Globally, there is a rush to ensure the health and safety of individuals as the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) spreads. Economies are slowing down and Governments are rushing to counteract the effects of the slow down by providing fiscal stimulus to the business community and social assistance to their citizens. Among the additional fiscal measures announced today, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) as one of the founding partners of the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC), is pleased to note the number of businesses that have applied to take advantage of Business Continuity Loans through the Government’s $20M loan program.
Some businesses have already adopted innovative ways to offer limited goods and services to the general public, as they abide by the terms of the Emergency Orders. The BCCEC encourages its members and the wider business community to provide suggestions on other ways to offer additional goods and services to the general public being mindful of balancing the continued health and safety of Bahamians and Residents during the Covid19 pandemic and maintaining some level of commerce.
The BCCEC is further encouraged by the additional measures announced by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance today whose presentation provided a more inclusive fiscal program geared towards assisting medium and large sized businesses.
Collectively, the private sector employs the majority of the workforce in The Bahamas. For those businesses that are eligible, qualify and have not paid their business license fees already, the tax credits and tax deferrals will further assist them in bridging the gap between maintaining minimum levels of cash flow and maintaining payrolls, notwithstanding the loss in revenues. We eagerly await the full details of the tax credit and tax deferral employment program.
However, there are medium to large businesses that cannot generate or are restricted from generating revenue under the Emergency Orders and hence the Tax Credit and Tax Deferral Employee Retention Program is of little benefit to them. Additionally, given the fact that business license fees are due the end of March, many businesses have already paid. While we are not a proponent of opening up businesses to the peril of the general public, we understand that these businesses need a solution. We acknowledge that these are very challenging times. We further acknowledge that the Government is looking for ways to assist the business community amidst the country’s current fiscal constraints, however, we look forward to working with the Government to develop a strategy that will help these businesses retain their staff compliment as well.
Over the past few weeks, the BCCEC, through its participation on the National Coordination Committee Covid-19, made recommendations to the Government geared towards assisting all businesses during these challenging times. We are pleased to see that our recommendations are strongly considered and implemented, where possible. We look forward to our continued collaboration with the Government in this regard.
Khrystle L. Rutherford-Ferguson