Cooper: “Not much new or revolutionary” from PM on ERC recommendations

Cooper: “Not much new or revolutionary” from PM on ERC recommendations
Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper (file photo)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) deputy leader and shadow finance minister Chester Cooper yesterday said a preliminary review of the Economic Recovery Committee’s (ERC) report suggests there was “not much new or revolutionary”.

In a statement yesterday, Cooper said the prime minister’s parliamentary address sounded much more like a campaign speech than an actual plan or update on what is being done to spur economic recovery.

Cooper argued that although the prime minister noted that the Grand Lucayan Resort project is “on track”, the sale is not closed and there is no definitive date.

“He boasts of the Wynn project starting construction on its second floor, not mentioning he delayed the PLP approved project when he came to office,” he said.

“He brags about BPL, when, even though the major hotels are offline and thousands of businesses were repeatedly shuttered and operating at reduced hours for months, the power company still struggled to keep the lights on. He also neglected to mention that BPL’s rate reduction bond has yet to be placed and we have had no update on the status of it.”

Minnis tabled the executive summary of the ERC in Parliament yesterday.

The ERC was appointed and charged Minnis to provide actionable recommendations to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on The Bahamas. The committee was co-chaired by Acting Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson and financial services veteran Kenwood Kerr.

Cooper said, “As for the executive summary we plan to dissect it in detail, but there was not much new or revolutionary that was reported by the prime minister yesterday.

“He stated the obvious while spouting off a wish list of many things we have heard before. An actual, sound plan is specific, measurable, achievable, and result-oriented with a timeline. We were given no details on when and how this wish list will be implemented. We will now have to wait until next month to hear which recommendations this administration supports and will action. We acknowledged and thank the volunteers for their work.”

He said: “It is heartening to hear the government has listened and accepted my recommendation to expedite the approval process of foreign direct investment and also the investment of $250 million to support entrepreneurs. Again, I recommended these things in 2017 and have repeated them numerous times thereafter, and each time the other side laughed.

“The stark reality is that we cannot fix the economy until we get COVID-19 under control in The Bahamas. To realize this, you need to look no further than the fact that Sandals is open across the Caribbean but not in The Bahamas.

Cooper added: “We are failing in the COVID-19 fight, and our tourism partners have noticed. Had the prime minister taken the advice the Progressive Liberal Party offered three years ago, and repeatedly since, and assembled a similar collection of professionals with a view to implementing the road map laid out in the National Development Plan, we would have been able to pivot and recover much more quickly.”