Government remains ‘on message’ with its commitments to the Bahamian people

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The Government of The Bahamas remains “on message” with its commitment to the Bahamian people, and that is to root out corruption, stabilize, strengthen and advance the economy and level the playing field so that the quality of life can be improved for as many Bahamians as possible, Press Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Anthony Newbold said Tuesday (April 24).

“At our briefing last week, I was asked about our agenda and what the government has done or is doing for the Bahamian people. My answer to the question placed me in stories saying that I admitted that the government was off message. I said no such thing,” Press Secretary Newbold said. “The message from this government was, and remains the same, and has never varied….  This government is committed to rooting out corruption and leveling the playing field so that the quality of life can be improved for as many Bahamians as possible. “That includes improving the way we govern ourselves,” Press Secretary Newbold added. Addressing members of the media during his Tuesday afternoon Press Briefing held at the Cecil V. Wallace Whitfield Centre, Cable Beach, Press Secretary Newbold said the government has done that in its first eleven months in Office.

“How has the Government done that? One way was to put some legislation in place (and) so some Bills have been Tabled and Passed within the first eleven months to accomplish these objectives. These include the Bill to Establish the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Another was the Financial Transactions Reporting Amendment Bill; another was the Proceeds of Crime Bill; also the Bill to Amend the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Amendment Bill and the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information Act – all tabled and passed. “Also passed was the Commercial Enterprises Bill, and an Ease of Doing Business Committee was established as the government sought to stabilize the economy, which it did. What is still on the table and expected to be passed? A Bill To Provide for the Establishment of the Integrity Committee, and there will be other Bills that will be introduced.” Press Secretary Newbold said the hosting of the Implementation Workshop on the Bahamas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 2017, which was officially opened by Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis on Monday (April 23, 2018) at the Paul Farquharson Conference Centre, Police Headquarters, was another of the commitments made by the Minnis Administration.

Intended to ensure general public access to government information, the Freedom of Information Act will be implemented in phases in order to ensure that all the preparatory work and training that is necessary to fully implement the regime, is in place. This is expected to “better ensure” the effectiveness of the regime. There are a number of safeguards for the protection of an individual’s sensitive personal data. The Act ensures the protection of national security matters, legal privilege, and certain government communications. With the exception of these carve-outs, the Act provides the public wide access to records. “It will take some time before the public can have the kind of access they want, but enacting the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, 2017, was a promise this government made while in opposition,” Press Secretary Newbold added.

Mr. Newbold said the Government has also implemented a number of strategies aimed at producing jobs. “Jobs are important and so the Labour on the Blocks initiative was introduced. More than 1,000 jobs have been provided and more are on the way. And according to the Department of Labour, there is a need for carpenters and welders and accountants and quantity surveyors.” Press Secretary Newbold said the Over-the-Hill Community Development Partnership Initiative (also known as the Over-the-Hill Rejuvenation Programme) launched December 4, 2017, with the distribution of tablets at the Willard Patton Pre-School, is part of the Minnis Administration’s strategy of improving the lives and livelihoods of Over-the-Hill Communities. Another key component of the Initiative focuses on Community Development such as the restoration of the Southern Recreation Grounds.

Developed and facilitated by officials of the Economic Development and Planning Unit, Office of the Prime Minister, the Programme “strikes at the heart” of many of the problems facing inner-city communities and residents and is built on six pillars which include: Social Empowerment (through the implementation of anti-poverty policies and practices); Economic Empowerment (through the creation of jobs and ownership opportunities for Bahamians), and Rejuvenation, improving the physical surroundings, including upgrades to historical and cultural assets. Other initiatives include the Use of Smart Technology; the Empowerment of the Youth and Elderly by investing in social interventions; and the use of Green Technology. A Town Meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, May 2, 2018, at the C.R. Walker Senior High School where the Prime Minister and members of the team will present the White Paper on the creation of an Economic Empowerment Zone to restore the Over-the-Hill Community. “This White Paper will outline the tax incentives and nuances of how the programme will work to provide economic relief to the inner-city,” Press Secretary Newbold said. “What will also be discussed are some of the targeted programmes and initiatives to improve the lives of all residents in our inner-city communities.”

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