While the Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis opened the Abaco Business Outlook with optimism for a “bright future” for the island, a local government official from Moore’s Island called on the government to “answer the cries” of the residents and business owners of Moore’s Island, charging that the island’s development is being hamstrung by persistently unfulfilled government promises.
Believing that there is “much potential” for growth and expansion of Moore’s Island’s tourism sector as well as the business community, Dalson Stuart, Chief Councillor for Moore’s Island, noted that this potential is “stagnated” by a critical lack of infrastructure like air facilities and even a reliable mailboat service.
“There are many challenges that we find throughout Moore’s Island in the business area. I have spoken with several business operators and there’s one thing that most of them have in common: insufficient or irregular operation of a mailboat,” he said.
Stuart said that the fundamental inability to receive shipments has resulted in continuous frustration for local small business owners and visitors, and has ultimately led to a loss of business. Stuart further noted that the unreliability or outright lack of essential business services also extends to banking on the island, which lacks any banking facility, including an ATM.
Instead, the Chief Councillor said, business owners are either forced to rely on the postal service, or someone traveling to Marsh Harbour to place orders with New Providence-based businesses, further increasing the difficulty of doing business on the island.
“We know that if there is a bank in Moore’s Island, the business community can properly make orders when they contact businesses in Nassau to do shipments for them,” said Stuart.
The island, located to the south west of Marsh Harbour, has a population of slightly under 700 residents, with the lion’s share of the local economy dependent on fishing. Although Stuart noted that fishing has proven “lucrative” for the majority of working residents, he believes that the island has failed to capitalize on its natural resources and tourism prospects.
Stuart said that bonefishing is one of the prospects for growth on the island; however, he lamented that the majority of young men seeking work are unable to obtain financing for lodges or other fishing ventures. Farming opportunities on the island are similarly limited, with farmers, particularly young residents, “discouraged” by the lack of access to heavy equipment for clearing land, according to the Chief Councillor. To stimulate the local economy, Stuart urged the government to ramp up its infrastructural and financial contributions to Moore’s Island, stating “Talk is cheap; money buys land.”
“Presently we are experiencing a challenge with airlift to the island and it’s due to inadequate runway length. We still await the government, as they have made promises, but promises we have heard before. ‘We are coming to repair your runways; we are going to put in an extension.’ We wait to see the fulfillment of these promises… because this, too, has stagnated our community,” said Stuart.
Stuart also argued that upgraded air facilities would improve airlift to the island, and could in turn create a wave of second home purchases on the island to mirror the successes on mainland Abaco.
“Yes, there is no existence of second home owners. We do not have that, but we have a vision. We know if we look about the horizon that they are coming. We hold hope, but there is just the need for our government to put in the proper infrastructure that the island needs to encourage [second] homeowners to come in,” Stuart said.
In the meantime, the Chief Councillor stated that yacht visitors provide a more reliable source of tourism revenue for the island, but noted that even that is threatened by aging port and marina infrastructure.