“There is no business community in Abaco right now,” Abaco Chamber of Commerce President Ken Hutton told Guardian Business yesterday.
Hutton, speaking to this paper yesterday, lamented that every single business in the areas hardest hit by deadly, Category 5 Hurricane Dorian is gone, with the exception of one.
He said the Abaco Chamber of Commerce has been meeting since last week with the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation and other agencies, to strategize on how to return economic activity to Abaco as quickly as possible.
But he explained that given the state of the island’s capital, Marsh Harbour, there will have to be a phased approach to stimulating the island once again.
“Right now the priorities are obviously the cleanup effort, the recovery of those who didn’t make it and assessing the damage to the infrastructure… really just working through that and getting the place back to a state where there is the availability of businesses to be able to return,” Hutton said. “There are no banks, so it doesn’t matter if you’ve got any money or no money, it doesn’t matter because there is nowhere to spend it.
“In terms of people getting paid, unless you have cash with you, you can pay them in cash, but they can’t buy anything. If you pay them online, they can’t access their cash because their are no banks, no ATMs (automated teller machines).”
He explained that Abaco will have to get the financial infrastructure in place as soon as possible if it is to start rebuilding. In order to do that, he said, there will have to be accommodations and public utilities.
Right now there is nothing.
“If we bring 2,000 or 3,000 people to start clearing the site, they need to be paid,” he said.
“How are we gonna do that? Where are they gonna live? There are no accommodations left in Abaco, so we need to look at temporary housing. But in order to have temporary housing we have to have water, we have to have power.
“It will take figuring out what needs to be in place step-by-step, so we can start laying the groundwork for a recovery.”
Hutton explained that the Abaco Chamber of Commerce would like to see the health issues on Abaco dealt with within the next week, so that the cleanup effort can begin in earnest.
He added, though, that the waste cleaned up cannot go into Abaco’s landfill and contended that the material needs to be dealt with appropriately.
Hutton said the Abaco Chamber of Commerce has already been in touch with groups that are able to provide equipment to crush cars and shred building materials so they can be effectively dealt with.