Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest said Thursday the government can cancel the agreement with OBAN energies “at any time” and, any assertion that the government is “locked in”, with no way out, is “nonsense”.
During his keynote address at the University of The Bahamas (UB) commencement at Grand Lucayan on Thursday morning, the finance minister said, it is important for everyone to understand that the government of The Bahamas will not approve any project that is not environmentally sound and sustainable.
He admonished Bahamians not to be “fooled by the noise” and to listen to every conversation coming out of public discussion about the Oban project.
“I’ve heard people say that the government of The Bahamas can’t cancel this agreement,” he said.
“That we’ve signed this Heads of Agreement (HOA) without any environmental study and as a result, we’re locked into this project. Nonsense!
“The fact of the matter is, we’re a sovereign government and we have the ability to stop any project at any time.
“The fact that we signed a HOA does not mean that we are obligated to issue a license to operate. The heads of agreement is exactly that – an agreement. It says you agree to do X, and if you do X, we agree to do Y. Any of the conditions in that heads of agreement that are not completed to our satisfaction, renders the agreement null and void.”
Turnquest also pointed out that a project does not become concrete and licensed to operate “until the government of The Bahamas has satisfied itself that all of the prerequisites are in play, that they are sound, and they are satisfied that the project would bring benefit to the community”.
“All of the noise in the market has drowned out the good news of the potential for this development. I only ask again for us to be open-minded and patient and let the process work,” he said.
“While we understand the risks that are involved – inasmuch as we can from a non-scientific point of view, we also understand the development potential of our industrial sector and what that can mean to the lives of ordinary Bahamians, who would not otherwise have an opportunity.”
He also said the government always strives for symbiotic balance between environmental/community development and economic growth.
“As is outlined in the heads of agreement, the environmental protection and mitigation protocols are at the forefront of any discussion, any decision, that the government of The Bahamas will make in regards to this project,” he said.
“From an economic point of view, we absolutely see value from the industrial sector and we believe that it is a sustainable model.
“We appreciate the environmental risk that industrial enterprises bring to a community but, we also appreciate that modern technology has substantially reduced those risks.”
Turnquest said there are other mitigating factors that any responsible government would put in place to ensure the quality of the environment and the welfare of its people are maintained.
In a recent interview with Eyewitness News, Member of Parliament (MP) for Central Grand Bahama Iram Lewis said, government will pull out of the Oban Energies deal if it is not satisfied with the project.
Lewis said ultimately, if the government is not satisfied with the project, it will pull out of the deal.