New Investment Fund Bill, Mining Bill in the works

New regs will allow DEPP to issue ‘spot fines’ in instances of environmental pollution

The government intends to soon table legislation for the creation of a framework to manage the government’s private share holdings, Attorney General Ryan Pinder said yesterday.

Pinder said a new Investment Fund Bill will allow for the professional management of government holdings in numerous private companies, as well as lay out a framework for the creation of the promised National Infrastructure Fund, which will mobilize capital to expand critical infrastructure.

“Both in our Blueprint for Change and the budget communication, you would have heard that we are going to create a National Infrastructure Fund to help develop infrastructure throughout our islands in our archipelago, using PPP [public-private partnership] strategies so we can leverage private participation and government participation to strengthen our Family Islands,” he said during yesterday’s Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) press briefing.

“We also spoke in our Blueprint for Change about a fund to manage the private holdings of a company by the government, such as Cable Bahamas, Arawak Port and the list goes on. We believe that should be managed professionally and properly. And so, this bill will provide a framework to launch that fund for those holdings.

“This is an internationally benchmarked piece of legislation, taking the best elements of all national fund legislations across the world, and imposes the Santiago Principles on the governance of these funds. That is a world-renowned standard on corporate good governance on national funds. So, our legislation takes that into account as well.”

Pinder said the government also has a series of environmentally focused legislation it intends to table in Parliament, including a new Mining Act.

“That is a commitment in our Blueprint for Change. That would set up a regulatory framework for the mining of natural resources, aggregates and the like. Right now, we don’t have a focused regulatory body to maintain that. Certainly, that impacts our climate change initiatives that we do as a government, so we are meeting that obligation by bringing that act to Parliament, within the first quarter we hope,” he said.

“You would have heard a lot of discussions about research permits, how we approach them and the difficulties that exist in the Biological Research and Traditional Knowledge Act that was passed by the former administration. We have a series of amendments to bring forward to that bill, and what they intend to do is look at it from a risk-based approach for research permits.

“Those that are really low risk to the country, with respect to our biological research being owned by another party or sovereign or someone out of the country, if they are merely educational or scientific we look to have a risk-based approach in that regard, so we can facilitate purely scientific and education research in a very expeditious way. When it’s a commercialized type of research they want to do, we have better controls over that.”

There are also plans, Pinder said, to bring new amendments to the Environmental Planning and Protection Act.

“This is very important. The amendments are really two-fold. One, we want to increase the fines that DEPP (Department of Environmental Planning and Protection) can issue on environmental violations. That’s very important. We need to have teeth in order to have the proper enforcement mechanisms on environmental concerns. And the second I think would be very pleasing to family island developers in the first instance or small developers in The Bahamas looking to do things,” he said.

“We look to make certain amendments to ensure that the environmentally important areas like mangroves are preserved, but also to have construction activities that are not really in environmentally sensitive areas, nor have an adverse environmental impact, to be exempt from the DEPP licensing regime.”

Pinder said new regulations will also allow for DEPP to have the capability to issue “spot fines” in instances of environmental pollution.

“That doesn’t take away our ability to go to court for more fines, but what it does is, if a cruise ship [releases] discharge in the harbor. Or as we saw in the Exuma oil spill, DEPP can issue a fine on the spot, rather than the current regime where you have to go to the courts to enforce that mechanism. So, it’s just an added level of enforcement and penalties,” he said.

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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