Cooper: Cuts to key projects on Family Islands will strangle economy

Cooper: Cuts to key projects on Family Islands will strangle economy
Progressive Liberal Party Deputy Leader Chester Cooper. (FILE PHOTO)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper said on Friday that he is “alarmed” and “concerned” about the government’s decision to cut key projects on Family Islands due to economic challenges.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis advised last week that the government would cut funding for certain capital projects and seek to implement public-private partnership (PPP) programs to complete those projects, given the country’s current state of public finances.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis exits Exuma International Airport on Friday, November 27, 2020, during a series of Family Island visits.

Those projects include Exuma International Airport, Long Island International Airport, North Eleuthera International Airport and upgrades to Leonard Thompson International Airport in Marsh Harbour, Abaco.

However, during a press conference at the party’s headquarters, Cooper insisted that Minnis’ announcement came as a “surprise” given that the same projects had been touted as part of his plan to get the economy going again.

Cooper, the Exumas and Ragged Island MP, called it “concerning” that the Exuma airport project will be delayed, given that funding had been arranged in January 2017 under the Christie administration and a groundbreaking was being anticipated.

He noted that the move not only impacts the islands where the projects have been stopped.

“A delay in the creation of this airport is a delay in economic recovery and delay of getting more traffic to the south and Central Bahamas,” he said.

Cooper continued: “It speaks to a lack of a plan by the Minnis administration and we’ve spoken often about the ad hoc, seat-of-the-pants type of style of this prime minister, now minister of finance.

“We know that during these difficult times cuts may be necessary, but cuts must be [targeted] and wise. It must be designed to reduce waste and increase efficiencies.

“Cuts in capital expenditure only serve to strangle the economy, especially when it comes to critical infrastructure.”

Cooper noted that cuts to projects on Eleuthera and Exuma, which are major tourism hubs, are not “wise” or strategic.

He suggested that the government should seek to spend in areas that can generate revenue and inspire economic growth for the economy.

“The reality is that things didn’t have to be so bad,” Cooper said.

“The reality is that a part of the economic woes we face directly are a result of the decisions made by this government.”

He added: “We are alarmed. We are concerned. The people in Exuma, in particular, are very disappointed given that these plans have been in place for four years.”

About Sloan Smith

Sloan Smith is a senior digital reporter at Eyewitness News, covering a diverse range of beats, from politics and crime to environment and human interest. In 2018, Sloan received a nomination for the “Leslie Higgs Feature Writer of The Year Award” from The Bahamas Press Club for her work with Eyewitness News.