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“Blueprint for Change” Speech from the Throne delivered by The Governor General

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#TheBahamas, October 8, 2021 – Governor General His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Cornelius A. Smith read the ‘Speech from the Throne’ at the Opening of the New Parliament, October 6, 2021 at Baha Mar.   The Speech communicated the “Blueprint for Change” of the Progressive Liberal Party Government, which upheld commitment to good governance, established on the principles of Transparency, Integrity & Accountability.

The overall objective, the Speech conveyed, is a “partnership with the Bahamian people to bring about a healthier, wealthier, and wiser society,” towards ‘a New Day.’

The Governor General in delivering the Speech from the Throne stated that a priority of the new government is, in light of the weaknesses in the healthcare system that were exposed by COVID-19: the introduction of legislation and policies to address future major health risks and avoid the need for Emergency Orders.  Also important is investment in healthcare infrastructure throughout The Bahamas that ensures that Family Island clinics are properly equipped, inclusive of the capacity for telemedicine; building of new hospitals in New Providence and Grand Bahama through public-private partnerships; prioritization of public health and wellness initiatives; and aggressive movement to introduce catastrophic healthcare insurance to make healthcare more affordable, and to address the mental health issues of the country.

Also a priority — despite the weak economic outlook, the government will amend the VAT Act to lower the rate of VAT across the board to 10%.

With respect to economic initiatives, the Governor General pointed out that there will be:

 

  • Focus on issues that will rescue, restore, and strengthen the economy
  • Pursuit of strategies to address infrastructural needs of the country
  • Measures to stabilize public finances and increase public revenue
  • Implementation of a Debt Management Plan to address the historic debt burden and deficit
  • Amendment of ‘The Procurement Act’ to strengthen provisions for Bahamian participation in Government Procurement at all levels
  • Amendment of ‘The Fiscal Responsibility Act’ to strengthen the independence of the Fiscal Responsibility Council
  • Amendment of ‘The Public Financial Management Act ’to ensure full compliance with all existing legislation
  • Amendment of the ‘Commercial Enterprises Act’ to ensure that when jobs are being filled, Bahamians receive the highest priority
  • Introduction of measures to encourage renewable energy industries in solar, wind, wave and ocean thermal energy
  • Recommitment of The Bahamas to a minimum reliance on renewable energy by thirty percent by 2030
  • Introduction of a ‘Merchant Shipping Bill’ to bring the jurisdiction in line with its international obligations, contemporary practices, and to enhance competitive edge in the global maritime industry
  • Promotion of Grand Bahama to harness the power of the maritime industry

 

There will be growth of the cultural and creative economy; a re-launch of “Sports in Paradise” for major international sports federations and leagues.

Also, a commitment to:  Achieving greater food security and reducing reliance on imports as a matter of priority; introduction of a regulatory framework for the Cannabis Industry; legislation to facilitate a comprehensive programme of digitization for the country; restructuring of the Bahamas Investment Authority to streamline application processes and develop a new marketing strategy; consultation with key stakeholders to appropriately amend legislation to provide increased tax incentives and concessions for domestic investors; transformation of approval processes and launch of BahamasInvest to retain competiveness and mobilise local and international investors to grow the economy; a return of Tourism to pre-COVID levels by harnessing existing markets; development of an investment portfolio for the Family Islands to promote an investor-friendly environment with a focus on an investment portfolio for specialised industries; infrastructural upgrades throughout all of the Islands of The Bahamas in an effort to create investment portfolios; expansion of the provision of potable water and implementation of a national strategy for the management of water as a natural resource; introduction of a new and progressive Building Code to increase resilience in the face of Climate Change; and advancement of the airports in Exuma, Grand Bahama, and North Eleuthera and development of all major airports across The Bahamas through Public Private Partnerships.

With respect to improvement of social assistance programmes, the Speech declared that the government will collaborate with the private sector and non-governmental organisations to implement immediate relief measures for Abaco, Grand Bahama and Ragged Island.

Through partnerships with Social Services, Urban Renewal and Civil Society, including the churches, the government will work to ensure that every Bahamian has life skills, food to eat, clean water and a roof over their heads.

The government will increase the pension for Senior Citizens; increase the benefits for persons with disabilities and ensure that the provisions of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities) Act are fully implemented and enforced.  It will introduce legislation for the protection of consumers and increase the minimum wage phasing in a livable wage.

In addition there will be re-introduction of the RISE programme “which provided substantial benefits to many families”; relief to mortgage and rent payers to prevent an increase in and reduce homelessness; legislation to provide for the establishment of an Urban Renewal Authority to improve the quality of life of residents throughout The Bahamas; creation of a national ‘Second-Chance’ jobs programme that allows those who have served prison time to enter the job market; and the expungement of records of those young people convicted of minor offences related to the use of marijuana, so that they may more easily re-join the formal, productive economy.

On crime, the Governor General stated from the Speech:

“My Government is fully committed to ensuring that the citizens of The Bahamas feel safe and secure and will address Crime and its associated social ills by adopting a holistic and multifaceted approach.

“My Government will continue to strengthen the Royal Bahamas Police Force to battle crime and preserve the peace; and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force to better defend our territorial sovereignty.

“My Government will transform The Bahamas Department of Correctional Services into a rehabilitative institution in alignment with its mandate.”

The government, said the Governor General, “after the broadest consultation with stakeholders, will seek to reform the electoral process in The Bahamas.”

Referring to economic issues he detailed, from the Speech that the government will amend the Hotels Encouragement Act to provide better incentives for Bahamian-owned and joint venture boutique hotels and related tourism offerings; introduce legislation to create tax incentives for small and medium-sized enterprises owned by Bahamians; re-establish harmonious tripartite relations between Labour, Employers, and the Government; ensure that all labour issues are addressed as a matter of priority; advance the overall effectiveness of the Public Service through the expansion of training programs to assist in proper skill set placement customer service and revenue enhancement, also by implementing digitization to provide efficiency in clearing backlogs within the Ministry and Public Service Commission.  In handling the accumulation of pending matters, the government will create room for new matters to be addressed immediately and consistently.

The government considers housing to be a basic right, and as such through programmes and policies it will increase access to affordable homes.  New subdivisions will be developed using public-private partnerships; the government will return to building houses for Bahamians.

To ensure that the natural resources of The Bahamas benefit the people of The Bahamas, the government will strengthen legislation that established a Sovereign Wealth Fund and proposes that all of its non-financial assets be held in this fund for the benefit of generations of Bahamians.   It will provide the legal, fiscal and regulatory framework with the creation of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment.   The government will also secure Carbon Credit payments for the country’s natural resources.

On the subject of education, the Governor General reported that the government strongly reaffirms that universal and equitable access to quality education is key to national development and to the fulfilment of each person’s potentiality.  As such, it is fully committed to support every young person in overcoming obstacles to digital learning, and to restore in-person lessons as soon as it is safe and practicable with health guidance.  Programmes will be established for monitoring and assisting high school dropouts so that immediate action is taken to ensure they continue to contribute to society as productive citizens, and measures will be introduced to expand the curriculum offering and incorporate educational models that build character, promote self-esteem and foster good citizenship for a deeper understanding and appreciation of our history.  The gap in access to education caused by COVID19 prevention protocols must be closed with a comprehensive remediation programme to ensure that no child is left behind.

Magnet Schools and specialty institutes for science, technology, engineering, the visual and performing arts, mathematics, financial literacy and entrepreneurship will be created.

The Governor General relayed that “My Government will amend the Education Act to provide for universal preprimary education for three- and four-year olds, consolidate the National Accreditation and Equivalency Council of The Bahamas (NAECOB) and the Preschool and Day Care Council, and specify home-schooling modalities.”

He also stated: “The good health and well-being of our youth is of prime concern to my Government. My Government will invest in their development, encourage and support their participation in national life, and provide and promote opportunities for their future.

“My Government will create national programmes that tackle new threats to the well-being of young people, including issues of mental health, lack of self-confidence and identity, excessive social media consumption, and national identity and unity.

“My Government will create a National ‘First-Job’ programme that allows young people between the age of 16–25 to gain a one-year Government subsidised placement in a field of national priority, including the new economies and trade.

“My Government will launch the Community Youth Service, and offer stipends for young Bahamians, to provide service to NGOs and community groups. This can build a vital bridge between school and the job market.

“My Government will establish a National Youth Guard in order for young people to receive technical training enabling them to serve in a Disaster Response Corps.”

“Madame President and Honourable Senators, Madame Speaker and Members of the Honourable House of Assembly: capitalize on the ongoing successes of the industrial sector on Grand Bahama and use the investment arm of the Ministry for Grand Bahama to create a one stop shop to attract new local and direct foreign investment by way of duty free concessions across the entire island.

“Family Island Affairs and Local Government are priorities for my Government.

“My Government will develop strategic plans for each island.

“My Government will work towards the finalisation of a Local Government Act for New Providence.

“My Government will empower Local Government with revenue-raising powers and share jurisdiction over local affairs and community management and development.

“My Government will increase the budget for Local Government Councils during our five-year term.”

“Madame President and Honourable Senators, Madame Speaker and Members of the Honourable House of Assembly: My Government will not tolerate corruption and is committed to introducing effective anticorruption legislation.

“My Government will govern for the many, not for the few, and promote the best interests of Bahamians and The Bahamas.

“My Government will increase accountability and transparency.

“My Government will fully implement the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Measures will be introduced to amend the rules of the House of Assembly to enable fixed sessions of parliament.”

The Speech continued that the government will pursue a foreign policy that promotes and upholds the founding principles of democracy, human rights, and non-interference; strengthen engagement with the international community, becoming more strategic and deliberative in participation in regional and international organisations. In collaboration with neighbouring countries, the government will work to strengthen maritime borders, and seek regional solutions to common issues such as migration.

The government will deepen relations with bilateral and international partners and bring focused attention to the promotion of trade and investment, and the provision of technical assistance.

It will expand its reach in the global community by opening Consulates and Embassies, including the appointment of Honorary Consuls and Non-Resident Envoys in key areas of the world to ensure that national interests are promoted and protected.

“Madame President and Honourable Senators, Madame Speaker and Members of the Honourable House of Assembly: These are the policies and plans upon which my Government will legislate in order to bring about a New Day in The Bahamas.

“We look forward to working in partnership with the Bahamian people to bring about a healthier, wealthier and wiser society.

“I pray that the blessings of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.”

 

Photo Caption: The Governor General His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Cornelius A. Smith delivers the Speech from the Throne, October 6, 2021 at Baha Mar convention centre.  Also pictured are, from left Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investment and Aviation the Hon. Chester Cooper; and Minister of Foreign Affairs the Hon. Fred Mitchell.

Wives of Cabinet Ministers are in the audience.   (BIS Photos/Letisha Henderson) 

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CARPHA Team undertakes Assessment of Guyana’s National Surveillance System for Non-communicable Diseases

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October 14, 2021 – The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) conducted a technical mission to Guyana from September 22nd – 25th, 2021 to undertake site visits as a part of an ongoing assessment of six (6) Member States’ systems for the national surveillance of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their risk factors. This activity was implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Health Guyana through an Agence Française de Développement (AFD) – funded project.

The aim of the assessment s to provide evidence in support of the development of a Regional Surveillance System for NCDs, a priority under the regional health framework Caribbean Cooperation in Health IV (2016-2025).

During the mission, the CARPHA technical team reviewed the capacity of existing surveillance mechanisms in Guyana to collect, analyse and report on the NCDs and risk factor indicators proposed for the regional surveillance system. These indicators were recommended by a multi-stakeholder meeting series convened in 2020 under the AFD project, which reviewed global, regional, and sub-regional mandates, targets and practices in surveillance for the prevention and control of NCDs.

The CARPHA Team along with senior officials from the Ministry of Health conducted visits to two (2) health centres, the National Cancer Registry, Ministry of Health Surveillance, and Statistics Unit.  The results from the overall assessment will be presented to the Ministry of Health Guyana and will also be reviewed alongside results from similar assessments in Anguilla, Aruba, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname to inform the finalisation of the regional surveillance system design through a regional stakeholder meeting.

The regional NCDs surveillance system would facilitate the reporting and availability of data to inform policy development, planning, and tracking of progress towards meeting for targets NCDs at Regional and National levels.

Through funding from the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), CARPHA is leading the Region in Strengthening Strategic Intelligence and Partnership Approaches to prevent and control NCDs and Strengthen Regional Health Security in the Caribbean. This project, signed in 2019 with a value of €1,500,000.00, demonstrates the commitment of the Government of France and the French people to supporting the public health priorities of the Caribbean Community through CARPHA.

More information on the Project can be found at: https://www.carpha.org/Projects/Ongoing-Projects/Strengthening-Strategic-Intelligence-and-Partnership-Approaches-To-Prevent-and-Control-NCDs-and-Strengthen-Regional-Health-Security-In-The-Caribbean

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World Sight Day: Love Your Eyes

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Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.  14 October, 2021.  In the Caribbean, the leading causes of blindness are glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy (a complication of diabetes).  According to the Vision Atlas, 6.2 million persons in the Caribbean were reported to have vision loss, with an estimated 260,000 persons reported to be blind in 2020.

Information gathered from eighteen (18) Caribbean countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago) with a population of 44 million, showed that the crude prevalence of blindness was 0.60%, and the prevalence of all vision loss was 13.20%. Many of the persons affected were females at 52%.

Global statistics reveal that for 2020, a total of 596 million persons had distance vision impairment worldwide, of this number 43 million were blind.  Projections for 2050, indicate that an estimated 885 million persons may be affected by distance vision impairment with 61 million expected to experience  blindness.

CARPHA’s vision for the Caribbean is a region where the health and wellness of the people are promoted and protected from disease, injury and disability, thereby enabling human development in keeping with the belief that the health of the Region is the wealth of the Region.

Although there are no projects that directly address vision impairment, CARPHA in collaboration with its public health partners is implementing initiatives to address risk factors such as unhealthy diets, use of harmful substances and poor physical activities. This in turn, will help reduce the risk of disability due to complications associated with poor blood sugar and blood pressure management.

Efforts to improve the standards of care for diabetes through the implementation of the CARPHA Guidelines on the Management of Diabetes in Primary Care in the Caribbean, and training of health care workers from the CARPHA Member States will also contribute to the prevention of vision impairment and blindness due to diabetes.

Access to eye care services can reduce visual impairment.  CARPHA urges Member States to strengthen health systems to improve eye health services with emphasis on reaching the vulnerable and those most in need.  Governments should commit to integrating eye care into the universal health care system.

World Sight Day is celebrated annually on the second Thursday in October.  The focus of the day is to bring awareness to blindness and vision impairment as a major public health issue and blindness prevention.

The 2021 commemoration observed on 14th October, seeks to encourage persons to think about the ‘importance of their own eye health.’

Our eyes are working hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been indoors, in front of our screens, and probably missed our eye test appointments. Now more than ever, we need to protect and prioritize our eyesight. There are simple things you can do for yourself to prevent the development of serious eye issues:

  • Take screen breaks for at least five minutes every hour
  • Spend time outside.  Increased outdoor time can reduce the risk of myopia (near-sightedness)[3]
  • Get an eye test. A complete eye exam can detect eye conditions such as glaucoma before it has an effect on your sight. The earlier an eye condition is identified, the easier it is to treat.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet and engage in physical activity. These are crucial steps in maintaining a healthy weight, controlling obesity, and preventing diseases such as diabetes, all of which can impact eye health.
  • If you have diabetes, you should have your eyes checked every year

Your sight cannot be taken for granted.  It is time to LOVE YOUR EYES!

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RBDF Congratulates Retired Commander Defence Force on National Honour Award 

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#TheBahamas, October 13, 2021 – The Royal Bahamas Defence Force congratulates Commodore Retired Leon Livingstone Smith, who was a recipient of the 2021 National Honours Awards on October 11, 2021. 

During a ceremony at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel, West Bay Street, Commodore Smith was presented with the Order of Distinction within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, by Governor-General, the Most Honorable Sir Cornelius A. Smith. Also in attendance were his daughter, Mrs. Italia Seymour, and the Commander Defence Force, Commodore Dr. Raymond King.

Commodore Smith was one of sixteen other deserving individuals recognized on National Heroes Day for the vast contributions they made to the development of the country. The first Bahamian Officer to be appointed as Commander Defence Force, he is the longest-serving Commodore to serve this office from 1983 to 1997.

Throughout his military career, he received numerous awards and accolades, and his career in public life spanned over forty years, and on September 19, 2014, an RBDF Legend Class Vessel bearing his name was commissioned. The Royal Bahamas Defence Force is truly grateful for the devoted services of Commodore Smith to the organization and his country.

Commander Defence Force, Commodore Dr. Raymond King extends congratulations on his behalf of the members of his Executive Command, Officers, Senior Enlisted, and Junior Enlisted members of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, to Commodore Retired Leon Smith, on his great accomplishment.

 

Header:  Commodore Retired Leon Smith being presented with the Order of Distinction within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, by Governor-General, the Most Honorable Sir Cornelius A. Smith on October 11, 2021, during a ceremony at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel, West Bay Street.

Insert: Commodore Retired Leon Smith along with recipients of the 2021 National Honours Awards on October 11, 2021, during a ceremony at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel, West Bay Street.

(RBDF Photos by Able Seaman Paul Rolle II)

 

(For further information please contact the RBDF Public Relations Department or visit our website: www.rbdf.gov.bs, follow us on FacebookTwitter and view our Youtube channel) 

-rbdf- 

#GuardOurHeritage 

#MarlinSpike 

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