Contribution By The Hon. Glenys Hanna Martin 2016-2017 Budget Debate

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Nassau, Bahamas – Minister Of Transport And Aviation And Member Of Parliament For The Englerston Constituency Contribution By The Hon. Glenys Hanna Martin 2016-2017 Budget Debate delivered on Thursday, 16 June, 2016 in the House of Assembly:

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this Honourable House to contribute to this 2016/2017 Budget Debate:

Mr. Speaker, I rise to contribute to this 2016/2017 Budget Debate; I do so as Minister of Transport and Aviation in this Government and as the Member of Parliament for the Constituency of Englerston.

Mr. Speaker I have had the privilege to gain entry into this honourable House for three consecutive terms through the auspices of the good people of Englerston.

A significant portion of this representation (which included two stints as a Minister of the Government) has occurred during what may come to be known as among the most difficult times in the history of our country thus far.

I certainly know that for many of the people that I represent being out of work and the concomitant issues that accompany this has had a debilitating effect but Mr. Speaker, in the midst of it all they have remained proud and held steadfast knowing that God will carry them through the hard times into prosperity, that weeping endureth for a night but joy comes in the morning.

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to speak recently with the Prime Minister, the Member for Centreville, who has expressed a shared desire to bring a deepened involvement of the Urban Renewal initiative in the Englerston community and elsewhere throughout the country.

I prefer to refer to this initiative not as Urban Renewal but as an Urban Transformation; this initiative is  to include the comprehensive  rehabilitation of streets through paving, it includes  the  resolution of vexing drainage issues throughout the constituency which currently  lead to chronic  flooding; it requires the  enhancement of public safety through the repair of street lights and the erection or replacement of  signage; it will require the refreshing of  road markings to bolster road safety;  the installation of speed bumps where appropriate but also to include school zones so as to ensure better and safer traffic management within residential communities in particular; it will require an aggressive programme of cutting  down overgrown and bushy areas which create serious safety concerns, and the demolition of abandoned structures, the removal of  all  derelict vehicles, this initiative will mandate the strict enforcement of  laws as it relates to unlicensed roadside garages which today create noise pollution and  the emission of toxic fumes and other environmental health issues and nuisance to adjoining properties and to neighbourhoods in general, the initiative will require a focused programme, street by street for the removal of garbage mounds and bulk waste;  and the taking of all necessary measures for the  eradication of  rodents and mosquitoes and other pests which pose public health risks;

Mr. Speaker, in addition I have spoken to the Deputy Prime Minister who is also the Minister for Urban Development who himself has been contemplating a methodology and means for  an accelerated programme of small house repair so as to impact as many homes as possible in the shortest period of time in an effort to radically reform substandard living conditions and also to eliminate once and for all every outside toilet.

In the course of these activities it is envisioned that economy will be generated within Englerston and in other communities by the creation of employment while at the same time procuring an enhanced quality of life for many people now living in poverty conditions including thousands of children.

This approach combined with the aggressive training programme which will target young men and women and create new economic opportunities as announced by the Prime Minister but also to include self-help initiatives through entrepreneurial activities and in the creation of new cottage industries will, I believe, go a long way in reducing the misery index in our country and will ultimately endure to the collective good of the entire whole.

Mr. Speaker, this must be a  multi- ministerial effort involving many agencies and to include the private sector, particularly those which operate businesses in these communities and who as part of the collective whole  will similarly benefit from these initiatives.

Mr. Speaker I will be moving after this Debate to procure the coordination of these efforts in the Englerston community to effect true Urban Transformation.

Mr. Speaker, The alleviation of poverty conditions is a philosophical mandate of the Progressive Liberal Party; it is embedded within our commitment to wipe every tear from every eye.

It is engendered by the understanding that there exists historic  structural inequities and that the policies of the State must do all that it must not to support and nurture a status quo but to radically transform human society.

If we do not address these issues the collective whole, our nation, will remain diseased and ailing for we as a people are as strong as our weakest link.

Mr Speaker, I have pledged in this fiscal year to continue in my support of the schools in the Englerston community; I believe I have the distinction of having more schools in my constituency than any other member of this House; these schools are namely EP Roberts Primary, CH Reeves Junior High, RM Bailey Senior High, AF Adderley Junior High, Ridgeland Primary, CW Sawyer Primary, Yellow Elder Primary, the Coconut Grove Preschool and until recently Mable Walker Primary.  Additionally, there are two other schools which are just outside of the constituency boundary but which also service the community namely Government High School and Claridge Primary School.

Mr. Speaker, I have sought over the years to build-up strong alliances with these schools and through the use of constituency funding and otherwise to lend support to various initiatives important to these schools and to assist in achieving their stated goals and objectives.

These schools continue to hold their own and many of which are showing progressive improvement in overall performance.

Mr. Speaker, as a result of this involvement I have watched over the years the progress of so many young people.

It has been a joy to see young people excel despite the odds, knowing that oftentimes they come from difficult backgrounds and where they have to work sometimes10 times harder than many of their peers to overcome their obstacles and setbacks to achieve their high success.

Mr. Speaker in this regard I will take the risk in this contribution of singling out two young men, one from Ridgeland Park West and the other from Palm Beach Street – Justin Smith and Danavio Neeley.

Neither of these young men come from what can be described as “privileged” backgrounds and in the case of Danavio, he lost both parents as a young boy.  Just last week, however, both graduated from CR Walker High School with distinction, Justin as Head Boy and Danavio as Deputy Head Boy. They have both won awards and honours throughout their school years including their final year of graduation. And they have both been accepted to tertiary institutions internationally.

Mr. Speaker, I cannot tell you how proud I am of these young men.

After these many years of personal witness I am convinced that our children who are born into and grow up in inner city communities with all of its concomitant challenges require just the right involvement, and just the appropriate stimuli to cause for them to excel and reach their incredible potential.

You can well imagine, therefore, when I see this objective not realized or attained, how distressing, frustrating and painful it is to see otherwise talented children fall by the wayside .

That is why Mr. Speaker, I will advocate with great vigour and force for more and more resources to be invested into Englerston and other such communities so as to improve quality of life and enhance opportunities for a promising future for our children.

And so Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that a commitment has been made to this end.

Mr. Speaker, I also seek to give my support to as many of the churches as possible in the Englerston constituency and to their varying programmes including food programmes and other outreach programmes because I know the work that many of these churches do as they are physically positioned in the heart of the people.

I know the involvement many churches have in the community and the shelter they provide in the time of storm.

In the case of the schools and many of the churches I have sought to develop a meaningful mutual partnership for the upliftment of the community.

Mr. Speaker, there is a third entity, however,  which I consider a partner in my work  as Member of Parliament  and that is the Urban Renewal offices in Englerston East and Englerston West headed by  ASP McKenzie and ASP Pratt, respectively.

Theses senior officers lead multi-agency teams as well as with the involvement of  community stakeholders in a number of important initiatives in their respective areas: they routinely  conduct community policing on foot throughout the community,  going door to door to  residences and to business places; they have developed alliances with all of the schools,  they conduct mobile patrol,  they provide follow up with and support for victims in the aftermath of a  crime; they  oversee a number of youth programmes –  sporting, cultural and academic. Englerston West manages a school suspension programme for children who have been suspended from school.

Mr Speaker, I have come to learn that many times these children who have been suspended from school are not just rude teenagers; far too often they are emotionally or psychologically injured human beings. The stories that I have encountered are heart-breaking and I have learned over the years that we ought not create stereotypes in an as assessment of each case because we run the risk of misperceiving precisely what we are dealing with.

Mr Speaker, we must speak truth:   Many of these young people are traumatized child victims of sexual or physical abuse or neglect and many suffer emotional disturbances as a result;

Mr. Speaker, I recall in particular a young man I met at the Centre a couple years ago who was part of that school suspension programme; he had the terrible misfortune as a young boy of witnessing the murder of two people, one being his mother and the other his father. He was being raised by his grandmother. If I had not heard his story for myself I would have found it hard to believe that any Bahamian child could have possibly have  had this nightmare as part of his early experience

Mr. Speaker, the suspension programme places these children in a caring and disciplined environment as opposed to simply dumping then onto the streets.

Mr. Speaker both Urban Renewal Centres offer after-school academic assistance programmes. In this regard I wish to recognize two very wonderful people; the first is a remarkable young man by the name of Chet Pratt who has been working in the Englerston community for several years.

Chet tutors, without charge, many young students, preparing them for BJC’s or BGCSE’s and the results of this intervention have been outstanding. Chet is often assisted by his father and his sister, The Pratt family is truly a caring and giving family.

The other person is Vernal Brathwaite, a lecturer at the College Of The Bahamas who has chosen to take himself into the Englerston community to provide invaluable tutoring to a group of young teenagers in BGCSE Maths and Science.

Mr Brathwaite extends this generosity on a purely voluntary basis

Mr. Speaker, these men are demonstrating Christian love and concern and responsibility in a way that is most inspiring.

They are providing access and opportunity to so many young people who would ordinarily not have ever been able to avail themselves of such and perhaps not even in their or their parents’ wildest dreams.

And because of their efforts these children will do well, Mr. Speaker

Outreach Programmes such as these exemplify the African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. And today Mr. Speaker, the child in this 21st century village faces issues and pressures that were never imagined when that proverb was first articulated so many years ago but its truth is as relevant today as it was then.

So Mr. Speaker, I have partnered with these various entities in a shared effort to open windows of opportunity, to alleviate suffering and to provide hope of a good life.

And in the midst of it all I have tried to maintain as close an access to the people I represent as is possible.

This has often proven to be very challenging considering the vast geography, the huge population and the distinct communities comprising the Englerston constituency particularly as created by the boundary changes made in the last General Election.

But I am humbled that the people of this constituency have seen fit to send me as the Progressive Liberal Party candidate to this House to be their standard-bearer for all these years.

I am particularly anxious for the training and employment project to commence at the earliest opportunity as I have many, many constituents who are looking forward with the great anticipation for the opportunity to become productively employed.

Mr. Speaker, before I leave my constituency, I have over the years been very fortunate to have a cadre of very loyal people who have stood in the trenches with me, win, lose or draw. Mr. Speaker these people are no fakers. They are not cowards. One such person who has been with me since he was a very young man and every step of the way in my political representation  died suddenly a few days ago, Ian Hanna aka Ian Johnson of Charles Vincent Street and Englerston at large. Ian was only in his early 30’s but he was an incredible leader in his own right, and extremely bright. He was loyal without question and consistent in his support of me and in his defense of my representation over the many years and was beloved by all in the community.

I take this opportunity to salute him and to send my heartfelt condolences to his mother, Patricia and his sisters, his grandmother and his aunts and extended family and all of his friends including those from the Patch.

Mr Speaker, I think it only appropriate that I say a few words about the recent referendum exercise. I wish to say that I accept unreservedly the decision-making of those who participated in the exercise. I have sought to analyse the results which blanketed the nation including the majority of voters who did not participate at all in the Referendum process.

I believe I understand the issues of concern including that of citizenship and I am well aware that the Bahamian people jealously guard and protect our citizenship.

I also understand the fear that the amendment to question 4 would allow for interpretation by our courts that marriages between persons of the same sex would become lawful although there are competing legal views on that issue.

I do have a concern, however, and will find it unacceptable that there may have been in some quarters a resistance to the principle that women are entitled to the same rights, privileges and protections under the law of our country as men are entitled to. This I cannot accept. This is unacceptable. And I am trusting that as we grow and progress as a country that whatever has not been achieved in the proposed amendments that  there is a clear understanding and acceptance  that while men and women  are different, we are nevertheless entitled to the same protections, rights and opportunities without discrimination

Women represent more than half of the population: our journey over the generations to be accorded and afforded the same human rights as are accorded to men has been a difficult one. We must remember there was a time women could not vote simply because they were women, married women could not hold property. It is reputed that a man could chastise his wife with a rod the width of his thumb but no larger. When we look at the alarming rate of rape in The Bahamas, a crime of sexual violence, it must cause for concern.

I am convinced we must look this issue clearly in the eyes and seek to address and confront issues such as this and domestic violence and other dysfunctions in male-female relationships particularly as it relates to the rearing of children, too many of whom are growing up with absentee fathers and suffering the effects of this abandonment in a most negative way.

And so I accept and respect the views of the voters even though I supported all 4 amendments. We must continue to ensure, however, that all forms of discrimination against women are eradicated. We will not progress as a country otherwise.

Mr. Speaker, as Minister of Transport and Aviation, I am winding down to the final year of this term which I believe may be shown to have been a productive one.

Mr. Speaker, we are a small island developing state with limited resources. We must carefully choose our priorities and pursue them diligently in the interest of our national progress. It is very unhelpful, however, for political voicings to seek to create false expectations or capitalise on frustrations. This may create dissent but it will certainly make it more difficult to stay on course as people in light of our peculiar challenges.

These political noises are also most annoying when the facts show that much of what is complained about were actually created by their policies or by their own egregious inaction. But I guess this is what we call “politics” but I think most Bahamians see through this.

Mr. Speaker, In order to fully understand our efforts in this Ministry therefore you will have to appreciate the state of things when we took office and to view and assess the progress of this administration by that measuring stick, understanding that it has been uphill.

Mr Speaker, this Ministry concerns many sectors and hence comprises many agencies or departments which are important to the economy of The Bahamas. These include the aviation sector, the maritime sector, ground transport, the postal system and the Department of Meteorology.

Mr. Speaker, the aviation sector is a key component in our national life: it facilitates the tourism economy and assures our social cohesion as an archipelagic people.

It is no surprise, therefore that we would have some 56 airports in this country, 29 of which are government owned and operated.

We have done well. I do not agree with the Member for St Ann’s that our airports are a “joke” as he put it yesterday. But we cannot argue that the need for a massive overhaul and resource-injection is overdue. It was overdue when the FNM held office 4 years ago but if you were to listen to them in this Honourable House you would think something happened overnight while they were asleep in their beds.

We have been actively engaging in a process to modernize the aviation sector in our country.

In the last 4 years this modernization process has involved multiple approaches on all fronts: it has involved the restructuring of the civil aviation agencies that oversee and operate the aviation machinery in The Bahamas.

Mr. Speaker you will recall we recently debated and unanimously passed  legislation in this House for the creation of a regulatory body, the Civil Aviation Authority, to be  responsible solely for the oversight of safety and security protocols and systems at aerodromes and in aviation  nationwide; the legislation also creates  an air navigation agency the BANSD for the management of air traffic nationwide and for the maintenance and management of  ancillary equipment and technology such as radars and navigation aids and communications equipment for the facilitation of air traffic management; You will recall that  Family Island airports and their operations  will transfer to the Airport Authority into their newly created Family Island Division; and  an accident and investigation unit has been created out of the office of the Minister of Aviation which will be mandated to investigate aviation accidents and in the promotion of aviation safety.

The process is in its final phases and it is expected that within the next 6 months the transition will have been fully effected. Mr. Speaker, this will have the effect of creating a transparent and reputable aviation sector in The Bahamas that is fully compliant with ICAO standards.

From a technical point of view, however, the Civil Aviation Department over the last 4 years has been very busy building capacity – human, technological and infrastructural in the aviation sector for our country and in the interest of our people.

To this end the Government has Purchased and installed  and the Bahamian people now own a  new, state of the art ASR12 Radar system from IndraSistemas of Spain.

This major technology acquisition has remediated what has been in effect a tenuous situation with our radar system for many years.

Additionally the new APP Building, the Approach Control Centre has been constructed from which radar controllers will operate and where controllers are being trained with the state of the art simulators housed in that building.

Air traffic Controllers and airway facility staff have already completed training in Spain.

We have recruited 10 new air traffic controllers who have completed their training and they are now undergoing on-the-job training. A process is now underway for the recruitment of an additional 10 new air traffic controllers as we seek to develop a strong cadre of air traffic controllers in this important sector of our economy.

We have recruited 5 new radar technicians who will join and supplement the unit with responsibility for the maintenance and repair of our radar system.

To bolster and strengthen the safety oversight mechanisms in The Bahamas, over the last 4 years we hired the first ever cadre of aerodrome inspectors, six in total with responsibility bringing for the first time a specialized and focused oversight of safety and security at all airports in The Bahamas.

We have added to the total complement of Airworthiness Inspectors for Flight Standards Inspectorate and most recently the hiring and training of two (2) additional Airworthiness inspectors for the Flight Standards Inspectorate, the Hiring and training of one (1) Operations Inspector for the Flight Standards Inspectorate and the Hiring and Training of one (1) Cabin Safety Inspector for the Flight Standards Inspectorate. We are in the process of recruiting after a public advertisement process another 2 additional airworthiness inspectors and one operations inspector.

Over the last 4 years we have undertook a number of infrastructural projects and improvements including the Mayaguana runway improvement project, the Reconstruction and extension and increase of capacity  of the Staniel Cay, Exuma runway inclusive of solar lighting and perimeter fencing, the Refurbishment and reconstruction of San Salvador airport. The redevelopment of the Bimini Airport inclusive of an enlarged terminal building and an extended runway from 5,400 feet to 6,400 feet and made ready for night flights; the completion of the Marsh Harbour International airport which will be renamed next month as the Leonard M Thompson International Airport as part of the official Independence celebrations; the completion of phases 2 and 3 of the Lynden Pindling International Airport. Now underway are the redevelopment projects for the Exuma International Airport, the North Eleuthera Airport, the Moore’s Island airport, the Great Harbour Cay Airport and the Mayaguana terminal.

Mr Speaker I mentioned at the outset that the Government has responsibility for 29 airports: this requires tremendous capital investment from the public treasury. To this end My Ministry has obtained grant funding from the IDB for the  conduct  of a study (technical and financial) to determine the feasibility of attracting private investment through a PPP scheme for family island airports, and to develop a financial model of selected airports and concession alternatives.

The first phase involved a preliminary outlook of potential opportunities for PPPs and focused on 13 airports:

Governor’s Harbour     North Eleuthera

Rock Sound                Bimini

Marsh Harbour           Treasure Cay

Exuma

San Salvador             New Bight

San Andros                Andros Town

Deadman’s Cay               Great Harbour Cay

Mathew Town

The study consisted of:

* a Market assessment

* Preliminary demand projections

* review of infrastructure development plans (Stantec Report combined investment of approximate $160 million)

* selection of most feasible options for airport(s)

The following elements were reviewed:

*capital expenditure required,

*Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA)

* Net Present Value

* Internal rate of return

Phase 2 will now involve :

a detailed market assessment & traffic forecast

independent capital expenditure verification

Environmental assessment

Concession financial model

Teaser for potential private operators.

The intention is to seek public private partnerships which will attract the capital for infrastructural redevelopment of select airports while at the same time maintaining government ownership, oversight and controls. It is a hoped for “win-win” situation for the Bahamian people.

We are preparing for the acquisition of a number of crash fire rescue trucks for Exuma, Marsh Harbour, North Eleuthera, Rock Sound airports for a total cost of $2.5 million.

Mr. Speaker the last 4 years have seen great strides in the aviation sector and I believe the platform is being created for great economic growth and development throughout our country.

In addition to these important initiatives, the Civil Aviation Department has promulgated regulations for the use of drones in The Bahamas. I am pleased to advise the Department has now completed the process for an online facility for the registration of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or drones at www.bcaa.gov.bs.

Once logged in the applicant will be required to create an account and provide the necessary information about themselves and the UAS that is being registered.

At the end of the process the applicant can print out the registration certificate which they will sign notifying that the Small UAS/ Drone has been registered with the Department of Civil Aviation. The certificate must be in the possession of the operator when the small UAS/ drone is being operated.

Mr. Speaker, my inquiries thus far indicate that we are the only country in the region which has promulgated regulations for the use of drones despite the fact that this has been a pressing and troublesome issue worldwide to aviation safety.

Mr. Speaker, finally you will have heard both the Prime Minister and myself speak over the various budget periods about the establishment of an aircraft registry and an aircraft mortgage registry. We have now in hand the final report with recommendations from consultants engaged to study the feasibility of such an imitative within the context of the Bahamian economy: The ICF Report recommends that The Bahamas enter the aircraft mortgage registration business and has recommended an implementation plan spanning 28 months. However, before the Plan is initiated the following must be done:

* Modify legal & tax regulations (either ratify Cape Town Convention or enact legislation that mirrors the Convention to provide aircraft owners and financiers the level of protection over interest in their assets; and waive or eliminate the 10% customs duty on the importation of new aircraft)

* Update the current fee schedule for aircraft registration as current schedules are insufficient to cover the cost the current registry and will create a large deficit with an expanded registry;

* Develop robust registration processes (detailed and thorough processes)

* Develop partnerships & relationships with stakeholders (Bahamas Financial Services Board- Ministry of Tourism – Business & Commercial Aviation networks- Bahamas Maritime Authority)

The government must now make a decision on when and how we will proceed to implementation.

Mr Speaker, during this period we have also sought to redress a number of anomalies in salaries in the department of civil aviation, we have sought to bring a focus to resolving career path issues, we have invested tremendous resources in training and human development, we have completed an industrial agreement with BATCU and have procured the relocation of the department and staff members to new physical premises

Mr. Speaker, I believe these 4 years have been fairly productive years and that our energies and the investment of public resources have been in the interest of the Bahamian people and will have the effect of substantively taking our people forward.

Mr. Speaker the Road Traffic Department is a critical agency as a revenue generator to the Public Treasury and for the establishments of standards for ground transport in The Bahamas. It is an agency, however, that has received little investment for an extended period of time and as a consequence operates with antiquated systems and in a deteriorated environment.

When I spoke in this House in 2012 in our first Budget debate I observed then  in the 5 years of sitting on that side of the House in Opposition the then government barely made mention of this critical Department in budget speeches or otherwise.

The sad truth is (and the Opposition knows this)  that the findings in the  Auditor General’s Report could very well be descriptive of the state of operations 5 years ago and even 10 years ago.

What the current Auditor General’s Report notes but omitted, however, in previous reports  is that there has not been a vehicle register for many years in that Department according to my advice.

This observation, that is the absence of a vehicle register, as far as we have been able to ascertain, is for the first time ever mentioned in any report; this observation also formed the basis of a forecast of loss of revenue of some $10 million based on an extrapolation founded upon assumptions.

Mr. Speaker, this formula could very well have been deployed at any time in the past although this was not the case. It is very possible therefore that the Report may have the effect of not putting in a correct context the operational realities of that Department which have been long standing.

In any event the Controller ,who has day to day oversight,  has given  a full analysis to the Report and has now  shared the pertinent information provided by the Auditor General with the Royal Bahamas Police Force to investigate findings of alleged malfeasance as outlined in that Report.

Additionally the Controller has introduced new internal controls based upon recommendations contained in that report. He has updated the Department’s Procedures Manual and implemented Internal Control Procedures to improve accountability and improve revenue collection.

In addition the department will implement additional measures at its headquarters’ site as well as the two additional sites in New Providence (Carmichael Road and West Bay Street).

Mr Speaker, I have previously communicated to this Honourable House as to the project now underway which will radically transform the operations of this critical agency including creating greatly improved efficiencies, enhanced customer experience and a higher degree of accountability in the collection of public revenue and the avoidance of fraud.  This will be the case not only in New Providence but throughout the country. This is known as The Ministry of Transport and Aviation – Road Traffic Department modernization process of Drivers Licence and Motor Vehicle Registration-Licence system which is soon to be officially launched.  Vehicle Licencing will begin roll out at the beginning of October and Drivers Licence at the beginning of December. The roll out will be completed by February 2017.

User acceptance training will begin June20th and subsequent training of additional staff will take place in July, August and September

Training for all staff will entail Basic and Intermediate Computer, system training, and Customer Service

This system will provide a fully integrated IT system that will greatly improve internal controls in the department and thus improve revenue collection of the department.

Total Amount budgeted for the project $8, 371,908.00

Total Amount Budgeted for Data Torque $3,622,278.00

Amount Expended to Data Torque to date $1,942,410.82

Amount Expended to Smart Consulting $261,250.00

Amount Expended for Printers and Consumables $846,934.00

Mr Speaker for all the critics and especially for  those who wish to take parasitical advantage of this dire situation that has been allowed to persist in this critical agency including those who will conjure up phantom tales about previous efforts and alleged companies from Singapore, I call upon you to be honest with yourselves and the Bahamian people  about these circumstances and support the government in its quest to address this long-overdue reform process.

While this process is underway, however, the Controller has undertook to focusing on the implementation of additional measures to effect greater efficiencies within the department; included among these are.

* Increase counter space at main Road Traffic office by the end of the first quarter 2016/2017 (funding from budget – Allocation $6,600)

* Creation of a new satellite office in Eastern new Providence and Family Islands (Bimini and Cat Island)

* Creation of a Customer Care Unit in the first quarter by July 31, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the Government has just agreed to the entering into of a public private partnership for the acquisition and redevelopment of a signature site for the Road Traffic Department on the Tonique Williams darling Highway. This new location will allow for a state of the art premises which are   spacious and facilitate rational operations of the department including inspections, examinations and licensing. Included in this also will be a driving range which will allow for testing  of new drivers which is currently done at the Fort Charlotte location.

The historic and comprehensive  review  of the  legislation governing road traffic, vehicles and public service licences and offences, the Road traffic Act is nearing its final completion and I am hopeful will be brought to this house within the next several months after consultation.

We continue our efforts for the reform of the public transport system on this island.   The Inter-American Development Bank has provided a Grant of $500,000.00 to finance a six month Pilot Project that will form the basis for the island wide roll out of the comprehensive unified public (bus) transportation system on the island of New Providence.

Part of the Grant will be used to contract a transportation specialist consultancy firm which has already been selected to provide technical support to the Ministry of Transport and Aviation for the implementation of:

* comprehensive reform of the public bus service in New Providence

* commence with the operation and organization and concomitant evaluation of a Demonstration Pilot Project of the proposed Bus Unification initiative

* the preparation of the technical documents in support of a credit request to the IDB for island wide roll out of the reformed unified bus system

Specifically the consultant will be required to:

* conduct a review of the existing policy documents of the proposed Unified Bus system

* defining the roles of different stakeholders in the proposed Unified Bus system

* operationalizing and ensuring the coordination and implementation for the pilot demonstrative initiative

* effectively lead the initiative to plan, manage, design, execute implement

* the pilot initiative, including conducting all necessary workshops, surveys and designs for its implementation

* continuously evaluating the pilot initiative and make recommendations for the island wide rollout

* developing the infrastructure designs, institutional systems as well as the legal framework, to support the reforms with a compendium of terms of reference as required

* assisting the Government of The Bahamas with the preparation of a loan application to the IDB to finance Government investments required for the island wide rollout of the Bus Unification System

* assisting the Government of The Bahamas in the execution of the implementation plan, and

* assessing the need for changes in additional legislation to implement the proposed reforms

It is my hope and expectation  that the consultant will be in place to enable the project to commence in the new school year.

In the meantime Mr. Speaker let us be proactive as concerned citizens. I have seen and heard much lamenting about infractions in the public transport system. I urge yet again that we take responsibility for our transport system and where you see abuses or infractions to call our hotline established specifically for this purpose – 322 7623 – 322 ROAD. The Controller will take it from there.

Mr. Speaker, the Controller is bringing a renewed focus on road safety included in this is the implementation of crossing guards in school zones

* Yellow Elder Primary – Two (2) Guards

* Sandilands Primary – One (1) Guard

* Stephen Dillet Primary – One (1) Guard

* Thelma Gibson Primary – One (1) Guard

* Columbus Primary – One (1) Guard

* Carmichael Primary – One (1) Guard

* Albury Sayle Primary – One (1) Guard

* Woodcock Primary – One (1) Guard

Additional 16 Crossing Guards are needed at the following schools:

* C. W. Sawyer Primary

* Carlton Francis Primary

* Centreville Primary

* Cleveland Eneas Primary

* Columbus Primary (additional 1)

* E. P. Roberts Primary

* Oakes Field Primary

A review has been completed for family island schools and implementation will take place In Grand Bahama, Abaco, Exuma and Eleuthera in the first instance.

Mr. Speaker among the findings in the Auditor General’s report related to the long-standing system of production of licence plates.  Although not mentioned in that report, we have been ahead of this concern and have completed a Request for Proposal (RFP) process was published on Monday January 25 in the News Papers and on The Bahamas Government website. Two companies submitted proposals to the Tenders Board on Friday 19 February, 2016. Following the submission of same an evaluation committee made up of personnel from the Ministry of Finance, The Bahamas Correctional Service and Road Traffic met and completed the evaluation process. The selected submission will be shortly submitted to the Tenders Board and thereafter be submitted for Cabinet approval The Estimate cost $800,000 to $1 M

Taxis duty exemption, call up increased fares

Moratorium review

Mr Speaker the Ministry has completed its . Small Island Traffic Study through its consultant Caribbean Civil group which has conducted a survey on five small islands currently facing growing concerns about traffic management (Harbour Island, Spanish Wells, Elbow Cay, Green Turtle Cay and Great Guana Cay).

The draft report has been submitted to the Ministry and is being assessed I n preparation for consultation with local communities and the implementation of strategies and legislative measures in these communities.

Total Amount Budgeted for Project $115, 115.30

Taxis duty exemption, call up increased fares

Moratorium review

Surreys  duty exemption

Mr Speaker the maritime sector is an intrinsic feature of  our national identity. We are a maritime people. My Ministry is engaged in building technical and infrastructural capacity nationwide. At Prince George Dock, the busiest cruise port in the region, infrastructural works are constantly underway including most recently the upgrading of the CCTV system, fencing upgrades, refurbishment of surfaces and kerbing, improved signage for enhanced safety.  With the growth of the Prince George Dock as a world premiere port facility action must be taken to cause for a more efficient and commercially based management of this facility. This has been much talked about but we are at the stage where an appropriate management paradigm must be struck to achieve the desired objective without divestment of the facility to private hands.

Continued work is underway for the repair of the Marsh Harbour and work has already been completed in the installation of CCTV, in the erection of perimeter fencing and the completion of a guard house. Security officers are now being recruited several whom are expected to undergo  training very shortly before assuming post

The Three Island Dock has been completed and is under the oversight of an officer seconded from the RBDF along with other staff. The Fresh Creek Dock Works have been completed and recruitment is underway for staff to manage that facility. We are increasing the complement and hence the capacity of the Exuma Port to more adequately address the growing maritime activities on the mainland and the Cays and for the first time ever a Port Office in Bimini has been established and additional recruitment will be underway to more adequately staff that office.  The Potters Cay Dock redevelopment is well advanced and the completion of phase 2 is nearing its end

The Potter’s Cay Dock Project is steadily progressing as the site is now being visibly and physically transformed to meet the facility’s objectives. Which is the promotion of safety, functionality, efficiency and security. Also the upgrading of the aesthetics of the area.

Once completed the transformation will include, adjustments to the entrance and exit causeways, creation of loading zones and curbing’s, creation of alternative parking, sidewalks, bulk heading of the Eastern Section (Concrete Barrier) signage, road markings, asphalt paving and security check points. Passenger holding, bathroom facilities and a freight depot which are components of Phase Ill.

Work Specifics:-

Construction of bulkhead/curbing completed;

Installation of drainage and catch basin — 90% completed; Roadway and parking lot base is completed awaiting asphalt paving;

Boardwalk has begun;

Landscape preparation is ongoing.

Phase 11

i. Bulkhead and curbing completed;

Paving of roadway at Eastern Section is completed;

Planters and sidewalks – 90% completed;

Freight depot parking lot – 75% completed; Garbage disposal site re-location completed; Roadway stripping has begun.

Note:

G & Construction

Constructed Sum

Contingency Sum

Total Approved Funding

$585,000.00

$58,500.00

$643,500.00

Island Pavers

Contractual Sum

Contingency Sum

$1,326,891.26 $199,033.69

Total Approved Funding $1,525,924.95

Phase 3 involves and will be completed

Mr Speaker, we are also finalizing a complete review of the complement of maritime legislation in this country. You will have seen the ISPS Regulations which were recently laid in this parliament and which forms a part of this compendium of amendments and enactments. These regulations are historic and for the first time codify into law the ISPS Code for Port Security.  The proposed amendments will enhance standards for maritime safety in both leisure and commercial maritime activity and there will be a ratings system for crewing. Increased efforts are underway nationwide for revenue collection.

Training

Lightering

Water sports – booths Maritime Policy

The Port Department will be recruiting new staff for the Port Facility in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Exuma, Andros and Eleuthera.

The Port Department will also be putting controls in place with a view to collecting all outstanding revenue in the Family Islands.

The Berry Islands has the potential to bring in revenue from two (2) Marinas, commercial vessels and docks in the amount of $200,000.00

Automation The Department has a registry of approximately Eighteen Thousand registered vessels which include Mail Boats, Cargo Vessels, Commercial Vessels, Ferryboats and Pleasure Crafts.

The Port Department is engaged in building capacity for the strengthening of regulatory oversight to assure maritime safety throughout the nation, to enhance revenue collection and to procure infrastructural developments that keep us compliant with IMO standards.

Mr Speaker, the Post Office has been plagued by many chronic issues chief of which is the physical conditions of the General Post Office on East Hill Street. The government has now identified a solution to this long-standing problem with the relocation of those operations to be undertaken to the former City Market Shopping Centre situated on the East west Highway junction with the Tonique Williams Highway –  plans are now under review  and timelines being developed for each phase of the relocation. The Minister for Accommodations will speak further to this development but it is our hope that relocation will be effected in full by December of this year.

Mr Speaker the Auditor General undertook an audit of the Post Office Savings Bank which has highlighted deficiencies in the system and possible malfeasance. A Police investigation is underway.

But the most critical issue is that the computerized records crashed in 2008 causing for a manual system to be implemented. I believe it is because of this that the Auditor General stationed at the General Post Office two of his officers to conduct daily reviews of operations but despite this vulnerabilities persisted which highlights the stubborn weaknesses inherent in manual accounting systems which are widespread and complex.

The Ministry engaged an accounting firm which has for several months been involved in the meticulous process of digitizing accounts and preparing accounts for full digitization.

With these fundamental reforms underway, the Post Office will now seek to strengthen its human resource complement by additional staffing and comprehensive training. New products are lined up including a proposed partnership with an internationally established fast mail company so as to create modern products within the operational capability for the Post Office.

Mr. Speaker, The Bahamas Department of Meteorology is a critical agency for The Bahamas having regard to our low lying geography and our consequent vulnerabilities to sever weather patterns, climate change and to hurricanes. The Department’s Mission is “to provide high quality meteorological and climatological information on a timely basis to be used by special interest agencies and the public at large for research, education and the protection of lives and property.” The Department plays a significant role in aviation.

To successfully accomplish this mandate, on a twenty-four hour seven days a week (24/7) basis, the BDOM must possess a range of resources: including an ample compliment of trained staff in all areas, fully operational equipment, modernized technology and suitable workplace environments.

For many years there had been a critical shortage of manpower in the Forecasters and Observers Ranks resulting in the Forecasters and Observers working for extended periods which placed enormous pressures on officers.

To this end, between 2014 to 2015, the Department hired 15 persons, all of whom were to be trained as meteorological observers. Already 4 of the trainees have completed the Entry Level Technicians Course (Meteorological Observers Course) at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) in Bridgetown, Barbados. They returned in December 2015 and are completing their on-the-job training before CIMH provides them with their official certification. The other 11 trainees are to attend CIMH in August 2016. :

Further, of these 15 persons hired, 4 will be assigned to the Electronics Section after their initial training and 2 of the remaining persons will be assigned to our Freeport Office. The electronics section of the Department will now take on a critical importance as the Government has now agreed to the acquisition of 4 new Doppler radars to be positioned throughout the archipelago including Mayaguana, Grand Bahama and Long Island. This will provide a comprehensive, real time coverage for observers and forecasters which will arm the Department with the ability to instantaneously warn for the protection of life and property.

Mr Speaker additionally  ICAO has mandated that by December 2016 all Aviation Forecasters must be qualified to at least a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Degree in Meteorology or a BSc Degree in an accepted science with certification in the Basic Instruction Package for Meteorological Technicians (BIP-MT). In this regard, one of the Department’s officers has completed the BIP-MT certification at CIMH in 2015; Another officer is to complete studies at the BSc Degree level in Meteorology at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus by 2017; and another officer based at the Freeport office, will leave to pursue a BSc Degree in Meteorology at the University of the West Indies, Barbados, Cave Hill Campus, in August 2016.

The Department is building technological, infrastructural and human resource capacity to position this Department as a powerful tool in the arsenal of the COTB.

Presently, BDOM’s Forecast Office is located in the Old Terminal Building at LPIA, and on Friday/01/July/2016 NAD will begin renovations to a space in the new domestic terminal, previously occupied by Sky Bahamas, in which to relocate the Forecast Office. These renovations should be completed within 4 weeks.

LPIA Statue

FIR

Lighthouses

Mr Speaker has a most destructive style of politics: it appears a philosophy where they will throw out the baby with the bath water. It is in my view the worst form of political pandering and worst form of opposition politics. In this regard I give credit to the former Minister because he knows the issues.

I understand the new Senator had some disparaging comments about me and my ability as a Minister of this Government. I do not want to take too much time because I know his family very well and for that reason I will be measured in my response. My advice to the Senator it “take your time”, you are not there yet. You are trying. Like the old people used to say when you do not know someone you call them Mr or Mistress. I could be very explicit although I choose not to be. You are on TV with great regularity and despite your inexperience as some resident expert, May I suggest that the next time you prognosticate and postulate and opinionate remember The Bahamas knows you were rejected twice by the Bahamian people. Now that does not mean you do not have a future but it means you have some things to learn, you must bring some humility to this enterprise especially if you are untested and unproven.. My observation of Bahamian politics is that The Bahamian people do not like arrogance very much. And until you have gotten your hands dirty, and have exited in your air conditioned office, be wise and circumspect in your ways.

Mr Speaker, I now end this presentation. I do so by thanking once again the people whom I have the honour and privilege to represent and the good people of The Bahamas in general. I thank the Prime Minister who has given me the opportunity to serve in his Cabinet. I thank each and every member of the Cabinet but in particular the Minister of Works, the Minister of Tourism and the Minister of State for Finance all of whom frequently work closely with the aims and objectives of this Ministry. I thank the Permanent Secretary and her administrative team in the Ministry. I thank each Department head and their teams.  We have worked in the interest of the Bahaman people. They have worked hard often under difficult circumstances. But we have committed to and are achieving many things which will fundamentally and positively impact the qualitative state of our country. We are modernizing critical systems, we are building human and technological capacity, we believe in Bahamians. We believe in our country and we know that we can attain greatness if all hands are on deck.