Here we go again with Oban.
It seems that the controversial deal will continue to hang around the neck of Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis and his administration – not least because we never seem to get straight answers about exactly what is the current state of the deal.
Yesterday, in Grand Bahama, while Dr Minnis was quite rightly lauding the prospects of a number of investors showing interest in the island, a perfectly reasonable question was raised about the Oban deal.
After all, the $5.5bn deal was once set to revolutionise the Grand Bahama landscape.
Houses for up to 200 residents, 80 percent of jobs for local Bahamians, pledges of investment in university and vocational training… it all sounded too good to be true.
The problem was, some elements of the project did indeed fall short of truth, and the prime minister himself was forced to admit to “missteps” in the project.
He could hardly do otherwise given the doubts raised about the backgrounds of some of Oban’s representatives, the concern about the signature on the documents being made by someone else entirely and the general feeling that we weren’t getting a lot of bang for our buck in the deal.
Even Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce president Mick Holding told The Tribune last March that the whole farrago had raised concerns that other investors might be deterred, while just last month Labour Minister Dion Foulkes said significant changes were needed to the Heads of Agreement that the government itself signed if a revised Oban 2 deal was to go ahead.
So is it really out of line, Dr Minnis, to raise questions in Grand Bahama about the once-flagship deal you heralded for the island?
Brushing it off by saying you’re talking about a project that you “know gonna work” makes us wonder if Oban is now a deal that you don’t know is going to work.
Saying that you “ain’t talking nonsense today” when asked about Oban makes us wonder if Oban is now indeed just nonsense to you.
And a plea not to twist your words on the subject is not confidence inspiring, especially when your words are so unclear.
Time and again on the campaign trail, Dr Minnis talked about the importance of transparency, but that too often seems to be a broken, hollow pledge.
In December, Save The Bays chairman Joseph Darville showed as much, declaring the failure to release the environmental impact assessment for Oban’s scheme as “fishy”.
Labour Minister Foulkes went on to say that the impact assessment wouldn’t be released to the public before a new deal is signed.
Does this seem like transparency?
We are delighted that the Oban fiasco seems to have not deterred other investors, we truly are. Grand Bahama has long needed investment to relight the island’s fire, and residents there will be ecstatic if the promised investments come to pass.
But be straight with us. Tell us the truth. If Oban is faltering, tell us that. If Oban is close to a new deal that makes up for the problems of the past, tell us that. Don’t just talk about transparency, be transparent.
In admitting to his missteps, Dr Minnis last March said: “We must, we can and we will do better.”