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‘Nobody Will Go Hungry’: Pm’S Promise As He Warns ‘Tough Decisions’ Ahead

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said the 2020/2021 Budget his government will issue this month will reflect decisions Bahamians will find painful as COVID-19 and the response to the virus causes the unemployment rate to skyrocket and tax revenues to plummet.

Applications to the National Insurance Board show more than 25,000 people have been laid off or lost their income, he said.

“This number will likely increase,” Dr Minnis said, adding that “the unemployment rate in the near term will likely exceed an unprecedented and extraordinary 30 percent.”

However, he pledged during a national address yesterday that no Bahamian will “go hungry.”

The upcoming budget, he said, will be shaped “to match the unprecedented nature of the times we are living in,” noting that by some estimates, the country’s economy may shrink by 14 to 20 percent this year, “an historic one-year decline.”

“What I will say at that time is that your government will ensure that social welfare allocations are expanded to meet the basic food and other core needs of those economically displaced because of CVODI-19,” he said. “The upcoming budget will provide for the ongoing support of those still recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Dorian. We will ensure that no Bahamians go hungry as we weather the economic hurricane caused by COVID-19.”

“We will not sugarcoat the severity of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Some decisions we shall have to take will no doubt be uncomfortable and indeed will be painful but we cannot shirk away from making the hard decisions.”

The budget, he said, will also have provisions for expanded capital works and will seek to spur domestic private construction. The focus will be on large and small civil works “so contractors can get as much work as possible to provide jobs and commercial activity in all the islands of our archipelago.”

He said: “These expanded works will bring income to thousands of families in need during this downturn.”

Initial numbers from the Department of Treasury, he said, indicate the tax revenue for April was about half of what was collected in April 2019.

“The entire global economy is in free fall and unchartered territory,” he said. “Even the most powerful and developed countries in the world have entered into a deep recession with very high unemployment and the loss of scores of businesses, especially in services industries like tourism, hospitality and entertainment. The chief economist of the IMF has stated on economic fallout from the COVID-19 virus, ‘the magnitude and speed in collapse of activity that has followed is unlike anything experienced in our lifetimes. This is a crisis like no other.’ The IMF predicts that the economic fallout will surpass that seen during the global financial crisis a decade ago.

“Many of the businesses that closed during the lockdown are not confident they will be able to reopen once the restrictions are lifted. We are facing the stark reality that the vast majority of us have never experienced within our lifetimes…We are going to have to make very tough decisions as a country. I will continue to lay out our economic and financial reality in order for you to appreciate the gravity of the situation we are facing. We must be prepared to do things differently, both in the near term and the long term in order for us to maintain some measures of economic stability in the near term.”

Dr Minnis said of the $120m allocated to respond to COVID-19, some of the money has funded healthcare costs; tens of millions have been paid out to self-employed individuals who do not normally qualify for unemployment benefits; and loans and grants have been provided to entrepreneurs and businesses “to allow them to stay open and keep people employed.”

He said the economic recovery committee he established last month has formed a number of sub-committees, particularly ones for structural reform, Family Island development, healthcare and social capital, commerce, entrepreneurship and next generation youth engagement, agriculture, fisheries and manufacturing, environmental stewardship, labour and education, digitisation and the conceptual economy, tourism and creative orange economy and financial services.

Dr Minnis also called on the Official Opposition to put aside partisanship as his government prepares for its budget delivery later this month.

Comments

UN 3 weeks, 2 days ago

And no matter what’s going on she has to remain amongst us (every step of the way). Selfish (we all have someone to fall back on but she can’t say the same). Modern day slavery.

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joeblow 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Time for MPs and the Governor General to take a pay cut!

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hj 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Time for all government employees,politicians,consultans and other "experts" to take a pay cut or go home.

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The_Oracle 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Steep promise for a mere mortal and of no consolation for those already hungry for a few weeks of your economic folly. First Tough Decision, Half pay for Furloughed (no working) Civil servants. As delineated fro those Civil servants who do no work anyway. Cut those loose permanently. Better yet, 30% pay cut for those working, 60% for those not. Do yourself what you expect from the private sector, and what NIB is set up to do for the public.

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tetelestai 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Oracle, it appears your heart is in the right place. However, if the governmemt was.to take the measures you suggest (30/60%), our economy - and country - will be virtually destroyed, almost certainly without repair.

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DWW 3 weeks, 2 days ago

How do you make that statement? Where does Govt get the money to pay salaries for the public servants? if there ain't no blood from the private sector stone... then what?

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hj 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Easier said than done. If US dollars do not start coming in again sooner rather than later,how you plan to purchase food,medicine,gasoline and other essentials? With Bahamian dollars?

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Topdude 3 weeks, 2 days ago

I just hope and pray that the naysayers like Mudda, Tar Russell and Joe Blow can give Jack his Jacket on this one? And that Brave and his “girls” in the “PROPOSITION” rally around the Government?

Never have we seen in the history of our country a Leader, who despite having to handle so many crises on his plate, has been able to rise to the occasion with insight and panache.

I keep reminding everyone that when the history of this period in our country’s history is written for future generations to come, Hon. Prime Minister Minnis will be viewed as the one who truly shaped the destiny of our archipelago.

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ISpeakFacts 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Typical Minnis crony, Minnis hasn't done ANYTHING useful since he came into office, and these last 2 years has shown that he isn't cut for the job, Minnis is a direction-less buffoon who tries to follow whatever jargon Trump is doing

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stillwaters 3 weeks, 2 days ago

It's almost like the Prime Minister is trying to walk a rocky, dangerous road.....Nobody has walked before....and citizens are on the side of the road throwing sharp objects at him, because they want what they want, regardless of the harm to others.

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joeblow 3 weeks, 1 day ago

@Topdude... what a joke! The constructive criticism in the posts of myself and others would have this country much farther along if the PM was open to objective advice. Minnis's entire time in office has been reactive not proactive. His personal insecurities cause him to govern from a position of self preservation NOT vision. The botched debacle of Dorian, his failure to close this country after the first covid case and his failure to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season despite spending multiplied millions on other things shows he has no vision, he simply reacts! I have a pretty good idea of what competence looks like and Minnis is not (not as leader of this country)! He may have what it takes to be leader of a political party, but he simply does not have what it takes to run a country. Perry Christie is the only reason Minnis is leader of this country! Minnis is a man who tells the elderly to be at the grocery store to shop from 6-8 am when they don't open until 7 am!

BTW Brave is another cluleless wonder. Only the grace of God keeps this country afloat despite the serial dimwits that govern us!

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Godson 3 weeks, 2 days ago

But is the the Prime Minister actually saying the "people's god is their belly"?

This seem to imply that the Bahamian people can only see as far as their hunger, that is, all we want is a belly full.

This is so derogatory and patronizing.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks, 2 days ago

The corrupt political elite together with their family members and cronies, who have been revelling in the special VIP lounge on board Minnis's gravy train since May 2017, are all soon gonna find out there ain't no more gravy to be loaded on the train for them to enjoy. And fittingly so!

Minnis says don't worry, he will make sure none of 'his' people go hungry. Well I just can't imagine anyone wanting to be dependent or beholden to Minnis as the supreme ruler for their next meal. It just doesn't get any more derogatory and demeaning than that!

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ISpeakFacts 3 weeks, 2 days ago

People have been going hungry since the first lockdown thanks to his gross incompetence, some have already begun to hang themselves in the ghetto areas because they have no food or jobs to survive!!!

Minnis clearly has no idea what he's doing, his first day as the Min.of Health and he already let someone with Covid-19 into the country LMAO, but this isn't surprising considering Minnis allowed thousands of spring breakers into the country DAILY via Airplanes and Cruises, all coming from Covid-19 hotspots!!!

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Hoda 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Well all terrible things, social ills and starvation descended on** the land when minnis arrived on the scene...minnis clearly has shortcomings,possibly tells lies, but i still dont believe everything is minnis fault. Also, just cause someone doesnt hate minnis' guts and something he did in 1988 on the playground mean you are a follower or crony.

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birdiestrachan 3 weeks, 2 days ago

The problem with the PM is he lies so much. Only a real fool would believe anything he says.

LIES like VAT was s bad then raise it 60% and the list goes on.

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Honestman 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Birdie brain - there you go again with your PLP spectacles on. How many lies did the PLP subject us to during their last calamitous five year destructive term in office? Nobody in that cabinet of thieves and robbers could even spell the word TRUTH!

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hrysippus 3 weeks, 2 days ago

How do you spell "hard decisions"? Try T A X, the only question is will it be on income or Death tax also known as Estate tax. Since most of the present cabinet do not have very high income I will bet on the former.

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Godson 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Ha ha ha... Wow! I am afraid you might be right. Hard + decisions = T A X.

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thps 3 weeks, 2 days ago

All the best Doc.

But avoid making grand promises.

We've seen these before.

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DWW 3 weeks, 2 days ago

assuming 200,000 mouths to feed (half of the pop.) AT $5 per day bare minimum cost to purchase food per person = $1,000,000 a day. 1 months food cost is $30,000,000. Where is the gov't going to get this money from? Death from Conora notwithstanding the economy must be opened. Are we really going to continue like this until next year? next decade? The virus isn't going away. hide your head in the sand or face it bravely either way it is a day of reckoning. I bet all those religious folks calling to repent before the rapture are loving life right now. This is the rapture no?

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TalRussell 3 weeks, 2 days ago

However, whatever, somehow a former PLP substantive cabinet minister may have somehow singlehandedly managed to pull off plot inflict more lasting political damage by placing a single telephone call... than has the four PLP's managed to do to the 35 House elected red shirts MP's - now on the other side the four becoming House elected PLP MP's 1,097 days back?
Even with the help, their politically appointed PLP senators, has Comrade Obadiah - politically outplayed them?
A Shakespeare's twist considering this is the same four who is out to deny their PLP former substantive crown cabinet minister their party's nomination for the general election?
But is possible that if be the case 'twas real plot in making that Obadiah was not acting all PLP alone? Just can't make this up. Just,can't.

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DDK 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Did I overlook the bit about the permanent reduction of political pensions?

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks, 1 day ago

The unfunded pension entitlements for persons employed in the government sector and for the employees of government controlled entities like BPL, have been a colossal problem for decades because the pension plans have all along been unrealistically and ridiculously over-generous, greatly exceeding what would have been available anywhere in the private sector.

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John 3 weeks, 2 days ago

One good thing is the price of gas and fuel will be down for several more months, at least, so this will cut down tremendously on the import bill. And is significant efforts are made to cut the food imports bill even more by years end. The problem with the US is they are reopening so harp harzardly, it will be difficult bribery a criteria to screen tourists. And maybe if Bah Mar opens and acts temporarily like an ‘all inclusive’ resort vwhere guests are not only screened but not allowed to leave the property, except on guided tours and restricted locations. America, itself, believes a second wave of the virus will hit, maybe as early as August, or during the winter cold and flu season when it will guise itself in with the common flu. Saying that to say that making the wrong decision or a premature decision can create both more economic hardship and health concerns and even more deaths. Err on the side of caution, keep the social distancing and other measures and place and continue to operate the country in ‘districts’ so if there is an outbreak it can be contained. Both China and Japan are opening up tourists attractions and they will now set the mode. Orlando is opening one of its ‘mostly outdoor’ theme parks and so it will be watch and see

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The_Oracle 3 weeks, 1 day ago

You have to back up and realize, even though he took no portfolio he has consistently been micro managing them all. Continuing the rule by personality trap they all fall and fail into. This falls apart far more spectacularly under the kind of pressure he is under, but has largely created for himself. Time will tell. I hope for the best, but am prepared for the worst.

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TalRussell 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Ma comrade Oracle, so much a run interference demonstrated when he threatened to upstage his crown ministers that he'd be spending a week running each colony's ministries and crown corporations?
I seem to recall he did spend a couple of days running one of the crown's ministries but think was the only time but he did pull the environment portfolio out from under his environment minister...in fact, it was shifted over to the OPM, it's still run out OPM. Basically, leaves the environment minister without his environment portfolio, yeah? Can'tmake this man's up. Just, can't.**

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Godson 3 weeks, 1 day ago

What about the Minister of Immigration? Everyone was contacted and consulted on an immigration issue, ALL, except the Minister of Immigration.

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happyfly 3 weeks, 1 day ago

It is quite frankly beyond belief that we are all going to sit here and do nothing whilst this man single-handedly destroys our way of life. We are a small island nation and we have nothing to offer to anyone but a few slivers of sand and sea for tourists to come and play in. We have no industries, we have no technology, we can not feed ourselves, we have to import everything that we consume and we are massively in debt and sinking into the abyss of the complete unkown. Trusting this 'one shoe fits all' external, corrupt and manipulated WHO/new world order narrative that we can lock ourselves down and save a few lives as our only option - is the most gutless course of action that our leader can take. It is not good enough. Grow some cahoonas please sir. You know darn well that the virus will never go away so long as the USA has elected to go with herd immunity. You know there is not likely to ever be a suitable vaccine. You know that the test kits are wildly inaccurate and we do not have the resources to test or quarantine any more than a tiny fraction of the population, let alone effectively monitor our borders forever SO the time to make a tough decision is now and it is not about dealing with the death of our economy. It is about making a decision to face down this virus. Protect the vulnerable and get the strong and healthy back to work. Let those who are scared stay at home. We must not wait until we are broke and weak from starvation before we are ultimately forced to come out of our homes and confront the virus.

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Godson 3 weeks, 1 day ago

What "way of life"? We been drifting all over the place ever since Sir Lynden Pindling's demise.

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Honestman 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Fair comment Happyfly; however, even if everyone goes back to their place of work many will be left twiddling their thumbs in the absence of tourist dollars which funds the economy and government finances. Without incoming US dollars our reserves will shortly be depleted and government will not be able to provide Rupert Roberts and others with the hard currency they need to purchase imported goods. Government can continue to print money for a short while to pay civil servants and others in the public service but that will only put more pressure on the B$. The Bahamas cannot borrow its way out of this crisis given our lousy credit rating and existing level of National debt. We cannot quickly diversify our economy and, in the absence of a significant amount of foreign investment, the country is heading for the financial rocks. The only possible salvation that I can see is that we appeal to our nearest neighbour, the USA, and see if we can offer America long term investment opportunities in The Bahamas in return for emergency funding. I suspect that the price for this is that we will be asked to cease all dealings with China.

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joeblow 3 weeks, 1 day ago

… to cease all dealings with China may be the best thing that ever happened to this country!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Ditto that x 1,000,000,000,000,000, and then some!

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happyfly 3 weeks, 1 day ago

The US is heading full speed to a healthy and permanent recovery by means of herd immunity. They have finally taken the mature and scientifically proven route of protecting the vulnerable and letting the masses develop their own natural immunity to this virus so that it no longer has any power over them. And surveys say in the USA that the first thing Americans want to do when this is all over is go on vacation to a nice beach with their family. Are we going to be standing here with our arms wide open, or hiding under our beds crying for China to bail us out in exchange for whatever they can get, for giving us this virus in the first place

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