PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has announced the appointment of Minister of Works Desmond Bannister as deputy prime minister.
Senator Kwasi Thompson, minister of state for Grand Bahama, will also be appointed minister of state for finance.
Meanwhile, Dr Minnis said he will continue to serve as the minister of finance for the remainder of this term to advance his administration’s economic goals and to boost jobs.
He made the announcements during a national address last night as he touted his administration’s “national success” in tackling the health challenges of COVID-19.
He said while officials were saving lives and protecting the public’s health, the government must also continue to restore the economy and stimulate jobs.
He said he will be guided by an economic team — including Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson and former Central Bank Governor Wendy Craigg — that will chart the nation’s fiscal recovery.
He said because of Mr Bannister’s portfolio, experience and “good counsel,” the Carmichael Road MP will also be a part of this team.
“A part of this team will be Senator Kwasi Thompson, who will be the minister of state for finance,” Dr Minnis said.
“Over the past nearly four years he has been minister of state for Grand Bahama and has promoted digital technology and training. As minister of state for finance, I have asked him to focus on the economic needs and recovery of Grand Bahama, Family Island development and the ongoing digital transformation of the Bahamas and the government.”
Dr Minnis was sworn in as minister of finance last week, replacing East Grand Bahama MP Peter Turnquest, who resigned as minister of finance and deputy prime minister amid allegations of his involvement in a “bogus loan scheme”.
Mr Turnquest has denied the allegations and said he expects to be vindicated when in court.
Last night, Mr Thompson said he intends to focus on the development and full recovery of Grand Bahama and the Family Islands with his new portfolio.
“I intend to work closely with the competent team of experts and professionals who have been providing policy advice and administrative support throughout this administration and long before,” Mr Thompson said. “This will allow the Ministry’s work to continue without interruption. I have confidence in their work and plan to jump right in to continue implementing the robust and transparent fiscal and economic policies of the government.”
Dr Minnis said his economic team will continue to consult widely with business, labour, religious leaders and civil society.
“A core economic team will continue to meet regularly, just as public health officials have done during the pandemic,” Dr Minnis said. “The core work of this team and of my administration during the remainder of this term is job-creation and economic recovery.
“This includes structural reform, and bold ideas for diversification, the ease of doing business and the ongoing transformation toward a digital economy.
We are committed to the implementation of a number of the recommendations of the Economic Recovery Committee, including rolling out a new and more nimble domestic and foreign investment process to get more money flowing into our economy.
“The emphasis will be on projects which produce jobs and economic opportunity for all Bahamians. We must also promote new thinking, ideas and structural reform to make our tourism sector even more innovative and vibrant.
“We must utilise innovative public-private partnerships to get more Bahamians back to work. We have already stated that we are boosting the amount of funds available to the Small Business Development Centre, including funds directed specifically for younger Bahamians and women.”
Dr Minnis said he is also appointing Nathaniel Beneby Jr as a special advisor in the Office of the Prime Minister, who will help to drive the recommendations made by the Economic Recovery Committee and to focus on the ease of doing business.
Mr Beneby was the first Bahamian to be appointed managing director and chairman of the board of Royal Bank of Canada.
“He has long standing experience in banking and has served on a number of public and private boards,” Dr Minnis said. He has many decades of experience.
“His core assignment is to help turn recommendations into action.”
Kenneth Kerr, co-chair of the government’s Economic Recovery Committee, also will be on this new fiscal recovery team.
Dr Minnis said the team will be augmented as necessary with individuals from across the country, including various members from the Economic Recovery Committee, such as John Delaney, chair of the Economic Advisory Committee; Christina Rolle, executive director of the Securities Commission; Patrick Ward, who has long standing experience in business and the insurance industry and noted businessman Franklyn Butler.
He said he will invite small business owners and entrepreneurs in their 20s, 30s and 40s to some of these economic recovery meetings “to offer specific and concrete suggestions on what they and their colleagues need to boost their businesses”.