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MITCHELL SPEAKS ON THE BUDGET 2015…CONTINUED

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cialis canada for sale times;”>image014Fred Mitchell MP
Budget 2015-2016 Intervention
House of Assembly 

Nassau
3rd June 2015
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no rx times;”>Today is the 3rd of June.  It is the day Billy Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.

 I want to say from the outset that I move to second this motion.

 I want to first extend to the family of the late Anglican Bishop of Guyana and Suriname Cornell Moss.  Bishop Moss was a good friend and an exemplary son of The Bahamas.  He was a supporter of the progressive cause and for a stronger Bahamas.  He was a tireless campaigner for rights and for right.  We have suffered a great loss.  To his wife and to his mother; to his wider family of brothers and sisters and to the Anglican family in Nassau and in Guyana and Suriname, I extend my condolences.

 I want also to congratulate my friend George Curtis, known to come as Pecos, and my friend Betty Sweeting on their election to Chair and Treasurer of the Grand Bahama Council respectively.  I have no doubt that they will bring their energy and love of party and country to the work in Grand Bahama and I wish them well.

  I made the point here and recently to a young man who wants to get into politics, and has chosen the other side. That while I would have preferred him to join the PLP, you should choose a side or some way to get involved in the public policy of the country.  The country cannot survive without political parties.  I believe the PLP is the best party for this country but our system requires and demands a dynamic cut and thrust between sides.   Let a thousand ideas contend.  If you have a better idea let’s here, not seeking to get to governance by making up one imaginary scandal after the next.  Let’s have a better idea.

 Members of Parliament and politicians run the system. That is the way it is and they ought to be fully supported in their work.

 It is in that connection that I say that I support the raise in the constituency allowance.  It is modest raise to help incumbents meet the expenses of offices which they have to maintain by law.  I thank the Speaker for adopting the suggestions of the Select Committee that did much important and patient work on the subject of benefits and allowances for Members of Parliament.  There was bi partisan report, supported by both sides and its work needs to be adopted in full.

 Too many of us remember the stories of our predecessors in office reduced to penury by wanting to serve in the capacity of MPs and Ministers of the government.  While public service cannot compensate for the opportunity costs of not working in the private sector, public service should not mean that the expenses of office have to be carried by individual MPs.  This is not a matter for debate.  It is simply a cold hard fact.  This includes getting out of this dump which we now inhabit as a Parliament building. It is an embarrassment for a modern state.

I represent the people of Fox Hill. I am pleased, honoured and privileged to do so.  Over the past year, the government has put significant resources into Fox Hill constituency.  These include the Gazebo constructed at cost of some 50,000 dollars at Eastwood Park.  It also includes land clearing works at near 100,000 dollars.  It also includes some 90,000 dollars committed to the monument for the people who were killed by a senseless act of violence on 27th December 2013.

It includes the monies which were contributed to the Fox Hill festival.  This year’s Festival will be bigger and better.  We invite all people to come to Fox Hill for the Festival from the 31st July to the 11th of August.  Emancipation Day is the 3rd of August and we hope the Governor General is able to join us on that day to mark the anniversary of the emancipation of slavery in The Bahamas.   Fox Hill Day is 11th August.  That happens also to be the birthday of the late Sir Milo Butler.

Given the success of the Junkanoo Carnival this year, I hope that some elements of the Junkanoo Carnival and the fun it created will be replicated in Fox Hill this year.  The Fox Hill Festival is supported by public funding and by voluntary donations.

The Government has the thanks of the people of Fox Hill for their support.

Within weeks again there will be an aggressive attempt to do land clearing.  The lots have grown up again and I am still working on trying to design something that will keep these lots maintained.

I have spoken both to the Minister of Finance and to the Minister for Public Works with a view to utilizing funding set aside for the public private partnerships to finish the  Community centre which we started and which probably needs another three quarters of a million to put in proper shape.

 The Community Centre is owned by the not for profit company The Fox Hill Community Centre and is governed by the civic organizations in Fox Hill.

 Notwithstanding the expenditure on public works and public maintenance, the biggest focus for Fox Hill is to try to fix the vexing problem of unemployment.   This is stubborn problem.  I count myself amongst the biggest advocates of specific set asides to get young people in engaged in the economy.  This country has not future, no stability unless young people are engaged.

We are particularly concerned about young males and their inability to engage in positive activity; sat through school and didn’t get what the teacher was saying; to prone to be engaged in violence and dysfunction.   The country can only be a stronger Bahamas if we get this problem licked.  The failure to deal with it defies logic.  I have been talking about it since I returned home from law school in 1986.  The problem has gotten progressively worse not better.

 We have tried several times and ways to deal with it.  The set aside of the 20 million to deal with youth unemployment is yet another attempt.  However, I would suggest that the society has still not bought into this.  It is still too touchy feely and people think that boys can fend for themselves.  We see the devastation this lack of attention to this issue is causing on the society.  We ignore it at our peril.

 I commend the efforts of the Minister for Education to fix this problem along with our colleague the Minister of Youth.  I wish to lay on the table an article on the subject of male under achievement in the current issue of The Economist.  I quote from that article: “Politicians need to recognize that boys’ underachievement is a serious problem, and set about fixing it.”

I now turn to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which is at Head 13 in the Budget.

The Foreign affairs budget is 26,184,994 for this fiscal year and for next 29,623,118.  That is an increase of 3,438,124

The main difference comes at the line item for allowances for Foreign Service Officers:

The allowances at line item 27100 409700   $3,569,395

301120 rent and living accommodation 100,0000 in that item.

These obligations arose as result of the new Foreign Service orders and I indicated in my last statement that they were paid at the start of the year.  The change is reflected in this year’s budget.

Throughout the year we continued to have had issues with the timely payment of these allowances and expenses for our offices overseas.  I am hoping that with the hiring of Director General during the year that there will be an improvement in the human resources side of the administration of the Foreign Ministry.

 Items to take note of are:

 Caricom Implementation Agency for Crime and Security 998,000.  This is part of our obligation, monies paid for the Ministry of National Security for its participation in the regional security operations.  You may have noted from the press that we have now signed on to the Advance Passenger Information System called APIS and this should allow greater access to information in advance for passengers coming to The Bahamas before they arrive here.

 Yesterday the US State Department made the following announcement:

Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta S. Jacobson, Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) William R. Brownfield, and Acting Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean Beth Hogan of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will travel to Nassau, The Bahamas, June 3-5, to participate in the United States-Caribbean High-Level Citizen Security Dialogue (HLCSD).  The HLCSD strengthens the United States’ citizen security partnership with the Caribbean, defines current and emerging threats to citizens and their communities, and results in collaborative responses to address them.  The meeting occurs as the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) marks its fifth anniversary.

While the working sessions of the HLCSD are closed to the press, Assistant Secretary Jacobson’s opening and closing remarks will be open to the press.  During the working sessions, Assistant Secretary Jacobson will lead a discussion on the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and future opportunities for collaboration.  Assistant Secretary Brownfield will lead a discussion on countering narcotics trafficking in the Caribbean, and Acting Assistant Administrator Hogan will lead a discussion on challenges impacting Caribbean youth.

During her visit to The Bahamas, Assistant Secretary Jacobson will also hold bilateral meetings with Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie and Foreign Minister Frederick Mitchell.  She will engage with senior government officials and leaders from the private, education, and civil society sectors.

While in Nassau, Assistant Secretary Brownfield will visit the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) Marine Support Unit.  He will participate in a harbor tour on an INL-funded interceptor vessel donated by the United States through CBSI.  This event will be open to the press.  The vessel is the second of four planned CBSI vessel procurements increasing the RBPF’s operational interdiction capacity as part of Operation Bahamas, Turks, and Caicos.

The Caribbean Basin Security Initiative is one pillar of the U.S. security strategy focused on citizen safety throughout the hemisphere.  CBSI brings all members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Dominican Republic together to collaborate with the United States on efforts to reduce illicit trafficking, increase public safety and security, and address underlying causes of crime and insecurity throughout the Caribbean.

 This is an important conference and the Prime Minister will be making the opening address on behalf of the Caricom Community of which he is Chair.  The meeting will take place at Atlantis, Paradise Island

The Prime Minister will demit that office on 1st July when he hands over the Chair to the Prime Minister of Barbados in Bridgetown.

The Prime Minister accompanied by myself and the Minister of Trade will be travelling as part of the delegation to the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States and European Union Summit in  Brussels, Belgium on 10 and 11 June.  From there he will go to Geneva to officially open the Embassy there.

During the year, there are three important conferences: the Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia in mid July.  It is likely represented at the Foreign Minster’s level.  There will be the Summit to mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations in New York, headed by the Prime Minister.  There is also the Conference on Climate Change which will be held in Paris in December of this year.

Climate Change is a serious focus of the Prime Minister.  The threat is existential for The Bahamas, with 80 per cent of the land mass of The Bahamas under 5 feet.  A one inch rise in the sea level as a result of climate change could mean that we lose most of The Bahamas. 

The idea of the conference n Paris to get a binding commitment to keep the rise in the ambient temperature below 2 degrees centigrade.  Caricom countries are seeking for it to be even lower at 1.5 degrees.

The main focus however is to ensure that monies from climate change adaptation and mitigation to fight against extreme weather should be available at concessional inertest rates.  We are seeking to the international financial institutions to drop GDP per capita as the main determinant for deciding whether or not you get concessional interest rates to obtain money to put up infrastructure to defend against extreme weather.   The United States announced that it changed its position and the Prime Minister has used the opportunity of his interface with world leaders, most recently the President of France to make the point on financing and its costs. 

Some developments to note: 

The Passport office continues to face challenges and unfortunately the expected delivery time on average now for passports is 12 weeks and not the 8 week previously announced.  I am in the process of seeking additional emergency resources to see whether or not this can be solved. 

You will note that people will have to rid of hand written passports by the end of this year.  This together with the summer rush has caused a spike in the number of applications. I was advised whereas we were seeing 150 per day last year; we are now seeing more than 300 per day this year. 

I am sorry for these problems but resource constraints are the main issue. 

We expect five new Foreign Service officers to join us shortly.  Recruitment for the next cadre begins in the next fiscal year.  The idea is to hire at least six new Foreign Service officers every fiscal year. 

I want to thank our entire mission abroad for their service and patience.  The new Foreign Affairs Act came into force in January, along with the new Foreign Service orders.  I wish to thank the outgoing Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Philip Miller for his exemplary work in bringing this to the point where t is and for changing the culture at Foreign Affairs. 

 It is continuous battle.  This is a battle across the public administration, that somehow the work of government is a cloistered exercise, when in fact it should be driven always by the demands of our citizens.

 In this connection, I am seeking resources from the Minister of Finance and the Public Service for an officer to start a Public Affairs Unit for interface with the public.  Secondly, I have asked DPS Dona Lowe to start working with the College of The Bahamas on a diplomatic institute for the training of Foreign Service officers.

I wish Mr. Miller well in his future work and I welcome the new Permanent Secretary Shelia Carey who has just returned from China where she served for seven years.  We have a lot of work to do and not a moment to lose. Make no mistake about it from a personal point of view I am man in a hurry and I expect the Ministry to follow suit without equivocation or dispute. 

We have placed the house in Atlanta used for the Consul General on the market.  The House as in our view bought in the wrong neighborhood, being too far from central Atlanta and the neighborhood has become dangerous for the safety of the Consul General. 

The idea is to purchase a replacement in a more suitable neighborhood. 

The proposal is also to buy a building to house the Consulate General in Miami.  We have been paying rent for 42 years.   We believe that a home for the Consul General should also be sought.   Similarly, the High Commissioner in Ottawa has been asked to make preliminary sounding fro permanent building in Ottawa. 

These are to likely to have any immediate budgetary implications, saving for the purchase in Miami.

We have had discussions with architects and developers in New York about whether or to the existing building in New York can be extended to add other floors to the building.  The cost analysis is being done and will in due course be provided to the Government for its review. We own the building in New York. 

I now turn to the Department of Immigration.

 The Dept of Immigration got an allocation of $16,942,386 this year and for the next 17, 245, 158.  The difference is 302,772.  A slight increase. We can of course use more but we will make do.  Every ministry has to recognize the realities of life.

 Items to take note

 Uniform allowance 29520– $ 474,000

 Block ten at 2600 $500,000 up to 1,5000,00 repatriation of illegal immigrants 

54320 Detention Centre $260,000

 llegal migration continues to bedevil this country.  We have these fifth columnists in the country who are seeking to sue the court system to bankrupt the country and tie the government up in knots to allow the kind of incursions that we witnessed just in the last few days.

 The Royal Bahamas Defence Force yesterday acting on information from sources in Long Island was able to spot and interdict a boat at Staniel Cay.  They arrested 92 people altogether.  There were 72 males, 12 females, 8 children.  They were not so fortunate in Eleuthera but they did arrest 15 males, 7 females and 2 children. The children and women will be flown out by Saturday. 

The males will be gone early next week/.

 One dead body floated up at Harbour Island.  We believe it is connected with the landing at Eleuthera.  We think that we may have identified the Captain of the vessel and our intention is to recommend murder chancres if the evidence bears it out.

 This once again underlines the seriousness of this matter to The Bahamas. If you look at the pictures there are the flower of Haiti’s youth being exported to this country by illegal means.  This is not sustainable and cannot be accepted.  We must fight it.

 I urge all Bahamians to help with this fight and to resist any attempt to weaken our resolve in this matter. 

What is increasingly vexing is that certain communities in the country have come to be kind of no go areas where illegal migrants gather and they speak about the Bahamas government with impunity, as if they are untouchable.  This can only stop if all of us resist this.  We of the government are going to continue to do our part to stop this.  There will be more intense checks.  I have been working with the Minister for the Environment and we want to have joint operations to end these no go areas where illegal migrants can gather and feel that they are beyond the reach of Bahamian law.

As of 2nd June at the Detention Centre there were  255 people there.  With the additions, the facility is again near its capacity.  I indicated earlier that we have been having challenges with Bahamasair because of the lack of Navigation aids at the Port Au Prince Airport.  I am advised that this issue may soon be resolved.  Until then we have to continue to use foreign air carriers to carry out this repatriation.

I wish to give some more current repatriation statistics: 

January-December 2014

Haitian Nationals:  3033

Other Nationals:     835

Total                  3868

1st November- 31st December 2014

Haitian Nationals:  357

Other Nationals:    172

Total                   529 

January- April 2015

Haitian Nationals:  1274

Other Nationals:     254

Total                  1528 

Note: the figures for Nov- Dec 2014 represents person repatriated upon implementation of new policy

These persons are included in the Jan-Dec 2014 figures

 Expenditure on repatriations for the fiscal period July -2014 to April 2015

 $1,456,587.23 (This represents air direct costs).

 You will recall the policy is twofold:

 No first time applicants will be allowed to apply here for work permits unless they have a legal status here.  They must apply in their home country and be certified as being seen in that country.

 In addition, everyone must have  the passport of their nationality and evidence that they have a right to live and work in The Bahamas.

 The amendments to the immigration ct came into force last month.  Belongers Permits for those people who were born here are now available for issuance.

  I wish to report that over the next 18 months to year, there will be expenditure of some 18 million dollars on new border management equipment.  This will replace what we presently use for immigration applications and for passports.  The monies I am advised are in the global provisioning of the Ministry of Finance.

 I hope that this will relieve some of the pressure which people feel about the length of time it takes to process applications for passports and for immigration applications.

 I want to say to Immigration Officers that we have now received the decisions of the Public Service Commission on promotions.  There are some outstanding issues and they are being reviewed by the Director with the Commission and we should be in a position to advance them shortly. I regret that there is slight further delay.

  Public Policy has been my life’s work.  It is as serious business for me.  It is the only business.  I am pleased to be here and in this job and I want to continue to be in government.  I did not find being in Opposition fun and I do to want to return to it.

 The idea then for me is to once again argue to the Bahamian people and my constituents in Fox Hill that what we need is continuity.  We should not be changing in midstream.  This country should have another term for the Progressive Liberal Party.  The plain and simple fact is that we have better ideas and we execute those ideas.  They cannot beat us with better ideas.   That is all that country. The ideas and their execution.

 This is a tough time for all of us.  While the macro figures tell a wonderful story and I congratulate the financial officials for all their patience for the fact is there much work to be done to ensure that working people, middle class families have a safer stronger Bahamas, giving the confidence in themselves that this is a place for their children.

 I am satisfied that we are on the best course to ensure that a safer and stronger Bahamas.

 I invite the House to support the Bill.  Let’s hear from those opposite if they have a better idea. I doubt it.

 I so move.