Published On: Mon, Sep 9th, 2019

What can we learn from the Dorian experience in Abacos?

StMaartenNews LettersDear Editor,

Super hurricanes are likely to be a regular feature of island life in the Caribbean in the future. The Irma experience and the Dorian experience in the Abacos and Grand Bahama are going to be repeated and the territories who are going to suffer this experience can best be fully familiar with the challenges of bouncing back. We should learn everything we can about resilience and reconstruction.

The Abacos/Grand Bahama experience is not comparable to Sint Maarten in respect of its greater vulnerability of low lying areas, although this applied to Sint Maarten to some extent in some areas.

The Abacos/Grand Bahama is part of an independent nation known as the Commonwealth of the Bahamas whose total population is just under 400,000. The largest urban population in the hurricane affected area is Freeport with a population of 26,000. The Abacos has a population of 7500 and Grand Bahama 51,000 so the population sizes are similar to Sint Maarten/Saint Martin.

The capital city of Nassau on New Providence is much larger with a population of 274,000. The affected area is in a similar population size range to Sint Maarten and the affected area is part of a larger country just like Sint Maarten used to be in the Netherlands Antilles and is the smaller entity compared to the capital city, as was the case in the Netherlands Antilles.

There are some strong similarities. Both Sint Maarten and Abaco /Grand Bahama have significant immigrant communities, in the case of Grand Bahama consisting of many Haitian immigrants. In both case tourism and tourism plant play a major role in the economy. Both have infrastructure challenges like airports in less than suitable condition.

Comparing the Dorian experience in the Abacos and the Irma experience in Sint Maarten should be an interesting exercise. These are the sort of questions that would be useful to have an answer to:

# Is there any correlation between the percentage of insurance coverage and the revitalization and reconstruction of the economy? What are the factors that influence the degree of insurance coverage?

# Were state-owned properties insured in the Bahamas against hurricane damage?

# What sort of aid levels will be offered by friendly large countries, both in the immediate crisis period and in the rebuilding phase?

# When aid is offered ….what sort of conditions are attached to this aid?

# Will the association within a larger state prove to be valuable for the affected area or would the affected area have recuperated faster if it was independent or associated with a metropolitan power?

I am sure there is something to be learnt.

Robbie Ferron