Thursday, May 21, 2020
By EARYEL BOWLEG
PLP leader Philip “Brave” Davis criticised the government as “mis-stepping, backtracking” and “fumbling” in a pre-budget statement he delivered last night. He claimed the Minnis administration has cut the Ministry of Works’ capital budget, saying this hampers the work Bahamians could be doing.
He also accused Minister of Works Desmond Bannister of breaching Cabinet protocol by publicly requesting an increase in his capital allocation for the second year in a row.
Mr Bannister told Tribune Business earlier this month he would be “smiling from ear to ear” if he got his wish for a $500m budget for the ministry after the bridge linking Spanish Wells and Russell Island collapsed.
Last night, the Cat Island, Rum Cay & San Salvador MP said: “They have slashed the Ministry of Works’ capital budget, and I could call that short-sighted, but the better word for doing that in this economy is stupid. When we build or rebuild bridges, docks, seawalls and more in this country, we are hiring Bahamians and investing in a stronger country.
“But this year marks the second straight year where the minister of works has breached Cabinet protocol and publicly requested an increase in his capital allocation. We can guess what they’re likely to tell him. Yet the folly and expense of depending on global supply chains have never been more obvious.”
Mr Davis questioned again why some islands with zero COVID-19 cases are open for business while Exuma, Eleuthera and San Salvador cannot and demanded the matter be dealt with now.
He called for the government to do more to prepare for hurricanes and highlighted the need for a stronger health infrastructure to fight future viruses.
He said: “Why shouldn’t our country finally lead other small island nations in a new fight for debt relief for the debts incurred by crises not of our own making? We need to lead the way. Don’t come at us with your small thinking anymore.
“We need to do more to prepare for and protect ourselves from hurricanes – hurricanes made more deadly and more destructive by the carbon emissions of other countries. Why shouldn’t those countries share some of that cost burden? Don’t tell me it’s impossible when you haven’t even tried. And if viruses from other countries are going to be a new and recurring threat – and Ebola, MERS, SARS and COVID-19 are evidence enough for me – we need to invest in a stronger health infrastructure too, and not just in New Providence but on Grand Bahama and all our islands.”
Mr Davis also suggested waiving the fees for the taxi drivers and tour drivers who can’t renew their licenses at the moment so they can be back on their feet when visitors return.