0

Rebuild Could Cost ‘Billions And Billions’

The destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian is seen from the air, in Marsh Harbour, Abaco.
(AP Photo/Gonzalo Gaudenzi)

The destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian is seen from the air, in Marsh Harbour, Abaco. (AP Photo/Gonzalo Gaudenzi)

photo

WORKS Minister Desmond Bannister in the House of Assembly.

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A Cabinet minister last night predicted it will cost “billions and billions” to rebuild Abaco and east Grand Bahama’s infrastructure after the “awesome challenge” laid down by Hurricane Dorian.

Desmond Bannister, minister of works, told Tribune Business that “the figures are huge” although he declined to provide details ahead of further Cabinet discussions on reconstruction efforts in the category five storm’s aftermath.

Disclosing that Melanie Roach, director of public works, and her staff were “looking at everything very comprehensively” when it came to restoring public infrastructure in the storm-ravaged islands, Mr Bannister said his ministry was in the process of “making submissions to Cabinet” on the extra financing and resources required by itself and the state-owned utilities.

He revealed that Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) faces the prospect of having to replace 3,000 electricity poles going northwards from Marsh Harbour towards Cooper’s Town, and said the government was assessing whether the utility’s transmission and distribution rebuild should “take another format”.

This likely alludes to placing electricity cables underground as opposed to the previous overhead lines, in a bid to protect them from destruction in future storms, as Mr Bannister warned The Bahamas against adopting a “rebuild as a matter of course” approach to Dorian restoration.

Conceding that Family Island development has suffered from a “lack of planning, lack of inspection and lack of code enforcement”, the minister said policy reviews and decisions now needed to be made on building code strengthening and designating where Bahamians can build.

“We’re looking at the figures now, and the figures are huge. Quite frankly, Mr Hartnell, it’s going to be billions and billions of dollars,” Mr Bannister told Tribune Business of the likely infrastructure rebuilding costs in Abaco and east Grand Bahama. We’re actually looking to make certain submissions to the Government with respect to the manner in which we proceed...

“We’re looking to make submissions with respect to the work we have to do at the Ministry, the work we have to do at the Water & Sewerage Corporation, and the work we have to do at Bahamas Power & Light. All of them. We have to put them all before the Government and see what may cost.”

He added that the Ministry of Works had “some idea of what that may cost” in terms of the clean-up phase, which will be followed by repairs and restoration to critical infrastructure - much of which is likely to have been uninsured.

Roads, docks, bridges, airports, healthcare, water and electricity systems are just some of the essentials that have to be revived, and Mr Bannister said: “Anything you could think of we’re going to have to deal with. I can say this: The director of works has been looking at everything very comprehensively.

“We have some idea of the costs, but I can’t say what those are as these are matters that have to go before Cabinet, and it would be wrong for me to publicly discuss anything I intend to take to Cabinet.” The latest Cabinet meeting was held last night.

Hurricane Dorian struck at a time when the Government has been restraining capital spending on infrastructure projects to help it rein in the fiscal deficit and meet the targets set out in the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

The devastating storm has likely dealt a fatal blow to that strategy, and exacerbated an existing infrastructure deficit that was branded “unquantifiable” when Mr Bannister spoke to Tribune Business in June 2019.

He revealed then that the Ministry of Works’ $93.736m capital works budget for 2019-2020 was $100m less than desired, with the former sum some $27m below the prior year’s allocation.

And, with $53.512m of the $93.736m earmarked for projects already underway, there was less than $40m available to tackle further physical infrastructure needs that are replicated across virtually every island in The Bahamas.

Dorian is likely to force a sky-high increase in such allocations, especially since the cash-strapped, loss-making Water & Sewerage Corporation and BPL will simply be unable to finance the restoration needs from their own resources.

Mr Bannister conceded as much, telling Tribune Business yesterday: “As you know, the Government currently subsidises Water & Sewerage. The rates you pay for water are grossly under the actual costs. Whatever challenges we have with water are going to have to be covered by the Government.”

While the European Union (EU) had provided some financial assistance for the water and telecommunications recovery, the minister added that the Government would still have to make “some critical investment in water” - especially on Abaco.

As for BPL, Mr Bannister said the timing of the $450m-$550m rate reduction bond issue that will refinance BPL may not align with the need for Abaco’s immediate energy system rebuild. As a result, the capital raise was unlikely to occur in time to finance Dorian restoration.

“We are more of that mind,” he added. “With BPL, we have to make some policy decisions and that is also before Cabinet as to where we go with that.” While BPL represented “the lowest hanging fruit” for Abaco’s restoration “going south from Wilson City”, as the electricity grid in that area was least damaged, Mr Bannister said the Government was assessing other options for elsewhere on the island.

“Going north through Marsh Harbour to Cooper’s Town is a bigger challenge,” Mr Bannister told Tribune Business. “BPL has some 3,000 poles there that have to be replaced or some decision taken as to whether the infrastructure takes another format.

“We have estimated pricing on the different types of options we have, and will determine as to how funding will be provided.” This appears to indicate that the Government is considering whether to place BPL’s grid infrastructure underground to better protect it from future hurricanes, although Mr Bannister declined to comment further.

“It’s going to be an awesome challenge,” he told Tribune Business of Dorian restoration. “One of the things we are looking at, I can tell you, is proper planning. What has happened in the Family Islands generally is there’s been a lack of planning, lack of inspections and lack of code enforcement.

“Our [building] code was last revised in 1997, and prior to that required protection from 120 mile per hour winds. Now it’s up to 150 miles per hour. A policy decision has to be made with respect to wind speed, with respect to flood plains, and with respect to water levels. There are a number of challenges we have to look at with moving ahead and planning.

“What I’m saying is this cannot just be rebuilding as a matter of course. There has to be planning in the process, significant inspections, and there has to be enforcement. The Ministry of Works is busy looking at these aspects.”

Mr Bannister said he was unable to predict how long infrastructure rebuilding in the Dorian-ravaged areas will take. Pointing to the logistical difficulties facing the recovery efforts, he said an immediate problem facing BPL and Water & Sewerage repair crews was a lack of suitable accommodation in both east Grand Bahama and Abaco.

“The whole process is not a process that should be rushed,” he added. “We have to restore to Bahamians the dignity of life and dignity of accommodation as quickly as possible, but it’s not an overnight process.”

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 3 days ago

Desmond Bannister is an incompetent buffoon of the highest order and the last one who should have any involvement in the post-Dorian rebuild efforts. The Bahamian people would be better off putting a hopeless bozo like Shameless Shane Gibson in charge of the rebuild effort rather than having Desmond Bannister have anything at all to do with it. Any government contracts that Bannister would have a say in would end up costing the Bahamian people twice as much.

In the above article we see the dishonest Bannister conceding and admitting to all sorts problems he's known about but done absolutely nothing about in the Ministry of Works over the past 2+ years. As my grandmother used to say: "Never trust a man who likes to stand around with his hand held high on his hip."

We have been suffering power outages in New Providence with no end in sight and pretty soon we are also going to have to contend with a serious potable water crisis. It should have long ago been all too obvious to PM Minnis that Bannister sorely lacks what it will take to address these problems.

1

bahamianson 1 week, 3 days ago

we have bahamians who can contribute monies to rebuild, we do not need foreign monies. if we need more money, just increase VAT. No foreign monies, though, all Bahamian.

0

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 3 days ago

There's no more VAT to be had......like the previous Christie-led PLP government, the Minnis-led FNM government has already all but decimated middle-class Bahamians and the super wealthy numbers bosses (like Sebas Bastian and Craig Flowers) have taken every remaining crumb out of our economy, leaving even the church collection plates bare.. I have to laugh at those of you on the gravy train fueled by the public purse who think that the Bahamian people are an eternal fountain of tax dollars for the taking. Just you and see how much more in taxes will come the governmnet's way from an already overtaxed and financially struggling society. But there are the super wealthy political elite in our country (both PLP and/or FNM well-connected) who have over the decades gone about unjustly enriching themselves through many corrupt schemes that have left our country mired in debt and without a middle-class.

2

bahamianson 1 week, 3 days ago

WMTS, where does the money come from to rebuild.......respectfully.

0

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 3 days ago

The numbers bosses and the politically-connected (whether they be PLP or FNM) who have amassed great fortunes over the years by robbing our Public Treasury of tax dollars or by skimming off funds associated with our country's massive debt. There's a reason why we don't have a large thriving middle-class anymore....they were raped, pillaged and plundered over decades by corrupt schemes of one kind or another that have made certain Bahamians extraordinarily wealthy.

0

Porcupine 1 week, 2 days ago

mudda, you are entirely correct.

0

Dawes 1 week, 3 days ago

If thats the case we may as well give up. Though i would guess that number has been pulled from you know where. Its the same as Hurricane Matthew etc etc. Huge numbers thrown around so when it is smaller and a lot is taken off the top people won't mind as much.

0

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 3 days ago

The grabadacious Minnis-led FNM government is deliberating airing these outrageously large re-build estimates so that the public thinks the huge $2 billion amount they do plan on borrowing, with Hurricane Dorian as the excuse, is a relatively small amount. Minnis and KP Turnquest are undoubedly behind the touting of sums as large as $8 billion. After all, even before Dorian, their idea of governing was pretty much borrow more and tax more.....never did either of them support the implementation of serious belt tightening measures across the board aimed at significantly reducing the size of our grossly over-bloated civil work force or the size of our ever growing illegal Haitian alien population. And they certainly showed no gumption towards turning off the flowing tap of rampant corruption throughout government and by politically-connected cronies whether they be of the PLP or FNM variety.

1

TalRussell 1 week, 2 days ago

No matter how populaces subtracts or carry forward comrade minister works Desmond's arithmetic's of Billions and Billions dollars it will baffles even smart in match mind when compared to numbers put out by his colleague finance minister "KP's" more conservative $100 Million, yes, no ...

0

The_Oracle 1 week, 2 days ago

Just as Government has been ever expanding their "reach" into every aspect of what should be private sector domain, they act as if they and they alone must fix it, with their broke assed selves. Back out of the things you (govt) have never had business in and let the private sector so what it does best: Rebuild.

1

Porcupine 1 week, 2 days ago

Headline, "Rebuild could cost billions and billions". Correct. depending on when we have to do this again. Them, it may jump to hundreds of billions...........................

0

mckenziecpa 1 week, 1 day ago

These guys must have failed maths

0

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 1 day ago

That's because they are always too busy concentrating on getting an A+ grade in corruption.

0

Sign in to comment