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Remarks at National Development Plan Report Launch
Apr 13, 2016 - 1:25:50 PM

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NDP Steering Committee Chairman Felix Stubbs (BIS Photo)

Nassau, Bahamas - Please see enclosed the National Development Plan Report delivered by NDP Steering Committee Chairman Felix Stubbs; Civil Society Bahamas President Terry Miller; and the closing remarks by Office of the Prime Minister Director of Economic Development and Planning Nicola Virgill-Rolle at COB Library on April 11, 2016.

NDP Steering Committee Chairman Felix Stubbs:

I wish to thank each of you for coming out today to be part of this historic exercise.

Being part of the development of The National Development Plan of The Bahamas was, for me, an honour but it was also an enlightening and humbling experience.

This Plan, when completed will prepare a roadmap for the future of our Nation; the future we leave for our children and their children.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Based on the work that we have done thus far and if we see this work through, and if we are resolute in our commitment to ensure the continued non-partisan approach, I am confident to say that the future of The Bahamas will be a bright one.

Tonight, I share the results of that critical examination of our country. This is the first phase in our work – the results of the diagnostic investigation into the current state of the nation.

Our Report does not look at The Bahamas though rose-tinted lenses. It takes a hard and honest look at our country; the challenges we have had and continue to face, as well as our strengths.

What this Report does, in many instances, is to codify these issues, to document and address our challenges in a clear and concise format. The Report shares the statistical evidence which may never have been seen in this format, or all together like this before, and in so doing quantifies and explains, in some cases, the size and nature of the problem. As I have mentioned, this Report is the first phase of a greater effort to create a more vibrant Bahamas. It is the start of a roadmap to a better future – a future of social inclusion, peace and prosperity; a future where every person matters. Please enjoy this short video on the process of developing the NDP.

So What Were The Findings?

Now the good news, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that it The Bahamas is a blessed nation. Our people have been resourceful and some of our policies have propelled our country to stability and relative economic strength. We are on the cusp of what could be a leap ahead, if managed properly.

Our work shows that there are positive innovations and really great work being undertaken in a number of sectors, both within the Government and outside.

What has been missing and urgently needed, however, is a coordinated national response to those issues, a National vision of the future and a complete, comprehensive and harmonised plan to get us there.

This State of the Nation Report enables us to understand how each of areas of our study are inter-linked. Through this approach a national response which addresses the real issues, can be devised.

The Report and the working papers are extremely detailed. So I will only highlight some key findings for you that we must keep to the forefront of our minds.

The Population demographics are Positive!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The current structure of the population makeup, provides The Bahamas with a “demographic gift” as 66% of the population is working aged (15-64.) This group must be engaged in extremely positive and productive activities, if we are to be successful as a country. This is a gift we must utilise now, however, because as the population ages it will be lost.

And we are aging, growing by slowing rates and become more diverse in terms of nationalities present in our borders. By 2040, the population over the age of 65 will represent a significant share of the population, indeed a larger share than the population under the age of 5. We must prepare for this as it impacts our economy, the jobs of the future and our family structures.

Human Capital

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Improvements to our country must begin with human capital. Education is critical to our success as a country. Beginning from an early age, educational opportunities must be more widely available if we are to close the achievement gaps between public and private schools in the primary years and between boys and girls.

As we move beyond primary school, we see a slackening of results, as we compete for the attention of our teenagers in our high schools. Our research supports the strong emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and the basics like English and comprehension. Our students need to be computer literate at an early age to fill the requirements of the future.

The reality of our current state, however, is that too many of our citizens are ill equipped to reach their full potential. Tertiary and vocational education is outside of the reach of too many students because of inadequate performance at the high school level and a lack of resources.

No one government is to blame for this state of affairs – I wish to reiterate that. This is not the intent of this report, and I commend the Government and the Steering Committee for pushing us to produce an honest report. Strong educational outcomes involve everyone. It truly does take a village to raise a child.

The low levels of skills attainment in this country, however, affect all aspects of life: our productivity in the workplace, our ability to earn a decent wage to support our families, our dignity.

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Rt. Hon. Perry Christie, Prime Minister with Felix Stubbs looking on. (BIS Photo)

Therefore, our Report has pointed out the dire need to continue to invest in education to support both, our young people and our not so young people, who wish to upgrade their skills. Learning and skills acquisitions must be a lifelong activity. This must be a common duty that all Bahamians feel is their responsibility for themselves and their children.

We need to adopt Healthy Lifestyles

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are not a wellness-focused country. Yes, we have modern hospitals and highly trained health professionals and there has been significant investment in health care and access. Lifestyle diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, are a threat to national development. Obesity levels, even among children, are too high.

Poverty

Ladies and Gentlemen, Poverty Is On The Rise.

More than 12.8% of the population, or 43,000 persons, live at or below the poverty line as at 2013. I want you to imagine a single mother, the only earner in the household at $17,000 per year, with four or five children and perhaps another adult in the household. That household, which resembles so many in our community, is in poverty and may struggle with both housing and food security on a regular basis. Many of the poor are working and a significant percentage of our children live in poverty.

More importantly, however, we are seeing generations of persons in poverty. We have to understand the poverty traps in our country. We know that this cycle of poverty could continue without adequate education, social and health interventions.

Values

Our researchers also identified changing cultural values towards material gain, work and ethics. The evidence suggests that the natural link between these concepts is being lost in our community – and with it a sense of hope that the individual can make a better life for himself or herself through hard work or education.

Community Decay

We have also seen community decay and ghettoization in some of our most historic communities. These strong communities which produced so many of our leaders are now characterised by high levels of criminal behaviour and a lack of support for at-risk youth. These are significant challenges limiting our potential.

Social Inclusion

Further our society needs to be more inclusive. Every person must be able to participate in the life and work of the nation, and allowed to fulfil their true potential. To give an example of one group: Persons in our community with disabilities face challenges in making a livelihood for themselves and in the basics such as access to public transportation. We must ensure the dignity of all of our fellow citizens. We need to harness the potential of all persons living in The Bahamas if we are to maximise growth and performance

Pillar II: Governance

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The next pillar of our work was Governance.

Without changes, our Governance arrangements will not continue to support a modern Bahamas!

Calls for More Transparency in Government

We have a stable democracy with a multi-party system, healthy elections with easy transitions and engaged citizens. We score very highly on international indices on political, media and civil freedoms.

Nevertheless, Bahamian democracy is not perfect and there are a number of ways in which it falls somewhat short of best practices. Issues such as campaign financing, for example, must be addressed.

Our Strategic Planning need to be strengthened

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We also fall down, considerably, in the area of strategic planning and financial management. Our rankings in this area by IDB studies are well below a regional average which itself is poor. Indeed, in one study, The Bahamas’ score was 0.8 of a possible 5 points. The lack of planning has led to poor service delivery for our citizens. Silos exist in our Government. Coordination is often too ad hoc and must be formalized. Government proposals require robust implementation planning, including capacity and risk assessments, and provisions for monitoring and performance evaluation. This limits accountability and governance.

Public Service Capacity and Skills Management needs to be right fitted!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Core to governance is the people who make government work. At just under 20% of the workforce, the size of the Bahamian civil service is not atypical to what we see in developed countries and slightly less than what we see in developing countries.

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NDP Steering Committee Chairman Felix Stubbs and the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie, Prime Minister(BIS Photo)

However, that being said, we need to ensure that we have the right skills in the public service and that we give people the correct resources, incentives and authority to do the job assigned. A review of the public services roles highlights the challenge for effective programme and project management of government services. We have a very small management cadre and a very large entry level cadre, this structure impacts effectiveness.

Performance management practices are not sufficiently results-focused and linked to consequences for the employee. This can encourage a culture of underperformance.

A well-functioning public service, responsive to the demands of policy-makers and service oriented is critical to development.

Local Government Needs Rationalization

Decentralizing decision making to Family Islands began 20 years ago with the creation of the Local Government Act. We need to review the structure of local government to ensure that more meaningful engagement at the local levels. Consideration should also be given for how the City of Nassau is managed.

The High Rates of Crime Affect Families, the Economy and Society as a Whole.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Crime was identified as the number one issue facing Bahamians on our recent National Survey.

We have a large, well trained, professional police force, high police per capita and an independent judicial system. Indeed, the number of police officers to citizens in The Bahamas is one of the highest in the world.

There are a number of programs underway to strengthen citizen security and these have resulted in a significant fall in the incidences of crime. Crimes against persons fell by 11% and crimes against property fell by 20% in 2014.

Murders however, continued to buck this trend increasing year over year. Our murder rates, unfortunately, place us in an undesirable club, inclusive of some of the most violent countries in the world. This is a plague on our society that must be dealt with comprehensively.

Pillar III: The Environment: Natural and Built

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Bahamas is Naturally Beautiful but has High Vulnerability. Our natural assets have to be carefully protected and managed.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Climate change is a core threats to the future our beloved country.

I repeat, we are under siege from rising temperatures and rising sea levels. In Family Island after Family Island, residents took us to places, now covered in water where land once stood. Adaptation is critical to prevent a crisis.

The issue of climate change is a serious one. Indeed, a sea level rise of 1 meter would eliminate 80% of the landmass of this country. Look too, at the losses incurred from hurricane impacts - Hurricane Sandy had a total economic cost of $702.8 million, approximately 9% of the GDP. Joaquin is estimated to cost $100 million. We have to be prepared as a nation for these changes.

In addition to the threats from climate change, The Bahamas ranks among the most water-scarce of Small Island Developing States.

There are significant threats to the coastal and marine environment including a heightened vulnerability to storm surge and sea level rise due both to direct impacts such as dredging, removal of mangroves and landfilling; and indirect impacts such pesticides and sewage discharge and runoff.

One issue which immediately impacts so many Bahamians is the management of solid waste. As I am sure that you are all aware, there remains an on-going concern with respect to the condition of landfills, the burning of waste at landfills and dumpsites, and the need to improve recycling practices. Estimates suggest that our Nassau landfill has less than a decade of usefulness left. Hard and costly decisions, including the mechanisms to reduce the way we generate waste, will need to be considered.

Beyond burning landfills, though, there a need for a broader revisiting of our environmental framework to ensure that it is coordinated and that we are enforcing our laws.

The government has acknowledged the importance of these issues and there have been recent national initiatives. More critically, however, there is also a need for the issue of climate change and environmental degradation to reach the average Bahamian.

The Infrastructure Remains Functional but There Are Many Issues With Respect To Reliability, Cost, Efficiency And Environmental Impacts

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The physical infrastructure for transportation and utilities is important for national planning. While there have been recent infrastructural improvements, we recognize that the government would be challenged to overhaul the infrastructure without non-government sources of capital.

The archipelagic makeup of the county increases the development challenge as economies of scale are difficult to achieve. The findings of our work point to communities with inadequate housing, sanitation and community infrastructure, high-cost and inefficient electrical services and inadequate water and sewage coverage. Our report highlights these issues in detail. The solutions won’t be found (and paid for) overnight, but we feel the first step is to begin planning our infrastructure more systematically and to invite greater private sector participation.

Land Ownership in The Bahamas?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Land ownership is an emotional topic in The Bahamas and extremely complex. We cannot function without clearly defined land administration system. Issues identified included overlapping claims and rights to land; an outdated policy for Crown Land divestment and administration which does not promote an efficient use of these lands. The existence of commonage and generational property further prevents occupants from accessing the economic value of the land.

Transportation links are costly to provide in an archipelagic country, but critical to the national vision

I now turn to the issue of transportation. As an archipelago, The Bahamas depends on its water transportation system for cargo and passengers, domestic and international. As with many other services in the country, the researchers found that significant investment was needed to facilitate further growth and improve the quality of life and experience for residents and visitors. Many of our ports are in disrepair and our Family Island Airports require some upgrading and rationalization. The mail boat system requires review.

Roads

Intra-island ground transportation is weak; limiting access between different settlements and sections within islands. Roads networks in the Family Islands (which may include bridges and causeways) require attention, and inadequate maintenance creates structural, financial, and ecological challenges.

Public bus transportation is underdeveloped in Nassau. Users point to safety shortcomings, poor quality, fragmented services, and limited accessibility. The lack of a bus system, particularly in New Providence, hinders economic activity and contributes to environmental stresses as the average household must have a car to make a living.

Given the number of challenges identified above, what can The Bahamas do to place itself in the best position to become more self-sufficient, more dynamic and to grow economically to support all of its citizens?

Pillar IV: Economy

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have a highly vulnerable, undiversified and underperforming economy. We know that we can do so much more as a country.

However, we are a strong nation, with a stable exchange rate supported by prudent monetary policies. These are facts that we do not praise ourselves on, as much as we should.

Tourism

We have seen our tourism product face challenges. We have seen limited growth in the more lucrative stop-over market and increased growth in the cruise market. Yet, our product offerings are not encouraging our visitors to spend to reinvigorate our economy. Our researchers found that our value chains in tourism are not well developed. We have to examine the range of provision of our tour providers, our entertainment, our souvenir productions and our activities offerings. We have to see where entrepreneurs and small business can carve out niches so that tourism dollars flow back into the economy. We have to also ensure that our people are skilled for all jobs in tourism – from plumbers to elevator repair persons. In a significant way that straddles education and tourism, we must become more multilingual to cater to our new markets. Our agriculture sector must produce for the sector as many discerning travelers want “farm to table” experiences. In short, we must finally address the vexing problem of linkages to the tourism sector. We can learn from countries which have successfully done so.

Financial Services

The other major contributor is the financial sector which generates 11%-15% of the country’s GDP and employs on average 10%-13% of the Bahamian workforce. The sector has faced a myriad of challenges – from black-listings to the movement of operations to other jurisdictions because of efficiency gains. Good jobs have been lost in this sector. Today, the entire region also faces the increasing pressures related to “de-risking” which threaten our correspondent banking relationships. Despite meeting or exceeding international requirements, the pressure still remains on jurisdictions like ours.

Agriculture and Fisheries

There have been tremendous innovations over the last few years in agriculture. The introduction of BAMSI, can cause a revolution in sustainable farming, aquaponics and aquiculture. Our farmers are aging and we must encourage the new generation to take an interest if we are to boost this sector’s contribution to our economy. Currently both farming and fishing represent about 4% of GDP. Our fisheries sector is declining in value. This trend must be stopped.

Vulnerability and Competitiveness

There is a need to broaden of the economic base of the country. To do so we need to remove barriers for entrepreneurs in The Bahamas -- small and large. We have picked all of the “low hanging fruits” of our country. Development will require change and investment.

1. We have to improve the skills (hard and soft) of the labour force. The private sector has identified an inadequately educated and skilled workforce as one of the key challenges facing firms of all sizes.

2. We must improve productivity. United Nations ECLAC and IMF studies on total factor productivity, a measure of how well a country combines its human capital, physical capital and technology, show that over the decades, productivity in The Bahamas has been a negative drain on growth. Further the problem is getting worse over time. Our Total Factor Productivity numbers are negative, large and becoming even more negative.

3. We are ranked 106th out of 189 countries according to the Word Bank’s 2016 “Doing Business” indicators. We have to create a welcoming business environment in which new businesses can start up and existing businesses can grow. Our ranking places us behind many Caribbean countries.

4. We do not maximize the value of the industries we have already developed. There are opportunities for Bahamians that we are not grasping. Developing deep value chains are important.

5. We must improve access to finance through innovative approaches;

6. Government needs to increase its effectiveness and efficiency in general, and improve the business environment in support of entrepreneurs.

7. There is a high economic cost of crime, theft and disorder to firms.

8. The cost of electricity is an impediment to growth.

9. Graft is an impediment to growth:

A National Development Plan must address each of these issues.

Fiscal Sustainability

The debt burden and associated costs constrain government’s ability to tackle broader issues.

The introduction of the Value Added Tax represents a positive step economically as it reduces some of the vulnerabilities of the government revenues to wide swings in import demand.

It is important, however, that the government positions itself to achieve both debt and fiscal sustainability.

Broadly, the development challenges arising from the state of the economy point to an urgent need for a coordinated national approach to identify and address the economy’s most important priorities.

Conclusion

In Conclusion ladies and gentlemen,

You can see the challenges that lay before us, and how interrelated many of these are. We know that poverty and low skills beget unemployment, crime and poor health. We know that climate change is real and that we have an aging population. We know that societal bonds are weakening. We must think about the ideal tax structure and the size and make up of government given the services which citizens desire.

The challenges ahead are difficult, but not insurmountable. They will require all of the creative energy and innovative thinking all citizens and residents of The Bahamas can muster.

The challenges must be faced, not by one person at a time, but by all of us working together.

Our report shows where those improvements are needed and points to promising paths to success that will be fully outlined in the National Development Plan

I thank you for your attention.


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Civil Society Bahamas President Terry Miller (COB Photo)


Speech to National Development Plan

‘State of The Nation Report’ Launch by Civil Society Bahamas President
Terry Miller

A special thank you for inviting Civil Society Bahamas to participate in this historic launch of The National Development Plan Secretariat's ‘State of the Nation Report’.

It is said that where there's is no vision a people perish, and this is true indeed for as George Washington Carver, the African American inventor of the late 19th to mid-20th century, so succinctly put it, 'Where there is no vision there is no hope".

When looking up the definition for vision I came across several, none of which completely satisfied the concept of which we speak. Eg. Webster Merriam has among others: something seen in a dream, trance, or ecstasy; a thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination; a manifestation to the senses of something immaterial.

Wikipedia says; in business vision is foresight - the capacity to envisage future market trends and plan accordingly.  And Dictionary.com defines vision as: the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be. - something you imagine, a picture that you see in your mind.

The vision of which we speak incorporates some of all of the above but more specifically, - a national vision is the result of a visioning process in which citizens come together to research the past, analyze the present, and imagine an ideal future.In this process a cross section of constituents are interviewed, input from the entire country is encouraged, and a variety of tools are used to investigate past and present, and envision the future.

My first serious involvement with the concept of a National Vision and a National Development Plan was in 1995 when I was invited to attend a meeting of a new organization called Vision 20/20, to begin discussions on the then urgent need for a National Vision and a National Development Plan.

The Dalai Lama said, "In order to carry a positive actwe must develop here a positive vision."

So it was that during the late 90's the Vision 20/20 team of Roosevelt Finlayson, Dr. Olivia Saunders, Dacosta Bethel, Lester Cox, Phillip Simon, myself and others met many times to execute planning and visioning processes. During this time a number of international visioneers were brought in to facilitate workshops, to share their experiences and ideas, and to encourage us in our dream for a better Bahamas.

One of the powerful tools we were introduced to was called Scenario Planning, a concept first used by Shell International to envision various possible outcomes in their varied international, esp. African and Arab, subsidiaries which were often in territories that were in a state of constant change. It was also used by a group in South Africa in the late 1980s when the government of Frederik De Klerk was considering the release of Nelson Mandela and the future of the country. If there is one thing we can add to this process let it be this.

On the 'Welcome to South Africa Scenarios 2025' internet page it states, "Scenarios are not predictions, nor roadmaps: they are constructed stories about a particular point in the future and some informed speculation about the cross cutting paths that might get us there. The power of scenarios lies in provoking a sense of what might be possible and in combining probabilities in ways we might not have thought of previously.They often allow the detection of faint signals that may disrupt even the most thorough planning cycles. They are designed to help identify pitfalls and options, and factors in the future we may choose to adopt or avoid."

After almost a decade of drum beating with no real private sector or government support we virtually disbanded Vision 20/20 around 2005. In 2008, as president of Civil Society Bahamas (CSB) I, along with several of the original Vision 20/20 team came together under the collaboration of Vision 20/20 and CSB to make another attempt at the national visioning process.Olivia, Roosevelt, and myself stayed the course for 2 years meeting every fortnight.

At the end of this collaborative period we had a draft of the process, which Olivia aptly called ‘Imagine! Bahamas’, and we met first with potential funders including the Inter-American Development Bank, former Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham, and later in early 2012 with our present Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie. Everyone seemed to agree that this should be a civil society initiative because of the divisive partisan nature of politics in the country.So when we were told that the government had decided to take the project on itself we were disappointed to say the least.

But make no mistake, this process, this project, this monumental task is far too important for little egos to spoil because they were injured, too essential to be used as a political ping pong game, and too crucial to transparency in government, progress in business, and the salvation of our environment, and too urgent to the future of our country and its people, to be undermined in any way.

This is NOT a political party initiative, this is a civil society dream that was embraced by the government of the people of The Bahamas, and its success falls back into the hands of civil society, of you and me, and every concerned resident and citizen of this little great country called the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

And finally to the hard working, dedicated patriots at the National Development Plan Secretariat we congratulate you on the launch of the ‘State of The Nation Report’, and as Steve Jobs said, "When working on something exciting you really care about, you don't have to be pushed. The vision pulls you".I know, from the many times we have met and collaborated, that it drives you.

Wouldn't it be exciting in and of itself, if the Bahamas National Vision and the National Development Plan were so motivating that the whole nation would be pulled by the force of the great hope that it will have awakened in all of us?!

Civil Society Bahamas supports the work of the National Development Plan Secretariat and will make itself available to serve in whatever way we are called on to assist.

Thank you and may God bless The Commonwealth of The Bahamas and its National Development Plan.

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Nicola Virgill-Rolle (COB Photo)

Closing Remarks

Nicola Virgill-Rolle

Director of Economic Development and Planning

Office of the Prime Minister



Accepting the Protocol which has been established,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have the honor of leading a team of professionals tasked with the day to day duties of working on the National Development Plan of The Bahamas. It is an honour and a work of love for all of us.

From my experience, I have seen that there are two ways to create a National Development Plan. The first, involves technicians like me, behind closed doors drafting a plan. It is efficient and often meets the objectives at hand.

The second way, our chosen approach, involves ensuring an open, people-based process. It is often more drawn out, but ensures that there is wide buy-in to the process. The objectives are not only to draft a sound plan, but to also ensure that it is durable and can be embraced by a large cross-section of the population.

This launch of the State of the Nation Report is, in a sense, a relaunch of the National Development Plan project -- Ensuring that The Bahamian people understand what we are doing and feel welcomed, even somewhat obligated, to contribute to the creation of our National Development Plan.

And so, I wish to thank you all for coming out this evening. I thank our NDP Partners who have provided us with their continued support. I thank the representatives of the political parties, whose presence is so vital for this work to remain non-partisan. We are grateful for the support of the Inter-American Development Bank who has so generously supported this project and our lead consultant on this work – The Institute on Governance – for their technical guidance. We recognize the many participants in our sector expert committees and those who provided detailed comments on our report. I also acknowledge with gratitude, the College of The Bahamas’ faculty, staff and students who have contributed to this study. I thank my entire staff at the Secretariat and our volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure a successful National Development Plan project. I thank the Steering Committee for their guidance. I also wish to thank Minister Khaalis Rolle, who oversees the project for Cabinet. And finally, I thank Mr. Felix Stubbs, our Chairman, for his leadership and ever-present support.

And now a word of prayer. Father, I seek God’s blessings on our Bahama land. May the wounds that divide us as a Nation be healed so that we may be united as one People -- moving forward, upward, onward, together.

May God continue to bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Our home. Amen.

Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bahamas PM: State of the Nation Report, "Planning for a New Bahamas"

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