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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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GBPA invests $1.1 million in major road infrastructure improvements for city of Freeport

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#TheBahamas, May 20, 2022 – The Grand Bahama Port Authority, Limited (GBPA) will commence its $1.1 million road resurfacing project in Freeport, Grand Bahama on Sunday, May 22, 2022 beginning with the Fishing Hole Road, and West Atlantic and Adventures Way roundabout.

“Our City Maintenance and Management section is excited to begin this important initiative to resurface roadways within Freeport,” said Troy McIntosh, GBPA Deputy Director of Building and Development Services.  “Our city has been through many challenging storm events which did catastrophic damage to infrastructure around the island, including our roads.

“But our community is resilient, and we are seeing a positive shift in the economic tide,” continued McIntosh. “Excitement for future opportunities and anticipation of new investments is palpable through the city, so we knew this was the ideal time to start this aspect of Freeport’s much-needed makeover to which GBPA is fully committed.”

Roadworks are scheduled for main thoroughfares and a number of residential roads.  These areas include the Fishing Hole Road, West Atlantic and Adventures Way roundabout, West Atlantic Drive at Rayvin Mall roundabout, Beach Way Drive, Bahama Reef Boulevard, Pioneers Way, Waterfall Drive, Tarrytown Street and Grand Bahama Highway.  “We selected these locations using our Road Rating System, which allows inspectors to assess the condition and rideability of our roads on an annual basis,” added Mr. McIntosh.

The GBPA roadworks project went out to bid in December 2020.  In March 2022, the bid was awarded to Bahamas Hot Mix (BHM), who specializes in heavy civil engineering projects including major highways.

“We ask motorists to drive with due care and attention while roadwork is underway,” Mr. McIntosh advised.  Flagmen and temporary traffic lights will be in position to direct traffic.  Please obey the speed limit and posted signs to help ensure the safety of all motorists and crews as they conduct work.  Delays are expected as there will be partial lane closures in some areas.”

The initial phase of road resurfacing is scheduled to be completed at the end of June 2022.  For the latest updates and information on redirected travel routes, residents can follow any of the Grand Bahama Port Authority’s social media sites or visit its website at www.gbpa.com.

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Freaky Weather includes Waterspouts, Severe Flooding and fish in Backyards

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By Dana Malcolm & Deandrea Hamilton

Staff Writer

 

#TheBahamas, May 19, 2022 – A waterspout whirling its way onto shore in the west, images of submerged cars, impassable roads and even fish darting around in a flooded backyard were the testimony of Nassau’s extreme weather weekend.

The Bahamas Department of meteorology had predicted severe weather from Friday midday to Saturday warning of, “GUSTY WINDS, DANGEROUS LIGHTNING, HEAVY DOWNPOURS, HAIL AND POSSIBLE WATERSPOUT OR TORNADIC ACTIVITY and possibly LOCALIZED FLOODING.”

Reports of hail, the freakish funnel cloud, downpour flooded streets, submerged cars and stranded workers trying to get home made for a shocking weekend.

There were dramatic videos of the forecast, waterspouts, which made an appearance near seaside restaurants Sapodilla Bay and Traveller’s Rest.  The ‘water tornado’ slashing against parked cars, producing whipping winds and tossing water into the restaurant elicited screams and frantic activity as residents could be heard rushing to safety.

The storm is unseasonably early with the official start to the hurricane season still two weeks away; but it maintains a trend for severe weather consistently appearing well ahead of the official June 1 start.

On Tuesday waterspouts erupted in the bay off Harbour Island, Eleuthera, also in The Bahamas as the country was inundated this week with SEVERE WEATHER ALERTS issued by The Bahamas Department of Meteorology.

The latest forecast as weekend approaches is there will be more of the same.

“EXTENDED FORECAST (FOR THE NEXT TWO DAYS): A TROPICAL WAVE, SKIRTING THE

SOUTHERN PERIPHERY OF THE BAHAMAS, WILL PROGRESSIVELY MOVE WESTWARDS AND

INFLUENCE AN INFLUX OF MOISTURE NORTHWESTWARDS OVER THE BAHAMAS, KEEPING

RAIN CHANCES IN THE FORECAST INTO SATURDAY.”

The first tropical wave of 2022 has been identified but a pre-season storm is not yet expected. There have been pre-season tropical storms for the past seven years in a row according to WWLTV and the season is expected to be more severe than usual.

“An above-average season with major hurricane landfalls in the U.S.and in the Caribbean is unfortunately likely. Accuweather experts predict.

“16-20 named storms and six to eight hurricanes. Of those hurricanes, about three to five are forecast to reach major hurricane status.”

Boaters and swimmers in the two archipelagos – The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands – were warned to be cautious as well, “BOATERS SHOULD REMAIN VIGILANT DUE TO THE THREAT OF POSSIBLE WATERSPOUT ACTIVITY. BEACHGOERS SHOULD EXERCISE CAUTION DUE TO THE RISK OF RIP CURRENTS,” the Meteorology Department said.

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Government, fulfilling commitment to provide housing for Bahamians

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By: Kathryn Campbell

Bahamas Information Services

 

 

#TheBahamas, May 18, 2022 – The Hon. Philip Davis, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, has underscored the government’s commitment to “strengthening” and “deepening” its “unmatched” legacy of providing access to decent, affordable housing to Bahamians.

“My government is acutely aware of the current housing shortage in The Bahamas and the backlog of housing applications at the Mortgage Corporation of The Bahamas (BMC),” said Prime Minister Davis.

“Our BMC Executive Chair, Barbara Cartwright, is committed to expediting those applications and assigning without delay, suitably qualified housing applicants.

“I believe the number of applications at BMC in just the last eight months is in excess of 3,500. This housing demand suggests that we move with urgency and dispatch.”

In this vein, the government, Monday, along with stakeholders, unveiled The Renaissance at Carmichael, a housing sub-division on 70 acres of crown land off Carmichael Road in Western New Providence.

Executives of the government and public-private partnerships (PPP) participated in a ceremonial signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, May 16, 2022 at the Office of the Prime Minister, which will allow Bahamian families the ability to open the doors to 200 new homes.

The subdivision is being funded by a PPP arrangement between the Government, a $20 million backing from PROVEN Wealth Ltd. through Simplified Lending, the Mortgage Corporation of the Bahamas and financiers.

Dignitaries in attendance: the Hon. Jobeth Coleby-Davis, Minister of Transport and Housing; the Hon. Vaughn Miller, Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources; the Hon. Pia Glover-Rolle, Minister of State for the Public Service; Leroy Major, Executive Chairman, Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation; Nicole Campbell, Secretary to the Cabinet; David Davis and Antoinette Thompson, Permanent Secretaries; Barbara Cartwright, Chairman, Bahamas Mortgage Corporation; Oral Lafleur, Acting Chief Housing Officer; and Thomas Ferguson, Acting Director of Housing. Representatives of private sector partners: Robert Pantry, Founder and CEO, Simplified Lending; Johann Heaven, President and CEO, PROVEN Wealth Limited.

Prime Minister Davis assured that as the economy fully opens and grows, the government expects to expand PPPs in other areas of national economy including public infrastructure providing investments, ownership and job opportunities for Bahamians.

Minister Coleby-Davis said the initiative will set a new standard in affordable housing by which other housing developments will be measured.

She described today’s signing is an “historic” milestone which can be attributed to the commitment of the government to bring to fruition a concept from an idea to reality.

“With this project we intend to create an estate where a sense of community thrives. There will be lit streets, sidewalks; a park where children can play safely and family gatherings can take place. Neighbors will be able to come together and interact as our families were able to do many years ago.

Formerly known as Carmichael Village Sub-division, the community will comprise 104 single family, two and three-bedroom residences, and eight two-storey condominium buildings with 12 units each.

In a video presentation Minister Coleby-Davis said, “Thanks to Simplified Lending, a Bahamian company which secured funding through a leading regional finance company called PROVEN. Many who only dreamed of home ownership will be able to walk through the front door to their new lives in less than one year.”

She informed that homes will be built to the highest quality with steel frame construction, storm-rated windows and doors, attractive facades and strong concrete foundations raised three feet above road level.

“Thanks to careful design, planning and exemptions on certain building supplies, every home will remain in the affordable price range opening doors to home ownership starting at $130,000,” she said.

Mr. Heaven said, “This transaction today will be primarily funded through the Bahamian portion of our Heritage education fund which is a regional education savings plan that is over 30 years old and is a household name for saving for your children’s tertiary education.”

The government broke ground for Pinecrest Sub-Division, a 43-lot community in Southern New Providence in January of this year.

 

Release: BIS

BIS Photos/Patrick Hanna

Header: From left: Antoinette Thompson, Permanent Secretary; the Hon. Jobeth Coleby-Davis, Minister of Transport and Housing; Nicole Campbell, Secretary to the Cabinet and the Hon. Philip Davis, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

1st insert: The Hon. Philip Davis, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, is pictured speaking at the signing of Memorandum of Understanding for The Renaissance at Carmichael, a new sub-division in western New Providence.

2nd insert: The Hon. Jobeth Coleby-Davis, Minister of Transport and Housing and Johann Heaven, President and CEO, PROVEN Wealth Ltd., after ceremonial signing of the Memorandum of Understanding.

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