At the end of November, Member of Parliament for North Abaco, Renardo Curry, met with constituents in the Little Abaco area to speak with them and hear their concerns.
Mr. Curry said that the meeting entailed an update on what is happening in the north, speaking specifically about employment opportunities.
“The reality is that the government would like to give everyone a job but that is just not feasible,” he said. He said that they must look to the private sector and engage with potential investment opportunities.
“We talked about a potential investor who is looking at North Abaco, and the Chinese involvement in that,” Mr. Curry said. “However, until that comes to full fruition we wouldn’t make any major announcement about it; we are just telling our people to prepare themselves in the event.”
He noted that though working is progressing at the North Abaco Port Project that there seemed to be an issue for some of them claiming that the port is paying too low a wage.
“When you are looking at what the Chinese are [paying], it may be low but it is within the minimum wage, in fact, it’s a few cents above the minimum wage, so it’s very difficult to tell them that they should come up on their wages when they are within the law,” he said.
He said he encouraged them that while it may not be what they want, that it is a job. “It’s better than sitting down not doing anything. At least you are able to work until such time you can do better. Plus there is the experience that you can gain from it,” he said.
He said that he believed that as a worker became more skilled that they would pay more in accordance with their skill level.
“We try to encourage some of the young men that while they may be used to fishing, the principle is that you are able to get out there and work. Get the training and you may have yourself a sustainable job in the end,” he added.
Mr. Curry said that some residents, particularly the elderly, felt that they would rather some of the government services come to them rather than having to travel all the way to Cooper’s Town, and in some instances all the way to Marsh Harbour.
They noted that BEC comes to them once a month, and nobody comes from Water and Sewerage except when it’s time to turn it off. NIB was also mentioned as a service they would like to see come to them.
Mr. Curry said that he spoke of the possibility of having a local office that agents from those government offices could come to once per week, similar to how the banks visit the Cays.
“This is the approach we want the government to take in these far out communities. It’s difficult for them to travel all that way, especially the elderly some of whom don’t have rides,” he said. “We will push very hard to see that that happens.”
Another issue Mr. Curry tackled in the meeting concerned a feeling of victimization from fishermen, who believed they are being harassed by the Royal Bahamas Defense Force patrols.
While Mr. Curry said that he felt the RBDF were merely doing their job an alarm was raised when a young man said that he was stopped and placed under arrest by a patrol, yet they wouldn’t tell him what he was under arrest for. According to the young fisherman they then they took his cooler full of catch for the day yet they didn’t arrest him, and they let him go. He said he came to the conclusion that they only wanted to take his catch. Mr. Curry said he would look into the matter further.
He advised the residents to work together and seek to form businesses and invest in their own community. He said he would also to see a bank in the area “to help the people of the area learn to save their money and build up their credit.”