Director of Labour John Pinder revealed yesterday that the government has issued roughly 135 work permits to Baker’s Bay Golf and Ocean Club, located on Great Guana Cay in the Abacos, as the property eyes a two-year reconstruction period post-Hurricane Dorian.
The revelation comes a day after Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Elsworth Johnson said there are not enough Bahamians available to rebuild on Abaco and Grand Bahama with the speed that investors want.
“As long as a government heads of agreement, so to speak, has been signed, it is actually dictated to the minister of immigration – who is a part of Cabinet – who will be a part of the decision making process to say they need x amount of work permits to jumpstart a project. So, in this case, that is what happened. The Cabinet gave approval for the Baker’s Bay project to be jumpstarted with, I think it was 135 work permits,” he told Guardian Business yesterday.
“I had a discussion with one of the senior persons in Baker’s Bay. They explained to me that in order to get this jumpstarted in a timely fashion to kind of meet the deadline, they wanted to bring some experts in, who are more familiar with what they want to be done and who they could have gotten to go beyond the call of duty, so to speak, to realize their expected date of two years.
“Something that was done in a number of years, they want to try to rebuild in two years. I understand what they are trying to do.”
The unemployment rate, as of May 2019, stood at 9.5 percent and was expected to increase drastically after Hurricane Dorian decimated the economies of Grand Bahama and Abaco.
In October, Pinder estimated that at least 3,000 jobs in the construction industry alone were impacted.
On Tuesday, Johnson said Bahamians have to “fully appreciate that there will have to be persons brought in, with the idea that there is training where we don’t have the expertise”.
Pinder said yesterday that it’s important for Bahamians to gain experience alongside foreign workers, so that in the event rebuilding of this magnitude happens again, Bahamians are prepared.
“Because we don’t know where these hurricanes are coming from, it is important for us to have the skill set in our country that we can quickly get on the ground and get this thing started,” he said.
“I believe if Bahamians are exposed to the level of training that is necessary, then I believe we could have already had this project started and we could have been further ahead.”