Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
THE government will only pursue offers coming out of January’s Hurricane Dorian Pledging Conference that are in the best interests of the residents of the areas affected by the storm, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said on Tuesday.
During his first national report for 2020, Dr Minnis stressed the government is examining what offers may be most beneficial to The Bahamas.
“The offers we accept will be laid out for the Bahamian people to see,” he said. “It is essential that we promote a culture of transparency with disaster relief assistance, especially because of the questionable and corrupt practices with hurricane funds as we have seen in the past.”
On January 13, governments, NGOs, multilateral institutions, companies and individuals came together in a first-of-its-kind pledging conference in The Bahamas. The conference was attended by hundreds and open to the media. Approximately $1.5 billion in recovery financing, in-kind services and some donations were pledged.
“I must emphasise that this was not all cash and that these were offers each of which we will carefully examine,” Dr Minnis said. “The pledges included initiatives in homebuilding and repair; educational assistance; renewable energy partnerships; relief aid; grants; direct assistance to storm victims; parks restoration; loans and financing. It was a mix of many types of possible assistance.”
By far the largest pledge came from The P3 Group, a commercial real estate and boutique development and consulting firm, which pledged $975m in financing for various projects. Dee Brown, president of the company, has said the firm would provide the funding upfront but expect repayment once projects are created.
On Tuesday, Dr Minnis also provided an update to the nation on the reconstruction programme in Abaco and Grand Bahama, a little over five months since Dorian struck the country’s second and third most populated islands and economic centres.
Dorian was the strongest hurricane to hit The Bahamas. Its gusts of 220 miles per hour, and surge of more than 20 feet, wiped out generations worth of infrastructure, and progress, throughout Abaco, its cays and Grand Bahama.
It is estimated that Dorian cost The Bahamas $3.4 billion dollars in losses and damage.
“The task of restoration ahead of us is awesome and wide scale. We have never before, suffered this scale of destruction in our history,” said Dr Minnis.
“However, I have every confidence that the Bahamian people are up to the challenge. Bahamian labour and creativity built this chain of islands into the most dynamic tourism economy in the region.
“What Dorian destroyed, we will build back better and more resilient.”