Government’s Senior Economic Advisor, Dr. Kevin Greenidge, is calling for a quick solution to the issue of vaccines to turn around the island’s economic fortunes.
Addressing the final town hall meeting on COVID-19 vaccines and testing at the Combermere School, last night, Dr. Greenidge revealed that when the pandemic impacted Barbados, the economy collapsed by almost 18 per cent and the island lost $2 billion in economic activity – the largest decline in the country’s economic history.
The Senior Advisor shared that a second outbreak of the virus, last December, which led to a shutdown in February this year, saw a further decline in economic activity by over 20 per cent or “another $500 million lost in one quarter”.
Dr. Greenidge reminded the audience that Barbados is a tourism dependent economy, and 40 per cent of its income activity is tourism. Furthermore, he disclosed that 40 per cent of the country’s employment, both direct and indirect, come from the sector, with over 50 per cent of foreign reserves from taxi operators coming from tourism.
At present, there are 4,000 workers in hotels and restaurants, as opposed to over 16,000 before the pandemic, which, according to the Senior Advisor, resulted in unemployment claims “going through the roof”.
Dr. Greenidge warned: “Collectively, if we do not find a solution that mean that we keep the COVID levels down, it means we will not get this economy starting to recover in this year. Everything is poised for recovery right now because of the increased commitments that we get [in terms of] tourism officials working to get increased airlift.
He continued: “The USA is expected to grow by five and a half per cent this year, even though Florida has one of the highest outbreaks in the world. We are so small that we don’t have that luxury. Another outbreak, we can’t manage it …. Another shutdown, we can’t handle it because we do not have the resources.”
Due to work done previously to stabilise the economy, Dr. Greenidge acknowledged that the country was able to survive the first COVID-19 outbreak and was able to provide unemployment benefits and support for the vulnerable.
He emphasied: “Whether you are vaccinated or unvaccinated, we all have to do what we have to do at the individual level to ensure that we protect ourselves and we protect those around us, so that we do not get another outbreak, and get this country back on track…. Everybody got to do their part …. The big picture is that we got a lot to lose, if we don’t get this act together.”