NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Opposition deputy leader and Shadow Minister for Finance yesterday urged the Minnis administration to “take the National Development Plan off the shelf catching dust” and see how it can mobilize solutions to many critical issues affecting the country in the short to long term.
Chester Cooper, the Exuma & Ragged Island MP while speaking at a press conference yesterday said these issues include tackling the cost of living; advancing technology, which will allow The Bahamas to punch above its weight class; education; innovation; structural unemployment; improving the overall tourism product; developing new industries and re-assessing the country’s overall economic model.
Labelled ‘Vision 2040′, the NDP focuses on four main policy pillars – the economy, governance, social policy and the environment. It has been heralded as the first effort to plan the Bahamas’ development using empirical data and analyses, with input from private sector and civil society organisations.
Setting out a road map, the plan formulated under the former Christie administration, the non-partisan initiative aimed to break with the Bahamas’ past ad hoc approach to national growth by setting a clear path towards a more sustainable future.
Cooper said, “What we see in this government is posturing and lost opportunity. The Bahamian people were put through a punishing tax increase, along with the increase of other fees that have increased the cost of living and doing business. Now the government is displaying that it had no real plan to grow the economy and is instead using Dorian as a scapegoat for its lack of planning and vision. As I have urged the government time and again, it must get to work on behalf of the Bahamian people.”
Cooper accused the Minnis administration of being too focused on big announcements rather than implementation and execution.
“The truth of the matter is that all of their big announcements have either been still born or have had very benign outcomes. They include the Commercial Enterprises Act, the Over-the-Hill initiative, the Grand Bahama tech hub, and various other announcement that either had no accompanying budget or no enabling infrastructure. For example, the government must explain whether it has remitted funds to the University of the Bahamas and the BTVI for its recent free education announcement which resulted in increases in enrolment,” said Cooper.
Cooper also urged the government to ‘expedite’ the Hurricane Dorian restoration. “We are aware that there is very little presence on Abaco as it relates to restoration, including school repairs. Ten weeks later, most of the work being done to date except for the clean-up of debris is being driven by the private sector and the NGOs.
The IDB $100m contingency is still not drawn down as is evidenced by the lack of restoration. In the wake of this disaster, the government can spur activity by moving with dispatch to repair schools, public buildings and public infrastructure, which will put money into the already depressed economies of Abaco and Grand Bahama.
The government must also encourage banks to mobilize the liquidity ideally into much needed housing and construction industries which can also be an impetus in economic growth,” Cooper said.