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2003-02-04 01:32:45

Multi Million Dollar Projects For MICAL

"An abundance of things on the horizon" for MICAL

Landrail Point, Crooked Island - Agriculture, Fisheries and Local Government Minister V Alfred Gray has unveiled multi million dollar developments for the MICAL constituency.

Mr Gray, the representative for MICAL, made the disclosures as he address the closing session of the two-day induction training workshop for the Acklins, Crooked Island and Long Cay local government district officials on Friday night here at Gibson's Restaurant.

"Those of you who have hands," he said, "we will guarantee you that within the next six months you would not find sufficient people in Crooked Island, Acklins and Long Cay to work."

He said there is "an abundance of things on the horizon" for MICAL, the acronym for the southern-most five-island constituency comprising Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins and Long Cay.

For Inagua, said Mr Gray, the government is set to build a 25-bedroom hospital.

The water system there will be turned on within the next three weeks, and by March, the airport will be lighted to accommodate night flights, he said.

Government was in discussion with an investor who wanted to set up a fish farming operation in Inagua, the most southerly Bahama Island, he added.

A barge arrived Saturday morning with material to begin the $35 million development in Pitt's Town in northern Crooked Island.

"That construction boom should last at least eight years," said Mr Gray, a former Family Island commissioner, born in Hard Hill, Acklins.

That development includes an extension of the runway there, construction of a marina to accommodate traffic passing through the nearby Crooked Island Passage, and a 35-condominium complex, Mr Gray told the meeting.

"We will guarantee you that within the next six months you would not find sufficient people in Crooked Island, Acklins and Long Cay to work," he said.

The government is "just about ready" to sign the heads of agreement for the development of a $30 million airport, hotel and multi-various resort on Long Cay, once the shipping capital of the Bahamas.

"Hopefully that should start by the middle of the year if we can get all the little kinks ironed out," said Mr Gray.

That should have started before the Pitt's Town development, he explained, but the owner of property in the centre of Long Cay, in the path of the proposed airport, is not willing to sell.

"We are trying to persuade him to sell it to the developer," said Mr Gray. "You can't do the airport because it has to go through the man's land. The government is trying its best to assist in working it out.

"We will use every effort at our disposal to get them together to work that out because to stop a $21-million to $30-million investment for a little two-acre piece of property that does not belong to you, is really hard. We might have to build some land along the seashore to make sure this happens.

"This government is committed to doing everything to make sure that those of you who are here now will stay here and those who are in Nassau will return, because I believe that in the not too distant tomorrow this is where life will be.

"The crime rate in Nassau demands that we consider improving the life of the people on the Family Islands so that they stay home and those who make Nassau so crowded will go back to where we rightly belong."

There are "several things on the drawing board" for Acklins, he said, including a hotel to be sited just outside Salina Point.

"If we can tie that up," said Mr Gray, "then we might have to bring in people from Long Island to work.

"I honestly believe that given the political will and a year of two of hard work and careful negotiations, you will wonder why I was not your Member of Parliament a long time ago."

District Administrator Willis McKinney, Acklins Chief Councillor Steven Rose, Jr, and Crooked Island Chief Councillor Kirkland McKinney welcomed the news.

"That is good news for us," said Administrator McKinney. "We have been hearing talks from time to time but it looks like we are going to get some action now.

"These developments are going to bring us to the forefront.

We are confident that Mr Gray is doing his very best for us and that he is going to continue to do that."

Chief Councillor Rose said he trust Minister Gray will come through for Acklins as he has done for Crooked Island and is doing for Long Cay.

"I am sure that the Minister's heart is in Acklins and the government is seriously looking out for the interest of the people of Acklins," said Mr Rose, the longest serving local government official.

Acklins Islanders have often been criticized for not being able to work together for the betterment of the constituency.

"We have difficulty working together sometimes especially when one community is able to get projects done and the other communities would be unable to get the same projects done," he said. "That is just local differences. As a people I am sure we can work together as one."

In New Providence, the least developed southern islands are often derided as being "behind God's back." Mr Rose was asked his comments.

"If we are followers of God...we should be behind him," he said.

"But I want them to know that...the last shall become the first and the first shall become the last. Under this administration, we are on our way to becoming the first."

Chief Councillor McKinney said Crooked Islanders, while welcoming the new developments, were concerned that they remained environmentally friendly.

"The people have expressed their desire to have some form of development in the area as long as it is controlled and is not allowed to get out of hand," he said. "We are pretty much in agreement with the development proposed for Pitt's Town."

He invited Acklins Islanders, Crooked Islanders and Long Cayans in New Providence, Grand Bahama and Abaco to return home and help build their communities.

"There are persons whom I know personally who are waiting for some type of development boom to take place so that they can return home to not just work but to reside," said Mr McKinney. "I think the time is right and the sooner the better.

"There is a degree of togetherness among the people of Acklins, Crooked Island and Long Cay. We share a common interest in a lot of areas. I think our time has come.

"A lot of people think of these islands as being distant and more remote than they really are.

But when they put foot on these islands and they see the peace and tranquillity and the beauty, they really do not want to leave."

By Bahamas Information Services

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