Warning that it will be a while before tourists return to Bahamian shores in record numbers even as borders fully open on July 1, Progressive Liberal Party leader Philip Brave Davis declared during a Labour Day virtual rally, last night, that now is the time to act.
“Our middle class is disappearing. People who were out of work before this crisis are really in trouble now. Despite the rosy picture the government’s trying to paint, visitors aren’t coming back in large numbers any time soon. So we have to act,” Davis told party supporters.
Davis said thousands of Bahamians are out of work, worrying about paying their bills and feeling the sting of desperation.
After the first coronavirus case was confirmed in March, the government declared a state of emergency, forcing the closure of the majority of businesses, closed the country’s borders and enforced curfews and weekend lockdowns. This resulted in mass layoffs across The Bahamas.
Since then, 55 thousand people have applied to the National Insurance Board for unemployment benefits and government officials have projected the unemployment rate is between 30 and 40 percent. Some unemployed workers claim they are still awaiting payment of benefits.
Davis urged the government to use this economic slump to invest in its people and infrastructure.
“Let’s rebuild critical parts of our infrastructure – now’s the time to create new apprenticeship programs, offer training, give Bahamians new skills and put the country to work,” according to Davis.
He added there must be a strategy for getting The Bahamas “unstuck”.
“You know, I’ve been looking at this government’s latest budget, and I cannot understand their failure to use this moment to really invest in this country’s infrastructure. When we build or rebuild bridges, docks, seawalls and more in this country, we are hiring Bahamians and investing in a stronger country,” he said.
Davis said, unfortunately, Bahamians were facing one hardship after another even before the coronavirus and Hurricane Dorian.
“The current government started off with twin blessings, a strong US economy and Baha Mar, yet they still raised your taxes; they still came after what was in your pocket.
“We already had an economy that was really only working well for people at the top, people who had inside access and could get special treatment.
“Now, on top of that, we’re facing a new crisis: a terrible health threat, and an economy in freefall. So it is dark out there, “ said Davis.
Despite this, the PLP leader says he believes better times lie ahead.