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Prime Minister Davis Highlights His Government’s First-Year Accomplishments

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By ERIC ROSE

Bahamas Information Services

 

#NASSAU, The Bahamas, September 29, 2022 – During his Statement on the First Year Anniversary of his Government, in the House of Assembly, on September 28, 2022, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis said that the accomplishments of the past 12 months had only been possible because the Bahamian people “stepped up and stepped forward, and worked with us.”

“We are grateful for their trust and confidence, and the partnership we have forged bodes well for the positive national development of The Bahamas,” Prime Minister Davis said.

He added that, although his Government had accomplished a lot in the first year, but there was still “so much to do”.

“We are making good progress on many of the commitments which we made in our ‘Blueprint For Change’,” Prime Minister Davis noted.

“But the war in Ukraine which started back in February, and COVID-related manufacturing and supply chain issues in some of the major markets, have combined to create a new and very serious emergency: a global inflation crisis, which has driven up prices across the world,” he added.

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, for a long time now, the cost of living in The Bahamas had been too high.  Also, with global inflationary pressures driving prices up across the board, life had become unaffordable for so many Bahamian families.

“The Government is working hard to help the country recover and to provide relief from these multiple crises,” he said.  “At the same time, we are also working to bring about the big, transformative changes which will make us stronger, less vulnerable to future crises, and bring us closer to fulfilling our national potential.”

Prime Minister Davis then reviewed some of the highlights of what had been accomplished during the past year, as having been so absorbed in the day-to-day, he pointed out, it was “instructive to step back and look at the big picture”.

In the area of Health, Prime Minister Davis noted that, even before coming into office, they made the point that the economic crisis the country faced could not be fully tackled until the COVID-19 health crisis was being well-managed.

At the time, he said, The Bahamas was performing “very poorly” on regional comparisons regarding the management of COVID.

“We knew our country could do much better,” Prime Minister Davis said.

“We introduced free testing – something the previous government said couldn’t be done – distributed almost one million free medical-grade masks, hired more doctors and nurses, and began to upgrade local clinics,” he added.

“Our commitment continues, with new industrial agreements with the Bahamas Nurses Union, which include salary increases and retention bonuses,” Prime Minister Davis pointed out.  “This is simply the right thing to do for those who have done so much to save lives during the pandemic, often at great personal risk to themselves.”

In the Public Service, Prime Minister Davis said, his Government had also settled and was continuing to settle outstanding promotions and regularizations for public sector workers.

“We negotiated union agreements, with The Bahamas Educators, Counsellors, and Allied

Workers Union; The Bahamas Customs, Immigration and Allied Workers Union; The Bahamas Union of Teachers, The Bahamas Nurses Union, The Bahamas Educators Managers Union: we have completed those agreements,” he pointed out.

“It is important to note that these negotiations resulted in the largest-ever remuneration for Bahamian workers in the Public Service,” he added.

“And we approved the return of annual increments for public servants along with an increase in public service pensions.”

Prime Minister Davis stated that, as he indicated earlier, higher prices were squeezing Bahamian households.  Therefore, his Government was implementing multiple policies to address the issues which contribute to the high Cost of Living.

He pointed out that the most direct tool his Government had to affect the cost was by reducing import duties and monitoring price controls.

“In the past year, we have therefore reduced import duties on dozens of food items, including healthy options like fruits and vegetables,” Prime Minister Davis said.

He added:  “We have lifted the import ban on Canadian beef, which will lower cost of meat to consumers. We have expanded the list of food items on the price control list and have also hired new Price Control Inspectors to ensure compliance with price regulation requirements.

“These are measures which bring some immediate relief, but we know we also must take big steps to reduce reliance on expensive foreign imports.”

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, in Agriculture, his Government had committed millions of dollars in new investments for food security initiatives, which meant the nation would grow “a lot more of what we eat right here at home”, and create opportunities in Bahamian ownership and employment.  He added that his Government had also introduced duty-free concessions for parts to repair fishing and farming equipment.

“We are facilitating direct cash subsidies and concessions for poultry farming, to reduce the reliance on foreign imports,” Prime Minister Davis said.  “For the same reason, two new slaughterhouses have been commissioned for New Providence and Eleuthera.

“And the re-opening of packing houses, after four years, will assist farmers with feed, fertilizers and other tools.”

In terms of Affordable Housing, Prime Minister Davis noted that his Government had “picked up the ideological baton” begun under the Pindling-Hanna era, and once again, wanted to support Bahamians in owning their own homes.

“In this first year, we made available 47 new affordable homes in New Providence, in Pinecrest’s first phase of development,” he pointed out.  “New housing developments in New Providence and Abaco are also underway, along with a new housing initiative at Ocean Hole in Rock Sound, Eleuthera.”

“We have expanded concessions to first-time homeowners, which includes the purchasing of land, building and purchasing a house, and renovating existing structures,” Prime Minister Davis added.  “We increased the level of exemption for VAT on homes from $250,000 to $300,000.

“And we also implemented broad-based reduction of duties on building materials.”

Prime Minister Davis said that Energy was a significant part of the monthly expenditure for households and businesses.

He noted that his Government had launched a programme to implement solar micro-grids, rooftop panels and other solar devices, which were to be deployed across multiple Family Islands. That, he said, would benefit up to 17,000 Bahamians.

“Alongside this we have reduced customs duties for solar products,” Prime Minister Davis said.  “We have also reduced to 10%, the duty on electric cars which cost under $70,000. And we are well advanced in negotiations of a 61 Megawatt solar facility to decrease the cost of electricity.

“Bahamians deserve cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable energy, and we are working hard to build the solutions that will get us there.”

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that it had been a priority for my administration to offer both compassion and relief, via both social support and empowerment.

“Our administration is providing substantial support to successful, local feeding programmes run by churches and NGOs,” he said.  “The funding for social assistance increased by 50% compared to pre-pandemic levels.”

“We have extended tax breaks and concessions in Grand Bahama and Abaco Recovery Zones,” he added.  “We made a $500 lump-sum payment just before Christmas to the unemployed, to provide a little breathing room.”

He continued: “My Government provided relief grants to vendors in Port Lucaya, Downtown Freeport Farmers’ Market, Eight Mile Rock Fish Fry, and Lucayan Harbour and New Bight Fish Fry.  We also provided a financial stipend to surrey drivers.”

Prime Minister Davis noted that his Government successfully re-opened schools after two years of online learning.

“And we launched a free WiFi in the parks programme called – Park Connect Bahamas,” he said.  “To date, 30 parks across the country have been outfitted with free Internet access.”

“We successfully relaunched Urban Renewal, including the Urban Renewal Band and the Urban Renewal Foundation, which will spearhead a list of social support and empowerment programmes,” Prime Minister Davis added.  “The Urban Renewal Small Home Repairs Programme is well underway in Abaco, Moore’s Island, Bimini, Exuma, Cat Island and New Providence.

“And the Disaster Reconstruction Authority launched a Home Assistance Repair Programme in Grand Bahama and Abaco.”

Prime Minister Davis said that, in furthering its commitment to promote Better Government, during the past year, his Government made notable progress on a range of issues.

“We eliminated the travel heath visa which was such a burden to so many Bahamians,” he said.  “We enacted legislation concerning the ‘Presumption of death’, in order to allow survivors to more quickly settle the affairs of loved ones, who go missing after circumstances of peril, such as hurricanes.

He added that a Family Island Help Desk was set up in the Department of Local Government to assist local government personnel in navigating red tape, and addressing relevant issues.

“The Revenue Enhancement Unit was re-established to collect over $1 billion in tax arrears through more efficient collection, more effective compliance measures, and enforcement of laws,” Prime Minister Davis noted.

“New carbon credits legislation was passed, which will enable The Bahamas to be compensated for the role that our mangroves and seagrasses play in eliminating carbon from the atmosphere.”

 

Photo Caption: Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis speaks, during his Statement on the First Year Anniversary of his Government, in the House of Assembly, on September 28, 2022.

(BIS Photo/Ulric Woodside)

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Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Immigration Ministers make appearance on TCI Radio Talk Show

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TheBahamas, November 25, 2022 – “We have a humanitarian concern of course but we can only absorb so much” was how Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service in The Bahamas addressed the issue of the UN constantly nudging Caribbean countries about the deportation of migrants and recommending that it not be done.

He was speaking Thursday November 24 with Cheryl and Zhavargo on First Edition which airs on RTC FM.

While acknowledging that the UN offices likely ‘have to do what they do’ Minister Mitchell  explained that the current irregular migrants trying to get into the Bahamas did not fit the bill of ‘refugees’ as defined by the UN.

“We have a treaty obligation that says that if people have a fear of persecution in their home country that we have an obligation to take them in as asylum seekers. The people who come through on these boats from the south of us are not asylum seekers. They are afraid of poverty and that’s a difficult issue but in a legal sense we’re not obligated to embrace people on that basis.”

He cited a study that had found, on any given day there were around 7,000 illegal migrants in The Bahamas trying to get to the US maintaining that his chain of islands had to take a stand on the issue.  The Foreign Affairs minister acknowledged that  TCI was in an identical situation, citing also the the cultural effects of irregular migration.

“There is a cleavage which has developed in our own society over this; people are very concerned that we could lose our identity if we do not get on top of it.”

Earlier this year Arlington “new sheriff in town” Musgrove, Minister of Immigration and Border Services in the Turks and Caicos had described statements calling on surrounding countries to do more to assist persons fleeing Haiti as “reckless and misguided.”

“Haiti has a population of 11.6 million people. How could any small developing state like the Turks and Caicos Islands assist that number of people or even the smallest fraction of them? We have a population of some 47,000 persons, and our health care, education and other social systems remain fragile and could never withstand an influx of refugees. This would be a risk to our very own livelihood,” he had said.

He was interviewed in the same show on Thursday prior to Mitchell and expressed a similar determination to crack down on illegal migration.

“I want to stress this. If we catch anyone harbouring illegals, it could be my mommy, she’s going up. We cannot tolerate this. We’re catching the sloops so my Haitian brothers and sisters should stress to them don’t waste your money we’re sending you back.”

Turks and Caicos, this year passed a law, doubling fines and prison times for individuals harbouring illegal migrants.

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Former Bahamian Cabinet minister defends record amid ongoing police investigation

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By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer

 

#TheBahamas, November 25, 2022 – Former Youth, Sports and Culture Minister, Lanisha Rolle is reportedly currently under investigation due to several allegations that came up during her tenure; she however knows nothing of this alleged criminal investigation.

After the minister resigned – unceremoniously –  in February 2021 with little explanation, the ministry was locked down by the Prime Minister for an audit of the National Sports Authority, which fell under her ministry.

Auditor General Terrance Bastin revealed that unauthorised contracts had been issued, some of which were later forwarded to the NSA for payment. Three cheques to contractors were also found, which were paid to individuals and then collected by a senior ministry official.

Despite the allegations, Rolle said she upheld cabinet standards and good governance during her tenure. She added that a minister is not always aware of “everything in a ministry at any given time.”

Rolle said she has not yet been approached by the RBPF regarding the audit findings.  Having served as a member of the Police Force for 11 years herself, Rolle told a crush of media on Wednesday (November 23) that she continues to trust that they will follow the legal process and in due time, the truth of her innocence will be revealed.

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MYSC set to begin training for National Youth Guard

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Robyn Adderley, BIS

#FREEPORT, The Bahamas, November 25, 2022 – Officials from the Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Culture along with members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force and Defence Force toured the Police Training College on Tuesday, November 22 in preparation of the start of the Bahamas National Youth Guard training programme.

Sandena Neely, Head of the Division of Youth, explained that the Bahamas National Youth Guard is a programme designed to train young Bahamians to serve during a national disaster.

Participants are to be between the ages of 18 and 25 and Bahamians willing to serve their country.

“In the event of a natural disaster, we want to implement a strategy where young Bahamians are going to be able to facilitate being a part of every part of the national disaster plan from prevention and mitigation all the way to recovery.”

She explained that they were touring the Police College in Grand Bahama because it is the proposed site for their three-month training. Training starts in January and will include Bahamians nationwide to be trained, skilled and certified so that they can return to their communities and serve.

The 27-month programme starts with three months of training, followed by three months of internship during which time they will receive a stipend, and then they will be on-call for the remaining 21 months. If they are called to serve during that period, they will receive an additional stipend.

While touring the campus, the delegation started with the auditorium where most of the time would be spent. In there, along with the all-purpose room, there are three classrooms and one computer lab.

The delegation was comprised of Ministry of Youth officials Undersecretary Montez Williams, Ms. Neely, Deputy Director of Sports Northern Bahamas Norris Bain, Youth Programmes Coordinator for the Grand Bahama Office Carla Brown-Roker, Programme Officer Kenneth Frazier, Youth Officer Kenneth Miller, Communications Officer Lamar Matthews and Kree Hanna, Administrative Assistant. From the Royal Bahamas Police Force there was ACP Dellareece Ferguson, ACP Kenwood Taylor, ACP Craig Stubbs, ACP Theophilus Cunningham and Assistant Superintendent Randolph Deleveaux.  Daryl Jones represented the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.

Then it was off to touring the dormitories that are equipped to house 32 males and 12 females.

The Bahamas National Youth Guard is being facilitated by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and joined by partners from the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, NEMA, DRA, Social Services, the National Drug Council, the Ministry of Health and Wellness and others.

Programme Officer, Kenneth Frazier, Youth Officer at the Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Culture said training will begin the second week in January in Grand Bahama. The focus is on Grand Bahama and Abaco because those two islands are hardest hit by storms.

“We understand that people here are aware and understand what is needed for the persons in this programme.”

When disasters strike, he said, people within their own communities ought to be able to assist as soon as possible. As such, the call has gone out all over the country to get people to sign up for the programme.

“The idea is to have people within each community to have the skills needed to help mitigate response every part of the national disaster.”
The delegation then paid a courtesy call on the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry for Grand Bahama, Melvin Seymour, when they shared details of the programme.

According to Neely, “Stakeholders are the way that we operate. They are our arms, our feet, our legs. They help us to walk and help us to service. We are a youth development agency, but we know when and where to look for our partners who can help us to bring programmes to life.”

The programme, Ms. Neely further explained, came to being because it is important for residents to be able to assist themselves.

She closed with, “We want to build a generation of Bahamians who are able to help ourselves whenever a disaster or some emergency happens in our country.”

 

Photo Captions:

Header: A group from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, led by Undersecretary Montez Williams, travelled to Grand Bahama to tour the Police Training College where the three-month training programme for the National Youth Guard is set to begin in January. The tour took place on Tuesday, November 22 and included staff from the Ministry of Youth, the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force. (BIS Photo/Andrew Miller)

1st insert: A tour of the dorms at the Police Training College was on the agenda as the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture is set to begin a three-month training programme for the Bahamas National Youth Guard in January. Sandena Neely, Head of the Division of Youth, is seen discussing what will be needed during the tour on Tuesday, November 22. (BIS Photo/Andrew Miller)

2nd insert:  A delegation from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force on Tuesday, November 22, toured the classrooms of the Police Training College in Freeport. The three-month training programme for the Bahamas National Youth Guard is set to begin the second week in January. (BIS Photo/Andrew Miller)

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