There are no plans to remove the recently implemented fee on plastic bags, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis suggested yesterday, adding that if the policy means losing the next election then so be it.
“That’s a matter that will be further discussed but I’ve always said [a]nd on record and you quote me, I would always prefer to lose an election than losing a country,” Minnis said at the Baha Mar Convention Centre.
“That’s my position. I feel that a country and [the] future generation is more important. I prefer to lose an election than lose a future generation and a country. But, I take things into consideration.”
The prime minister was responding to comments made by Super Value owner Rupert Roberts, who said the government should abolish the fee on plastic bags.
Roberts warned that public anger over the issue could follow the Minnis administration “into the ballot box”.
Roberts told The Nassau Guardian, “Abolish the charge.
“And I think government should really do it because I’m afraid this is going to follow them right to the ballot box. The public are angry and [the new year] is the wrong time to make the public angry.
“You know, right after peace on earth and happy new year, to make the whole country angry at a single plastic bag is going to cost them — government — if they don’t change it.”
Legislation banning single-use plastics came into effect on January 1, 2020.
The Environmental Protection (Control of Plastic Pollution) Act, 2019 outlines that businesses have until June 30, 2020 to possess prohibited items such as plastic bags on the condition that the items are sold to customers at a fee no less than 25 cents and no more than $1, excluding value-added tax.
Many consumers have taken issue with the charge for plastic bags, calling it a tax, notwithstanding the fact that the government is not collecting the money from merchants.
Minnis defended the government’s decision to implement the ban.
“We went on a serious public relations and marketing strategy informing the Bahamian populace that this was going to happen, informing them the necessity of banning plastic bags because it gets into our waters,” Minnis said.
“It damages and causes death to fish and corals and our marine life.
“So, the conch salad that you eat today, if we continue down this road with plastic, you won’t have it tomorrow. The fish that you eat today, the boil fish, you won’t have tomorrow.
“So, we’re trying to prevent that so we can have sufficient fish, sufficient marine life, sufficient resources for our future generation.
“So, all of that was explained. The 25 cents was basically put there to prevent you from purchasing so that the bags that were offered and given and distributed for over a year, you go to various different events bags were distributed and given to individuals so that they can use those.”
The prime minister encouraged the public to take advantage of the free reusable bags that are given out at events.
He said Bahamians should “utilize and obtain the bags so that they can use them and save our marine life and save our marine resources, save our tourism, save our economy”.