During his Budget Wrap-Up for Budget Fiscal Year 2023/24, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis said that as the 2023/2024 National Budget debate closed, his Government did so with confidence in the Bahamian people and optimism about “the bright future we can build together”.
“The policies and investments in this budget reflect our conviction that, in order to build enduring and inclusive progress – in order to build a better today and a better tomorrow for our people – we must grow stronger,” Prime Minister Davis said in the House of Assembly, on June 26, 2023.
“National, economic and personal security are central to this budget because, while we are optimists, Madam Speaker, we are also realists,” he added.
Prime Minister Davis noted that, in today’s world, every nation must navigate increasingly complex and interconnected challenges; and that was especially so for a nation like The Bahamas — a nation on the frontlines of a changing climate.
“Economic and financial crises, invasions and armed conflicts, highly transmissible diseases, supply chain breakdowns, global inflationary pressures – these problems may begin in other countries, but none are contained by national borders,” he said. “Problems which originate elsewhere find their way to Bahamian shores – often sooner rather than later.”
Prime Minister Davis added: “A planet that is warming because of the carbon emissions of industrialized nations means more extreme weather events everywhere, including more frequent and more intense hurricanes in our region. Gun merchants who care only for profit sell the weapons that flow into our region. Social media platforms produce benefits, but also produce misinformation and lies, which spread quickly and increase cynicism, rage and division.
“These are the facts.”
Prime Davis noted that the policy choices that gave rise to or perpetuate many of those problems were often made in national capitals and corporate headquarters thousands of miles from The Bahamas.
“We cannot control the decisions made in other nations, but getting stronger as a country and as a people – that is something we can and we must do,” he said. “Wecan take responsibility for our security and our future. No one is going to do it for us.
“No one should do it for us.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that The Bahamas was “finally on a more secure path to progress.”
“We are asserting ourselves on the world stage: fighting for fair climate finance, leading the way to establish blue carbon credits, working for a more stable region, and promoting our nation as a first-class destination and investment partner,” he said. “We are investing in Bahamian agriculture – because food security is critical to economic security.”
“We are investing in learning recovery, and in our students and our teachers; we are investing in our artists and our athletes; and we are investing in Bahamian entrepreneurs – because investing in our people, and giving Bahamians the skills and resources to thrive in a 21st century economy is at the heart of economic security,” Prime Minister Davis added.
He noted that his Government was investing in the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, with new vessels, new recruits, new training opportunities, and strengthened partnerships “because national security requires border security”.
Prime Minister Davis added that his Government was also investing in the new National Youth Guard, providing young Bahamians not just training for future careers, but the opportunity to fortify our nation’s emergency response efforts. As hurricanes grow more intense, he said, strengthening the national capacity to protect its people and respond in a crisis was a key element of national security.
“We are investing in anti-crime and anti-violence initiatives, saturation patrols, and anti-gang resources in schools; we are investing in Urban Renewal, the Second Chance programme, and in street lighting, neighborhood clean-ups, and community centres – because all Bahamians deserve safety at home, at school, and in our communities,” Prime Minister Davis said. “We are investing in new affordable housing, because, as any Bahamian will tell you, there’s nothing like the security of owning your own home.”
He added: “We are investing in infrastructure in the Family Islands, in renewable energy, in Family Island clinics and in our green, blue, and orange economies. We are also attracting unprecedented levels of investment in our Family Islands, with several Family Islands securing multi-million-dollar investments, which will create new entrepreneurial opportunities, provide jobs, generate revenue for local government, and provide opportunities for local businesses.
“And we’re investing in a major expansion of hospital facilities in New Providence and Grand Bahama, the renovation and improvement of multiple clinics throughout our islands, an expanded Catastrophic Health Care Fund, and a first-ever organ donor programme to save lives and improve the health of the Bahamian people.”
Those priorities, Prime Minister Davis stated, reflected The Bahamas’ “profound belief in the dignity of every one of our citizens”.
“This budget is designed to lift people up, to widen and deepen Bahamian participation in our economy, to make us safer, and to help us care for one another,” he said.
“We believe it is vital to build our country’s strength and resilience because we live in an era where one external shock is quickly followed by another,” Prime Minister Davis added. “To lead is to deal with the facts as they are, not as we would wish them to be — and so it is that we are choosing to confront this reality: that in order to survive and prosper we must grow stronger.
“What’s more, we are working toward a brighter future without forgetting that many Bahamians need and deserve support today.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that his Government worked hard to create a budget that balanced addressing our most pressing needs today – with investing in the long-term, nation-building solutions that will be the foundation for The Bahamas’ next chapter as a nation.
“Fifty years from now, many of us will no longer be here, but what will stand the test of time – God willing – is our vision, the impact of our policies – and most of all, the lives changed forever by opportunities made real in this budget,” he stated.
He added: “Just think of it: Securing opportunities and ownership will empower more Bahamians to break the cycle of generational poverty – and live the Bahamian dream that has eluded too many Bahamian families for far too long. In fifty years, there will be Bahamian families who can trace their family’s first real step toward generational wealth back to a business grant, or keys to a first home, that were funded by this budget.”
Prime Minister Davis state that the seeds of a “new, more inclusive Bahamian economy” were in that budget.
“There are young men and women who will be given a new lease on life – a chance to overcome childhoods in which they may have been neglected rather than loved,” he said. “Young Bahamians will be given the grace and opportunity to overcome early mistakes, and choose a different, better path.”
“We believe the circumstances of your birth should not limit your potential,” he added. “We believe that mistakes made early on should not foreclose the possibility of turning things around, and leading a productive, fulfilling life.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that his Government was building a secure foundation. However, he added, a foundation was only the beginning — to truly realize his Government’s vision, that foundation must be built up to completion.
“That is the point of strategic national development,” he said. “There must be continuity, not just across budget years, but across successive administrations.”
“That’s why so many Bahamians hated ‘stop, review, and cancel’ – they understood it was partisan politics, not national development, that was being prioritized.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that that was why in his Government’s Blueprint for Change, it promised The Bahamian people that it would complete and implement the National Development Plan.
“We have inherited a beautiful country and we have an obligation to protect it for future generations,” he said. “The best way to do that is through a properly organized national development plan.
Prime Minister Davis added: “In our prior administration we spent years consulting with Bahamians from every walk of life to create the National Development Plan, a foundational and comprehensive long-term plan for the country’s development and prosperity. We specifically promised that we would, relaunch, complete and legislate the National Development Plan. We intend to deliver on that promise.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that his Government had re-appointed the National Development Plan committee, appointing a chairman to complete the plan and then prepare an implementation plan. He added that his Government was currently reviewing recommendations for the steering committee to oversee the work.
“We have included civil society, the business community, labour and religious leadership on the committee,” he said. “Additionally, the government will appoint a secretariat to support the implementation of the work.”
“We already have an initial draft legislation that will create the framework for implementation,” Prime Minister Davis said. “We eagerly look forward to having a completed and updated National Development Plan, and implementation plan along with supporting legislation tabled for debate in Parliament.”
By ERIC ROSE/Bahamas Information Services