Govt wants significant changes to Oban deal
The government is committed to making significant and extensive changes to its heads of agreement with Oban Energies for a $5.5 billion oil refinery and storage facility in East Grand Bahama, Labour Minister Dion Foulkes said yesterday.
In February 2018, the government signed a heads of agreement with Oban, but later committed to reviewing it amid public furore.
The government has met with the company twice this week in an attempt to renegotiate the agreement.
“I thought that the meeting was very productive in terms of conveying to Oban what the concerns of the government are and there are numerous changes, significant changes, that the government wishes to make to the heads of agreement,” Foulkes told reporters outside Cabinet.
“I think they fully understand what they all are. Ostensibly, as the prime minister said yesterday, the environmental provisions are our main concern and we want to make significant changes to the environmental clauses.
“Also, secondly, the economic clauses to get greater benefit not only to Grand Bahama but to The Bahamas; and thirdly, some of the legal provisions we wish to change. [Oban was] very receptive to what we had to say.”
On Monday, Oban President Alexander Grikitis said that he is “100 percent” confident in the deal.
However, Foulkes, who heads a Cabinet subcommittee tasked with examining it, declined to comment on whether the government shares the same confidence as Oban.
The original agreement was signed without an environmental impact assessment (EIA) in place – a major point of contention for environmentalists and others.
It states that the government does not have an option to kill the deal based on anything the EIA concludes, but must work with Oban to address any concerns raised by the study.
Foulkes said the media and the environmental community “had a significant input in shaping the government’s position on this”.
“The bottom line is the prime minister and the Cabinet want to be responsive to the concerns of the Bahamian people with respect to this agreement,” he said.
He added: “Going forward for the process, we will await a written response from [Oban] as to whether they agree or disagree with our changes. We have not set a time frame for that yet. That will be set today at the end of the meeting today, then I will take a report, a comprehensive report to Cabinet and Cabinet will make a decision on the way forward.”
The minister said he was unsure how many meetings would be required to renegotiate the agreement but “we are prepared to put in as much time as necessary to get the agreement right for the Bahamian people”.
Earlier this week, Progressive Liberal Party Leader Philip Brave Davis called on the government to publicize its proposed amendments to the agreement.
But Foulkes dismissed Davis’ call, asserting that he wants to “respect the integrity of the negotiation process”.
“I heard the leader of the opposition yesterday say that we should just go ahead and make all of [the] proposals that we want to make to the agreement public, but you don’t negotiate like that,” Foulkes said.
“You have to first of all inform the party of the changes that you want to make and have a private discussion, and then inform the public after Cabinet has the opportunity to make a decision.”
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice
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