NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A leading businessman said yesterday he was ‘very concerned’ over what a protracted COVID-19 crisis could mean for the Bahamian economy which is heavily reliant on tourism.
Franklyn Butler, CEO of the Cable Bahamas Group said: “I am very concerned. We have a dollar which is pegged 1.1 to the US dollar. That peg is generally secured by foreign reserves that are generally managed by the Central Bank. It is very concerning when you look at a country like ours that doesn’t have any tourists coming in.
“Generally we don’t have food security and we have to import a lot of our goods. We have to extend US dollars to international vendors and others. When we go through a crisis like this it undermines the Central Bank and the country’s ability to support its foreign reserves,” said Butler.
He added: “I am very concerned over the impact of a prolonged shutdown and a lack of tourism and not just in The Bahamas but globally. Tremendous damage could be done to to our economy if this thing goes on for a protracted period of time.”
Butler commended the government for efforts it has taken to hp curb the COVID-19 spread.
“I would like to commend the government and Prime Minister for the very serious and some may argue draconian measures taken to slow or prevent the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
“The sooner we can manage the spread of this we can get back to some degree of normalcy. I can say the economic impact of this if it is prolonged s a very serious concern for myself and I am sure every business out there.”
Butler also noted the the impact of the COVID-19 Emergency Orders on many retail and payment outlets further underscored the importance of digital payment platforms.
“The emergency order impacted our retail stores which did limit people’s ability to make payments rapidly,” he said.
“The Bahamian consumer still does not use a lot of digital platforms to make payments whether whether with the banks or otherwise. There was a delay in allowing money transfer businesses to operate and up until a week ago we had significant call volumes of people wanting to know how they could pay their bills and this was largely people who did not have the ability to use credit cards and make online payments.
He added: “That is an area I think all of us need to focus on. We need to look at how we really leverage digital platforms to allow the movement of money and allow people to make payments? I think that is an area of opportunity.”