As he unveiled his government’s plans for Exuma, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis blasted the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) for opposing a resolution to borrow $100 million from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to fund disaster management.
Minnis told a crowd of Exuma natives on Saturday night that the opposition simply doesn’t care if it takes two or three years to repair infrastructure on the island in the wake of a disaster.
“We went to Parliament in January of this year to debate having a credit line available and the opposition, each and every one, said no,” Minnis said during a town hall meeting at the Exuma Foundation Resource Centre.
“They do not want the credit line and they are not prepared for any type of precaution.
“In fact, they would prefer that we got slammed then we enter the pool searching for relief, which could take two, three years.
“So what they said is they don’t care if Exuma’s airport is damaged. ‘Let Exuma wait for two to three years for repairs.’
“They don’t care if Exuma’s dock is damaged. ‘Let them wait like everybody else.’
“And you’ve seen what has happened to Puerto Rico. ‘Let The Bahamas wait. Let Exuma wait like everyone else for repairs.’
“Whether your mailboats, with your food, cannot get here, that is immaterial. Whether the medication coming through the seas or port gets here, that is immaterial.
“Whether your healthcare facilities are repaired immediately: No, Exuma must wait. The Bahamas must wait.”
The crowd cheered Minnis on, booing the opposition and shouting “shame”.
Minnis said he knew that PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis and Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper were watching the live-stream of the town hall.
“I want to ask them…why do they feel that Exuma must not be prepared in the event of a disaster,” he asked.
“Why should Exuma be subjected to two to three years of neglect?”
In January, the government debated and passed two resolutions to borrow $130 million from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
The four opposition members voted against the resolutions.
Plans for Exuma
As he addressed Exuma natives, Minnis unveiled plans for a new airport, announced that the government will lift the years-long moratorium on new taxi-cab plates and construct new roads on the island.
He also said that the government will construct an Office of the Prime Minister on the island.
“We are going out to tender within the next week or two for the new prime minister’s office in Exuma,” Minnis said.
“…We should be able to start construction very soon. It has facilities for the prime minister. It has facilities for advisors of the prime minister.”
Minnis said once construction is commenced, former FNM Exuma candidate Navarro Bowe will “ensure that our project goes in the right direction”.
However, he gave no timeline for any of the projects announced.
Regarding the plans for the airport, he said, “Exuma needs more.
“Your economy is growing. Your tourist numbers are growing. It also means that you need more taxis.
“It also means that you need more self-drive vehicles. It also means that with all of these planes coming here, your airport will become obsolete. You must have improvement.”
As he unveiled posters showing the design, he exclaimed, “This is your new airport. This is the schematic or design of the new airport that is being designed and prepared for Exuma.
“We cannot have our guests and ourselves be exposed to the elements of the environment.
“So if Exuma is receiving a new airport, it also means that with time there must be additional employment to run such facilities.
“What it also means is if our tourist numbers are increasing and our airport is being expanded to accommodate them, you must have additional taxis, etc.
“As I stand here tonight, I want to inform Exuma that the government will lift the moratorium on taxi plates and self-drive [plates] just for Exuma.”
Last June, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar announced that the government had expected to break ground on a revamped airport in Exuma by January 2019 after securing two loans from the IDB.