NASSAU, The Bahamas – While making his Opening Contribution to the Mid-Year Budget Debate 2023/2024, on March 6, 2024, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis noted that, when it came to the budget cycle at that time, his Government had taken “a balanced approach, prioritising the nation’s fiscal health but not embracing austerity at the expense of the prosperity of our people.”

“Our focus has been on the areas of our economy and our society, where we can see the highest returns on investment,” he said in the House of Assembly.  “Our budget represents a conscious choice made by this government to invest in the future of this nation.”

He added that since the beginning of the current budget cycle, in July 2023, his Government’s number-one priority had been national security. 

“As we speak, our Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers are patrolling our waters to secure our borders,” Prime Minister stated.  “We must equip them with all the equipment and tools they need to succeed. Our future depends on it.”

“Our police officers are hard at work using saturation patrols and increasing their presence on our main roads and in our communities to take back our streets from those who seek to sow seeds of fear and violence,” he added.

Prime Minister noted, however, that there was “no quick fix” when it came to permanently lowering crime levels. He added that The Bahamas had seen surges in violent crimes for decades.

“The truth is that the government and police force alone cannot completely eradicate violence,” Prime Minister Davis pointed out.  “We are dealing with an epidemic that requires all hands on deck – from our parents to our schools to our community organisations and churches; as well as our courts, our rehabilitative and transitional services, and each and every citizen. We are all needed in the fight against crime.”

He added: “That is why, in recognition of the need to immediately curtail the current wave while taking more long-term efforts to combat crime, this administration launched Crackdown 2024 to build safer communities through a focus on the five pillars of prevention, policing, prosecution, punishment, and rehabilitation.”

Prime Minister Davis noted that, through that whole-of-society approach, his Government believed that “we can and will make a difference.”

“We are using every tool at our disposal to fight crime,” he said.

“That is why you have seen an increased police presence all over New Providence,” Prime Minister Davis added.  “It’s why we amended the Bail Act so that those who break the conditions of their bail receive prison sentences instead of a fine or slap on the wrist.”

He noted that that was why the Bahamas was seeing more CCTV camera systems “spring up” around New Providence, more body cameras, vehicles, and other supplies for our officers, and an investment in more courts for swifter justice.

“Having a safe and secure country will remain at the top of our agenda,” Prime Minister Davis stated.

He added:  “An equally important issue that we intend to tackle head-on is the cost of living.  With the global shipping issues brought on by the pandemic, the volatility in fuel costs, the disruption to the global supply chain as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war, and now the unrest in the Middle East, the world saw a perfect storm for inflation.”

Prime Minister Davis noted that prices for many everyday goods rose significantly during that period.

“In the previous budget cycle, we hired more price control officers and lowered customs duties on nutritious foods,” he stated.  “But we know we have to take more significant action to make an impact on the cost of living.”

Prime Minister Davis said that energy reform was at the heart of his Government’s efforts to reduce the cost of living and build more economic opportunities.

“Prices are too high, interruptions to service are too frequent, and our aging energy grid cannot handle current needs, let alone growing needs,” he said.  “To create a successful 21st-century economy, we need a 21st-century energy grid.”

He added:  “Transforming, modernizing, and upgrading our old, deteriorating energy infrastructure is a matter of real and serious urgency. At the same time, and as you will hear in more detail from the Minister of Energy, BPL’s financial condition is dire – saddled with legacy debts and unfunded obligations. To add to the complexity and challenge, we are moving to upgrade our grid to be more efficient and to accommodate renewable energy at the same time that many countries in the world are attempting to do the same, and waiting times for critical materials are growing.”

Prime Minister Davis said that his Government was not daunted by the complexity of those challenges.

“We have been moving forward on four fronts – solar energy for our Family Islands, solar energy for New Providence, LNG as a partner fuel, and the transformation of our infrastructure,” he pointed out.  “These are all critical, and all interrelated – all necessary to lower prices, increase reliability, add cleaner energy, upskill and train BPL workers – and strengthen the financial position of BPL, so that we can carry out these transformative changes and meet our commitments to our Bahamian workers.”

Prime Minister Davis added that, in the coming weeks, his Government will be concluding complex negotiations, and the RFP process, and it looked forward to making “some exciting announcements” in the not-too-distant future.

“We are also making unprecedented investments in agriculture through grants and loans for farmers so that, in a few years, we can lower our food import bill and see cheaper prices for locally-grown produce in our grocery stores,” he said.

Prime Minister Davis added, “I want to emphasise the fact that for energy and agriculture and many other areas of development, our Family Islands are leading the way.

“That is by design.”

He stated that Family Island development had been “a priority from day one”.

“We’ve brought in billions of dollars in new investments, spread throughout our archipelago. Major investments in islands like San Salvador, Exuma, Long Island, Abaco, and Cat Island are going to create important opportunities. Grand Bahama alone has attracted over one and a half billion dollars in investments,” Prime Minister Davis noted.

“These private sector investments are accompanied by a number of government investments in infrastructure and roadworks throughout the Family Islands, as well as several major Public-Private Partnerships – most notably, the Renaissance Airport Initiative that will expand and modernise the 14 airports throughout the Family Islands,” he added.

“These major works throughout our archipelago have been launched during this budget cycle.”

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