While asserting that the Oban deal is “not moving forward”, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said the government is trying to be precautionary and responsible with its negotiations.
The government signed an agreement with Oban Energies in February 2018 for a $5.5 billion oil refinery and storage facility in East Grand Bahama.
The agreement was signed without an environmental impact assessment (EIA) in place which has garnered a lot of public criticism.
During an appearance on the Our TV show “On the Record”, D’Aguilar said, “The deal is stopped. It’s stopped. Oban is stopped. It’s not moving forward. It hasn’t moved forward. It hasn’t moved forward. We have to be responsible in how we deal with this.”
He added: “The government has admitted that we’ve made some missteps. We admit that. So, we’ve made some missteps and we are trying in the best possible way to ensure that if this deal is to go forward that it is done properly in conformance with the law.”
Several environmentalists and others have chastised the government over the deal. The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) said there was no scenario where it would support the deal, noting the overall risk is too great, particularly to the neighboring national parks.
Following weeks of being lambasted and a firestorm of headlines on the matter, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis admitted that the government made a series of missteps regarding the deal, in its haste to boost the economy of Grand Bahama, and as a result ordered a subcommittee and technical advisory group to examine the deal in hopes of renegotiating.
On Thursday, D’Aguilar said the government has slowed down to ensure there is no repeat of the previous missteps.
“We’re not perfect people,” he said.
“We don’t get it right all the time, nobody ever does. And what we’re doing is ensuring that whatever happens going forward that the environment is protected, that the deal is good for the Bahamians…you know, it’s slowed down for a reason…
He continued, “…We’re going to make sure that this is absolutely right. The Bahamian people have expressed their displeasure. We’re a government that stops [and says], ‘Okay, we’ll correct it. We’ll look at where we went wrong and bring about the corrections.’”
Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Peter Turnquest said the government was trying to determine whether the deal is “something that we want to proceed with in terms of the kind of installation versus maybe considering the touristic elements that are now developing the island”.
“So, again, this is going through a look from both sides to determine what is best for the island, what is best for Oban and for us,” Turnquest said.
Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes, who heads that subcommittee, said they are still trying to schedule a meeting with Oban’s principals to move forward with negotiations.
He also noted that the government has yet to submit its amendments to the heads of agreement to Oban’s principals because “we had a glitch with our computer system”.