Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance Sen. the Hon. J. Kwasi Thompson explained that the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the savings of many Bahamians who had big dreams for their families and businesses that are now on hold.
“The pandemic caused many hard-working Bahamians, who value the dignity of work, to become dependent on the state for the first time in their lives,” Sen. Thompson said during a press conference, Monday, December 21, 2020, at the Ministry of Finance to provide a deeper understanding of the Fiscal Strategy Report (FSR) tabled in the House of Assembly last week. He stated that Government provided $17.2 million in food support since the start of the pandemic response through October. “With the tremendous support of non-governmental partners, this helped to feed over 140,000 families.”
He said the Government has planned an additional $10 million to end-December to support rapid food distribution taskforce. Sen. Thompson explained that in the aggregate, the Government has spent over $177 million through the end of October 2020 on its comprehensive COVID-19 response. This includes:
- $44.4 Million Dollars in tax credit/tax deferrals which funded the payrolls for nearly 7,000 private-sector employees.
- $47.3 million into small business grants and continuity loans through the Access Accelerator Small Business Development Center to protect nearly 4,500 jobs in the small business sector.
He said, “This has been no ordinary year: that is painfully clear. COVID-19 has scarred our economy and transformed our lives forever. But we are resilient people, and this Government has not and will not stop working to restore the nation.
“We have already committed more than $60 million in additional direct funding to support our essential unemployment programs, food assistance programs and other efforts from November into the New Year.” Sen. Thompson explained that the Government has five key things it must do to restore the nation’s economy for sustainable and inclusive macroeconomic growth. These include:
- Continue the dynamic COVID-19 response — this will ensure that the Government provides the necessary safety net and support to the vulnerable and avoid a collapse of the economy.
- Recalibrate public finances to reduce spending, achieve revenue sufficiency and curtail the need for future borrowing — this will bring stability to the public finances and allow the Government to focus on its medium-term goals.
- Build economic resilience beyond the pandemic — this will allow the Government to shore up its defenses to confront future health and climate- related challenges that could pose serious threats to the nation’s macroeconomic sustainability.
- Optimize the Government’s debt management to ensure ongoing debt sustainability – the Government needs to maintain access to markets, at reasonable terms, for its ongoing strategic financing needs.
- Manage the ongoing fiscal risks proactively — here it is critical that the Government continually monitor those risks that could threaten the goal of achieving fiscal sustainability.
Sen. Thompson said, “Implemented together, these actions will ensure that the Government has sufficient resources and flexibility to meet the opportunities and challenges of governance for today and into the future, and they will also foster a stable and dynamic macroeconomic environment that can stimulate growth.”