By Latrishka Thomas
Though Antigua and Barbuda has only recorded one confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, it is already clear that the pandemic will have a significant impact on the twin island’s economy.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance Lennox Weston said yesterday that although it is too early to measure definitely, the government is bracing in for a minimum of about “four months of total reduction in tourism” and “looking at about $300 to $400 million shortage in revenue on a billion-dollar budget”.
Speaking on OBSERVER Radio’s Big Issues programme on Sunday, Weston also stated that if hotels downsize significantly “19,000 to 20,000 people dependent on the work of tourism” would be directly or indirectly affected.
When asked about the country’s ‘rainy day’ finances, the minister said that “these threats are coming on top of a strained fiscal situation, basically, and there is not much headroom in terms of having to surplus on the same.”
But he believes that “if we train our human resource, we can make a very, very good second or third alternative. If you [get] 10 percent additional revenue to your economy … and even higher, it will be a tremendous difference, especially in terms of job intensive sector. So that while clearly tourism has demonstrated itself as the lead sector, the one we can compete in, around the edges, you can do anything which can help us to survive and help us earn revenue,” Weston explained.
The World Health Organization officially named the coronavirus as the first “global health emergency” of the new era of major power competition and consequently it will affect global markets.