Ms. Mottley said she met earlier in the day with her finance and economic team to ascertain if the country could withstand an extension of the period of national pause.
“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 $78 million for…this first part of the lockdown in terms of loss of economic activity….
“If we go for an additional period of time, just under two weeks, then the most that will be is probably another $70 million or $75 million, so that we are potentially looking at a loss of $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,” she stated: “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,” Prime Minister Mottley said.
The Prime Minister indicated that over the weekend, she had extensive discussions with officials in this region and hemisphere, including the International Monetary Fund.
She pointed out that the country’s foreign reserves were over $2.6 billion, and that equated to more than 30 weeks of import cover.
Ms. Mottley disclosed that she has asked Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Ryan Straughn, to work with the Financial and Economic committee to meet with the banks and non-banking financial sector, to address retail and commercial mortgages, and loans, to allow persons to have a greater level of certainty, over the next 18 to 24 months.
“I have said to Minister Straughn, we need to meet with the financial sector and to ensure that we can put in place arrangements that will allow people to have their heads above water, and to be able, as far as possible, to continue to service their loans and debt obligations, even if it means reprofiling much of it, because of the protracted period of time that we have had to deal with this fight with COVID….
“I have also asked Minister Straughn to have a conversation with the utility companies too, to ensure that for those persons whose cash flow is negatively affected that some kind of arrangements can be put in place over a three or four-month period, rather than being forced to pay everything in one month, where no revenue is coming in,” she explained.
“…we need to meet with the financial sector and to ensure that we can put in place arrangements that will allow people to have their heads above water, and to be able, as far as possible, to continue to service their loans and debt obligation,” Mottley explained.
The Prime Minister said during the extended “national pause”, there would be an extension of support to those currently receiving assistance. She added that officials would meet separately with the fishing sector to see how best the people could be assisted.
She stated that last week Government met and agreed on the framework and draft bill, which will go to Cabinet for formal approval, for the establishment of a free trade zone in Barbados.
Ms. Mottley explained that once the island’s positivity rate came down, Government would be able to aggressively resume the capital works programme.
She highlighted some of the upcoming projects as the refurbishment of the old Court building in Bridgetown; Golden Square; the Welfare Building on Country Road; the School Meals building on Country Road; and the relocation of residents of Rock Hall, where the roads have been put in for one of the locations and 20 foundations started.
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