FREE National Movement Chairman Carl Culmer touted the Minnis administration’s efforts on job creation yesterday, including the controversial Oban Energies oil refinery for Grand Bahama, saying the party will not let the “lies and political attacks” from the Progressive Liberal Party distract from the task at hand.
Mr Culmer boasted the Oban oil refinery and storage facility will create more than 1,600 jobs for Grand Bahama, however this figure does not reflect full-time hiring. According to the Oban Heads of Agreement, the developer expects to create 600 direct jobs plus 1,000 indirect jobs during the construction period and 250 direct full-time jobs during operations. The developer’s goal is to hire 80 percent Bahamians and 20 percent non-Bahamian workers during the construction period.
Despite the economic benefits touted by the developer and the government, the project has faced strong criticism from environmental activists, general observers and the Official Opposition due to concerns about pollution, environmental degradation and whether Oban has the requisite financing to create the $5.5 billion project.
There have also been concerns about a lack of transparency from the Minnis administration relating to the project and the background and qualifications of those involved in Oban.
“On May 10, 2017, the citizens of the Bahamas rose up with one voice and voted for change,” Mr Culmer noted in a statement. “They wanted a government that was transparent, accountable and responsive to them. Part of that pledge our leader, Dr Hubert Minnis, made was to focus on creating stable and good jobs and opportunities for the long suffering Bahamian people.
“Now Prime Minister Minnis is delivering on that pledge to make job creation a top priority. This is a marked departure from the woeful PLP’s tenure in government as its officials focused more on serving themselves and their families and cronies over the people they should have been serving.”
Mr Culmer referenced the Department of Labour’s ongoing job fair programme, which officials have said has helped more than 1,000 people get work, as evidence of the government’s success on the job creation front.
“Yet even as the initiative continues to provide opportunities for so many people, we have the PLP talking it down and attacking it, as they continue to put their political standing above the people,” he said.
“While the early results of these initiatives are encouraging, the prime minister and FNM are continuing to work towards creating new jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for Bahamians. The FNM government is creating jobs that will bring with them higher wages and long-term security. It is one of the reasons the FNM government is committed to ensuring that the vast majority of the 1,600 jobs the Oban Energies project will bring to Grand Bahama will go to Bahamians.
“The truth is our economy is growing, our workforce is growing and we will not let the continued lies and political attacks of the PLP distract us from the task at hand. Projects like these have the ability to lift the entire community, providing many Bahamians an opportunity to open their own businesses to provide new services and support to workers and the growing economy. Change has come to the Bahamas, where we now have a transparent, accountable government responsive to the needs of the people. Prime Minister Minnis and the FNM know their job is to work every day to create opportunities for Bahamians all across the Bahamas. Regardless of the woeful PLP’s continued nonsensical attacks on the progress the country is making, the FNM will continue doing the job the people elected them to do.”
Dr Minnis has faced repeated criticism for his handling of the Oban matter.
One issue has been the government did not reveal a Heads of Agreement signing in the Office of the Prime Minister in February with Peter Krieger was “ceremonial”.
Mr Krieger was Oban’s non-executive chairman at the time. It was later revealed he did not sign his own name on the document, but wrote Satpal Dhunna, Oban’s president, whose name appeared on the agreement tabled in the House of Assembly by Dr Minnis this month.
It has been previously reported the US Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil complaint against Mr Krieger, his father Sheldon Krieger and John Madey. Mr Krieger later told reporters he settled the claim.
It was also revealed that in 2006 he pleaded guilty to the first degree felony of organised fraud.
Last week, Dr Minnis told Parliament his administration made some mistakes in handling the Oban matter.
“The Oban Energies LLC project was intended to bring growth and jobs to Grand Bahama,” he said. “In our haste to boost the economy of Grand Bahama, we made a number of missteps in the Oban Energies Project. While our heart was in the right place, these missteps should not have happened. We must, we can, and we will do better.”
Dr Minnis said “more comprehensive due diligence” should have been done and “wider environmental consultation” should have been engaged.