Wednesday, Sep 26, 2018
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Final thoughts on Crooked island

In my last column, I mentioned that Crooked Island is 18 miles long and six miles wide – a shade smaller than New Providence – and has a total population of 200, while the capital is bursting at the seams with well over 300,000 residents, so you can appreciate the density of these islands when you compare them both.

According to Wikipedia, Crooked Island has 5.8 persons per square mile as compared to Nassau which has 3,433 persons per square mile.

I wrote some time ago that it’s a fiscal nightmare governing these islands where every service has to be duplicated, which includes clinics, power plants, police, etc., unlike Barbados which has one main island to deal with and is not scattered like our islands are.

Crooked Island and Acklins both have excellent roads and infrastructure; the only thing missing is development, which makes me wonder why these southern islands are suffering so. Now I know you Nassau-centric people are asking ‘Why are we spending all of these resources on these persons, when at the end of the day it appears they can’t sustain themselves?’

Well, there are a number of reasons why these islands have not done so well. We have seen a serious population reduction over the years as folks have left the islands to seek jobs in Nassau; the cycle continues, which adds to the overcrowding on New Providence.

The lack of real local government is the cry from some of Crooked Island’s and Acklins’ sons and daughters; they say until this is realized it will be business as usual. Many residents feel that local government is a farce, as the central government still has control, and the island administrator (which is a throwback to the days of island commissioner) still takes his bidding from the government in Nassau.

Until real government is enforced and the locals can control their affairs and, importantly, financial independence, nothing will change. As my friend puts it, even if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. Some of our best and hard working citizens hail from Crooked Island and Acklins. Many men and women known for their entrepreneurship have done well for themselves but only a few of them have returned to assist in the further development of their islands.

They have the resources and the know-how, and there are incentives in place where they can capitalize on building a second home totally tax-free; all you pay for is the labor to construct. Like most islands, generation land is an impediment to development and finding good title, and what’s for sale is a story in itself,

The islands are strewn with old homesteads in ruins; some that have survived have seen better days and it’s a pity that they have been allowed to deteriorate beyond repair.

One of the fears of moving to these islands is proper medical care. With limited airline service, if one gets seriously ill it can develop into a life-or-death situation.

Before getting to Crooked Island, I developed a case of gastritis which sidelined me for a few days. I was hoping by the time I left for the island it would clear up. I got to Crooked Island okay, but a day later the plague came back with a fury and I had to visit the clinic for help.

Firstly there was no doctor available and the clinic was run by a nurse who split her time between Landrail Point and Colonel Hill. After making a few inquiries I was told that the nurse would be in the clinic in Colonel Hill.

I signed into a very neat and clean clinic and in an hour’s time I met Nurse Rolle who was doing relief work for the island nurse who was off on holiday.

After diagnosing my situation I was given a shot and medication to clear up my ailment.

I was most impressed with the level of service, and most of all it was free. I am thankful to see how my tax dollars are working.

Earlier on, I mentioned all the industrious folks who hailed from Crooked Island and Acklins – men and women who built up The Bahamas; yet they have not remembered or seem to have forgotten where their navel strings were buried, and have not gone back to the island of their birth to try and make a difference.

If Spanish Wells can be a thriving community, then pray tell me why is it that these southern islands are catching unholy hell?

We must all try and do things to make our lives and community stronger, and not continually looking for the government to do things for us.

We must take charge of our own lives, and at the end of the day it does not matter what party we belong to, be it PLP or FNM. After all, “all of we is one”; we must work together if we are to survive as a nation!

Please, let’s stop waiting for the government or the foreign investor to develop our islands. We must have a say what goes on and it’s why we need proper local government in its true sense and not just another fancy word which means diddly squat.

• William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation and two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association. William Wong is a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. E-mail: williamuwong@gmail.com.

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