By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced over the weekend that Exuma is poised for major capital works projects, which will include a new airport and an Office of the Prime Minister.
He also announced the planned lifting of the moratorium on taxi and rental car licence plates for the island, road upgrades, and improvements to the island’s health facilities.
Dr Minnis made these announcements at a town hall meeting in Exuma on Saturday night. He also taunted island MP Chester Cooper, saying every time he mentions Mr Cooper’s name, the MP announces that “he is going to a lawyer to consult to sue.”
During his remarks, the prime minister lauded Exuma’s economic growth as the impetus for why the capital works are needed. “But Exuma, Exuma needs more,” Dr Minnis said. “Your economy is growing. Your tourist numbers are growing. It also means that you need more taxis. It also means that you need more self-drive (rental) vehicles. It also means…your airport will become obsolete. It must have improvement. You must have improvement.”
Pictures of the new airport that is being “designed and prepared” for Exuma were shown to the audience, to raucous applause. “We cannot have our guests and ourselves be exposed to the elements of the environment,” he continued.
“So if Exuma is receiving a new airport, it will also mean that with time there must be additional employment to run such facilities. What it also means is that if our tourist numbers are increasing and our airport is being expanded to accommodate, you must have additional taxis, et cetera.
“And as I stand here tonight, I want to inform Exuma that the government will lift the moratorium on taxi plates and self-drives just for Exuma. I want Nassau to hear me - I did not say Nassau.”
Dr Minnis added for these things to be accomplished, the island “must have leadership”.
“And that is why we are going out to tender, within the next week or two, for the new Prime Minister’s Office in Exuma,” he said, as illustrations were again presented to the audience.
“Once that office is going out to tender now, we should be able to start construction very soon. It has facilities for the prime minister, it has facilities for advisors of the prime minister.”
Dr Minnis underscored that a new airport with additional facilities and more vehicles requires sturdy roadways.
“But how can you have a new airport with additional facilities, how can you have a new Prime Minister’s Office, for God’s sakes, how you ga get there? You get new car, taxis, et cetera...what the hell you (going to) drive on?
“Therefore, new budget, I have already spoken to the minister of works. Exuma will get new roads.”
“You (have) new roads, you have more people moving in, providing land for them. We’re providing Crown land, we’re going to build new subdivisions so that individuals can build…You’ll purchase that land very cheap, with all the infrastructure, and I’d like to say less than $30,000.”
The prime minister also said health facilities on the island are “inadequate” and short staffed. He added he has spoken to the minister of health and instructed him that next budget, “the money is there”.
He added he told the minister: “Medical personnel better be provided in the Exumas and Abacos, two of the most advanced health facilities in this Bahamas. The monies will be provided. So there are no excuses.”
He also said: “Exuma and The Bahamas are poised for an epidemic of prosperity. You need stronger leadership in Exuma. Exuma is not represented by the Free National Movement. But we are still one Bahamas. And we will not discriminate against island or constituency in this Bahamas. Not as long as I’m here.”
Dr Minnis also reiterated that Opposition leader Philip “Brave” Davis and Mr Cooper voted no to the government’s decision to secure a $100m credit facility from the Inter-American Development Bank for hurricane protection.
It was this decision that showed the opposition did not care about Bahamians, Dr Minnis suggested.
“I’ve asked the question repeatedly. And I’m going to ask it tonight again, because I know the opposition is listening. I know that Chester is listening. I know that Brave is listening. And I want them to answer the question: Why do they feel that Exuma should not be prepared in the event of disaster?
“Now, every time I mention Chester, I hear on the radio the next day, ‘he is going to a lawyer to consult to sue.’ So, I know he’s listening So I’m going to make it easy for him today. I’m gonna pause for 10 seconds, allowing him to call his lawyer so his lawyer can listen…his lawyer can hear it from me.”
The prime minister proceeded to take a lengthy pause. “Now, I’m sure his lawyer is on the line. So I will say it again, so that Chester can run to the lawyer…so they could start suing, should they choose.”