Gov’t projects and assistance programs helping to speed up recovery in Grand Bahama

Minister of State for Finance and for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson (second right) gave updates on capital projects being carried out in Grand Bahama and assistance programs for Grand Bahamians being provided by the Government of the Bahamas during a press conference update at the Office of the Prime Minister (GB) on Saturday, January 23, 2021. Joining Minister Thompson for the update were: Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis (second left); Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe and Member of Parliament for East Grand Bahama Peter Turnquest. (BIS Photo/Andrew Miller)

“Freeport, Grand Bahama remains in a rebuilding phase and will be in that rebuilding phase for some time to come,” said Min. of State for Finance and Grand Bahama, Hon. Kwasi Thompson. “But we are pleased with the pace with which these projects are progressing.”

The Minister’s remarks came during an update press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in Freeport on Saturday, January 23, 2021. During that update, Minister Thompson outlined the number of rebuilding initiatives that are currently taking place in Grand Bahama, with some projects already completed,and others expected to be completed before the end of the first quarter of the year. Some of those projects include:

 Completion of reconstruction of the Administrative building in McLean’s Town.
 Reconstruction of McLean’s Town Clinic.
 $6 million road construction project in East Grand Bahama that is continuing.
 West Grand Bahama road works completed.
 Completion of the restoration of the Ministry of Agriculture Building, which included the construction of a number of new stalls that will serve as the new home for young entrepreneurs — creators of unique Bahamian crafts.

 Restoration of High Rock Clinic.
 Complete facial restoration of police headquarters in Freeport.

“We are going to continue this rebuilding process, so that in the coming weeks we will see works continue in the East End community, which was severely affected by Hurricane Dorian,” said Minister Thompson.

“We are pleased that progress continues to be made on the restoration of the Post Office in downtown Freeport and on other projects.” In addition to on-going capital projects, Minister Thompson noted that the government continues to offer assistance programs that directly meet the needs of Grand Bahamians. He specifically pointed out three of those programs which he said will be extended, namely the food assistance program, the disbursement of small business development grants to assist local entrepreneurs, and the unemployment benefits program, which will continue until the end of January this year. He added that the government is considering extending the program beyond that date.

“Unfortunately, there are still a number of people who are unemployed and who still require that assistance,” said Minister Thompson. “A main focus is to ensure that we help as many people as we possibly can. That particular program has helped a lot of Bahamians throughout The Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian and during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Also speaking during the update press conference, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction the Hon. Iram Lewis pointed out that the Government’s Small Homes Repair Program is set to recommence in short order.

“Funds have been released for that program and so we are set to move into the second phase of that program,” said Minister Lewis. “The Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA) will be making a further announcement, but as early as within the next two weeks, that program will resume. That’s good news for people who have been waiting for a long time and who have received a portion of their down payment and so now we will be moving ahead with that program. Everyone who we’ve made a commitment to with respect to home repairs will be satisfied.”

The other good news, according to Minister Lewis, is that with respect to the Rand Memorial Hospital, great progress has been made in the lobby area, the pharmacy area, the female ward, the children’s ward and the Operating Theatre, all of which will be completed in the first phase of reconstruction, and opened in short order.

“The work is being carried out by two Grand Bahamian construction companies and their work, which is of high quality, is being monitored by the Ministry of Works, the Public Hospitals Authority and the DRA,” added Minister Lewis. “Once we have opened those areas in the hospital that have been completed, the planning of the extension of the hospital will be undertaken.”

Minister Thompson said that while capital works continue and the various government assistance programs are being extended, the challenge of restoring Grand Bahama and Abaco to pre-Dorian days lies ahead. However, he expressed confidence that the plans being put in place by the government will help to meetthe challenge head-on.

“Overall, we believe that this year will be better than 2020, in terms of our economy,” said Minister Thompson. “And that is in reference to Grand Bahama, but also in reference to The Bahamas generally. Since the numbers for Covid-19 have gone down drastically and the country has been able to open, some of the restrictions have been relaxed. We have seen some improvement in the economy; however, we are still facing some challenging times. But we are hopeful that once the vaccine committee begins its work in vaccinating Bahamians, it will go a long way in helping to speed up our recovery.”