It’s a C + grade for the Free National Movement for its first year in governance under the leadership of Dr. Hubert Minnis.
Let’s take a 12-month trip down memory lane.
Yesterday marked the actual “day-date” year since the Dr. Hubert Minnis-led Free National Movement (FNM) wiped out the Progressive Liberal Party, in Grand Bahama, and throughout the land during the general elections.
It was an phenomenal achievement for Dr. Minnis who became the fourth prime minister in Bahamian history, despite having gone through the fire, so to speak, just to remain relevant as a politician, and in particular, to stave off strong critics from within his party.
Grand Bahama led the way by demonstrating through votes that Dr. Minnis and his band of FNMs were believable and would be better for this island and the rest of the country. All five FNM candidates, from East to West Grand Bahama, K. Peter Turnquest, Michael Pintard, Iram Lewis, Rev. Fred McAlpine and Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe respectively, were elected.
The great expression of support by the people of Grand Bahama, no doubt, factored heavily in Prime Minister Dr. Minnis ultimately determining to establish one of his primary offices in this island.
The PM appointed Kwasi Thompson to the Senate and made him the Minister of State, in charge of the Grand Bahama Office of the Prime Minister. It was a weighty portfolio for Senator Thompson. The word went out quickly. Senator Thompson was authorized to speak for Prime Minister Dr. Minnis, and in essence the Free National Movement Government, in Grand Bahama.
As far as Grand Bahama is concerned, Senator Thompson supersedes Turnquest, the staunch supporter of Dr. Minnis during his leadership battles. Nationally though, Turnquest ended up the No. 2 political executive in the country. He became the Deputy Prime Minister and PM Dr. Minnis enhanced Turnquest’s power base by assigning him the Minister of Finance post.
The PM picked Pintard to be the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture; tapped Parker-Edgecombe to serve as Parliamentary Secretary for Information and Communication in the Office of the Prime Minister in New Providence; posted Lewis in the Ministry of Works as Parliamentary Secretary; and made McAlpine Chairman of the Hotel Corporation of The Bahamas.
Is this structure appropriate to drive enough initiatives to Grand Bahama?
How have Grand Bahamians benefitted this past year for getting solidly behind the Free National Movement?
Well, key substantive ministers have visited and toured their jurisdictions. I refer to Minister of Works Desmond Bannister, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes, Minister of Transport Frankie Campbell, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands, and Minister of Social Services and Urban Development Lanisha Rolle.
We take the view though, that there has not been, generally, a meaningful spinoff. Firstly, let’s look at some political point-building aspects in Grand Bahama for the government during the first year in power.
The continuity attached to the projects in West Grand Bahama, the junior school construction in Holmes Rock and the administrative complex in upper Eight Mile Rock, must be appreciated.
We give the government high marks for addressing the stalled Smith’s Point Sea wall venture. The government stopped, reviewed and transformed the situation. A new work order was put in place and the project now seems earmarked to be something truly wonderful.
Senator Thompson as the Minister of State in the GB Office of the Prime Minister, provided a refreshed culture, compared to Dr. Michael Darville in the former Ministry for Grand Bahama. Senator Thompson has proven to be much more dependable, productive, capable and fair-minded, in our view, than Dr. Darville.
Solidifying the deal for GIBC Digital to open an office in Grand Bahama was huge. If all pans out as presented, over 100 persons directly, or through out sourcing, will become salaried as a result of the GIBC Digital operation in Grand Bahama.
Then, there is Lewis. He has displayed a level of honesty, seldom found in politicians when addressing matters that could result in criticism. He was upfront recently while giving an overview of the process of the Fishing Hole Road Bridge. He expressed concerns about the under flow of water and how it will interact with the footing of the bridge. This is a very serious business and it was noteworthy that he brought the possibility of a dilemma to the attention of the general public. He thus, heightened the focus on doing the appropriate engineering to ensure fortification and safety.
It’s better to be safe than politically correct.
Well done, Lewis!
Now, let’s examine the other side of the “FNM Accomplishment/Lack Thereof” ledger.
The government boldly made presentations regarding the purchase of the Grand Lucayan Hotel properties in Lucaya, by the Paul Wynn Group of Canada; and the Grand Palm Beach revitalization of the Ginn project in West Grand Bahama.
Communication thereafter has been poor and to a large degree the government has been losing contact with Grand Bahamians. By not keeping Grand Bahamians updated, the FNM has adopted the ways of the previous government.
Inside of two months upon winning the government, Minister of State Thompson earned points for the government with the people of Grand Bahama, when he pointedly told representatives of the Harcourt Development Company that they must shape up and be fully on top of their investment responsibilities.
Ten months have passed and nothing new has been presented to the people as to whether Harcourt has made any inroads to enhance its properties. From all appearances, nothing has changed. We have been told that only nine holes at the Ruby Golf Course are being used.
The government seems to have fallen down badly in this case.
Several days prior to the general elections of May 10, 2017, then Prime Minister Perry Christie was scheduled to travel to Grand Bahama to officially open the completed fire station, with a listed cost of $6.5 million, on Settler’s way. Christie didn’t follow up, as was characteristic of him. He never made it in. So, the FNM inherited a brand-new facility, necessary to provide service to the public.
Amazingly, this government has failed in a whole year, to open the fire station.
This is disgraceful. Again, there has been no communication to the public as to the reason for this failure.
A jubilant Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis trotted out his government’s relationship with Oban Energies and the proposed project for an oil refinery and storage plant in East Grand Bahama. Dr. Minnis and the government went downhill quickly. First, there was the botched Heads of Agreement signing, and the absence of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, which amounted collectively to a national disgrace.
Here in Grand Bahama, despite the project being proposed for his constituency, Turnquest has failed to address the residents of the area publicly to get feedback, and to provide answers to questions due to the high controversy connected to the project, because of health and environmental concerns.
What makes Turnquest’s handling of the situation so shameful is the fact that it was announced early in the process that he would hold two town meetings in the east and one in Freeport. The meetings never came off. There has been no word about any other meetings.
Oban officials actually upstaged the government by holding their own town meeting in High Rock. At least, on that one occasion, Grand Bahamians were given the opportunity to express their views.
The Oban issue, has to date, been one of the big downsides to the government’s functioning in the first year. Hopefully, in the second year and beyond, the missteps will be fewer and further apart.
Really, it was a bit of a stretch to give the government as much as a C + grade for its first year. However, we leaned on the conviction that Prime Minister Dr. Minnis and company did have a strong desire to do well for Grand Bahama.