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Long Islanders hope cries are heard at TCL Group’s Business Outlook

Although Long Island has been able to rebound since the devastation caused by Hurricane Joaquin in 2015, without the construction of a new airport, increased airlift, foreign investment and island-wide water supply, its economy remains stunted.

From recent views expressed in the media, these are the developmental challenges expressed generally by Long Island residents. It is expected that this will be the consensus of opinions voiced at the fourth annual Long Island Business Outlook, which is scheduled for November 8, 2018 at the Clarence Town Community Centre.

Joan Albury, president, TCL Group and chief organizer of the seven-island Business Outlook Series, said she anticipates that the 2018 Long Island Business Outlook theme: “Creating A World-Class Long Island”, will help tackle the island’s challenges.

“It will create a forum for not only islanders to make their concerns known, but also to hear possible solutions from government representatives and industry experts, while engaging them in dialogue,” said Albury.

Long Island MP and Chairman of the Water & Sewerage Corporation Adrian Gibson will be the keynote speaker. Other presenters are Zhivargo Laing, chief negotiator for The Bahamas’ accession to the World Trade Organization; Sherry Albury-Smith, The Nature Conservancy; and Davinia Blair, executive director, Small Business Development Centre.

Cheryl de Goicoechea, Long Island Chamber of Commerce president and Ramona Ritchie-Taylor, president of the Long Island Cancer Society, both agree that Long Island primarily needs an airport to fix its broken economy.

“First off, I can tell you that the only way that Long Island will achieve first class is if we have an international airport,” said de Goicoechea.

“Everything is hinged on the airport,” said Ritchie-Taylor.

Another issue, according to the Chamber president, is lack of airlift and accessibility. “We need a way for people to get here on a timely basis and for the frequency to be better. Currently, Southern Air and Bahamasair are the only two airlines that fly heredaily,” she said. “But both of them depart Nassau at the same time.”

De Goicoechea pointed out that while Bahamasair recently launched a direct flight from Miami to San Salvador, that flight has to be shared with Long Island travelers, limiting the number of people able to travel to and from the island. She added that the only other option is to charter a plane, which can cost a minimum of $1,000 on a one-way ticket.

According to Ritchie, a better healthcare system and the revitalization of the local fishing and agricultural industries are also needed. But those matters also hinge on the completion of the water project and the airport.

“We need a boost in the economy for sure,” she said. “We need something that is going to take us to that next level. Investors don’t want to live in a place where they can’t have basic amenities. I know of situations where if there were some improvements to the airport, it would make a difference in the interest in persons coming in to make investments into the island.”

Ritchie continued, “Our fishermen are suffering because they have to combat poaching. Our men stick to the fishing seasons, but the poachers fish all year round, causing our men to have little or nothing to harvest.”

The lack of banking facilities on Long Island is a worsening challenge identified by Ritchie-Taylor and De Goicoechea. Since major banks closed shop on the island, residents now depend on money transfer companies such as SunCash and Omni.

Scotiabank (Bahamas) Limited has an automated teller machine, in addition to teller services, twice a week to non-business account holders.

On a positive note, there is one new development that is a “plus” for the 80-mile-long island – an ongoing project by the Water and Sewerage Corporation of The Bahamas with the goal of supplying potable water to the entire island.

Last year’s Long Island Business Outlook focused heavily on the need for potable water, which residents claim had been promised for generations.

“To say that we are dying right now, would be an understatement,” said Ritchie-Taylor.” Our people are being forced to leave to find a better way of life, to survive. Our people need to have something to come back to in order to grow the economy, which would make us attractive to investors. We need help and we need it now.”

To register from Long Island, contact Dawn Simmons at the Ministry of Tourism at 242-464-2308, or by email at dsimmons@bahamas.com. To register online, visit www.tclevents.com.

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