Tourist destinations need not wait for tourists to improve their economic fortunes. This month, the European Commission announced its intention to commit €17m in humanitarian aid to address the needs of the most vulnerable in Haiti and the Caribbean, which have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 1994, the European Union has provided €183m in humanitarian aid to the Caribbean. This funding includes €50.8m for disaster risk reduction and community resilience.
For nearly every country around the world, the past year has been a tough one. But for economies which rely on international tourism, the year has been particularly challenging. The countries of the Caribbean have always been grateful for external support from our international friends and partners. But how can we repay them? The answer lies in building resilience for the long term, such that all visitors to our islands, including but not limited to Europeans, can enjoy the fruits of societies and economies built on strong foundations.
As the vaccine continues its rollout, and lockdowns start to lift globally, it is important for Caribbean countries to join the global effort to ‘build back better’ by investing in education and economic diversification. In countries such as ours, in which government resources are scarce and the employment highly dependent on tourism, the philanthropic sector has an outsized opportunity – as well as responsibility – to build bridges between the public and private sectors and provide innovative solutions to local problems.
A recent study by the Centre for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) revealed that at least $20.2bn in global COVID-19 giving was made by grant-makers and wealthy donors during 2020. Corporate foundations and corporate giving programs accounted for $9.4bn (44 percent) of total COVID-19 funding. And for countries facing existing economic hardship, these foundations have an even bigger role to play.
“As the vaccine continues its rollout, and lockdowns start to lift globally, it is important for Caribbean countries to join the global effort to ‘build back better’ by investing in education and economic diversification”
In the Bahamas, the Fox Foundation wants to play a part in this effort. Dedicated to providing support to enrich the lives of Bahamians, collaborating with local organisations across education, youth development, community building and disaster relief, we believe that the future of the nation depends on the efforts of all Bahamians.
In the Caribbean, we are no strangers to natural disasters. Hurricane Dorian, which struck just one year before the COVID-19 pandemic, was the worst natural disaster in the history of the Bahamas. It is estimated that the hurricane cost a total of $5.1bn in damage overall. Even before the pandemic began, the Bahamas has been battling for its economic future. The June 2020 financial assistance package from the IMF has been beneficial, but it is not enough to help the Bahamas get to where it needs to go.
In October of last year, the IMF slashed its growth forecasts for the Bahamas, cutting its projected GDP growth from 6.7 percent to just 4.6 percent. This just goes to show that the Bahamas faces a longer and harder road to recovery from the pandemic than initially predicted. And given that international tourism, the country’s main industry, is unlikely to come back for some time, we may face some wait before our economy rebounds.
But tourism need not be the only thing that matters for economic development. Education matters for economic development. It can raise productivity, promote creativity, and contribute to higher levels of technological progress and entrepreneurship. It is also the cornerstone of our philanthropic activities at the Fox Foundation.
In its six years of operation, the Fox Foundation has brought in over $5m in private donations to assist with its four pillars of education, youth development, community building and medical causes. We have partnered with a network of philanthropists across the world to rebuild and empower the country we love and want to raise awareness globally about the economic situation facing our people. Just because we may not be the first country people think of when they think of countries in crisis, doesn’t mean that we don’t need their help.
“We want to equip the next generation of Bahamians with the skills they need to help themselves, and by doing so, help our country”
They say that the children are our future. But the Caribbean is one of the worst regions globally for “brain drain”, with some 10-40 percent of the labour force emigrating to OECD member countries according to IMF research. Investing in the future of our youth will ensure that future generations are not persuaded to leave their homeland in search of a better life overseas. We want to equip the next generation of Bahamians with the skills they need to help themselves, and by doing so, help our country.
We want to expand the efforts of our Foundation to promote wider and more impactful education initiatives. We hope that by doing so, we can encourage others to do the same around the world, allowing philanthropy to provide the catalyst for countries to propel forward from this difficult period. The coming months will be challenging, but it is up to us to face that challenge. We want to do all that we can to help the Bahamas build back stronger and make a contribution to the tireless efforts of the government in promoting the Bahamas’ recovery. We hope that others will play a role too, and that philanthropy can help countries bounce back stronger.