Speaker of the House Halson Moultrie. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
HOUSE Speaker Halson Moultrie yesterday recommended to a People’s Republic of China delegation that its country consider developing the southeast region of the Bahamas to shift the population concentration from the northwest Bahamas.
It was also his suggestion that China help this country with relocating the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services from New Providence to Little Inagua.
Speaker Moultrie made the recommendations during a courtesy call with Dr Cai Dafend, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China.
Dr Dafend and a 14-member delegation held brief discussions in the Senate with the Speaker, his deputy Donald Saunders and Chief Clerk David Forbes Friday.
At the time, the Chinese official announced his government would give an additional $500,000US to the Bahamas for Hurricane Dorian relief efforts.
Following the visit, Speaker Moultrie explained that the intent was to seek mutually beneficial opportunities to advance the people of the Bahamas and citizens of China.
“There has been a concentration of our population in the northwest Bahamas (and) Dorian has interrupted that development,” the Nassau Village MP told reporters yesterday. “Abaco is the fastest growing island in the Bahamas and, of course, Grand Bahama has always been considered the second city.
“Well, two of the three major population centres in the Bahamas have been affected by Hurricane Dorian and so I for one believe in the concept in looking for the good in even the worst situation in the midst of all of our sorrow and mourning as a result of Hurricane Dorian.”
He continued: “We see opportunities for the remainder of the archipelago to develop as we restore and redevelop Grand Bahama and Great Abaco so that it could be a greater population distribution and the southeast Bahamas is the port of entry to the Bahamas from the south.
“That is why I gave my personal recommendations to the Chinese that perhaps one of the considerations as we move forward in a joint development of both nations to look at the possibility of developing the southeast Bahamas and making another economic centre in the southeast Bahamas so that we can get a better distribution of our population throughout the archipelago. We think that will auger well not only for the Bahamas but for the entire region.”
“I also recommended that we should take a look at removing the correctional facilities out of the capital and putting it in one of the remote places in the Bahamas and I suggested Little Inagua of course because that is strategically positioned at the gateway to the Bahamas from the south.
“We seem to have more problems coming from the south with respect to illegal immigration and with respect to poaching of our Bahamian waters. So we believe that if we put the proper facilities at that gateway we can better protect ourselves and our sovereignty.”
In prepared remarks during the courtesy call, Speaker Moultrie welcomed the Chinese delegation.
“Over the years, the Bahamas has enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with China. Our foreign policies evinces mutual respect through the recognition of exclusive jurisdiction and sovereignty. Both nations honour the rule of law and pursue international relations that are in the best interest for the advancement of our people and the development of our nations. The Bahamas is supportive of the One-China principle.
“Accordingly, the Bahamas remains open for business with China and we invite the world to our shores and to our archipelago of more than seven hundred islands and cays,” the Speaker said.
As he thanked China for whatever assistance it could provide as the country seeks to rebuild after Dorian, Speaker Moultrie said the Bahamas could benefit from scientific research on the impact of global warming; research on the development of marine industries, educational grants, cultural exchanges and technical assistance; industrial development of the southeast Bahamas; infrastructural development throughout the country especially a deep water harbour; a maximum security correctional facility.