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BAHAMAS: House of Assembly approves $30 million IDB Loan for digital government services

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#Nassau, April 12, 2019 – Bahamas – The government is making good on its promise to upgrade its digital platform in order to provide efficient services to the public and external customers.

This will be possible through a loan in the amount of $30 million from the Inter-American Development Bank for the purpose of financing the Government Digital Transformation to Strengthen Competitiveness Programme.

Prime Minister the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis tabled a Resolution to this effect in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, January 30, 2019; it was subsequently debated and passed.

The digitization programme is expected to update government procedures, design and implement a government cloud computing service that will allow government agencies to access a shared e-Government infrastructure and applications, update the citizen portal and place government procedures online, among other wide-ranging services. 

“Our citizens are more digitally connected and have become far more comfortable accessing services online. There has been increased usage of online shopping, online banking and other services. The government must also create a better experience for citizens by making more services available online,” the Prime Minister said.

The government has already begun this process through the establishment of a Modernization Unit within the Office of the Prime Minister, with the sole mandate of transformation, including digital evolution, of government services.

Another goal is to create an efficient Public Service committed to improving the ease of doing business with the government, the Prime Minister said. 

“We must make government work for the people instead of people working for the government.  Our services must become more efficient, easier to access, transparent and faster, not just for business but for every Bahamian,” he said.

The Prime Minister quoted Carlos Santiso, the Division Chief of Innovation in the Citizen Services Division, of the IDB, who said:  “The digital revolution, greater connectivity and the expanding availability of devices are increasing demand for digital services. Digitally enabled and hyper-connected citizens are demanding more and better services from their governments… governments need to rethink the way they deliver public services.”

The Prime Minister acknowledged that over the years, the Public Service has been inundated with various studies, such as the Government of The Bahamas’s 2007 Comprehensive Compensation Review of all positions across the Public Service.  Also, that successive administrations have paid lip service to a transformed civil service.

“It is this administration that will concretely and systematically address that transformation, and hence the creation of the Modernization Unit within the Office of the Prime Minister and the urgent need to borrow the thirty million dollars to assist in the digital transformation. The urgency requires the weight of my office,” The Prime Minister said.

The Modernization Unit has organized its deliberations around four focal points namely: citizen engagement, digitization, innovations and employee empowerment.

“The Bahamas must transform now!  And the goal of that transformation must be to improve the lives of Bahamians through the services we provide and for improved global competitiveness of The Bahamas to attract more foreign direct investment and promote the growth of Bahamian businesses. 

“Our goal must be embedded in the foundational values of integrity, excellence, transparency, accountability and competitiveness. The Bahamas should not be a carbon copy of Estonia or any other country, but must incorporate and use best-fit practices from those countries that are succeeding,” the Prime Minister said.

The Government currently has an online presence of 400 services, that is, forms that may be obtained online. These forms must be printed, completed and then physically delivered to the relevant government ministry or department.  Of that 400, fourteen are actually online services, but may require the user to visit more than one site.  “Our government ministries, departments and corporations have been making strides in the use of Information and Communication Technologies and this is seen in the United Nations Electronic Government Development Index in which The Bahamas finds itself in the high category.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker this does not translate into ease of doing business with the government as the systems do not interface, that is, they do not talk to each other.

The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index 2018 ranks The Bahamas as 118th of 190 countries.

“This ranking does not auger well for encouraging Bahamian businesses or the promotion of foreign direct investment. In addition, it does not translate into customer satisfaction of Bahamians who must use these services every day. The Bahamas cannot remain at this level and survive,” the Prime Minister said.

By Lindsay Thompson

Release: BIS

Photo Caption: Prime Minister Minnis, addressing the House of Assembly, January 30, 2019.  

(BIS Photo/Yontalay Bowe)

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Press Release: Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Bahamas

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February 3, 2023 – ILM Bahamas Centre held its Certificate Presentation Ceremony for Cohort 7.  The cohort consisted of fourteen (14) Senior Immigration Officers from the Department of Immigration.  This Cohort was a hybrid of in-person and online learning. Four of the Immigration Officers were from the Family Islands (Grand Bahama, Abaco, Berry Islands and Eleuthera).

Present at the ceremony were:  The Hon. Keith Bell, Minister of Labour and Immigration, Madam Justice J. Denise Lewis-Johnson, Permanent Secretary Ms. Ceceila Strachan, Executive Chair of NTA Ms. Agatha Marcelle, Executive Director of NTA Mr. Terry Murray, Director of Immigration Mrs. Keturah Ferguson, Deputy Director of Immigration Mr. Dwight Beneby, Ms. Esther McKinney Office Manager at the Department of Immigration.

The guest speaker at the ceremony was Dr. Donald M. McCartney a Leadership and Management Consultant with Motivation Incorporated Bahamas and the United States. He was a former senior public servant.  He was also a First Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service with responsibility for the Northern Bahamas. He was also a former educator and professor at various colleges in the United States.

In his address to ILM Cohort 7, Dr. McCartney spoke about having the courage to lead and that leadership goes beyond SELF.  It’s not about you or your ego but rather more about contributing to nation building. He said, “We must be prepared to take the bold steps that would not lead us into the abyss of despair but on the road that leads us to lift up our heads to the rising sun and press onward to the mountaintop experience, which will lead us to become the proud and productive people we were destine to be.”  He also expanded on the four fundamental virtues: COURAGE, TEMPERANCE, JUSTICE AND WISDOM.  Additionally, he expanded on the focus and influence of courage, on the ego and discipline.

The Hon. Keith Bell, Minister of Labour and Immigration brought brief remarks on the occasion.  Some of the highlights of his speech were that Immigration is one of the highest revenue earners, challenges within the Department of Immigration such as lack of autonomy from the Public Service as compared to the other armed forces. He also talked about that the fact that the top tier is going to be retired within two years and this would be an opportunity for many of the graduates of this Cohort 7 to gain upward mobility.

He also stated that there needs to be a complete overhaul of the Immigration Act, and a review of the Asylum Bill.  Furthermore, he discussed the inevitable need for the relocation of the Department of Immigration from its current location. Lastly, he stated that we must tread a delicate balance between enforcing the law and being humane, in regards to shanty towns.

It is noteworthy that the ILM Centre at the National Training Agency recently obtained a Centre upgrade.  The ILM Centre Bahamas now hold the statue of Direct Claim Status with City and Guilds of London. Additionally, the Centre is now registered with the National Accreditation and Equivalency Council of the Bahamas (NAECOB) for all of its current course offerings. The ILM Department is lead Miss Pamela Gomez as the ILM Centre Coordinator. Registration is now open for Level 2 Certificate in Leadership and Team Skill and Level 3 Certificate in Leadership and Management. Our mission statement is, “Helping people, organizations, and economies develop their skills for growth.”

For more information, contact the ILM Centre Bahamas located in the Gladstone Road Business Centre by calling 461-6021 or 461-6008.

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Sugar and salt tax campaigns gaining steam 

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer 

 

 

February 7, 2023 – A global battle on sugar and salt is ramping up as the United States joins The Bahamas and Barbados in creating proposals for historic sugar and salt laws.

The country’s Agricultural Department for the first time in history, proposed a cap on the amount of sugar to be allowed in school meals.

The World Health Organization has found that North America and the Caribbean have the highest rates of childhood diabetes in the world and based on the International Diabetes Federation’s Diabetes Atlas we also have the second highest prevalence of Diabetes overall for all global regions at 14 percent  or 51 million people with a projected 24 percent increase in just 22 years.

Barbados, the United States, Canada, Haiti, Mexico, Belize and St. Kitts and Nevis are all suffering from incredibly high rates of diabetes.

Barbados and The Bahamas announced sugar taxes last month; the hope is to reduce the importation and sale of sugar and salt rich foods.

Advocates across the Caribbean including Jamaica, Trinidad, and others have been campaigning for sugar taxes in their own countries with support from the public.

Now the proposed nutritional rules for the United States would set firm boundaries on how much salt and sugar can legally be added to meals, setting a new standard as most food imports for countries like The Bahamas are from the US.

The plan for the US is expected to be rolled out by 2025.

The rules, are unapologetically an attempt to cut down incidences of diabetes and other diseases fueled by unhealthy diets, according to media reports.

For now, the quantities on sugar and salt additives is an idea waiting wider consultation.

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TCI Office in Bahamas identified 

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By Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer 

 

 

#TurksandCaicos, February 7, 2023 – An office space has already been identified for an all-new TCI Immigration office in The Bahamas according to Arlington Musgrove, Minister of Immigration and Border Services.

Musgrove told Magnetic Media that the ministry was “almost there” in regard to securing the space; it indicates the Government is moving full speed ahead with plans for the passing of the new Immigration Bill which will allow third-generation TC Islanders citizenship, even as the public awaits consultations on it.

The announcement of the bill had caused some skepticism among islanders, some of whom wanted the government to focus on keeping TC Islanders at home instead of recruiting others.  Musgrove however had made it clear that the TCI was in a population crisis and would need to slow down PRC naturalisation rates and naturalise people with historical, familial and cultural connections to the land or risk going ‘extinct’.

The office will work to deepen the relationship between the two sister countries even more and help increase the TCI’s population offsetting the need for masses of external labour according to the government.

When passed, the rule will apply to third-generation islanders everywhere, not only in The Bahamas giving them a free ticket to come home.

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