Your Excellency, the Governor-General and Mrs. Smith,
First Lady, my wife Ann-Marie,
Deputy Prime Minister I Chester Cooper & Mrs. Cooper,
Honourable and Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Throughout my tenure both inside and outside of government, I have highlighted my belief that producing real and enduring progress for our country relies on partnership:
Partnership of the Bahamian people in their communities, partnership between the people and their government; and partnership within government, across Ministries.
We take office facing not one enormous crisis but several.
The severity of the fiscal crisis cannot be overstated, and our economic crisis is intertwined with our health crisis.
These are not distant problems seen only on the evening news – these are problems that are present in the daily lives of Bahamian families across the country.
Many thousands of Bahamians are out of work.
People can’t pay their bills.
We are losing too many loved ones to the virus.
Bahamian schoolchildren are falling behind.
Too many young people can’t see a future here.
I want to be clear: we are not here to tinker at the edges of these problems.
We are here to meet them head-on.
The Deputy Prime Minister and I share a bias in favour of both innovation and action.
With this in mind, I am honoured to introduce you to the first set of ministers who are being sworn in today.
They are the initial members of a Cabinet which will reflect the breadth and depth of the competencies and characteristics of our team: experience combined with innovation; expertise combined with a willingness to see things anew; integrity and a strong sense of purpose.
They are receiving these appointments because of their determination to get things done.
I begin with Foreign Affairs.
Our country’s role in international affairs has not been especially clear or prominent in recent times.
Yet during a global pandemic and in a time of economic upheaval that transcends borders.
International cooperation has never been so important.
We will work with international partners to increase our supply of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments; we will work with international investors to increase faith in our government and economy; and we will build international partnerships to fight very urgent climate change battles.
I have asked the HON. FRED MITCHELL to deploy his experience and vast network of international contacts as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
We have long recognised that education is the clearest path to success for the Bahamian people.
I have invited the HON. MRS. GLENYS HANNA-MARTIN to serve as our next Minister of Education. Her passionate advocacy for uplifting the Bahamian people, especially young people, is well known.
No one believes more fiercely in our Bahamian children.
I know she will work all day, every day, to ensure young Bahamians are fully prepared to participate and succeed in our economy, and in our national life.
The Ministry of Works and Utilities combines under one umbrella, the various departments and agencies that support the physical infrastructure of The Bahamas.
We are deeply troubled by the fact that agencies such as BPL and the Water and Sewerage Corporation, have become more associated with a lack of transparency and accountability, in procurement and contracting, rather than delivering a high-quality service.
As Minister of Works and Utilities, the HON. ALFRED SEARS, QC will bring integrity, intelligence and efficiency to these critical portfolios.
We take office at a time when our public health system is collapsing under the weight of the COVID-19 virus.
I believe there is no one better to lead us forward than the HON. DR. MICHAEL DARVILLE.
As well as being a distinguished family doctor, he is a successful businessman.
He will focus on saving lives, and strengthening our public health capacity, in partnership with medical professionals and with the private sector.
I know he will implement our COVID-19 Action Plan with both urgency and professionalism.
SENATOR THE HON. MICHAEL HALKITIS will bring considerable acumen and aptitude to his new role as Minister of Economic Affairs.
He will oversee the financial services industry and trade, take on the crucial task of improving our country’s ease of doing business, and direct our country’s digitalisation efforts.
He will play an important role in helping to stabilise the country’s finances.
In recent months, we have highlighted how diversifying our economy can improve the prosperity and security of our country.
The HON. CLAY SWEETING, who will serve as Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs, has intimate, first-hand knowledge of his portfolio.
At the age of 23, he was elected to serve in Local Government in Spanish Wells, the youngest person ever to serve in Local Government.
A former fisherman and businessman, and Deputy Chairman of the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation, he is ideally positioned to spearhead our administration’s agenda in the Green and Blue Economies.
Issues relating to national security have, in recent times. tended to be viewed in the narrow context of policing.
But national security should encompass a broader set of concerns.
We will secure our borders, and we will maintain civil order.
Law and order are essential governmental functions.
But we are also determined to ensure that the rights of the Bahamian people are respected.
Too often in recent years Bahamians had reason to believe that laws were being unfairly and unevenly enforced.
A democracy cannot be strong when citizens with fewer advantages believe they are living under a different set of rules than the more privileged.
As Minister of National Security, noted human rights lawyer and formidable legal expert, the HON. WAYNE MUNROE, QC will bring balance and fairness to the way that the state interacts with the people.
At a time when we need to negotiate, and renegotiate, a variety of complex and multifaceted legal, commercial, and financial obligations, I have invited SENATOR THE HON. L. RYAN PINDER to act as our nation’s Attorney-General.
As a renowned tax attorney and as the former Minister of Financial Services, he brings valuable expertise to the role of the government’s chief legal advisor.
In particular, I will be asking him to focus on ensuring that our proposals to encourage and support Bahamian entrepreneurs, business-people and investors, are translated into effective legislation, and to review existing legislation to understand the impact on the business community and make amendments as necessary to support kickstarting our economy and job creation.
To support the work of the Attorney-General, I have invited the HON. JOMO SHAKA CAMPBELL to serve as Minister of State for Legal Affairs.
As a litigator with enormous experience in both criminal and civil matters, he will be responsible for much of the ordinary business of that office.
I am confident that these first-appointed members of our Cabinet team are ready to deliver on the promise of a New Day for our Bahamas.
A lot of people are suffering and there is a lot of work to do.
We are not going to ease into things slowly – we are going to move with the urgency that this moment requires.
May God continue to shine His blessings upon us all, and may God continue to bless The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.