COVID 19- URGENT FINANCIAL CAREApr 172020
The world has been rocked by a Catastrophic, Ominous, Vast Immobilizing Disaster- The pandemic COVID 19.
It would appear that at the same rate this highly contagious virus has made its imprint and spread to affect over 2 million humans across the world, to date, and even some animal life, a similarly infectious effect is being suffered in all business sectors globally as a result of the measures that are deemed necessary to attempt to contain the spread of the virus. Many countries have implemented physical distancing requirements, curfews or lockdowns limiting and reducing our normal daily activities, our jobs and traditional means of trade and commerce.
For many, we have already begun to feel the economic “symptoms” of this virus and with the growing uncertainty, the pressure is building.
Within the financial sector, many Central Banks after reviewing the charts and noting the initial warnings signs, have sought to administer an initial dose of treatment by adjusting their policy rates to preserve the stability of the financial markets.
In Barbados, the Central Bank announced a series of measures (effective April 1, 2020) to help support commercial banks and other deposit-taking institution manage the economic fallout from the coronavirus shock. Financial institutions in recognizing the initial prognosis made for the financial markets due to the impact of the pandemic have also implemented measures to aid their customers. Some have given
- Automatically upon request, a moratorium on loan payments for firms and individuals directly impacted by the pandemic and resulting economic downturn for up to six months;
- An automatic three-month payment deferral on credit facilities or waivers of credit card late fees and over limits fees;
- Adjusted loan terms to reduce monthly payments and improve cash flows or interest rates;
- Additional credit to existing customers to address short-term liquidity challenges through a temporary increase of overdraft and credit card limits
The Government of Barbados has strategized on a number of remedies to prevent the financial collapse and rupture of the arteries of our society due to the COVID 19 pandemic.
OUR CITIZENS – THE UNEMPLOYED AND VULNERABLE HOUSEHOLDS
The government has offered an injection of much needed cash relief through the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) unemployment fund to aid those who would have been laid off due to the measures to address the spread of COVID 19. Further, a $20-million Household Program was launched to help approximately 1,500 vulnerable families as identified by the Household Mitigation Department. Under this stimulus package, the government will be able to provide $600 per month to each family through the Welfare Department and a 40 per cent increase in all rates and fees paid by the Welfare Department to individuals.
There has also been a call by the government on the private sector and those families that earn more than $100,000 annually to also assist through the Adopt Our Families’ programme launched at CIBC First Caribbean Bank.
OUR BUSINESS SECTOR AND EMPLOYERS – THE IMMOBLISED
For business, there is the launch Jobs, Investment and Business Survival Programme, to assist those businesses whose operations have been immobilized by the COVID-19 outbreak through investment from Government to renovate and upgrade for the re-opening of their businesses.
For those employers who would be seeking to also cushion the impact for their employees, the National Insurance Scheme employer’s contributions would be waived for businesses that retain three -quarters of their staff for three months with the preparation to extend in the event that crisis continues beyond the three-month period.
OUR HOTEL AND ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY – THE DISRUPTED
With specific reference to the hotel sector, in light of the expected downturn in the tourism by as much as 80%, the government will refinance the Small Hotel Investment Fund with $20 million to allow small hotels to borrow “and blend with other funds” and refurbish their properties during the down period, and they will pay an interest rate of 3.5 per cent instead of five per cent. This fund was initially established to assist small hotels with marketing, management, procurement of joint services and refurbishment
In its General Press Release of the 30th of March 2020, The Central Bank of Barbados indicated that its measures coupled with those of the Government and the commercial banks represent a multi-pronged response to dampen the effects of COVID-19, and should help to preserve financial stability and enable a faster turn-around in the economy once the crisis is over.
In reviewing the reports and prognosis for our economy, it is apparent that our recovery from COVID 19 requires a holistic approach. While we implement measures of physical distancing, following along a quote by Jon Bon Jovi, we are as strong as our neighbour and therefore we are our brother’s keeper. We need to Collaborate Overcome Virtually Innovate and Deliberate, together to tackle COVID 19.