It has been difficult for businesses to return to Marsh Harbour, Abaco, since Hurricane Dorian passed over the island in September, because the area continues to lack commercial space for those businesses, Abaco Chamber of Commerce President Ken Hutton told Guardian Business yesterday, adding that theft and looting also continue to be a problem on the island.
While Hutton was optimistic about the improvements on the island – debris cleanup, home rebuilding and port security – he also lamented continued challenges for businesses. While he said he understands steps are being taken to allay the theft problem, he said homes and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are currently being affected by it.
“There’s still some challenges with security in terms of theft and continued looting, but I understand that some steps are being taken, so I’m happy to hear about that,” Hutton said.
“One of the NGOs just had two generators stolen from one of their sites over the weekend, so it’s still an issue.”
He added: “There seems to be a lot happening. Debris is being cleared up…things are looking much better than they were. There is more organization than there was and the ports are being secured properly.
“There are people returning, the issue is that there is not a lot of housing here and the other big challenge is that the businesses that do want to return here, there’s no property for them to operate out of.”
According to Hutton, people came back to Abaco to secure their homes and not their commercial properties, some of which were completely wiped out in Marsh Harbour.
He contends that Abaco is still months away from seeing many affected businesses return.
“We have homes well on their way to being rebuilt, but the commercial properties are still basically devastated,” said Hutton.
“It’s going to be difficult for businesses to return here until there’s more commercial properties for businesses to come back to.”
Another problem, according to Hutton, is an increase in the price of goods on the island due to demand outstripping supply.
“The first businesses to come online are charging an arm and a leg,” he said.
However, he said with the ports secured and operating, more supplies should begin to come in to the island.
And while the Central Bank of The Bahamas is hoping to roll out its digital currency, the Sand Dollar, on Abaco very soon, Hutton said he hopes the current mobile and internet infrastructure will be able to support it.
“Mobile services and internet are still working, but as more and more people come back things start to slow down,” he said. “Cash is still king.”