By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
CONTINUED restrictions under extended emergency orders are not conducive to economic growth and do not bode well for small businesses, a top banker has told The Tribune.
Gowon Bowe, Fidelity Bank (Bahamas) chief executive, said while businesses have operated under these restrictions for months, it is not sustainable or profitable in the absence of a detailed strategic plan.
This plan, he said, should clearly outline various metrics that the government would use to make certain decisions.
“We have operated as businesses under the emergency powers orders and so the truth of the matter is yes businesses can operate under them,” Mr Bowe said yesterday.
“Is it sustainable, profitable and more importantly conducive to economic activity? The answer is no because ultimately if there is going to be continued need for the Emergency Powers Orders there also needs to be accompanying that a detailed strategic plan that says these are the various metrics that will trigger other decisions.
“So, I think that unfortunately the emergency orders are only but one piece of what I'm going to call the legislative authority and it misses the second piece which is what I am going to call the actual commercial authority to do things.
“The emergency powers will grant unto the competent authority the ability to make very swift decisions as they are needed, but for commercial activity there needs to be an understanding of what kinds of factors will lead to what kinds of decisions and that has been missing from inception.”
He continued: “I think there was a willingness to forgive that because it was so new. But, having lived under the orders for quite an extensive period of time you would hope there is an ability to articulate to the general public and to the business community in particular that these are the things that are going to be monitored. If we see daily numbers move to ‘x’ then there will be increases in curfews which will mean that your ability to operate will change.
“If we see trends that suggest that things are moving in the reverse this is what’s going to happen. Because you see what is debilitating to businesses is to have things operate one way when you leave to close up shop tonight, be different tomorrow even though you could have prepared for it because you saw the writing on the wall in terms of the statistics that are being monitored measured and used by the competent authority for you to make the decisions.
“So, as I said, yes they can because we have but it is not the situation that you would want to have in the absence of a very clear plan so that businesses themselves can then match their own internal planning to what would be seen as the national strategic plan toward COVID management given that it’s going to be with us for the foreseeable future until the vaccination and herd immunity has actually taken effect.”
Yesterday the House of Assembly debated the extension of the current Emergency Powers Order until May 23.
The current emergency order expires on January 31.
The country has been under a state of emergency since March 2020.
Yesterday in the House of Assembly, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis justified the continuance of restrictions under the orders saying: “Without these orders there would have been many more deaths. With these orders we have protected the Bahamian people.”