Prime Minister Philip Davis’s Keynote Address at the 2nd Annual SDG Conference

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning. 

It’s an honour to join you for this 2nd annual Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) conference.

Congratulations to our SDG Unit at the Office of the Prime Minister for bringing us together, once again, to discuss the advancement of our SDG agenda.

Friends, as the theme of this conference suggests, the time has come to move from awareness to action. We have talked ad-nauseum about the need to make headway on the SDGS, as well as on the major obstacles to progress. 

At the top of our agenda is the need to achieve climate justice and climate finance reform to promote a just transition for The Bahamas and all Small Island Developing States. This applies not just to the achievement of SDG 13:Climate Action, but to all of our goals. 

Moving forward, in acknowledgement of the all-encompassing impact climate change has had (and will continue to have) on our economies and societies, we must fully integrate climate solutions into all of our sustainable development strategies.

As we accelerate the SDG agenda, we need to be mindful that not everyone in our society is aware of the SDGs and their importance to global development. They are not aware of the goals we have achieved or those where we still need significant progress.

It is critical to promote greater awareness of the SDGs, their importance, and the decisions we are making in relation to them.

But people don’t need to be fully aware for us to take action. In fact, it is through delivering action-oriented change that more people will become aware and buy into our collective vision.

Awareness isn’t always the prerequisite for action. Sometimes it takes those who are aware to take the necessary action to drive widespread support. Nothing increases awareness like the implementation of action-oriented policies that make a real, positive impact in people’s lives.

Academics, community organizers, policymakers, legislators, and government leaders have a responsibility to take necessary actions to achieve the SDGs and create a better society for our people.

As we endeavour to leave no one behind in a new economic, social, and climate reality, we must all play our part.

My government, for its part, is driven by a deep commitment to sustainable development, as many of our policy strategies demonstrate. 

We are certainly making ‘healthy’ strides toward achieving Goal 3, Good Health and Wellbeing. Improving healthcare is one of our top priorities, and we have been greatly encouraged by the success of our burgeoning NHI programme. 

We have revamped and will continue to upgrade health facilities across Eleuthera and other Family Islands, and last year we broke ground on a $210 million Health Campus in Grand Bahama. 

That’s a big deal for Grand Bahamians, who will now enjoy easy access to cutting-edge facilities and life-saving services. 

In New Providence, we are actively engaging stakeholders as we forge ahead with a new state-of-the-art hospital. We have also brought medical cannabis legislation as well as longevity and regenerative therapies legislation to parliament, further broadening the horizons of physical and economic wellbeing in The Bahamas. 

Our efforts at encouraging Bahamians to lead healthier lives is further evidenced by food security efforts such as farmers markets, and infrastructural developments like the new multi-purpose gymnasium in South Andros. 

To live well, one must be well – and so we are empowering Bahamians to take control of their well-being. 

SDG 4, Quality Education, is another key priority for this administration. The Ministry of Education and Technical and Vocational Training (MOETVT) is committed to increasing the high school graduation rate from 50% to 85% by 2030. 

To achieve this end, this administration has implemented the Bahamas Education Sector Transformation (BEST) Project – a $43 million undertaking in conjunction with the Caribbean Development Bank. 

This project involves the construction of the East Grand Bahama Comprehensive School and upgrades to schools across Grand Bahama, but also the development of a modernised IT strategy for the Ministry and professional development opportunities for some two thousand administrators and teachers.  

By investing in our scholastic infrastructure, our educators, and our promising young pupils, we are well on our way to securing a sustainable future for all Bahamians.

We have also made considerable progress on Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. We have grown the economy and pursued opportunities for business growth and job creation that have lowered the unemployment rate. We are launching initiatives like the National Apprenticeship Programme to address skill gaps and help our young people to boost employability. We have negotiated 30 new trade union agreements in less than three years, bringing better wages and benefits for tens of thousands of Bahamians, because decent pay is a part of decent work. 

In fact, we are the first country in the entire region to launch a second-generation Decent Work Country Programme as we pursue more opportunities for gainful employment and decent work for every member of our workforce. This is a testament to our dedication to creating a better world of work for Bahamians.

Of course, I cannot discuss sustainable development without mentioning our ‘new energy era’. 

An ageing 20th-century grid can’t support a growing 21st-century economy. So we are tackling the root cause of high electricity prices and unreliable power – burdens that have held us back for far too long. 

We are forging a just and environmentally alert energy future for our archipelago, one in harmony with SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy. 

Powered by solar and natural gas – two energy sources that are far cleaner than crude oil and diesel – our new energy era will see the modernisation of power grids across the country, bringing efficiency gains, lower energy bills, and new opportunities for Bahamians. 

We are tailoring our energy solutions to each island, while implementing an equity rate adjustment that will lower the bills of residential consumers. 

In executing a just energy transition, we are not simply reducing our nation’s carbon emissions, we are lowering the cost of living and the cost of doing business. 

There is an interconnectedness and synergy inherent to the Sustainable Development Goals, which means that progress on one front translates to progress in other areas. 

Take farming, for example. There are obvious implications for SDGs 1, 2, and 3, as well as SDG 8. While Our National School Breakfast Programme applies to SDGs 2, 3, and 4. This highlights the need for strategic approaches to national development that identify those opportunities where our investments will create the biggest ROI in terms of advancement toward the SDGs for the benefit of our people.

My friends, we are practising what we preach, and making change where it matters most.   

These are just a few examples of the progress we have made. But we still have so much work left to do.

As we move from awareness to action, be reminded that the journey towards sustainable development is a collective one. 

It requires the concerted efforts of the government, the private sector, civil society, and individuals.

We will do our part in the public sector, but corporate support and citizen participation will be just as crucial. 

Together, we can accelerate the SDG agenda and build a sustainable, flourishing future for The Bahamas. 

Thank you, and may God bless us in our efforts.