The chairperson of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) yesterday questioned the government’s allocation of $10 million for businesses impacted by Hurricane Dorian, noting that a “proper assessment” needs to be done first.
According to Khrystle Rutherford-Ferguson, there is not enough information at this time to assess whether $10 million is enough to meet the needs of businesses on the two islands post-Hurricane Dorian.
“The question whether $10 million is sufficient cannot be answered in isolation. A proper assessment should be done. One must determine several factors, such as how many businesses were lost versus the number of businesses willing to return,” the chamber chair told Guardian Business.
“Preliminary numbers suggest that there are 2,500 registered businesses impacted by Hurricane Dorian across Abaco and Grand Bahama. How many businesses were formally insured and which businesses would be receiving insurance payouts? I understand that insurance adjusters are on the ground carrying out insurance assessments which will determine the levels of payouts to be received.
“It is also important to find out which businesses self-insured, i.e., decided against taking out formal insurance policies and thought they would be prepared to shoulder the cost to replace or repair damages independent of any formal insurance coverage, though no one expected the level of devastation witnessed in Abaco. In the absence of a formal insurance policy, persons shoulder the cost to rebuild or replace on their own, however large or small the costs.”
The $10 million is being taken from the dormant accounts fund and is being facilitated through the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC), which would provide loans, grants and equity financing for the businesses impacted by the storm.
Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest said previously that the fastest way to get Abaco and Grand Bahama back up and running is through the return of commerce on those islands.
Rutherford-Ferguson said determining the immediate needs of businesses wishing to reopen is essential.
“Do they need a location, inventory, equipment, staff, a combination or all the above? Will being assisted with inventory alone be sufficient for a number of those businesses to reopen their doors immediately? Also critical to the question whether $10 million is sufficient, is usage. No amount of money committed to rebuilding would be sufficient, if not properly allocated. The issue of allocation goes hand-in-hand with my earlier point: assessment. Once your assessment is complete, you must look at the best ways the funds available to invest should be used,” she said.
“The economies of Abaco and Grand Bahama represent 15 percent – 20 percent of the overall GDP of The Bahamas, so usage is key in making sure the funds have a meaningful impact on stimulating those economies, replacing much-needed revenues.
“There are various types of businesses essential to supplying basic needs. Once those businesses are operational more persons will return, creating more needs to be met. The opportunity for more businesses to reopen their doors and the opportunity to create new businesses now becomes a part of the discussion.”