Shadow Minister of Finance Chester Cooper yesterday accused the government of misleading Bahamians amid questions over nearly a billion dollars that was pledged by a company for rebuilding efforts in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.
“Having squandered tremendous goodwill, the government appears so desperate for good news that it would seek to mislead the Bahamian people,” Cooper said.
“While it is encouraging that so many around the world are reportedly eager to offer assistance to The Bahamas in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, we are more interested in the details of any potential arrangement struck with and/or offered by foreign entities.”
A $975 million pledge from P3 Group was the largest of $1.5 billion in pledge donations for Hurricane Dorian relief during an aid conference this week.
The P3 Group’s CEO Dee Brown confirmed that the amount pledged would be a loan, financed by the group and repaid with interest.
“P3’s president is quoted as saying these projects would be revenue-generating in nature and ‘owned’ by P3 until its money is recouped,” Cooper said.
“The president also says over $600 million of the available money could be used for various healthcare projects.”
Cooper added, “Firstly, while P3 might have pledged to make this amount available, it is a very simple manner to call it what it would be – new borrowing.
“Additionally, the rate at which this money would be financed and [for] how long are real concerns, particularly in light of the Minnis administration’s glaring lack of an economic growth strategy for The Bahamas.
“We would like to know why this route would be any more feasible than a national investment bond that would allow Bahamians to participate.
“The structure of any potential deal must also be carefully vetted and due diligence done on P3 and the financiers.
“On which islands would P3 undertake construction? And what labor would be needed in the construction phase?
“Who would manage these assets?
“If P3 is allowed to construct what amounts to the entire public healthcare infrastructure of the country, would this ultimately result in new taxes or user fees, given the minimal revenue streams of existing facilities?
“And how will this factor into the government’s long-delayed reconfiguration of NHI (National Health Insurance)?”
Cooper said that while the restoration of Grand Bahama and Abaco is of utmost importance, the Minnis administration approached it in “an ad hoc and confusing” manner. He called for a full account of the pledges and donations received for Hurricane Dorian and Hurricane Irma.
“The people of The Bahamas need assurances from the government that they are not being fed empty words for show, but there are tangibles with achievable timelines and targets,” he said.
“We await the details of any agreements to be struck to be debated in Parliament with full transparency.
“Whilst we are at it, we ask again that the government be accountable and provide a full account of the pledges and donations received for Dorian and for Hurricane Irma that struck Ragged Island more than two years ago.”