NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamas National Trust (BNT) Executive Director Eric Carey said as the government seeks to rebound The Bahamas’ economy by fast-tracking developments, it must ensure environmental impact assessments are not foregone, but sped up.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, Carey said while the environmental watchdog supports streamlining processes to improve the ease of doing business, it believes full environmental impact assessments can be conducted efficiently and timelier by removing red tape.
“One of things the government got criticized for is it said it was going to fast-track some of the proposals for development; I get calls on that,” he said.
“In a lot of cases, an EIA has been completed for a lot of these projects.
“Now, there are some supplementary things that must be done.
“I think what the prime minister was referring to was that whatever needs to be done, let’s try and do it quickly and not with the usual, regular red tape.
“That does not mean that the technical people of the BEST commission aren’t going to renew the EIA as effectively and as efficiently as they should, but it should not take two weeks to get a response from an email sent.
“It should be, let’s look at this because we have assessed [the development] has the potential for some economic development and let’s be able to say yes or no to a development quickly.
“I don’t think we need to drag out things that are going to have a huge environmental impact.
“You can say no to that developer just as quickly as you can, okay, you have met the environmental threshold and here is the mitigation that you have to do; here are the other things that you have to do; and then you make a decision.
“I think that’s going to be important, but you can still do a full assessment of the environmental impact for a project, but you can do it more quickly.”
Last month, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis appointed the Economic Recovery Committee, a public-private committee, that will make recommendations to the Cabinet on the long-term recovery for the Bahamian economy.
This will include strategies on job-creation and stimulating small businesses, which have been impacted by challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic; economic diversification; tourism and transport; financial services and labour, among other sectors.
The co-chairs on the committee include Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson and businessman Ken Kerr, the CEO of Providence Advisors.
Speaking to Eyewitness News, Carey said despite criticisms from some quarters of the public about the make-up of the council, given the nature of the crisis, the members of whom are largely economists, are appropriate.
“I didn’t criticize the government’s appointment of people on the committee because you need people who understand the economy,” the executive director said.
“Some criticize and say it is the same old, same old and they’re going to look at the same thing, but you know we are not going to be able to reinvent the economy in the three months.
“I think we have to create strategies.”
There are 15 other named committee members, including Central Bahamas of The Bahamas Governor John Rolle, Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation Chair Khrystle Rutherford-Ferguson, Bahamas Trade Union Congress President Obie Ferguson, Organization for Responsible Governance Executive Director Matt Aubry.