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May 14, 2020

Rebounding the Economy – a Matter of Priority

Michael Ashcroft

The tourism industry is at a standstill and Belize is one of three countries in the region to become the biggest casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.   Today, further measures were announced to spur internal tourism going forward. But the Phillip Goldson International Airport is NOT to reopen before July first for international visitors. Tourism is one of the biggest contributors to foreign exchange and employment, so there is a lot of focus in the sector despite the fragility of the industry.   This morning, Lord Michael Ashcroft sat on the couch in our studios and gave his perspective on a number of issues now that a first wave of COVID-19 has been contained.  In respect of the rebounding of the economy, Lord Ashcroft says while there are risks, the economic health of the country is a matter of priority.

 

Lord Michael Ashcroft

“The difficulty is what we do from this point out. For example tourism in this country is about forty percent of our GDP. Yesterday Standard & Poors issued a report of which of one hundred and twenty-two nations were in the most trouble where tourism was concerned. Belize was number three. And number 1 was Aruba. And yesterday Aruba announced that they were going to open up in the second half of next month subject to certain limitations. The world health organisation said the virus may never go away so we now have the balance between medical health and the medical health of the nation. When you say stop a second wave in Belize, if you listen to strict medical advice and you listen to everything. You won’t open your borders until another year or so. But the consequence of that will be a nation that becomes virtually bankrupt. Devaluation will start to rise as the necessary issue. The foreign currency of the country dries up. So the more that you try to protect the health side. There is a residual risk and as you try to act to even stop a residual risk then your economy is crashing and at that point the politicians have to make a decision and take that risk where the economic health of the country is the major factor and have to accept that there may well be a residual risk that the country has to take in order to get its economy back. People like myself we are at higher risk but we have to face the consequences of that. We can’t expect that any nation will protect us when the economy of that nation is going to be bust. The government of Belize can’t keep borrowing and borrowing and borrowing. Where will the foreign exchange come from we import a lot and so that political risk at some point has to be taken.”


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