THERE is a healthy dose of realism in the comments from Finance Minister Peter Turnquest about trying to diversify the country’s income.
The golden goose is, and will remain, tourism. As he says, “The reality is The Bahamas has been dependent upon tourism and financial services for the most part since before independence. That is not going to change overnight and when we talk about what we are going to do, this is not an immediate solution.”
He’s right. It hurts for all those who have been calling for diversification of the economy for, well, generations by now – but he’s right.
We might wish for a greater range of income from other sources – but how are those sources going to spring up and find their feet in an economy where nearly half the country is unemployed?
Pick an industry and nearly every one of them is facing challenges from COVID-19 right now. Manufacturing? Who’s buying the products when belts are tight? Production of raw materials? With manufacturing down, what ingredients are in demand? Oil? With a drastic reduction of flights around the world, again where is the demand – and how far off would it be before it even being an option?
Even where there are promising signs, such as the Nassau Cruise Port signaling that it might be completed earlier than planned, the interfering hand of COVID-19 is right there too, pushing the project 42 days behind schedule at present.
As the founder of Global Ports Holding notes, “the construction people could not get in”.
That’s going to be the case with many other projects – getting them off the ground might be a goal for the future, but so many will just not be able to get started right now.
There are things that can get done in the meantime, absolutely. This is a perfect time for places such as Downtown to get the refurbishment that is long overdue, for example.
But in terms of our economic woes, Mr Turnquest is right that there is no quick solution, and that tourism will likely continue to be our backbone in the long run.
We hope that doesn’t always need to be the case – after all, tourism could be in for a long recovery. Even if a vaccine is just a few months away, and we can’t say for sure that’s the case, there’s the process of distributing it and administering it. COVID won’t vanish right away, it will take time. We hope it is a wake-up call, however, for the future. Having several strings to our bow will always be of more benefit than only having one. So even if we don’t have the opportunity to add those strings right now, we can work out what we need to put in place to let those opportunities flourish in the future.
What does that mean? Well, there’s elements such as infrastructure, training, incentives not just to invest but also perhaps to bring in workers where needed rather than always ringing the same bell about work permits.
When given the chance, projects such as the cruise port show the potential of getting things done and getting them done quickly. The time is now to plan for what projects we can bring to diversify our economy once we come out of the starting gate again after COVID.
Our options may be limited for the present – let’s make sure we try to remove such limits for our future.
Please help Chavez
Chavez Saunders needs your help.
Come on, Bahamas, one of our own is in need and while this may be a time when many are in need, let’s step up.
Chavez is just two years old and he has a hole in his heart. The congenital defect he has needs surgery. His family have negotiated with a hospital in Florida, the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, and the cost of surgery and expenses will be $125,000. He needs that help in a hurry – with that amount needing to be paid by October 2.
There are times in life when we do not know if what we do is really making a difference, but his will truly make a difference – it will let Chavez live a normal life.
It’s up to us to help. So we ask directly, what can you do to help Chavez?
Read his story in today’s Tribune, and you’ll find where you can make donations. Give what you can. Make a difference.