NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Opposition Leader Philip Brave 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 response, the Office of the Prime Minister said Davis’ statement was sadly mostly “fiction” and another predictable attack on the government for “his narrow self-interest”.
In a statement, the OPM said the government has offered a comprehensive program to provide the social and health welfare and economic recovery of The Bahamas.
The OPM said Davis has continued to be a partisan politician, who can only be counted on for his “willful misinterpretation of hard facts”.
The PLP task force has maintained increased testing for the virus and shoring up the surveillance unit for contact tracing, is key to curbing the spread.
Yesterday, Davis lamented that the government’s economic recovery plan was still being worked on five months into the pandemic, and reiterated criticism over the application of the emergency orders.
“The orders appeared to us to be driven by political convenience and pressure rather than science,” Davis said in a statement.
“These decisions have also hurt the domestic economy, especially in services, transportation and retail merchandizing.
“We repeatedly asked how was it that selected restaurants were approved to provide curbside services when others were denied this economic opportunity.
“The government’s abandonment of the health asset expansion plan in support of National Health Insurance is a singular and significant reason for the health care capacity crisis we are now experiencing.
“We are faced with unemployment at or around fifty percent.
“Our national economy has all but stalled and is rapidly contracting.”
On Emancipation Day, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced a nationwide lockdown for a minimum of two weeks to get a handle on a surge of cases, predominantly plaguing New Providence and Grand Bahama.
On Monday, lockdown and curfew measures were lifted for eight islands, including Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins, Long Cay, Long Island, Rum Cay, and Ragged Island.
Davis maintained lockdowns only become necessary because of “multiple government failures” and should be introduced as a last resort.
He said: “Many countries have been able to return to normal economic activity without locking down. Government incompetence during this COVID-19 pandemic has made a bad situation worse. Government incompetence is a threat and danger to the health, lives and livelihoods of our people.”
He added: “The business community and members of his parliamentary caucus have publicly advised him of the need to save the economy while protecting the lives of Bahamians and residents.
“The PLP has remained consistent in its positions that the government must save the economy while protecting public health and all measures must be evidence-based, supported by science.”
Davis again lashed the government’s handling of the country’s reopening in July.
He said the holes in the policies and the government’s mistakes ultimately led to a surge of cases of the virus.
In the first wave, mid-March through June, there were 104 cases.
In the second wave, there have been 932 cases to date.
As of yesterday, the total number of cases was 1,036.
Davis recommended the government expand the rental assistance program, transfer the food program to RISE, which he claimed has the administrative infrastructure and capacity to execute the program; and expand the competent authority to include experts in various sectors.
He also called for the regular testing of frontline workers and additional stops and checks to prevent outbreaks among the most vulnerable, including nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
At last report, there were at least 30 healthcare workers infected with COVID and 200 more in quarantine; more than 50 confirmed cases of the virus in the police force; and 12 in the defense force.
In response last night, the OPM statement 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.