By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The devastation wrought by Hurricane Joaquin will “only exacerbate an already bad economic situation” on Long Island, its MP revealing that many of its young persons were leaving in search of jobs elsewhere.
Loretta Butler-Turner told Tribune Business that many of her constituents were “previously hurting” due to a lack of economic opportunities on the island, which was devastated by the 100 mile per hour-plus winds, storm surges and flooding caused when the Category Four storm’s eye moved right along the island’s length.
“As far as I can see, this is going to exacerbate what people are going through,” Mrs Butler-Turner told Tribune Business.
“We already have people hurting from a lack of jobs. With this [Joaquin] happening, I believe it will add to what people are going through.
“We have such an aged population there as well,” she added. “They’re all going seeking jobs.
“Joaquin can only exacerbate an already bad situation in terms of the economic situation. I’m just praying that everyone is safe and, at the end of the day, we’re able to rely on the resilience that keeps Long Island going, and that people are able to pick up the pieces and rebuild wherever they are.”
Mrs Butler-Turner earlier this year addressed the House of Assembly on the decline in economic activity on Long Island, which has resulted in the closure of several long-standing businesses.
Scotiabank’s decision to end its full branch presence in Long Island has deepened the sense of malaise, with the island’s economy also handicapped by the lack of direct airlift from key US tourism market and also services from Nassau.
Mrs Butler-Turner is also hoping that the resolution to a 10-year dispute over Long Island’s one-time largest employer will create “a wonderful opportunity” to revive the economy.
The Privy Council effectively ended the dispute that has ‘paralysed’ development of the 25,000-acre Diamond Crystal Salt property, with Mrs Butler-Turner previously describing the surrounding area as a “ghost town”.
The 25,000 acres in question were once the main driver of Long Island’s economy, providing the biggest source of employment on the island. Diamond Crystal opened its plant in the 1970s and, after it closed due to its US parent filing for bankruptcy, it was taken over by World Wide Protein (Bahamas), a shrimp farming company.
That venture, too, failed with the shrimp farming closing after several years of operations in the mid-1980s. World Wide Protein was the predecessor to Maritek Bahamas, the company whose ownership of the property was affirmed by the Privy Council.
Mrs Butler-Turner on Friday told Tribune Business she had spoken to Brian Moree QC, senior partner at McKinney, Bancroft & Hughes, who represents Maritek, to glean an insight into the company’s plans.
“I think they’re discussing some plans, but I don’t know what they are,” Mrs Butler-Turner said of Maritek. “They’re supposed to be moving forward in that regard.”
Edison Sumner, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation’s (BCCEC) chief executive, said the economy’s current “fragility” meant Joaquin’s arrival had been especially badly timed.
“Hurricanes can never come at a good time for any number of reasons, and this time is no different,” he told Tribune Business, “given the fragility of the economic situation in the country.”