PLP Leader Philip “Brave” Davis.
By RIEL MAJOR
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Leader Phillip “Brave” Davis has called on the Minnis administration to increase the available funding for storm-ravaged Grand Bahama to $100m.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced that the government is establishing a $10m loan guarantee and equity financing facility that is targeted at micro, small and medium-sized (MSME) enterprises to either help them re-open or create new businesses in Abaco and East Grand Bahama in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
An applicant will be able to secure a maximum of $500,000.
Speaking to reporters at a PLP press conference yesterday, Mr Davis said if the government is “serious about supporting” Grand Bahama’s economy, the proposed figure should be increased.
He said: “Given the extent of the damage sustained by businesses in Grand Bahama, an allocation of $10 million announced by the prime minister and earmarked to assist the business community is woefully insufficient and should be increased to at least $100 million.”
When asked where he suggests the government find the remaining $90m, Mr Davis said the Minnis administration should focus on collecting outstanding tax revenue.
“I’ve always been of the view that our tax structure is sufficient to bear the cost of businesses and services. What this government has failed to do and has contributed to is the inefficient collection of revenue. There has been a systemic and total collapse of our collection of revenue. Collect your revenue and you’ll find the funds there,” he said.
“If you manage your income sufficiently, you’ll find ways and means of spending the $100 million.
“. . .Ten million dollars will not carry it. . . (it is) a drop in the bucket to any recovery efforts for businesses on that island.”
Mr Davis also criticised the creation of the new Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction. The new ministry will be headed by Minister of State Iram Lewis, however it will operate out of the Office of the Prime Minister. Dr Minnis has said he will guide the larger policy objectives of the ministry.
Mr Davis said: “We believe that in a national emergency and crisis, the prime minister takes the lead nationally and he must do his job, therefore it is unhelpful for him to pass off this primary responsibility and by extension the political fallout, the heat and criticism to a junior minister. It’s called passing the buck and insulating himself from criticism and culpability.
“What administrative infrastructure and institutional capability would another ministry have that does not currently exist? I cannot think of any. We currently have a chief accounting officer who is the permanent secretary. We have the political head who is the prime minister and we have an entire department, fully constituted by an act of Parliament, dedicated to national emergency management, NEMA.”
He said another ministry fails to add value to the process, saying it only adds to the expense of the government.
“It is a waste of public resources, financial and otherwise. What we need is structural and functional reform of NEMA. That entity must become an autonomous and fully resourced corporate sole entity,” Mr Davis said.
“This new ministry is nothing more than an additional layer of bureaucracy that will cause more and longer delays thus deepening the frustration, anger feelings of hopelessness among our already distressed people. This will no doubt intensify the criticism of the prime minister, his policies and his government.”