This Week in The Bahamas Commentary by Elcott Coleby: Sept 29 – Oct 3

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The BAMSI school year opens

Elcott Coleby

By Elcott Coleby

On Monday, 29th September the much touted Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute, or BAMSI, officially opened with classroom sessions for its 45 enrollees taking place in a temporary off-campus location while the official buildings at BAMSI neared completion.

The Minister responsible for BAMSI, Hon. V. Alfred Gray, told House members on Thursday morning that the buildings were 85% completed. He reiterated the background, scope and objective of the institute.

“Parliament will also recall that I previously announced that BAMSI will have six principal components, that is to say:

1.    Academic Component

2.    Outreach/Extension Component

3.    A Tutorial Commercial Farm

4.    Agro Processing Component

5.    Marine Resources Development and Fisheries Component

6.    A National Scientific Research Registry”

Minister Gray went on to say that BAMSI has a “fully developed and functional plant nursery; twenty five (25) acres of bearing banana trees; 15 acres of bearing papaya,” which he says will be ready for market by the end of October 2014.

Also, the farm will expand to include chicken and egg production and the pig production unit will be strengthened to complement the existing breeding stock of sheep and goats said Gray. This is scheduled to come on stream in November 2014.

The outreach/extension program has commenced said Gray, and is providing tractor and land preparation services to the farmers to North Andros at prices “that (are) 33% below the current open market prices.” Additionally, “seedlings are being made available to farmers at 70% below the prevailing market prices” said Gray. This is in addition to the provision of Farm development and business support services to local farmers.

Regarding its policy objective, Minister Gray characterized BAMSI as “the center piece of (the) government’s Agriculture and Food Security Policy for The Bahamas.”

Local Government Practitioners attend leadership seminar

Prime Minister Christie officially opened a four-day leadership seminar for Local Government Practitioners on Monday, 29th September at the Melia Resort.

During his address, the Prime Minister touched on two themes of national import – the viability of the social security system and enhancing revenue collection given the enormous burden the government is under to meet its operational obligations.

Regarding the National Insurance Board (NIB), the Prime Minister justified the huge investment of NIB funds into public capital projects such as clinics and the repair of government buildings by characterizing these investments as a “safe bet” because the government will honour its financial commitments to NIB. But since it is necessary for the Bahamian people to objectively assess the fiscal health and future viability of the fund for the protection of future generations of Bahamians, the government was ordering an actuarial assessment of the NIB.

“This actuarial assessment will be done so the country will be able to have an objective assessment as to where it (the NIB fund) is in terms of the protection of future generations of Bahamians” said Prime Minister Christie.

Turning his attention to public revenue collection, the Prime Minister told Local Government officials to be vigilant in assisting the government in this area, especially in these fiscally challenging times.

“We see in you the ability to challenge the Central Government to introduce greater levels of efficiency – to be more aware of the need to find revenue that exist but remain uncollected because…of this extraordinary burden that is placed on the country for the need to maintain infrastructure” he said.

The main objective of the seminar held every three years is to familiarize newly elected Local Government Practitioners with the best practices, protocols and regulatory framework that govern the delivery of services and conduct of government business in local Family Island communities. This year’s theme of focus was strengthening Local Government to lead future economic expansion and diversification.

Mitchell addresses the 69th Regular Session of the UNGA

“The environment, fighting crime and containing illegal immigration” were the highest national priorities for The Bahamas as these matters “go to the very root of our existence” said Foreign Affairs Minister Mitchell before the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). He was speaking on the theme, “Delivering on and Implementing a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda” on Tuesday, 30th September 2014.

Mitchell pointed to a number of policy initiatives that the Bahamas government had decided upon to address these urgent issues. They include The National Environmental Policy, 2005 (Draft); the National Environmental Management and Action Plan for The Bahamas, 2005; The Bahamas National Wetland Policy, 2007; The Bahamas Protected Areas Fund, 2013; and the Forestry Amendment Act, 2014 to protect the environment.

He also pointed to the “landmark” UN adoption of the Arms Transport Treaty (ATT), project Sandy Bottom (RBDF vessels acquisition), new Immigration policies and a number of bilateral agreements with Haiti, Cuba and Dominican Republic. While in New York, The Bahamas signed a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the International Organization on Migration (IOM). Mitchell described these policy initiatives as important steps in the fight against crime, illegal immigration and illegal poaching in Bahamian waters.

The House passes the Public Parks and Beaches Authority Bill

A Bill for an Act to establish the Public Parks and Public Beaches Authority was read for a second time on Wednesday where the Minister for the Environment and Housing, the Hon. Kenred Dorsett led the debate. He told House members that with the passage of this bill, the Authority will be charged with “the identification, regulation, maintenance, development and conservation of public parks and public beaches for our people to enjoy.”

Pursuant to section five of the bill, the Authority will be mandated to conserve the natural beauty of; protect and preserve the animals within; remove derelict vehicles from; maintain public access to; maintain green verges and the facilities at and to ensure high standards of cleanliness and sanitation at all public parks and beaches.

Additionally, the Authority will be charged with promoting study, research and the dissemination of information in botany, horticulture and forestry etc. and to advise the Minister responsible on the construction, rehabilitation, restoration and remediation of public beaches and ancillary recreational facilities on public parks and beaches.

The Bill was passed unanimously in the House late Thursday evening.

In passing

The Senate passed the compendium of crime bills late Monday evening.

Youth, Sports and Culture Minister Hon. Dr. Daniel Johnson announced Youth Month at a press conference at the Ministry on Wednesday, 1st Oct. The theme for this year’s celebration is, “empowering the youth…securing the future.” The Minister said that throughout the month of October, the government and its social partners will “showcase the many positive youth role models and outstanding leaders within our country while encouraging unattached, marginalized and at-risk youth to become involved in meaningful programmes and projects in their communities.”

Tourism Minister with responsibility for Gaming the Hon. Obie Wilchcombe was again in the media clarifying misconceptions that the Web Shop application process is for a select few. “The fact that the invitation is being gazetted (in the local newspapers) indicates that it is a public offering” said the Minister.

“Everybody is invited” he continued, “it’s just that you have to be able to meet the scrutiny of the RFP (request for proposal). The RFP upon submission will be considered.”

About the author: Elcott Coleby is a Deputy Director at the Bahamas Information Services. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry (B.Sc) and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA). He provides frequent commentary on public policy and communicates the works of the government. Address all comments to the following email: egcoleby44@gmail.com