Prime Minister Minnis 2021- 2022 National Budget – Closing


Prime Minister Minnis 2021- 2022 National Budget – Closing



 House of Assembly Debate

Closing Remarks FY2021/2022 Budget

The Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

21 June 2021

Mr. Speaker:

        As we look around The Bahamas, there are many signs of hope.

        There are many signs of progress.

This Budget is a sign of progress, with many examples of hope for a better future for the immediate and long-term.

But there is still much work to be done.

There is no time to rest.

We will not grow weary in well-doing: for as Scripture promises: in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

We are getting Bahamians back to work.

Our economy is reopening.

Our main industry, tourism, is coming back strong.

We are providing concessions and incentives for Bahamians to thrive in areas such as:

  • small business development,
  • tourism,
  • agriculture,
  • fisheries,
  • the digital economy,
  • the development of preschools,
  • the blue, green and orange sectors of the economy, among other areas of economic potential and growth.

Despite Hurricanes Dorian and Irma, despite the global pandemic, despite the financial mess the PLP left, this FNM Government has accomplished much, much more in four years than the previous PLP Government did in five years in better economic times, and without the unprecedented crises we are dealing with on a daily basis.

The Leader of the Opposition sat in that failed Government as Number 2.

He sat big and bold in a PLP Administration that talked plenty and accomplished precious little. 

If they return to Office, it will be much more of the same: talk, talk, and more talk!

Mr. Speaker:

        I wish at the outset of this Contribution to make a major announcement for The Bahamas and for the people of the Northern Bahamas and Grand Bahama.   

I am pleased to announce that Carnival and Royal Caribbean have agreed to a new combined investment of approximately $350 million in the Grand Bahama Shipyard. 

To understand the scale of this investment, the House may recall that the original investment and other investments to date in the shipyard have totaled approximately $250 million dollars. 

The new investment will match this and exceed it by $100 million. 

The proposed infrastructure works will replace the two damaged docks with even larger ones.

The new docks will be capable of handling and servicing the largest ships in the world!

This will result in a notable increase in employment and economic activity on Grand Bahama and for local businesses throughout Freeport and Grand Bahama. 

The Government and the owners of the Shipyard will work on a new partnership agreement that benefits the people of Grand Bahama.

More details will be presented in the weeks and months ahead.

But I wish to note that expansion works on the Grand Bahama Shipyard will begin as early as October 2021.

This is a sign of progress, a sign of hope and a sign of confidence.

Grand Bahama, like the entire Bahamas, is on the way back.

This is one of the biggest investments in Grand Bahama in its history.

I will have much more to say later in my presentation about investments that are on the horizon. 

Mr. Speaker:

I would also like to provide a brief update on the COVID-19 national vaccine initiative and changes with the Emergency Orders.

As we continue to reopen our economy and communities, we must bear in mind that we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is critical that we protect each island in our archipelago.

Measures have been put in place across our family of islands to control and to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

These measures include monitoring new cases, hospitalizations, and other health outcomes.

There were 23 emergency medical flights from the Family Islands to New Providence between the 12th of May and the 5th of June 2021. 

Between the 22nd of May and the 9th of June 2021, eleven COVID-19 Family Island patients were admitted to the Princess Margaret Hospital.

Sadly, two of those Family Island patients passed away during that period.

Our unique geography means that we must aggressively approach outbreaks in each island to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

This means implementing lockdowns, curfews and other restrictions when necessary.

No one likes lockdowns, curfews and restrictions, but they have been proven to save lives.

We have been successful in The Bahamas as a collective with this approach.

Most recently on Cat Island, North and Central Andros, and the Berry Islands, an aggressive approach to outbreaks in those communities slowed the spread of COVID-19.

Mr. Speaker:

A part of slowing the spread of COVID-19 is vaccinating our population.

We are making good progress with our national COVID-19 vaccination program.

But more people need to be vaccinated if we are to return to an even greater sense of normalcy sooner.

I am once again asking all those who are eligible to get vaccinated.

As of the 19 June 2021, a total of 79,246 doses of the vaccine have been administered throughout The Bahamas.

54,199 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

25,047 people have received both doses of the vaccine and are fully vaccinated.

Phase 2 of the vaccination rollout in the Family Islands, which includes the administration of first and second doses, started last week in Abaco and continues this morning throughout the islands.

We are grateful to the U.S. Embassy and to the Rhode Island National Guard for generously donating aircraft and pilots to transport the vaccines, health teams and volunteers to and from our many islands.

Mr. Speaker: 

The Delta variant of Sars-COV-2 emerged in India in recent months. 

We all saw the stories on the international news of the horror it caused and continues to cause.

India generously granted us our first vaccine doses.

We remain grateful for this gift and we send them our prayers in their time of need.

        A story in the UK Guardian on Monday, June 14, noted that the Delta variant has been found in 74 countries, and that it is poised to be the dominant strain in the world.

This is bad news.

Researchers suggest the Delta variant is about 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which emerged in the UK. 

The Alpha variant was already more infectious than earlier types of the virus. 

Researchers also think the Delta variant makes infected people sicker. 

Fortunately, early studies demonstrate that full vaccination with quality vaccines provides good protection against the Delta variant too. 

I want to again encourage all eligible Bahamians and residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible. 

Protect yourself. 

The vaccine is free.

Registration is easy. 

If an individual has had a first dose, they should make sure they receive the second dose for the maximum protection.

If you have not yet received a first dose, you should make an appointment today at vax.gov.bs or visit one of our walk-up vaccination centers.

Visit opm.gov.bs/vaccine for more information on the COVID-19 vaccine and the vaccination schedules.

Mr. Speaker:

In a post-pandemic world, travelers, customers and employees may have to use vaccination passes to prove vaccination status.

This could make it easier to enter certain businesses, countries or to be exempt from strict testing and quarantine requirements.

Previously, The Bahamas used a yellow immunization card issued by the Ministry of Health to confirm vaccination status.

In the age of technology, a digital vaccination pass is the most convenient solution for many citizens.

A digital record minimizes fraud, eliminates having to replace lost and damaged yellow immunization cards, and moves away from paper usage.

Mr. Speaker:

We are pleased to announce that we have such cutting-edge technology.

In this regard, our digital pass and vaccination checker may be the envy of the region.

The new Ministry of Health Vaccination Certificate, which is now called the Vaccination Pass, will allow users to show their vaccination status on their smart phone.

Businesses or government agencies can verify Bahamians’ vaccination status in seconds using the vaccination checker on the website: vax.gov.bs.

The Vaccination Checker and Vaccination Digital ID Vax Pass allows for the following:

The system will generate a Vax Pass after completion of two doses and users can download the same after login to the system.

Users can save the Digital Vax Pass to their mobile device, and it can be presented to the business owner or government agency for verification.

It will be saved to their phone wallet for storage.

The Vaccination Checker module allows business and government users to check the vaccination details of fully vaccinated individuals by scanning the QR code on the Digital Vax Pass and to verify the details.

While the QR code scanner can be used on mobile devices with cameras, any business or government user can verify the validity of a Vax Pass by simply entering the code manually to view the status details. 

If the Vax Pass is invalid, the system will show a message “Invalid Vax Pass” to the business or government agency user.

Mr. Speaker:

All anyone has to do, is go to vax.gov.bs, click on Vaccination Checker, scan the QR code or enter the BCV code and instantaneously verify the validity of the digital vaccination certificate issued after their second dose.

No special equipment is needed, and no fee is charged to users.

In the very near future, you will also have the opportunity to secure or purchase a wallet-sized vaccine pass card as another form of vaccine verification. More information will be released on this soon.

Let me note that the yellow immunization card may still be used to verify vaccination.

I should also like to mention that while they will not enjoy the benefit of the Vax Pass, Bahamians who choose to get vaccinated abroad will be able to register online, so that we have a better grasp of how many Bahamians are in fact vaccinated.

Mr. Speaker: 

As I’ve said before, the more of us that are vaccinated, the more we can re-open. 

The level of progress we have achieved on the management of the virus during this current period allows the Government to make the following changes to the Emergency Orders.

The following daily curfew changes will go into effect today, Monday the 21st of June 2021: 

  • On New Providence, the daily curfew will move to: 11 p.m. – 5 a.m. 
  • On Grand Bahama, it will move to: 12 midnight – 5 a.m. 
  • On Cat Island, to: 10 p.m. – 5am.
  • And on North and Central Andros to: 10 p.m. – 5 a.m.

There will no longer be a curfew on the Berry Islands and South Andros.

The RT-PCR test requirement for travel from Cat Island and Andros will be removed.

The RT-PCR test requirement for travel from Grand Bahama will also be removed effective today.

Currently, there is a $10 fee for Bahamian citizens and residents returning home who are vaccinated. This fee will be removed effective 1 July 2021.

As it relates to funeral services and memorials, the following will take effect today, Monday the 21st of June: 

On New Providence, funeral and memorial services will now be permitted in a church or other indoor facility in accordance with the health protocols of the Bahamas Christian Council guidelines approved by the Ministry of Health. 

There is NO requirement to be fully vaccinated.

Masks and physical distancing are still required.

Please note, repasts are still not permitted on New Providence and Paradise Island, Grand Bahama, mainland Abaco, Eleuthera, Harbour Island, and Great and Little Exuma.

The number of people allowed to gather in groups on beaches and parks will be increased from five to 15 on New Providence and Paradise Island, Grand Bahama, mainland Abaco, Eleuthera, Harbour Island, and Great and Little Exuma.

Mr. Speaker:

I mentioned last week that the country will soon be able to celebrate a Vaccination Day.

I envision that this will take place once Health officials determine that a sufficient number of the eligible population has been vaccinated.

In the interim, I am pleased to announce, that persons who are fully vaccinated may engage in the following:

Private gatherings and other social events in your homes and elsewhere may NOW be held provided that all attendees are fully vaccinated.

Wedding receptions will now be permitted on New Providence and Grand Bahama, provided that all attendees are fully vaccinated, with both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The hosts of wedding receptions, private gatherings and other social events will be responsible for verifying that guests are fully vaccinated.    

Hosts and guests will be subject to fines for non-compliance.

COVID-19 Ambassadors will continue to carry out patrols to reinforce adherence to Emergency Orders.    

All performance groups and artists, including bands, Junkanoo groups, dance troupes and acting groups may perform at all activities permitted under the Emergency Powers Order, provided that all performers are fully vaccinated.

Mask and sanitization requirements remain in place. 

Our aim is to fully re-open in several months if various conditions are met and advised by health officials.

As always, we will continue to follow the science and consult with our health team on how best to move forward.

Mr. Speaker:

        There are long-term structural issues we must address to promote more dynamic growth, more opportunity, and greater ownership of the economy by Bahamians.

One regional economist recently noted our long-term challenges, made more difficult by recent unprecedented events.

She also commended our 2021/2022 National Budget, which some dedicated critics sought to minimize or ignore.

Caribbean economist Maria Dukharan  stated in her recent analysis: 

“The fact that the government of The Bahamas has maintained a reasonable level of socioeconomic stability so far is testament to their capabilities, political will and ability to access assistance from external parties, including the multilateral lending institutions — most recently the World Bank.”

“By no means could this be an easy task, and the government is certainly dealing with a lot more than many, at least in a regional context.”

She added:

“I believe that the commitment to fiscal responsibility articulated in this budget and demonstrated by this administration is commendable and unique.

“I am not aware of any independent country in the Caribbean which has legislated and implemented any such fiscal responsibility framework / fiscal rules, without the commitment to do so under an IMF-supported program.”

She also stated:

 “… An orderly debt re-profiling exercise is preferable, versus a disorderly debt restructure / balance of payments crisis.

“It is worth reiterating here that any such outcome would not necessarily reflect on the authorities as much as it reflects The Bahamas’ acute vulnerability, and indeed, that of every country in the Caribbean.”

It is unfortunate that some local commentators are not as forthcoming in their assessments of the hard and good work we are doing in The Bahamas under very difficult circumstances.

I wish to remind the House and the Bahamian people that my Government provided more than $274 million thus far in direct COVID-19 support to take care of Bahamians during the ongoing pandemic. 

Through March, 2021, we spent $25.9 million on COVID-19 public health measures.

We spent $118 million in unemployment assistance for the unemployed and self-employed due to the pandemic. 

We spent $32.8 million via the food assistance program in partnership with NGOs. 

There was $44.4 million in tax credits that allowed companies to fund payroll for more than 14,000 employees.

There was $53.3 million in business and continuity loans and grants to small businesses.

We are living through the worst crisis in our modern history, much worse than the 2008 Great Recession, much worse than any financial crisis experienced by any government in an independent Bahamas.

During this crisis, we have not laid off any civil servants nor reduced salaries.

Many tens of thousands have been fed for over a year.

We have spent an unprecedented amount of money on unemployment benefits and in support of businesses.

Mr. Speaker:

        A story in the Business Section of The Nassau Guardian at the end of last week noted:

“A World Bank report has lauded The Bahamas’ level of unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, explaining that this country is one of a few in the region to offer unemployment payments to citizens not eligible for the National Insurance Board’s contributory unemployment benefit.

“According to the report, titled ‘Employment in Crisis’, only about one-third of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) offer a national unemployment income support plan.”

“‘Job displacement income support – programs specifically designed to sustain the income and consumption of laid-off workers and their families – in the form of unemployment insurance is, therefore, relatively rare in the region,’ the report states. …”

The Guardian story in the Business Section also stated:

“The report explained that some countries, like The Bahamas, offered unemployment coverage that was effective during the pandemic.

“At the start of the pandemic, the government created what is called an unemployment assistance (UEA) program, which was separate from the National Insurance Board’s unemployment benefit.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis in The Bahamas, the government has spent $16 million on self-employed, government-funded unemployment assistance programs, $134.6 million on the government-funded unemployment extension program and $97.4 million on the national insurance unemployment benefit.

“The report outlines how workers in informal sectors are often in danger of missing out on unemployment coverage in many countries in the region.

“‘Workers with formal but more precarious contracts may be statutorily excluded from coverage by unemployment income support programs’”, the report states.

“‘And even among formally employed workers with ‘standard’ employment contracts, effective coverage is disappointingly low. …’”

The Guardian Business Sectionstory also notes this from the report:

“‘Beyond the exceptional case of Barbados, whose system delivers benefits to 88 percent of unemployed workers, only in The Bahamas, Chile and Uruguay do national unemployment insurance arrangements appear to provide widespread, effective coverage …’”

 “‘Outside these three countries, even in the remaining few LAC countries that offer unemployment insurance, coverage remains too low.’”

Mr. Speaker:

        I grew up in Bain Town in moderate circumstances.

        My mother taught us to work hard, just like many Bahamians have always had to do to provide for their families.

        I learned some values I have carried with me all my life, including compassion and caring for others.

        We made do with what we had.

        But there was always enough to share with somebody else in greater need.

        My mother would say, “Boy, take this food to Mrs. Jane or Miss Brown.”

        We had to put money in collection every Sunday without fail.

        I remember reading some years ago that people who are poor often give a higher proportion of their income to charity than the wealthy.

        When I was growing up, neighbors took care of each other.

Mr. Speaker:

        When this pandemic hit, I knew in my heart, and in my soul and in my conscience that we had to care for the Bahamian people no matter what.

        People needed food.

        People needed some income in their pockets.

        We had to expand the healthcare facilities for those who got sick.

        We had to protect our people.

        I carried to the Office of the Prime Minister the values I learned in my youth from my mother and my older sisters and from the priests and sisters at Our Lady’s.

        I learned then and I still carry in my heart the commands from the Gospel of Matthew 25: 35-40:

For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick, and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Mr. Speaker:

        What we did for our people during this pandemic was not a matter of charity.

        It is a matter of love of neighbor!

        It is a matter of fairness!

        It is a matter of justice!  

        It is a matter of doing the right thing!

        It is a matter of faith!

        Given the circumstances, I would make the same decision again.

I would make the same decision again to take care for all Bahamians, especially the most vulnerable people and the poor in our country.

We invested heavily in small business development.

We spared little in upgrading our health care infrastructure in dealing with COVID-19.

We put even more money into funding for students at the University of The Bahamas and BTVI, so they can take advantage of a recovering economy. 

Mr. Speaker:

We are also continuing to invest in our inner-city communities.

Increasing water connectivity in Over-the-Hill communities is one of the commitments of this Administration.

To achieve this goal, the installation of water mains and lateral lines, as well as repairs to damaged infrastructure are ongoing.   Such works are completed on Quakoo Street.   

On Wednesday, June 16th, works began on Bola Avenue and are scheduled to be completed in upcoming weeks.

Forthcoming areas also include Filnest Close and Spray Team Lane.

   The Over-The-Hill Community Development Partnership Initiative is also currently working alongside the Water and Sewerage Corporation to facilitate residents getting their water turned on.  

Mr. Speaker:   

As of May 2021, more than $4.2 million in concessions have been granted to Over-the-Hill businesses.  

These have included waiving business license fees and stamp and real property taxes.

This facilitates lower costs for the purchase of commercial vehicles and building materials.  

I would like to remind residents of the Over-the-Hill community that under the Economic Empowerment Zone Act of 2018, you are also eligible to access tax concessions for the building and repairing of homes and other buildings.

Mr. Speaker:

The Over-the-Hill Initiative continues to partner with BTVI to enroll inner city residents in certification courses and job readiness programs.  

Such initiatives promote employment and contribute to the social empowerment of Over-the-Hill residents.  

The graduation of the current cohort of Over-the-Hill residents is scheduled for June 25th

Additional BTVI and Small Business Development Centre courses are being planned for cohorts specifically from the Over-the-Hill Community.

Mr. Speaker:

        There are also signs of hope and progress in direct investments.

International investors are confident about the country’s prospects.

I wish to now update the House on the redevelopment of the Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort on Cable Beach.

The redevelopment will cost some $37 million dollars. 

Preliminary work has begun.  The projected timeline for completion is early November, 2021.

When Sandals on New Providence reopens in a few months, they are expected to engage 1,000 workers.

The Bahamas is on its way back!

As another example, the well-known Rock House Hotel and Restaurant on Harbour Island, which closed at the start of the pandemic, is set to re-open under new ownership.

The Hotel is a 12-room boutique accommodation.

It will reopen this coming November 15th, employing 30 Bahamians.

Mr. Speaker:

         There is yet another development set for Cable Beach, another sign of confidence in The Bahamas.

Aqualina has recently been approved to commence a 75 million condominium project east of One Cable Beach, adjacent to the Baha Mar Resort. 

This development will be operated by Aristo Development the management company for several successful modern high rise condominium projects inclusive of One Cable Beach Development and Thirty Six Ltd. to name a few. 

Aqualina will comprise 27 large three- and four-bedroom residences each with an ocean view.  

Aqualina has completed all preconstruction and design work and is presently under construction with a full complement of Bahamian contractors.

At peak construction, approximately 300 Bahamians will be employed.

Aqualina is scheduled for completion in 2023. 

Mr. Speaker:

Our Administration signed an Agreement for Sale and a Heads of Agreement for the Grand Lucayan in Grand Bahama, for a $200 million dollar hotel and cruise port project with Royal Caribbean Cruise line and the ITM Group. 

Both projects have been delayed because of Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19.

However, both developers have confirmed they are moving forward and we expect the final negotiations for the Harbour Project and the Hotel to be completed shortly.

The Bahamas is on its way back!

Additionally, there are a number of other substantial and economically diversifying projects that we hope to share with the public as soon as possible.

They promise to have a positive impact on employment and on government revenue.

Mr. Speaker: 

        I was recently talking with a businesswoman in her 30s, who took advantage of a grant from the Small Business Development Centre.

This woman, a mother of two, is a resident of Carmichael.

She used her grant to fulfill a lifelong dream to own her own business.

She told me about the traffic she is now encountering on Gladstone Road.

When I was about to ask her about the traffic, she said, “PM, the traffic is a good sign.  This means that things are coming back.  Things are returning to normal.  I can see it in my cash register.”

She told me that her business was picking up and that she was looking to hire a few employees before the end of the year.

This female entrepreneur is one of many Bahamians who have had their dreams come true because of the approximately $64 million dollars in the multiple types of grants and loans we have provided for small businesses.

There is much more to come. 

I wish to remind the House that in order to help small businesses owners we introduced the provisional license.  

Such a provisional license is issued for 90 days to help small businesses get up and running quickly. 

While startups wait for approvals to be processed by other government agencies, a provisional license enables eligible businesses to move forward with critical tasks, such as opening a business bank account.  

We also reduced the processing time for business licenses. 

But let me be clear: there is still much work to be done to improve the ease of doing business and to get more Bahamians back to work.

Mr. Speaker: 

The Leader of the Opposition’s Budget Contribution was full of empty rhetoric and woefully short on substance.

If one accepts his ridiculous assessment, he gives little to no blame or responsibility to COVID-19 for most that has happened the past 15 months.

In his politically biased and bizarre view, most things the virus caused is the fault of our administration. 

I guess he will also soon be blaming me for climate change, the hurricane season, and everything under the sun.

I’m surprised that he’s not blaming me for the virus itself.

The COVID-19 pandemic is the worst global public health crisis in 100 years. 

All countries have been affected.

The virus has killed millions.

It has made hundreds of millions sick. 

The virus has collapsed the healthcare systems of some of the richest and most powerful countries on Earth. 

The global powers with the best scientists, the best hospitals and the biggest pharmaceutical industries have struggled with this virus. 

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the trade association for the world’s airlines, representing 290 airlines or 82 percent of total air traffic. 

IATA has announced full-year global passenger traffic results for 2020. 

They show that demand (revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) fell by 65.9 percent compared to the full year of 2019. 

IATA said this was by far the sharpest traffic decline in aviation history.   

IATA’s Director General and CEO added:

“Last year was a catastrophe. There is no other way to describe it. What recovery there was over the Northern hemisphere summer season stalled in autumn and the situation turned dramatically worse over the year-end holiday season, as more severe travel restrictions were imposed in the face of new outbreaks and new strains of COVID-19.” 

Our main industry is tourism. 

The virus all but wiped-out global travel for the majority of 2020, and into the early months of 2021. 

At times during 2020 our tourism sector was in complete shutdown due to the global pandemic. 

The Bahamas consequently faced the worst public health crisis and the worst economic crisis in its modern history at the same time. 

The misguided presentation by the Leader of the Opposition is mostly divorced from reality. 

To blame this administration for the hardships caused by the pandemic is immature political nonsense. 

My Government realized from the beginning that this was a historic crisis. 

We acted quickly to save lives.

We did not make decisions to be popular. 

This is the problem with the Leader of the Opposition. 

In my view, his utterances are often desperate attempts to appease the popular mood. 

Good leaders do not do this during a public health crisis.   

Mr. Speaker:    

It has also been disappointing listening to the Leader of the Opposition talk down The Bahamas throughout the crisis.

His desire has been to attack us, but what he has actually done in effect is talk down his country. 

In his Budget Contribution he was at it again. 

He criticized our country’s vaccination efforts.   

He even named places in the region he said were ahead of us. 

Quite a few of the places I heard him mention are colonial dependencies. 

Such colonial dependencies have their wealthy home countries to supply them. 

We in the independent developing world have to source our vaccines alone.   

While he had little good to say about his country’s vaccination rollout, the Leader of the Opposition sure seemed gleeful when it was time to get his shot. 

The Leader of the Opposition and his deputy are fully vaccinated. 

They were dead happy in the pictures they posted on social media when they got their jabs. 

Yet, for political gain, the Leader of the Opposition came here to be negative about our vaccination process. 

Rather than belittling the efforts of Bahamians like the Leader of the Opposition, I would like to thank Dr. Dahl-Regis, Mr. Ed Fields and other members of the National Vaccination Committee and staff of the Ministry of Health for all the hard work they have done securing and administering vaccines. 

I am proud of the work they have done. 

They are helping to save lives. 

I believe in Bahamian medical professionals.

I believe in their expertise and the care they render.

Mr. Speaker:

The Leader of the Opposition has represented Cat Island for four terms now, with his party in office for 10 years of that period.

He showed what kind of leader he is when he tried to talk about his constituency of Cat Island.

He was all mixed up.  

The members of Yamacraw, Elizabeth and Long Island had to help set him straight.

In fact, the Member for Long Island dealt with him quite good.

In the last administration he was the Minister of Public Works and the Deputy Prime Minister. 

He was powerful. 

In defense of himself in his budget communication, the Leader of the Opposition held up placards depicting plans and drawings he had for Cat Island. 

That’s him!  

All he could show were drawings and plans! 

He wasn’t even embarrassed! 

That’s the Opposition way!

That is his way!

They accomplish little to nothing for the people when they are in office. 

When they get voted out all they say with pride is that they left this plan and that drawing in place.

This is what they did previously with the Straw Market downtown, which the FNM ended up building.

We are not like them. 

We are delivering for Cat Island! 

It is under the FNM that the people of Cat Island will see extensive and expanded access to potable water, much more than he ever delivered. 

We are delivering historic infrastructure all across the Family Islands!

There are new waterworks! 

There are new roads and bridges. 

There are new passport offices in local communities!

New airports are on the way! 

 We seek to improve the lives of Bahamians across the archipelago.

Look at his record in his office.

It is very poor.  

Now he is promising the Bahamian people all kinds of things.

Mr. Speaker:

Exuma has been represented by the PLP in the House for many years.

But it is under the FNM that Exuma is going to boast one of the best modern international airports in the region.

The PLP talked about a new airport for Exuma. 

Talk is cheap, very cheap.

Their talk is very cheap. 

For our part, we are investing $65 million dollars in a new airport for Exuma.

We are repairing and reconstructing over three miles of roads in Black Point, Exuma at a cost of $1.5 million.

We will rehabilitate 10 miles of road from the International Airport to the Town Center, including isolated repairs in other areas of Great Exuma.

This is an approximately $8 million dollar project.

A new terminal building is currently out to tender for the Long Island International Airport at Deadman’s Cay, Long Island. 

 Tenders are due back in mid-June.

 It is anticipated that a contract will be awarded in early August for construction to commence in September, 2021.    

The civil works is part of the overall project for a new airport which will involve extending the runway to 6500 ft., and raising it substantially to prevent flooding.

The civil works cost is estimated at $10 million dollars. 

The development of new Family Island airports is part of our vision to ensure that our Islands help to fuel more dynamic growth for our entire country.

We intend to embark on an ambitious era of public-private partnerships for the development of modern infrastructure.

This will mean billions of dollars of private sector investments.

This may lead to much more dynamic rates of growth and greater employment, opportunity and ownership by Bahamians.

Mr. Speaker:

We are rehabilitating and repairing the runway at the Bimini International Airport at South Bimini.

The work includes the total reconstruction of the 6500 ft. runway with the addition of a new turn pad.

The cost of the project is $5.6 million with a duration of nine months.

This budget includes $1.9 million for the construction of a new school for East End, Grand Bahama.

It also includes $4 million dollars for a micro grid for East, Grand Bahama that is set to commence this fiscal year.

We are reconstructing approximately eight miles of road in East, Central and West, Grand Bahama.

The works will cost approximately $6.1 million dollars.

The Western Atlantic Medical School has already begun construction of the new medical school facility on Grand Bahama.

The project may represent approximately $100m being injected into the economy of Grand Bahama.

Initial construction for the first phase of the project has already begun and is expected to be completed by December of this year.

Phase 1 represents the first $33 million being invested and construction on the first 10 acres of a new building.

Phase 2 is slated to begin in January 2022, and be completed in December of next year.

We are extending for five more years concessions under the City of Nassau Revitalization Act to promote the ongoing redevelopment of businesses and properties downtown and in the City of Nassau.

Mr. Speaker:

We are now witnessing the biggest redevelopment of downtown Nassau in the history of The Bahamas, which includes the new Nassau Cruise Port.

To help boost jobs and businesses in our Family Islands we are extending for five years, the Family Islands Development and Encouragement Act.

This will mean ongoing concessions and incentives for Bahamians in exemptions from customs duties, business license tax and VAT for certain Family Islands. 

I am instructing the Ministry of Finance and other agencies to publish online the numerous concessions available to Bahamian businesspeople and entrepreneurs in every economic sector.

Mr. Speaker:

        It is vital as a government to listen and to learn from various criticisms and differing views.

Yet, over the past four years, and over the past year and a half especially, there are certain critics:

  • who talked plenty fool;
  • who did not have to feed the people;
  • who did not have to ensure benefits to keep families together and households going;
  • who did not have to make the tough decisions about COVID;
  • and who did not have to get the country ready for recovery.

My Government had to do more than talk.

 We bear the responsibility of governance.

We had to act.

And we did act!

We have governed on behalf of our people.

We saved lives and people’s livelihoods.

We do not apologize,

I do not apologize for borrowing to take care of our people.

It is still the people’s time! 

Mr. Speaker:

I note at this time that the Government will extend the national food distribution programme for a further quarter. 

This makes food assistance available to those in the greatest need until the end of September 2021. 

The Government will continue to partner with feeding and other NGOs on this initiative, with a further contribution of $10 million dollars. 

The National Food Distribution Task Force will be able to assist 18,000 homes that meet the criteria.

Mr. Speaker:

        To significantly boost growth and to address structural issues in our economy, we must dramatically improve the process for Bahamian and international investors to invest in The Bahamas.

Allow me to briefly address how we intend to become a more competitive destination for domestic, and foreign direct investment, known as FDI.

Every country in the world, large and small, including the United States of America, the People’s Republic of China, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, require both domestic and foreign direct investments.

Smaller developing countries like those in our region similarly require such investment.

Mr. Speaker:

A significant recommendation put forward by the Economic Recovery Committee and adopted by my Government is the establishment of INVESTBAHAMAS.

“INVESTBAHAMAS will represent a retooling and rebranding of the government’s current Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA), [which is need of extensive reform and revamping.]”

“[A new agency] will serve as [the country’s] progressive, autonomous and integrated foreign and domestic investment agency that will promote The Bahamas as a jurisdiction “open for business” for quality foreign direct investment.

“It would also facilitate foreign investment applications, and assist Bahamians in accessing business capital and…financial concessions.”

“INVESTBAHAMAS, [will be designed to] operate with a code of confidentiality, transparency and efficiency, [and] will provide a more modern, transparent and faster experience for foreign and domestic investors.

I will have more to say on our new investment process in the weeks and months ahead.

Mr. Speaker:

The shutdown of the cruise industry contributed to a significant reduction in our tourism business.

But cruising is about to rebound.

Royal Caribbean’s decision to homeport Adventure of the Seas in Nassau is in line with the robust investment they have made in our destination over many years.   

Homeporting cruise passengers will fly into Nassau to embark, spend time onshore, and at the conclusion of the cruise come back to disembark to fly back home.   

The spin off from this movement of guests may result in more hotel room nights.   

The weekly movement of guests in and out of Nassau will require additional airlift, the use of local ground transportation services and many other professional services. 

Royal Caribbean’s proposed developments and plans for increased passengers will result in business expansion for a wide array of tourism stakeholders.

These stakeholders include: downtown and other merchants, straw vendors, businesses at Arawak Cay and Junkanoo Beach in Nassau, hair braiders, entrepreneurs in the creative economy and other small business people.   

The stakeholders also include tourism service providers in Grand Bahama and the Berry Islands.  

I am pleased that approximately 620 local entrepreneurs in New Providence and Grand Bahama have attended workshops sponsored by Royal Caribbean and the Chambers of Commerce to learn about business opportunities generated by the introduction of Bahamas-based cruises.  

Royal Caribbean Group provided a $250K donation to the Small Business Development Centre to establish a fund that will provide start-up capital to micro- small- and medium-size businesses in Grand Bahama, Berry Islands and New Providence.

One of the challenges for us as a heavily tourism dependent country has been the question of how to better boost the benefits of cruising, including turning cruise guests into stopover visitors.  

This Royal Caribbean arrangement offers the best of both worlds: a cruise guest who adds on a hotel stay of one to two nights.    

Royal Caribbean’s pioneering Bahamas-based cruises will lead the way for the coming on stream of more such cruises, which may strengthen the local economies of our Family Island communities.  

A highlight of The Bahamas-Royal Caribbean dialogue has been the proposition of making Nassau a homeport and potential gateway to the Caribbean for more Royal Caribbean vessels. 

This proposition has the potential to make a significant economic impact on our nation, though there is still much to be done to realize this potential.  

Each year, Royal Caribbean’s ships bring some two million passengers to The Islands of The Bahamas. 

Perfect Day at Coco Cay is Royal Caribbean’s flagship vacation paradise established in The Berry Islands. 

Royal Caribbean’s plans for a beach break destination on Paradise Island, namely, Royal Beach Club, includes a $50m investment that will generate an extra $26 million per year in visitor spending. 

The company’s outlook for its investments in The Bahamas is quite ambitious.  

With vaccine distribution in active progress in The Bahamas and abroad, major hotel re-openings, and now the exciting return of cruising in The Bahamas, there is steadfast optimism that our country will once again achieve record-breaking tourism levels.

Mr. Speaker:

        Upon coming to office, we made a number of promises to the good people of Grand Bahama.

        Hurricanes and the pandemic resulted in a number of delays.

But my Government has worked tirelessly to renew and to restore the hopes of the people of Grand Bahama.

I wish to update the House on the Carnival Cruise Port Project.

My Government executed the Heads of Agreement with Carnival   Corporation for the Development of a $100 million cruise port.

The Government continues to work with Carnival on the permitting process and we expect to break ground shortly.

This year’s budget includes $19 million dollars for the Rand Memorial Hospital four-story expansion.

This is in addition to the new Pharmacy, the new Medical/ Surgical Unit, the new Maternity Ward, the new Operating Theaters, the new Infectious disease ward, new Cafeteria, the new ICU and the new Children’s Ward that were completed under Phase 1.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I said completed!

A committee has already been formed to assist in the design of Phase 2.

The Government came to an agreement with Hutchison for the purchase of the Grand Bahama Airport for $1 plus the assumption of a portion of staff-related costs.

The acquisition was completed early this year.

The government now has full responsibility for the Airport through the Grand Bahama Airport Authority.

As of May 31, employees are now employed by The Grand Bahama Airport Authority, following the completion of the severance process.

The Government has engaged Airport consultants Leigh Fisher who have already begun work on attracting the best PPP Partner for this project.

A new world-class Freeport International Airport is vital for the renewal of our second most populous island.

I am pleased to announce that the Government has approved the new Discovery Bay Project in Grand Bahama.

The Weller Group intends to develop a mixed-use resort consisting of a 25-key boutique hotel and restaurant, 30 residential estate lots, 12 townhouses, 12 bungalows, a beachfront rental pavilion, a 30-slip marina, to be situated in the existing canal system, and a back of house facility.

It is estimated that this investment at the end of all its phases will exceed $100 million.

I note that Doctor’s Hospital has announced their new hospital project in Grand Bahama.

Work on this new private hospital will begin this year and is being done in partnership with Cleveland Clinic.

Mr. Speaker:

        I note the major renovations to Freeport Post Office, which began last October, are scheduled for completion this September.

I wish to remind the House that the Disaster Reconstruction Authority “Special Economic Recovery Zone (SERZ) Relief” Order, 2019, will provide tax waivers until the end of the current fiscal year, June 30, 2020.  

We have now decided to extend this order for building materials, furniture and appliances to December 2021, and for vehicles purchased prior to May 1st 2021, until August 31st 2021, for these vehicles brought into the country.

Under the SERZ Order, the Islands of Abaco, the Abaco Cays, Grand Bahama Island, Sweetings Cay, Deep Water Cay and Water Cay are considered VAT-free zones for the local purchase of goods.

In these disaster recovery areas, VAT-registered businesses are expected to waive VAT for all approved goods at the point of sale.

For consumers, there is no pre-approval process; everyone shopping inside the recovery area is able to benefit from the VAT waiver at the point of sale. 

Mr. Speaker:

The Bahamas Development Bank (BDB) is focused on increasing access to capital and financial inclusion for all Bahamians.

        As recommended by The Economic Recovery Committee, BDB is actively pursuing projects and lending programs to utilize natural resources through expansion and diversification in the Green, Orange, and Blue Economies.

Women, youth, people with disabilities, and those who are socially and economically disadvantaged are the focus of special lending programs.

On the 22nd of April 2021, BDB launched the Englerston Community Grant at a town hall meeting as a pilot to assess the interest in microfinancing.

At the time of the launch, the total value of the allocated grant pool was $20,000 with grants of up to $2,000 per person.

The 26 respondents to the application showed that microfinance can support immediate economic diversification.

Innovative businesses in agribusiness, food service, landscaping, manufacturing, and others will receive grants to help them grow.

The Bank will continue to support successful applicants as they grow their operations.

This grant will build the capacity of these entrepreneurs and contribute to greater financial inclusion in vulnerable communities.

Given the interest and the success of the pilot, BDB intends to hold a similar town hall meeting in neighboring constituencies, beginning with St. Barnabas.

The Bank intends to increase the funds in the grant pool and expand the grant to all Over-The-Hill (OTH) Communities in conjunction with the OTH Office.

These grants will be factored into BDB’s current Global Climate Fund (GCF) application and increase BDB’s ability to attract non-reimbursable financing from external agencies domestically and internationally.

Additionally, BDB will allocate $500,000 for a microloan fund that will offer accessible financing to qualifying businesses. 

Mr. Speaker:

We are continuing with our commitment to empower Bahamians through land ownership.

This includes the transfer of Crown Land to Bahamians and making Serviced Lots available to Bahamians.

Serviced Lots are lots fully equipped with infrastructure.

I am advised that approximately 75 Crown Grants have been issued across multiple islands, including Inagua, Mayaguana, Crooked Island, Eleuthera, Andros, Abaco, Grand Bahama and New Providence.

An additional 33 Crown Grants are presently pending issuance, primarily on Crooked Island, Mayaguana and Andros. 

The names of these individuals will again be published in the newspapers to ensure that they are notified to collect their grants.

I am advised further that approximately 100 additional grants are in the process of being completed across multiple islands, including: Acklins, Mayaguana, Andros, Grand Bahama and Abaco.

Mr. Speaker:

The Government previously shared information regarding the Serviced Lots initiative in Carmichael Village. 

Considerable progress has been made on Phase 1, which will provide 107 properties to Bahamians, with a combination of serviced lots and constructed homes. 

To date, civil and road works are 65% completed. 

The electrical street light poles are installed and are awaiting the remaining electrical materials to arrive on New Providence shortly.  

The inauguration of this site is projected for mid-July 2021. 

Two-hundred and thirty-five individuals have already been reviewed to be assigned a lot or a house/lot package.   

Appointments have already been arranged for the first 95 individuals to be given letters of intent for Carmichael Village.

Mr. Speaker:  

I am delighted to report that progress is being made on the Government’s Prospect Ridge Community for Young Professionals, which will also provide Serviced Lots.  

        I am pleased to advise that the Department of

Transformation and Digitisation has again successfully worked

with a Government stakeholder group and will have the

Committee’s application for this Community online for the first

week of July. 

        The Committee will keep the application process open for a full six weeks.

        This will allow prospective applicants to become familiar with all criteria and have an even opportunity to collect all of the requisite documents and to obtain financial qualification letters from their financial intuitions.

The Government is also working to achieve a Public Private Partnership for the installation of the infrastructure in the Community. More details will be provided on this as it progresses. 

Mr. Speaker,

Our policy is to enable land and home ownership at various income levels, including for middle-income Bahamians.

We are investing in communities, groups and areas throughout The Bahamas, including in opportunities for young professionals.

What we are doing now should be considered a pilot. I have asked for an assessment to be made on the potential impact of a broader application of the policy. 

Some of the concessions being discussed for this community are not new.         Nor are they limited to individuals on New Providence. 

The Government enacted the Access to Affordable Homes Act in 2018.   

It is the same Act by which Bahamians in Carmichael Village and subsequent Government subdivisions throughout the entire Bahamas may receive concessions. 

By the Act and the Amendments being debated as part of this Budget exercise, applicants will be eligible to benefit from:

  • Exemption from customs duties and excise tax in respect of the import or domestic purchase of any materials necessary for the construction of a dwelling and for the furniture and appliances in respect of the dwelling home provided the home is completed and furnished within a period of two years from the date of approval by the Minister.
  • The homeowner will also be exempted from real property tax for a period of five years from the date of the certificate of occupancy.

Mr. Speaker: 

As I indicated, other islands are also included in the serviced lots initiative.

In the Central Pines Extension on Abaco, 18 lots are presently being prepared, with an expansion planned in 2022 for an additional 40 lots.    

In Spring City Abaco, 21 lots with homes are presently being prepared with the necessary works, with an extension of an additional 115 in 2022.

On Grand Bahama, we have made the decision to proceed with the McClean’s Town housing project started under the prior Administration and to add these properties to the Serviced Lots initiative.

We have already competed the water infrastructure started previously and now, after having been delayed for a period, we will be proceeding with completing the electricity installation. 

The McClean’s Town Subdivision has 40 residential lots, seven multi-family residential lots, and five commercial lots.

The residential lots will now also be eligible to the concessions available under the Access to Affordable Homes Act.

Additionally, being sensitive to the hardships faced by the families in East End, we have also decided to offer the properties at 50 percent of the assessed value.

The properties range in size from approximately 13,000 to 20,000 square feet. They were assessed at $10,000 to $20,000.

We will make them available to potential homeowners at $5,000 to $10,000.

Mr. Speaker:

        My Government is moving ahead with infrastructural works for the benefit of the Bahamian people and residents.

Gladstone Road is an approximately three-mile-long single carriage road that experiences very heavy traffic and delays.

We are on the way to converting this single carriageway to a dual carriageway.  This new modern carriageway will include the following:

  • four, 12 feet travel lanes, two in each direction;  
  • a central median with street lighting;
  • the improvement of the six major junctions to enhance safety and traffic movements;
  • improved drainage; and
  • properly designated and designed bus lay bays and shelters.

Sixty percent of the design for the new Gladstone Road 60% is completed.

This new roadwork will benefit the residents of surrounding communities, vehicular traffic, and the many businesses and institutions in the area.

Mr. Speaker:

        I wish to note two other iconic projects we are completing, which previous administrations were unable to complete for various reasons.

The Glass Window Bridge and the surrounding scenic area are unique in The Bahamas.

They will be re-developed for the benefit of the residents of Eleuthera, Bahamians and visitors.   

The Glass Window Bridge is in poor condition and a replacement has been needed for many years.  

The bridge only allows for single lane traffic and has a restricted load capacity of only 12 tones. 

In early 2022, we plan to commence the construction of the new bridge.

 More details will be offered in the months ahead.

A new iconic and well-designed bridge will become a signature landmark and will include proper signage.

Mr. Speaker: 

The member for the Exumas and Ragged Island attacked us on the issue of debt. 

Like the Leader of the Opposition, he too tried to blame most everything on this Administration and very little on the virus. 

We borrowed to feed our people when the global economy was in meltdown and Bahamians were in need! 

We borrowed to give our people record amounts of unemployment benefits so they could have some money in their pockets during a global public health crisis! 

We borrowed so we could support Bahamian businesses! 

We borrowed to help our people get through these tough times, as a caring Government should do! 

Governments around the world took on debt to support their people. 

It was a common policy for survival. 

To not borrow would have meant leaving Bahamians to fend for themselves while the world’s economy was in free fall. 

It is sad to listen to the Opposition. 

They have taken a cynical position.

They criticize everything we do for political reasons even if it is good for the people.

 In various countries governments and oppositions came together in this crisis for commonsense policies. 

Early in this crisis this irresponsible Opposition party moved away from consensus building.

The Opposition went as far as going against the public health emergency orders that saved so many lives. 

That was one of the most disgraceful political acts in our country since independence. 

We have used these legal measures to save lives. 

Mr. Speaker: 

The Leader of the Opposition engaged in some accidental humor in his contribution. 

He tried to pretend to be some sort of agent of change.

This is Laugh Out Loud laughable. 

The Leader of the Opposition is a relic of the old PLP.

He’s a symbol of the old guard PLP we defeated in 1992.

No Bahamian should want to go back to that style of governance.

There is no change with the PLP.

He kept referencing his economic plan.

The reality is that the PLP has no new plan.

They have the same old playbook.

It’s the same playbook that has guided that side for decades: They seem to prefer certain foreigners over Bahamians.

When they get in office, they forget the Bahamian people.

We are the party that supports Bahamian businesses.

We have pledged the historic sum of $250 million in small business funding over five years through the Small Business Centre for Bahamians.

We are supporting the hiring of employees in businesses through a tax credit.

We are creating tax free zones in the southern islands to spur on economic growth for Bahamians.

We are spending $31 million on resilient and renewable energy projects for Bahamians.

We are spending $70 million on a PMH expansion for the Bahamian people.

We have a number of coordinated plans.

One of these is the Accelerate Bahamas Recovery Plan.

We have circulated it to Bahamians and laid the plan on the floor of the House.

He likes to ask, “Where’s the plan?” after the plan has been clearly articulated over and over again!

Mr. Speaker:

I turn my attention to a matter brought up by the Member for Englerston. 

She referred to an opinion article that was penned by a former contractual employee of the Ministry of Finance.

I read that opinion piece, which was riddled with inaccuracies and misleading statements. 

I intended to ignore it, as I question the motivation of the writer.  

But given that the member opposite brought it up in Parliament I will briefly respond. 

First of all, it is mind-boggling that any member of the Opposition would raise questions about procurement practices given the patterns during their embarrassing time in office.   

Audit report after audit report found they were an administration that gave out contracts following no due process, and for goods and services where it was hard to find goods or services delivered.   

When we came to office, we found contracts for any number of vendors that did not go to the Tenders Board as required.  

We found contracts that did not go to Cabinet as required.  

Months and months into our term there were people coming forward with contracts that were signed outside of any procurement process.    

The Member for Englerston was a minister in that Government, as was the Leader of the Opposition.  

I do not recall either the Member for Englerston or the Leader of the Opposition complaining about the slack processes of the last PLP administration while they were in office.

Additionally, I pointed out before that it was that PLP administration – with the Member for Englerston and the Leader of the Opposition in the Cabinet – that promised new procurement legislation.   

But as is their practice, they were long on talk and short on action.

It was just another idle promise.

They never delivered.

It is astonishing that with their record the Opposition now wants to lecture this side on procurement practices. 

On the misguided opinion piece, I will say this. 

My Government promised procurement reform and delivered procurement reform via the new Public Procurement Act, which is scheduled to come into effect on September 1st, 2021.   

This is how we are different from them.   

On that side they promise, posture and pontificate.  

Yet, they typically fail to deliver on many promises.

Come September we will have a brand-new Procurement Act.  

It is an Act that is among the most progressive in the Caribbean, embracing all elements of global leading practices. 

It will require publication of all contracts.  

The article referenced by the Member for Englerston spoke to contracts awarded by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Works.   

The existing policy and legal framework for procurement has been adhered to in the award of these contracts.   

These were the same policies the side opposite ignored regularly.  

Where appropriate, the contracts went to the Tenders Board or to the Cabinet for consideration.   

Even though they used to ignore the guidelines regularly, this Administration is using the same guidelines and procedures for procurement that the side opposite left in place.  

They are the same guidelines and procedures that have been in place under successive administrations for decades.

The article referred to by the Member for Englerston suggests the Government ought to have used the procedures outlined in the new Procurement Act.  

This is strange, as the act only comes into effect in September of this year. 

The Ministry of Finance is busy putting in place the processes, procedures, rules, and training to ensure that the September timeline is met comfortably.

Mr. Speaker: 

As is our practice, once the new act comes into place we will abide by the provisions of the law and the related regulations.  

That is our way.

This brings me to my final point on the matter.   

The article suggests the Government has delayed the start time to September for political expedience.  

Let me remind the Member for Englerston that the Ministry of Finance has explained the September timeline.   

The truth is that the operational leadership of the Ministry of Finance recommended to the Minister of State and myself that the timeline be pushed back to September given the complexity of the act and the significant changes that are required.   

We accepted that recommendation.

We have gone on record regarding this already.   

We are the Government that delivered the most substantial procurement and public financial reforms in the history of the modern Bahamas.   

We are doing the reforms that were promised by the administration of which the

Members for Englerston and Cat Island were a part.

They never did it.

We are doing it.

Mr. Speaker:

I wish to update the House on the Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.

The overall project is approximately 60% completed.

There are a number of outstanding civil design matters to be completed. 

The contractor is in the process of executing the work required to bring permanent power to the site.

Further, the preparation for the field construction has begun.

Additionally, the scoreboard, seating and stadium lighting have been ordered.

Mr. Speaker:

        I have no doubt that Andres Rodgers cheers from heaven every time a Bahamian debut in the major leagues in the U.S., as Jazz Chisolm Jr., did last September.

And we all raise a collective chair when Jazz hits a home run.

Bahamians everywhere are proud of this talented son of The Bahamas. 

Mr. Speaker:

        This is likely to be the last National Budget debate before the next general election.

The preparation of a National Budget is a long and arduous project involving the entire government, including the many professionals at the Ministry of Finance.

I wish to express my gratitude to all of those involved in the process, which takes place over many months.

Mr. Speaker:

I also wish to express gratitude to those who serve our country in the House of Assembly.

I thank you, Sir, for your service to our country and to the House.

I also thank all of the staff of the House of Assembly.

I thank the Leader of the Opposition and his parliamentary team for their service.

May I also thank my Cabinet and parliamentary colleagues.

        I thank in a special way those colleagues who are not standing at the next election.

I thank them for their service and contributions.

        I know that they will continue to serve our Bahamas in various capacities.

The full measure of our contributions includes all that we do in many arenas and areas of national life to serve the country that we cherish.

May we all continue to pledge to excel in love and unity on behalf of our noble and enduring Commonwealth.

Mr. Speaker: 

        Allow me to close, Sir, with these inspiring words from a song we all know well:

“When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark

“At the end of a storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

“Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

“Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

“You’ll never walk alone

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

“You’ll never walk alone.”

We do not walk alone as a people, especially in times of peril, pandemic and natural disasters.

Whatever our differences, whatever our circumstance of birth, affiliation or creed, we share a commonwealth.

We are a Commonwealth of dreams, aspirations and a shared land and national destiny.

We do not walk alone because we have a mighty, awesome God, who abides within and Who walks with us.

We also walk together in a spirit of love and unity.

Mr. Speaker:

        I close by thanking the Bahamian people and the people of Killarney for the opportunity to serve.

Even in the most trying and difficult days of office, I remain grateful for the prayers and support of countless Bahamians.

Through the grace and goodness of Almighty God and the hard work, prayers and hope of the Bahamian people, The Bahamas is coming back.

      We are coming back stronger, more resilient and more determined.

      We are coming back!

      May God continue to bless you Mr. Speaker and to bless the Members of the People’s House.

May God bless our Bahamas.

     I so move.

____