GEORGE TOWN, Exuma – Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis officially opened a satellite Passport Office on Exuma today as part of the Government’s strategy to improve passport services throughout the country.
Prime Minister Minnis said the inauguration of the Exuma Passport Office demonstrates the Government’s commitment to Exuma’s development, and Family Islands in general, as centers of opportunity and growth.
“In our 2017 Manifesto, we said we would implement measures to expedite the delivery of passport and consular services to Bahamians and that special attention would be paid to residents in the Family Islands and overseas,” said the Prime Minister.
“We were determined to eliminate and reduce the many expenses associated with Family Island residents getting a new passport.
“You will no longer have to bear the costs of airline tickets, other transportation and in some instances, accommodations associated with travel to New Providence for first-time applicants and for renewal of passports.”
The Exuma office went live for trial on 27 January 2021 and has so far enrolled 99 applicants.
Fourteen have been completed and returned to Exuma last week, and four more were set to arrive on 12 February.
“This is a wonderful accomplishment,” Prime Minister said. “It represents a new day for Exuma, with another government service available in your community.”
By mid-March, an additional satellite office is set to open in Inagua. Shortly thereafter, offices will also open on Eleuthera and Long Island.
Prime Minister Minnis said those islands were selected based on location and demographic considerations.
“The Passport Office continues to serve as a leader among government agencies in the use of digital technology,” said the Prime Minister.
He noted that the new Epics system facilitates the turn-around of passports within five to seven working days. The passport delivery time to the Abaco and Freeport offices and overseas consulates has been reduced to seven to 10 working days.
Since the system has gone live, more than 140,000 passports have been issued.
More than 10,000 renewal applications were received on the online portal, said the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Minnis acknowledged the financial challenges faced by Exuma residents due to the COVID-19 pandemic but noted that the economy will begin to improve as the world reopens.
He pointed out that a number of small businesses in Exuma have received funding from the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC).
Twenty businesses have been approved for funding at a value of $476,411 with disbursements so far totaling $256,000 said the Prime Minister.
“Things will get better throughout the country and throughout Exuma,” said Prime Minister Minnis. “A better future is in sight.”