NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Attorney General Carl Bethel has announced that should commercial quantities of oil be found in The Bahamas, the royalty regime will be renegotiated and the funds will be directed to the Consolidated Fund and the Sovereign Wealth Fund for the benefit of the Bahamian people.
Bethel underscored this move would only take place if the government approves the extraction of any oil found.
According to Bethel, the government consulted the Commonwealth Secretariat in 2019 on the royalty regime with the Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) and was advised it did not meet the standard.
He said the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) left the amount at 12 percent on a sliding scale up to a maximum of 25 percent on the net selling price should commercial quantities of oil be found.
In the Senate today, the attorney general said the PLP government was advised of the global standard, “yet the rates stayed in 2015”.
“Again, Madam President, this raises questions…” Bethel said.
Bethel further stated it was “erroneous” for the PLP to suggest that its previous administration improved upon a deal for the BPC to drill for oil in The Bahamas.
He pointed out that the first approval for oil drilling and leases for the purpose of the oil drilling was issued by the Christie administration in 2007. The Free National Movement (FNM) returned to office after the 2007 general election.
Bethel also said the renewal of the leases with “minor changes” was executed by the Christie administration in 2015. He said at no stage did an FNM administration renew the leases to drill for oil.
Bethel said the only change in the renewed lease was on the fees, from $57,500 for each track of ocean floor leased to $250,000 for each track.
The attorney general said contrary to what the PLP has asserted, the Christie administration merely improved on this aspect of “their grant” to BPC. He insisted the FNM did not grant anything.
For his part, PLP Chairman Senator Fred Mitchell said if the government wished to cancel something, it “can do so”.
The leader of government business in the Senate said the government has canceled a range of programs upon attaining office and can do the same with the oil drilling matter.
Mitchell also said Bethel was breaching the rules of the Senate in being contentious with his communication, and further accused the attorney general of making a “political speech”.
“You are campaigning in here, using the communication to do so,” Mitchell said.
He called on Bethel to “issue a press release”.
“This is an abuse of the rules,” Mitchell said.