SIGNIFICANT IMPACT: UNDP report projects $7.5B in losses due to Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19 pandemic

SIGNIFICANT IMPACT: UNDP report projects $7.5B in losses due to Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19 pandemic
(FILE)

Report projects social and economic development will “likely be inhibited for years to come”

NASSAU, BAHAMAS —  The combined macro-level economic impact of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic on The Bahamas is projected to inflict losses of $7.5 billion, according to a recent study commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The report, titled the “Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic on Micro, Small and Mid-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in The Bahamas (SEIA)” was released last month and gives fresh insight into the twin tragedies.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on MSMEs, which had to change many dimensions of their business activities, are comparable to the impacts caused by Hurricane Dorian.

– UNDP report

The report provides an assessment of the social and economic impact and efficacy of post-Dorian and COVID support programmes on those businesses, as well as recommendations for policy development to improve resiliency, promote social and economic recovery and mitigate the impact of future disaster on MSMES.

It acknowledges that the unprecedented scope of the crises and the proximity of timing between the two events, as well as data limitations, present a complex and challenging situation to the Bahamian government as it works to develop policies.

The University of The Bahamas North courtyard in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.

“In less than 12 months after the hurricane, the COVID-19 pandemic brought social and movement restrictions resulting in economic shutdowns,” the report read.

“Significant damage to the national and local economies have been incurred.

“In addition to the costs and toll to the national health systems, food security issues have been widespread, and countless livelihoods affected.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to unfold and supply and demand markets are continually challenged, the impact to The Bahamas’ social and economic systems continues to grow in scope and complexity.

“The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on micro, small and medium enterprises, which had to change many dimensions of their business activities, are comparable to the impacts caused by Hurricane Dorian.

“To date, the combined macro-level economic impact of both crises is projected to inflict losses of $7.5 billion or 60 percent of the Bahamian GDP.

“As a result, social and economic development will likely be inhibited for years to come.”

Hurricane Dorian hit the country in September 2019 and is estimated to have generated damages and losses of $3.4 billion in The Bahamas.

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The uncertainty of the future limits the capacity to plan recovery and rebuilding efforts.

– UNDP report

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In the aftermath of the deadly Category 5 storm, and with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government implemented several programmes to provide relief and assistance, including the MSME Business Disaster Recovery Program and interventions from international NGOs and institutional partners.

“The uncertainty of the future limits the capacity to plan recovery and rebuilding efforts,” the report noted.

“This is made even more difficult with The Bahamas’ dependence on tourism for economic activity.

“The strategies to stem the spread of the disease through restrictions in inter and intra-country movement have significantly impacted The Bahamas’ annual revenue.”

It noted that while the government had allocated millions in spending for social support, that may not be sufficient to address the current and growing needs in The Bahamas.

The report was commissioned by the UNDP and UNDP SURGE Data Hub, Country Support Management Team and Crisis Bureau, working in partnership with the Ministry of Finance, the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) and the Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG).

About Sloan Smith

Sloan Smith is a senior digital reporter at Eyewitness News, covering a diverse range of beats, from politics and crime to environment and human interest. In 2018, Sloan received a nomination for the “Leslie Higgs Feature Writer of The Year Award” from The Bahamas Press Club for her work with Eyewitness News.