ELCOTT COLEBY’S WEEK IN REVIEW
viagra sale sovaldi times;”>THIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS (16th – 20th February 2015)
COMMENTARY BY ELCOTT COLEBY
The House Resolution to approve the government’s midyear budget statement and the IDB Governors meeting highlighted government news this week in The Bahamas.
Highlights from this week in Parliament.
Debate on the midyear budget statement continued this week. Moving the resolution to approve the midyear budget statement on Monday was State Minister for Finance Hon. Michael Halkitis who told House members that the government has pursued a “bold agenda” and made the tough decisions in troubled times, but will not be distracted by naysayers and critics. He said the government is on target to reduce the current budget deficit by $160 million, has cut the GFS deficit in half to date and is on pace to reduce government debt by 2015/2016 fiscal year. Further, at $689 million, government revenue performance is $32 million or 7% ahead of last year and $841 million of the $1.8 billion budgeted have been expended at the midyear point. Also, he said that by 2017, the economy is on pace to grow by 6.2% or $600 million more than the level in 2012. The economy contracted by $239 million or 3% between 2007 and 2012.
On the issue of Value Added Tax (VAT), the cornerstone of the government’s fiscal reform initiative and consolidation plan, Halkitis confirmed that $16.2 million were collected as at the 10th February and that the government projects a collection of $300 million in VAT in its first full year of implementation.
The Immigration Minister told House members that the law which created the Department of Foreign Affairs came into force on the 23rd December 2014 and later, on the 30th December 2014, the Foreign Service Orders came into Force. Hon Fred Mitchell said that the department will add six additional Foreign Service Officers in addition to new allowances due to the new levels. More funding will be needed to facilitate this and future repatriation operations because the budgeted $1.5 million for repatriation exercises have been exhausted as $1,678,983.00 were spent to date. He also challenged the business community to identify one example of a work permit refusal impeding their business operations. This was in response to media reports that work permit refusals were adversely impacting some businesses.
Agriculture and Local Government Minister Alfred Gray reported that all islands without fisheries officers will one assigned to those islands. He assured House members that BAMSI is progressing well and construction has not stopped at the institute. He also provided the House with an update on the upgrade and beautification of the Potter’s Cay dock.
Youth and Sports Minister Dr. Johnson boasted that the National Festival Commission will organize year round festivities for both practitioners and entrepreneurs in the cultural community
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. He also touted the National Youth Policy and a “one stop shop” for youths and as having substantive solutions to crime. Minister Johnson declared that The Bahamas was in the sports business and used the economic success of the Popeye Bowl game as one tangible example of that. He promised more sporting facilities in the family islands and greater support for youth development in the areas of sports and culture.
Prime Minister Christie in his capacity as Chair of CARICOM, updated the House on the 26th Inter-sessional meetings of government heads of CARICOM scheduled to be held at the Melia Resort in Nassau on the 26th and 27th February 2015.
The Prime Minister said that among the agenda items up for discussion were the need to leverage CARICOM’s human, cultural and natural assets for the economic development of the community; regional security, and particularly in light of the threat of the Islamic State of Iran and Syria (ISIS); reparations for native genocide and slavery; discussions on how the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) can support the development of agriculture in the Community and relations with the Dominican Republic.
The Prime Minister congratulated Dr. Harris and his Unity Party on the occasion of their electoral victory in St. Kitts and Nevis on Monday, 16th February and thanked outgoing Prime Minister Dr. Douglas for his years of service, especially in the area of Health.
In other news from Parliament, the senate met on Wednesday to debate the amended Electricity Act 2014 and the Tripartite Council Bill 2014. Both bills were passed by the Senate and are on to the Governor General for signature.
Government considers gun amnesty
“We haven’t had really successful gun amnesties” said Minister of National Security Hon. Bernard Nottage, “but we are willing to try anything that has a chance of working because truth be known, if we can get the guns out of the hands of young people the murder rate would go down considerably and this would have a tremendous positive impact on the fear of crime in the society.
“We are discussing it” said Dr. Nottage to the media this week as he revealed that the government currently has under active consideration, the implementation of an amnesty period for guns as a component of its anti-crime fighting initiatives. This generally means that those in possession of illegal firearms can turn them in without question or prosecution for the duration of the amnesty period.
The record shows that murders by guns have increased 27 percent over the last eight and one half years and from 2006 to 2009, ranged from 55% to 64%; this according to the Nassau Guardian.