By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Chairman Bradley Roberts yesterday unfavourably contrasted the Minnis administration's budget cut for the recent independence celebrations with the cost of a trip a government delegation took to Grenada for the Caribbean Community's heads of government meeting.
"I'm waiting to find out exactly how many people (went on the trip)," Mr Roberts said. "They cut (the) budget for independence that embraced all the people of The Bahamas because (Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis) said they lacked resources. On the other hand, he took a huge delegation with him to Grenada. His heart is not in the right place."
The budget for the 44th independence anniversary was slashed by about $900,000, placing the budget at an estimated $100,000 after the Christie administration spent about $1m in 2016 and $1.1m in 2015.
Despite the cut, the traditional Clifford Park tattoo drew positive reviews from many Bahamians who praised its production.
The exact size of the Minnis administration's delegation to Grenada is not clear. Although in addition to Dr Minnis, those who went on the trip included his wife Patricia Minnis, Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield, Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd, CARICOM ambassador Reuben Rahming, director general at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sharon Brennen-Haylock, policy advisor to the Prime Minister Joshua Sears and an unidentified number of security guards among others.
While in opposition, the Free National Movement (FNM) repeatedly criticised former Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell and former Prime Minister Perry Christie for their travel expenses.
At one point, Dr Minnis described their traveling habits as "extravagant." He demanded that the former prime minister inform Bahamians about the cost of the administration's travel.
After officials in the Christie administration went on a trip to Rome and London, Dr Minnis said in the House of Assembly in 2014: "I demand that the prime minister keep his public pledge to provide an accounting for his extravagant international travel during which he treated an excessively large delegation to a tour of Rome and London."
Last month, Mr Henfield said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would restructure itself to eliminate unnecessary spending, especially on travel.
"We do not have to attend every meeting that takes place across the globe," Mr Henfield said at the time.
Anthony Newbold, the prime minister's press secretary, has said that a policy of the new government is that people who attend foreign workshops and conferences must, upon return, file a report about the event or be barred from state-funded trips.