Bahamas in Talks with IDB on New Providence Road Improvement Project

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Prime Minister the Rt Hon Hubert Ingraham (centre) expresses the needs of The Bahamas during a December 7, 2007, press conference on the official visit of the Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno, left, to The Bahamas. Also pictured is Minister of State for Finance the Hon. Zhivargo Laing. The press conference was held at the Office of the Prime Minister, Cable Beach. (Photo: Kristaan Ingraham)

By: Lindsay Thompson

NASSAU, The Bahamas
– The Bahamas is currently in discussions with the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) on the resumption of the New Providence Road Improvement Project, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham said.

Prime Minister Ingraham’s comments came at a press conference following the conclusion of talks in Nassau Friday with IDB president Luis Alberto Moreno. Mr. Moreno’s visit came on the heels of the conclusion of a five-year plan between the IDB and The Bahamas.

An additional contract is under negotiation for further development of The Bahamas in areas of infrastructure, health and education.

“The IDB has been most helpful to The Bahamas,” Mr. Ingraham said. “They have helped us considerably with the electrification of the Family Islands, in providing potable water to many of our communities, and in education. We are in discussions with them now about the resumption of the New Providence Road Improvement Project.

Mr. Ingraham affirmed that a top priority of the Government is the resumption of the New Providence Road Improvement Project so as to alleviate congestion on the island’s streets.

Road work is scheduled to begin by the first half of 2008.

“We have serious congestion on the streets of New Providence and the Government intends to start next year, major road works which will require us to access in excess of $100 million.” the Prime Minister said.

He added: “We would also discuss with [the IDB] issues relating to health and environmental matters. The IDB has also been very helpful to us in terms of creation of additional and new solid waste disposable sites and systems in The Bahamas on New Providence, San Salvador, Abaco, Cat Island, Andros, Bimini, Harbour Island and elsewhere.”
Regarding financing plans for the Lynden Pindling International Airport, the Prime Minister confirmed that while funding requests have not yet been made, the Government expects to consider the airport’s financing plan early next year.

“We’ve got short term things for the airport. We are going to build a new US departure terminal and we are going to build new international and domestic departure terminals at the airport. It’s a four to five year programme and it will begin next year,” he said.

Mr. Ingraham, who has pledged that his government will restore accountability and transparency to public accounting, said the IDB is a “good source to go to for loans” because funding through the Bank provides an opportunity for oversight, and the IDB requires project studies to be conducted to determine their economic and social benefits and costs.

He pointed out, meantime, that the Government does not expect many grants from the IDB.

“We are not beggars,” Mr. Ingraham noted. “We have received grants in the past from the Canadians, the Japanese and others have made available grants to The Bahamas. And to the extent to which grant money is available to conduct feasibility studies on a place like The Bahamas, we will be happy to access them.

“But generally speaking, we are borrowers who stand on our own two feet and we put forward a project that we are able to pay for.”

Mr. Moreno said he has had a chance to revisit the challenges facing The Bahamas to look at ways in which the Bank can contribute to further development of the country’s infrastructure; a critical component in dealing with challenges associated with growth and social areas such as health and education.

“Yes it is true that this country has a very high income per capita compared to other Caribbean countries but I believe that despite that, we should strive to, regardless of that, to understand that there are still questions of poverty in The Bahamas and the Bank needs to find ways to deal with the situation,” he said. “I have personally taken a direct role in trying to find ways to address that.”

The IDB, the oldest and largest regional bank in the world was founded in 1959 as a partnership between 19 Latin American countries and the United States. The Bahamas became a member in 1977. It is the main source of multilateral financing for economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Its loans and grants help finance development projects and support strategies to reduce poverty, expand growth, increase trade and investment, promote regional integration, and foster private sector development and modernization of the State.