Nassau, The Bahamas – While making her Contribution to the Budget Debate for the 2020/2021 Fiscal Period, in the House of Assembly, on June 11, 2020, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Lanisha Rolle said that her Ministry understands that its role and mandate is to lead in shaping the nation’s youth ideology, sporting methodology and cultural philosophy.
“Significantly, we recognize that we must do this with a great degree of adaptability in these ever changing times,” Minister Rolle said as she addressed the speaking point of the new environment post COVID-19. “‘Adaptation’ or the ability to change in response to one’s environment is one of the greatest characteristics of a human being.
“How we come out of these experiences or whether we allow them to propel us forward or hold us back I believe, will be determined by the extent of our ability to ‘adapt’.”
Minister Rolle said that what she termed the “Budget for the People” is designed to ensure that The Bahamas Government adapts to the new conditions in which it must operate, while maintaining a stable national outlook and preserving the nation’s competitive advantage in the banking and tourism sectors, two main pillars of sovereignty and national identity.
She pointed out that her Ministry is budgeted at $18,938,186. That figure, she noted, represented a reduction of some $5,143,194, a 21-percent budget cut in line with “the agreed fiscal austerity measures.”
“This simply means, given the changing circumstances and limited financial resources, a portion of the Ministry’s funds had to be reallocated,” Minister Rolle said. “This cut ensures that, in the given circumstances, there are adequate provisions to help with public health expenses, social safety net programs, job creation and sustenance, food security initiatives and tourism rejuvenation.
“What we cannot forget is that we are all in this together, and all food comes from one pot, and every man, woman, boy and girl, rich and poor have to eat.”
As she noted that “lots of work” goes into budget preparation, management and application, Minister Rolle briefly paused to acknowledge the “hardworking Management and Staff of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture who work diligently to facilitate programs, services and initiatives that support the youth, sports and cultural sector”.
“I also say thank you to our partners for appreciating the fact that these challenging economic times brought on by challenging events require all hands on deck in the management of our fiscal affairs,” she said.
Minister Rolle said that, where possible, most budgeted items – with the exception of Personal Emoluments – suffered a reduction to bring her Ministry in compliance with the required overall 20% cut.
“What this means, was that our aim was to ensure all persons who had jobs and benefits prior to COVID-19, maintained that status, they kept their jobs and benefits,” she said. “Maintaining the livelihood of Bahamians was and remains the priority of this Government.”
With personal emoluments not being included in the budget cut, she added, some items in accordance with actual expenditure carried a greater deduction than others.
“But, it is to be noted that no critical area went empty, Minister Rolle said. “The Ministry has dedicated itself to ‘adapting’ while maintaining the quality of services, programs and facilitation our Ministry offers. And we are thankful to the Ministry of Finance for their cooperation in this regard.”
Minister Lanisha Rolle stated that, from the onset of the COVID-19 lock-down response in The Bahamas, her Ministry has been in adaptation mode.
“We launched our Online Activity Platform on the 23rd March, 2020 – one week after the shut-down,” she pointed out. “This platform provided weekly motivational online ‘Stay at Home, Stay Active and Stay Engaged’ challenges with Youth, Sports and Cultural components.”
“These videos and messages inspired hundreds of other postings of challenges and online engagement by other civic organizations, families and friends,” she added. “We also used the available electronic medium to stay connected with our Ministry partners, while monitoring a daily COVID-19 Hotline to the benefit of the general public.
“Today, in accordance with public service policy the Ministry’s staff has returned to work albeit on a rotation basis with our office opening only for those urgent matters between the hours of 9am and 1pm Monday to Friday having commenced on 13th May, 2020,” Minister Rolle said.
While highlighting the major areas of the budget, Minister Rolle said it reflected an estimated breakdown of the Draft Budget allocation per Departments/Sections/Offices within the Ministry. “One important fact that is to be noted,” she said, “is that though the Ministry has suffered necessary deductions, the differences are not below actual expenditure. In other words expenses are in accordance with or below the approved budget estimates for last budget cycle.
“This means for example, athlete subvention was approved at $1,346,150 last budget period,” she continued. “The actual expenditure under that item for the budget period was $1,007,588 as per the date of the 2020-2021 budget publication. A difference of $338,562 was not spent based on the date of this record. This position would inform any reasonable adjustment or rationale for new budgetary spending.”
“I hasten to add for the benefit of our athletes of whom we continue to be immensely proud, that in accordance with the existing sports policy no active athlete approved for subvention would be affected by the item adjustments,” Minister Rolle said. “However, where an athlete is not performing in accordance with standard policy, the usual adjustments will be applied as recommended by the Department of Sports and our standard consultation with the respective federation sporting bodies.”
She continued: “This budget while taking into account the unprecedented times in which we all find ourselves has chartered a course that will allow us to work together to overcome the challenges of Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19. Towards this end, this FNM Government is leaving no one behind.”
“We have made the provisions for our youth programs to continue albeit under new conditions, and for our athletes to continue receiving assistance for their training and development,” she added. “We have secured the subsidy for the benefit of our cultural community in anticipation of among other events the end of year our beloved Junkanoo celebrations.
“We have maintained provisions for our partners to receive their annual financing albeit at a 20 percent deduction as mandated: And we have done this while leaving room to facilitate initiatives designed to invest in, and strengthen the youth industry, our sports sector and the orange economy.”
Minister Rolle said that, in an unprecedented time, the Government finds itself in an unusual environment, applying extraordinary measures, but all for the benefit and betterment of the Bahamian people.
She added: “When all is said and done, Bahamians will see beyond the noise and rhetoric and know as I know, as you know, as every member in this honorable House knows and agree that with this Government ‘it is not’ and ‘cannot’ be business as usual: These are extraordinary times that require extra-ordinary measures: And while the budget is unprecedented, it is a Budget for the people.”
“Budgeting is how the numbers work to benefit people.”