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NATIONAL ADDRESS BY PRIME MINISTER MINNIS – 29 JANUARY 2018

National Address Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis Prime Minister Commonwealth of The Bahamas Monday, 29 January 2018 Nassau, Bahamas Fellow Citizens and Residents: Good evening. A belated Happy New Year. Upon our election to office, we pledged to listen to the voice, aspirations, dreams, hopes and desires of our people, and institute policies drawn from the […]

National Address
Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis
Prime Minister
Commonwealth of The Bahamas
Monday, 29 January 2018
Nassau, Bahamas

Fellow Citizens and Residents:
Good evening.
A belated Happy New Year.

Upon our election to office, we pledged to listen to the voice,
aspirations, dreams, hopes and desires of our people, and institute policies
drawn from the vast experience of Bahamians at home, overseas, and
including in the Diaspora.

We are listening to the voices of the people from Bain Town, to
Marsh Harbour, to Freeport, to Exuma, Andros, and throughout the
Bahamas, and from around the world.

Last May, I promised to address the nation at the beginning of the
year and mid-year.
Tonight, I report to you on the work of the Government since May.
I also wish to report on our ambitious agenda for 2018.
Our economic recovery has a long way to go. Many Bahamians are
still struggling. Unemployment remains too high.

But despite the long road ahead, recovery has begun and there are
positive prospects on the horizon.
We are making progress.

Our first mission was to stabilize the economy and public finances
in order to avoid a further downgrade by credit rating agencies. We still
have a way to go to improve our fiscal health and to get our financial
house in order. Through discipline and careful financial management we
are steadily improving public finances, reducing waste and addressing
corruption by public officials.

To protect our financial services industry, we took decisive action
to avoid being blacklisted by the European Union and the Organization of
Economic Cooperation and Development.
2018 will be a year of growth, investment, and new jobs and
economic opportunity.

My Government’s major economic priorities are job-creation,
opportunities for entrepreneurship, business development, and promoting
the ease of doing business in order to boost investment and improve
productivity.

The Ease of Doing Business Committee, which was appointed soon
after our election, has made a number of detailed significant
recommendations to streamline various government regulations and
processes.

My administration will aggressively respond to these critical
recommendations for government reform and modernization.
After consultation with the Central Bank, there will be a relaxation
of various exchange control transactions.

Without prior reference to the Central Bank, Bahamian-owned
businesses will be allowed to maintain operating deposit accounts with up
to $100,000 in foreign currency at domestic commercial banks.
These accounts will have to be funded exclusively from revenues
earned in foreign currency. This reform will go into effect on the first of
February.

To streamline the business licence process, the Department of Inland
Revenue is launching an initiative to make the business licence approval
process faster, and easier, by creating a single point for submission of all
applications related to the opening of a business.

This will eliminate the need for visits to multiple agencies, and will
provide a source of information where all the requirements for opening a
business are clearly outlined.

The Department is running a pilot program and the new process is
expected to be rolled out in the coming weeks.
The Government has engaged a leading firm to suggest options for
tax reform, which will help to rationalize government finances.

Fellow-Bahamians and Residents:
In the tourism sector, Baha Mar launched a new global marketing
campaign in November.
Grand Hyatt towers, which opened last year with 1,000 rooms, now
has 1,800 rooms available.
The SLS Lux at Baha Mar opened in November. It is expected that
Rosewood will open within the next several months.

Atlantis, Paradise Island, has also launched a global re-branding,
and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has been contracted to manage the
One and Only Ocean Club Resort.

Other investments in the pipeline include the 100-room
condominium hotel and marina at the Pointe, and a 118-unit condo-hotel
project by the Wynn Group at Gold Blossom, on West Bay Street.
We promised to give greater priority to initiatives to enliven and
bring excitement to downtown Nassau and execute plans for the continued
refurbishment of Festival Place.

We are already moving beyond this commitment and examining
plans for the complete redevelopment of Prince George Dock and the
surrounding areas.

We believe that the redevelopment of Prince George Dock is
essential for the redevelopment of Downtown Nassau. The redevelopment
of Downtown must go from east to west and north to south.
We promised to launch the rebound of the island of Grand Bahama
in accordance with a master strategic plan designed for Grand Bahama,
and to establish a tourism signature identity in the marketplace for the
Island of Grand Bahama.
The restoration of the economy of Grand Bahama is critical for the
economic recovery of the Bahamas.
I am delighted to tell the people of Grand Bahama, and the people
of the Bahamas, that our plan for Grand Bahama is well underway with
the private acquisition and management of the Grand Lucayan assets,
including the hotels, the golf courses and the casino.
Although this transaction is far from completed, it would not be an
exaggeration to say that we will have accomplished in a few months what
was not done in a decade.
This year, we intend to complete the sale of the Grand Lucayan and
Memories property.
After they are reopened, the economy of Grand Bahama will
improve significantly, including with a tremendous increase in
employment and related business and economic opportunities.

We also promised to focus on the development of Freeport as the
focus of an offshore technology hub.
Last week I led a delegation to Austin, Texas, one of the more
prominent technology hubs in the United States.
While in Texas, we met with several companies that expressed
interest in contributing to, and taking advantage of the opportunities that
are developing in Freeport.
We have also successfully negotiated with Bahamas Paradise on the
return of the Grand Celebration, and the introduction of a new vessel, the
Grand Classica, which will bring additional stopover visitors to Grand
Bahama.
In conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism, we negotiated
additional airlift agreement with Sunwing, which should commence this
year.

The Government has recently received an application in relation to
West End, Grand Bahama, for the Grand Palm Beach property.
In 2008, the previous developer went into foreclosure and the
Government has now been advised that Grand Palm Beach Acquisitions
Ltd. has entered into a Purchase and Sale Agreement for the purchase of
a large-scale resort known as “Ginn Sur Mer” in the West End of Grand
Bahama.
Grand Beach Acquisitions Ltd. will construct, repair, revitalize,
develop, and operate 246 rooms in three hotels,
a banquet facility, 116 branded hotel residences, 1,000 other
residences, a hotel/casino site, approximately 150,000 square feet of
shops and restaurants, a spa and wellness retreat, two marinas, an 18 hole
golf course including driving range, an IFR-rated airport, a resort
hospitality training academy, and an organic farm.
Grand Palm Beach Acquisitions Ltd. intends to repair, revitalize,
and develop the Property to be known as “Bahama Bay” in nine phases
over a 10 year period with a projected expenditure of Two Billion Five
Hundred and Sixty Million Dollars.

The application is now before the National Economic Council to
approve in principle, and to authorize the relevant government agencies
to negotiate a Heads of Agreement on an expeditious basis.
There is new investment in East Grand Bahama at the oil refinery,
which will help to provide a number of jobs.
To boost investment and growth, it is my intention to undertake
several investment promotion trips abroad to include Canada, the United
States, Europe, East Asia, and South America.
We look forward to the participation of the private sector in this
initiative.
Fellow Bahamians and Residents:
Access to affordable housing is critical for social and economic
development. This year we will introduce an ambitious housing program.
Through this program, the Government will provide extremely low
cost lots to potential first-time home owners in New Providence.

The lots will be supplied with necessary utilities. The homeowners
will be responsible for building their own homes.
They may utilize their own architect or utilize pre-existing plans
offered by the Government.
The potential homeowners will have two years to build their homes
at duty free concessionary rates.
Because the lots will be inexpensive, we expect scores of first-time
home owners to take advantage of this program.
The program will be extended to family Islands thus encouraging
family island ownership, second home ownership, and entrepreneurship
development of bed and breakfast properties.
This new program will decrease opportunities for corruption by
public officials.
It will also mean less public funds directed to ongoing repairs at
homes that were improperly built.
We look forward to many Bahamians taking advantage of this
significant opportunity for homeownership.

Fellow-Bahamians and Residents:
To encourage business development and small business, the
Government will this year waive the business license fee for new business.
To help with economic relief for small businesses, we will also
waive for this year, the business license fee for businesses making under
$100,000.

These businesses will still have to go through the licensing process
but will be exempt from the business license fee for 2018.
The Government committed to the enhancement and development
of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, known as MSMEs.
I announce this evening that we have agreed to invest $25 million
dollars to help develop MSMEs.

This will amount to five million dollars a year, for the next five
years. It will be funded from the sale of shares from Aliv and BTC.
This ambitious initiative will help stimulate the economy, and boost
growth and employment. The initiative has several objectives.

We want to enhance business development MSMEs through
innovative programs through joint ventures with the Government, the
private sector and the University of The Bahamas, to help provide training
and capacity-building for new and existing entrepreneurs.
The initiative will provide specific support for entrepreneurship and
MSMEs development within marginalized groups, especially poorer
communities and youth organizations.
This will include organizations that participate in the Over-the-Hill
Community Development partnership program.
If you have dreamed of opening a business or you are an aspiring
entrepreneur, I encourage you to look into this initiative.
Our goal is to foster a greater culture of entrepreneurship and
innovation, while providing support to existing entrepreneur curriculabased
programmes like Junior Achievement.
We will also introduce financial literacy, and entrepreneurship
programmes in the primary, secondary and tertiary curricula.

Through this initiative we intend to promote greater linkages
between Bahamian MSMEs and the domestic and international segments
of the economy.
To help stimulate business ownership and Bahamian enterprise, the
Cabinet has approved the launching of the Small Business Development
Center of The Bahamas this year.
It is an initiative spearheaded by the Government in conjunction
with the University of The Bahamas, and the Bahamas Chamber of
Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, with support from the
Organization of American States.
This Center will provide a resource for all Bahamians to receive
advisory and technical support when seeking to open a business or expand
their operations.
The Center will steer entrepreneurs to available funding
opportunities through government or private means.
It will also assist business owners in navigating through the
regulatory and tax registration requirements for a new business.

Another bold reform measure by the Government was the
introduction of the Commercial Enterprise Act.
This groundbreaking legislation will help Bahamians at home and
in the Diaspora in the creation and development of small-and mediumsized
businesses.

The Commercial Enterprise Act:
a. Encourages both domestic and foreign investment in The
Bahamas;
b. Will allow for the creation of certain economic zones where
deemed necessary throughout the country;
c. Targets specialized businesses in: Captive Insurance,
Nanotechnology, Computer Technology, Software Design, Data Storage,
Maritime Trade, Aviation Registration, Wealth Management, and
Manufacturing Enterprises.
The Commercial Enterprise Act will help to encourage investment
in The Bahamas, and places a high level of prioritization on Bahamian
labour and talent.

To improve transparency and to help small business to bid for
government contracts, the eProcurement and Supplier Registry system
will create a unique means of access that is simple and easy to use.
This registry will reduce barriers to access for small and mediumsized
enterprises and will allow the entire procurement process to be
managed electronically.
Users will therefore be able to access tender advertising, submit bids
and be advised of the awarding of contracts electronically.
The projected date for the launch of the first phase of the Supplier
Registry, which involves business registration only, is February 5th, 2018.
Phase Two, full tendering, will commence mid-2018.
On January 13, the Ministry of Labour and the Department of
Labour launched the first of its Public Employment Services (PES)
initiatives: “Labour on the Blocks”.
The initiative attracted over 400 Bain and Grants Town residents to
the Sarah Ingraham Park at Hospital and Cambridge Lanes.

This new program will utilize community parks to register
jobseekers in the Department of Labour’s data base.
The Ministry of Labour was very pleased with the turnout, and that
hundreds of job seekers registered with the PES. We are also pleased with
the level of private sector participation.
The second initiative in this series by the Ministry of Labour was
held last Saturday at the Kendal Isaacs Gym from 12 noon to 4:00 pm.
This event, a Construction Job Fair was designed for jobseekers in
the construction industry to register with the PES. A number of
construction companies participated in the event.
In the first quarter of this year, the Department of Labour in
conjunction with the National Training Agency, will re-launch the
Employability Component of the Citizen Security & Justice Program.
The Citizen Security and Justice Program, has the general objective
of reducing crime and violence in the Bahamas.

It is an ambitious social intervention program. The specific
objectives of the program are to:
(i) improve behaviors for non-violent conflict resolution in
New Providence;
(ii) increase employability and employment of the at-risk youth
population in New Providence;
(iii) strengthen institutional capabilities of justice services; and
(iv) reduce the recidivism rate among individuals within the
prison system.
This initiative targets five hundred at-risk individuals between the
ages of 17 – 29. These individuals will participate in a fourteen (14) week
Soft Skills Training Module at the National Training Agency.
Upon successful completion, participants will then move on to an
“On the Job Apprentice Program”.
This bold and revolutionary component, enables participants to be
paid a stipend, while at the same time gain work experience.

The Citizen Security and Justice initiative is both a social
development and an economic development program, which has great
promise to reduce crime and increase employment for at-risk youth.
My fellow Bahamians:
In 2015, the city of Nassau was identified for inclusion in the Inter-
American Development Bank’s Emerging and Sustainable Cities
Initiative.
The Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative was created by the
IDB in 2010 as a technical assistance program in response to rapid and
largely unregulated urbanization in the Latin America and Caribbean
Region.
Among the priority actions identified for the City of Nassau was the
improvement of the city’s management and governance.
A special study was recommended and commissioned to explore the
issues and options relevant to the introduction of local government in New
Providence.

I am pleased to advise that in a matter of weeks, my Cabinet will be
reviewing the results of the study, detailing options and models for local
government in New Providence.
This preliminary study was conducted by a consultant engaged by
the Inter-American Development Bank, in collaboration with the Office
of the Prime Minister and the Department of Local Government.
There will be a series of public consultations within the first quarter
of this year. We remain resolute in our intention to introduce local
government to New Providence.

Fellow-Bahamians and Residents:
Protecting the citizens of a nation is one of the most fundamental
responsibilities of a government.
My Government places a high priority on public safety and national
security. Crime is a dynamic and complex occurrence.
In order to successfully combat the criminal elements of today, we
must keep in touch with what is happening on our streets, and devise
workable responses based on an examination of emerging trends.

As a result of re-focused actions, the police with continued
assistance from the general public, the new Police Commissioner has
reported an overall decrease in crime by 13 percent compared to 2016.
Although homicides increased by 10 percent last year, we were
pleased to experience a significant lull toward the end of 2017.
The operations of the Guns & Gang and Rapid Response Units
established last year, also helped with the reduced level of crime and
violence.
Gun and drug seizures were significant as local and international law
enforcement partners strengthened their partnerships.
The crime fight rests not only with the police but with all citizens,
and the soon to be launched National Neighbourhood Watch Council, will
better empower citizens and residents in crime prevention.
In 2018, my Government will make significant investments in new
equipment and technology for the Police Force.

The Cabinet recently approved a $5.9 million new vehicle fleet.
This will be followed by renovation of the many dilapidated buildings
currently occupied by police officers.
The Force’s Training Programme will be revitalized where all ranks
will be exposed to best practices in law enforcement training.
The Government will soon review the Police Manpower Audit
which will determine the appropriate number of officers required to
effectively police our nation.
The Audit will not only end the need for prescribed promotion dates
determined by politicians but create a fair process that is based on
vacancies.
We will prepare capable officers for future leadership through a
Succession Plan, where only the most competent officers are selected to
lead the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
On behalf of the Government, I thank our law enforcement officers
and officials, along with their families, for their dedicated service.

My Government has pledged our commitment to ensuring that our
borders are properly protected.
The Royal Bahamas Defence Force is coordinating the development
and implementation of a multi-law enforcement agency, Unmanned
Aerial System programme, to assist our law enforcement agencies with
detecting, tracking, and intercepting criminals engaged in illicit activities
at sea and ashore.
The Force’s Rangers programme is being transformed into a Rangers
National Youth Service Programme. The nationally acclaimed
programme is designed to instill and develop leadership, character and
employability, as well as business skills among our nation’s youth.
With 33 schools involved in New Providence and 22 schools in six
Family Islands, the programme expanded into North Andros, Eleuthera,
and Long Island last year. It will develop partnerships with BAIC,
BAMSI and BTVI.
Fellow Bahamians and Residents:

Rejuvenating Over-The-Hill communities is a mammoth
undertaking. It will not be completed overnight.
But through medium- and long-term efforts, Over-the-Hill
communities can be revitalized.
Building on previous efforts, including road and infrastructural
works by previous administrations, the current government is committed
to improving the quality of life and expanding opportunities for residents
Over-The-Hill.
The Government is committed to a structured program of
revitalization.
The building of a new multi-facility community center Over-the-
Hill will help provide young people with a safe space to do homework, or
engage in youth development, and social intervention programs, including
healing, health and wellness initiatives.
The new center will be a hub of activity for the community,
providing counseling and rehabilitation services, as well as elder and child

care. The center will also provide opportunities for various sports and
other activities.
The goal is to help more young people to lead healthier lives, and to
refrain or turn away from gang involvement, enabling them to imagine
new possibilities for their lives.
The Citizen Safety and Justice Program will be conducted in unison
with these efforts.
This government will create target tax incentives throughout the
inner-cities to encourage new jobs and economic growth in these
communities.
The development of a Native Food Market will also help in the
economic revitalization of Over-the-Hill.
Affordable housing will be a part of our comprehensive plan.
The Government will work with community and church leaders,
business people, academics, artists and urban renewal experts to develop
plans for revitalizing Over-the-Hill.

Critical to the Government’s plans, are the four pillars for youth
development. These include:
 Education, Training and Skills Development;
 Youth Development Programs;
 Social Inclusion and Intervention Programs ; and
 Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Initiatives.
Fellow Bahamians and Residents;
On 27th January, 2014, the previous government entered into an
agreement with Renew Bahamas Limited to operate the New Providence
Sanitary Landfill which commenced on 1st August, 2014.
However, its management was replete with significant challenges.
The previous government found itself rescuing Renew from its woes by
putting out fires, paying contractors, and providing a loan to pay its
Bahamian staff and service providers to keep the landfill in operation.
You will recall that Hurricane Matthew hit The Bahamas on 6th
October, 2016. This increased the waste at the landfill significantly.

By the 11th October, 2016, Renew advised that it could no longer
fulfill its obligations under the contract, and pulled out of The Bahamas.
On the 31st October, 2016, the Department of Environmental Health
Services resumed responsibility for management and operations of the
activities at the New Providence Sanitary Landfill.
It is no secret that the New Providence Landfill has been plagued
with intermittent fires.
On the 5th March, 2017, a massive fire broke out at the landfill that
burned for approximately three weeks.
The fire caused an evacuation order and displacement of Jubilee
Garden residents; came close to nearby gas companies; caused the closure
of neighboring businesses and schools; challenged fire fighters; and
sparked an understandable public outcry for resolution to this vexing
problem.
Subsequent to an unsuccessful tender process by the previous
government, this Government released a press statement last June,
outlining the short and long term goals of the Government to address the
challenges and remediate the landfill problem,

One of the short-term goals of the Government was to issue a new
RFP for the management of the entire site.
In November, 2017, we published requests for proposals in the local
newspapers. A total of eighteen companies responded. These documents
are being reviewed by the Selection Committee recommended by the
Cabinet of the Bahamas.
A shortlist of potential investors is currently being prepared. The
proposals will then be evaluated by the Selection Committee. A preferred
bidder will be selected by May of this year.
Once the government is informed of the results, we will report which
firm the Government has selected to enter into an agreement to manage,
deconstruct and operate the New Providence Sanitary Landfill.
Fellow-Bahamians and Residents:
In the weeks ahead, the Government will report to you on a timeline
for the restoration of Ragged Island.
We will also report on our program to remove shantytowns.

A Cabinet Committee has already produced a detailed report that
has been discussed by the Cabinet.
The Minister of Works will inform the public in more detail on a
scheduled program for the repair of roads in New Providence.
During the year we will also make announcements on energy sector
reform and solarization, education reform, Family Island Development
and public sector reform.
My Government is fully committed to keeping you informed. We
will continue to be a transparent and accountable government.
We are a government of service not entitlement.
Unlike some others, we expect Members of Parliament to be
responsible and to pay their electricity and other bills like any other citizen
or resident.
Fellow Bahamians and Residents:
To build a new Bahamas is about more than jobs and economic
development.
As important, it is about the kind of society we wish to be.

Let us commit ourselves to volunteer and be involved in community
service.
Let us respect each other and act with civility by, for example
obeying traffic laws, and by not parking in spaces reserved for people with
disabilities.
I heard a story recently about a woman who went to relicense her
car. A young man approached her and asked if she wanted him to remove
the old sticker and apply the new sticker.
The woman told the young man, who was about 19 or so, that she
didn’t have any cash to pay him.
He responded: “That’s okay, Ma’am, it isn’t all about money.
She then said, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get back to pay you.
His response: “That’s okay. Do something nice for someone else.
That will be good enough payment for me.”
This is the best of the Bahamian Spirit, which can be found in many
wonderful Bahamians, who are a great promise and gift to our nation.

Our great ambition as a people must not only be about economic
recovery.
Let us aim also for the recovery of civility; the recovery of our social
fabric; the recovery of the community and a genuine sense of the common
good.
Let me close by thanking my colleagues and our public officers for
their hard work and dedicated services.
While we have some distance to go in improving our Bahamas, we
are well on the way.
We are embarked on the important work of reforming, modernizing
and transforming our Bahamas to make us world-class.
I assure you that I will devote my every energy to ensuring
opportunity for all Bahamians, especially poorer Bahamians, and our
children and youth.

May God continue to bless and guide our Bahamas.
Thank you and good evening.

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