By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
The government will "provide whatever resources are required" beyond the extra $4m allocated yesterday to combat the coronavirus threat, the deputy prime minister pledged yesterday.
K Peter Turnquest told the RoyalFidelity Bahamas Economic Outlook that the current global outbreak represented "an immediate threat to the near-term performance of our economy.
"Given the serious health impact of the virus on individuals, and the understandable concerns of people everywhere, the government is continuing to exercise an abundance of caution to ensure that we mitigate the growing risk," he added.
Addressing the issue later in the House of Assembly, where he presented the mid-year budget performance report, Mr Turnquest confirmed that the Ministry of Finance is presently processing a contingency funding application to provide the Ministry of Health with an extra $4m to prepare for the virus's arrival.
The extra $4m will be used to expand the preparation of quarantine and isolation facilities for potential victims; to purchase protective gear for health workers and medical supplies for infected persons; to provide funding for ground transportation and air ambulance services for quarantined and infected persons; and to fund the expansion of health care facilities via temporary arrangements should it become necessary.
He added: "Our ongoing task in the public and private sectors is to manage the impact of these global forces as they collide with our own national development interests. Our economic livelihood is heavily dependent on both trade and travel, and the global turmoil we see spiralling around us poses serious potential risks to those sectors, in particular.
"While we expect some deterioration in the fiscal performance in the second half of the fiscal year, as hurricane spending is accelerated consistent with the Government's revised budget, we are confident that the policies we have set in place will provide some cushion to the incremental spending, thereby supporting a possible improvement in the projected deficit.
"However, the associated downside effects of the recent coronavirus could place a potential drag on spending and on revenue if the travel sector is impacted materially. We will continue to monitor these developments closely, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health."
Mr Turnquest continued: "It is important for all Bahamians to understand that in respect to the coronavirus outbreak, the Government places the safety and welfare of all citizens and residents as its very top priority.
"Thus, while the immediate additional funding allocation is for $4m, the Government will assess the situation as it evolves. If necessary, the Government will supplement this funding to provide whatever resources are required to avoid, or in a worst case, to minimise the infection and the spread of the virus throughout the population.
"With approximately 3,115 deaths and over 90,000 cases recorded in 73 countries and territories globally as of this past Monday, March 2, the novel coronavirus poses a number of downside risks to the macroeconomic landscape, both globally and domestically."