The Bahamas Government is one step closer to empowering underprivileged residents in the Over-the-Hill Community and other such areas to improve their livelihoods. Such transformation will take place under the Economic Empowerment Zone Bill 2018, which was passed in the House of Assembly on Thursday, July 26, after two days of debate. Prime Minister, Dr the Hon Hubert A Minnis, wrapped up the debate as he opened it, stating that the proposed measure will enhance and further the socio-economic development within the inner cities communities. “It is anticipated that this piece of transformative and innovative legislation will set the stage for the improved quality of lives of residents in Over-the-Hill communities,” he said.
These include health care, education and training, access to work and opportunity, housing, safety and security, a healthy environment, the preservation of culture, and other things that enrich individuals, communities and the nation at large. “The suite of targeted initiatives will give hope and provide the opportunity to our people,” the Prime Minister said. “Our people do not want handouts; they want a helping hand. Our people do not want pity; they want purpose!” This initiative, The Over-the-Hill Community Development Partnership Initiative, is being led out of the Office of the Prime Minister under the Over-the-Hill Unit. “Our overriding goal is to revitalize Over-the-Hill and to provide opportunity and hope for more of our people,” the Prime Minister said.
He said that his Government is grateful for the contributions of the private sector and civil society in shaping the legislation. “The Free National Movement made a commitment in our election Manifesto to empower more Bahamians in terms of economic and social development,” he said. In this vein, beginning this September, qualifying young people will be able to attend BTVI free of charge. And beginning next year September, qualifying young people will be able to attend the University of The Bahamas tuition-free. “It is the FNM that is today leading a revolution in education and training,” the Prime Minister said.
The first area to be transformed under the legislation is the Over-the-Hill Community, which holds a wealth of knowledge about the culture and history of that area of New Providence and in some aspects, the country. “Over-the-Hill was the birthplace of a number of those who helped to advance equality, progress and social justice in our land,” the Prime Minister said. The Over-the-Hill Community Development Partnership Initiative is built around six key pillars:
– Social Empowerment and the Preservation of Bahamian Heritage;
– Smart Technology;
– Green Technology;
– Youth and Elderly Empowerment; and
– Economic Empowerment.
Contracts will be issued shortly for the reconstruction of the historic Southern Recreation Grounds, Father Marshall Cooper Park, and McPherson Park. The components of the Economic Empowerment Zone Bill are also designed to encourage residential and commercial property development and investment in these zones through various tax incentives. The Prime Minister has been sharing this initiative internationally, most recently at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. He thanked the team members of the Over-the-Hill Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister for their dedication and their contributions toward the project. The Prime Minister also thanked the newly appointed Executive Manager of the Over-the-Hill Unit, Samita Ferguson, charged with managing and implementing the Initiative.