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Monday, January 25, 2021

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Miami Beaches Could Face Harmful Impact of Bahamas Oil Drilling

Environmentalists say oil drilling in the Bahamas could harm Florida coastlines.

Why it matters

  • Florida has an ongoing ban on offshore oil drilling off its coast.
  • Fears are that the exploratory drilling project in the Bahamas could pose a significant risk to Miami’s beaches.

What’s expected to happen today

  • Stena Drilling, the provider of the IceMAX drillship is expected to begin operation today.
  • The provider had given formal notification to Bahamas Petroleum Company of the intended operational start date, being 15 December 2020.
  • BPC says it anticipates that it will take 4-5 days from this start date for the rig to be provisioned, loaded, and then transitioned to the drilling location for spud of the well.
  • The Stena IceMAX is equipped with a Managed Pressure Drilling (“MPD”) system, an advanced well management and drilling safety system that represents the ‘cutting-edge’ of drilling technology currently available. 
Stena IceMax arrived in the Bahamas and is shown anchored near Freeport, Grand Bahama.

What environmentalists say on the risk to Florida

Marc Yaggi, executive director for the Waterkeeper Alliance, a global network that advocates for clean water say the offshore drilling “is inherently risky and inherently dirty.”

He  tells New Times he fears the BPC project has the potential to become the next BP oil spill, which occurred in 2010 when an oil rig exploded. The explosion released enormous amounts of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, where some reached Florida’s shores and killed droves of marine animals.

The big picture

  • Bahamas Petroleum Company believes there are supergiant oilfields to be found in Bahamas waters and is working to find them.
  • Drilling of the first well will be the first in a series of five the company plans to drill around the Bahamas.
  • Prime Minister Hubert Minnis says he opposes oil drilling, much to the delight of local environmentalists who believe the drilling poses harmful risks to the country’s marine environment.

Featured Image: BPC

Who Is Desmond Bannister and Why Is He Deputy Prime Minister?

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced that Desmond Bannister will be his new deputy prime minister.

This announcement comes after the resignation of Peter Turnquest on November 26th from the position after allegations of fraud were filed in the Supreme Court by a former business partner.

Bannister, a senior member of Minnis’ Cabinet will fill that position.

What did Hubert Minnis say?

At the national address on Sunday, the prime minister officially revealed the pick, touting Bannister’s “experience and good counsel.”

“The Hon. Desmond Bannister, the Minister of Works, will become Deputy Prime Minister.
Because of his portfolio, which includes capital works and infrastructure, and because of his experience and good counsel, he will be a part of the economic team.”

What did the governing party say?

In a statement, the party released a statement in support of Bannister, stating that his appointment as deputy prime minister “demonstrates the FNM’s continued commitment to populating the government with leaders focused on serving the people. Bannister’s dignity and relentless effort to solve problems are well known. He will make an excellent governing partner to our Prime Minister.”

The party says Bannister has shown strong leadership “as a steady hand with a measured temperament working for and on behalf of the people” while praising his leadership at Bahamas Power and Light (BPL).

“His boundless determination working to resolve decades-long problems that plagued BPL shows his skill and commitment to tackling challenges while getting results. Because of his leadership, load-shedding has been eliminated and BPL is now better equipped to produce more affordable, cleaner and reliable energy for generations to come.”

Who is Desmond Bannister?

The 62-year-old  was first appointed as Senator in 2002, then elected to Parliament in 2007 as a representative of Carmichael. He served as minister of state in the Attorney General’s Office and as education minister

He is described as a sports enthusiast, elected as President of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations in 1999.

Bannister received his LLB degree from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados and completed his Legal Education Certificate at the Norman Manley Law School in Kingston, Jamaica.

He was called to the Bahamas Bar in 1988 and served as Crown Counsel in the Office of The Attorney General between 1988 and 1991.

Bannister has served as a part-time lecturer for the Bahamas Bar, at the Bahamas Institute of Bankers and The College of The Bahamas, as well as having previously served as Stipendiary & Circuit Magistrate.

Desmond Bannister’s role

As Minister of Public Works, Bannister led and oversaw a host of infrastructure developments:

  • Reconstruction of the of Bulkhead Government Dock and New Dock at Clifton Pier
  • Replacement of the Government Dock in Barraterre, Exuma
  • Construction of the Port Nelson Dock at Rum Cay
  • Stabilization of the Coast Road in Elbow Cay, Abaco that had deteriorated
  • Replacement of Newton Cay Bridge, Long Island
  • Construction on the Smith Point Seawall, Grand Bahama
  • Repaired the Glass Window Bridge, Eleuthera
  • Construction the new Fishing Hole Road Causeway Project
  • Repairs and Renovations to the Garnet Levarity Justice Centre in Grand Bahama
  • Demolition of the Clarence Bain Building
  • Construction of the South Andros Gym, which is nearing completion

During Minnis’ official opening of a dock in Exuma about two weeks ago, he mistakenly referred to Bannister as “deputy” before correcting himself, which drew laughter from onlookers.

Vaughn Miller Slams Government for Non Invitation to Housing Ceremony

Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller lambasted the government for neither informing nor inviting him to the recent groundbreaking ceremony for the new Carmichael Village Subdivision.

Miller stood in the House of Assembly to slam the government saying the lack of invitation shows “disrespect.” He said, “I take grave offense.”

Why it matters

  • The new subdivision is located in the Golden Isles constituency.
  • Vaughn Miller just recently crossed the floor from the governing party to become a member of the Progressive Liberal Party.
  • The housing project in the Carmichael area was attended by Prime Minister Hubert Minnis and the Minister of the Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira.

The big picture

  • The new subdivision comprises a total of 365 lots for the purpose of home construction. It will accommodate single and multi-family housing. Additional lots will be used to construct community parks and other common areas for the residents of the subdivision.
  • The serviced lot will provide land at prices below market value in order for the land to be used as collateral; ensure that the land has infrastructure; and provide concessions to enable Bahamians to build at considerably reduced costs.

What Vaughn Miller said

  • It has always been accepted and expected practice in our democracy. He is not aware nor informed that the practice has been changed.
  • It was a blatant lack of respect shown to him as the member of parliament for the area.
  • I was elected and not appointed by Golden Isles.
  • We are supposed to be honorable men and women in this honorable institution. Our behaviour should therefore reflect the same.
  • I am the member of parliament for the said constituency regardless of their political persuasion.
  • It is disheartening to see the leader of the country seemingly unfazed that the elected member of parliament for the said constituency was not apart of the project that could undoubtedly have a great impact on the quality of life of those residents.

State of play

  • Prime Minister Minnis nor Romauld Ferriera were present in the House during the speech.

OK, Turnquest Resigned. Now What?

By now we are aware of Peter Turnquest’s resignation as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister as Finance following allegations of fraud when he served as a manager and director in two aviation companies. The writ filed in the Supreme Court does not name Turnquest as the defendant in the case, but mentions him in his role as manager of the company responsible for the “bogus loans” that totaled nearly $30 million.

Turnquest in his resignation letter maintains his innocence, calling the matters “unfounded” and “untrue.” However, in the court of public opinion, some have found him guilty. It is important to remember that these allegations are simply accusations that need to be proven by the court system.

However, Turnquest saw it necessary to resign considering his post as Minister of Finance, and determined that the allegations will distract the work of government as it seeks to maneuver the country’s economy through the pandemic.

Who will replace Peter Turnquest?

Turnquest was second in command to Prime Minister Hubert Minnis and rose to the position in 2014 when other party members opposed Minnis’ leadership. He eventually became finance minister in 2017 when the Free National Movement won at the election poll.

Under Turnquest’s watch, we have seen an increase of Vat from 7%– introduced by the Progressive Liberal Party, to 12% and a number of downgrades. But all in all, Turnquest has handled them decently, while remaining steady-handed and committed to public finance reform.

Minnis said he will become interim Finance Minister and will make an appointment in “due course.”

Scanning the Cabinet, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar will make a superb minister of finance considering his background in accounts and the many successes he’s had in the country’s primary industry, tourism, and his shrewd business skills.

Agriculture Minister Michael Pintard is well suited for the position of Deputy Prime Minister. He is young, articulate, thorough, and well-liked. Pintard is a man of few words in the House of Assembly, but when he speaks, it’s substantive. In addition, heading into the 2022 general election, Pintard is best suited to go head-to-head with PLP’s Deputy Leader Chester Cooper, who may change voters’ minds at the polls if they reconsider Minnis as prime minister.

Pintard can be to Minnis what U.S Vice President Mike Pence is to President Donald Trump. Pintard balances Minnis in every way.

For now, it’s a waiting game to see what happens next.

How Minnis Intended 2-Month Emergency Order Extension, But Seems to Have Changed Mind

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis wanted to extend the emergency order by two months when the proclamation expires on November 30th.

CSJ Report understands that Minnis as the competent authority intended to continue the state of emergency order to January, but faced opposition from a few Cabinet ministers.

When Minnis presented the fixed plan to ministers, he expected them to come in agreement but an outspoken minister told him he could not consent.

Why it matters

The emergency order expires on November 30th, after the country was placed under nearly eight months of the emergency order. Minnis gave notice in the House of Assembly on Wednesday that once the order expires this month, he intends to extend the order to December 28th, an indication that he had changed his mind.

The big picture

As COVID-19 cases rose in the country, Governor-General C.A Smith declared a state of emergency in March. The order was initially set to expire on June 29.

Attorney General Carl Bethel said the proclamations “ensure public health.”

The order faces opposition

  • Attorney Wayne Munroe is a known opposer of the emergency order, threatening to file a lawsuit against the government.
  • Attorney Damien Gomez says he will join that lawsuit if the emergency order is extended beyond January.
    • He says, “My view of it is, firstly, you should only use states of emergency sparingly. Doing it repeatedly undermines the perception of the country as a country governed by laws and freedoms.”

It Gets Worse in Exuma and Eleuthera

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis addressed the House of Assembly on Wednesday morning, bearing bad news. He said Exuma and Eleuthera’s COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing.

As of yesterday, Tuesday 17th,  there were a total of 99 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Exuma, and on Eleuthera, a total of 143 confirmed cases.

Why it matters

  • The competent authority in recent weeks announced restrictive measures for mainland Exuma, and mainland Eleuthera, due to exponential increases in new cases of COVID-19 on those islands.

What’s happening?

  • Health officials report that from the analysis of the map of cases, the spread is occurring throughout Exuma.
  • From interviews conducted in the community by the health team, some people are still having gatherings, and residents believe this is largely contributing to the spread of COVID-19 on Exuma.
  • A team from the Ministry of Health made up of members of the contact tracing team and the surveillance unit is currently in Exuma to assess the COVID-19 situation.
  • A health team is scheduled to return to Eleuthera next week to complete a follow-up assessment and to determine the impact of the recently imposed restrictive measures on that island.

Minnis Fears a 3rd Wave if Bahamians Travel in Pandemic

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis pleaded with Bahamians not to travel out of the country, as the United States and Europe battle spike in coronavirus cases. Minnis says he fears a third wave of the virus if Bahamians increase their travel.

“As a result of the extraordinary spike in cases in North America and Europe – and the ongoing challenges in the Americas as a whole – as Prime Minister, I advise all Bahamians
not to travel outside of the country at this time unless for an emergency.”

Why it matters

  • The record number of cases in the northern countries like the United States and Europe means there is significant virus transmission there.
  • Traveling to a COVID hotspot could cause you to catch it.
  • These countries have an overwhelmed hospital system which makes it difficult to receive medical treatment.
  • These countries may quickly change their travel policies resulting in border closures.

What PM says?

“It is exceptionally risky to leave the Bahamas at this time.

“Please, I beg and plead with all Bahamians to stay at home, unless it is absolutely necessary to travel overseas.

Minnis acknowledged the reality of COVID-19 fatigue but asked Bahamians to travel to the Family Islands where travel is permitted while following the public health guidelines.

“I ask Bahamians to spend that money in The Bahamas with Bahamian businesses that employ Bahamians. They will have a good time and will help our economy. We should be careful and sensible when it comes to where we travel. We could have a very difficult third wave if we are lax in our behavior and in our travels.

“If you have to go overseas because of an emergency, please wear a mask, maintain physical distancing, avoid large gatherings, and wash your hands thoroughly and often.”

Worth noting

  • COVID-19 cases are spiking across the United States. According to a New York Times database, as of Wednesday, more than 11,439,000 people in the United States were infected, and at least 248,400 died.
  • There is a high risk of infections.

Featured Image: BIS Photos/Yontalay Bowe

Bimini’s ‘Reckless’ Partygoers Can Set the Country Back

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said the actions taken by partygoers in Bimini over the weekend is simply “irresponsible,” as the country tries to reopen.

Minnis told The Guardian “Something like that can set us back.”

The video, which made the rounds on social media shows a large crowd on a beach, where attendees wore no masks nor practiced social distancing. Attendees stood closely together, singing and dancing.

When asked if he would consider reimposing restrictions on Bimini, though not direct, Minnis said a decision would be based on data.

Why it matters?

Bimini reported 11 new cases on Sunday as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the Family Islands. Restrictions like weekday curfew and weekend 24-hour lockdowns were imposed on Eleuthera and Exuma after these islands saw high cases of the virus.

Bimini shares a total of 74 COVID-19 with Cat Cay.

Worthnoting

Police has citated the organisers and partygoers of the event.

Minnis Imposes Strict Measures for Exuma Too

Exuma’s COVID-19 cases are spiking, and like Eleuthera, restricted measures will be imposed to contain the spread of the infectious virus, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced on Wednesday night.

Why it matters

Thirty new cases of the virus were recorded for the week. As of November 10th, 79 total cases were recorded for the island, 29 are active cases, 2 individuals are hospitalized and one death was recorded due to COVID-19.

What are the new measures for the island?

The cays are excluded.

  • The 24-hour weekend curfew will be implemented beginning Friday 13th from 6 pm to 5 am.
  • During the weekend lockdown, businesses will be closed.
  • Weekday curfew is 6 pm to 5 am beginning Thursday 12th.
  • Businesses are permitted to open during the weekday, but Fishfry, bars, and restaurants connected to bars are not allowed to operate.
  • Domestic travel is prohibited in and out of Exuma.
  • A negative PCR test is required if an individual must travel from Exuma.
  • Grave-side funerals are permitted, only with a limited number of 10 people, excluding the officiant.
  • Weddings are limited to 10 people, excluding the officiant.
  • Repass and receptions are forbidden.
  • Churches can hold virtual services.
  • 10 people allowed in-person church services.
  • No in-person class sessions.

What PM Minnis said

  • Dr. Minnis said the data show that the situation in Exuma needs urgent action, thus officials have increased the nursing team on the island. A team will visit the island to further assess the situation.
  • He said the measures are short notice but they are essential to curtailing the spread on that island

 

All You Need to Know About New Restrictions for NP, Abaco and Eleuthera

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis loosened restrictions for New Providence and Abaco, while tightening measures for Eleuthera.

Why it matters

The number of COVID-19 cases in New Providence and Abaco has slowed and health officials say they are encouraged by the decrease, while cases have heightened in Eleuthera, causing concern as the island battle 117 cases.

Key points

New Providence and Abaco

  • The 24-hour weekend curfew was lifted on New Providence and Abaco, replaced with a 6 pm to 5 am curfew on weekends.
  • Beginning tomorrow, Monday 9th, a new weekday curfew imposed from 9 pm to 5 am  in NP and Abaco. The curfew will be implemented in Grand Bahama on weekdays and weekends.
  • Retail businesses and pharmacies can begin in-store services, Monday to Saturday.
  • Grocery stores can reopen to the public on Saturdays, restocking on Sundays.
  • Arawak Cay can restart outdoor dining Monday to Friday.
  • Hotels can resume in-door dining.
  • Beaches and parks are opened to the public on weekends from 5 am to 6 pm. Groups are still limited to 5 people.

Eleuthera

Excludes Spanish Wells and Harbour Island

  • Effective this week, a 24-hour weekend curfew will begin at 6 pm every Friday to 5 am every Monday.
  • A daily curfew will be imposed from 6 pm to 5 am.
  • Businesses can operate during the week but can not operate on weekends.
  • Bars and restaurants will be closed.
  • Funerals and weddings are restricted to 10 people, excluding officiant; graveside services permitted only; no wedding receptions permitted.
  • No indoor church services allowed.
  • No in-person classes permitted.

Featured image: OPM Communications Unit