Energy, economy and the environment
I have observed over the past few months information that has been disseminated regarding the Oban Energy deal designated for Freeport, Grand Bahama. Based on what has emerged so far, I feel that some fundamental principles have been missed in the pursuit of boosting the economy and providing jobs for the people of Grand Bahama. Obviously there is great need for economic input and for more jobs to become available, but this fact may have caused the Government to overlook some very important factors. It is noble of any government to want to improve the lives of its citizens but in that quest I believe we cannot overlook time tested and unchangeable principles.
Below I outline some of the issues and the principles that may have been violated and also provide my corrective assessment and recommendations.
- We should never do anything without counting the cost and doing effective research. This deal appears to have been signed before all of the necessary research was done. We should always complete thorough research before proceeding with any project, especially one that has the potential to impact the environment of an island that is still feeling the effects of similar projects in the past.
- No deal should ever be signed that impacts the environment without having the environmental impact study results prior to approval. If a deal is signed and it is binding in nature this may cause the integrity of the impact study to be compromised and pressured by issues not related to the environment.
- Transparency is one of the fundamental promises that was made to the Bahamian people and transparency seems to be lacking in this situation as details are slowly emerging daily that were not presented to the Bahamian people up front. Bahamians should have been given the opportunity to weigh the facts and draw their own conclusions prior to any official announcements. In some matters consultation is part and parcel of the equation.
- Consultation with the people who are being governed and affected (specifically Grand Bahamians) by our actions is essential to effective governance and it appears that this deal was undertaken on behalf of the Bahamian people without their prior knowledge.
- Any public deal should be able to survive public scrutiny. If something is made public and more questions arise than answers then we have a problem.
- External research appears to shows that storage facilities and even more so refineries are subject to leaks and waste that can negatively impact the environment. When it comes to the environment, transparency requires that any study to be conducted should involve independent agencies and their findings should be made available to the public. In this case it appears that the company that is pushing the deal is the one providing the impact study. If so, the integrity of the study will be justifiably questioned. I recommend that this process of an independent study be allowed to run its course and we be governed by the results.
- Corrective action should be undertaken where mistakes were made. In this case there has been an admittance of mistakes so it should follow that if studies do prove that the impact on The Bahamas will be negative, the government should respectfully withdraw from the deal. How can we move ahead if we know the environment and people of Grand Bahama may be negatively affected?
- All leaders and governments face tough decisions that define their legacy. Legacies are built on honest resolve to do the best regardless of personal comfort. It may be uncomfortable to admit that all things may have not been considered or that the decision may have been made hastily, but people will in most cases admire our admittance of error and resolve to make it right, rather than holding to a position that in the end may prove untenable.
- Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.