PM dismisses critics of new ministry

PM dismisses critics of new ministry

Govt. to table legislation for new authority on October 2

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Amid criticisms from the opposition that the new Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction has increased red tape on the path to recovery on the islands decimated by Hurricane Dorian, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis insisted the ministry’s “flexible” authority to engage and contract resources as the need arises will significantly “exhilarate the process”.

Iram Lewis was sworn in as the minister of state for the new ministry at Government House on Monday.

Responding to questions from reporters on the sidelines of the swearing in ceremony, Minnis said: “This is not a layer of bureaucracy. In fact, this exhilarates the process. That’s the reason you have an authority. The authority is so that professional individuals — individuals who would know how to manage and make decisions — make the best decisions that are applicable for what is happening today. They would be able to contract and make those decisions very quickly as opposed to the government bureaucracy and red tape.

“So no, this is not a layer. This is speeding up and exhilarating the process.”

He added: “They can resource, hire and contract whatever is needed, as opposed to going through the bureaucracy of government; delaying everything and decisions are made in an untimely fashion.”

On Sunday, the prime minister said the new ministry will help focus and coordinate the national response for the recovery and reconstruction of Grand Bahama and Abaco – the two islands that bore the brunt of Dorian’s destruction on September 1-3.

The main body of the ministry will function as an authority, similar to the Public Hospitals Authority and is expected to have an executive director and a board of directors.

Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis has expressed concern with what he called a lack of leadership, asserting that a clear direction and vision through practical policy is needed now.

In response this afternoon, Minnis said: “This is the time for government to tap [into] all its best resources. You look for the best individuals to help you move through; help you manage such a disaster that we have never seen before.

“He (Lewis) is an architect, a project manager [and has] skills in planning.

“We are creating an authority with professionals, strictly professionals who would know about managing, building countries, making decisions and we have individuals from both islands who are affected.”

Minnis foreshadowed the authority’s board will comprise of architects, engineers, legal minds, members of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and local government.

The new ministry and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), which the prime minister said will be restructured, will both remain at the Office of the Prime Minister.

As it relates to NEMA, Minnis said the agency will be improved, taking into consideration the lessons learned from the record storm and the international agencies that responded in its wake.

“They were very impressed with our organization, but still you take it to another level because the storms we saw yesterday will not be the storms we see tomorrow,” the prime minister noted.

“There were some critics who said we did not respond fast enough. We knew the storm was coming. We communicated with all the international agencies. The Americans had their helicopters and supplies sitting in Andros. They also had helicopters and supplies sitting in Exuma only waiting for the storm to move past Abaco, so they could be dispatched immediately. We were delayed in getting into Abaco because the storm unfortunately sat over Grand Bahama.”

The government will table legislation for the ministry in Parliament on October 2.

Minnis said it will be debated on October 3.