Preliminary work on the Minnis Administration’s dream of empowering Over-the-Hill Communities throughout The Bahamas got underway Monday (December 4) at Willard Patton Early Learning Centre (Pre-School) with the launch of the Pilot eLearning Project. The eLearning Project is a component of the Over-the-Hill Rejuvenation Pre-Assessment Phase.
Monday’s launch was the first stage in a strategy Minnis Administration officials say will transform inner-city communities, and lead to the revitalization of those communities, through the provision of incentives (tax and otherwise) to residents and businesses that participate “in meaningful ways in our community revitalization programme.”
This will also involve the establishment of inner-city tax free zones and a process that will include social and economic empowerment for the communities; the use of Smart and Green Technology; “heavy” investments in the youth and rejuvenation of those communities through upgrades to physical surroundings and infrastructure; solid waste management techniques and capabilities; and significant and targeted investments.
“Our people must live in dignity,” Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis said. “Habitats that breed criminality must be fundamentally changed. If we are to change their lives, we must first start by changing their environment.”
The Project is expected to transform Over-the-Hill Communities through six essential initiatives. These include Social Empowerment, improving the lives of Over-the-Hill residents through the introduction of pro-poor policy and practices and Economic Empowerment, creating incentives (tax and otherwise) to operate and expand businesses in the Over-the-Hill area to boost the local economy and create jobs and ownership. Rejuvenation, improving the physical surroundings, solid waste management and infrastructure of Over-the-Hill Communities through significant and targeted investment, will also be critical components of the strategy.
The Project will also focus on the use of Smart Technology to strengthen the use of smart technology within community schools, homes, and public spaces; Green Technology, to promote and incentivize the use of green technologies throughout the community and a focus on the Youth, by heavily investing in social interventions to improve the lives, productivity, and safety of youth within the community. The Minnis Administration has made an annual commitment of $5Million to facilitate the programme.
“In November 2014, some three years ago, I outlined some of my vision for Over-the-Hill Communities. In this vision, I saw our Inner-City Communities more empowered. I saw residents and businesses participating in the revitalization of their communities,” Prime Minister Minnis said. “I saw special economic zones with tax incentives created to support jobs, business growth and opportunities. I saw the entire community tackling criminality from its root causes to the rehabilitation of offenders. I saw fundamental changes in communities Over-the-Hill.
“Today, I am pleased to publicly announce that the preliminary work to bring forth this dream of empowering the Over-the-Hill Community is commencing,” Prime Minister Minnis added. The launch was also the first step goals for the redevelopment of inner-city communities outlined in the (Free National Movement Party’s) Manifesto, 2017 to do the following:
· Encourage the promotion of small and medium-sized businesses by providing them with the incentives and assistance needed to survive;
· Encourage and empower absentee landowners to re-develop their ancestral lands and abandoned buildings;
· Create tax-free economic zones in these areas to encourage business growth and spur job creation in the re-development phase and beyond;
*Enact legislation that allows for duty-free concessions on all construction materials and building supplies used in the construction of business premises and new and/or refurbished owner-occupied homes;
· Operate these tax-free economic zones within a safe and clean environment with each zone addressing the socio-economic situation in the area through tripartite arrangements with landlords, government agencies, and Bahamian investors,
· And, subject to annual review for renewal, exempt zoned businesses with aggregate gross sales of $5-$7Million from paying a business license tax and grant Value Added Tax (VAT) credits based upon their VAT output.
“Over-the-Hill is the cradle for so many in our Bahamas,” Prime Minister Minnis said. “Over the years, these communities have undergone tremendous change, including in terms of family structures and community ties, as well as an increase in crime, violence and gang participation. “Still, these traditional communities possess great talent and possibilities, and opportunities for new life. I know of these communities because they are from whence I came.
“With these visions and these possibilities in mind, I asked my team at the Office of the Prime Minister to prepare a programme of community re-development which builds on partnerships between the Government, the University of The Bahamas, the Church and Civil Society, the private sector and most importantly, with the Over-the-Hill Communities.”
Prime Minister Minnis said based on feedback from the public, Administration officials understand that to truly empower the Over-the-Hill Communities of New Providence, there is a need for a comprehensive suite of sustained actions and investments.
“In the year ahead, my Government will outline a number of initiatives and signature programmes for the ongoing revitalization of various communities,” Prime Minister Minnis added.