NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Contending there is a leadership deficit in the country, Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis suggested Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ remarks about the nation’s need to sacrifice, demonstrates his administration’s lacks vision and compassion for Bahamians.
In an broadcasted address, Davis said: “You are going to hear a lot about fiscal deficits in the coming weeks. But what I see is a leadership deficit. A strong leader would tell you: the same old same old isn’t going to work for us.
“Instead we have the Prime Minister telling people yet again, they’re going to have to sacrifice. Let me tell you, the Bahamian people have sacrificed, we are sacrificing right now, [and] we are continually sacrificing.
“And somehow, under this government, it is always the middle class and the poor who are asked to make the biggest sacrifices.
“That’s because along with its leadership deficit, this government has a vision deficit and a compassion deficit, too.
“Why shouldn’t our country finally lead other small island nations in a new fight for debt relief for debts incurred by crises not of our own making?
“We need to lead the way. Don’t come at us with your small thinking anymore.”
Last week Sunday, the prime minister said the government will not “sugarcoat the severity” of the economic situation.
He said as a result of the economic blow dealt by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) the decisions of his administration will made will “no doubt be uncomfortable and indeed painful”
But he insisted it cannot shirk away from making hard decisions.
He called on the opposition to be guided by a broad-based patriotic spirit of unity and cooperation.
Today, Davis said the nation faces to crisis: climate change and pandemics.
He said more must be done to prepare and protect the country, and policies and decision must be driven by empirical evidence, not politics.
He again question why islands such as Exuma, Eleuthera and San Salvador, all of which have zero cases of the virus, have been left out of returning to normal business activity.
Eleven other islands with no confirmed cases have been allowed to resume commercial activity.
Davis also questioned where is the plan for thousands of workers impacted by the halted tourism product.
He said the Bahamians people are owed “honesty and candour”.
“But being honest about the size of the economic crisis would require this government to offer a real safety net, so you’ll see a lot of dodging and weaving and pretending instead,” Davis opined.
He continued: “We need a government that will fight for the Bahamian people, not ask them to endure sacrifice after sacrifice with no end in sight.
“We need a government that can articulate a path forward while paying attention to the details that matter.”
Davis said slashing the Ministry of Works’ capital budget is short-sighted and these infrastructural projects employ Bahamians.
He said one example of providing relief to workers is waiving the fees for taxi and tour driver’s who cannot afford to renew those licenses right now, but could be back on their feet soon after the economy opens.
During a national address on Sunday, Minnis said the pandemic has resulted in the worst economic downturn since the great depression.
He said while the government is eager to see the economy open up fully to allow for visitors to return, it must act with prudence and good judgement.
He said the government was well into its planning for the beginning of the reopening of the tourism sector.
He said the health and safety protocols that will be necessary to provide for reopening of resorts, airports and seaports were being finalized.
According to Minnis, The Bahamas could further ease restrictions for international and commercial travel on or before July 1.
Tourism, trade and commerce are anticipated to “suffer devastating and deep blows” as a result of the pandemic.
As estimated 25,000-plus people have been laid off or lost their income.
The figure is expected to increase as unemployment is foreshadowed to reach 30 percent in the near-term.
Tax revenues for April were half of what was collected in April 2019.
Minnis has said tough decisions are ahead and the country must prepare to do things differently in the near and medium-term to maintain some for of economic stability.
He said the budget will ensure social welfare, provide ongoing support for Hurricane Dorian victims; expanded capital works; ensure no Bahamian goes hungry as the nation prepares for another hurricane season.
The budget communication is expected to be delivered on May 27.