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What's The 'Game Plan' For Economic Revival?

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Robert Myers

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The government must "come up with a game plan" for bringing The Bahamas out of COVID-19 lockdown and kickstarting economic recovery, a governance reformer urged yesterday.

Robert Myers, the Organisation for Responsible Governance's (ORG) principal, told Tribune Business that the government needed to lift its head from the immediate health crisis to communicate a strategy for social and economic revival once the pandemic threat had passed.

Warning that The Bahamas would immediately be threatened by other crises in COVID-19s immediate aftermath, Mr Myers said the government needed to bring both the private sector and ordinary citizens on board and give them an understanding of when business and daily life will start to open back up.

He added that all were "freaking out", and "on pins and needles", over continued near and mid-term uncertainty that could be eased if the Minnis administration collaborated with all stakeholders on a likely timeline and strategy for returning The Bahamas to some semblance of normality.

"I'd love to have greater depth on what the government is thinking," the ORG chief told this newspaper. "We've heard a lot about the current situation but nothing with regard to how we get ourselves out of this thing.

"What is the mid-term and long-term? Right now we don't fully understand the short-term plan. It would be nice to hear more on that from the Prime Minister rather than what we're shutting down, or that we're on lockdown and quarantine.

"We can't make any real plans or contingency plans until we have a better understanding from the government on what is going on... It's time the government collaborated and communicated with the people in business and the citizens of The Bahamas to create a better understanding."

Mr Myers spoke out after Carl Bethel QC, the attorney general, suggested in the Senate on Monday night that the government was seeking to open the domestic, non-tourism sectors of the Bahamian economy within two to two-and-a-half months' time if the COVID-19 pandemic can be brought under control locally.

That would place The Bahamas on course for an early to mid-June partial opening at best should this timeline prove accurate and the COVID-19 fight prove successful. However, that is also likely to mean many more businesses who are unable to hang on and keep paying their staff, which in turn places a greater strain on National Insurance Board (NIB) benefits.

The Government is today supposed to launch its $60m tax deferral and credit initiative, which is targeted at providing payroll support to medium and large-sized businesses who meet the criteria, in an effort to save 10,000 jobs and keep them off the NIB queue. The details for the initiative have yet to be released by the Ministry of Finance.

While declining to comment directly on the timeline provided by Mr Bethel, Mr Myers yesterday said the Government also has yet to publicly release any further details on the economic advisory body unveiled by Dr Hubert Minnis as a forum that will plot The Bahamas' course to recovery.

"That sort of thing is as urgent as the health crisis," he said, "because that is going to cause two more crises - that's a financial crisis, and a social instability crisis. If we don't start planning for the inevitable we're going to have deeper problems.

"That's what I'd like to hear more about: When we're going to do what, and how we're going to get ourselves out of this thing. We all know we're in a hole, but what's the plan in terms of recovery, stimulus, and all those things - generating new foreign direct investment, stimulating foreign direct investment and local investment?

"I think the Prime Minister and the Government have to understand that the private sector and citizen sentiment is critical, and that that is going to be a product of their communication. That has to be a priority at some time. They're not just managing a health crisis," Mr Myers explained.

"Citizens want to know when they're getting back to work, as well as how much they're going to spend and how much they're going to save to deal with their situation. Beyond the shutdown the Government has to communicate what it sees, as are other governments. What will the timelines be?"

Mr Myers emphasised that none of what he said was trying to be "antagonistic" or controversial, but rather to ensure that the Government brought all stakeholders on board to ensure The Bahamas' economic revival was as rapid as possible post-COVID-19.

He added that the Government had all the necessary health, economic and financial data that the private sector and citizens do not have access to, and suggested that this should be released so that the private sector and individuals can chart their own recovery plans.

"They're [the Government] doing the best they can, but we're all sitting on pins and needles waiting to find out and figure out what's going on," Mr Myers told Tribune Business. ""They can probably do better by pulling in more people from the private sector to help them get through this. The rest of us are not in the know.

"We're not expecting them to get through it on their own. It's all our problem. It's not just the Government's. It belongs to all of us as Bahamian citizens. The Government needs to recognise it can pull on all these resources to come up with a game plan. We're all freaking out and on pins and needles trying to figure out what's going on.

"We need to pull on all the assets the country has to offer, get the smartest minds in the room and let's figure this out. We must understand what the timeline looks like? If Carl Bethel is talking an=bout details, let's hear all of it, get involved and collaborate."

Comments

SP 6 months, 3 weeks ago

As the saying goes "mouth can say anything"!

Robert Meyers needs to identify these "other governments which have communicated what they can see and know timelines to recovery from the covid19 pandemic.

What government has told citizens "when they're getting back to work, as well as how much they're going to spend and how much they're going to save to deal with their situation"?

President Trump is the sole individual that was ignorant enough to state that he wanted to see churches full for Easter on April 12th while covid19 has nowhere near peaked in America today April 8th.

Not one country on the planet regardless of financial status has even remotely attempted to predict any recovery whatsoever, but Robert expects the Bahamas government to do what nobody else could.

PM Minnis is in uncharted waters doing the best he can and has already said he needs help brainstorming a new direction for the country. What we all should be doing is trying to think of suggestions to put forward to the government of how to utilize proven best practices on how to make the country more self-sufficient so we are less dependant on foreigners for survival.

Jamaica and the Dominican Republic might be worthwhile case studies as both countries have done commendable jobs of moving towards more self-sufficiency, especially in food production and owning bigger shares of their tourism product.

This is not the time for whining. We all need to put our collective heads together and HELP the Prime Minister stir the country to the best recovery possible that benefits the most of our people the fastest. The more people we leave behind, the more crime and other social ills we create for ourselves to deal with in the short and long terms!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 6 months, 3 weeks ago

All fine and dandy except that Minnis has repeatedly demonstrated he's arrogant, nasty and pig headed. As such, he's not inclined to heed the sound advice of anyone but his dumber than dumb closest loyal supporters. It hasn't even sunk into Minnis's thinking yet that this Red China Virus is going to impose transformational changes on our economy, standard of living and quality of life for many generations to come. And, frankly, no matter how much praise we may send his way, he just doesn't have upstairs what it will take to navigate us through the perilous uncharted waters that lie ahead.

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SP 6 months, 3 weeks ago

one of the very first low hanging fruits we should capitalize on is unnecessary expat workers. Foreigners holding jobs that Bahamians can do was the focus of conversation a few short weeks ago. With unemployment now heading north of 20%, a stalled economy, and significantly reduction in hard currency due the fall of tourism, we simply can no longer afford the accompanying multifaceted economlc drain on the local economy caused by expat workers.

It was revealed that over 20,000 expats were in the country occupying employment that Bahamians should have. If these jobs were made available to Bahamians, a profound immediate, badly needed stimulus to the economy would result, as these people spend monies locally compared to expats that spend as little as possible to survive, and repatriate the majority of earnings to home countries either to support families or invest in homes and businesses back home.

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concerned799 6 months, 2 weeks ago

You know its been required to justify work permits for decades now right? There's a reason permits are just for specialized or in demand fields or otherwise of benefit.

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Baha10 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Our biggest issues in pulling ourselves out of this mess entail inherent dishonesty, poor work ethic and a “D” average work force ... which together with a historical lack of accessible capital make solutions from the very few entrepreneurial brains extremely hard to come up with, much less implement.

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sheeprunner12 6 months, 3 weeks ago

We rode the Stafford Sands model for 70 years with little deviation or diversification ……… time to change OR go back to our pre World War One lifestyle.

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BahamaPundit 6 months, 3 weeks ago

CANNABIS!!! Crop should be planted and growing during this down time.

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ThisIsOurs 6 months, 3 weeks ago

seriously. we really need more people with compromised lungs? And yes I know, what about medicinal marijuana. Lets all cut the bull crap we know the conversation about growing marijuana has and always will be about recreational use. They will pull the same switcharoo the gaming people did...something to the effect...well if you allow one kind it's difficult to police the other so we've regulated both.. and look at all the taxes we'll collect!

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concerned799 6 months, 2 weeks ago

We allow smoking, so no reason why no pot.

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truetruebahamian 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Other countries are in the same position, and it would be good to know what plans they have in the works so that we can put together forward action rather than following at the tail end of reasonable and successful models being conceived and acted upon by those same others.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Re-post:

The people of a country are subject to physical death at some point in their lives. That's just a given. But their country itself is also vulnerable to fiscal death from sudden economic shocks at anytime. And the people never fare well when their country has died. That's just another given.

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