The Abaco cays are the key to restarting Abaco’s economic recovery post-Hurricane Dorian, President of the Abaco Chamber of Commerce Ken Hutton told Guardian Business yesterday, adding that the government and private sector have to work to get the private sector functioning again, by removing recovery bottlenecks.
Hutton lamented the government’s lack of relief for the private sector, which suffered the greatest losses according to a report released on Friday by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
According to Hutton, the businesses and activities that attract second-home owners and yachters have to be rebuilt in order to jump-start Abaco’s economy.
“The cays are the driver to the economy here,” he said.
“They’re (IDB) estimating losses of more than two years. We need to work on that timeline and the only way we can do that is if the private sector takes a much bigger role in this thing.
“All the funding is going to the public sector and there has been very little attention paid to the private sector, which is the driver of the economy. The private sector has been left out of this whole thing.”
He added that the government still seems to lack a substantive, hierarchical plan to get Abaco going again.
“There’s not a step-by-step plan we’re aware of,” said Hutton.
He pointed to the growing unsorted hurricane debris that he called a “time bomb” and contended that Abaconians will not return to their homes until there is reasonable temporary housing and schools for their children.
“That is a chicken and egg situation,” Hutton said. “We need to have housing available. We need the schools. People are not going to come back here without their children, not long term and they’re not going to come back here in a debris field.”
Marsh Harbour, Treasure Cay and Hope Town were the most affected areas in the Abacos.
The IDB report reveals that there was $1.48 billion in damage to the housing sector in the Abacos and Grand Bahama, with nearly 89 percent of the damage in the Abacos.
“Losses are estimated at $717.3 million and were sustained primarily in the private sector, which accounted for 84 percent of the total,” the IDB report reveals.
“Seventy percent of the losses took place on Abaco, 15 percent on Grand Bahama and nine percent in other islands.”
Hutton said the IDB met with the Abaco Chamber of Commerce on Saturday.
He said that government has to move much quicker with its procurement processes for its hurricane clean-up efforts and speed up debris removal by a “factor of four or five”.