I wish to set the record straight on a number of material inaccuracies contained in a letter to the editor published on 3rd November 2015 in the Nassau Guardian under the pen C.L.R.J.
The letter was riddled with errors and while the writer is entitled to his or her opinion on how government expends public funds, nobody has the right to mislead the public by spewing misinformation into the public domain.
The writer said “somehow their (meaning the current government) $20 million BAMSI farming project shot up to $100 million and I have yet to see one carrot or onion as a result.” This assertion is patently false. At a public meeting at the North Andros High School, Prime Minister Christie committed to spending $100 million in public infrastructure on the island of Andros. One tangible example is the ongoing road works on the main highway between north and central Andros. There is no record of the government spending or committing to spend $100 million on BAMSI alone. If the writer has the evidence to support the claim, he or she should produce it. While it may very well be that the writer has not personally seen “one carrot or onion as a result” of the BAMSI farm project, the facts are that to date BAMSI has harvested and sold tons of fresh fruits and vegetables, collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue and paid their associated farmers tens of thousands of dollars in income. Both were well documented in the media.
The writer then went on to say that “another $100 million went to bail out the Bank of The Bahamas, more specifically 13 businesses that had been given huge loans…and failed to pay them back…so this government simply paid the bill in full for these people out of OUR pockets…” Suffice it to say, these assertions are not only totally false, but are libelous; the government did not such thing. The government moved $100 million in non-performing commercial off the bank’s ledger and placed them in a separate account under the management control of Resolve and a local accounting firm to recover the funds. And contrary to the assertion of the writer, the identities of the businesses that borrowed the money were published in the local dailies.
The writer also asserts that the current government inherited a Critical Care Block (CCB) on schedule and on budget “but then for some mysterious reason a $35 million loan had to be sought to get it done.” I will clarify the funding for the CCB for the edification of the writer and readers who might be misled by the assertion. The $55 million borrowed by the former government administration to construct the Critical Care Block was only intended to cover the construction of the building, and it did. The incoming and current government secured funding to purchase medical and surgical equipment, furniture, Management Information Systems, systems training for the staff and staffing of the facility. That cost to convert that shell of a building on Shirley Street to a turnkey-fully functional health facility was $45 million. There was nothing “mysterious” or wasteful about completing the Critical Care Block. The opening ceremony was aired live on ZNS and the entire process was explained in great detail but the explanation obviously escaped the writer.
There is a rule of thumb about the construction of medical facilities: hospitals in this region normally cost $1 million per bed to construct so $55 million could never finance a 100 bed fully equipped and fully functional Critical Care Block.
Given the hard work of the staff at the Bahamas Information Services (BIS) to communicate the works of the government to the general public, the level of misinformation placed into the public domain and the regularity with which this is done remain inexplicable. One set of information is reported in the media and some people read, see and hear something completely different. Every piece of information the writer purported as “fact” about government fiscal policy in the referenced missive was a falsehood; that is inexplicable.
Ah well…we at BIS will continue to press on.