ECONOMIC Affairs Minister Michael Halkitis. Photo: Donavan McIntosh/Tribune Staff
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
ECONOMIC Affairs Minister Michael Halkitis defended the trip to Expo 2020 in Dubai, saying the event was an opportunity to establish connections and hopefully boost foreign direct investment.
The trip has drawn scrutiny after Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis led a large delegation to Dubai. Some have questioned how the cultural acts were chosen to represent the Bahamas. There were also questions about the cost of the trip.
“There were some funds allocated late last year, just over $1m,” Mr Halkitis said before a Cabinet meeting yesterday. “At the conclusion of the mission, when everyone is back and all of the expenses are settled then we will know the true cost and I think there was a commitment to make that available and so that will be done.”
Mr Halkitis said it should not take long to get a financial accounting of the trip, adding this could be just a “couple of weeks”.
He added: “I also just want to make this final point, in that we are a small, open economy. We don’t export much. We depend on foreign investment for the growth of our economy and so missions such as this to the extent that they can attract foreign investment, they can begin to make connections that can lead to investments. And even with the performers being exposed to not only Dubai, but 190 countries that are participating, if opportunities become available, for example, for them to perform elsewhere that is a plus. But we hear the concerns about the cost.
“We think it’s well spent and, at the end of the day, we want to be able to give a ledger to say this is what we allocated, this is what we spent and here are some of the benefits that we think are accruing to us. Some will be immediate and some will be longer term.”
Director of Communications in the Office of the Prime Minister Latrae Rahming has claimed the Minnis administration approved $1.7m for the trip, more than what the Davis administration approved. However, former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has said his “government was not prepared to sponsor a feel-good trip or vacation for anybody.”
Mr Halkitis said: “This is a multi-year project. It’s been going on for about six years. Monies have been spent over the years. Late last year, we allocated an amount of money to assist to make sure that we are able to put on a good show and acquit ourselves well.
“So I would not technically say that it went over budget but, at the end of the day, we will do an accounting and we will see when everybody is back and all the expenses are settled. I don’t anticipate that we would’ve gone over budget, no.”