Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday hit out at critics who raised questions about the “pledges” received by the government at its recent hurricane pledging conference, calling them “very confused and poorly informed”.
“I have noticed some confusion in the public sphere as to what a pledging conference is and what these commitments mean,” said Minnis at the 29th Annual Bahamas Business Outlook at the Baha Mar resort.
“Unfortunately, some who were not present at the event seem very confused and very poorly informed. Had they informed themselves, they would not have made silly, confused and uninformed statements in the press.
“Some, who have an obligation to be more responsible, are irresponsibly making up false narratives of what happened. Again, some seem not to understand what transpired or the nature of a donor conference.”
On Monday, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the
government hosted the pledge conference to raise funds for relief efforts post-Dorian.
The Office of the Prime Minister said there was $1.5 billion in pledges at the event.
“The pledges included initiatives in homebuilding and repair; educational assistance; renewable energy partnerships; relief aid; grants; direct assistance to storm victims; parks restoration; loans and financing,” it said in a statement on Monday night.
The government did not, however, highlight in its statement that the bulk of the pledges represented one loan offer.
U.S.-based The P3 Group, Inc. (P3) pledged to make roughly $975 million available to government as a loan that would be repaid with interest.
Some political, financial and public figures have taken issue with the fact that the government did not explicitly outline that a majority of the pledges was in the form of a loan offer.
Yesterday, while speaking about the issue, Minnis said, “Like most donor conferences, and as was clearly understood at the conference, most of the aid pledges was not in the form of cash donations.”
He added, “The donor conference was an open event and attended by hundreds of individuals including domestic and international partners and potential partners.
“These pledges were made in the open with the media also assembled. The conference demonstrated confidence in The Bahamas and confidence in the government of The Bahamas.”
While Minnis highlighted yesterday that most of the pledges were not in the form of cash, his own party, the Free National Movement, seemed to think otherwise when it released a statement on Tuesday.
The FNM said the $1.5 billion pledged demonstrated “the international community’s trust in the FNM government’s ability to manage donated funds appropriately”.
The prime minister noted yesterday that Cabinet intends to “carefully review” all of the pledges in order to decide what is “best” for The Bahamas.
Dorian devastated Abaco and Grand Bahama in early September.
The Category 5 storm — the strongest recorded in Bahamian history — impacted nearly 30,000 people.
Dorian displaced thousands of people and killed dozens.
International and local scientists have warned that storms like Dorian may become a new normal as a result of climate change.
Minnis said yesterday that climate change “threatens us on many levels including but not limited to hurricanes”.
“Still, the hurricanes keep coming with even greater ferocity,” he said.
“The Bahamas experienced major hurricanes in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Then came Dorian last year. What will the years to come bring?
“Because of the geographic distribution of The Bahamas — extending from Cuba and parallel to Florida — any number of hurricane trajectories may result in dire and protracted implications for our inhabited islands.
“Our heating climate results in the increased severity and frequency of hurricanes for our archipelago, and also destroys our natural defenses against such storms.
“Coral and mangrove degradation, land erosion, increased tidal movements and the myriad other consequences of global warming, increase our vulnerability and handicap our ability to develop and to establish effective resilience measures.”