Campbell outlines measures undertaken by Social Services in light of COVID-19
#NASSAU, The Bahamas – Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell, told Parliamentarians Monday that his Ministry and its Departments and Divisions have undertaken a myriad of measures to provide assistance to those Bahamians as the country continues its fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Minister Campbell said officials have endeavored to use every avenue to remain accessible not only to their regular clients, but also to persons within the community of persons with disabilities, the elderly, those in the tourism sector who find themselves on reduced workweeks as a result of the closure of the tourism sector, and, “those who are generally in need.”
The Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, is comprised of the Department of Social Services, the Department of Rehabilitative Welfare Services, the Department of Gender and Family Affairs and Urban Renewal, along with numerous Divisions and Units.
Minister Campbell said while the Department of Social Services is responsible for, and has been tasked with, ensuring that the requisite assistance is provided to persons in need of assistance, a “team effort” is being utilized.
Minister Campbell said the Department’s response to COVID-19 also takes into account the needs of the country’s most vulnerable groups of clients, consisting of its children, senior citizens and persons with disabilities. He said to facilitate delivery of services to the country’s senior citizens and persons with disabilities who are clients, officials have increased the number of vehicles in its fleet “to avoid [their] being exposed to the large number of clients who visit our various centres on a daily and monthly basis.” Approval was granted and vehicles were rented in New Providence, in Grand Bahama and in Abaco.
The Department also made it possible for persons from the community of persons with disabilities who are not clients of the Department to provide their information to Social Workers at the Disability Affairs Division via telephone so that they could receive emergency food assistance where necessary. They will be required to present IDs when they come to collect these coupons or when the coupons are delivered to them.
Contact numbers for the Disability Affairs Division are: 325-2251/2.
Minister Campbell also announced that persons with disabilities under the age of 16 who normally receive their services every two months, had their April assistance advanced to them in the month of March to facilitate whatever preparations they needed to make. Similar arrangements were also made for persons receiving foster care subsistence.
“I would like to take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to encourage the community of persons with disabilities to register online with the Ministry’s link on the Government’s website www.bahamas.gov.bs. They may also email the Disabilities Commission at email@example.com. The Disability Affairs Commission can be contacted on a 24-hour cell by Whatsapp at: 376-8328. We have endeavored to use every avenue to remain accessible, not only to our regular clients, but also to persons with disabilities and those who are generally in need.”
Minister Campbell told House Members that officials from the Department of Social Services have also been working — in partnership with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the Ministry of Health and various non-governmental organizations — to promote food safety and security.
“Many of these organizations are challenged with being able to get hot meals and food parcels to persons that are home bound, and to persons who frequent their establishments daily,” Minister Campbell said.
“I want to reassure our partners that as we reevaluate our positions and as we reconsider the needs of our people, we are also reviewing our assistance to them and we will do all that we can to continue to nurture and strengthen those partnerships that we value so much. I want to assure them that they will hear from us in short order.”
Minister Campbell said the Ministry and the Department has also put measures in place to ensure that the assistance normally given to the seniors home, the children’s homes, the Williemae Pratt Centre for Girls and Simpson Penn Centre for Boys continue uninterrupted at this time.
Additionally, Minister Campbell said, the Department of Social Services continues to provide assistance to persons in need by assessing them for Emergency, Temporary or Permanent Food Assistance. He said the Department also continues to assist with utilities and that financial assistance for medical procedures are ongoing.
“Additional assistance for rent, and I want to pause there, Mr. Speaker, because coming out of this I would have heard some concerns about persons who are homeless. Mr. Speaker, the Department of Social Services has always made itself available to assist persons seeking rental assistance and so I say here for the record that anyone who is out there who is serious about wanting assistance in that regard, can access that very same line item.”
Minister Campbell said many of the Department of Social Services clients who receive food assistance (at present the programme is servicing just under 10,000 persons) are armed with Bank of The Bahamas Pre-paid cards upon which funds are uploaded monthly. Minister Campbell said the most recent upload took place on March 27 (2020).
“I am aware that there are a number of persons whose cards have expired in the interim. Those concerns have been expressed and are being addressed. I want to thank the staff at the Bank of The Bahamas who are working with us to renew those cards as soon as possible.”
Minister Campbell said the Department has also been charged with providing special food assistance to those persons who – as a result of the closure of the tourism sector — found themselves on reduced workweeks.
“This for us is uncharted territory. We initially established an email address asking persons to email us so that they can get the subsistence. In light of the fact that we were — while wanting to assist found it necessary to promote physical distancing — within a week, up to Saturday past, we had more than 3,000 persons throughout The Bahamas apply to that email address. I want those persons to know that they will begin getting responses starting today and I am advised, and I know that my team is listening and will not make a liar out of me, that as early as this Wednesday, coupons will be ready and persons will be contacted and advised (a) how they can collect those coupons or (b) how the coupons may be delivered to them.”
Minister Campbell said he would have also been advised that there is some concern that some of the measures put in place to protect citizens from the COVID-19 Pandemic “may have put some persons in some environments that ought to be safe but are not necessarily safe because it is in those home environments where some persons are abused and possibly worse.”
“Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the abusers that no time is a good time to commit acts of abuse. This is a time when they should reflect on the errors of their past and try to make amends and so I trust where some mistakes would have been made in the past, those perpetrators would repent of their ways and seek to build those bridges that they would have broken down.
BIS News by Matt Maura
PM Davis ‘confident’ that Revenue Outturn will near $2.9 billion
By ERIC ROSE
Bahamas Information Services
#NASSAU, The Bahamas, May 30, 2023 – Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis said in the House of Assembly, on May 31, 2023, that public revenue receipts were strong over the nine-month period of July 2022 to March 2023, due to legislative reform, effective policy decisions, strengthened economic conditions and more efficient collection efforts.
“Analysis of the trends of the first three quarters of this fiscal year, and the years prior, suggest that the government is potentially set to exceed the $2.85 billion target set forth in the February 2023 Mid-year Supplementary Budget,” he said, during his Communication on Budget 2023.
“I am confident the revenue outturn at the end of the Fiscal Year 22/23 will near $2.9 billion.
Public spending has remained on track, and is well within the budgeted amount,” Prime Minister Davis added. “For this reason I am confident that expenditure at end of the Fiscal Year 2022/23 will almost reach the target of $3.1 billion set in the Supplementary Budget.”
He pointed out that the primary balance will, therefore, record a surplus of $68.4 million at the end of the fiscal year, a $54.8 million increase from the $13.6 million surplus projected in the supplementary budget.
“Likewise, the overall deficit is expected to improve to $520.6 million, down from the $575.4 million outlined in the supplementary budget,” he said.
Speaking of Government financing, Prime Minister Davis said that The Bahamas’ borrowing costs had begun to experience a downward trend in the previous quarter; but the cost of borrowing rose at the end of March 2023.
“At the end of the third quarter, the total average cost of borrowing for current outstanding debt had risen to an interest rate of 5.55 percent,” he pointed out. “This is notably higher than the previous year’s rate of 4.93 percent at the end of March 2022.
“This increase in borrowing costs is primarily attributable to the higher costs associated with external loan facilities.”
He added that, more specifically, the average interest rate for external financing had risen by 1.99 basis points, resulting in a rate of 5.55 percent as of March 2023, compared to the preceding year’s 3.56 percent.
“Throughout the past year, the interest rate policies of the major Central Banks have been restrictive, with a series of interest rate increases,” Prime Minister Davis said. “These adjustments have been primarily motivated by the escalation of inflation, and the resulting upsurge in interest rates has had an impact on the Bahamas’ external borrowing costs.”
He added: “However, the cost of borrowing in the domestic market has been declining over the past quarters.
Looking at it in more detail, we can see that:
- The average interest cost for domestic loans subsided by 27 basis points to 4.62 percent at end of March 2023, from 4.89 percent in the previous year;
- And the average interest cost for domestic bonds subsided by 3 basis points to 4.63 percent at the end of March 2023 from 4.66 percent in the previous year.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that those statistics affirmed the Government’s latest medium-term debt strategy, which aimed to shift its borrowing away from costly external commercial debt.
“Such debt has seen a sharp increase over the past five years, including recent interest rate hikes,” he said. “This strategic move will enable the government to once again rely predominantly on the domestic market to meet its financing requirements.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, when considering the maturity of debt, or the average time it takes to repay the principal amount in the government’s debt portfolio, a longer maturity period led to a reduction in refinancing risk.
“In essence, prioritizing longer maturities is key to managing debt effectively,” he said. “And so another element of the government’s medium-term debt management strategy is the goal of prolonging the average maturity time of its debt.”
Prime Minister Davis said that, in the face of “unprecedented turbulence” in the global financial markets, the Government was able to maintain its average time to maturity.
“At end of March 2023, the average time to maturity has decreased slightly to 6.7 years, down from the previous 6.8 years in March 2022,” he said. “This variance is due solely to the external loan component, as the average time to maturity on internal debt has remained steady at 7.1 years.”
“This highlights the significance of maintaining a prudent approach to debt management, and aligning this administration’s practices with the government’s optimal debt strategy,” Prime Minister Davis added.
“It is imperative that we continue to exercise prudence in this area to ensure financial stability.”
(BIS Photos/Ulric Woodside)
PM states HCA model not working during budget debate
By ROBYN ADDERLEY
Bahamas Information Services
#FREEPORT, Grand Bahama, May 30, 2023 – The model of the Hawkbill Creek Act, the agreement between the Government of The Bahamas and the Grand Bahama Port Authority, is not working, said Prime Minister the Hon. Philip Davis during the opening of the 2023 Budget Debate on Wednesday, May 31 in the House of Assembly.
The island of Grand Bahama, he said, contributes 12 percent of the country’s GDP, however, there was a decline by 9 percent when compared to the previous year. Tourism, he said, increased in 2022 showing a growth in accommodation and food service.
“Unfortunately, the statistics show a prolonged decline in the Grand Bahamian economy. The evidence confirms the view of my government that the Hawksbill Creek economic model, which was meant to attract foreign direct investment, does not work.
“Furthermore, in our view, the government model of the Grand Bahama Port Authority must change, in order to realize the promise, growth and prosperity we all desire.
“Additionally, the Government of The Bahamas has serious concerns regarding the compliance of the GBPA and its related companies with the terms and conditions of the Hawksbill Creek Act, and its subsequent amendments.”
In the past, said the Prime Minister, administrations have attempted to address the issues however they appear to be “systemic and fundamental.” Decisive action will be taken, he continued, and a separate detailed announcement will be made at another time.
Prime Minister Davis mentioned that even though the GDP for several islands has experienced growth, Abaco and Grand Bahama have not done as well. Abaco, he said, saw a decline of 6 percent in 2022 with its contribution to the economy at 2.8 percent ranking the island as the third largest contributor.
“While there was a slight improvement in Abaco’s economy compared to 2019, it has yet to reach the levels seen before Hurricane Dorian. The decline in the economic activity is directly related to the slowdown in the real estate and construction sectors.”
He continued, “Declines in the real estate sector are directly as a result of a shift to higher intermediate consumption in 2022 from that of the previous two years. In terms of declines in construction, it should be noted that in 2020 and 2021, Abaco experienced significant recovery efforts in the form of debris removal, site preparation and building of damaged structures.
Such efforts bolstered the value added to the island’s GDP during those years. As those efforts wrap up, the industry saw a gradual decline as construction tempered to normal levels in 2022, resulting in a lower GDP.
Additionally, the Prime Minister said the Grand Bahama International Airport will be repaired, and a new healthcare facility will be built. Provisions have also been made for the continuation of an employment program for $4.7 million, along with the construction of a 50-meter swimming pool facility.
The House of Assembly has adjourned until Wednesday, June 7, when the debate will continue.
(BIS Photo/Ulric Woodside)
The Bahamas most at risk for climate change impacts, book brings issue forward
#TheBahamas, May 30, 2023 – Bahamas’ vulnerability to climate change is alarmingly high as commonly known, and a new book now emphasizes that the country faces greater risks than nearly any other country.
The book, published May 23rd, 2023, is called Sea Change, An Atlas of Islands in a Rising Ocean and it is written by Christina Gerhardt, academic author and environmental journalist.
In her book which features several Caribbean islands as well as locations outside of the Caribbean, she informed that Bahamas’s low elevation, abundant limestone and high population density along coastlines puts the country in a position where it is most at risk from climate change impacts.
This clearly threatens the very existence of the Bahamas as well as other countries in a similar situation. However, The Bahamas is high on the watch list especially since it is “at a high risk of hurricanes and tropical storms because the archipelago sits at the northern end of the Atlantic ‘hurricane alley’,” the book says.
In the introduction, on page 1, Gerhardt expressed this worrying reality by saying “Atlases are being redrawn as islands are disappearing.”
The book builds on projections from Climate Central, a non-profit organization that analyzes and reports on climate science.
On Monday May 22 [will verify this date] The Guardian British daily newspaper published a piece from Gerhardt’s book and it read, “According to a report on the threat of sea level rise in the Caribbean by Climate Central, ‘The Bahamas confront by far the greatest proportional threat: 32 per cent of land [and] 25 per cent of population … are below 0.5 metres [1.64 ft]’.”
It continues, to compare which island are more likely to be affected, The Bahamas topping the charts.
“According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s fifth assessment report, the impacts of sea level rise measured in national GDP found that alongside islands in the Pacific – specifically Palau, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Nauru – the island group that would be most affected is The Bahamas. In 2020, Moody’s rating agency said The Bahamas was among the four nations forecast to be hit hardest financially by sea level rise, with an estimated 11 per cent of its residents and 15 per cent of its GDP at risk.”
Gerhardt’s book is in-line with predictions of the Bahamas seeing a 32cm (1.04ft) sea level rise by 2050 and 82cm (2.68ft) by 2100.
Climate Central informed that the majority of Grand Bahama, Abaco, and Spanish Wells is set to be under flood levels by 2050 and Crooked Island, Acklins, Andros and Cat Island will meet the same fate.
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