As a number of business owners from Abaco and Grand Bahama consider closing permanently in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest yesterday told reporters that this is a “significant concern” for the government.
“The fact of the matter is that these two islands, Abaco and Grand Bahama, account for some 18 percent of our GDP,” he said.
“So, we need them to be performing, and we need them to be producing at the levels or even exceeding the levels that they have done before.
“We believe there is going to be a tremendous amount of opportunity in these islands in the short term and the medium term as a result of all of the reconstruction that is going to be necessary.
“So, whether it’s in the service industry, whether it’s in the food industry or whether it’s in the housing or whether it’s in construction; there is going to be opportunities in these islands.”
Abaco Chamber of Commerce President Ken Hutton told The Nassau Guardian that some business owners on that island expressed that they will not be returning following Hurricane Dorian.
The chamber is working on a poll to determine exactly how many business owners intend to return to Abaco.
He was unable to say how many of them would participate in this poll, but he said close to 200 individuals attended a recent meeting at the Hilton hotel to discuss the way forward on that island.
“I think in order for us to rebound fully, we need all of our entrepreneurs, all of our business owners to come back and participate in this economic revival, if you will,” said the deputy prime minister.
“So, we, certainly from our part as the government, [are] doing all that we can to incentivize and to encourage all of those businesses to come back.
“As you know, the prime minister has indicated a package of incentives that we will put forward through loans, through grants, through joint ventures and through the private sector lending through the commercial banks and other agencies.”
In light of this, Turnquest encouraged business owners on those islands to take advantage of the opportunity to create wealth for themselves while creating employment opportunities for others.
Last week, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that the government has designated Abaco and East Grand Bahama as “special economic recovery zones” for three years.
Minnis added that these special economic recovery zones will be granted “duty-free purchase of all materials, fixtures, furniture, vehicles, equipment for all business needs and for all business and residential construction/rehabilitation efforts”.
Turnquest added that incentives have been packaged to encourage business owners to return while the government makes it as inexpensive as possible to get back into business.
The deputy prime minister also indicated that the government has received tremendous interest in the incentives being offered.
He said: “We do anticipate that we’re going to have take-up in that, and that we’re going to be able to see some tangible results from these initiatives.”
Asked about any consideration given to Ragged Islanders who feel they have been left out, he said that he does not think that any focus has been taken away from the island, and the prime minister outlined a vision for the island that is still “very much on track”.
He said hopefully those individuals will start to see the kinds of results that they expect to have.
Back in May, the prime minister announced that his administration would inject $8 million into the reconstruction of key public infrastructure buildings on the island after being deemed uninhabitable in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2017.