COVID-19: Barbados shifts to readiness, rapid response after JA case
Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
The government anticipates the Barbadian economy, especially the tourism sector will experience fall off due to the widespread coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that Government was preparing to launch the Barbados Pandemic Preparation Plan and brace the country for potential threats in the future.
The Prime Minister disclosed that the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has upgraded the threat level of transmission from high to very high in the Caribbean. She also indicated that the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) has reported cancellations across several properties and noted one of the island’s prime airline partners has sited a contraction in flight bookings with the rapid spread of COVID-19.
“We are here to ensure that we shift from preparedness to readiness and rapid response because even though we were advised of it across the world, it is the context of it having reached the Americas within the last two weeks that clearly we understand that it is coming closer to us. We believe that we are ready for most of it and we will continue to expand capacity,” stated the CARICOM Chair and Barbadian Prime Minister at the press briefing with members of the Social Partnership.
Opposition Leader Joseph Atherley, Leader of the Democratic Labour Party Verla Depezia, Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association Edward Clarke, General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) Toni Moore and Chairman of the Barbados Christian Council Major Darrell Wilkinson were at the head table of the meeting which explored the effect of the COVID-19 on all sections of society.
Prime Minister Mottley stated the country's economy will be put under stress as the island sought to "buffer" the effects of the global slowdown in business.
She revealed that following discussions with the economic advisors - Dr Kevin Greenidge and Clyde Mascoll as well as the Governor of the Central Bank Cleviston Haynes and President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), three scenarios are anticipated within the next three to six months: a 20 or 50 per cent decline in tourism revenue over a three-month period or an 80 per cent decline in six months.
Mottley stated that the Government sought to implement countercyclical fiscal policies as a precaution. She detailed that the island's foreign reserves stand at $1.5 billion and the debt to GDP of 119 per cent was an improvement to the previous 177 per cent. However, she expected the reserves to slightly dip in the event the virus enters Barbados, however, the Government will do what it must, to bolster the reserves.
"This has implication not only at the macro level for hotels and their owners but at the micro-level for the workers and suppliers to the hotels, and therefore the government has undertaken a decision that we will undertake countercyclical fiscal policy.
"We need to spend money in order to make sure if a man can’t work fully or a woman can’t work fully in the tourism sector that there will be other areas of economic activity in the region that we will now trigger or expedite in order to keep as many people working as possible," said Prime Minister Mottley.
"What we need now is a little elbow room to ensure that households do not fall through the cracks, to ensure that businesses are not pushed into bankruptcy, to ensure that we sustain life, that we protect our people and allow them to live while the world finds the solution for the vaccination that will hopefully bring this madness to an end," she added.
Mottley pinpointed several Government projects that are lined up for the year that will help to keep the country's economy afloat but reiterated that COVID-19 remains a danger to society, even if it doesn't enter the country's borders as it has affected the chain of supply and demand internationally.
“There is a danger that even if we do not get even a single case of COVID-19, which is highly unlikely, that the consequences of this viral infection will lead to significant suffering among the world’s population. It is already affecting the supply chains of the world, which will impact on the movement of not just food and pharmaceuticals, but other key pieces of equipment and spare parts.