government’s shutdown was the result of a dispute in which United States president Donald Trump sought to allocate $5.7 billion dollars to build a wall to separate the United States and Mexico as promised during his campaign trail.
U.S. Congress officials are adamant about not allocating the funds for such an extensive project, hence the government has shut down, forcing the closure of non-essential discretionary federal programs.
As of January 15, 2019, the shutdown was in its 25th day and had surpassed the 21-day shutdown of 1995–1996, to become the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history.
Senator Mitchell said he hopes the shutdown does not have an adverse effect on The Bahamas as the PLP, he said, has worked tirelessly to transform the tourism industry into its flourishing state.
“The lines that you see forming at the airports in the United States are a bit troublesome to me, therefore the problem is, will this have an impact on the tourist figures coming in,” Mitchell asked. “We’re having a pretty good year so far. We don’t want anything to knock us off our recovery path because the PLP did a lot to make sure tourism is where it is right now.”
Despite the unfortunate situation in the United States, Mitchell does not believe that the shutdown will have an impact on departures from The Bahamas. He added, however, that there are some things that the government must continue to surveil.
“On the out-going side, it doesn’t appear that there is any effect [but] we have to keep watching what happens on the incoming [of tourists] because I see where Bahamasair, for example, had to shift their planes from the G-concourse to the F-concourse because TSA [Transportation Security Administration] had shut down.
“So, these are issues we have to continue to watch.
“The Minister of Tourism has to keep us abreast of what’s happening with it.”
Meanwhile, in the normal budget process in the United States, Congress appropriates funds by September 30 for the following fiscal year. When that doesn’t happen, Congress enacts a continuing funding resolution. If Congress can’t agree on one, it forces a shutdown.
It signals a complete breakdown in the budget process.
On December 21, 2018, the current shutdown began at midnight.
On January 12, 2019, it became the longest shutdown in U.S. history, lasting 22 days with no end in sight.
About 380,000 non-critical employees of nine agencies have been sent home without pay. As the shutdown stretches on, many are looking for part-time work to pay bills.
The remaining 420,000 critical employees must work without a paycheck. On January 11, Congress passed a bill to reimburse federal exempt employees for lost wages once the shutdown ends.
Contract workers will not be reimbursed.
This article was written by Matthew Moxey, Eyewitness News Online Intern