The more than $80 million that has been allocated to the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development in the 2021-2022 Budget will account for the largest allocation of funds for the provision of social assistance in the history of The Bahamas, Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell told Parliament Wednesday. He said this was in comparison to post-Hurricane Matthew when the budget was decreased by $3 million. Minister Campbell said the allocation will allow the Ministry to continue to provide the services it has been providing to its regular clients and those who became clients in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian and the presence of the COVID-19 Pandemic in The Bahamas.
“That is in addition to what has been set aside for the continuation of the work of the National Food Distribution Network,”
Minister Campbell added. Minister Campbell was delivering his contribution to the 2021/2022 Budget in the House of Assembly. The Social Services Minister said the Government of The Bahamas has: “made this commitment to the people of The Bahamas albeit in a time of crisis” and while continuing its work to ensure that the economy recovers to the point where “fewer and fewer and fewer persons will need the assistance.”
“I was (recently) asked by a Reporter how long do I anticipate the government being able to sustain this unprecedented amount of help and assistance that has been, and is being, offered and my response was, is and continues to be, (that) we in the government are not focused on how long we can maintain and sustain this, (but that) we are focused on taking the necessary steps to bring the economy to the point where fewer and fewer and even fewer persons will need the assistance and so the length of time to offer the assistance will not even be a question,” Minister Campbell told House Members.
“Say what they like about this budget, the numbers do not mislead, and that is one of the reasons why I don’t have to talk long about this budget as it relates to social services. Because of a caring and compassionate Hubert Minnis-led government, I have the ability to say that I am going to be presiding over the largest social services budget in the history of The Bahamas.”
Minister Campbell, who was appointed Minister of Social Services and Urban Development in July, 2018 after serving as Minister of Transport and Local Government, said the Administration’s commitment to the provision of social assistance has steadily increased in the three years he has sat as Minister: “beginning at $42 million, then up to $60-plus million and today its $80-plus million. That is in addition to what has been set aside for the continuation of the work of the National Food Distribution Task Force.”
The increases, Minister Campbell said, were in response to the twin threats of Hurricane Dorian and the economic fall-out from the COVID-19 Pandemic. “We increased our budget because while we see the movement, while we see the Homeporting, while we see the increased requests for travel visas, while we see the light at the end of the tunnel, we want to make sure that in the interim, there is that safety network standing in the gap to assure our Bahamian people, to assure and ensure that no one is left behind. It is our desire, it is our intent, it is our primary objective, not to grab power, but to use the position that God has so blessed us with for this time, to help as many as we can; to empower, as opposed to just grabbing power; to put ourselves in a position that when we stand out and face our Maker, we can hear well done.
“We are not suggesting that we have been, (that) we are, or (that) we will ever be, perfect. Far from it,” Minister Campbell continued, “but we will not stand in this House or anywhere else and allow anyone to try and cause the Bahamian people not to recognize our progress. We have made progress, we are making progress, and we will continue to make progress.” Minister Campbell said: “I have spoken about the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development just recently in the Mid-term Budget
and so I will not bore this House today with the details of every Department, every section. I will say to this House, however, that the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, including the Department (of Social Services) continues to give all of the services that I would have enumerated from the time I have been here as the Minister.
“I am pleased to say that all of the work that is being done in the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, is being done
throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and so for that reason I want to thank leadership throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, I want to thank our Social Workers throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
“And Mr. Speaker, even as I tout what is set aside for social assistance, I want to acknowledge the resilience of our people. We have found persons whom we have offered assistance, and while they did not have much they would have asked that we give that to somebody else who did not have anything at all.”
Minister Campbell acknowledged that there are some persons who have been waiting; that there are persons who continue to wait for assistance, including landlords. He assured the groups that Ministry and Department officials are “assiduously working” to resolve those matters.
“I need the Bahamian public to appreciate that while we always gave Rental Assistance, there was always a manageable number, and they all never came at once. We found ourselves in a situation that we were not prepared for (due to the negative impacts of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 Pandemic). The numbers were overwhelming, the numbers were coming to persons who had to close their offices because they too were affected and infected. The numbers were going to Grand Bahama when there was no office because that office was washed away; all of their documents and files were washed away; all of their telephones and computers were washed away (and) the persons who had to man those offices also had their personal effects washed away, and so we were overwhelmed at a time when we were confronted with victims while we ourselves were victims. “We are recovering and we are committed to the task and so for landlords in particular, I am grateful for all of you who have exercised patience. For those of you who are still waiting, I give you the commitment that we are assiduously working to resolve your issues.
“I want to assure our vendors in the Family Islands that our name is good; that our paper is good; that our vouchers are good and so honour them on behalf of our clients because eventually the payment will arrive.” Minister Campbell said the recent launch of the ProMIS, an Information Management System, should help to provide for greater efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of services across The Bahamas. “First of all it is a digital platform that affords the Ministry of Social Services and particularly the Department to intake all of our requests without the use of paper and then follow on the platform that request until it is actually resolved and then be able to maintain a history of our clients that will enable us, God forbid, if there is a future request to be able to shorten the time of delivery because they would already be in the system.
“The end product of ProMIS is intended to be where one is able to sit in the comfort of their home, or wherever they get their Wifi
Internet, to be able to access all of our services, but ProMIS is one more thing which
I think is even more important than the actual digital platform, the ProMIS that we in the Ministry of Social Services, that we in the Department, are offering, is a ProMIS of a more effective and efficient service that will reduce frustration, that will seek to end whatever crises the client is presented with at that time, in the shortest possible time. That is the real promise,” Minister Campbell added.