Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis addresses the nation on Wednesday.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis warned yesterday that tough times are ahead for the Bahamian economy and that Bahamians must be ready for “generational changes” to the country’s economic structure after the COVID-19 crisis ends.
He said he will convene a group of experts to provide ideas and help create a masterplan for rebuilding the economy.
He spoke during a press conference in which he also revealed that Bimini resident Kim Johnson-Rolle is the first confirmed COVID-19 death in the country.
“Joblessness is on the rise across the globe and here at home,” he said. “The economic crisis is severe for The Bahamas. Our economy is based on tourism. The world has closed its borders. “We have closed our borders…with no tourists coming to our shores now and into the foreseeable future, tough times are here and ahead of us. This is one of the greatest challenges to the world economy in most of our lifetimes. We do not know how long this will last…as we had to assume great authority through the Emergency Powers Act, my government will have to make major changes to our economy.
“Tourism, which has carried us so well for so long, is in a state of suspension due to the virus. When it comes back to The Bahamas we must be ready to welcome the world to our shores. However, no one knows when that will be. As a people, we have to be ready to shift how we operate.”
Dr Minnis noted that Finance Minister Peter Turnquest has announced relief for those hurt by the virus, measures which he said are worth “tens of millions of dollars in various types of assistance.”
“I urge everyone in need to make use of the initiatives that include food assistance, unemployment benefits, loans and tax credits and deferrals,” he said. “We will also shortly be making an announcement about rental assistance.”
Dr Minnis also said that by the end of the week, the government will release a supermarket schedule to reduce the number of people on lines and in stores.
On Tuesday, National Insurance Minister Brensil Rolle said 17,000 applications for unemployment benefits have been submitted because of the COVID-19 crisis.
This figure does not include laid off hotel workers, who are being processed separately.