Haitian deportations 'hit Dorian rebuilding'


James Smith


Tribune Business Editor


A former finance minister yesterday warned that the speed of Abaco's post-Dorian reconstruction could be undermined by the government deporting much of the necessary workforce back to Haiti.

James Smith, also an ex-Central Bank governor, told Tribune Business that The Bahamas faced "some hard choices" over its policies towards illegal Haitian migrants given that many had previously worked in construction on Abaco and possessed the specialist skills essential to that island's proper rebuilding.

He suggested that the government "take a deeper dive" and not repatriate persons with the necessary abilities to "make a positive contribution" to the reconstruction effort, while continuing to send back to Haiti all those who failed to meet this criteria.

Those who remained to work on the post-Dorian rebuilding, Mr Smith added, should be regularised or given a status similar to those Bahamians who used to work in Florida "on the contract" agreed with the US during the Second World War.

"There are some hard choices to make because it would take longer than it would otherwise," he told this newspaper of Abaco's reconstruction. "That will not happen at the necessary pace because the policies towards the labour force that has done most of the construction in Abaco has resulted in them being repatriated.

"Some of the policies have an unintended effects. They could be more selective and take a very close look at the skilled labour used on the reconstruction. There's a way to facilitate that by taking a deeper dive. You still continue [with the deportations] but be selective in terms of those that make a positive contribution versus those that do not.

"Put those who do in the same category as many Bahamians who used to work on the fields in Florida. It's just a question of what's in the best interests of our own economy."

Mr Smith's argument is that The Bahamas should make rebuilding Abaco's society and economy its number one priority, while still maintaining the fight against illegal migration and continuing deportations - albeit in a more selective manner.

His comments are likely to arouse fierce opposition among some elements in Bahamian society, especially since Dorian and its aftermath appear to have exacerbated tensions and attitudes towards the Haitian community including those in this nation legally.

Clarence Russell, director of Immigration, recently suggested in a TV interview that a labour "contract" with Haiti - similar to the 1943-1965 agreement with the US that saw some 30,000 Bahamians work in Florida's farming fields - should again be looked at as a means to curb illegal migration while also meeting this nation's workforce needs.

The suggestion is not new, with the Government having previously sought to reach such an accommodation with its Haitian counterpart, but no agreement was ever concluded or properly implemented. Mr Smith's remarks, though, also reflect the reality that Abaco likely faces a manpower shortage for the reconstruction effort given the thousands of homes and properties that were either destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

The former finance minister, meanwhile, said it "does not take a crystal ball" to see that the Bahamian economy will effectively have to mark time in 2020 as it waits for the Abaco reconstruction to kick-in and start to bring the island's economy back on line.

Backing the Central Bank's forecast that the Bahamian economy will shrink by 0.5 percent this year, Mr Smith said the Government's increasing fiscal constraints will prevent it from "priming" gross domestic product (GDP) activity through increased public spending for some time to come.

He predicted, though, that The Bahamas was unlikely to suffer a sovereign credit rating downgrade in the near-term as Dorian's impact had already been "baked in" by the likes of Standard & Poor's (S&P) and Moody's.

"The growth prospects are very dim because of the need for reconstruction of 20 percent of our economy," Mr Smith told Tribune Business. "That has to happen first to provide some sort of platform, and added to that we still have this stubborn high unemployment rate, particularly among young people, and headwinds facing our two largest industries, tourism and financial services ."

With the ever-present threat of more frequent and stronger hurricanes, Mr Smith branded the post-Dorian recovery as "sluggish" with insurance claims failing to come through as rapidly as desired and with some settlements failing to match expectations.

"The outlook is fair to overcast for growth prospects unless something external happens," he added. "You don't need to a crystal ball to see what is happening out there. We have to kind of wait this one out."

Praising the accuracy of past Central Bank growth forecasts, Mr Smith said the post-Dorian fall-out was likely still impacting tourism bookings and producing cancellations with many potential visitors still under the impression that the entire Bahamas - not just two islands - had been flattened by the Category Five storm.

However, he conceded: "I think the Abaco economy sometimes has a greater impact that we realise. While the rest of The Bahamas attracts short-term tourists, who are are here for a couple of days or weeks, Abaco had a greater percentage of permanent tourists like you find at Lyford Cay through second-owned homes, usually by Americans and Europeans.

"Those houses, if they didn't stay there themselves, they rented them out to family and other people. Those homes are really hotel rooms, and persons staying there would have spent higher directly in the community for services and food. I think that has taken a big gap out of our GDP growth."

Mr Smith added that "the severe fiscal constraints" that the Government now finds itself operating under post-Dorian means there is "no possibility of the Government priming economy through spending. They simply don't have it".

Suggesting that this situation will prevail for at least another 18 months, he also voiced concern that the Government may experience an increase in debt servicing (interest) costs and find it difficult to access sufficient capital altogether if local and international investors became wary of its post-Dorian deficits and debt.

However, he said it was "very unlikely" The Bahamas faces any imminent downgrade to its creditworthiness as the rating agencies would have taken this action immediately after Dorian.

"I think our negative numbers have already been baked in," Mr Smith told Tribune Business. "The Government, to my knowledge, has not had a difficulty meeting its debt payments. Debt servicing has always been a priority and we're sticking to that plan. We don't have a track record of not meeting our commitments, and the rating agencies were too quick to downgrade in the past quite frankly."


Well_mudda_take_sic 3 years, 11 months ago

There are many of us who wish Smith could be deported.


DonAnthony 3 years, 11 months ago

Just make sure you are on the same plane as him. We would be willing to pay for first class for you😁


Well_mudda_take_sic 3 years, 11 months ago

Only birds of a feather ever fly together. Your plumage might get you on his plane.


jackbnimble 3 years, 11 months ago

This is the mindset that caused the Mudd and Pigeon Pea to grow. The promise of construction jobs in Abaco. They payed them pittance, and watched as they continued to live in substandard conditions. So yes they probably eventually got ‘papers’ and a skill set to boot but it also caused them to encourage the others to come. So now you’ve created a monster. You have skilled legals who use their funds to bring more illegals in. Let’s stop the bleeding people. And worse. Let’s stop supposing there are no unemployed Bahamians who can do the job.


ThisIsOurs 3 years, 11 months ago

Totally disagree, every time they have job fairs they talk about the number of construction workers hired. There are more than enough legal persons waiting for wirk.


bogart 3 years, 11 months ago

Former Governor of the Central Bank of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas "...warned that speed of Abaco's.post-Dorian Reconstruction could be undermined by the government deporting much of the necessary workforce back to Haiti."

Well this is quite normal expected role the govt of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas is carrying out the laws of the security of the nation, in deporting illegals and the former Governor of the law abiding, Financial Regulatorr of Banks, Financial institutions Central Bahamas equates these illegal migrants deported as somehow necessary reconstruction workforce for Abaco, an island of the Bahamas and just across the borders of the US.

Bahamian public including the former Governor of the Central Bank knows Central Bank publishes quarterly CB reports detailing Bahamian Construction activity of Legal construction worker employees who are not to be deported, compiled by Central Bank and fully knows there are well trained experienced construction workforce in the Bahamas.


SP 3 years, 11 months ago

Jackasses like this, in decision-making positions, are the reason we are dam near outnumbered by Haitians today!

What the hell is wrong with James Smith and others with these idiotic, illogical, ideas about using Haitian labor and granting them status? Haitians have already dominated the construction industry while skilled Bahamians cannot find work!

We all know legal Haitians are the biggest sponsors to illegal Haitian migration and this jackass wants to regularise and grant more Haitians status? HELL NO!

Will Bahamian workers get any special "status" for working? Why the hell would we need to grant Haitians or any other workers any status or regularise them for work? If we decide it is in our best interest to use them or others, they will not be "making a positive contribution", in fact, they wouldn't be making any "contribution" whatsoever, as they would receive a day's pay for a day's work the same as Bahamian workers. No one pays for a "contribution"!

The big differences between the 30,000 Bahamians that went on the U.S. contract to work in fields during the second world war and Haitians that legally migrate to the Bahamas is that Bahamians did not routinely break U.S. laws and construct any illegal shantytowns, Bahamians did not create a parallel economy to evade U.S. taxes, Bahamians did not undermine U.S. immigration laws by relentlessly smuggling relatives and friends into the U.S., Bahamians did not deal in smuggling drugs, arms, and humans, Bahamians immediately blended in and assimilated with Americans, Bahamians became nation-builders not parasites of their hosts country!

With a population of just under 80,000 people, had 30,000 Bahamians in1943-1965 engaged in the clandestine, illegal, parasitic, activities in the U.S. as Haitians now perpetrate on the Bahamas, either the U.S. would have slammed their borders shut to Bahamians, or there wouldn't be any Bahamians left in the Bahamas today!


Chucky 3 years, 10 months ago

Do you really believe that Haitians dominate the construction industry while skilled Bahamians can’t find work?

This would only be possible if the Bahamian contractors chose to hire Haitians first over Bahamians? Do you really believe this?

If there is any semblance of truth to your statement then it must mean that business find it beneficial to hire a Haitian over a Bahamian. If that is true, then perhaps the problem lies in the nature of the Bahamian employee, ie work ethic attitude or skill set.


AlexAlexander 3 years, 11 months ago

And real Bahamaians who are in the capital and grand Bahama looking for work... Am starting to suspect anyone with the last name Smith.. Please deport James Smith and Fred Smith the same time... Haitians do not provide cheap labour they make more than most Bahamians.. The difference between us and them is that when the white man say jump they say how high even if will cost their life.... Bahamians need to work.. We want the jobs in Abaco... It is alleged the this government has handed out over hundreds of work permits to Mexicans to work in Abaco... But they want pay us only 300 dollars per week... This fnm government proves itself doesn't have its Bahamian people at heart...


geostorm 3 years, 11 months ago

I am surprised at the former governor's comments. Whatva disappointment!


Cas0072 3 years, 11 months ago

Haitian labor is valuable only because of the fact that it is practically modern day slavery. In every country that has an immigrant problem, they disrespect and denounce the native work force to justify their criminal act of hiring illegals. I read an article about a town in Mississippi that was dominated by illegal immigrants working in the poultry industry. After recent ICE raids, the plant was forced to offer livable wages to citizens. Unemployed African Americans, whose ancestors did those very jobs before they were replaced by underpaid illegals, have flocked to replace those workers. Of course, the negativity has resumed wondering how long they will last, but the real speculation should be how long will the employers be willing to pay fair, livable wages? If Haitian labor is truly needed, as they try to convince us, there is no need to hand over the entire country with stupid citizenship loopholes and twisting the constitution to support illegality. Make the employers pay for housing and a stipend like they do for foreigners that truly have marketable skills and watch how fast they back track on describing the Haitians menial roles as skilled positions.


SP 3 years, 11 months ago

James Smith, Leslie Miller, and other clowns like them never have any positive suggestions about what efforts we as a country should be making to lift up unemployed Bahamians and teach them the skills and discipline needed to better themselves.

The looming reconstruction boom in Abaco and Freeport is a perfect opportunity for the government to focus on getting low skilled unemployed Bahamians trained, and back to work. Bring in the required tutors/instructors to teach them skills and proper discipline. Obviously, some will fall between the cracks, but the ones that do make the grade will become nation builders!

We do not need more Haitian parasite smugglers.


birdiestrachan 3 years, 11 months ago

Mr: smith with all due respect to you as a brilliant man. The Haitians are coming ever day if they deport one hundred 500 hundred come. enough all ready. What is the cut off number?


My2centz 3 years, 11 months ago

If there is truly a need for labor beyond the 15% of unemployed Bahamians, regularising illegal Haitians in Bahamas should not be an option. They are not owed anything for successfully breaking the law and should be deported.

And if "contract" type labor arrangements are needed as they suggest, it should be open to all Caricom member countries. And these individuals should be tracked from landfall to departure. And in the interim not be a burden to public resources as they send the bulk of their income to their home countries. This means the employers should be responsible for housing, medical care and education for dependents. To do anything else would be placing the burden of supporting these immigrants on poor Bahamians.


concerned799 3 years, 11 months ago

A refreshing and balanced look at the issue for all those who think just "deporting all the Hatians will make the Bahamas great". It won't and would in fact make it worse!


AlexAlexander 3 years, 11 months ago

Ok u sniffing glue... If you empower your people I'm talking about Bahamian people.. It would be better for Abaco and the Bahamas.. If you empower foreigners only country that benefits is their country whom they will be sending the bulk of their money too.. Please let's stop the insanity... It's time to invest in our nation again... It's time to get Bahamians working again...


My2centz 3 years, 11 months ago

@concerned799 Deporting Haitians could make Bahamas worse, like Haiti for instance? I say risk it. Decades of Haitian immigration has certainly not made it any better. Only the insane repeat the same action and expect different rresults.


concerned799 3 years, 11 months ago

If Hatian labour built a lot of what is on modern day Abaco and its been wiped out who is going to repair it? Most Bahamians probably don't want to camp out in the conditions there over the next couple of years while its all rebuilt. I mean how many really are willing to be without running water and power while critical rebuilding is done? And expats would cost a fortune driving up rebuilding costs. So yeah, Abaco will not be "better" if its not fully rebuilt. I don't actually want the same to make the Bahamas better. Sell off BEC, and kick out the cruise ships and will get much better. If no one has noticed mass deportations have already been going on for years now with little economic improvement to the Bahamas. So more of the "same" will not make things better.


My2centz 3 years, 10 months ago

So we should completely ignore the side effects of shanty towns, the tremendous burden Haitians place on public resources, and that they provide the means for more Haitians to enter the country illegally? Meanwhile, they still manage to send tens of millions out the country annually. If the Bahamas cannot rebuild without Haitian labor, where the negatives outweigh any gains of the few, then its already failed.

If the Fyre Festival has taught me anything, it's that Bahamians are willing to perform the "Haitian" jobs. But the powers that be keep repeating that lie that they wont. If additional, and cheaper labor is needed it does not have to come from Haiti, stop repeating this other lie. There are Caricom nations where cheaper labor can be supplied from, and they will have to come through the front door and be counted. As opposed to the cluster created by invisible births of people sneaking in the back door, who suddenly spring into society citizen application in hand.

And lets be honest, The Bahamas has never participated in "mass deportations" of Haitians, ever! They consistently deport 100-200, per month. The most theyve ever repatriated was allegedly almost 4000 in a year. Compare that to the number of permit and citizenship applications that are blindly signed off on because the minister is "overwhelmed" and the thousands more kept in limbo...they're not even keeping pace.

But you want to kick out the cruise ships, and keep the Haitians? Was it the Haitian embassy that went above and beyond to evacuate people and bring in emergency aid or was it the cruise ship industry? I'd rather our tourism minister act progressively with them to create overnight itineraries for the millions of people they bring who actually help Bahamas to thrive. But dont worrry, the more we begin to resemble the failed state of Haiti, the cruise ships and tourism as a whole will find its own way out.


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