NASSAU, The Bahamas – A new report estimates the total cost of the impacts and effects of COVID-19 on The Bahamas at $9.5 billion, with tens of thousands of job losses and long-lasting effects on the country’s tourism sector.
Most losses due to COVID-19 for the period 2020-2023 were concentrated between 2020 and 2021, at 84%. The worst year was 2020 when 48% of losses occurred. Total losses in tourism were estimated at almost $7.9 billion, largely from the fall in stopover visitors.
According to the report, the economy is expected to return to its pre-pandemic level only by 2024, mainly because of the gradual pace of recovery in the tourism sector and the long-lasting effects of COVID-19 in this sector.
This estimate represents more than two-and-a-half times the $3.5 billion estimated cost of damage and losses due to Hurricane Dorian, which devastated parts of Abaco and Grand Bahama in September 2019, just six months before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic overlapped and negatively impacted the Hurricane Dorian rebuilding process. The two disasters are estimated to have cost the country a combined $13.1 billion, according to an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) report, Assessment of the Effects and Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic in The Bahamas.
The magnitude of the impacts of COVID-19 highlighted the need for comprehensive Disaster Risk Management and Health Risk Management, among other strategies and instruments to serve the country better, in areas that range from strengthening disaster risk governance, investing in disaster risk reduction, and enhancing disaster preparedness.
Aggregated loses in wages of employees and workers are expected to reach $2.4 billion for 2020-2023, or 4.9% of GDP per year on average. The impact on employment of these losses is estimated to be around 30,000 jobs, equivalent to 14.7% of the labor force, according to the report. The pandemic in The Bahamas has affected more women than men. Women accounted for 53% of the total confirmed cases. Around 43% of the cases reported were people between 20 and 39 years old.
“The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the world’s economic order and global public health. Social distancing measures to curb the spread of the virus created significant challenges for global economic activity. Sectors such as tourism–which depend on the movement of people–virtually shut down,” said Daniela Carrera-Marquis, IDB Country Representative in Bahamas.
“The economy of The Bahamas is heavily reliant on tourism, which accounts for half of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The pandemic also highlighted the country’s socio-economic vulnerability as businesses and citizens were hit hard.”
Responding to the COVID-19 crisis represented an unprecedented challenge for most governments, particularly those whose economies are heavily dependent on external factors such as tourism, said Ms. Carrera-Marquis.
Given the impact of COVID-19 on the health of citizens and the main productive sectors of the economy, the IDB, through a partnership with ECLAC, deployed a team of local and international research experts to evaluate and collect pertinent data to prepare the report and to provide recommendations that could inform the creation of a sustainable Health Risk Management (HRM) framework.
Since the pandemic began, the IDB has provided The Bahamas with $200,000 in technical assistance and $60 million in loans for projects to reduce COVID-19-caused morbidity and mortality, and to mitigate other indirect impacts of the pandemic on health. These programs also aim to prepare the country’s health system for future risks.
The projects have also focused on designing a strategy to integrate primary health care services to enhance quality care; establish adaptable and climate-resilient clinics to provide primary care services; improve emergency response capacity; and design a roadmap for digitally transforming the health system, including by offering electronic health records and telemedicine services.
The report recommends the implementation of a comprehensive framework for resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which will require a combination of structural and non-structural measures to reduce socio-economic, environmental, institutional, and human vulnerabilities in the long-term.
While the establishment of priorities, the required resources and the intervention scheduling will depend on The Bahamas Government, the report encouraged policy planners and stakeholders to leverage ongoing related initiatives, including existing frameworks and the IDB Group’s Country Strategy (2018-2022), while considering national priorities regarding gender equality and inclusion in human rights.
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