EXUMA & Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Pointe is one of the most egregious examples of this country failing to protect Bahamian employment in the construction sector, Progressive Liberal Party leader Chester Cooper said yesterday.
The Heads of Agreement for the project was negotiated and finalised by the former Christie administration, with enforcement the responsibility of the current administration.
Speaking to members of the National Progressive Institute last night, Mr Cooper said future projects like this one must do a better job of transferring skills to Bahamians.
"One of the most egregious examples of failing to (protect Bahamian employment and transfer skills) was The Pointe," he said.
"While we welcome the investment, it cannot be that more Chinese benefitted from employment at a project in The Bahamas than Bahamians. I am not anti-Chinese, but It cannot be that on the next project that the skills have not been transferred as they clearly were not transferred sufficiently in Crystal Palace or Baha Mar. We need to actively identify areas of our economy where these skills are lacking and make a focused effort to close these gaps."
The government and the Pointe have been at odds over the project's labour force ratio, with Labour Minister Dion Foulkes expressing disappointment recently because far fewer Bahamians are working there than mandated by the agreement.
Mr Cooper also called for greater embrace of the National Development Plan, a Christie administration initiative that secured bipartisan support from political parties but that critics say has been insufficiently used by the Minnis administration.
He criticised the government's Hurricane Dorian restoration efforts, saying the Inter-American Development Bank's $100m contingency loan has not been fully drawn down on "as is evidenced by the lack of restoration".
"A PLP government will enshrine in the National Development Plan and in the relevant code, reforms for coastal resilience, for rebuilding and development in flood prone zones and making our country more climate resilient. We will review the current insurance scheme and creative captive insurance schemes with the help of re-insurance, to buffer the shocks of hurricanes," he said.
Additionally, he said an ease of doing business czar should be appointed to bring focus attention to the issue because it is still too difficult for business to start and conduct its affairs.
He called on the Minnis administration to move forward with projects left in place by its predecessor, including the Children's Bay Cay in Exuma and several Family Island airports.