PLP Leader Philip "Brave" Davis.
By FARRAH JOHNSON
Official Opposition Leader Philip “Brave” Davis yesterday called on the government to implement a reimbursement plan for hotels so they can continue to pay workers amid the COVID-19 crisis.
He also urged the government to allow the liquor stores to resume operations and called on the Minnis administration to allow Bahamians who may be stuck overseas to return home.
During a virtual press conference, Mr Davis shared a number of recommendations the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) believes would help bring economic relief to citizens during the pandemic.
“As the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis intensifies, we will continue to call for economic relief for the most vulnerable and marginalised among us who continue to be hardest hit by this crisis,” he said.
“I suggested to the prime minister to negotiate a reimbursement plan for the payment of salaries by hotel employers to their displaced workers to avoid interruption with their salaries. Some of the qualifying conditions for NIB benefits should be revisited as workers in the retail sectors continue to complain about access and eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits.
“The economic relief package to small and medium sized businesses should also be revisited to include public grants to stave off any further stalling of the economy,” he added.
“The spirits industry should be allowed to operate in the manner as food stores and take away restaurants. This will save the jobs of many who have been laid off, while easing the added pressure on law enforcement officers to police these establishments.”
Mr Davis insisted that the party’s number one concern was the poor and said that additional measures must be taken to address the “social needs” of citizens in the crisis as it relates to “food, income protection, mortgage and debt relief and rental support.”
“The opposition also takes the position it should have access to the medical expert advice that the Cabinet is privy to - the advice that is informing the government's policy on the COVID-19 crisis,” he said.
“As a matter of fact, all branches of government should be briefed by the government's medical experts.”
As it relates to the country’s latest travel restrictions, Mr Davis said that Bahamians abroad should be allowed to return home, even if they are required to enter self-quarantine for a “period of time” upon their arrival.
On Friday, the government closed its borders to incoming commercial flights, leaving some Bahamians overseas in limbo.
“I sent a note to the prime minister and the attorney general yesterday in connection to that...if other countries can come in and pick up their nationals why can’t we allow our nationals just to come home?
“If these persons are in what I call the non-infected areas…I think our responsibility is to our citizens and we have the duty to protect our citizens wherever they are and to come to their aid whenever they are in distress or in need. And in this instance where we have this global crisis, every country is looking out for their citizens wherever they are and we have to do the same here.”
Mr Davis insisted the government must come up with initiatives to bring relief to displaced workers.
“In the hotel industry alone, I suspect about 15,000 workers between the major hotels and the not so big hotels that are now on the unemployment line (and) that has a significant toll on our economy,” he said.
“...It’s (also) estimated that the loss over the next three months will be in the (range) of some $700m and so there has to be some effort to bring relief for that loss.”
He added: “We would recommend that this being a state of emergency, all obligations by persons that require funding are to be suspended (but) not just the period of the crisis because once the crisis is over, we still have what I call the recovery period. (So) for at least five to six months there should be some suspension of obligations and the government should be able to pick up whatever those obligations would have been for the persons involved.”
Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest is expected to announce additional relief measures in the House of Assembly today.