HOW seriously is our economy being hurt by COVID-19? Our lead story today is a telling sign.
Borrowers have asked for delays or waivers on nearly a third of the outstanding credit issued by Bahamian banks. That’s a staggering amount – almost $2bn worth of loans.
Now, the worry isn’t in the delay – and here we must praise those institutions who have been accommodating with borrowers who may have had a difficult time making repayments with their businesses shut down or after being temporarily laid off because of COVID-19.
No, the worry – as Fidelity Bank’s Gowon Bowe rightly points out – is if that inability to pay persists after the reopening.
Right now, it’s a blinking warning sign showing the scale of the potential impact of the pandemic. If things pick up again and people make their repayments, all well and good.
Think of it as the light that comes on when your gas tank is empty. If you’re able to fill it up, on you go down the road safe and sound. If there’s no gas, you can only run on empty for so long.
So how soon will there be enough gas to go around? Well, look across at the straw vendors and you’ll find another warning sign.
The straw vendors are able to get back to work on July 27, the government has announced – but the vendors themselves are asking for that date to be pushed back.
Why push it back? You would think they would be wanting to get back to work and earning money, right?
Well, they’re worried that there isn’t going to be anyone to sell to – and reopening means paying rent again. So they’ll be stuck with a debt to pay and, they fear, no income to cover the debt.
They say 95 percent of their customers come from cruise ship passengers – and they aren’t back yet. September might be the earliest they return.
So that’s the dilemma – earning enough money to pay the bills. It’s a dilemma for the customers of the banks who are seeking waivers on their debts. It’s a dilemma for the straw vendors trying to cover the cost of the rent and enough more on top to survive.
There are no easy solutions here – and a long way to go until things get better.
Not good enough
How important is an emergency? After all, the word is right there. Emergency. Something of huge importance that requires immediate action.
So one wonders how Attorney General Carl Bethel allowed his attention to wander from the fact that the emergency powers needed to be extended.
His office failed to deliver the resolution in time. In short, they dropped the ball, and he has apologised for doing so.
A new proclamation was signed in time for the curfew at the time of writing – but that might be open to legal challenge now, with Wayne Munroe ready to go to court. How confident would you be in betting on Mr Bethel winning the case when his office can’t manage to put a Post-It note on the calendar as a reminder of when to file things?
This is not the first time that Mr Bethel has failed to deliver. This isn’t anyone else’s fault, this is simply slackness. The Attorney General needs to run a tighter ship – before someone else is made its captain.