The Bahamas Country Note: Impact of COVID-19 and policy options

As the rest of the world, The Bahamas is confronting the challenges derived from the Covid-19 pandemic. The country will face a very difficult year economically and socially. The abrupt halt in tourism, the islands' main industry, is causing unemployment to rise and GDP to fall by historic levels. Unlike other countries in the region, The Bahamas has a more robust fiscal and macroeconomic situation, which allows it to develop a strong emergency response. The Government has established a series of stimuli for activity and employment support totaling 2.37% of GDP, which is low compared to countries with similar per-capita income. The strategy also places great emphasis on formal activities and registered employees, so the most vulnerable population is reached only through sub-optimal policies.
This paper reviews the economic and social situation in The Bahamas and describes the policies implemented for the containment of the crisis. It also proposes moving from food assistance for sectors without contributory benefits to broader unemployment insurance that can help maintain consumption and reduce the number of programs the Government is implementing. This last point is particularly important due to the lack of up-to-date records and statistics for coordinating social assistance.