NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamian government officials have advised regional bodies that approximately 40 percent of Bahamians could be unemployed “in coming months” as a result of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The revelation, included in the latest Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), comes as thousands of Bahamians have been sent home from work, unsure of when they could return.
The country has confirmed 41 cases of COVID-19 in the country, six on Grand Bahama, 33 in New Providence, and one from Bimini.
Eight people have died from the virus to date.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has previously said the country will have to face an economic battle after it fights off COVID-19.
The National Insurance Board (NIB) is bracing for a ‘major draw down’ on it resources to the tune of at least an additional $16 million per month to fund unemployment assistance programmes.
Companies across the country have laid off employees, including major hotels. Atlantis’ staff count was more than 7,000, and Baha Mar layoffs impacted 6,500.
The government’s state of emergency and emergency orders have mandated business establishments to work from home and businesses whose operations were unable to do so were forced to shut their doors.
In an op-ed cowritten by Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization this week, the duo pointed to a false dilemma in ‘’the trade-off between saving lives and saving jobs’.
“Our joint appeal to policymakers, especially in emerging market and developing economies, is to recognise that protecting public health and putting people back to work go hand-in-hand,” the piece noted.
Georgieva said that the demand for IMF financing has skyrocketed amidst the global pandemic, with some 85 countries requesting IMF emergency funding.
“As financing to support severely constrained public budgets reaches the countries in need, our joint plea is to place health expenditures at the top of the priority list,” the op-ed added.
“Paying salaries to doctors and nurses, supporting hospitals and emergency rooms, establishing make-shift field clinics, buying protective gear and essential medical equipment, carrying out public awareness campaigns about simple measures like hand washing – these are critical investments to protect people against the pandemic.”
“…They come in addition to – not as a substitute for – health spending, and aim to provide targeted support to most-affected households and firms, including cash transfers, wage subsidies, and short-time work, strengthening unemployment benefits and social safety nets, and limiting the rise in borrowing costs.”
According to data released by the Department of Statistics in January, joblessness nationally increased from 10 percent to 10.7 percent.
The latest Labour Force Survey reflected the period October 28, 2018, through November 4, 2018.