Prime Minister the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis urged the international community to adopt and to appreciate a broader understanding of the developmental levels and the unique local circumstances of The Bahamas and other small island states when considering eligibility for assistance.
The Prime Minister was speaking on Monday 18 May via video to the 73rd World Health Assembly being held in Geneva, Switzerland. The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO).
HE Keva Bain, The Bahamas’ Ambassador to the Swiss Confederation and Permanent Representative of The Bahamas to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Switzerland, was elected president of the World Health Assembly during the meeting on Monday.
Prime Minister Minnis pointed to the challenges The Bahamas continues to overcome following Hurricane Dorian and the dire economic situation the country faces as a primarily tourism-based economy, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At least 50 percent of the country’s GDP is derived from tourism, which employs directly and indirectly up to 60 percent of the working population.
“Last September we experienced Hurricane Dorian, one of the most powerful hurricanes in the Atlantic in recorded history, which ravaged our second and third most populous islands and economic centers,” Prime Minister Minnis said.
“Now COVID-19 has closed our borders and destroyed our tourism-dependent economy. Economic recovery is halted even as we prepare for the impending hurricane season in our region, which begins on June 1st and extends to November 30th.”
Prime Minister Minnis said the twin, unprecedented events of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic threaten to destabilize The Bahamas’ health response and public health gains.
He noted that The Bahamas is a far-flung archipelago with many rural areas requiring the replication of basic health care and social services in a geographic area which extends from Southern Florida in the US to the tip of Northern Cuba.
“These two seismic events threaten to widen inequities and increase the burden of non-communicable diseases,” said the Prime Minister.
Reiterating his plea made at last year’s United Nations General Assembly, the Prime Minister said: “For many years, The Bahamas and countries with similar characteristics have urged an alternative to per capita Gross National Income as the sole indicator of a country’s level of development and eligibility for concessionary financing.
He also noted: “We remain concerned and disappointed that the use of the distorted matrix of GDP per capita as a measurement of national wealth and viability causes The Bahamas to be assessed more favorably than it should be for contributions to international organizations, and for the receipt of grants, and international assistance when disaster strikes.”
Prime Minister Minnis also thanked The Bahamas’s WHO partners who have donated personal protective equipment and medical devices, training materials and technical support.