Monday, January 25, 2021


London Creek Bridge Opens in Central Andros

London Creek Bridge in Central Andros was officially opened today by Prime Minister Hubert Minnis.

The natural creek was negatively impacted by the construction of roads across it, but today, the completion of a new bridge prevents blockage of the London creek.

Why it matters

  • The London Creek project is important for the surrounding area as it will help to regenerate the natural flora and fauna of the creek system.
  • This will provide a catalyst for ecotourism in Andros by providing residents and visitors with the opportunity to experience the beauty of the natural creeks’ ecosystems.

The details

  • A contract was signed in June 2019, with SJK Engineering & Construction, for the construction of the culverts.
  • The contract was in the amount of $2,126,916.51.
  • The installation of culverts increases the water flow and allow small crafts to pass under the road with headroom of 7 to 8 feet at a high water level.
  • There is a vehicle guardrail on the approaches to the structure and line markings and signs.

Minnis Hints at Extension of Emergency Order Until Vaccine Availability

In Prime Minister Hubert Minnis’s New Years National address on Wednesday, many Bahamians expected an announcement of relaxation of COVID-19 measures.

Instead, Minnis cautioned a tightening of measures if the COVID-19 cases rise before the arrival of vaccines into the country.

“It is possible that cases will rise again before vaccines arrive,” he said. “If this happens, as a government and people, we will have to return to some of the measures that worked to beat back previous waves.

“Through our experience during the pandemic year, we now know the formula that works. Tough times do not scare us. Difficult circumstances do not break our resolve,” he said.

Some social media posters were critical of the address, asking for Dr. Minnis to address when the COVID-19 restrictions will be further relaxed.

However, Minnis emphasized in his address that the reopening of the country depends on the successful distribution of the vaccine, which he expects in the coming months.

“Thankfully, because there are now successful vaccines for COVID-19, our country, and our economy, are set to reopen more fully in the months ahead.

“The end is in sight. Restrictions will end. We will get back to our way of life. Jobs and the economy, are coming back, he promised.

This means the emergency order is expected to extend beyond January 31, 2021.

In November of last year, the House of Assembly passed a resolution for a two-month extension of the emergency order.

Minnis at the time said when the emergency orders help in lowering cases, the restrictive measures will be reversed, permitting residents to live a more normal life.

Minnis Sets His Eyes On Reopening Fully With Successful Vaccine Distribution

As the country awaits its share of the COVID-19 vaccines, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced an appointment of the COVID-19 Vaccine National Consultative Committee to ensure the proper distribution of the vaccine when it becomes available.

In his New Year National Address on Tuesday evening, Minnis said the vaccines will ensure a reopening of the country in the coming months.

The Committee is chaired by Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis, OD, CMG, and is made up of public health experts, and representatives of various sectors, including, religious and community leaders.

Why it matters?

Successful vaccines like Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna, and Oxford University-AstraZeneca are now available on the world market.

The Bahamas has already secured vaccines for 20% of the population, through the COVAX Facility and World Health and Pan American Health Organisations.

The Bahamas awaits its share.

Minnis on restrictions and vaccine availability

  • Dr. Minnis did not say exactly when the restrictions and curfews will be relaxed, but he said he is targetting the coming months.

“Thankfully, because there are now successful vaccines for COVID-19, our country, and our economy, are set to reopen more fully in the months ahead.

“The end is in sight. Restrictions will end. We will get back to our way of life. Jobs and the economy, are coming back.

  • Minnis, aware that variants of COVID-19 have evolved in countries around the world, he said if the variants come into the country, the Bahamian people can expect tighter measures to fight the infection.

“We still have a few more months to go, especially as the pandemic continues to rage, in countries all around us.

“Internationally, more infectious variants of the virus have evolved, and been detected. It is possible, that cases will rise again before vaccines arrive. If this happens, as a Government and people, we will have to return, to some of the measures that worked, to beat back previous waves. Through our experience during the pandemic year, we now know the formula that works,” Minnis said.

Sir William Remembered as ‘a Man of Integrity’

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis extended condolences to the family of Sir William Allen who passed away on Wednesday.

Sir Allen was a former minister of state in the ministry of finance, a senator and governor of the Central Bank.

What Dr. Minnis says about Sir William Allen

Prime Minister Minnis expressed gratitude for the advice Allen rendered to him when he served as Leader of the Opposition.

He added that Allen “fundamentally bettered” the Bahamas, and was a man of integrity.

Minnis said Allen “loved his country. He was one of the most accomplished Bahamians of his
generation” and made major contributions to the economy of the Bahamas.

“The investments in the tourism sector and expansion of the Bahamian economy due to
the policies of that Administration (Free National Movement in 1994), created new opportunity for tens of thousands of Bahamians,” Minnis said.

Who was Sir William Allen

  • Allen was the former member of parliament for Montague in 1994.
  • Upon his election he was appointed Minister of Finance, a position he held until May 2002.
  • He was named the Deputy Governor General of the Central Bank in 1974.
  • Sir William became Governor of the Central Bank in 1980.
  • Sir William was called to further service of his beloved Bahamas when the Free National Movement (FNM) won its historic first victory in August 1992.
  • He was appointed to the Senate and served as Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and Planning.
  • Sir William was knighted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2000 in her New Years Honours List for his service to banking, civics and politics.

Sir William was 83-years-old.

Minnis Remembers Sandals Resort Owner as ‘a Lover of the Bahamas’

Following the death of hotel mogul Gordon “Butch” Stewart, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis remembered him as “a loyal son of the Caribbean, who delighted in the extraordinary potential and breathtaking beauty of the region.”

Minnis said Gordon was a “great friend and lover of the Islands of the Bahamas and the Bahamian people.”

Gordon established the Sandals Resort at a time “when the Bahamas was looking for investors to acquire government-owned hotels.”

“Gordon significantly and immediately added to the number of rooms and employees of the resort and the reputation of the Bahamas,” he said.

Minnis added, “Gordon “Butch” Stewart “Stewart was an intrepid innovator. He was the ultimate dreamcatcher who was happy to listen to the ideas of others and to change his mind when inspired or enthused by the dreams and ideas of others.

“His commitment to the region was manifest in the economic impact of his properties throughout the region, including his resorts in the Bahamas at Sandals Royal Bahamian on New Providence and at Fowl Cay and Emerald Bay in the Exumas.”

Minnis said Gordon was enthusiastic about the extraordinary potential of the Caribbean and often, remarked about the untapped potential of the Bahamas.

Gordon died in hospital on Monday. He was 79-years-old.

As Oil Drilling Begins, Minnis Says He’s Totally Against It

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Hubert Minnis gave his opinion on the oil drilling operation in the Bahamas, telling reporters that he opposes oil drilling in the Bahamas, but his government was burdened with the agreement signed by the previous administration.

Why it matters

Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) intends to start oil exploration in the southern Bahamas. Stena Drilling, the provider of the IceMAX drill ship, has issued formal notification to BPC of the intended operational start date, being 15 December.

A number of local and international organizations have opposed the operation fearing that an oil spill can harm the marine environment.

The big picture

Minnis’ position has never been clear on the issue since inheriting the legally binding agreement from the Progressive Liberal Party who last held office.

Former prime minister, Perry Christie was once  a consultant to BPC when he was in opposition. And PLP leader Philip Davis’ law firm was BPC’s attorney when it first came to the Bahamas. His law firm no longer serve in that capacity.

What PM Minnis says

Minnis said on Friday, “I am totally against oil drilling in our waters, totally. I have said that before and that has not changed.

“Unfortunately we were saddled with an agreement that we met there and when we discussed it with the legal department we were advised that the commitment and everything was signed and basically we could not get out of it. If we could’ve gotten out of it we would’ve.”

What Bahamas Petroleum Company says

BPC says if oil is discovered in the Bahamas, it has “the capacity to be economically transformative for the nation of The Bahamas,” contributing “billions of dollars in royalty revenues to the national treasury.”

The company boasts that many countries in the region like USA, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Guyana, “have over the past decade safely and responsibly drilled offshore wells, developed or continue to develop offshore hydrocarbon resources.”

Worth noting

President Donald Trump signed an executive order earlier in the year extending a ban on oil drilling off the Florida coastline. It is a reversal of the president’s previous support for oil drilling.

Featured Image: Bahamas Petroleum Company

Minnis Taps Thompson to Assist Him in Finance Ministry; Davis Disapproves

After promising to appoint a minister to the post of finance minister since the resignation of Peter Turnquest, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said he will continue to serve in the position for the remainder of the term.

Minnis was sworn in as interim minister of finance last week, saying he will make a substantive appointment. However, Sunday during the national address, Minnis says he will remain in the post for longer than expected but will be surrounded by a team of experts.

Minnis’ new post met with opposition by Philip Davis

Opposition Leader Philip Davis issued a statement following Minnis’ announcement on Sunday. Davis doubts that Minnis is suited for the post as minister of finance.

Davis said, “No one in the Bahamas believes that Hubert Minnis is qualified to act as Minister of Finance.

“He has admitted in private that he is no good at figures. The fact that he is choosing to remain as Minister of Finance is an admission that no FNM MP is qualified to occupy that vital position even as the nation faces an extremely serious economic and fiscal crisis,” Davis said.

Minnis to be assisted by a junior finance minister

PM Minnis will be assisted by a team including Senator Kwasi Thompson, who will be the Minister of State for Finance.

Turning Grand Bahama into a Tech Hub - Government - News
Senator Kwasi Thompson. Photo credit: Bahamas Gov

Over the past nearly four years Thompson has been Minister of State for Grand Bahama,  promoting digital technology and training.

Minnis said Thompson will now focus on the economic needs and recovery of Grand Bahama, Family Island development, and the ongoing digital transformation of the Bahamas and the government.

Thompson, in a statement, said his areas of focus are the Government’s Digital Transformation, Cashless Initiatives, Ease of Doing Business, Digitizing the Investment process, promoting the Digital Economy, and E-Commerce Development.

He said, “As the new Minister of State, we will continue to consult broadly with business stakeholders, civil society, consumer groups and the general public to ensure the policy positions of the Government reflect the realities on the ground and are responsive to the needs of our citizenry. The public can feel free to write the Ministry and to provide the policy feedback that will be vital as we move towards recovery.”

Featured Image: Bahamas Information Services

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.

PM and Cabinet Mulling Over Turnquest’s Future

As calls for the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister PeterTurnquest grow louder, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis says Cabinet is deliberating that decision.

Why it matters

The Minister of Finance is accused of fraud and a writ as since been filed in the Supreme Court alleging “bogus loans” when he was director and manager of Sky Bahamas and Aviation Oversight, which was owned by a former business partner Randy Butler.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis says the resignation is being discussed in Cabinet

When asked by reporters to respond to calls by the opposition for the minister to resign and an official investigation be launched in the case, Minnis said, “It’s a court matter right now and Cabinet is deliberating on it. We will get back to you as soon as Cabinet completes our deliberations and discussions.”

What Opposition Leader Philip Davis says

Opposition leader Philip Davis said he awaited a response from Minnis on the matter while calling for Turnquest to resign. He said, “First, the Prime Minister must be reminded that he has a duty to act when his ministers refuse to take the honourable course.”

Davis said if Turnquest does not resign willingly, then Minnis must fire Turnquest.

Attorney John Wilson says no reason to resign

Attorney John Wilson, QC, says not so fast. He said he sees no reason for Turnquest to resign considering the writ is only an allegation, which he called, “uncalled” and “untested.”

“I really see no justification why anyone should resign over simple allegations in a writ of summons because that is all it is, allegations,” he tells Eye Witness News.

“It has not been tested in a court of law and it has not been subjected to any sort of proof; not to mention the fact that from what I have seen, and I can only opine as to what I have seen and circulating on social media, so I say this with this caveat.

“The minister has not been named in these proceedings at all.

“And having not been named in the proceedings, I don’t quite understand why his name featured so prominently in the allegations in the writ itself.

“One would have thought that if there was a case to be made against him, he ought to have been made a party to proceedings.”

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.”