Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader and Shadow Minister of Finance Chester Cooper said yesterday he’s “delighted” to learn that the government is considering his suggestion to purchase Grand Bahama International Airport (GBIA), calling it a win for the people of The Bahamas if the government follows through.
Earlier this month, Guardian Business reported that Cooper urged the government to act quickly to spur economic activity on the island that was ravaged by Hurricane Dorian, starting with the purchase of GBIA.
“I like the idea, on about October 15 or 17 it was my recommendation to the government. So, I’m delighted to hear that they are now listening. When I indicated that we should make Grand Bahama and Abaco VAT (value-added tax) free they listened and I’m glad to see now that the Bahamian people are winning as a result of them listening to sound reasoning. I visited Grand Bahama last week and it was pretty disheartening to take the bus from the plane to a makeshift terminal and take the bus back and eight weeks in, nothing has happened,” Cooper said in an interview with The Nassau Guardian yesterday.
“This is very disappointing, the Bahamian people are suffering, the people of Grand Bahama are suffering. The government must take this matter into its own hands, they’ve been unsuccessful clearly in persuading the owners to get on with the renovations and so now they’ve finally come to their senses and made the determination that this is the right thing to do. I support the idea, I am grateful when the Bahamian people win, when we see bipartisan ideas and Bahamian people win as a result of it, I’m delighted.”
The Exumas and Ragged Island member of Parliament lamented at the time that he was not convinced the owners of the airport – the Grand Bahama Port Authority and Hong Kong-based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa – would rebuild the hub in a timely enough manner, a sentiment that Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar echoed earlier this week.
D’Aguilar noted that Hutchison has “not demonstrated” an effort to rebuild the airport to the state that it was prior to the storm, describing the company as “somewhat reluctant”.
Cooper added that on the whole, restoration is going too slowly on the impacted islands.
“Bahamian people are very concerned. There’s still a level of uncertainty looming, whether it’s food or water or jobs, or where their income is going to come from tomorrow. There is a view that the government is not working fast enough to restore commerce on Abaco and Grand Bahama and this is causing much uncertainty, much anxiety and therefore the government must focus on the restoration,” he said.
Parliamentarians yesterday debated the Disaster Reconstruction Authority Bill, 2019 which provides for the establishment of a body corporate to be known as the Bahamas Disaster Reconstruction Authority, that would oversee rebuilding and relief efforts following a natural disaster.