By Rashad Rolle
A FULL breakdown of all pledges made on Monday during a special pledging conference to aid Hurricane Dorian recovery efforts will be publicly disclosed soon, an official said yesterday.
Managing Director of the Bahamas Disaster Reconstruction Authority Katherine Forbes-Smith said pledges take various forms, ranging from donations to concessionary lending to technical assistance.
Her comments came as Progressive Liberal Party leader Philip “Brave” Davis expressed scepticism over the touted $1.5bn in pledges announced by the government following the conference, which was held at Baha Mar.
“Let us strip down how this $1.5bn is made up,” Mr Davis said. “I daresay, when you talk about donors, you are expecting donations to be made without strings attached. So I would ask (the prime minister) to identify the donors, identify the conditions on what donations are being made and we need to separate what is borrowed from what is being donated and then we would understand what the true import of the exercise (on Monday) produced.”
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, said the firm would provide the funding upfront but expect repayment once projects are created.
Mr Davis said: “If it is a loan, it is not a donation because we have to pay it back. When you speak about donation, you’re talking about grants, about aid and assistance.”
Mrs Forbes-Smith, nonetheless, said the public will soon learn how the authority has categorised the pledges. “We’re not accustomed to having pledge conferences in The Bahamas,” she said, “and we’re not accustomed to having Category Five storms either. Pledges come in many different forms. The authority and the government in the next day or so will list the persons that made up the pledging of the $1.5bn so the public could see where it is coming from, whether it’s technical support, whether it’s cash, we even heard from Harvard University where someone talked about human resource assistance.
‘When you pledge, you’re pledging assistance and we need to be open to the fact that pledge could mean a variety of things. The authority’s position is there is no secret. We will let the public know exactly what is going on,” she said.
As for The P3 Group, Mrs Forbes-Smith said she hasn’t yet “looked into the company with a fine tooth comb.”
“We’ve just been introduced and I know they offer basically a fund with a concessionary loan,” she said.
Mr Brown’s pledges on behalf of his company elicited cheers from some of those attending Monday’s conference.
Not only did The P3 Group help sponsor the conference, but Mr Brown said he attended the event with members of his legal, finance and construction teams.
He told The Tribune the company is looking to branch outside the United States. “We look for more social infrastructure projects,” Mr Brown said, “and those are projects that really have more of an impact on the fabric of a community. Knowing that the government would have no way of raising all this capital at one time, to try and put everything back together, we thought just from a corporate social perspective this is a good opportunity to branch out internationally and offer our services outside of the United States. It would also open up for small island development states to know there are resources out there and models that exist that could allow them to improve infrastructure and facilities and bring them up to modern standards without going out and putting a lot of debt on the books.”