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The Bahamas will make history on May 23, 2013 as its new $30 million Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium will serve as host to an exhibition match between Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and the Jamaican national football team on Nassau Paradise Island.
Both teams accepted an invitation from the Government of The Bahamas, which set the stage for the first match featuring a Premier League Club in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The match will also mark one of the major events in the new 15,000-seat stadium as well as in the year-long celebration of The Bahamasí 40th anniversary of independence. The stadium and the country hosting two world-class soccer teams in this international event is another indication of The Bahamasí growth in prominence over the past four decades.
Match to be Held at New Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium on Nassau Paradise Island on May 23, 2013
The Free National Movement (FNM) is demanding the government reveal how much it spent to engage foreign consultants to advance its National Health Insurance (NHI) plan.
FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis and FNM Deputy Chairman Dr. Duane Sands said the government should be transparent and not leave Bahamians in the dark in the same way it did with the cost of the UK and South African consultants hired ahead of the gambling referendum last year.
"From time to time we have asked for it (NHI consultant cost) during parliamentary debates," Minnis said.
"But my parliamentary colleagues will submit formal questions asking for those same contracts to be tabled."
The government recently signed a contract with Sanigest Internacional, a Costa Rican-based healthcare consulting and management firm, to advance NHI, according to Minister of Health Dr. Perry Gomez.
The firm is scheduled to start work at the beginning of April.
It will produce a costing, benefits package and payment modalities report within three months, Gomez said.
When asked last week how much the government spent to engage the firm, he said that information was not readily available.
Minnis recalled how the government only tabled costs associated with the gambling referendum after months of repeated calls from the FNM and media.
Those costs were eventually tabled in October 2013. The gambling referendum was held in January of that year.
Minnis said the government has continued to operate in a "cloud of secrecy".
Sands, who was interviewed separately, also questioned whether the government would get value for money.
He reminded that the Blue Ribbon Commission appointed under the first Christie administration, which Gomez headed, investigated and designed NHI.
"We are now advised that there is to be yet another consultancy paid for out of the meager funds left in the consolidated fund with questionable value," Sands said.
"And this is all intended to make the Bahamian people feel as if somehow we are walking closer to this elusive promise.
"There obviously has to be a disconnect between what is being promised and the fiscal reality that the government either does not get, or is ignoring."
Sanigest Internacional, which was used by the first Christie administration to determine an estimate for NHI, determined the plan could cost an estimated $235 million annually.
In 2012, Sands, who was then a senator, predicted NHI could cost up to $750 million.
He said this week the government is pursuing the program to save face, despite clear evidence that the money is not available.
Gomez has said he hopes the government will be able to implement some form of NHI by the end of this year.
On the campaign trail, he had promised NHI within the first year of a PLP government.
Both Minnis and Sands expressed doubts about the new timeline, noting several other "unfulfilled promises". They pointed to the government's mortgage relief plan, solutions to crime and job creation.
While the government has conceded its first effort at mortgage relief has failed, it has promised a new plan.
It also claims that while the rate of violent crime remains high, its anti-crime program has had some success.
And the Department of Statistics reported weeks ago that unemployment dropped slightly under the Christie administration.
But Minnis said NHI is another example of the government "selling dreams".
Sands added that the government is approaching the two-year mark in office, and it has become clear it is "very tall on rhetoric".
But he said, "I hope this is a sincere effort and not more posturing."