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Insight: When There Is No Other Choice, You Play The Hand You Have

Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest.

Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest.

By MALCOLM STRACHAN

THE Bahamas is one of the most beautiful places on earth – charismatic people, pink sands and crystal blue waters - and attracts millions of tourists a year. Our natural beauty also enables citizens in the private sector to earn an income and put food in their families’ mouths. When a global pandemic snatches all of that away, we have seen that our gift is also our curse in some respects.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest’s announcement of how much revenue has been lost in mere months during the fight against this pandemic presents a horrifying picture of what’s to come unless we do something about it. With the country’s revenue contracting by $251.4m in the first fiscal quarter, or 45.5 percent, we need something drastic to happen. We have already had to make significant outlays to decrease government debt, repair islands destroyed by Hurricane Dorian and now, in a global pandemic, we need some way to replenish our coffers.

“The safe reopening of our economy remains one of the most urgent priorities, and we must work together to follow public health protocols and adapt our businesses to better contain the spread of the virus,” said the Deputy Prime Minister.

He added: “The government is making sizeable outlays to respond to this crisis, and we are doing so in areas that can make the largest impact on the welfare of people: unemployment assistance, social support and small business assistance.”

Certainly, fighting this crisis from a public health standpoint has been an onerous undertaking. As cases continue to rise and our capacity remains under siege, one may say that the choice has already been made for us. The best we can hope for is it is done methodically and efficiently. To this end, the Ministry of Tourism’s press conference over the weekend should have instilled confidence in the citizenry that a strategic approach has been taken.

Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar’s admission we did not get things right a few months ago and some of the new information given is an encouraging sign that we may be able to receive tourists safely and grease the wheels of the economy once again.

Abandoning nonsensical measures such as a 14-day quarantine for travellers was a smart move, as the idea was a total deterrent for any prospective visitor. In its place, travellers will have to apply for a health visa inclusive of a negative RT-PCR test no more than five days old, and starting on November 14, the purchase of COVID-19 health insurance. Additionally, if guests are staying in the country beyond five days, on the fifth day, they would be required to take a rapid antigen test. Though not perfect, it provides a viable solution for what we need right now – heads in beds.

While the advice by local medical experts challenges the notion that testing at ports of entry is not needed, we understand the government is far more sensitive to deterring travel as the logistics of such an undertaking would be more complex in an archipelagic nation with multiple ports of entry. However, as demand and reduced airlift gives us the ability to focus on Grand Bahama and New Providence, we still would have liked to have seen this measure included in the new protocols.

Nonetheless, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar has expressed confidence we are in a position to get things right this time around. We certainly hope that is the case, as we could not imagine what would happen if our major resorts cannot open. And while much of the conversation focuses on hotel employees, there are many individuals who depend on restaurants, excursions and other hospitality businesses for their livelihoods.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization recently announced that since the global contraction of the tourism industry, there has been $730bn in lost tourism revenue compared with last year in the face of a 70 percent decline in travel demand for 2020. With most experts projecting a third quarter of 2021 for a rebound, all of this is contingent on how well we manage COVID-19 in tandem with the success of our hospitality industry and these new protocols.

No doubt, the government has been roundly criticised for opening when and how it did in July. Now, however, we have no choice and no other option but to do so safely and successfully. For as long as our people have been desperately trying to keep our heads above water, for those of us that were drowning amid this pandemic, hopefully we can soon come up for air.

Comments

TalRussell 4 weeks ago

Comrade redcoat KP. thoughtfully left out the part about how the Colony's PopoulacesOrdinay at large POAL's Subjects are fast heading becoming amongst earth's most freedom enslaved POAL. Shakehead once for Yeah, if POAL can't forgive em's House-elected redcoats, why think the Lord forgive em's., Twice for Not?

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UN 4 weeks ago

‘Charismatic people’ LOL!

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TalRussell 4 weeks ago

Comrade KP is on his Rouge vs Lipstick on Redcoat - What's hell is the difference?

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birdiestrachan 4 weeks ago

Strachan to add insult to injury. Visitors to the Bahamas can go to the beach on Sunday and Saturdays. But Bahamians the poor ones who are affected most must be locked down,

What a Shepherd you have Strachan. Then he said Nobody moves Nobody gets hurt How remarkable is that? in your view,

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benniesun 4 weeks ago

It was inevitable that the Bahamas would get to this point; however, worldwide economic devastation seems about to begin in earnest. Food security should be our first priority.

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bahamianson 4 weeks ago

Wow, you speak volumes. So, the visitor comes to the bahamas only because of the natural environment. i guess we need to do something with our hospitality. we need to smile more and greet people instead of pushing them away with our racist remarks. I hope," these foreigners' aren't coming to take over.

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tribanon 4 weeks ago

This incompetent and most deceiful buffoon is totally out of his depth and the international lending sharks know it. They are going to eat him alive and in the process turn the Bahamas into a failed state.

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benniesun 4 weeks ago

@tribanon - evaluate our situation and options carefully and you will see that we are essentially a failed state; the Bahamas is asymptomatic at present but the failure is evident.

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Chucky 4 weeks ago

Just keep telling yourself this “

THE Bahamas is one of the most beautiful places on earth – charismatic people, pink sands and crystal blue waters - and attracts millions of tourists a year. Our natural beauty also enables citizens in the private sector to earn an income and put food in their families’ mouths”

For one, our nation is essentially flat baron land with imported palms. Ugly land compared to most nations in the region! Beaches are beautiful, and there are a lot of them, no question! But we’re not the only nation with beautiful beaches. Our people and attitude, by far at the bottom of the list when compared to others in the region. And as for tourism feeding our families, well yes, many can eat because of tourism, but very very few are flourishing. No where in the world are tourism/ service industry jobs seen as a dream job, but rather a job obtained by those with few options.

We need to acknowledge the ills of our nation if we are ever to advance.
For one, all the tourist jobs in the world will only ensnare more Bahamian people in fruitless labour that can barely feed a family and provide a substandard housing accommodation

Our system bad attitude with a strong hint of entitlement and grand display of dumnning Kruger syndrome further reduces our chances of any potential rise to even the middle of the road of standard of living for our people.

Our government has been the worst since independence, abundance of corruption and stifling progress for the non aligned “little people”

In short we have nothing to brag about. We should be humble. While the beaches are beautiful, we did not create them. Our people are quite rude, many are xenophobic, and most are under educated.

The road ahead, will be long and require much hard work. But , to date, we have yet to do anything to support meaningful change. We need a whole NEW!!! Approach to education. We need to exterminate our poisonous political culture. We need to breakup the ruling elites domination of the economy. And we need to fix our values, family structure and attitudes towards the world around us.

Anyone who thinks we have anything under control, or that we’re leading in anything meaningful, well they are delusional!

It’s a long road once you begin the journey. But sadly we haven’t even started!!!!!

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