Construction Boom: Johnson says foreign labour necessary for Dorian reconstruction

Construction Boom: Johnson says foreign labour necessary for Dorian reconstruction
Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson (file photo)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson yesterday said foreign labour will be necessary to facilitate the pace of post Dorian reconstruction alongside a number of major developments.

Johnson told reporters ahead of a Cabinet meeting that the country is experiencing a construction ‘boom’.  

“In terms of immigration and persons being allowed in there is a policy that governs that,” he said.

“We only want fit and proper persons to be allowed in. There is a due diligence we go through to see whether or not we have the necessary skills sets to do the work.”

Johnson was referencing the Bakers Bay development which confirmed to Eyewitness News last week that it was bringing in 130 Mexican workers to help with the reconstruction efforts.

“In the initial phase I know that they are bringing in their technocrats to see how they can rebuild the facility,” Johnson continued.

“They have said to us that in a year to a year and a half they can have Bakers Bay up and running. Whether we believe it or not we are in a construction boom.”

He said: “We just signed the Royal Caribbean agreement and Carnival we are saying to Bahamians to come forward and let us know what you are able to do. Take your information to the employment exchange so that when applications are made they can be dealt with justly.

“For instance out of Abaco we just had reason to cancel a work permit. Persons came and said we can build these docks. We are Bahamians, we have put millions into our equipment and there are certain things we can do.

“We have to be on the lookout for persons who came and volunteered and now want to work and displace Bahamians. At the end of the day, with the volume of work we have to do, I don’t know that with a population of 400,000 someone senior and some young, whether we have the population to rebuild with the speed the investors say they want to rebuild at,” he said.

“Carnival and Royal Caribbean are suggesting to us that by 2021-2022 they want to be up and running. We must fully appreciate that there will have to be persons brought in.”

Johnson maintained Bahamians will not be displaced.

I want to assure the public that the government will allow Bahamians to be displaced but we must come to grips with the idea that with the volume of work we do not have in terms of the employees the mass to deal with it.

“I’m not being controversial but you can’t sit on the blocks and expect to get jobs.  Get your tools out, come out.”

Ken Hutton, the Abaco Chamber of Commerce president told Eyewitness News last month the lack of available skilled labour threatens to hamper the pace of reconstruction on the storm-ravaged island.