There are not enough Bahamians to handle all the construction work needed in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson said yesterday.
Aside from the reconstruction of homes and businesses on Abaco and Grand Bahama, several major construction projects are upcoming including the redevelopment of the Grand Lucayan resort and the enhancement and expansion of the Freeport Harbour. Additionally, Baker’s Bay, on Abaco, will undergo extensive repairs.
“At the end of the day, with the volume of work that we have to do, I don’t know with a population of 400,000…whether or not we have the population to rebuild with the speed that investors are saying they want to rebuild at,” Johnson said outside Cabinet.
“Carnival and Royal Caribbean are suggesting to us that by 2021 they want to be up and running.”
Johnson added, “I think we 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.
“…But I want to assure the Bahamian public that the government will not allow Bahamians to be displaced. But we must come to grips with the idea that with the volume of work that we have to do, I don’t know that we have, in terms of employees, the mass to deal with it.
“I’m not being controversial, but you can’t sit on the blocks and expect to get jobs.
“…Get your tools out. Come ahead. This is an opportunity.”
Johnson urged Bahamians who believe they can do the necessary work to come forward. He said the government will ensure that Bahamians who are qualified to work, get the jobs.
“We are in a construction mode with the reconstruction of Abaco, the facilities that we just signed the agreement on, Royal Caribbean and Carnival,” he said.
“We are saying to Bahamians to come forward and let us know what you’re able to do.
“Take your information to the employment exchange so that when applications are made they can be dealt with justly.
“For instance, in Abaco we just had reason to cancel a work permit. Persons came together and said, ‘Listen, we can build these docks. We are Bahamians, we have put millions of dollars into our equipment and there are certain things we can do.’
“So, we have to be on the lookout for persons who came to volunteer and now want to work and displace Bahamians.”