Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister said the government has not forgotten about Ragged Island, noting that construction on the island is expected to start early-2020.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest has said that Hurricane Dorian, which decimated parts of Abaco and Grand Bahama last month, has led the government to change its fiscal priorities.
However, Bannister told The Nassau Guardian that the government has not shifted its focus away from Ragged Island, which was devastated by Hurricane Irma in 2017, in order to prioritize Abaco and Grand Bahama.
“First of all, Ragged Island remains a critical priority of the government,” he said.
“I know that some people will seek to use Ragged Island for political purposes. I say otherwise, but the government has to and will – as indicated in my budget contribution – rebuild the facilities in Ragged Island.
“During the budget debate, I showed a plan of what the high school is to look like and the engineers at the Ministry of Works are looking at all of the implications of the construction. And so, we expect that well before the end of the year, we’re going to be able to get some things going on Ragged Island.”
Bannister said his ministry has been challenged with “a number of design changes”.
He said there have already been four changes “to try to get the appropriate design for the structures”.
“Now, we believe we have the optimal green design for the school combined with a teachers’ residence, which will be a revolutionary design that we have nowhere else in The Bahamas,” Bannister said.
The minister said a tendering process will began “shortly”.
“When that is finished, early next year we should see construction going on in Ragged Island,” Bannister said.
On Wednesday, Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper said that residents on the affected island have lost faith in the government.
“Given the lack of progress in Ragged Island two years later, given the depth of the neglect and disregard shown to Ragged Island, it is fair to say I am deeply concerned for the people of Abaco and Grand Bahama,” he said.
“I’ve seen an episode of this movie before and it’s when the cameras leave the scene that the struggle truly becomes real. I can report to you with certainty that the people of Ragged Island have lost faith in their own government.”
In May, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that the government would invest $8 million to restore public infrastructure on Ragged Island.