St Vincent finance minister warns 'rough waters ahead'
St Vincent and the Grenadines Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic would result in major economic fallout for the country.
“Make no mistake, there are rough waters ahead for our public health, our society and our economy. We have never been down this path before,” Gonsalves told Parliament on Tuesday.
He told lawmakers that the novel coronavirus is much more than a grave threat to the health of Vincentians.
“The rapid global spread of the virus has precipitated an economic emergency of unprecedented scope and scale. The international economy is grinding to a halt, as all conduits of global trade and commerce are severed,” Gonsalves said, as he asked lawmakers to approve his fiscal package.
“There is no sugar-coating of the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic makes 2020 a year of shrinking economies, growing deficits, and mounting liquidity challenges across CARICOM. St Vincent and the Grenadines will not be spared the massive economic fallout of this pandemic,” he said.
Parliament late Tuesday night approved the National Recovery and Stimulus Plan, which the minister said exceeds EC$85 million, approaching four per cent of gross domestic product.
“Even in the midst of the steep tourism decline after the 9/11 terrorist bombings in the United States, airlines were still flying," the finance minister said.
"Even in the catastrophic aftermath of the 2008 global economic and financial crisis, world trade continued. Further, the post-2008 crisis did not have the lingering public health uncertainties that beset us today,” he said.
The minister said that St Vincent and the Grenadines is “facing a one-two punch of collapsing tourism and global recession”.