NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Office of the Prime Minister yesterday fired back at criticisms leveled by the Leader of the Opposition over the government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
The OPM accused Opposition leader Philip Davis’ of issuing “false, misleading” statements during a time of “extreme strain”, adding the ‘failure of substance’ puts all Bahamians at risk.
The statement furthered it was no time for political gamesmanship, adding Davis’ statement “absent of the facts, logic and commonsense”.
“Families are hurting. Jobs are being lost. Businesses are fighting to survive,” the OPM statement read.
“The Government has had to borrow to ensure the country’s sustainability during the terrible economic shock because of COVID-19. This is a time when we should be coming together as one, not issuing false, misleading statements.
“The Leader of the Opposition’s statement released [yesterday] is sadly mostly fiction, and the same meandering thinking has led him to continuously flip flop as the Government put in place health measures to save and protect lives.”
For his part, Davis blasted the government today over its failure to deliver a comprehensive plan to address the country’s “rapidly contracting” economy as COVID-19 crisis deepens.
According to Davis, the government has largely ignored the strategies put forward by the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) COVID-19 task force.
In its statement, the OPM insisted Davis has been asked to “attend meetings, offer suggestions and participate as a Bahamian leader, not as a partisan politician”.
The statement continued: “Sadly, the only things we have been able to count on from the Opposition are partisan politics and willful misinterpretation of hard facts.
“In this crisis the Leader of the Opposition has not demonstrated an interest in being involved in the hard work of governance.
“Leadership is about doing and working with others toward a common goal. The Leader of the Opposition has only been interested in attacking the Government of the Bahamian people for his narrow self-interest.”
The OPM said the government has offered a comprehensive program to provide the social and health welfare and economic recovery of The Bahamas.
It outlined the government’s efforts to shore up the healthcare infrastructure amid the pandemic, increase bed capacity, partner with the private sector to manage the health crisis; implement a food security program that has assisted over 110,000 people; and appoint an economic recovery committee to propose bold plans, which helped to form the government 2020/2021 budget.
The statement pointed to the National Coordinating Committee for COVID-19, a cross section of senior public officers, and representatives of industries, civil society, labour and the clergy, that was established “early in the pandemic”.
According to the OPM, this committee “aided in the immediate reopening of every aspect of our country following the lockdown”.
The Economic Recovery Committee’s first recommendations were utilized during the formation of the 2020/21 National Budget, according to the statement, which noted detailed recommendations are expected in September.
Noting there has been no firings across the public service, the OPM stated 36,813 people have received a total of $84.2 million through the National Insurance Board’s Unemployment Benefit programme since March 23, 2020.
Under the Government’s Self-Employed Assistance Programme, NIB was able to pay 7,183 individuals a total of $15.5 million, according to the statement.
As for the National Food Distribution Programme, the OPM statement revealed 30,649 households were registered as of Tuesday.
The statement noted the government injects $1 million per week to support the program, in addition to existing social services programs.
It further noted the Tax Credit and Tax Deferral Employee Retention Programme through which medium- and large-sized businesses with 25 employees or more were able to receive tax credits/deferrals of up to $600,000 for three months to service non-tax payroll.
As of July 20, the Department of Inland Revenue approved $18 million in tax credits.
The OPM statement noted $38,681,769 was approved in grants and seven-year term loans for small businesses through the Small Business Development Centre.
A total of $25,908,632.04 has been disbursed to 541 companies; and of this amount, $3.1 million are grants.
The OPM also pointed to the increase in budget allocations for utility subventions to the Water & Sewerage Corporation and BPL to help with payment waivers for those impacted by COVID-19.
The allocation for the 2020/21 Budget is $20 million.
The statement read: “The Government is standing shoulder to shoulder with every Bahamian as we fight this pandemic.
“The Leader of the Opposition’s statement ignores the hard work of the Government in this extraordinary crisis. That he would issue a statement in these times absent of the facts, logic and commonsense is disappointing.
“The Prime Minister and his Government spend every day focused on bringing solutions to the real-life emergencies COVID-19 has caused Bahamians. This is not the time for political gamesmanship.
The statement added: “The Leader of the Opposition is again invited to join with the Government and Bahamians of goodwill to help those in need. It is not too late for him to change course, lay down his political ambitions for a moment and do the right thing.