August 04, 2020
The Government of The Bahamas has undertaken a comprehensive approach for the country’s economic recovery from the dual external shocks from the monstrous and catastrophic Hurricane Dorian in 2019 and the COVID-19 Pandemic this year that includes gender responsive financing, resources and mitigation where possible, Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell told a United Nations/Inter-American Bank High-Level Meeting.
The Virtual High-Level Meeting was held (Wednesday, July 29) under the theme: “Moving Forward – Insights on Integrating Gender as a Catalyst for Economic Recovery (COVID-19) in the Caribbean.”
Delivering The Bahamas’ National Statement at the United Nation’s Women (UN Women) and Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) High-Level Virtual Round Table Meeting, Minister Campbell said the government has allocated $27Million in its regular social protection, and $48Million through the National Insurance Board, for unemployment benefits in the first instance for 13 weeks as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“We are reviewing an additional 13 weeks, and have approved $19.4Million in loan funding for 284 small businesses and advancing a tax credit deferral initiative to ensure that businesses are able to keep their payrolls going (thereby protecting roughly 5,400 vulnerable jobs).”
Minister Campbell said the Government had also increased funds to ensure that more than 2000 pre-school children from single-parent homes are able to attend school, thus making it possible for their parents -- most of whom are single women -- to be able to seek employment opportunities. That was pre-COVID-19.
The Government, he said, is also partnering with the University of The Bahamas and The Bahamas Technical Vocational Institute (BTVI) to ensure that women are able to receive free, tertiary education. Minister Campbell said the government’s commitment to its financial grant partnership with the University of The Bahamas calls for the University to conduct research projects, programmes and proposals that will assist with the recovery of, and opening, of the Bahamian economy -- post COVID-19.
“Recognizing that the input and the voices of women have to be taken into account in all that we do, a gender sensitive approach informed the key National Strategies, Initiatives and Partnerships instituted by the Government, both for climate change and COVID-19. Solutions offered as Gender-Responsive Social Protection mechanisms include: partnering with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Unit, Office of the Prime Minister, and the Disaster Reconstruction and Recovery Authority which are all led by women. We also established COVID-19 Recovery Multi-sectoral Advisory Committees which are comprised of 50% female stakeholders from the private sector, civil society and the government.
“We are also working with UN Women to ensure that the key messages, COVID-19 Policy Papers, Referral Pathways and Spotlight Initiative to Mitigate Gender-based Violence.”
Minister Campbell said the rippling effects of the monstrous and catastrophic Hurricane Dorian (2019) and the COVID-19 Pandemic this year, have combined to deliver the fastest, deepest economic shock to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas since the onset of the Second World War, forcing the country to shift to a new course of action.
Minister Campbell told participants that the Government of The Bahamas is forecasting revenue loss potential equivalent to at least 35 per cent of government revenue because of the dual external shocks of Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19. (The Bahamas sustained property and infrastructural damage from Hurricane Dorian estimated at $3.4Billion.)
“The Bahamian economy had already been impacted by Hurricane Dorian which left unprecedented destruction on some parts of the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco,” Minister Campbell said. “COVID-19 resulted in the further disruption or closure of key industries including tourism and fishing, and streamlined services in the banking sector as well as the informal sector where many females are employed. (The informal sector refers to those workers who are self-employed or who work for persons who are self-employed.)
“All aspects of life, education, health, sanitation, recreation, water, agricultural industry and our food security are threatened. Last week, The Bahamas experienced a spike in new COVID cases predominantly on our two major islands – New Providence and Grand Bahama. While many of our Family Islands, for the most part, remained COVID-free, a few of them have been impacted. There is no dollar value, however, to quantify the loss of life and the trauma experienced by thousands of our people.”
Minister Campbell said circumstances such as these can diminish any country’s capacity to advance women and girls, but especially so for small-island, archipelagic states such as The Bahamas where services have to be replicated several times over.
“Madame Chair, The Bahamas is mindful that women must sit at the table and be a part of the decision-making process. We are pleased to be a part of this discussion and we remain committed to doing our part to ensure that women and girls are able to live through this pandemic and come out stronger, more resilient and independent,” Minister Campbell added.
Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell, addressing a United Nation’s Women (UN Women) and Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) High-Level Virtual Round Table Meeting, Wednesday (July 29, 2020) Also pictured (from left) are: Mr. Tyson McKenzie, Office of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development; Ms. Melvelyn Symonette, First Assistant Secretary, Department of Gender and Family Affairs, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development and (at right) Dr. Jacinta Higgs, Director, Department of Gender and Family Affairs. (BIS Photo/Matt Maura)
By Matt Maura