There is still no indication as to when Barbadian tourism will be reopened, but Government has maintained it is bracing for a “worst-case scenario” facing the already ailing industry, according to Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
But as tourism goes through its worst-ever crisis, with an expected 25 per cent or 50 per cent decline, she said Government was also planning for every possibility.
The Prime Minister’s comments were prompted by a public servant’s question during her latest round of meetings on the Barbados Optional Savings Scheme (BOSS). The officer asked the PM how the Government planned to make up for the lost revenue resulting from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government has already projected a loss of $400 million in the wake of the economy’s shutdown, prompted by the public health emergency.
He further queried how long did the Government expect the pandemic would affect tourism, its main source of revenue, noting this had implications for Government’s foreign reserves and jobs in the public service.
In response, Mottley said while there was no definitive timeline, precautionary measures were being taken.
She said: “You have to remember that we like everyone else have no idea as to when the therapeutics or the vaccine will come. Like everyone else from December to January, they were saying 12-18 months which puts us to the middle of next year.
“Having said that, you would appreciate that different protocols have been developed and different countries are looking at ways to be able to reopen because what the facts are showing us (is) that you can live with COVID-19, most people, but there are some who are peculiarly vulnerable. It’s a small minority, very small, but the point is it’s human life and we’ve taken the position that we are going to work quickly but credibly to safety.”
The uncertainty over the reopening of the border to tourists came as northern CARICOM neighbour Antigua and Barbuda announced it was reopening the country to regular visitor arrivals from Thursday.
But Mottley maintained that while Barbados would not rush to reopen its borders, there were consequences to keeping them closed.
This was one of the reasons, she said, why BOSS was conceptualized.
The Prime Minister told the gathering: “Our models, however, look at a 25 per cent decline, a 50 per cent decline and regrettably a 100 per cent decline, because a 100 per cent decline is what it has been in April and May effectively.
“And to that extent that’s why we are making these adjustments to the fiscal, as well as the fact that although we are very comfortable with the 21 weeks of import cover, the money approved by the IMF earlier today, the [$280 million] US$140 million, will carry our import cover certainly over $1.9 billion, whether we choose to use the full amount there or use part there and part elsewhere. We now have options.
“So our planning takes into account potentially a moderate scenario, a severe scenario and what can only be described as a tragic scenario.”