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New Bahamas Government Makes Airport A Priority

by Leroy Baker,, New York

18 May 2007

After Bahamian voters threw out the existing government in recent elections, new Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has told a press conference that his government's urgent first priority is to improve security and general conditions at the Bahamas' Lynden Pindling International Airport.

International agencies have criticized lax or non-existent security at the airport. Despite hundreds of recorded security violations, no one has ever been held accountable. "It is a critical issue," said Ingraham, "It is going to require our focused attention and commitment of additional resources." The airport, which used to be called Nassau International Airport, was renamed in honour of a former prime minister last year.

"We expect that within a reasonable period we would meet the requirements to ensure that the standard or the rating of the Lynden Pindling International Airport is not downgraded. We appreciate the fact that that is the gateway to The Bahamas. Its rating influences the lives of all of us, and so we will not sleep until it is brought to a standard that is acceptable for it to maintain its rating."

The Prime Minister said that user fees would be introduced to cover the costs of upgrading the airport. "That’s the only way to fund it," he said. "There’s no other way to do it other than to charge a user fee for all of those who use the facility."

After contradictory statements early in the week, the government has also confirmed that it will likely carry through plans to relocate freight handling activities from the downtown area of the City of Nassau to a proposed new port to be developed at southwest New Providence.

Mr Ingraham said that he had received a telephone call from United States President George W. Bush after his re-election. “We had the opportunity to discuss briefly the Haitian situation and the continuing need for The Bahamas and the United States to co-operate fully in respect to the migration of Haitians from that country and in our case into our country,” Ingraham said.

The Prime Minister said that the government would consist of 12 principal ministries as opposed to 17 under the previous administration. He said that he had no plans for a referendum on immigration issues, something that had figured largely in the previous government's pre-election publicity.

In the elections, Bahamian voters dismissed the existing government in a 90% turnout and brought back former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's Free National Movement, with 24 of the 41 House of Assembly seats.

Outgoing Prime Minister Perry Christie's Progressive Liberal Party campaigned on its economic record, but the FNM attacked the government on ethical grounds.

Ingraham was prime minister from 1992 to 2002. He told supporters after the result became known: "We will devote all of our energies to the continued development of our nation in every respect -- economic, political, social and cultural. We ask our political opponents and all Bahamians to join us in this endeavor."

Christie and Ingraham are both lawyers and even used to be partners in the same firm. After a landslide result in the 2002 election, the PLP held 29 seats, the FNM 7, and Independents, 4.

Commentators say that the Anna Nicole Smith affair caused a major swing against Christie's government. There had been allegations that her residency permit had been irregularly fast-tracked.

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