PM Davis – “hard questions” must be asked as future of Grand Bahama is considered

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Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon. Philip Davis officially opened the third annual ‘Sustainable Grand Bahama Conference,’ which took place on Thursday morning, April 7, 2022 at Pelican Bay Resort. The Prime Minister delivered his keynote address via Zoom to participants of the conference.

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon. Philip Davis says the theme of this year’s Grand Bahama sustainability conference goes right to the heart of the strategic challenges facing Grand Bahama. In giving the keynote address for the opening of the ‘Sustainable Grand Bahama Conference’ on Thursday, at Pelican Bay resort, the Prime Minister via Zoom pointed out that what is needed in The Bahamas is bold, fearless thinking and bold, fearless people to bring forth the ideas.

“While some of us may look back nostalgically on the glory days of the past, a sober and courageous plan for the future has to go into the fundamentals of what the people of Grand Bahama need,” said Mr. Davis.

“An economy, with sufficient long-term potential for growth, sustaining future generations. An economy sufficiently diversified, able to create opportunities for our people from across all sections of the Grand Bahamian community.”

The Prime Minister told those attending the third annual Sustainability Conference that while good ideas and great ideas can come from anywhere, he said it is from communities of thinkers, such as those participating in conferences like this one, where some of the greatest ideas have emerged.

He urged that now, more than ever, the country is in need of those best ideas. “Do not underestimate how the force of your ideas can inspire grassroot movements, drive popular culture, inform public policy and opinions and transform nations,” Mr. Davis added. “I appreciate that the task is not easy. From a political perspective, I’m confident that the range of policy interventions which we have proposed in our Blueprint for Change, will certainly make a positive difference in the lives of people of Grand Bahama.

“But I know that these interventions are not the whole answer. Beyond our own ideas and plans there is still scope for additional ideas and plans in order to fully achieve the full potential of the vision of growth and diversification for Grand Bahama.

“We are serious about finding and defining solutions. We have to be unflinching, looking at and answering the hard questions.” Some of those “hard questions”, the Prime Minister pointed out, include questions like: Are the economic frameworks on the island still fit for purpose; and within those frameworks, what is to be the role of the Grand Bahama Port Authority? Is there a role for the Grand Bahama Port Authority?

The Prime Minister noted that for an island that is susceptible to annual hurricanes, what must be determined are the levels of resilience that must be inherent in a development plan for Grand Bahama, to ensure that not only the natural and manmade structures can withstand hurricanes, but to also ensure that people are kept safe.

“Then there are the questions of how best to support the people of Grand Bahama. How do we best support them to move forward from the trauma of the recent past, to live healthier, wealthier and better lives? These are just some of the fundamental questions which I hope your discussions will embrace in this conference.”

Prime Minister Davis noted that in recent months, his administration has actively raised a number of issues regarding climate change, both locally and internationally. In his address to the General Assembly of the United Nations last September, Prime Minister Davis challenged any leader who believes that there is still plenty of time to address climate change, to visit Grand Bahama and Abaco. He said what those islands endured in 2019 and the after-effects which remain today, offer lessons for the whole world.

He said Grand Bahamians are living with a reality that is fast becoming the global future.

“Today, I also challenge you to also face head-on the question of how best to embrace ideas of sustainability within the context of national development,” Mr. Davis told the GB conference. “This is a delicate balancing act, akin to walking a suspended tightrope. The needs and demands of the three broad components of economic, environmental and social sustainability, must all be satisfied.

“So, how best should we do it? As discussions, deliberations and debate among yourselves, I urge you to be mindful of some of the painful lessons and memories of the past. Though the short-term economic benefits were significant, some of the negative impacts of the large scale operations of BORCO and Syntex are still being experienced in communities like Hunters and Lewis Yard. Unfortunately, some of the cultural, social and environmental drawbacks still persist today.

“I can think of no better institution to lead this charge, than the University of The Bahamas. Full consideration of these issues are exactly the kind of platform upon which your legacy of scholarship should continue to be built. We also need you to continue to produce as you have done in the past the kind of consequential leaders who have helped to shape our national life, in the future.

How can we best expand and diversify the Grand Bahamian economy to improve the lives of our people? With some of the best minds gathered at this conference, I very much look forward to hearing and reading the results of your deliberations.”