Small Family Island model ‘unsustainable’

Smaller Family Islands must embrace a new development model to prevent the Government from being saddled with an “unsustainable” storm repair bill every few years.

Pedro Rolle, the Exuma Chamber of Commerce’s president, told Tribune Business that the Bahamian taxpayer was currently having to cover multi-million dollar infrastructure restoration costs for sparsely-populated Out Islands every few years.

To reduce these costs, which typically involve roads, utilities and other reconstruction, Mr Rolle suggested the Government require residents of thinly-populated islands to live in just one settlement.

“The whole issue of these hurricanes, how they impact our nation and what goes on every year, should it force us to focus on how we develop our smaller islands,” Mr Rolle asked.

“It’s impossible for the Government every two years to invest millions of dollars to repair the infrastructure of those islands not as populated as others.”

That refers to the fact that many of the islands hardest-hit by Hurricane Irma, namely Ragged Island, Acklins and Inagua, are the same as those which were pummeled by Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015 - less than two years.

Joaquin’s repair bill was pegged at around $105 million, much of it relating to public infrastructure such as roads, docks and government buildings. Yet the sparsely-populated nature of those islands means the Government will never enjoy a return on such investment at a time when the Public Treasury is increasingly strained by the Bahamas’ fiscal crisis.

Many residents live in small, scattered communities that have to be linked by miles of roads and utilities, adding to the taxpayer’s burden.

“Maybe it’s time to consider, if people are going to live on Mayaguana, Acklins, that they live in a single community,” Mr Rolle told Tribune Business. “I really think the situation is unsustainable.

“They need to consider saying to people: ‘We’ll compensate you for your property, give you land, but we have to rethink with some of these Family Islands’. It’s just crazy. But that’s the way it is now.”

Mr Rolle said Exuma fared much better than expected during Irma, adding: “We had minimal amounts of rain, so the fear I had about the impact to farming did not materialise. That’s a blessing.”

He had told Tribune Business last week that Exuma’s farming progress could be washed “down the drain” if Irma scores a direct hit on the island.

Exuma had enjoyed its best year for agriculture since Mr Rolle returned to the island six years ago, with farmers enjoying bumper crops and growing new vegetables, but the Chamber president had expressed concerns the young could quickly desert the sector again if Irma’s wind and rain washed away seeds and crops already planted.

However, minor damage to some roofs and power outages in isolated communities was the most Exuma had to cope with.

Mr Rolle said Irma-related economic losses would come from visitors who were forced to cut short their vacations, as Sandals and other properties evacuated them from the island.

“Prior to the hurricane, Sandals and most of the hotels would have shipped out most of their guests,” he told Tribune Business. “The impact really is that persons who would have been here, their stay was cut short. And those persons intending to come didn’t come.

“From that perspective the economy was impacted, but these are things we can’t help; we have to live with that. Hopefully those persons who put off their holidays can reschedule. I know Sandals’ team have gone back in to open up the place, with a view to turning everything back to normal - or as normal as possible.”

Mr Rolle said that had Irma scored a direct hit on Exuma, the island would likely still be seeking “handouts” some six months later.

“I’m not even talking about what happened in Barbuda and the Leeward Islands,” he added, “but if we were impacted to the extent of Turks & Caicos we’d still be trying to gather our economy and ourselves up for the next six months.

“If we had any hit in Exuma near to what Turks & Caicos got, we’d be struggling and seeking handouts.”

Mr Rolle said such an impact, particularly if it affected Sandals and Exuma’s resorts, would cost the island the winter 2017-2018 tourism season and place its economy “a year behind”.


OldFort2012 says...

Spot on. Give them Crown Land and building materials on Exuma or Long Island. If they want to stay on those God Forsaken rocks, they should be on their own.

Posted 12 September 2017, 4:11 p.m. Suggest removal

Chucky says...

Be more rude, could yah? You live in a subdivision that is essentially a former swamp, rock level generally below high water level, filled with limestone over a layer of mud. You will get your turn one day, and your house will be sitting on the few piles it's built on with everything else around it gone.
You sound like our typical Jacka## citizens who hides behind the wall throwing stones.

Posted 12 September 2017, 6:14 p.m. Suggest removal

OldFort2012 says...

And when that happens I will put it right using my own money and not come crying to you for the thousandth handout in my life. Small difference, right?

Posted 12 September 2017, 8:32 p.m. Suggest removal

ashley14 says...

Thanks for saying that. You want these people to leave their homesteads for what the crime in New Providence. Take them home and they'll rebuild. They pay taxes whether it's vat or whatever. I really don't understand your tax system. Your government attaches fees to everything. It's still taxes.

Posted 13 September 2017, 5:23 a.m. Suggest removal

OldFort2012 says...

I wish I could have conversations with people who can actually read. One thinks that giving someone free land and building materials is "rude" and tother that Long Island and Exuma are in Nassau.

Posted 13 September 2017, 6:19 a.m. Suggest removal

Well_mudda_take_sic says...

The taxes paid by the few inhabitants of these uninhabitable islands is not even enough to pave a few miles of road much less airport, utilities, mailboat dock, etc. etc. If they're stupid enough to want to continue living down there, then let them do so completely tax free but without any support whatsoever from all other much more sensible Bahamian tax payers. Yes they have a right to be fools, but the rest of us also have a right to treat them for what they are, i.e. fools! Forget all the charming history behind life in these most southern islands of the Bahamas. The reality is global warming has sea levels rising and hurricanes are now much more frequent and intense.

Posted 13 September 2017, 1:46 p.m. Suggest removal

sheeprunner12 says...

This is a typical asinine Nassau-centric idea ........ These islands have been settled for almost 400 years and every person living in Nassau can claim that they own a piece of land on a Family Island ........ What is so wrong is that the Nassau-based government has intentionally depopulated the Out Islands over the past 60 years by taking their natural and human resources and not allowing them to OWN their islands ....... what we need is a real municipal system of local government that can control its own taxes and income. For example, how much money does the government invest in these islands as compared to what taxes they raise???? ..... Long Island, Inagua, San Salvador can sustain themselves on their tax base, but the government puts little back through local government.

Posted 12 September 2017, 6:15 p.m. Suggest removal

Well_mudda_take_sic says...

Inagua, Mayaguana, Ragged Island and Acklins should be declared national wild life preserves unfit for human inhabitants. The entirety of these islands belongs under the control The Bahamas National Trust as a matter of national policy with the understanding that the Bahamas Government will play no role whatsoever in the fitness of these islands for human inhabitants, period! Re-building the infrastructure of these hurricane prone islands every several years to support their very small populations is prohibitively expensive and, frankly, endangers our entire nation by putting its financial well-being at grave risk.

Posted 12 September 2017, 6:45 p.m. Suggest removal

sheeprunner12 says...

The Haitians, Jamaicans, Dominicans and Cubans will be licking their lips soon!!!!!!!!!! ........... Free islands to settle in The Bahamas!!!!!!!!!!

Posted 12 September 2017, 6:59 p.m. Suggest removal

Well_mudda_take_sic says...

Spanish Wells fishermen will tell you our Defense Force does little to protect these islands and the fishing grounds around them as is. As for the inhabitants reluctant to relocate elsewhere in the Bahamas, they deserve to be under another island nation's flag. Why would any right thinking Bahamian endorse the costly rebuilding of the infrastructures of Inagua, Mayaguana, Ragged Island and Acklins after each and every hurricane when we know that the frequency and intensity of major hurricanes (CAT 4 & 5) is increasing due to global warming trends among other things?! The insanity of doing so would surely exacerbate our nation's existing dire financial predicament, resulting in the entire Bahamas becoming a failed state ripe for the picking by other countries.

Posted 13 September 2017, 10:05 a.m. Suggest removal

Baha10 says...

As hard as this will be for persons who grew up on these remote and mostly abandoned Islands today, turning them into National Parks is nonetheless worthy of consideration.

Posted 12 September 2017, 8:11 p.m. Suggest removal

Economist says...

The problem has been that the government repair and capital jobs have been given to political cronies. The result is very poor workmanship which falls apart when the very next storm comes around. Add to this that the bill to government is inflated.

Result: Sub par work at great expense. Give the work to someone who can do it properly and the cost will not be as much in the long run.

Why should those on a small island suffer because of political corruption.

Posted 12 September 2017, 6:45 p.m. Suggest removal

Bonefishpete says...

Foreigners, There I said the dirty word. Just maybe offer Crown Land in the far south Islands to Foreigners, Especially Floridians that would rebuild Ragged Island. Get over the Bahamas for
Bahamians and offer to allow US residents fast and simple building permits and residency papers. Allow owner built houses and owner work permits. I'd be on the first plane into
Duncan Town.

Posted 12 September 2017, 6:53 p.m. Suggest removal

Baha10 says...

This is not a bad idea either, let foreign money develop and in turn, sustain these remote Islands, which we are no longer capable of looking after.

Posted 12 September 2017, 8:14 p.m. Suggest removal

sheeprunner12 says...

What will Minnis do now?????? Will he follow the same old model of making assessments, giving out sweet contracts and doing very little to make tangible changes to how the islands can develop better resilient plans to withstand the threats of natural disasters????? ....... Where is the new town planning schemes to develop better ports and infrastructure???? ...... How can the islands survive when the main government buildings are more than 70 years old???? ...... when the docks are obsolete????? ....... when the airports are in swamps??? ....... when the roads are on the coastline????? ......... when the hurricane shelters are hazards?????? ........ when the power and phone systems have no built-in backup systems???? ...... when there is no potable water storage systems????? .......... when there is no heavy equipment to clear roads and ports?????? ........... when there is little structured local crisis leadership?????? ....... These are the issues that Minnis must address ......... Not talk nonsense about evacuation and resettlement

Posted 12 September 2017, 6:57 p.m. Suggest removal

Dawes says...

and where is the money for these things. Per the items you are asking for, and at a guess, it would be about $100 million per island, if not a lot more. Govt does not have that amount of money. I agree with Mr. Rolle in Exuma, tell the islands that Govt wants them to live in one settlement. They are free to live elsewhere, but Govt isnt building roads etc to the other settlements.

Posted 13 September 2017, 10:07 a.m. Suggest removal

BONEFISH says...

Each family island is unique and beautiful in its own way. Not every one wants to live on New Providence.

Posted 12 September 2017, 10:01 p.m. Suggest removal

Sickened says...

I don't mind people living and building on these islands but it must be understood that they are self sufficient. Like the people who build on Rose Island - they are responsible for their own transportation, electricity generation, water and building - you don't hear of these people asking for hand outs.
If ferry boats want to go to Ragged Island on a regular basis then great - that's a decision for the ferry boat owners. There is no need for government to have an airport there or a power station.

Posted 13 September 2017, 10:20 a.m. Suggest removal

TalRussell says...

Comrades! My Soul sheds tears on how easily some you are jumping to give up on our Out Islanders - which although tiny in population numbers form a and vital part of our long and most colourful history.
Maybe, if the red shirts government, no longer wishes for Ragged Islanders to remain a part of their 'Red Master Plan' - then why shouldn't Ragged Islanders not partition The Queen to recolonize their tiny island?
God didn't spare Ragged Island from Hurricane Irma - so maybe The Queen, can dispatch her Royal Navy's Battle Ships to set sail to come rescue Ragged Islanders from the hands prime minister Minnis and his crown cabinet ministers? The very same PM Minnis and "KP," who promised but now refuse to remove VAT from the poor and near poor peoples 'Bread Basket' items! PM Minnis and 'KP' - why not a photo op of you two at the food stores across the Nation - photographed with thousands families pushing mostly empty shopping buggies up and down the grocery isles? You two have a strange way of demonstrating your kinds mean compassion....very strangely mean, indeed!

Posted 13 September 2017, 10:46 a.m. Suggest removal

alleycat says...

I knew this plan sounded familiar... oh yes, relocating Native Americans to the reservation? Relocating Polish Jews during World War II? I have spent time on all these islands. These are REAL PEOPLE who live in a place that is their HOME. Doesn't matter what it costs, you can't just throw them all on a bus (or in this case a mailboat) and dump them somewhere else. Even moving them all to one settlement on their own island is ridiculous. They would still need power and an airport just as much as they do now. And you can't just abandon the roads - the road to the salt plant on Inagua, where everybody works? The road to Pirate Wells on Mayaguana, where all the tourists go? The road to the ferry from Acklins to Crooked, which a lot of people commute to work on? And what about all the little farm plots all along these roads, and the cascarilla groves on Acklins that people make a living off? How would YOU like it if Government told YOU to just walk away from the home you've always lived in? GET REAL!!

Posted 13 September 2017, 1:19 p.m. Suggest removal

Well_mudda_take_sic says...

If they want to live in an uninhabitable place that's their business; but my tax dollars should not have to pay for their stupidity!

Posted 13 September 2017, 1:31 p.m. Suggest removal

baldbeardedbahamian says...

Ragged Island was first settled to kill monk seals and melt them down to supply England with lamp oil. We have now killed every last monk seal and so the island has no practical or productive purpose to contribute to the Commonwealth. Please do not waste my hard earned tax money putting up buildings which will inevitably be destroyed by the stronger storms we will get due to global warming. If private enterprise wish to take on this loser project, on a macro or micro scale, then good luck to them, I hope they succeed but doubt they will.

Posted 13 September 2017, 2:01 p.m. Suggest removal

sheeprunner12 says...

The Taylor family that set up Duncan Town, Ragged Island, also set up Clarence Town, Long Island ......... These are proud, strong people who will bounce back .......... regardless of what you urban bigots say here.
The seven great surnames of Ragged Island will continue to shine in this country.

Posted 13 September 2017, 2:18 p.m. Suggest removal

Socrates says...

it all sounds harsh, but it may have to become a reality.. imagine if Irma did to the SE islands what happened in Barbuda, St. Maarten and BVI? How many bllions are the taxpayers prepared to go deeper into debt? those islands are the top of the list of economically depressed towns in the country, they could only ever think about reconstruction after a major hit with gov't money.. i doubt 10% have home insurance.. sad picture, but some future generation of bahamians will have to address it ..

Posted 13 September 2017, 2:14 p.m. Suggest removal

Greentea says...

It could have also done what it did in Barbuda to Nassau/New Providence. When that happens and at this rate it will happen soon- will depopulating this island be a consideration? If people live on an island and have lived there for centuries, it is obviously habitable. Family islands have always suffered from our governments lack of ideas, a lack of visionary thinking, lack of planning, absence of will, presence of cronyism and the oppressive rule of central government whose members for the most part have not visited these corners of the country and couldn't point to Mayaguana on a map. These islands could be public partnerships ensuring innovations that could be of benefit to the entire chain- but someone always have to get paid.

Posted 14 September 2017, 1 a.m. Suggest removal

baldbeardedbahamian says...

sheeprunner is all mouth and will invest absolutely none of his own money to rebuild anything in Ragged Island. He will instead expect the taxes paid by the people he has called urban bigots to do what he will not and can not. Typical of the hypocrisy we expect from a PLP supporter like him. He will say he does not support that party but he is lying. .

Posted 13 September 2017, 3:15 p.m. Suggest removal

Emac says...

OldFort2012 is correct!!! What the heck is wrong with you people?! We are facing a downgrade. The Bahamas is in the worst position it has ever been economically. What happened on Ragged Island and other southern islands is tragic! We are all in agreement with that. However, when one decides to invest in a home or any other expensive property, the first thing any smart person would do is insure them! The government should NOT be responsible for rebuilding personal properties. The state's job is to build infrastructure and then tax the people who use these infrastructures. Bahamians must get out of this damn culture of handing out their hands to government for every little thing. If we're gonna set this precedence, then every other Bahamian should be entitled to financial help from the government during a disaster. While I respect people wanting to live where they like, I cannot accept them living there while I have to pay for it. So let's move all of the emotions out of this debate. The argument should not be about about close knitted, crime-free communities verses crowed, crime filled communities. The fact of the matter is if ya invest in any property then it is your sole responsibility to protect that property!

Posted 13 September 2017, 3:38 p.m. Suggest removal

DDK says...

Right on Emac!

Posted 13 September 2017, 3:51 p.m. Suggest removal

ThisIsOurs says...

Insurance is a luxury of the rich. These people are "surviving", in fact most Bahamians are. They need shelter to survive, they don't need insurance to do so. That's the reality.

I do not believe the solution is to tell them y'all on your own, you shoulda bought insurance like sensible people.

But I agree the government can't continue rebuilding communities. What the government could do is do "something different" to reduce the likelihood that they will need to rebuild Ragged Island "again"

This island could be rebuilt in conjunction with the community to be self sustaining and an economic contributor. It could be laid out beautifully and designed to maintain the rural island feel. They "could", IF they're willing to listen, generate a new style tourism product the likes of which is nowhere else in the Bahamas, while at the same time servicing the needs of the community and providing safety in the face of future storms.

Posted 14 September 2017, 7:08 a.m. Suggest removal

DDK says...

One settlement per remote island sounds like the way to go. Government cannot keep rebuilding these poor settlements (and I do not mean financially poor). It is simply unfeasible. It is also unfair for the inhabitants to expect the Government, and therefore the people of the other islands, to be their insurance company. Speaking of which, what has the Government done about reinstating the Caribbean disaster insurance?

Posted 13 September 2017, 3:47 p.m. Suggest removal

turtle777 says...

As I have written before, the only way for the Out Islands be be self-sustaining (I live on Eleuthera), is through tourism. Repeat tourism.

And tourism requires infrastructure, before all other government programs. Each island must supply consistent clean water, electricity, phone/DSL, and reasonable roads. Many other things are of great importance (police, health care facilities, etc.), but infrastructure comes first.

Then, and only then can all businesses, including tourism, grow every year.


Posted 14 September 2017, 10:06 a.m. Suggest removal

ThisIsOurs says...

Tech industry could do it too but that also needs reliable infrastructure

Posted 14 September 2017, 10:51 a.m. Suggest removal

Emac says...

@ThisisOurs-My roof was badly damaged last year during hurricane Mathew. I am trying to repair it out of my pocket. Still haven't completed. Please advise me. Should I hit up the government for some assistance???

Posted 14 September 2017, 11:11 a.m. Suggest removal

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