DNA comments on Speech from the Throne

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 24, 2017

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) joins all Bahamians today in congratulating the newly elected and appointed Members of Parliament who have been entrusted with the enormous responsibility of overseeing the affairs of our Commonwealth. We wish God’s speed and guidance as they begin to govern in the interest of all Bahamians.

The DNA has conducted a preliminary review of the speech from the throne as delivered by the Governor General - Her Excellency, Dame Marguerite Pindling. While it is our intention to speak in more detail on all aspects of the speech over the coming days and weeks, we offer a few of our observations on the proposed agenda of the new administration as articulated by the Governor General. Additionally, the DNA will further address the aforesaid speech and the budget communication in the days ahead with a view to contributing to the national discourse in the interest of our nation.

Good Governance platform
We commend the new government for adopting certain aspects of our Good Governance Platform as outlined in the Speech. We submit that this is a step in the right direction albeit it does not go far enough. We trust that the current government will also see the wisdom in committing to the enactment of Whistle blower’s legislation in its fight against corruption and institute a fixed date for national and local elections.

The DNA welcomes the government’s pronouncement on its plan to implement campaign finance reforms via the enactment of legislation and supporting framework. We anticipate that the Government will also commit to accompanying automation of the electoral process and voter participation for the Bahamian diaspora.

Judicial Reform
The DNA welcomes the intended reforms to the judicial system which coincides with the plans outlined in our Vision 2017. The independence of the judiciary is an important tenet of our democracy and is vital to the doctrine of separation of powers and the rule of law while instilling faith in the people regarding the administration of justice.

Grand Bahama
The DNA notes the reference to a strategic plan for Grand Bahama to boost the Grand Bahamian economy. We look forward to the Government releasing a copy of the aforementioned strategic plan with a white paper accompanying the same for the purpose of meaningful consultation with the Bahamian people.

Specific details on the anticipated or planned world class tournaments, competitions and relevant sport or industry as referenced in the Speech will be helpful in informing the public discourse on this initiative.

Further, we request that the government provide the rationale behind establishing Grand Bahama as a financial services centre and how this is expected to function alongside the already established New Providence Financial Services Centre. How will this plan fit into the remodelling and reinvention of Grand Bahama as an industrial hub?

Business, Trade & Industry
The DNA notes that the Jump Start and Fresh Start initiative commenced by the Ingraham administration was cancelled by the Christie administration. In this sense, the DNA requests the timeline for the reintroduction of this initiative and what new controls will be implemented to address the challenges experienced with the scheme during its first incarnation. Details on the amount of funds allocated for the scheme by the current Minnis administration and the proposed structure will also help in promoting transparency and accountability.

We also trust that the current Minnis administration will consider the DNA’s proposal in revisiting the policy regarding business license fees to bring relief to small-medium sized entrepreneurs (SMEs) and to aid in reviving the Bahamian economy.

The DNA agrees that the ease of doing business in The Bahamas must improve for both domestic and international participants in the Bahamian economy. Additionally, the DNA welcomes the proposed one-stop shop approach as a major stepping stone toward improving the ease of doing business and we look forward to hearing the Government’s plan inclusive of a timeline and cost of such an exercise in the upcoming budget debate.

State of the Bahamian Economy
The current state of the Bahamian economy remains one of the main topical issues within our country. The Bahamian people have endured years of negative and zero real GDP growth, a double digit unemployment rate, 25-30% youth unemployment, high national debt, high and unsustainable deficits over the last two administrations. It is no wonder that many Bahamians tuned in to the Speech to hear the Government’s plans for turning the economy around, curbing government expenditure, reforming the public service, reforming the national procurement system and diversifying the economy.

Unfortunately, many Bahamians were left disappointed based on the details provided on this important issue. The DNA awaits with great anticipation, the government’s strategic plan to turn the Bahamian economy around and get hard-working Bahamians back to work.

The DNA has proposed an innovative and 21st century plan to address our economic challenges through a combination of fiscal, monetary, economic and public service policy changes and adjustments. In the absence of such innovative and intentional reforms, it is doubtful that the country will be restored to economic growth and prosperity. It is no news that we cannot expect any positive changes within our economy by deploying the same tactics that have placed us in the precarious position that we are in today.

The DNA looks forward to continued partnership with the Government in not only identifying the challenges facing our nation, but providing viable solutions to address the same. We remain hopeful that the Government will accept our offer and proposal to do so because we are all Bahamians working for the advancement of our beloved nation towards a common loftier goal.

Christopher Mortimer
DNA Deputy Leader