Minister of Transport and Local Government Renward Wells conceded yesterday that the government’s dwindling popularity is the result of the difficult but necessary decisions it has made.
“At the end of the day, I understand that there might be those who are a little bit upset or a little put off by some of the decisions we have made,” Wells said after a local government workshop at the Melia Nassau Beach resort.
“We were very transparent with what we said we would do for the Bahamian people as an administration and we are moving forward with that in every sense of the word.”
Wells added, “Oftentimes, there’s this political axiom that from the moment you get elected you start to lose support.
“I don’t necessarily accept that.
“You know, we’ve had to make some very hard and fast decisions, and really a lot of that has to do with the fact that every new government coming in… was not as open and transparent so that the Bahamian people would know what was the financial affairs and the state of the country.”
Within weeks of assuming office in May 2017, the Minnis administration announced its intention to borrow over $700 million, which Wells said was necessary to “make ends meet” throughout the budget year.
“As an opposition, we weren’t aware to the extent of the economic situation of this country until we were elected and until we were in charge of the ship that we were able to look at the books and see that which we were presented with,” he said.
“Based on that, we came to the Bahamian people in full disclosure and said, ‘Here is the state of your affairs.’
“And we made some hard decisions.
“Not everyone has agreed with the decisions we have made, but you know, it has [been for] the benefit of the Bahamian people.”
A study by Bahamian market and opinion research firm Public Domain in April 2018 found that the optimism felt by many Bahamians after the FNM was elected to office was “dissipating quickly” and a growing number of people felt that the country was headed in the wrong direction.
The poll came after the government signed a heads of agreement with Oban Energies, in February 2018, for a multi-billion dollar oil refinery and storage facility in East Grand Bahama, but later committed to reviewing it amid public furor.
The agreement was signed without an environmental impact assessment (EIA) in place, which garnered significant public criticism.
Months later, the Minnis administration increased the value-added tax (VAT) rate from 7.5 percent to 12 percent.
The news was met with anger and protests, as many Bahamians complained it was already difficult to make ends meet.
Wells was elected to the House of Assembly as a Progressive Liberal Party MP in 2012. He served as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Works.
On November 4, 2015 Wells crossed the floor and joined the Free National Movement.
Wells said yesterday that he intends to remain in the FNM.
“I want to be able to put this baby to rest once and for all,” he said.
“I am where I am because I chose to join success. I was in the house of Hubert Alexander Minnis speaking to him and I told him, ‘Your fate will be my fate and where you go, I will go.’
“I am in the Free National Movement and there is no further movement for Renward Wells.”