THE PRIME MINISTER: I extend best wishes to Bahamians everywhere and to all those visiting with us at this time of year a very Merry Christmas.
Christmas is the happiest of religious celebrations in our country marked by family gathering, religious services and Junkanoo.
This year Christmas comes as The Bahamas is about to experience the beginnings of an economic turn around; a true gift for many Bahamian families facing job losses and reduced incomes during the past two years of global and domestic recession.
It is inspiring that the downturn in the economy never dampened the fervour of our people to prepare for and mark this special Season. Again this year, our traditional spirit of generosity and of sharing is evident.
Conscious of the continued tenuous global economy we continue to manage our economy prudently and sensibly so as to ensure that we are well placed to benefit from the global recovery as it occurs. Our carefulness in the management of our economy permits us to preserve jobs in the public sector and to avoid the reduction of salaries experienced in many developed and developing countries.
We continue the substantial programme of public works in New Providence and in our Family Islands creating employment for hundreds, bolstering economic activity and placing us in a better position to compete when economic recovery is at hand.
We continue training and retraining programmes particularly for those suffering job losses so as to assist them in finding new employment or in becoming productively self-employed. And, we are extending increased social assistance to those most in need.
We now expect that new and additional private sector investments will combine with the Governments infrastructural development projects to make 2011 economically better for more people than was 2010.
We have been saddened this year by the stubborn persistence of violent crime which has marred the lives of too many of our people especially in New Providence. We especially lament the number of young people who have become ensnared by criminal activity.
I and my colleagues in the Government remain fully committed to doing all within our capacity to remove the criminal elements from our streets. If we are to remove their influence over our whole communities however, we need, and call for, the full support of the good and law-abiding majority of our people.
Notwithstanding the past difficult year we have reason to give thanks and to look to the future with hope. In so many respects, The Bahamas has been fortunate when compared to some in both developed and developing countries.
We were again this year spared from the ravages of hurricanes or other natural disaster.
We can rejoice in the knowledge that the overwhelming majority of our young people are on the right track. They continue to pursue with good results academic studies, sports, the arts and business. I am always happy to recognize and acknowledge their accomplishments.
We must be especially pleased and grateful for the thousands of our citizens who, on a voluntary basis, give of their time and talents daily to improve the social fabric of our nation.
Working in youth groups, social clubs, service clubs, charitable organizations and churches, they bring comfort to the aged and infirm, help to the needy, and direction and inspiration to the youth. For them we are thankful.
We appreciate also the thousands of public servants who do their best in their various areas of responsibility to advance the business of the country, who teach our children, who work around the clock to protect our health and safety, and who guard our borders and territorial integrity as well as our property both public and private.
As is required of them, many will be on duty again this year during the holiday season so that the rest of us can enjoy the celebrations in safety. For them we are thankful.
My family and my colleagues in the Government join me in wishing each and every one of you, and the strangers within our gates, a blessed Christmas and a happy and safe holiday season.