COMMENTARY BY ELCOTT COLEBY
BAHAMAS INFORMATION SERVICES
Much of the Bahamas news in 2014 was driven by social media with hyped up and emotive presentation. On the governance front, there were a myriad of national issues that the Bahamas government tackled both legislatively and executively. Described by the government as doing the “heavy lifting,” Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie characterized the 2014 legislative agenda as arguably the most “reform driven” in recent history. This sentiment was also expressed by the Minister for National Security and leader of government business in the House, the Hon. Bernard J. Nottage. As the country continued to emerge from the protracted global recession and faced the inevitability of change, some very important and transformative decisions were made to facilitate the country’s transition through these changes that are a necessary part of growth and national development. Some decisions of governance, though necessary, were tough and unpopular but governance is not a popularity contest.
In 2014 The Bahamas Parliament passed tax reform with the passage of Value Added Tax (VAT) with a targeted 1st Jan 2015 implementation date; four constitutional amendment Bills centering around the theme of equality were tabled; the House passed the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities) Bill; the House also passed the historic Gaming Bill with modernized the laws and regulations governing land based casino operations, placing land based casinos in The Bahamas on par with top casino operations in the world such as Macau and Las Vegas. Also, the Gaming Bill legalized web shop gaming for Bahamians for the first time in this country’s history. FATCA came into effect; the condominium bill was passed; the Environment Minister tabled the Petroleum Act and attendant regulations as our first step toward energy sector reform; both House chambers passed historic Stem Cell legislation and implemented a new Immigration Policy. The Bahamas government also implemented prison reform and established the Foreign Service both with Acts of parliament while the Prime Minister appointed and chaired a national taskforce that educated and prepared the country for the newest global health threat to confront us in 2014, the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
The Ministry of Tourism celebrated its golden anniversary as a government ministry, an upgrade from the Tourism Promotion Board until 1964. Coincidentally, the country recorded its highest tourist arrival numbers in history, beating out 2013 arrivals of 6.2 million visitors. Leading the way in the resurgence of tourism was romance, religious and sports tourism. The Bahamas hosted the IAAF World Relays, the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl, co-branded with NBA and NFL teams and launched the 16 weddings promotions to showcase the unique visitor experiences on 16 different islands. New airlift gateways from several Canadian and US cities in addition to the opening of new tourism field offices in the northeastern US seaboard, the Midwest and the west coast increased airlifts to islands such as San Salvador, Exuma, Elauthera, Bimini and Grand Bahama. Resort World Bimini with its casino and fast ferry service literally transformed the economic landscape of Bimini in 2014.
During this year of culture, The Bahamas beat a world record for most conch shells blown at one time at our 41st independence celebrations at historic Clifford Park. The Bahamas government announced and began preparations for Junkanoo Carnival 2015 and named 41 Cultural Warriors during 2014.
Dr. Rodney Smith was named President of the College of The Bahamas with the mandate to transition the country’s tertiary institution to university status by 2016 and we launched our National Development Plan at the College of The Bahamas, an important player in its crafting and shaping.
The Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Resources Institute, or BAMSI, was established, received its first enrollment of students and reaped its first harvest of fruits from its commercial farm in 2014. BAMSI is a major policy thrust of the government to address the high food import bill that is in excess of one billion American dollars annually. The Prime Minister in his groundbreaking address cited the preparation of some 70,000 meals daily for the indigent as another compelling reason for government intervention to facilitate a paradigm shift in the access of affordable healthy food and bolstering the country’s level of food security.
The more than $120 million National Civil Aviation structural framework in The Bahamas made significant strides in 2014. The consultancies to determine the model options for the restructure of Civil Aviation Regulatory Oversight and Function and the provision of comprehensive, empirical data to effect evidence-based, decision-making were in the advanced stages. Additionally, enabling oversight legislation was passed in Parliament and a nationwide audit of all 28 government-owned airports was completed. The government also broke ground on a brand new multi-million dollar Radar tower that will usher in a new era in air space management, air traffic control and training in The Bahamas. By the end of 2014, this radar system was more than 85% complete.
The Bahamas, however, was not immune from and faced its share of challenges in 2014. The Prime Minister dismissed the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Urban Development and the Minister of Financial Services resigned from the cabinet for personal reasons. It was the year Canine Distemper hit Nassau and Bahamian Rock Iguanas were smuggled out of the country from San Salvador. There was the National Security Agency (NSA) spying story where it was alleged that the NSA officials eavesdropped on the cell phone conversations of Bahamians. Also, the Bahamas government came to the aid of the ailing Bank of The Bahamas in a $100 million government bailout. The government continued to tackle the serious scourge of crime with 122 murders recorded in 2014. A compendium of crime bills, intensified saturation patrols in criminal hot spots, increased resources for the police, additional courts and an amendment to the Jury Act were some of the measures taken by the government to fight this scourge. To fight illegal poaching, illegal migration and human smuggling and other transnational crimes committed on the high seas, the $232 million asset acquisition called the “Sandy Bottom Project” materialized in 2014 with three of the nine defence force vessels turned over the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.
On the 22nd of December 2014, a US federal court fined French energy giant Alstom more than $772 million for its involvement in an elaborate bribery scheme involving officials in the United States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and The Bahamas. Court documents revealed that a government official received some $300,000 in exchange for a contract to supply the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) with slow speed diesel engines.
Over 68,000 STAYED HOME in Bahamas Elections; We have BEST and WORST for Voter Participation
#TheBahamas, September 21, 2021 – The just-concluded General Election in Bahamas has presented a new shift in governance. The former ruling part, Free National Movement, lost nearly all the electoral seats it secured in the 2017 general elections. However, this seems a swap of the Progressive Liberal party’s score in the 2017 general elections in which the former ruling party (FNM) won nearly all the parliamentary seats.
68,000 STAYED AWAY
While the FNM secured 35 out of 39 seats in the 2017 ballot, leaving only four slots for the Opposition, the 2021 elections presented “new day” with the Opposition clinching 32 parliamentary seats, leaving the former ruling party FNM with only seven slots.
However, the election results showed a significant drop in voter turnout compared to the 2017 election results. Out of 194,494 registered voters in The Bahamas, only 126,414 voted, translating to 65 per cent voter turnout.
PREVIOUS ELECTION HIGHER
This was different from the previous election in which 160,407 out of 181,543 registered voters cast their ballots, translating to a remarkable 88.36 per cent voter turnout.
Being the first election in the island nation since the Covid-19 struck the Caribbean; the dismal voter turnout could be attributed to the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in The Bahamas and the current countermeasures taken by individuals to avoid contracting the deadly virus.
It could also be voter apathy.
BEST IN SHOW
Despite coronavirus prevalence in the country, North Andros & Berry Islands, Cat Island, Rum Cay & San Salvador, and Mangrove Cay & South Andros constituencies recorded an impressive voter turnout of 77.99 per cent, 76.11 per cent and 73.06 per cent respectively.
North Andros & Berry Islands had 2,126 out of 2,569 registered voters cast their ballots, followed by 1,255 out of 1,622 in Cat Island, Rum Cay & San Salvador, and 1,706 out of 2,164 registered voters in Mangrove Cay & South Andros.
VERY LOW SHOW
The bottom three constituencies in terms of voter turnout include Bamboo Town, which had 3,436 out of 5,838 (58.63 per cent) registered voters cast their ballot, followed by Garden Hills with 3,033 out of 5,287 (57.09 per cent), and Central & South Abaco falling at the bottom of the list with 1,844 out of 3,271 (55.96 per cent).
COVID Works programme launched by Ministry of Physical Planning & Infrastructure Development
#TurksandCaicos, September 21, 2021 – The Minister of Physical Planning and Infrastructure Development, the Honourable Akierra Mary Deanne Missick and the Physical Planning & Infrastructure Development team are pleased to announce the launch of the COVID WORKS Programme, that went live on September 1, 2021.
The Programme seeks to support many who have lost jobs and livelihoods, while providing labour intensive work for economic exchange opportunities for persons to be engaged.
Works are set out in three (3) levels and comprise a variety of categories example, cleaning, road works, demolition and general construction to name a few.
Level 1 – value $1,500 – $9,999
Level 2 – value $10,000 – $39,999
Level 3 – value $40,000 – $70,000
Commenting on the launch of the programme, Hon. Missick said, “We are very much mindful of the impact that restrictions introduced by Government in an effort to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, has had on the islands, many continue to experience financial hardship. Whilst, the hospitality and construction sectors in Providenciales have rebounded well, as an Administration, we cannot rest knowing that other industries are still limping along.
As a result, during the remainder of this financial year, the Turks & Caicos Islands Government has now launched the COVID Works Programme to provide an opportunity for Petty and Small Contractors to assist the Government in the enhancement of our communities, through programmed works, to the benefit of all of us as residents”.
The Minister went on to note, “This Programme is set to the tune of US$5,000,000.00, and works will be rolled out across the Islands in batches, as we have to ensure that we do not go beyond the allotted expenditure and that financial oversight and transparency are maintained.”
The initial batch of works for South Caicos, which comprised the following, was returned and evaluated on Monday, September 13, 2021 and included:
Demolition- Queen’s Shed
Demolition- Distribution Concrete Tank
Demolition- Old Clinic Building
Demolition- DECR Building
Demolition- Library Building
Repair of Water Cistern
Works for Grand Turk included:
Demolition- Blood Bank Building
Demolition- Geriatric Ward Building
Demolition- Kitchen Building
Demolition- X-ray Building
All returning bids must be sent to the COVID Works email at email@example.com
Kindly note that as of Monday, September 20, 2021, the following works are planned to be released:
Beach Cleaning (Eastern portion of Grand Turk)
Street Cleaning (All areas)
Beach cleaning (Areas of Shore Club and Five Cays)
Street Cleaning (All areas)
A number of other works for Middle & North Caicos, as well as Salt Cay will be released shortly. This is a six month program that will spread throughout the TCI and we encourage persons to continue to register via firstname.lastname@example.org or the local Public Works Department and District Commissioners’ offices, to be eligible for this opportunity.
These works will continue on a monthly basis and the programme will come to an end in March 2022.
BAHAMAS: Nine new Cabinet ministers sworn-in
#TheBahamas, September 21, 2021 – Prime Minister the Hon. Philip Davis today introduced the first set of new Cabinet ministers with portfolios covering the Attorney General, Foreign Affairs, Education, Works and Public Utilities, Health and Wellness, Government Affairs, Agriculture, National Security and Legal Affairs.
The nine ministers were sworn-in on Monday 20 September 2021 by Governor-General the Most Hon. Sir Cornelius A. Smith during ceremonies held at the Baha Mar Convention Center.
“They are the initial members of a Cabinet which will reflect the breadth and depth of the competencies and characteristics of our team: experience combined with innovation; expertise combined with a willingness to see things anew; integrity and a strong sense of purpose,” said Prime Minister Davis.
“They are receiving these appointments because of their determination to get things done.”
- Senator the Hon. L. Ryan Pinder, Attorney General;
- Hon. Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Public Service;
- Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin, Minister of Education, and Technical and Vocational Training;
- Hon. Alfred Sears, Minister of Works and Utilities;
- Dr. Hon. Michael Darville, Minister of Health and Wellness;
- Senator the Hon. Michael Halkitis, Minister of Government Affairs and Leader of Government Business in the Senate;
- Hon. Clay Sweeting, Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs;
- Hon. Wayne Munroe, Minister of National Security; and
- Hon. Jomo Campbell, Minister of State for Legal Affairs.
“I am confident that these first-appointed members of our Cabinet team are ready to deliver on the promise of a New Day for our Bahamas,” said the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Davis pledged to move with urgency to address the economic and health crises that are faced by The Bahamas.
Many thousands of Bahamians are out of work, people are losing too many loved ones to the COVID-19 virus and Bahamian schoolchildren are falling behind, said Prime Minister Davis.
“I want to be clear: we are not here to tinker at the edges of these problems,” said the Prime Minister.
“We are here to meet them head on.”
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