Long Island feels “like the step child of the Bahamas”, its Chamber of Commerce president yesterday warning an absence of growth and infrastructure is forcing businesses to close down.
Cheryl de Goicoechea told Tribune Business that the island’s economic woes were being compounded by a lack of industry, in addition to the absence of direct international flights to aid the island’s tourism product.
“We have huge challenges in Long Island,” she said. “I think we’re like the step child of the Bahamas. We really don’t seem to get any assistance from any government. I think we are just left out there, struggling on our own.
“Right now there is a huge drought. We still don’t have running water throughout the island. That has a huge impact. I operate a small vacation rental business and within the past month I have probably had four different loads of water delivered to my place, which is about 2,000 gallons of water.
“The residents have to go to a laundromat in the south of the island because they can’t use the water they have in their tanks for laundry. So they have to go in the south where there is city water.”
Mrs de Goicoechea said the absence of direct international flights to the island was hurting tourism sector growth.
“We don’t have the right airlift into Long Island. We have no international getaway here. People have to stop to Nassau to get here,” she added. “The airport in Deadman’s Cay needs to be extended and improved on.
“I had recently inquired with the Ministry of Tourism on visitor arrivals statistics for Long Island, and I was made to understand that stopovers in Nassau are not counted as Long Island visitors, but 90 per cent of the visitors to Long Island have to go to Nassau first, meaning they are counted as Nassau visitors.
“If the Government looks at the statistics that way they are surely not going to see a need to improve the infrastructure or put anything here because they will be under the impression that no one is coming here; that we’re getting 500 visitors when i’ts probably more like 5,000.”
Mrs de Goicoechea said the lack of employment opportunities on Long Island has forced most of the younger residents to leave.
“There’s a lack of employment and any type of industry here on the island to keep our young people here,” she said. “We have one of the best schools producing high quality students in the Bahamas, and these students have to leave and none of them can come back home because nothing is here.
“The age ranges of the people on the island are from infant to 17, and then it goes from 45 and older. We have none of that good, young blood that you need on the island because there is nothing here to bring people back to the island. We are definitely struggling all around.”
Mrs de Goicoechea said the struggle of Long Island businesses was recently highlighted with the closure of a long-standing grocery and supply store in Salt Pond.
“That’s been there since the late 1960s, I believe, and that closed down in December,” she said. “Recently there was a small little boutique resort which closed its doors in January.
“Because of the lack of growth, the lack of infrastructure and everything else, people just aren’t able to do business here any more and they have to shut down.”