By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
CHAMBER of Commerce CEO Jeffrey Beckles believes the best way for Bahamians to help the economy grow right now is to comply with COVID-19 protocols, shop at home and vacation domestically.
Mr Beckles, speaking to The Tribune yesterday, said due to the rise in new cases of COVID-19, the fear of another lockdown is widespread in the community and would be devastating for the economy.
"I think the entire community is concerned with the recent increases in new COVID-19 cases," he said. "That gives rise to additional fears of lockdowns, etc. So I think it's more than just the business community. In fact any additional shutdowns right now will be harsh on the business community. I think that underscores the need for us to continue employ Bahamians everywhere.
"Do your part and comply. As the Chamber has advocated from the onset of the pandemic, the best thing that you can do to protect the economy is to comply and don't take risks with this pandemic because there is so much that is unknown about it and it is proving to be very, very dangerous."
Mr Beckles is hopeful that the trend in new cases does not continue. Businesses, he said, are taking the necessary COVID-19 preventative protocols very seriously.
"Well we have to give credence to the fact that the Chamber in conjunction with its members and the wider community worked very, very closely with the government, the Ministry of Health, policy makers and other stakeholders to ensure that the various sectors were opened in a very safe way," he noted. "And, we continue to monitor that and we continue to encourage businesses to take the necessary safety precautions that have been agreed to in order to assure that they have as much mitigation of any potential transfer of the disease. We are now opened and just about every business is up and running. We continue to see businesses take the necessary protocols very seriously."
Grand Bahama has gotten attention, lately, because of circulating videos with young people at parties with no masks on and a spike in new cases since last week, after a two month lull. The Chamber CEO said the community should protect the livelihood of thousands of Bahamians and the thousands of businesses in the country by simply adhering to the COVID-19 protocols.
"Where we now need to focus our attention as a wider community is now that we have gone and had this lockdown for three months, we've had people laid off, we've now gotten business and commerce and trade started again we must now do everything in our power to protect the work of the many hundreds of Bahamians and thousands of business owners," he added. "How do we best protect that? We protect that by complying, by encouraging our neighbours and our colleagues to not take unnecessary risks with dealing with COVID-19.
"I think that is the best response we can possibly have as a country. And, then we can't discount the fact that every other country is going through the same challenge. There are economic pressures that are mounting in every jurisdiction in the world. So the Bahamas is not unique, but what could make us unique is how we respond as a people to the threat of this pandemic."
Asked what would another lockdown do to the economy, Mr Beckles said the impact would be devastating.
"Well I think if you look at what it has done to our economy already you would see we have taken a huge shock and the impact has been felt deeply and widely," he said. "It is natural to conclude that any further shock to our economy is going to be devastating. There is no doubt about that. So it just goes without saying if we have to suffer another shock, be it from COVID, or from a hurricane or some other natural disaster, that can have some devastating impact on us.
"So it's fair to say that it will significantly impactful on our economy and our way of life, in general. If you don't have to travel, then please do not travel. There are other means by which we can find access to supplies and materials and so forth. If you need to vacate then do so domestically. Go to Acklins, Crooked Island, San Salvador, Eleuthera or Long Island. If we need stuff from the United States or Canada or wherever else we buy things from, we can do it online for the time being if we can't find it at home. Don't take the risk."