Prime Minister Davis’ Remarks at the United Nations Bahamas Partnership Forum 2023

[OPM logo]

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning,

When I was advised that you were hosting a second partnership forum, I was thrilled to have another opportunity to congratulate you on the important work that is being done through partnerships in the Sustainable Development space in The Bahamas. 

I applaud you for bringing together a dynamic group of stakeholders who are action-driven and future-focused. 

Action is what we need to drive the progress that has eluded us for far too long. As we set goals, we must move beyond “good ideas” and keep sight of the practical reality and challenges so that ultimately we can ensure the sustainable impact of those goals. This administration fully embraces the sentiment of today’s theme, acknowledging the need to turn promises and commitments into action, which we have begun doing since our first days in office.

We are now at the halfway mark of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Globally, particularly in the last seven and a half years, there was a concerted effort in designing and implementing policies and legislation around the five (5) pillars of people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships. 

As a small island developing state, The Bahamas has taken action in this regard – with limited resources compared to many of our global counterparts – and we have made progress on the SDGs. We still have a long way to go to fully realize all 17 goals, and, admittedly, the same can be said for many countries throughout the globe.

While we are making great strides in some areas, regrettably, some SDGs are still stagnant. Some have even regressed. We have just passed the four-year anniversary of Hurricane Dorian and, while the pandemic may be officially declared over, new strains of COVID-19 continue to burden public health systems.  Such unanticipated external shocks divert resources to recovery and restoration initiatives – resources that could be going toward progress on developmental goals. This highlights the great need for a global conversation around the development of sustainable funding and support mechanisms for small island developing states, like The Bahamas, to prepare for the anticipated toll that climate change will take on us. A large percentage of our national debt can be attributed directly to the impact of storms over the past decade. Global intervention is needed to break the cycle of ruin and repair faced by many countries. I will continue to advocate on the global stage for real action to be taken on climate change. It is a barrier to progress that threatens to destabilize countless millions of people. 

Despite the challenges we face, we do have the political will to continue to be action-driven towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. A recent Cabinet Conclusion further endorsed the SDGs in Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies. The government has been busy with many initiatives, focusing on an action-based approach to making progress on various SDG targets.

This administration has introduced the School Breakfast programme, which will be launched later this month, to tackle issues related to hunger. We recognize that many of our children go to school every day without eating a meal to start their day. This affects their ability to focus or be engaged in their lessons. The school breakfast initiative will ensure that every child who is in need of food will have the proper nutrition to set them up for success as they engage in their studies.

To address issues of food security, the government has launched the Golden Yolk programme – a first step toward food security – by empowering farmers to take over local egg production. This project will span over 12 islands to ensure the entire Bahamas will benefit from this initiative. We will invest over $15 million dollars into this project to create state-of-the-art feed mills and poultry houses that are climate resilient, energy efficient, and take advantage of new technologies to boost productivity and yields.

Our aim is to produce eggs across the country to reduce imports. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that in times of crisis, as global supply chains are affected, it is critical that we can feed ourselves. This is our opportunity to take critical steps toward food security.

To provide relief and reduce inequality, we addressed issues related to the cost of living. We sought out various avenues to address this growing concern by increasing the national minimum wage by 25%, reducing customs duties on essential food items, and reducing VAT. 

Each of these are real actions – policies that have already been implemented and are seeing results. Even as the external pressures of inflation have dampened their impact, these initiatives have improved and will continue to improve the lives of Bahamians. 

It is through the government’s action-based approach and practical policy solutions that the 2030 SDG agenda can be realized in The Bahamas. 

However, we can not do it alone. 

At the first Partnership Forum, I acknowledged the need for cooperative action as the accelerator that we need for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in The Bahamas; and those sentiments still hold true today. 

It will not be sufficient to continue to refer to the crises of yesterday as the reasons why we cannot achieve the SDGs in The Bahamas. 

We must innovate our way toward progress. And that innovation does not come solely – or even primarily – from the government. The people are the true engine of change in this country and it is through our brightest and most innovative minds that we will transform this nation by developing context-specific policy solutions that pave the pathway toward significant progress on the SDGs. 

So, as I look forward to the great work being done with Sustainable Development in The Bahamas, I encourage you to create new opportunities for partnerships as we continue to move away from words and promises and move toward real action.

Thank you.