Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has reminded Barbadians that Barbados does not need to record a case of COVID-19 to suffer the consequences of the global outbreak.
She told a press conference on Tuesday that Government was conscious of the fact that there will be consequences to the economy and potentially to jobs, noting that one of Barbados’ prime airline partners had indicated a contraction and was asking Government “to work with them with respect to some of the costs that they face”.
At the same time, she shared that the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) had reported cancellations across a range of tourism properties.
“We are lucky that this is coming at the back-end of our winter season and not the front end. Nevertheless, it is likely to have significant consequences.”
Ms. Mottley said that her economic advisory team, comprising Director of Finance, Ian Carrington; Governor of the Central Bank, Cleviston Haynes; Senior Technical Advisor, Kevin Greenidge; and Economic Advisor, Dr. Clyde Mascoll, had developed three scenarios based on the current circumstances.
If the impact was moderate, it had been determined that tourism revenues could decline by 25 per cent or 50 per cent within a three-month period, while if the impact was severe, revenues could decline by 80 per cent over six months.
“This has implications not only at the macro-level for the hotels and their owners, but at the micro-level for the workers and the suppliers to the hotels.
“And, therefore, Government has taken the firm decision that we will undertake countercyclical fiscal policies in order to make sure that if a man or woman cannot work fully within the tourism sector, that there will be other areas of economic activity in the country that we will now trigger or expedite, in order to keep as many people working as possible,” she explained.
She revealed that Dr. Greenidge had been in contact with the International Monetary Fund to discuss “a little elbow room” for this country under the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) Programme.
This, she said, would ensure that “households do not fall through the cracks, that businesses are not pushed into bankruptcy en masse, and that we can sustain life, sustain and protect our people and allow them to live while the world finds a solution for the vaccination that will hopefully bring this madness to an end”.
The Prime Minister said that once Barbados was able to negotiate an augmentation of resources and additional fiscal space, through the relaxation of fiscal and debt targets, Government will be able to move quickly on being able to bolster capital projects that it would not otherwise have been able to accommodate.
In addition to the health expenditure related capital projects, these would include the refurbishment of a number of government buildings to bring them back into use; the construction of the Fairchild Street Vending Mall and the rejuvenation of Baxters Road and Oistins; the establishment of an Innovation Centre and other facilities, which will move wayside mechanics off the streets and into cluster operations; a major housing programme aimed at public and private sector employees with incomes of $4000 or less per month; and a significant road works programme.
Ms. Mottley added that “anything that will allow people to be able to work and earn money legitimately” will be considered.
In this respect, she also outlined a number of private sector projects, including expansion at the Crane Hotel and Sandals; the resumption of work at Sam Lord’s Castle; the start of the Hyatt project; work at the Apes Hill Golf Course and Villas Development; the Indigo project at the site of the old Caribbee Hotel; and the project at the old Discovery Bay Hotel by the Royalton Sunwing group.