NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government’s COVID-19 Coordinating Committee is drafting plans to gradually re-open the Bahamian economy in five phases, according to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
Minnis said the National COVID-19 Coordinating Committee co-chaired by Dr Pearl McMillan, Chief Medical Officer and Matt Aubry, Executive Director of the Organisation for Responsible Governance (ORG), has been meeting regularly to provide recommendations on a full range of matters related to the pandemic.
The prime minister noted that the government has started to reopen small parts of the economy to allow Bahamians and residents to access hardware and auto- parts, among other items.
“Any further reopening will be guided by the advice of our health professionals,” said Minnis.
He said: “Even as we look and plan to open back up – we will not and cannot establish a fixed timetable that says we will do this particular thing on one date and another on another date. While the Government establishes plans, the general timing of the phased reopening recommended by the Coordination Committee, will be predicated upon metrics and guidelines by health officials.
“As in other jurisdictions, we must also have the flexibility to make changes quickly and to tighten restrictions if the numbers do not move in the right direction. Our airport and seaport partners – as well as the hospitality industry – are themselves working with their counterparts around the world to develop international and regional standards for the transportation and lodging of individuals in the COVID-19 landscape.”
He said: “We will review these standards and accept those that we feel are appropriate for The Bahamas. We will also as necessary implement our own specific standards where we feel various regional or international standards do not match our reality.”
On Sunday, the Cabinet Office announced the establishment of the Economic Recovery Committee which will make recommendations to the Cabinet on the long-term economic recovery of The Bahamas economy, including job-creation and stimulating small business recovery and development in response to COVID-19.
The committee will focus on restoring the macroeconomy; restarting a competitive business environment; economic diversification; tourism and transport; financial services and labor.
The co-chairs of the committee are Acting Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson and businessman Ken Kerr, CEO, Providence Advisors.
“I have charged the Economic Committee with thinking boldly and creatively in its deliberations. We are in a new era, so we must think in new ways and think outside of the narrow confines of what is necessary or possible.,” said Dr Minnis.
Noting the devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on tourism which he described as the “heart” of the Bahamian economy, Dr Minnis said that “in the interim while travel has stopped we must explore what else we can do to make it through in these difficult times”.
He said: “This is not the time to be timid. What are needed are ideas that can generate economic activity and trade, and a pathway to those ideas that is doable. This Committee must think quickly, as we are in the crisis now. Ideas from all existing sectors should be reviewed. Ideas in sectors we are not yet in must also be pursued. We must use our individual and collective Bahamian imagination for greater self- reliance.
“We will continue to promote and to encourage the manufacturing of local products. The new face mask industry is doing well, and by some estimates may be valued between six to nine million dollars a year.”
Minnis also thanked Bahamians and residents for their suggestions and ideas, noting more than 1,700 suggestions have been submitted to the suggestions platform.