Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest.
By RIEL MAJOR
AFTER a recent assessment of Grand Bahama revealed that nearly 50 per cent of the island’s residents are unemployed post-storm, Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest said assisting entrepreneurs and small to medium-sized enterprises to reopen is the government’s goal.
Speaking to reporters outside of Cabinet, Mr Turnquest said he knows there has been job losses in Grand Bahama, particularly during this time period.
He said: “Businesses were not able to get back up either due to damage to their infrastructure or because of the lack of electricity or just because of the way things are in Grand Bahama at the moment.
“We do know that every day that there are people who are making steps to reopen their businesses and start to re-employ those persons who maybe have been temporarily laid off or have been terminated or made redundant as a result of the fact that their businesses had been destroyed.
“It is certainly the goal of (Ministry of) Finance and the government to assist many entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises to get back into business as quickly as possible. Hence we have put aside $10m to assist with hurricane relief efforts through either grants or capital low interest loans supported by our financial industry partners.”
He also said: “We are continuing with our small business development programme for new businesses and to provide capital for new start-ups to try to get people back into business as quickly as possible. The truth of the matter is we were on a fairly decent path to growth prior to the storm.”
Mr Turnquest said the fundamentals have not changed and it is just a matter of restarting the economy.
“Putting the support in place for those businesses that may have found themselves without insurance where they don’t have the capital to restock their inventory to replace equipment that may have been lost and so we are putting some dollars into that. Hopefully to get them back up and going,” he said.
“We’ve made…both Grand Bahama and Abaco (into) special economic zones which entitles them to duty and VAT exemptions. Again, all in an effort to get inventory back into storage, to get equipment back into business so the people can get up and going, start to re-employ people to get the economy going again as quickly as possible.
Mr Turnquest also told reporters that the government is working on an assistance programme to help persons with medium to moderate damage return to their homes as quickly as possible.
An assessment released in November by the Department of Social Services revealed, post-Hurricane Dorian, 47 percent of the people in Freeport were unemployed. In East End, 48 percent were unemployed while West End had the highest unemployed rate of 60 percent.
The assessment read: “West End reports the highest proportion of unemployment, with a very even distribution across all settlements. Similarly, the East End employment is quite even across the east settlements. However, in the Freeport area, some subdivisions report very high unemployment or very high employment. This suggests that a more in-depth assessment is required inside of Freeport to better understand this indicator.”