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Barbados economy will not collapse during extended lockdown, says PM Mottley

While Barbados is set to lose about BD$150 million in economic activity for February due to the extension of a national lockdown, the economy will not collapse, says Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Affairs Mia Mottley.

In a recent address to the nation to announce the national pause extension to February 28, 2021, Mottley, however, said some level of aid would be given to business owners regarding retail and commercial loans, as she has directed minister in the Ministry of Finance, Ryan Straughn, to meet with the financial sector to have these discussions.

Similarly, he is to have a conversation with utility companies for arrangements to be put in place for the next three to four months for those who have cash flow problems, to help people to “keep their head above water”.

The PM assured that a meeting will also be held with fisherfolk to discuss the way forward.

“The simple answer from the finance and economic team is yes, that we will be hurt by any further extension, but it will not kill our economy, and it will not collapse our economy…The advisors have indicated to me that it is likely that we will come in at just under [BD]$78 million for…this first part of the lockdown in terms of loss of economic activity,” Mottley explained.

She added, “If we go for an additional period of time, just under two weeks, then the most that will be is probably another [BD]$70 million or [BD]$75 million, so that we are potentially looking at a loss of [BD]$150 million in economic activity for the month of February. But by the same token, it is less than we would have incurred last year”.

At present the Central Bank of Barbados has BD$2.6 billion in foreign reserves, the equivalent of more than 30 weeks of imports.

Mottley further explained that the decision to extend the restricting measures was consistent with the concerns raised by and the best advice of her public health team that includes representation from the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP).

The only adjustment after February 17 is the decision to allow minimarts to reopen from Monday to Friday.

Tourism continues to feel the majority of the shocks, but the Barbados Employment and Sustainable Transformation (BEST) programme, conceptualised last September, will be refined.

As the island works to reduce its COVID-19 case numbers, Mottley outlined plans are afoot to help rebuild the country’s economy, including several capital works projects, stating these are ready to go when the infection rate falls.