Artist rendering of the winning design for what was supposed to be the future building for the Central Bank of The Bahamas.
By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
ECONOMIC Affairs Minister Michael Halkitis said the Davis administration cancelled the new multi-million dollar Central Bank headquarters because building it would not look good following the COVID-19 pandemic — an explanation former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis called “flimsy”.
Dr Minnis accused the Davis administration of wasting the $12m spent on the project.
The Central Bank appeared excited about the project, even hosting a highly publicised competition in 2018 to determine the building design. Prime Minister, Dr Minnis frequently highlighted the project as part of efforts to revitalise Nassau.
Mr Halkitis told reporters yesterday: “The government expressed, and this was many months ago, its opinion to the Central Bank that having just (come) out of COVID, still not fully recovered, that might not be a high priority at the time.”
“So the government expressed that, perhaps, let’s postpone that given that we’re just coming out of COVID. (There are) many other priorities for the government, and the optics of it might not be the best.”
Reacting yesterday, Dr Minnis told The Tribune: “You throwing away $12m that have been invested and the monies is not government. Central Bank had their own money. They had the money put aside for it. So that is a flimsy excuse.
“That is totally irresponsible and they would not have done that if that was their own personal money but that only demonstrates how they waste and have no respect for the Bahamian people’s money.
“A lot of efforts (have been wasted) because Central Bank was prepared to break ground and move forward. A lot of taxpayer money has been wasted when the project was started initially under the Christie administration, of which Brave Davis and several ministers there were a part of the government, and we continued with the project because that was a part of the new downtown development. You had Central Bank; you had the US Embassy; you had the new court complex. We had demolished the old Cabinet office in preparation to construct a new Cabinet office there and have more open space for Bahamians to enjoy.”
In the House of Assembly on Monday, Dr Minnis discussed the matter as parliamentarians debated amendments to the Central Bank Act.
“The Central Bank has the funds to construct a new headquarters. A national competition was held for a new modern and beautiful complex that would help to rejuvenate downtown,” he said.
“Parliament approved the transfer of Crown Land to the Central Bank. Why was the decision made not to go ahead with this major project? Was this a Cabinet decision? The cancellation of the new headquarters at that site is very disturbing and begs many questions that need to be answered.”
“As we noted in office, we were giving consideration to using the old Central Bank complex as a potential temporary museum space for the enjoyment of the Bahamians and visitors. When you talk about wastage, do you know that the Central Bank project started under the Christie administration and continued under the Minnis administration?”