THE PRIME MINISTER: My Fellow Bahamians:
I am pleased to announce that following upon the performance of my Government over the last year I have decided to make certain changes that I believe will contribute to even more effective governance over the months and years ahead. The changes will take effect on Monday 7 July, 2008.
I regret that I am unable at this time to fulfill my intention to create a Ministry for Grand Bahama. Circumstances including the squabbling at the Port Authority do not now admit for that to occur. When there is opportunity for a review I undertake to revisit the matter.
Two stellar Senators with Cabinet responsibility, Senator the Hon. Claire Hepburn and Senator the Hon. Elma Campbell are leaving the Cabinet.
Minister Sidney Collie earlier today announced his resignation from the Cabinet.
I am pleased to say that in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Constitution, I have today advised His Excellency Governor General, the Honourable Arthur Hanna, to appoint Mr. Michael Barnett as Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, and Mr. Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace as Minister of Tourism and Aviation. Both gentlemen will first be appointed to the Senate.
I advise that Mrs. Hepburn, having served with distinction will continue her contribution to the public life of The Bahamas in another significant capacity. My Government and I are grateful to Mrs. Hepburn who willingly accepted the call to service a year ago. Her service has been invaluable.
My Government and I are similarly indebted to Ms. Campbell who has lent her considerable administrative strength to the improvement of systems and processes in the Department of Immigration, most particularly with regard to a comprehensive audit of outstanding applications for status in our country.
I am especially pleased that Ms. Campbell has agreed to assume responsibility for The Bahamas Embassy in Beijing as Bahamas Ambassador to the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China.
It is the intention of my Government to staff and support the Mission in Beijing so as to ensure that The Bahamas receives the maximum benefit from its representation in the most populous country in the world with one of the most rapidly expanding global economies.
Ms. Campbell, having served in the Cabinet during the past year, is ideally positioned to represent the Government and to pursue its objectives abroad.
Following upon the resignation of the Hon. Sidney Collie as Minister with responsibility for Lands and Local Government, I have reallocated that portfolio to the Office of the Prime Minister.
The Hon. Byran Woodside who formerly served as Minister of State for Youth and Sports will assume new responsibilities as Minister of State for Lands and Local Government in the Office of the Prime Minister.
I wish to acknowledge that Mr. Collieâ€™s resignation comes in the highest tradition of Ministerial responsibility wherein a Minister honourably accepts responsibility for serious and consequential mistakes which have occurred in his Department.
Mr. Collieâ€™s resignation in no way tarnishes his character, his dedication or his ability to occupy such office again in the future.
I thank Minister Collie for his faithful service in the Cabinet during the past year and for his continuing fine service to the good people of Blue Hills.
I assure Mr. Collie and most particularly his constituents that he continues to have voice and influence and he remains well-placed to ensure that the interests of the constituents of Blue Hills are recognized and attended to by the Government.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Both Michael Barnett and Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace are well known to the Bahamian people.
Michael Barnett, who was the standard bearer for the Free National Movement in the Fort Charlotte constituency in the 2007 general election, is a partner in the Law Firm of Graham Thompson & Co. He was called to the English and Bahamas Bars in 1978.
Having served as Chairman of the Water and Sewerage Corporation, Mr. Barnett has also served in many professional and public service capacities including Acting Magistrate, Acting Justice of the Supreme Court, President of the Bahamas Bar Association, Chairman of the Industrial Relations Board, Member of the Financial Services Advisory Committee and Chairman of the Catholic Board of Education.
Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace served as Director General of Tourism in the Ministry of Tourism for 12 years. He has had a long and distinguished career in tourism in both the public and private sector of The Bahamas and in the region.
Most recently Mr. Vanderpool-Wallace served as Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). He has previously served as Chairman of the Management Committee of the Bahamas Tourism Training Centre, Director of both the Central Bank of The Bahamas and the Bank of The Bahamas and Chairman of the Hotel Corporation of The Bahamas.
My Fellow Bahamians:
I am creating two new Ministries, a Ministry of the Environment and a Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture, and eliminating one â€“ the Ministry of Lands and Local Government — with the resulting effect of one additional Ministry.
The creation of two new Ministries reflects my Governmentâ€™s determination to improve the alignment of resources at our disposal to bring the greatest benefit to the Bahamian people.
The new Ministry of the Environment will have as its primary goal and objective heightened environmental awareness through improved and effective coordination of all Government Departments and Agencies concerned with aspects of the environment.
Our objective is to protect and conserve the environment, regulate the use of our resources and of our physical landscape so as to improve the quality of life of citizens and reduce the damaging footprint of anti-environmental behaviour. Central to this will be increased attention to city and country planning.
The Hon. Earl Deveaux, who has held the portfolio of Minister of Public Works and Transport since May 2007 and who has a wealth of experience and training relevant to environmental protection, conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, has been appointed Minister in the newly-created Ministry of the Environment including responsibility for Maritime Affairs.
Minister of State Phenton Neymour will serve as Minister of State in that Ministry.
The new Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture is mandated to bring increased focus to the implementation of the Trust Agenda for our youth.
The Hon. Desmond Bannister, a long time President of the B3As and former Minister of State in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, has been appointed portfolio Minister of the new Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture.
The Honourable Charles Maynard will continue to serve as Minister of State for Culture and to implement the considerable cultural agenda of my Government.
The Ministry of Education, headed by the Hon. Carl Bethel, will continue to have responsibility for the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute. The Ministry of Education is mandated to place increased emphasis on improving the academic and vocational performance of our students, and to ensure that the physical plant of the government-operated school system is properly maintained, staffed and supplied so as to facilitate student achievement.
Other portfolio reallocations similarly reflect my plan effectively to live up to the commitments made to the Bahamian people.
I advise that the Hon. Neko Grant, who has held the portfolio of Minister of Tourism and Aviation since May 2007, assumes portfolio responsibility for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.
The Ministry is charged with seeing the completion of the expanded New Providence Road Improvement Programme for which I recently signed a $100 million loan with the Inter-American Development Bank.
The Ministry will also be responsible for the oversight of an aggressive schedule of construction of new government office premises.
Senator the Honourable Dion Foulkes who has held the post of Minister of Labour and Maritime Affairs assumes responsibility in a reconfigured Ministry responsible for Labour and Social Development including Urban Renewal.
The Honourable Loretta Butler-Turner will continue to serve as Minister of State in the newly-configured Ministry of Labour and Social Development.
The removal of Social Development from the portfolio of the Minister responsible for Health will permit that Ministry to place its primary attention on improving the delivery of health care services, particularly preventative care, so as to reduce the incidence of infant mortality and improve our overall health statistics.
Additionally, attention is to be trained on the planned construction of a badly-needed new hospital.
I note in this connection that I have placed responsibility for National Insurance in the Ministry of Finance where I expect to give concentrated attention to the expeditious development and implementation of the National Prescription Drug Programme and the development of a Catastrophic Health Insurance Programme to be administered through the apparatus of the National Insurance Board.
The Ministry of Housing has been given a focussed mandate to accelerate the Governmentâ€™s housing programme concentrating on both the construction of low and medium income homes and the development for sale of fully-serviced residential lots.
Cooperatives and Credit Unions have been added to the portfolio responsibility of the Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources. The Ministry will continue to accelerate programmes to support and promote greater local food production and food processing, particularly in light of the continued global increases in food prices.
Immigration, having been removed from the portfolio of the Minister of National Security, will permit that Ministry to concentrate on its primary focus which is the enhancement of law enforcement, crime prevention and security.
These efforts will be complemented by the initiatives in the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs geared toward increasing efficiencies in our judicial system.
And, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Brent Symonette, assumes responsibility for Immigration. The Honourable Branville McCartney who had served as Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism assumes responsibility as Minister of State for Immigration in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
I am grateful to each of my Ministers, Ministers of State and Parliamentary Secretaries for their hard work and co-operation over the last year and I look forward to the continued support of all of them as we work towards the achievement of our objectives for the Bahamian people.