By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
FORMER Central Bank Governor James Smith said it is unlikely the government will seek access to $975 million in loans a US-based company pledged during a conference on Monday to raise funds for Hurricane Dorian recovery.
Dee Brown, president of The P3 Group, has said his company would provide loans at concessionary rates.
But Mr Smith said this would likely prove unnecessary.
“I don’t think government is in a position where it needs to go outside the normal capital markets to get loans,” he said yesterday. “That kind of money they can raise internally, from local banks or banks that have offshore parents, they can go to ordinary capital markets and I suspect they’ll get better terms. I don’t believe their rates would be truly concessionary. They’re using other people’s money and I’ll be really surprised if they’re offering rates that we couldn’t get from international capital markets. Lending rates are at historically low levels now so I don’t expect this to go anywhere really. We have fairly competent advisers and a few people in government who will know better.”
The P3 Group’s $975 million concessionary loan pledge represented the lion share of the $1.5 billion in pledges the government said it received on Monday.
Chester Cooper, deputy leader of the Progressive Liberal Party, accused the government yesterday of misleading people and demanded details about potential arrangements struck with foreign entities.
With respect to The P3 Group, he said the borrowing rate would be a real concern.
“We would like to know why this route would be any more feasible than a national investment bond that would allow Bahamians to participate,” Mr Cooper said. “The structure of any potential deal must also be carefully vetted and due diligence done in P3 and the finances. On which islands would P3 undertake construction? And what labour would be needed in the construction phase? Who would manage these assets?
“If the P3 is allowed to construct what amounts to the entire public healthcare infrastructure, would this ultimately result in new taxes or user fees, given the minimal revenue streams of existing cavities? And how will this factor into the government’s long-delayed reconfiguration of NHI?”
The government has announced no plans to strike a deal with The P3 Group.
Katherine Forbes-Smith, managing director of the Disaster Recovery Authority, told The Tribune on Tuesday she has not yet examined the company in any detail.
For his part, Mr Brown said on Monday that his company’s pledge “can be delivered quickly and efficiently with an emphasis on resiliency and sustainability,” adding that some of the resources could be immediately deployed, including funds for community engagement, architecture, engineer and design services, master cleaning, technology infrastructure and assessments, local capacity building and education, training and access to working capital for small and medium sized businesses.
Six hundred and seventy million could be set aside for healthcare funding to rebuild hospitals and medical facilities, he said.
Meanwhile, Free National Movement chairman Carl Culmer blasted the PLP’s response to the pledging conference yesterday. On Tuesday, PLP leader Philip “Brave” Davis also expressed scepticism about The P3 Group pledge. Mr Culmer said: “Leave it to the woeful PLP’s self-anointed ‘mastermind’, the old and tired Brave Davis, to search for an angle to attack a positive, success in the Hurricane Dorian efforts. Not only were Brave’s latest attacks on the success of the Hurricane Dorian Pledging Conference nonsensical and illogical, but they are also tinged with Davis’ own sour grapes – maybe for past failed leadership to deliver such results in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.”