PRIME Minister Hubert Minnis. (File photo)
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis accused critics yesterday of making “silly, confused and uniformed statements” about Monday’s pledge conference for Hurricane Dorian recovery efforts.
The government has announced $1.5bn in funding and in-kind services were pledged during the event. However, attention has centred around the largest pledge made: a $975m concessionary loan from a US-based company, The P3 Group, which promises to provide funding upfront while requiring repayment from revenue generated from completed projects.
Critics say the offer should not have been included in the tally of pledges because it is not a donation. During yesterday’s opening of the Business Outlook conference at Baha Mar, Dr Minnis did not mince words addressing them.
“Like most donor conferences, and as was clearly understood at the (Pledge) Conference, most of the aid pledged was not in the form of cash donations,” he said. “I have noticed some confusion in the public sphere as to what a pledging conference is and what these commitments mean.
“Unfortunately, some who were not present at the event seem very confused and very poorly informed. Had they informed themselves they would not have made silly, confused and uninformed statements in the press. Some, who have an obligation to be more responsible, are irresponsibly making up false narratives of what happened. Again, some seem not to understand what transpired or the nature of a donor conference.”
While the international community has made various offers and pledges, Dr Minnis said: “It is up to the government of the Bahamas to carefully review these pledges and to decide what is best for the Bahamas and for the people and communities in affected areas.”
Katherine Forbes-Smith, managing director of the Disaster Recovery Authority, has said officials have not examined The P3 Group’s business affairs or its offer. On Wednesday, former Central Bank Governor James Smith told The Tribune it is not likely the government would seek access to concessionary loans from private groups, insisting the terms are unlikely to be better than what could be obtained “through the normal capital markets.”
Dr Minnis said yesterday: “The Bahamas has never experienced a storm like Dorian. As a result, we have not had a high-level pledging conference of this nature. The Bahamas received pledges of financing, grants, technical assistance, intellectual assistance, humanitarian aid and other forms of assistance. The categories of pledges funding included: concessionary loans, equity, grants and guarantee financing. Let me emphasise that there were different types of funding pledged and that potential loans are only one type of possible funding.”
Pledges on Monday included initiatives for homebuilding and repair, educational assistance, renewable energy partnerships, relief aid, grants, direct assistance to storm victims, parks restoration and loans and financing, according to the Office of the Prime Minister. Among those pledging were the United States of America, which pledged $2.1 million to restore law enforcement capabilities to the affected islands; Baha Mar, which announced a $300,000 donation and delivery of furniture to affected residents in Grand Bahama; and Global Ports Holding, which pledged more than $500,000 for infrastructure needs, restoration of coral reefs, mangroves, small home rebuilding and small business projects.