By YOURI KEMP
There are significant opportunities following Hurricane Dorian, says Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation chief executive Jeffery Beckles.
Mr Beckles said while Dorian has inflicted serious damage, it has also provided significant opportunities for us to build on for the future.
He added that while some from the government and others have estimated that "the financial impact to the government from Dorian is between $250m to $450m", when you look at the amount of persons not working in the short-term and their contribution and impact to the economy then "that number is expected to grow" within the coming months.
He said when looking at rebuilding Abaco in particular, the country should focus on rebuilding for 40,000 people and not just the 17,000 people that live there.
He said: "We have an opportunity to look at town planning and coastal engineering and also for energy reform. Imagine Abaco as a template for energy reform. We need to engage the best minds in The Bahamas to ensure we have them out front to help push The Bahamas forward, particularly on energy reform and a green Abaco is something we should certainly take into consideration.
"We also have a chance to look at fiscal planning and our strategies for growth. Dorian has shown us that everything we do affects out economy."
Mr Beckles insisted we take this opportunity to rebuild Abaco and East Grand Bahama for the future and for the next 20 to 30 years down the road and not just rebuilding for rebuilding's sake. He said we need take the "same old" out to the graveyard and bury it as it cannot help us in moving forward.
Mr Beckles insisted that work is to be done, even though you may have lost your job in Abaco or East Grand Bahama, and while you may not have your pre-Dorian job there are opportunities out there currently for people who want it.
He said it would take a concerted effort to collaborate with the government from a Chamber perspective and right now both sides are involved in talking about what can be done during the rebuild process to help businesses.
Mr Beckles highlighted the great benefits in the exigency order granted by the government. The government announced that the exigency order for post-Dorian rebuilding efforts would be further extended until the end of the year from the original December 2 deadline.
He said: "What if we were to allow every building and hardware supplier a chance to have a rebate or tax credit so they can take advantage of the exigency order and provide reasonable quotes on what can be provided for the rebuild. The more money we spend at home the more money we can save to mitigate the shortfall."
"There are great opportunities in rebuilding moving forward to the tune of several millions of dollars - why not extend these exigency orders to help companies that import building supplies and even furniture and vehicles?"
He said the Chamber is working with the government to ensure that as many persons "buy locally".
He added: "There are also opportunities towards training and retraining local talent," and he says that the Chamber is actively involved in this with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and others on the ground to ensure we get the template right so we can foster economic growth and sustain it.
"Everything we do in Abaco and Grand Bahama has to be replicated in not only Nassau, but also in other Family Islands as the vulnerability remains throughout The Bahamas.
"The Bahamas has a unique opportunity to launch itself to the head of the pack on how the Caribbean region affects changes moving forward on economic impact and how we rebuild stronger."
Citing that assessments are the most critical part of the post-Dorian rebuild, Mr Beckles urged not to rush these matters and for the government to not commit to timelines that are unachievable, which would end up in making a lot of mistakes. He said: "This is why we need to engage many experts and NGOs to ensure that we have the best advice from the people who have done this before."