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New Housing and Environment Minister sets plan for Ministry

New Environment Minister Ken Dorsett sets the record straight!

MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND HOUSING
CONTRIBUTION TO THE BUDGET DEBATE 2012/2013

THE HONOURABLE KENRED DORSETT,
MINISTER OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND HOUSING

HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

11TH JUNE, 2012

MR. SPEAKER, FIRST AND FOREMOST I MUST ACKNOWLEDGE THE GRACES AFFORDED ME BY THE ALMIGHTY GOD, WHO IS MY SOURCE OF STRENGTH.

MR. SPEAKER, IT IS INDEED AN HONOUR AND A PRIVILEGE FOR ME TO ADDRESS THIS AUGUST BODY, ON THIS MY INAUGURAL CONTRIBUTION TO THE GOVERNMENT’S ANNUAL BUDGET DEBATE.  IN THIS REGARD, I RISE BY AND ON BEHALF OF THE WONDERFUL PEOPLE OF SOUTHERN SHORES AND ONCE AGAIN, I WISH TO TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO THANK THEM FOR MAKING IT POSSIBLE FOR ME TO BE HERE TODAY. I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO THANK THOSE MEMBERS OF MY CONSTITUENCY WHO ARE HERE TODAY IN THE GALLERY.

MR. SPEAKER, I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO THANK THE RT. HON. PRIME MINISTER AND MEMBER FOR CENTREVILLE, FOR PLACING HIS CONFIDENCE IN ME AS A MINISTER IN HIS GOVERNMENT AND ALLOWING ME TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR TWO SIGNIFICANT PORTFOLIOS THE ENVIRONMENT AND HOUSING.

I AM HONOURED TO BE ABLE TO SERVE ON THE RIGHT HONOURABLE MEMBER’S ELITE TEAM AND I ASSURE HIM  THAT I WILL NOT LET HIM OR THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE DOWN.

MR. SPEAKER, BEFORE DELVING INTO MY CONTRIBUTION, I WOULD LIKE TO EXTEND CONDOLENCES TO THE FAMILY OF THE LATE SIDNEY WHYLLEY. MR. WHYLLY WAS A COMMITTED AND HARD WORKING MEMBER OF TEAM DORSETT AND HIS EFFORTS CONTRIBUTED TO MY VICTORY AT THE POLLS ON THE 7TH MAY, 2012. THE DAY AFTER THE ELECTION SIDNEY WAS HOSPITALISED AND A FEW DAYS AGO, HE PASSED AWAY. HE WILL BE MISSED BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN AND MAY HIS SOUL REST IN PEACE.

MR. SPEAKER, I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO EXTEND CONGRATULATIONS TO THE GRADUATING CLASS OF ANATOL RODGERS WHOSE GRADUATING CEREMONY WAS LAST WEEK FRIDAY AND THE GRADUATING CLASS OF GERALD CASH, WHOSE GRADUATING CEREMONY WAS YESTERDAY. I WISH ALL OF YOU THE BEST AND I ENCOURAGE YOU TO PURSUE EXCELLENCE IN ALL THAT YOU DO AND REMEMBER THAT IF YOU PUT GOD FIRST IN ALL THAT YOU SAY, THINK OR DO YOU WILL BEING MAKING A SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION TO MAKING OUR COUNTRY AND THIS WORLD A BETTER PLACE.

MR. SPEAKER, THE TASK OF FULFILLING THIS GOVERNMENT’S OBLIGATIONS IN THE AREAS OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND HOUSING IS A LARGE AND VERY IMPORTANT ONE. NO DOUBT, WE ALL KNOW THAT A TASK SUCH AS THE ONE THAT I HAVE BEEN GIVEN REQUIRES MONEY.  MY TASK MR. SPEAKER WILL BE INCREASINGLY CHALLENGING CONSIDERING THE HUGE DEFICIT OF $504 MILLION DOLLARS LEFT BEHIND BY THE FORMER ADMINISTRATION AND INCURRED DUE TO MISMANAGEMENT AND RECKLESS SPENDING .

INDEED MR. SPEAKER, THE COST OVERRUNS OF THE NEW PROVIDENCE ROADWORKS ALONE, WHICH EXCEED $100 MILLION DOLLARS, COULD HAVE WORKED WONDERS IF MADE AVAILABLE TO MY MINISTRY. JUST THINK OF THE POSSIBILITIES MR. SPEAKER! DO YOU REALIZE HOW MANY HOMES WE COULD BUILD? AS A MATTER OF FACT, TECHNICAL ADVISERS WITHIN MY MINISTRY HAVE ADVISED THAT IT WOULD TAKE APPROXIMATELY $53 MILLION DOLLARS TO COMPLETE PROJECT CONTRACT TOTALS FOR ALL ACTIVE SUBDIVISIONS AND APPROXIMATELY $16 MILLION DOLLARS FOR REQUESTED PROJECTS.  THAT IS A TOTAL OF APPROXIMATELY $69 MILLION DOLLARS!!! THEREFORE, MR. SPEAKER, ALL OF THE ACTIVE AND PROPOSED PROJECTS WOULD HAVE BEEN PAID FOR WITH ADDITIONAL RESOURCES TO SPARE IF THOSE MONIES WERE INVESTED IN HOUSING FOR THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE. MR. SPEAKER THE FORMER ADMINISTRATION DESERVE MORE THAN JUST AN ELECTION DEFEAT! THE PEOPLE OF THE BAHAMAS MUST BE CONSTANTLY REMINDED OF WHAT THEY DID AND DID NOT DO! WHILE THEY USED WORDS LIKE “TRANSPARENCY” AND “HONEST REPRESENTATION” TO DESCRIBE THEIR ACTIONS, I THINK THE FACTS AND INFORMATION TO BE DISCLOSED DURING THIS BUDGET DEBATE AND THE MONTHS AHEAD WILL EVIDENCE THAT THE FORMER ADMINISTRATION WERE FAR FROM TRANSPARENT AND DID NOT IN MY OPINION PROVIDE HONEST REPRESENTATION.

MR. SPEAKER, THE MERGING OF THESE TWO CRITICAL ELEMENTS (HOUSING & ENVIRONMENT) PROVIDES THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO ACHIEVE BALANCE IN ITS DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS.  UNDOUBTEDLY, ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT NATIONAL AND GLOBAL ISSUES OF TODAY.  AT THE SAME TIME, THE RIGHT OF EVERY SINGLE BAHAMIAN TO HAVE DECENT, AFFORDABLE HOUSING IS A LONG ESTABLISHED BASIC RIGHT. WE BELIEVE IN THE BAHAMAS AND WE BELIEVE IN BAHAMIANS. I WANT MY FELLOW BAHAMIANS TO KNOW AND BE ASSURED THAT MY MINISTRY WILL WORK HARD TO PROTECT THE RIGHT OF PRESENT AND FUTURE GENERATIONS OF BAHAMIANS TO LIVE IN A CLEAN, HEALTHY, GREEN ENVIRONMENT AND MAKE PROVISION FOR THOSE NEEDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING.

ACCORDINGLY, WE COMMIT TO DEVELOP HOUSING SUBDIVISIONS AND PUBLIC RENTAL UNITS IN AN ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE MANNER.   WE COMMIT TO ASSISTING THE MINISTRY OF WORKS AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT IN RELATION TO ITS MANDATE TO PROVIDE HOUSING IN URBAN AREAS UNDER THE URBAN RENEWAL PROGRAMME.

MR. SPEAKER, AS GOVERNMENT’S RESOURCES PERMIT, WE SHALL SEEK TO ENSURE THAT GREEN SPACES AND PARKS BECOME A REGULAR FEATURE OF EACH AND EVERY SUBDIVISION.  THIS GOVERNMENT’S COMMITMENT TO FACILITATING ITS ENVIRONMENT AND HOUSING COMPONENTS IS SHOWN BY THE BUDGETED SUM OF $4,366,352.00.

MR. SPEAKER, THE PORTFOLIO FOR THE MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND HOUSING IN THIS ADMINISTRATION REQUIRES FOCUSED ATTENTION BY HAVING ITS STAFF UNDER ONE ROOF.  THEREFORE, OVER THE NEXT FEW MONTHS WE WILL MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO SECURE ADEQUATE ACCOMMODATIONS TO MERGE ALL ADMINISTRATIVE, SUPPORT AND TECHNICAL STAFF PREVIOUSLY SERVING IN THE MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE MINISTRY OF HOUSING.

MR. SPEAKER, THE BAHAMAS HAS BEEN BLESSED WITH THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SEAS, INDIGENOUS ANIMALS, AND NATURAL FAUNA TO BE FOUND ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.   SINCE ASSUMING RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT ONLY A FEW WEEKS AGO, I HAVE BEEN SADDENED TO LEARN THAT THERE IS MUCH WHICH THREATENS OUR NATURAL ENVIRONMENT.  REGRETTABLY, MANKIND IS THE CHIEF OFFENDER. OUR OBJECTIVE IS TO EDUCATE AND INFORM OUR CITIZENRY ABOUT SUCH THREATS AND ADVANCE AN AGENDA TO COMBAT THEM.

MR. SPEAKER, UPON MEETING WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF THE VARIOUS ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS, I HAVE LEARNED THAT THERE ARE A NUMBER OF ENVIRONMENTAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS THAT HAVE BEEN PROUDLY ACHIEVED.   I AM PLEASED TO REPORT THAT I HAVE MET A PASSIONATE GROUP OF INDIVIDUALS, WHO ARE COMMITTED, WITH MINIMAL OR NO FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FROM THE GOVERNMENT, TO SENSITIZING THE GENERAL PUBLIC TO THE NEED TO MAINTAIN THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT AND MITIGATE THE ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION THAT HAS TRANSPIRED.  WITH THAT SAID, I SALUTE THE WORK AND COMMITMENT OF THE BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST, THE NATURE CONSERVANCY AND THE BAHAMAS NATIONAL PRIDE ASSOCIATION.

MR. SPEAKER I HAVE BEEN SIMILARLY IMPRESSED WITH THE WORK OF THE GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES WHICH FALL UNDER MY PURVIEW, NAMELY, THE BAHAMAS ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COMMISSION (BEST), THE FORESTRY UNIT, THE ENERGY UNIT, BOTANICAL GARDENS, THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SERVICES (DEHS) AND THE BAHAMAS NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS CENTRE (BNGIS).

MR. SPEAKER, THIS GOVERNMENT’S COMMITMENT TO THE ENVIRONMENTAL AGENDA IS OUTLINED IN ITS CHARTER FOR GOVERNANCE.  OUR PLAN PLACES EMPHASIS ON THE “….PROTECTION OF OUR ENVIRONMENT AND THE CONSERVATION OF OUR NATURAL RESOURCES, OCEANS AND UNDEVELOPED LAND.”  ACCORDINGLY, PARTICULAR ATTENTION WILL BE GIVEN TO CONDUCTING RESEARCH TO DETERMINE THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS, AND TO PUBLIC CONSULTATION IN THE FORM OF TOWN MEETINGS, WHICH WILL ADVISE ON THE OUTCOME OF ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENTS.                                                                                                          MR. SPEAKER – THIS GOVERNMENT IS ALSO COMMITTED TO –

·     THE PROPER DISPOSAL OF WASTE;

·     THE REVIEW OF OPTIONS FOR A MORE AGGRESSIVE RECYCLING PROGRAMME;

·     REGULAR SPRAYING OF CHEMICALS FOR PESTS; AND

·     REDUCING THE DEPENDENCE ON FOSSIL FUELS, BY ENCOURAGING THE USE OF ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES.

A COMMITMENT HAS ALSO BEEN MADE TO –

·     THE EXPANSION OF THE NOW PRIVATELY RAN “OPERATION LOVE YOUR COUNTRY” PROGRAMME;

·     THE RESTRUCTURING OF THE FORESTRY DIVISION TO ENHANCE FORESTRY DEVELOPMENT ON THE ISLANDS OF ABACO, GRAND BAHAMA, NEW PROVIDENCE, ANDROS AND EXUMA; AND

·     THE ESTABLISHMENT OF NEW “GREEN SPACE ZONES”.

OUR GOAL FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, AMONG OTHER THINGS, IS TO ESTABLISH, BY 2030, “A REGULATED RECYCLING SYSTEM, WHERE CITIZENS SEPARATE THEIR TRASH FOR COLLECTION.”   A RELATED GOAL IS TO ESTABLISH A NATIONAL CONSERVATION AND PRESERVATION POLICY.”  MR. SPEAKER, WHILE YOU MAY BE ASSURED OF THIS GOVERNMENT’S COMMITMENT TO ADVANCE THE ENVIRONMENTAL AGENDA, IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT MUCH OF THE FUNDING FOR THESE AGENCIES IS PROVIDED THROUGH VARIOUS FORMS OF INTERNATIONAL GRANTS AND LOANS, AND THE GOVERNMENT OF THE BAHAMAS IS CERTAINLY VERY GRATEFUL FOR THIS ASSISTANCE.

BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST

MR. SPEAKER, THE WORK OF THE BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST WHICH INCLUDES THE -

·     MANAGEMENT OF 27 NATIONAL PARKS;

·     MANAGEMENT OF HUNTING ACTIVITIES;

·      PROTECTION OF THE WHITE CROWN PIGEON; AND

·     FURTHERANCE OF FORESTRY INITIATIVES

ON BEHALF OF THE MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT AND HOUSING. THEIR EFFORTS ARE MOST COMMENDABLE.

MR. SPEAKER I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO THANK THE BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST FOR TAKING ME ON A TOUR OF THE EXUMA LAND AND SEA PARK ON SUNDAY PAST. I WAS ALSO ACCOMPANIED BY THE DIRECTOR OF THE BEST COMMISSION AND HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO VISIT MANY OF THE ONGOING DEVELOPMENTS IN THE NATIONAL PARK AND THOSE WHICH BORDER IT. SOME OF THOSE DEVELOPMENTS HAVE BEEN THE SUBJECT MATTER OF TABLOID STORIES AND POLITICAL FODDER IN THE RECENT PAST. AND FOR THE RECORD MR. SPEAKER, I DID NOT TRAVEL IN A HELICOPTER OR ANY OTHER MODE OF TRANSPORTATION PROVIDED BY ANY DEVELOPER IN THE NATIONAL PARK.

MR. SPEAKER, THE TOUR HAS STRENGTHENED MY RESOLVE TO ENSURE THAT THE WORK OF MY MINISTRY AND THE AGENCIES FOR WHICH MY MINISTRY IS RESPONSIBLE IS FOCUSED AND UNDETTERED. THE TOUR ALSO REAFFIRMED FOR ME THAT WE HAVE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY ON EARTH AND THAT MORE BAHAMIANS SHOULD SEE AND EXPLORE THE NATIONAL PARKS OF THE BAHAMAS IN ORDER TO GAIN A GREATER APPRECIATION FOR WHAT WE HAVE.

MR. SPEAKER, THIS GOVERNMENT RECOGNIZES THE STERLING CONTRIBUTION MADE BY THE BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST TO PRESERVE OUR ENVIRONMENT, AND WILL CONTINUE TO PARTNER WITH IT.   IN THIS RESPECT, MY MINISTRY WILL CONTINUE DIALOGUE WITH THE BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST TO CONSIDER –

·   DECLARING THE EAST ABACO CREEKS AND SOUTHWEST NEW PROVIDENCE MARINE MANAGEMENT AREAS AS NATIONAL PARKS;

·   REBUILDING INFRASTRUCTURE AT THE INAGUA NATIONAL PARK TO ENHANCE ECO-TOURISM;

·   IMPLEMENTING AN INFRASTRUCTURAL PLAN FOR THE ABACO NATIONAL PARK, AND

·   AMENDING THE BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST ACT TO DEAL WITH TRUST GOVERNANCE AND OTHER INTERNAL ISSUES.

THE NATURE CONSERVANCY

MR. SPEAKER, THE WORK OF THE NATURE CONSERVANCY IN THE BAHAMAS IS NO LESS IMPRESSIVE THAN THAT OF THE BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST.  THIS NON-PROFIT, NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION WORKS AROUND THE WORLD TO PROTECT ECOLOGICALLY SENSITIVE LANDS AND WATERS FOR NATURE AND PEOPLE.  IN AN EFFORT TO PROTECT THE BAHAMAS’ MARINE DIVERSITY, MY MINISTRY WILL CONTINUE EFFORTS TO MEET THE GOALS OF THE CARIBBEAN CHALLENGE, THAT IS,  TO ESTABLISH 20% OF COASTAL AND MARINE HABITATS AS PROTECTED AREAS BY THE YEAR 2020.  ACCORDINGLY, THE CARIBBEAN CHALLENGE SEEKS TO ESTABLISH THE BAHAMAS PROTECTED AREA FUND (BPAF) AS A SUSTAINABLE FINANCE MECHANISM FOR PROTECTED AREA MANAGEMENT, AND TO DEVELOP NATIONAL LEVEL DEMONSTRATION SITES FOR CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION.

MR. SPEAKER, MY MINISTRY WILL ALSO PARTNER WITH THE NATURE CONSERVANCY IN ITS EFFORTS WITH RESPECT TO –

·     THE FISHERY IMPROVEMENT PROJECT FOR THE SPINY LOBSTER FISHERY;

·     THE STAKEHOLDER ASSESSMENT AND MANAGEMENT PLANNING EFFORTS FOR THE EXPANDED  ANDROS WEST SIDE NATIONAL PARK;

·     THE GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT FACILITY FULL SIZED PROJECT – BUILDING A SUSTAINABLE NATIONAL MARINE PROTECTED AREA NETWORK TO ASSIST THE BAHAMAS IN ACHIEVING ITS GOAL OF CONSERVING 20% OF THE NEAR-SHORE MARINE RESOURCES BY 2020;

·     THE KERZNER MARINE FOUNDATION BLUE PROJECT FOR PRESERVING AND RESTORING CORAL REEF ECOSYSTEMS, AND THE CONCH CONSERVATION CAMPAIGN, AMONG OTHER INITIATIVES.

BEST COMMISSION

MR. SPEAKER, THE WORK OF THE BEST COMMISSION IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL TO BALANCE THE GOALS OF PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE INTERESTS OF THOSE WHO SEEK TO FACILITATE DEVELOPMENT IN THE BAHAMAS.    IN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF THE CRITICAL ROLE PLAYED BY THE BEST COMMISSION IN ASSESSING POTENTIAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT, MANAGING OVERSIGHT OF ACTIVITIES AND WORKING TO ELIMINATE OR MINIMIZE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF DEVELOPMENT, MY MINISTRY PROPOSES TO INCREASE THE 2012/2013  OPERATIONAL PROVISION FROM $70,000.00 TO $90,000.00.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             IT IS ANTICIPATED THAT THIS INCREASE WILL ASSIST BEST TO MONITOR THE VARIOUS PROJECTS OF BAHAMAR, THE LYNDEN PINDLING INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, AND THE NEW PROVIDENCE ROAD IMPROVEMENT PROGRAMME, IN ADDITION TO PROJECTS IN ABACO, ELEUTHERA, AND EXUMA.

MY MINISTRY WILL CONTINUE TO ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE, BIODIVERSITY AND SEEK INTERNATIONAL ASSISTANCE UNDER THE RIO CONVENTION.  WE WILL PERSIST IN BUILDING CAPACITY AND ACCESS TECHNICAL AND FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TO DEVELOP THE BAHAMAS SUSTAINABLY.

THE FORESTRY UNIT

MR. SPEAKER, THE FORESTRY UNIT IN MY MINISTRY FACILITATES THE PROVISION OF CRITICAL SERVICES FOR THE LONG TERM CONSERVATION AND SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT OF BAHAMIAN FORESTS.  ESSENTIAL TO SUSTAINABLE FOREST MANAGEMENT IS THE IMPLEMENTATION OF A NATIONAL FOREST MANAGEMENT PROGRAMME AS MANDATED UNDER THE FORESTRY ACT 2010, AND THE APPROVAL OF FORESTRY REGULATIONS.  I AM PLEASED TO REPORT THAT THE MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT & HOUSING, THROUGH THE FORESTRY UNIT, WILL MAKE THE NECESSARY ADMINISTRATIVE AND FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENTS TO LAUNCH THE FOREST MANAGEMENT PROGRAMME IN THIS FISCAL PERIOD.

FUNDING ARRANGEMENTS MADE OF $100,000.00 PER YEAR FOR FIVE YEARS WILL ALLOW BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST PARK WARDENS TO CONTINUALLY SERVE AS FORESTRY OFFICERS IN THE FAMILY ISLANDS.   FURTHER, THE BASIC FOREST MANAGEMENT TRAINING WILL BEGIN DURING JUNE 2012 FOR BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST PARK WARDENS AND FORESTRY FIELD STAFF UNDER A $440,000.00 TECHNICAL COOPERATION AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE BAHAMIAN GOVERNMENT AND THE FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS (FAO).

ADDITIONALLY, IT IS EXPECTED THAT REVENUE WILL BE GENERATED FROM A FIVE YEAR RENEWABLE TIMBER HARVESTING LICENCE AWARDED TO LINDAR INDUSTRIES TO SYSTEMATICALLY THIN OUT TWO AREAS OF CROWN LAND PINE FORESTS IN ABACO.  THE PROJECT WILL RESULT IN THE PRODUCTION OF HIGH END FINISHED TIMBER PRODUCTS FOR SALE TO THE LOCAL AND POSSIBLY EXPORT MARKETS.  THE GOVERNMENT EXPECTS TO RECEIVE 10% ROYALTIES ON THE SELLING PRICE OF THE FINISHED PRODUCTS.  MR. SPEAKER, OF NOTE,  MY MINISTRY HAS BUDGETED

$140,000.00 FOR THE OPERATIONAL EXPENSES OF THE FORESTRY UNIT.

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

MR. SPEAKER, AS OUTLINED IN THE CHARTER FOR GOVERNANCE, MY MINISTRY WILL SEEK TO REDUCE THE COUNTRY’S DEPENDENCE ON FOSSIL FUELS.  OUR AIM IS TO INCREASE THE USE OF ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES AND SIMULTANEOUSLY CONTINUE TO BUILD ON EFFORTS TO INCREASE ENERGY CONSERVATION AND IMPROVE ENERGY EFFICIENCY.  CONSEQUENTLY, IN THIS BUDGET PERIOD, MY MINISTRY WILL STRENGTHEN ITS EFFORTS UNDER VARIOUS TECHNICAL COOPERATION GRANT AGREEMENTS WITH THE IDB TO PROMOTE AND IMPLEMENT SUSTAINABLE ENERGY ACTIVITIES AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN RESIDENTIAL LIGHTING.  FUNDING ALLOCATED FOR THE ENERGY EFFICIENT LIGHTING PROGRAMME DURING THIS BUDGET PERIOD IS $130,000.00.  AND MR. SPEAKER, THIS GOVERNMENT WILL NOT TAKE OUR DEFENCE FORCE OFFICERS FROM THEIR IMPORTANT DUTIES OF PROTECTING OUR BORDERS AND ASSISTING IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CRIME TO DISTRIBUTE LIGHT BULBS!

MR. SPEAKER, MY MINISTRY WILL ALSO CONTINUE TO WORK WITH THE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE TO PROPOSE LEGISLATION FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF RENEWABLE ENERGY. THE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE HAS BEEN PROVIDED WITH MATERIAL TO ENABLE US TO BEGIN WORK ON THE PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE FREEPORT BYE-LAWS ACT, 1965 AS PROMISED IN THE CHARTER FOR GOVERNANCE AND THE SPEECH FROM THE THRONE.

BAHAMAS NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS CENTRE

MR. SPEAKER, THE WORK OF THE BAHAMAS NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS (BNGIS) CENTRE, WAS REACTIVATED BY THE LAST PLP ADMINISTRATION IN 2004 WITH THE MANDATE TO SERVE AS THE GOVERNMENT’S FOCAL POINT FOR GEOSPATIAL DATA AND THE CENTRAL REPOSITORY FOR THE COLLECTION, ANALYSIS AND MANAGEMENT OF GEOSPATIAL DATA OF THE BAHAMAS.

MR. SPEAKER, THE WORK OF THE CENTRE IS ESSENTIAL FOR SOLVING COMPLEX PLANNING, LAND, AIR AND MARINE MANAGEMENT ISSUES.  DURING THIS BUDGETARY PERIOD, THE BNGIS CENTRE WILL CONTINUE ITS WORK WITH THE GEOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION SYSTEMS (GIS) BOOT CAMP PROGRAMME IN COLLABORATION WITH THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY.  A PUBLIC AWARENESS PROGRAM AND HOSTING OF GIS DAY AND USER CONFERENCE WILL ALSO BE CARRIED OUT.  THE CENTRE WILL CONTINUE TO DEVELOP THE NEW PROVIDENCE ROAD NETWORK IN GIS FORMAT IN COLLABORATION WITH RELEVANT AGENCIES.                                                                                                                  HAVING REGARD TO THE CRITICAL OPERATIONAL NEEDS OF THE BNGIS CENTRE, MY MINISTRY WILL SEEK TO INCREASE THE OPERATIONAL BUDGET FROM $70,000.00 TO $90,000.00.  IT IS ANTICIPATED THAT GRANT FUNDING MIGHT ALSO BE OBTAINED FOR CONDUCTING A COMPREHENSIVE NEEDS ASSESSMENT, AND DEVELOPING ACTION PLANS FOR THE PHASED IMPLEMENTATION OF GIS APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT.

BAHAMAS NATIONAL PRIDE ASSOCIATION

MR. SPEAKER, THE BAHAMAS NATIONAL PRIDE PERFORMS AN EXTREMELY ARDUOUS TASK WITH VERY LIMITED RESOURCES.  THIS YEAR, THE GOVERNMENT WILL CONTINUE TO ASSIST THE GROUP WITH OPERATIONAL EXPENSES, BY PROVIDING $35,500.00 THIS BUDGETARY PERIOD.  THESE FUNDS WILL ASSIST THE GROUP IN PLANTING COMMUNITY ORCHIDS AT IMPORTANT HERITAGE SITES, AND TRANSFORM THE PRIVATELY FUNDED “OPERATION LOVE YOUR COUNTRY” INTO A NATIONAL ANNUAL COMPETITION FOR THE BEST KEPT YARD AND SURROUNDINGS.

DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

MR. SPEAKER, IT IS CERTAINLY THE CASE THAT THE PEOPLE OF THE BAHAMAS RELY MORE HEAVILY ON THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SERVICES FOR A HEALTHY, CLEAN ENVIRONMENT, THAN THEY DO ON ANY OTHER AGENCY.   MY MINISTRY UNDERSTANDS THE MAGNITUDE OF THE TASK AHEAD WITH RESPECT TO IMPROVING THE SERVICES IT PROVIDES THE COUNTRY.  MY MINISTRY, THROUGH THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SERVICES, WILL LAUNCH A NUMBER OF MAJOR PROGRAMS DURING THE UPCOMING BUDGET PERIOD, TO DEAL WITH THE VEXING PROBLEMS WHICH CONFRONT US.

MR. SPEAKER, WE HEAR THE CRIES OF THE PUBLIC RELATIVE TO THE RECENT DELAY IN GARBAGE COLLECTION.  I AM ADVISED THAT THIS HAS BEEN CAUSED BY INTENSE EARLY RAINFALL, AND THE FACT THAT SOME OF THE DEPARTMENT’S COLLECTION VEHICLES ARE NON-OPERATIONAL. WHEN WE CAME TO OFFICE MR. SPEAKER OUT A FLEET OF 22 TRUCKS, ONLY 12 WERE OPERATIONAL. THAT’S RIGHT MR. SPEAKER, ALMOST 50% OF THE GARBAGE TRUCKS WERE NOT OPERATIONAL AND DESPITE THE FACT THE FLEET HAS BEEN OPERATING AT ALMOST 50% OF CAPACITY, THE FORMER ADMINISTRATION DID NOT ORDER ANY NEW TRUCKS.  THIS HAS FORCED THE DEHS TO AUGMENT ITS COLLECTION SERVICES THROUGH PRIVATE COLLECTION PROVIDERS. HOWEVER, MR. SPEAKER, IT IS ALSO APPARENT THAT THE FORMER ADMINISTRATION NEGLECTED THE SOLID WASTE DIVISION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SERVICES. THAT NEGLECT, APPEARED TO BE INTENTIONAL AND A PART OF AN ATTEMPT TO PRIVATISE SOLID WASTE COLLECTION IN NEW PROVIDENCE. INDEED MR. SPEAKER, A PRIVATE CONTRACTOR RECENTLY STATED THAT A NEW GARBAGE TRUCK COULD COST AS MUCH AS $250,000.00. WELL JUST IMAGINE MR. SPEAKER, SINCE SEPTEMBER, 2011 UNTIL MAY, 2012, THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SERVICES HAVE ADVISED THAT THE GOVERNMENT OF THE BAHAMAS HAS SPENT  OVER $2.1 MILLION DOLLARS TO PRIVATE CONTRACTORS TO ASSIST IN THE COLLECTION OF SOLID WASTE! SOME OF THAT MONEY COULD HAVE BEEN USED IN THE NON-RAINY MONTHS TO BUY MORE TRUCKS! SOME OF THAT MONEY COULD HAVE BEEN USED TO PAY THE HARDWORKING STAFF OF THE SOLID WASTE DIVISION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SERVICES THEIR OVERTIME! INSTEAD, THE FORMER ADMINISTRATION THOUGHT THAT IT WAS BEST TO USE PRIVATE CONTRACTORS AT THE EXPENSE OF THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE WITHOUT A PLAN TO GET THE FLEET OF THE DEHS TO A STATE WHERE WE COULD REDUCE OUR RELIANCE AND NEED FOR PRIVATE CONTRACTORS. WHY MR. SPEAKER? WHY? WHY WOULD YOU PAY PRIVATE CONTRACTORS $5.00 PER HOUSEHOLD, WHEN YOUR INTERNAL COSTS ARE ONLY $2.50 PER HOUSEHOLD? WHY PAY HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS MR. SPEAKER TO A PRIVATE CONTRACTOR THAT OWES THE BAHAMAS GOVERNMENT OVER $1 MILLION DOLLARS IN TIPPING FEES?

MR. SPEAKER, SADLY THIS INFORMATION IS TRICKLING INTO MY MINISTRY IN A PIECEMEAL MANNER. BUT I ASSURE THE PEOPLE OF THE BAHAMAS THAT I WILL GET TO THE BOTTOM OF IT. I ALSO ASSURE THEM THAT DESPITE WHATEVER THOSE ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE MAY SAY, IN HERE AND OUT THERE, THE PROBLEM WITH GARBAGE COLLECTION WAS ONE WE MET ON OUR DOORSTEP WHEN WE TOOK OFFICE, BUT IT IS A PROBLME THAT THIS ADMINISTRATION WILL FIX! WE DID IT IN 2002 MR. SPEAKER AND WE WILL DO IT AGAIN!

SO MR. SPEAKER, NOTWITHSTANDING WHAT WE FOUND UPON TAKING OFFICE AND THE FACT THAT THE FORMER ADMINSTRATION LEFT THE SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT DIVISION IN A MESS, I CERTAINLY APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE CAUSED OVER THE PAST 30 DAYS, AND I ASSURE THE PUBLIC THAT YOUR CRIES HAVE NOT GONE UNNOTICED.

MR. SPEAKER, TO ENSURE THAT WE TAKE THE NECESSARY MEASURES TO COLLECT RESIDENTIAL WASTE IN A PROPER AND TIMELY MANNER, I HAVE ASKED THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SERVICES, IN DENSELY POPULATED AREAS, TO CONSIDER INCREASING THE FREQUENCY OF COLLECTION FROM ONCE PER WEEK TO TWICE PER WEEK. SIMULTANEOUSLY, WE WILL REPAIR SOME OF THE TRUCKS THAT CAN BE FIXED AND ALSO SEEK TO BUY ADDITIONAL GARBAGE TRUCKS TO INCREASE THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMTAL HEALTH SERVICES ABILITY TO PROPERLY SERVE OUR COMMUNITIES. HOWEVER, MR. SPEAKER, UNLIKE THE FORMER ADMINISTRATION WE WILL PURCHASE GARBAGE TRUCKS THAT ARE SUITED TO THE BAHAMIAN CLIMATE AND TERRAIN AND NOT WASTE TAX PAYER DOLLARS ON GARBAGE TRUCKS THAT ARE BETTER SUITED FOR COLDER CLIMATES. IN THIS REGARD MR. SPEAKER, MY MINISTRY WILL ENDEAVOUR TO ACCESS APPROXIMATELY $1.6 MILLION DOLLARS FOR THE ACQUISITION OF GARBAGE TRUCKS OUT OF THE $15 MILLION DOLLARS ALLOCATED UNDER THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE FOR VARIOUS PROJECTS AND MINISTRIES.

MR. SPEAKER WITH MORE SOLID WASTE BEING COLLECTED, DEHS MUST NOW CONSIDER COMMENCING CONSTRUCTION OF CELL # 2, AT THE SOLID WASTE SITE ON TONIQUE WILLIAMS DARLING HIGHWAY.

PRESENTLY, THE DEHS IS USING A TEMPORARY AREA FOR THE DISPOSAL OF WASTE.  THE LACK OF A PROPER CELL PLAYED A PART IN THE LAST FIRE AT THE DUMP, AND IT HAS CONTRIBUTED TO THE DAMAGE SUSTAINED TO COLLECTION VEHICLES.  I HAVE BEEN ADVISED BY THE DIRECTOR OF THE D.E.H.S THAT THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE NEW CELL WILL CURTAIL THE FIRES AT THE DUMP, AND DIMINISH THE ODOURS EMANATING FROM IT.  WE UNDERSTAND AND APPRECIATE HOW IMPORTANT THIS IS TO OUR COMMUNITIES, PARTICULARLY THOSE WHICH ARE CLOSE IN PROXIMITY TO THE LANDFILL.  I AM ADVISED THAT THE COST OF THE CONSTRUCTION OF CELL # 2 WILL BE APPROXIMATELY $600,000.00. SIMILARLY MY MINISTRY WILL ENDEAVOUR TO ACCESS THESE FUNDS OUT OF THE $15 MILLION DOLLARS ALLOCATED UNDER THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE FOR VARIOUS PROJECTS AND MINISTRIES

ALSO INCLUDED IN THE NEW BUDGET IS A PROVISION FOR TWO COMMUNITY WASTE DEPOSITORY SITES AT A COST OF $32,100.00.  IT IS ANTICIPATED THAT THESE SITES WILL PERMIT COMMUNITIES TO CONVENIENTLY DISPOSE OF HOUSEHOLD WASTE, AS WELL AS DISCARDED APPLIANCES AND FURNITURE, WITH A VIEW TO REDUCING INCIDENCES OF INDISCRIMINATE DUMPING.

MR. SPEAKER, THE EARLY RAINY SEASON HAS BROUGHT WITH IT FEARS OF A DENGUE FEVER OUTBREAK.  I ASSURE YOU THAT THE DEHS WILL DO ITS PART DURING THE NEW BUDGET PERIOD TO EXPAND VECTOR CONTROL EFFORTS IN NEW PROVIDENCE AND THE FAMILY ISLANDS.  THEREFORE, $100,000.00 HAS BEEN ADDED TO THE DEPARTMENT’S BUDGET TO FACILITATE THIS EXERCISE.  A NEW HYPO MACHINE WILL ALSO BE PURCHASED FOR NEW PROVIDENCE, TO ASSIST WITH THE TREATMENT OF DENSELY BUSHED AREAS.  THE DEPARTMENT WILL CONTINUE ITS MONITORING PROGRAM TO ADDRESS AREAS OF CONCERN, AND MINIMIZE THE THREATS OF VECTOR BORNE DISEASES SUCH AS DENGUE FEVER, MALARIA AND LEPTOSPIROSIS.  I ASK THAT MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC DO THEIR PART BY EMPTYING OR COVERING CONTAINERS OF WATER ON YOUR PREMISES AND USING MOSQUITOE REPELLENTS SUCH AS THOSE FOR THE SKIN OR SPRAYS.

ADDITIONALLY, DEHS WILL AGGRESSIVELY ADDRESS THE AQUATIC WEED ISSUES IN EXUMA BY REMOVING BARRIERS TO EFFECTIVE MOSQUITO LARVAE CONTROL, THROUGH CHEMICAL AND PHYSICAL INTERVENTION.  ALTERNATE BIOLOGICAL AND MECHANICAL MEASURES WILL BE UTILIZED IN THE CONTROL OF MOSQUITOES WITHIN COMMUNITIES.

AS A PART OF THE GOVERNMENT’S PLAN TO FUMIGATE REGULARLY TO ELIMINATE RODENTS AND OTHER PESTS, THE DEPARTMENT WILL ALSO ADDRESS RODENT INFESTATION THROUGH ITS DERELICT VEHICLE PROGRAM. MR. SPEAKER, I HAVE VISITED THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH’S FACILITIES IN NASSAU AND GRAND BAHAMA. I AM INCREDIBLY IMPRESSED BY THE PROFESSIONALISM, PASSION AND EXPERIENCE OF THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO SERVE OUR COUNTRY IN THIS CRITICAL FUNCTION. I AM ALSO SADDENED THAT SOME OF THEM WORK IN TERRIBLE CONDITIONS AND FEEL OVERLOOKED AND FORGOTTEN. I WANT TO ASSURE THEM THAT THIS MINISTER HEARS THEIR CRIES AND WILL TAKE ACTION AS FINANCIAL RESOURCES PERMIT.

MR. SPEAKER, THERE IS NEED TO UPGRADE THE DEHS HEALTH INSPECTORATE AND ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING AND RISK ASSESSMENT DIVISIONS (EMRAD), WITH THE ADDITION OF QUALIFIED STAFF IN NEW PROVIDENCE, EXUMA, ELEUTHERA AND ABACO.  ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT IS ALSO NEEDED IN NEW PROVIDENCE AND GRAND BAHAMA, TO ENSURE THE CONTINUED EFFECTIVE MONITORING OF COASTAL WATERS, ASBESTOS REMEDIATION, INDOOR AIR QUALITY AND OIL SPILL REMEDIATION.

OIL EXPLORATION

MR. SPEAKER AS IT RELATES TO OIL EXPLORATION IN THE BAHAMAS.  THE GOVERNMENT OF THE BAHAMAS TAKES THE VIEW THAT THIS COUNTRY BELONGS TO ALL OF US AND AS SUCH THE DECISION ON WHETHER OR NOT TO EXPLORE FOR OIL SHOULD BE A COLLECTIVE DECISION.  WE ARE NOT THE FNM WE WILL NOT MAKE DECISIONS OF SUCH MAGNITUDE THAT ARE AGAINST THE WISHES OF THE MAJORITY OF BAHAMIANS.  MR. SPEAKER I AM SURE THAT YOU REMEMBER THE PROTESTS AGAINST THE BTC SALE, BUT THE “ONE MAN BAND” “BAHAMIANS NEED NOT APPLY” FORMER ADMINISTRATION DID IT ANYWAY.

MR. SPEAKER, THE PROTECTION OF OUR ENVIRONMENT IS NOT SOLELY A GOVERNMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY; THE PUBLIC MUST BECOME FULL PARTICIPANTS IN MAINTAINING THE HEALTH AND WELL BEING OF THEIR COMMUNITIES.  ACCORDINGLY, THERE CONTINUES TO BE A NEED TO SENSITIZE ALL RESIDENTS TO THE ROLE PRIVATE CITIZENS PLAY IN THIS PROCESS.

THE ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION AND PROMOTION PROGRAM WHICH UTILIZES THE WRITTEN AND VISUAL MEDIA TO SPREAD THE MESSAGE OF ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP, IS AN ESSENTIAL TOOL IN THIS MINISTRY’S EFFORT.  THIS PROGRAM, WHICH FOCUSES ON PARTNERSHIPS WITH EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS AND COMMUNITY AND CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS, IS INTENDED TO DRAMATICALLY BOOST THE NATION’S AWARENESS OF THE ROOT CAUSES OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS.  THIS PROGRAMME EMPHASIZES THE PREVENTION OF RODENT AND MOSQUITO BREEDING, SOLID WASTE STORAGE, THE PREVENTION OF LITTERING, AND THE PRESERVATION OF COASTAL ENVIRONMENTS.

MR. SPEAKER, NO AGENCY CAN BE ITS MOST EFFECTIVE WITHOUT THE LEGISLATION REQUIRED FOR THE EFFECTIVE DELIVERY OF SERVICES.  IT IS ALSO THE CASE THAT THERE IS A NEED FOR IMPROVED ACCOUNTABILITY WITH RESPECT TO THE WORK OF THE DEHS.  ACCORDINGLY, I AM PLEASED TO ADVISE THAT EFFORTS WILL BE UNDERTAKEN WITHIN THIS BUDGETARY CYCLE TO ESTABLISH THE LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT, WITH THE ACCOMPANYING REGULATIONS NECESSARY FOR PROPER OVERSIGHT OF THAT DEPARTMENT. PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH ACT WILL ALSO BE EXPLORED.

IN KEEPING WITH THE GOVERNMENT’S COMMITMENT TO MAINTAIN AND ESTABLISH NEW “GREEN SPACE” ZONES, MY MINISTRY AND THE DEHS WILL CONTINUE TO PARTNER WITH LOCAL BUSINESSES AND ORGANIZATIONS TO UPGRADE THE LANDSCAPING AT PUBLIC SPACES AND BEACHES.                                                                                              OTHER INITIATIVES INCLUDE IMPROVEMENTS TO THE ELEUTHERA LANDFILL, WHICH IS PRESENTLY AT FULL CAPACITY AND REQUIRES AN ADDITIONAL CELL AND REDESIGN. WORK IS ALSO NECESSARY AT THE HARBOUR ISLAND TRANSFER STATION TO FACILITATE THE EFFICIENT DISPOSAL OF WASTE, AND MONIES HAVE BEEN INCLUDED TO PROVIDE FOR THE REDESIGN AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF RAMPS.

MR. SPEAKER, THIS GOVERNMENT’S OBJECTIVES WITH RESPECT TO THE HOUSING SECTOR IS CLEARLY ENUNCIATED IN ITS CHARTER FOR GOVERNANCE.  IN ADDITION TO THE MORTGAGE RELIEF PROGRAMME, THE GOVERNMENT HAS ALSO COMMITTED TO

·     DECREASE  THE COST OF HOUSING;

·     REFORM THE RENT CONTROL ACT TO PROMOTE THE CONSTRUCTION

OF NEW RENTAL UNITS;

·          PROMOTE THE PROVISION OF ADDITIONAL LAND FOR HOME OWNERSHIP THROUGH THE UTILIZATION OF THE ACQUISITION OF LAND ACT TO PURCHASE VACANT AND ABANDONED LOTS;

·          REDUCE THE COST OF HOUSING THROUGH A THOROUGH REVIEW OF

THE BUILDING CODE AND RELATED REGULATIONS;

·          IMPROVE THE PROCESSING PROCEDURES FOR HOUSE

CONSTRUCTION;

·          REFORM THE SUBDIVISIONS ACT TO DO AWAY WITH INEFFICIENCIES,

AND

·          PROVIDE CROWN LAND FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW

COMMUNITIES BY      PRIVATE DEVELOPERS TO PROMOTE HOME

OWNERSHIP.

MR.  SPEAKER, THIS GOVERNMENT’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN PROVIDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING, THROUGH THE GOVERNMENT GUARANTEED MORTGAGE LOAN PROGRAMME, ARE UNPARALLELED.   THIS NEW DISPENSATION WILL BE NO LESS AMBITIOUS, AS MY MINISTRY WILL EMBARK UPON AN AGGRESSIVE HOUSE CONSTRUCTION EFFORT, WITH A VIEW TO INCREASING HOME OWNERSHIP AND FACILITATING JOB CREATION. THE DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING WILL ALSO INCORPORATE THE USE OF NEW HOUSE DESIGNS IN THIS EFFORT. ADDITONALLY, THE CONSTRUCTION OF HOUSES AND LOT SALES WILL CONTINUE IN NEW PROVIDENCE, GRAND BAHAMA AND ABACO, AND AS RESOURCES PERMIT IN ELEUTHERA, EXUMA, SAN SALVADOR, AND IN BIMINI.

MR. SPEAKER, THE DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING’S CAPACITY TO FINANCE HOUSING PROJECTS HAS IN THE PAST DEPENDED ALMOST ENTIRELY ON THE PROVISION OF RESOURCES BY THE BAHAMAS MORTGAGE CORPORATION. UNFORTUNATELY, THE CURRENT MORTGAGE DELINQUENCY RATE OF 35.58% AFFECTS THE CORPORATION’S CAPACITY TO FUND MINISTRY PROJECTS. ADDITIONALLY, THE CORPORATION ALSO HAS BOND SERVICING OBLIGATIONS IN RESPECT OF ITS SINKING FUND, WHICH WILL ALSO REQUIRES THIS GOVERNMENT’S ATTENTION. IN RECOGNITION OF THIS FACT, MY MINISTRY WILL ACCOMPLISH SOME OF ITS HOUSING GOALS WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF THE PRIVATE SECTOR, SPECIFICALLY PRIVATE DEVELOPERS AND FINANCIERS. ADDITIONALLY, EFFORTS WILL BE EXPLORED TO EXPAND THE BAHAMAS MORTGAGE CORPORATION’S CAPACITY TO INVEST IN ENHANCED REVENUE GENERATING INSTRUMENTS, THEREBY STRENGTHENING ITS SUSTAINABILITY AND FINANCING CAPACITY.  THIS IS IMPORTANT TO MAKE SURE THAT THE MORTAGE CORPORATION CONTINUES TO MEET THE MANDATE FOR WHICH IT WAS CREATED BY THE FIRST PLP ADMINSTRATION, “TO STIMULATE, ENCOURAGE AND PROMOTE AFFORDABLE HOME OWNERSHIP”.

IN KEEPING WITH THE NEW ENVIRONMENTAL THRUST, THERE WILL BE APPROPRIATE CONSULTATION WITH ENVIRONMENTAL AUTHORITIES TO ENSURE THE DEVELOPMENT OF COMMUNITIES IN AN ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND MANNER, AND HAVING REGARD TO THE NEED TO ENSURE THE ADEQUATE PROVISION OF GREEN SPACES AND PARK AREAS, TO PROMOTE HEALTHY LIVING.

MR. SPEAKER, YOU WILL HAVE HEARD IN THE SPEECH FROM THE THRONE, MY GOVERNMENT’S COMMITMENT TO RE-FOCUSING ITS EFFORT TO THE PROVISION OF HOUSES FOR LOW INCOME GROUPS, AND ALSO TO THE CONSTRUCTION OF ADDITIONAL PUBLIC RENTAL UNITS WHICH ARE IN HIGH DEMAND.   ACCORDINGLY, IT IS ANTICIPATED THAT CROWN LAND, OR LAND VESTED IN THE TREASURER CAN BE CONVEYED TO THE MINISTRY OF HOUSING FOR THIS PURPOSE.

AS IT IS THIS GOVERNMENT’S INTENTION TO MOUNT AN AGGRESSIVE HOME CONSTRUCTION EFFORT THROUGHOUT THE BAHAMAS, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT THE NECESSARY FINANCING BE PROVIDED FOR THE STRENGTHENING OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING’S ADMINISTRATIVE AND TECHNICAL CAPACITY.

THERE IS A NEED TO PURCHASE VEHICLES FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING, AS MANY OF THE EXISTING VEHICLES REQUIRE CONDEMNATION.  NEW COMPUTERS ARE REQUIRED TO PERMIT THE TECHNICAL STAFF TO EFFECTIVELY PERFORM THEIR DUTIES.   INCREASED FUNDING IS ALSO REQUIRED FOR TRAVEL AND SUBSISTENCE SINCE THE DEPARTMENT REMITS STAFF ON A REGULAR BASIS TO PROPERTIES OWNED BY THE GOVERNMENT IN THE FAMILY ISLANDS.

MR. SPEAKER, A CRITICAL ELEMENT OF PROPER PLANNING IS INFORMED DECISION MAKING.    THEREFORE, THERE IS A NEED TO PURCHASE PROPER SOFTWARE FOR THE MANAGEMENT OF THE APPLICATION PROCESS.  MR. SPEAKER, ANOTHER AREA WHICH REQUIRES FOCUSED ATTENTION IS THE DEVELOPMENT OF ADEQUATE CAPACITY FOR CONSTRUCTION INSPECTION PROCEDURES.   IT IS AN INESCAPABLE FACT THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING IS SPENDING FAR TOO MUCH MONEY ON THE REPAIR OF HOUSES, IN EXCESS OF $3 MILLION OVER A FIVE YEAR PERIOD.  THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE, PARTICULARLY IN LIGHT OF THE FACT THAT SOME OF THE REPAIRS WERE INDEED UPGRADES AND IN SOME INSTANCES HAD LITTLE TO DO WITH STRUCTURAL DEFECTS. THIS MUST END!!!

CONSEQUENTLY, MR. SPEAKER, IT IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL THAT WE CONSIDER THE RETENTION OF THE SERVICES OF PRIVATE INSPECTORS TO AUGMENT THE WORK OF THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTORS.  FURTHER, THERE IS A NEED FOR AN INCREASE IN THE DEVELOPMENT CONTRACTS ITEM OF THE MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND HOUSING TO $350,000.00, TO PROVIDE FOR THESE CONTRACTED INSPECTORATE SERVICES.  I AM PLEASED TO REPORT THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING WILL SEEK TO RE-INTRODUCE A WORK CREW OF SEVEN OR MORE TRADESPERSONS TO OVERSEE REPAIRS REQUIRED TO GOVERNMENT HOMES.

THIS WILL ALLOW FOR SOME ABATEMENT IN THE CONTINUOUS REPAIRS WHICH THE MINISTRY HAS BEEN REQUIRED TO UNDERTAKE.

AS WAS INDICATED EARLIER, THE MERGER OF THE MINISTRIES OF THE ENVIRONMENT & HOUSING OUGHT TO FACILITATE THE DEVELOPMENT AND MAINTENANCE OF PARKS IN EVERY SUBDIVISION, WITH THE NECESSARY BUDGETARY PROVISIONS. WE ARE OF THE VIEW, MR. SPEAKER, THAT WITHOUT A COMMITMENT TO THE PROVISION OF THE FUNDS NEEDED FOR ADDRESSING THE ISSUES IDENTIFIED, THERE IS LITTLE THAT CAN BE DONE TO MITIGATE THE VERY ENTRENCHED PROBLEMS WHICH CONFRONT US.

MR. SPEAKER, AS CONCERNS GOVERNMENT HOUSING PROJECTS, COLLEAGUES WILL BE AWARE THAT THE BAHAMAS MORTGAGE CORPORATION PROVIDES INFRASTRUCTURE, CONSTRUCTION AND MORTGAGE LOAN FINANCING FOR THE MINISTRY.  AS OF 14TH MAY, 2012, THERE ARE A NUMBER OF PROJECTS VALUED $15,074,279.15M UNDERWAY IN NEW PROVIDENCE SUBDIVISIONS, INCLUDING – ARDASTRA ESTATES, CARMICHAEL VILLAGE, DIGNITY GARDENS I AND DIGNITY CRESCENT, EXCELLENCE ESTATES, FIRE TRAIL GARDENS I AND II, LEONARD SUGARMAN ESTATES, PRIDE ESTATES III, STRACHAN HILLS ESTATE, AND IN SUNSET CLOSE.  THERE ARE ALSO WORKS UNDERWAY IN SPRING CITY, COOPERS TOWN, CROWN HAVEN, AND SPRING CITY ABACO, AS WELL AS IN WELLINGTON PINDER HEIGHTS, PINE FOREST ESTATES, AND SUNSET SUBDIVISION IN GRAND BAHAMA.

MR. SPEAKER, IN SEEKING TO MEET THE HOUSING MANDATE, SHOULD FUNDS BECOME AVAILABLE, THE DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING WILL CONSIDER EXECUTING CONTRACTS FOR ADDITIONAL WORKS IN THE FOLLOWING SUBDIVISONS, AT AN ESTIMATED TOTAL VALUE OF $53,840,826.99:  ARDASTRA  ESTATES, CARMICHAEL VILLAGE, DIGNITY GARDENS II AND DIGNITY CRESCENT, FIRE TRAIL GARDENS I, STRACHAN HILLS ESTATES, SUNSET CLOSE, WELLINGTON PINDER HEIGHTS, GRAND BAHAMA, AS WELL AS IN SPRING CITY, CROWN HAVEN AND COOPERS TOWN, ABACO.

THE LAST SET OF PROJECTS WHICH HAVE BEEN SET ASIDE DUE TO A SHORTAGE OF AVAILABLE FUNDING, ARE WORKS REQUIRED IN RESPECT OF FIRE TRAIL GARDENS II AND LEONARD SUGARMAN ESTATES IN NEW PROVIDENCE, AND IN THE FREE TOWN AND HERITAGE SUBDIVISIONS IN GRAND BAHAMA. UNDER NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES, THE CORPORATION WOULD ISSUE ADDITIONAL BONDS, TO FUND CURRENT HOUSING PROJECTS.  HOWEVER, AFTER MEETING WITH THE SENIOR MANAGEMENT OF THE BAHAMAS MORTGAGE CORPORATION, I HAVE ARRANGED MEETINGS WITH THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE TO DISCUSS THE WHETHER OR NOT BMC CAN SUSTAIN THE $54 MILLION DOLLARS IN WORKS NOW BEING PLANNED, AND SIMULTANEOUSLY MAINTAIN ITS FINANCIAL HEALTH. THEREFORE, CRITICAL DECISIONS MUST BE MADE.

IN CLOSING MR. SPEAKER, I WISH TO EMPHASIZE THAT I AM IN NO WAY DISCOURAGED BY THE CHALLENGES AHEAD OF ME. IT MEANS THAT I WILL HAVE TO BE INNOVATIVE AND CREATIVE TO BE ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE WITH WHAT HAS BEEN PROVIDED ME FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE.

MR. SPEAKER, I AM A PART OF THE NEW GENERATION ELECTED AND SELECTED TO PROVIDE THE INNOVATION AND CREATIVITY THAT IS REQUIRED. WHERE OTHERS OPPOSITE SEE ROADBLOCKS, WE SEE OPPORTUNITY. WHERE THEY SAY WE CAN’T, WE SAY WE CAN AND WE WILL! YOU SEE MR. SPEAKER THOSE OPPOSITE, DID NOT BELIEVE IN INDEPENDENCE IN 1973. BACK THEN THEY SAID INDEPENDENCE BUT NOT NOW! BUT TODAY THEY CELEBRATE OUR NATIONHOOD.

THEY DID NOT BELIEVE IN THE CREATION OF NATIONAL INSURANCE BACK THEN, BUT THEY CERTAINLY HAVE LEARNT TO ABUSE THE FUNDS GENERATED BY NATIONAL INSURANCE AS REFLECTED IN THE MEMBER FOR GOLDEN GATES’ REMARKS YESTERDAY.

MR. SPEAKER, THOSE OPPOSITE ARE NOT INCLINED TO CREATE OR INNOVATE. THAT IS WHY, DURING THESE CHALLENGING TIMES, THE PEOPLE OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF THE BAHAMAS HAVE ENTRUSTED THEIR FUTURE AND THEIR LIVES IN THE HANDS OF THE RIGHT HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR CENTREVILLE AND HIS TEAM.

MR. SPEAKER, I WISH TO ONCE AGAIN REITERATE MY PROFOUND GRATITUDE FOR HAVING BEEN AFFORDED THE OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE MY COUNTRY AS A MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, AND AS A MINISTER IN THE GOVERNMENT OF PRIME MINISTER CHRISTIE.  I FEEL CERTAIN THAT OUR TEAM WILL FULFILL THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE.

I THANK THE STAFF OF MY MINISTRY AND THE VARIOUS AGENCIES FOR THEIR CONTRIBUTION IN THIS BUDGET EXERCISE AND I THANK THE HARDWORKING MEN AND WOMEN OF THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE, INCLUDING THE MINISTER OF STATE, THE HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR GOLDEN ISLES AND THE MINISTER OF FINANCE THE RIGHT HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR CENTREVILLE.

ON BEHALF OF THE GOOD PEOPLE OF SOUTHERN SHORES, IT GIVES ME GREAT PLEASURE TO SUPPORT THE PASSING OF THE 2012/2013 BUDGET.  I THANK YOU.

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