NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Governor-General Sir Cornelius A Smith today presented the Government’s “Blue Print for Change” as he read the Speech from The Throne marking the opening of a new session of Parliament.
Sir Cornelius revealed planned policies and initiatives aimed at bolstering capacity across health, economic, investment, social, cultural and environmental sectors, adding it was clear from the results of the election that Bahamians demand transformational change.
He said the Government is committed to executing good governance, established on the principles of Transparency, Integrity & Accountability.
Key policy initiatives outlined include:
- Build new hospitals in New Providence and Grand Bahama.
- Introduce catastrophic healthcare insurance.
- Address mental health issues in the country.
- Introduce legislation and policies to fully address future major health risks
- Fully ensure that Family Island clinics are properly equipped.
- Amend the VAT Act to lower the rate of VAT across the board to 10%
- Implement a Debt Management Plan to address the historic debt burden and deficit
- Amend the Procurement Act, the Fiscal Responsibility Act, and the Public Financial Management Act and the Commercial Entreprises Act
- Introduce measures to encourage renewable energy industries, recommitting The Bahamas to a minimum reliance on renewable energy by thirty percent by 2030
- Introduce a ‘Merchant Shipping Bill’ to enhance our competitive edge in the global maritime industry
- Introduce legislation to facilitate a comprehensive programme of digitization for the country
Sports and Culture
- Introduce measures to employ Junkanoo Culture and the visual performing arts
- Re-launch and formalize the “Sports in Paradise” programme
- Bolster food security and reduce reliance on imports as a matter of priority
- Introduce a regulatory framework for the Cannabis Industry
- Amend the Hotels Encouragement Act to provide better incentives for Bahamian-owned and joint venture boutique hotels and related tourism offerings
- Tax incentives for small and medium-sized enterprises owned by Bahamians
- Restructure the Bahamas Investment Authority to streamline application processes and develop a new marketing strategy
- Amend legislation to provide increased tax incentives and concessions for domestic investors
- Transform investment approval processes and launch BahamasInvest to retain competitiveness and mobilize local and international investors to grow the economy
- Develop an investment portfolio for the Family Islands and undertake infrastructural upgrades throughout all of the Islands of The Bahamas
- Create a one-stop-shop in Grand Bahama to attract new local and direct foreign investment by way of duty-free concessions island-wide
- Expand the provision of potable water and implement a national strategy for the management of water as a natural resource
- Expedite the development of the airports in Exuma, Grand Bahama, and North Eleuthera and will advance the development of all major airports across The Bahamas through Public-Private Partnerships
- Introduce a new and progressive Building Code to increase resilience in the face of Climate Change
- Enhance social assistance programmes through partnerships with Social Services, Urban Renewal and Civil Society, including the churches
- Implement immediate relief measures for Abaco, Grand Bahama, and Ragged Island with the private sector and non-governmental organizations
- Increase the pension for Senior Citizens
- Increase the benefits for persons with disabilities and ensure full implementation of the provisions of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities) Act
- Introduce legislation for the protection of consumers
- Increase the minimum wage and phase in a liveable wage
- Re-introduce the RISE programme which provided substantial benefits to many families
- Relief to mortgage and rent payers to prevent an increase in and reduce homelessness
- Introduce legislation for an Urban Renewal Authority to improve the quality of life of residents throughout The Bahamas
- New subdivisions will be developed using public-private partnerships
- Create a national ‘Second-Chance’ jobs programme for criminal offenders
- Expunge the records of those young people convicted of minor offences related to the use of marijuana
- Holistic and multifaceted approach to crime, strengthening law enforcement and transforming The Bahamas Department of Correctional Services into a rehabilitative institution
- Reform the electoral process in The Bahamas after the broadest consultation with stakeholders
- Re-establish harmonious tripartite relations between Labour, Employers, and the Government
- Ensure that all labour issues are addressed as a matter of priority
- Expand training programs to assist in proper skill set placement customer service and revenue enhancement
- Implementing digitization to provide efficiency in clearing backlogs within the Ministry and Public Service Commission
- Strengthen legislation that established a Sovereign Wealth Fund and propose all of its non-financial assets will be held for the benefit of generations
- Provide the legal, fiscal and regulatory framework with the creation of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment
- Secure Carbon Credit payments for our natural resources
- Support youth in overcoming obstacles to digital learning, and to restore in-person lessons as soon as it is safe and practicable with health guidance
- Establish programmes for monitoring and assisting high school dropouts
- Introduce measures to offer expand the curriculum offering
- Introduce a comprehensive remediation programme to close the gap in access caused by COVID-19 protocols.
- Create Magnet Schools and speciality institutes
- Amend the Education Act to provide for universal pre-primary education for three- and four-year-olds
- Create national programmes to tackle new threats to the youth well-being
- Create a National ‘First-Job’ programme for youth aged of 16–25 to gain a one-year Government subsidised placement in a field of national priority
- Launch the Community Youth Service, and offer stipends for young Bahamians, to provide service to NGOs and community groups
- Establish a National Youth Guard enabling youth to serve in Disaster Response Corps
- Finalize the Local Government Act for New Providence and empower Local Government with revenue-raising powers and shared jurisdiction over local affairs
- Increase the budget for Local Government Councils during our five-year term
- Amend the rules of the House of Assembly to enable fixed sessions of parliament
- Introduce effective anti-corruption legislation.
- Fully implement the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act
- Work to strengthen our maritime borders, and seek regional solutions
- Deepen our relations with our bilateral and international partners
- Expand 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
The full speech can be found here.