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Gov’T Warned: ‘Time Not On Abaco’S Side’

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Ken Hutton

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Abaco’s Chamber of Commerce president yesterday urged the Davis administration to quickly outline its plans for continued post-Dorian reconstruction, warning: “Time is not on our side.”

Ken Hutton, revealing that the Chamber has already written to the Prime Minister seeking a meeting, said “more stability, clarity and predictability” was required on multiple matters relating to Abaco’s continued revival from the devastating Category Five storm that struck just over two years ago.

He told Tribune Business that besides issues such as continued Dorian-related tax breaks and the rebuilding of Marsh Harbour’s commercial shipping port, the progress of the Disaster Reconstruction Authority’s (DRA) small home repair initiative and the $1.8m Central Abaco Community Centre/Hurricane Shelter also needed to be addressed.

The Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction was not retained in the Davis administration’s structure of government post-election, fuelling concern about whether the DRA will continue or be absorbed into an existing ministry or agency.

However, John Michael Clarke, the DRA’s chairman, yesterday said Mr Davis had already expressed the new administration’s commitment to proceeding with Abaco’s rebuilding. “Until we are told otherwise, the work and programmes of the DRA, which is a statutory body, will continue,” he reassured.

“The current prime minister has given his assurance and commitment to the reconstruction in Abaco. The expectation is that will continue until we are told otherwise. Those persons that are participants in the small home repairs programme, and have vouchers and purchase orders, the DRA is telling them to get those purchase orders in. The debris sites, the marine clean-up sites, continue until told otherwise.”

Mr Hutton, meanwhile, praised as “very positive” the Government’s decision to eliminate the health travel visa for inter-island travel and ease the COVID-19 testing requirements. Explaining that it will assist rebuilding efforts, he added: “It makes going back and forth to Nassau very easy now; much easier and much less expensive.

“It was a real economic cost to having to go. It was a very expensive procedure of having to go to Nassau for any reason, so this will be very helpful economically speaking.” And, to further Abaco’s rebuilding, Mr Hutton added that the Chamber had already written to the Prime Minister to request a meeting “to discuss what his government has planned”.

Among the Chamber’s priorities are “particularly the extension of time with these tax concessions. We need those concessions to last for as long as we need them to get Abaco back up and running. It’s really less productive having these six-month extensions at a time”, Mr Hutton added.

“We need more stability, we need more clarity and we need more predictability. We have these ongoing with the port. There’s a myriad of issues. We really need to figure out what this new government is thinking with regard to Abaco. Time is not on our side. The clock is ticking.

“The second home owners still have not returned yet; they’re waiting to find out what’s going to happen. There’s a lot of residents not returned yet; they’re waiting to find out what’s going to happen. What is the disposition of the Disaster Reconstruction Authority? We need to find out.”

Mr Hutton said there were multiple projects, such as the small home repairs programme and the community centre/hurricane shelter, where questions now exist as to whether “they are on hold, they are progressing or in abeyance”.

He added: “I understand they [the Government] have a lot on their plate, but at the Chamber we try our best to represent Abaco regardless of party. The concessions, as they stand right now, are expiring at the end of December. We need clarity, especially with the way the world economy is and the supply chain under strain. It’s taking longer and longer to get things. The longer the time scale we get, the better off we’ll be.”

The Chamber chief said one of the numerous requests made was for persons to retain the Excise and VAT exemptions they had been granted to import vehicle replacements for those lost in Dorian, even though the timeline for doing so may have expired through no fault of their own due to supply chain bottlenecks.

“It’s all up in the air,” Mr Hutton added. “We need some clarity on a number of issues sooner rather than later. We’ve written to the Prime Minister so we’ll see what happens. It’s been a whole week. We know it takes time to get their feet underneath them. We’re hopeful that in a very short period of time we’ll hear from the new prime minister and government.” 

Comments

moncurcool 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Why do people always believe it is the responsibility of the government to build back their privates homes other private entities they own? And governments need to stop trying to make themselves the savior after every hurricane.

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rodentos 3 months, 3 weeks ago

building code must be updated and no construction permits should be issued on land with any flooding risk. If they issued such licenses then very well the government is in charge of all that mess.

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