Budget Communication by Minister Romauld Ferreira

MR. SPEAKER,

SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED SINCE THE LAST BUDGET DEBATE.  OUR NATION, OUR COUNTRY, OUR HOME HAS BEEN CHALLENGED AND STRECTHED IN WAYS BEYOND THE FURTHEST CONTEMPLATION OF ANYONE.

IT CAME AT A TIME WHEN WE WERE ENJOYING RECORD TOURISM NUMBERS, WHEN EVIDENCE OF OUR TRANSFOEMATION WAS TAKING ROOT.  FREE TUITION AT UB AND BTVI, CLOSING OUR FISCAL GAPS AND INCREASING FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT.

WE AT THE MOE&H ARE DOING OUR PART.  TRANSFORMATION AT THE NPSL, INSTALLATION OF OVER 1MW OF RE ENERGY, 30 HOMESITES FOR BAHAMIANS WITH MORE TO COME AND WORKING WITH MOW & BPL TO STOP THE OIL POLLUTION AT CLIFTON PIER.

WE WERE ON TRACK TO TRANSFORM THE CITY OF NASSAU, OUR NATIONS HEART.  a CITY THAT WELCOMED OUR FORBEARS AS THEY CAME TO nASSAU FROM THE iSLANDS, NURSING DREAMS OF THEIR OWN, WITH  COURAGE TO MAKE A BETTER LIFE AND COMMITMENT TO GOD AND COUNTRY.  THEY ARE THE FOUNDATION UPON WHICH WE BULD.  SO IT WAS FITTING TO CROWN THIS LONG NEGLECTED JEWEL WITH A NEW CRUISE PORT, A NEW CENTRAL BANK BUILDING, THE DEMOLITION OF THE OLD POST OFFICE AND THE OPENING OF THE NEW HEADQUARTERS FOR THE BMC.

THEN IT HAPPENED.  FIRST DORIAN THEN THE COVID -19 PANDEMIC.  I CONGRATULATE THE HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS FOR THE EXCELLENT WORK DONE.  THE QUICK AND RAPID CLOSURE OF THE SCHOOLS AND PUBLIC SPACES SAVED LIVES.  AT THE END OF THE DAY SAVING LIVES IS THE PRIORITY.  I ALSO OFFER SINCERE THANKS AND APPRECIATION TO OUR NATIONS FRONTLINE ESSENTIAL WORKERS WHO RISKED THEIR LIVES, AND THE LIVES OF THEIR FAMILIES,  EVERY DAY, TO KEEP US ALL SAFE AND FED.  THANK YOU.  FINALLY I OFFER SINCERE CONDOLENCES TO THE FAMILIES WHO LOST LOVED ONES DUE TO COVID-19.

MR. SPEAKER,

UPON THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE COVID 19 EMERGENCY LOCKDOWN ORDER ON 16TH MARCH 2020.  THE MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND HOUSING ACTIVATED ITS PLAN; TO KEEP THE ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS OF THE MINISTRY OPERATIONAL AT A TIME WHEN OUR COUNTRY NEEDED US THE MOST.  CRITICAL AND ESSENTIAL STAFF WORKED FROM HOME, THE EXECUTIVE TEAM WORKED FROM HOME AND VISITED THE OFFICE PERIODICALLY AND THE ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT TEAM REMAINED ALERT AND RESPONSIVE.

THE DEHS WAS DECLARED AN ESSENTIAL SERVICE, AND RIGHTLY SO MAINTAINING THE SUPPORT TO ENSURE THE COLLECTION OF GARBAGE AND OPERATION OF THE LANDFILL ARE ESSENTIAL. THANK YOU.  I ALSO CONGRATULATE THE BAHAMAS NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SERVICE CENTRE FOR THEIR MOST EXCELLENT WORK IN GIS MAPPING AND CONTACT TRACING.  YOUR WORK SAVED LIVES.  THANK YOU.

THE MINISTRY IS REOPENING.  SINCE 4TH MAY, ESSENTIAL STAFF REPORT TO WORK ON A SHIFT SYSTEM. AS WITH ALL OTHER MINISTRIES AND DEPARTMENTS, STAFF ARE REQUIRED TO HAVE FACE MASKS, WASH OR SANITIZE THEIR HANDS FREQUENTLY AND PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING. 
MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND HOUSING

MR. SPEAKER, I AM EXTREMELY PROUD OF THE WORK OF MY MINISTRY OVER THE PAST YEAR.  WE ACHIEVED MANY LANDMARK GOALS WHICH WILL TRANSFORM, PROTECT AND ENSURE AN ENVIRONMENTAL LEGACY FOR GENERATIONS OF BAHAMIANS TO COME.  WE HAVE ONE  GOAL, ONE SINGULAR PURPOSE TO PROTECT, CONSERVE AND MAINTAIN THE INTEGRITY AND SUSTAINABILITY OF THE ENVIRONMENT FOR THE

WELLBEING OF THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE.

MR. SPEAKER,

IN THE LATE 1950’S SCIENTISTS IN THE ANATARTIC NOTICED WHAT APPEARED TO BE A HOLE IN THE OZONE LAYER.  OZONE CRITICAL TO LIFE ON EARTH, PROTECTING US FROM THE SUN AND HELPING TO GIVE US OXYGEN, LIFE ITSELF WAS DISAPPEARING.  NATIONS CAME TOGETHER AND ACTED.  THE MONTREAL PROTOCOL WAS SIGNED BANNING THE CHEMICALS CAUSING THE PROBLEM.  TODAY THE OZONE LAYER IS HEALING, THE HOLES ARE CLOSING PROVING BIPARTISANSHIP WORKS.  DEMONSTRATING CLIMATE ACTION WORKS.

MR SPEAKER

THIS IS PRECISELY WHAT WE DID. AS LONG AS ANYONE CAN REMEMBER, ENVIRONMENTALISTS, ATTORNEYS AND CITIZENS ALIKE, COMPLAINED ABOUT THE ABSENCE OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS.  THIS WAS RECOGNIZED BY OUR PARTY AND THE NEED WAS EXPRESSED IN THE FNM MANIFESTO.  THIS IS ESPECIALLY POIGNANT, IN THAT MANY BAHAMIANS WERE HORRIFIED TO FIND OUR HOW THE CRUISE LINES, WILLFULLY POLLUTED OUR WATERS.  THIS ENVIRONMENTAL SAVAGERY ONLY SERVED TO HIGHLIGHT THE GAPING HOLE IN OUR LEGISLATION.

INDEED MR. SPEAKER,

THIS TASK, TO CHANGE THE ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATIVE LANDSCAPE WAS TAKEN UP BY THE CLIMATE CHANGE UNIT.  AT THIS POINT I WISH TO CONGRATULATE THEM FOR THEIR HARD WORK.

MR. SPEAKER,

IN THE MANIFESTO, OUR GOVERNMENT PROMISED TO  “TO CREATE A MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT BY ENACTING LEGISLATION TO INCORPORATE, ENCAPSULATE AND BRING TOGETHER THE VARIOUS ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION IN GOVERNING VARIOUS MINISTRIES/DEPARTMENTS/AGENCIES TO BRING MORE FOCUSED ATTENTION ON THOSE POLICIES.”  WHAT DOES THIS MEAN.

 IT MEANS WE DIDN’T EVEN HAVE A STATUTORY ENTITY CALLED THE MINISTRY TO ACT, FUNCTION AND MANAGE THE ENVIRONMENT FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE.  I AM HAPPY TO REPORT THAT WE ACHIEVED THIS GOAL WITH THE RECENT BIPARTISAN PASSING OF THE SUITE OF ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION WHICH INCLUDED - THE MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT ACT, 2019 AND THE ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING AND PROTECTION ACT, 2019.

THESE ARE IMPORTANT PIECES OF LEGISLATION WHICH WILL STRENGTHEN AND IMPROVE THE ADMINISTRATION OF MATTERS RELATED TO THE ENVIRONMENT, INCLUDING THE REVIEW OF ENVIRONMENT IMPACT ASSESSMENTS FOR DEVELOPMENTS IN THE COUNTRY. 

WE WILL FORGE AHEAD WITH THE CREATION OF THE MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE CREATION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT PLANNING & PROTECTION AS OUTLINED IN THE LEGISLATION..  THE BEST COMMISSION WILL BE SUBSUMED BY THE DEPARTMENT AND THE NEW DEPARTMENT WILL BE STAFFED BY EMPLOYEES OF BEST..

MR. SPEAKER,

AGAIN, AS STATED IN OUR MANIFESTO, OUR GOVERNMENT PROMISED TO PHASE OUT THE USE OF PLASTIC BAGS BY 2020. I AM HAPPY TO REPORT THAT WE HAVE SUCCESSFULLY PASSED LEGISLATION TO ASSIST IN ACHIEVING THIS GOAL. THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION (CONTROL OF PLASTIC POLLUTION) ACT, 2019, WAS PASSED UNANIMOUSLY IN PARLIAMENT IN DECEMBER, 2019 AND CAME INTO EFFECT 1 JANUARY, 2020.  SOON WE WILL SEE THE BENEFITS IN THE ENVIRONMENT.  REDUCED LITTER ON OUR STREETS AND BEACHES, LESS IMPACT ON WILDLIFE AND REDUCING OUR CONTRIBUTION TO CLIMATE CHANGE.

THE FIRST PHASE OF THE BAN SAW THE PROHIBITION OF IMPORTS ON THE FOUR-BIDDEN (PLASTIC BAGS, PLASTIC STRAWS, PLASTIC FOOD UTENSILS AND STYROFOAM CUPS AND FOOD CONTAINERS). IT ALSO INTRODUCED A BAG FEE FOR PLASTIC BAGS AT THE POINT OF SALE AND MADE IT ILLEGAL TO RELEASE BALLOONS INTO THE ATMOSPHERE. 

OVER THE PAST 12 MONTHS, OVER 25,000 REUSABLE SHOPPING BAGSL WERE DISTRIBUTED TO BAHAMIANS ACROSS THE COMMONWEATH OF THE BAHAMAS.  MADE POSSIBLE THROUGH OUR PARTNERSHIP WITH ABACO MARKETS LIMITED, NEW PROVIDENCE ECOLOGY PARK, THE INSURANCE COMMISSION OF THE BAHAMAS, ALIV AND REV BAHAMAS.

 AS THE PUBLIC EDUCATION AND OUTREACH CAMPAIGN CONTINUES, THE UNIT WILL CONTINUE TO INTERACT WITH THE GENERAL PUBLIC, BUSINESSES, SCHOOLS AND CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS TO INCREASE UNDERSTANDING OF THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS SIGNIFICANT INITIATIVE. 

MR SPEAKER

LET ME PUT INTO PROSPECTIVE THE ENORMITY OF THE PROBLEM.  THE LARGEST RETAIL CHAIN GOES THROUGH 38 MILLION OF THESE BAGS EVERY YEAR.  MY MINISTRY ESTIMATES BETWEEN 80-100 MILLION OF THESE SINGLE USE PLASTIC BAGS ARE USED ANNUALLY.  MOST DO NOT END UP IN THE LANDFILL.  THEY END UP IN THE BUSH, THEY LINE OUR STREETS AND ULTIMATELY END UP IN THE OCEAN.

ON 1ST JULY, 2020, THE BAN WILL COMPLETELY COME INTO FORCE; MAKING IT ILLEGAL TO USE, MANUFACTURE OR  DISTRIBUTE ANY OF THE FOUR-BIDDEN ITEMS OR TO RELEASE BALLOONS INTO THE ATMOSPHERE.  WE ARE WORKING WITH VENDORS, THE DEHS AND THE LANDFILL TO OPEN DROP DOWN-DOWN SITES FOR UNUSED BANNED ITEMS PRIOR TO 1ST JULY 2020.  AFTER THIS TIME, VENDORS OR ANY INDIVIDUAL FOUND WITH THESE ITEMS WILL BE SUBJECT TO A FINE OR IMPRISONMENT.

MR SPEAKER

THE SCIENCE IS CONCLUSIVE, THE DATA IS CLEAR, IT POINTS TO THE FACT THAT OUR PLANET IS GETTING HOTTER.  WE SAW THIS IN THE WEATHER.  SUMMER 2019 WAS THE HOTTEST SUMMER ON RECORD, SETTING OFF NATURAL DISASTERS AND CATACLYSMIC EVENTS AS A DIRECT RESULT.  IN THE BAHAMAS WE WERE NOT SPARED THE EFFECTS.  HURRICANE DORIAN WAS THE STRONGEST STORM ON RECORD FOR THE ATLANTIC OCEAN.  IT SLAMMED INTO GRAND BAHAMA AND ABACO, FOREVER CHANGING OUR COUNTRY. 

BY NOW ALL BAHAMIANS KNOW THE STORY, SCORES DEAD, HUNDREDS MISSING, LIVELIHOODS LOST.  WHAT TOOK GENERATIONS TO BUILD, GONE IN 48 HOURS. MY MINISTRY RECOGNISES THE URGENCY, WE KNOW THAT WE ARE IN A RACE AGAINST TIME AGAINST AN ENEMY FOR WHOM OUR ONLY DEFENSE IS PREPARATION.

 AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO TACKLE THIS CHALLENGE IS TO INCREASE THE RENEWABLE ENERGY PENETRATION; PARTICULARLY ON PUBLIC BUILDINGS.  THE MINISTRY PLACES SPECIAL ATTENTION ON IDENTIFYING OPPORTUNITIES TO INCREASE AND INTRODUCE RENEWALABLE ENERGY IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR.

THE ADOPTION OF RENEWABLE ENERGY GOES HAND IN HAND WITH ENERGY EFFICIENCY, OFFERING A RANGE OF BENEFITS, WELL BEYOND ITS CONTRIBUTION TO CLIMATE POLICIES.  THESE BENEFITS, INCLUDE INCREASED DISPOSABLE INCOME, IMPROVED PRODUCTIVITY, IMPROVED AIR QUALITY, AND POVERTY ALLEVIATION,

LET ME ADVISE THAT WHILST RENEWABLE ENERGY PENETRATION IN PUBLIC SPACES IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE MOEH THE RESPONSIBITY FOR GENERATING, TRANSMITTING AND DISTRIBUTING ELECTRICITY IS FULLY VESTED WITH BPL.

THAT SAID THE CLIMATE CHANGE UNIT IS VERY EFFECTIVE AT FULFILLING ITS MANDATE TO SECURE DONOR FUNDING TO CONSTRUCT RE PROJECTS ON PUBLIC BUILDINGS, SCHOOLS AND PUBLIC SPACES.  FOR INSTANCE, IN MARCH 2019, WITH FUNDING FROM THE UAE, APPROXIMATELY 1MW OF SOLAR PANELS WERE INSTALLED AT THE THOMAS A ROBINSON NATIONAL STADIUM IN THE FORM OF A SOLAR CAR PARK.  THIS WAS THE FIRST OF ITS KIND IN THE REGION AND WON THE CARIBBEAN RENEWABLE ENERY FORUMS AWARD FOR THE BEST DISTRIBUTED GENERATION PROJECT.

A SECOND PROJECT, AT THE ANATOL RODGERS HIGH SCHOOL, WON THE CARIBBEAN RENEWABLE ENERGY FORUMS AWARD FOR BEST ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROJECT.  THIS PROJECT WAS FUNDED VIA A GRANT FROM THE ITALIAN GOVERNMENT.  THE PROJECT WAS COMPLETED IN SEPTEMBER 2019 AND FEATURES 250KW OF ROOF MOUNTED SOLAR PANELS AND IMPROVEMENTS IN ENERGY EFFICIENCY, SUCH AS LIGHT AND VACANT ROOM SENSORS,

THE OTHER PROJECTS ON THE WAY OR IN THE PIPELINE INCLUDE THE INSTALLATION OF 136.2 KW OF SOLAR PANELS WITH A BATTERY BACK UP, ON THE ROOF OF THE T G GLOVER PRIMARY SCHOOL.  THIS PROJECT IS EXPECTED TO BE COMPLETED BY YEARS END AND WILL FEATURE THE CONSTRUCTION OF A GREEN HOUSE AND A PILOT RECYCLING PROGRAM.  THIS PROJECT IS ALSO FUNDED BY THE ITALIAN GOVERNMENT.

WE ALSO INTEND TO CONSTRUCT AND INSTALL AT OPM 475.5KW OF SOLAR PANELS IN THE FORM OF ANOTHER SOLAR CAR PARK. 

MR SPEAKER

WE ALSO ACCESS CAPITAL THROUGH THE GREEN CLIMATE FUND (GCF) WHICH IS THE WORLD’S LARGEST INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE FUND.  IT HAS THE EQUIVALENT OF 10.3 BILLION US$ IN PLEDGES FROM 43 GOVERNMENTS.  THE MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT AND HOUSING IS THE NATIONAL DESIGNATED AUTHORITY AND FOCAL POINT FOR THE GREEN CLIMATE FUND IN THE BAHAMAS. ALLOWING OUR COUNTRY TO ACCESS CRITICAL RESOURCES TO FUND PROJECTS SUCH AS THE GRID STABILITY STUDY IN NEW PROVIDENCE. WHICH AUGMENTS THE WORK OF THE POWER COMPANY AND THE IDB TO EVALUATE THE CURRENT CONDITION OF THE NATIONAL ELECTRICITY GRID.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT PROJECT FUNDED BY GCF IS THE STORM SURGE MODELING PROJECT.  APPLIED FOR AND APPROVED AFTER DORIAN, THE PROJECT INVOLVES THE DIGITIZATION OF DECADES OF DAILY WEATHER DATA WHICH FEED INTO CLIMATE AND WEATHER MODELS TO HELP PREDICT EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS AND PHENOMENA ACROSS THE BAHAMAS.

THE BEST COMMISSION

THE BEST COMMISSION IS THE GOVERNMENT’S CHIEF ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ADVISOR.  WHEN IT METAMORPHOSES INTO THE DEPP, WE WILL FOR THE FIRST TIME IN OUR HISTORY, HAVE A LEGISLATIVE REGIME, AN ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATIVE REGIME CAPABLE OF ADAPTING TO FUTURE NEEDS WHILE SATISFYING PRESENT REQUIREMENTS.

THE KEY DRIVER IN THE BAHAMIAN ECONOMY IS FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT.  OUR COUNTRY DOES NOT HAVE AN INTERNATIONALLY TRADED DOLLAR OUR DOLLAR IS PEGGED TO THE US DOLLAR AND FOR EVERY DOLLAR IN CIRCULATION IN OUR COUNTRY THERE IS A US DOLLAR IN THE CENTRAL BANK.  WELL, HOW DO WE GET THOSE US DOLLAERS?  THEY DO NOT MAGICALLY APPEAR, THEY ENTER OUR ECONOMY BY WAY OF FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT. 

WITH THE ECONOMY HAVING BEEN SHUT DOWN FOR MONTHS ITS OF CRITICAL IMPORTANCE TO SEND A SIGNAL TO WORLD THAT WE ARE READY FOR BUSINESS.  WE ARE READY TO REBOUND.  WE ARE READY TO RESTORE THE LIVES OF THOUSANDS OF BAHAMIANS.  PICK UP THE FRAGMENTS TOGETHER AND PRESS ON TO A LOFTIER GOAL.

IT IS BEYOND DOUBT THAT COVID 19 DECIMATED OUR ECONOMY; WE REMAIN WITH HOPE.  WHILE EXPERIENCING THE NIGHTMARE OF NO TOURISM, WE ARE AN INNOVATIVE PEOPLE OF FAITH.  OUR ECONOMIC HISTORY IS STAINED WITH THE BOOM AND BUST CYCLE YET WE OVERCOME.

IN THE FACE OF THE GREATEST ECONOMIC CHALLENGE OF OUR TIME, WE ASSURE THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE THAT IN NO WAY WHATSOEVER, ARE WE WILLING TO COMPROMISE OUR ENVIRONMENTAL INTEGRITY.  TO BACK IT UP WE UPGRADED OUR ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS FOREVER CHANGING THE LEGAL LANDSCAPE.

IN THE UPCOMING BUDGET CYCLE, THE BEST COMMISSION WILL BE MANAGING KEY DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS THROUGHOUT THE COMMONWEALTH OF THE BAHAMAS. IN ISLANDS SUCH AS GRAND BAHAMA, ABACO, ELEUTHERA, EXUMA, BERRY ISLANDS AND NEW PROVIDENCE. 

 POLICY PRODUCTS

THE COMMISSION CONTINUES AS A PART OF ITS MANDATE TO PROVIDE PUBLIC EDUCATION ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF POLICY INPUTS FROM THE VARIOUS NATIONAL COMMITTEES ON MATTERS RELATING TO THE ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: 

NAGOYA PROTOCOL

FOR INSTANCE THE NAGOYA PROTOCOL, THE OBJECT OF WHICH IS TO DEVELOP LAWS FOR SOMETHING CALLED ACCESS BENEFIT SHARING.  LET ME EXPLAIN FURTHER, WE INTEND TO TABLE IN THE HOA THIS CRITICAL ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION LEGISLATION BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR.  THE MAIN PURPOSE OF THE LEGISLATION IS TO EXERCISE THE BAHAMAS’S NATIONAL SOVEREIGN RIGHT TO CONTROL ACCESS TO ITS GENETIC RESOUCES AND THE ASSOCIATED TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE OF ITS COMMUNITIES.  BY PROVIDING AN ENABLING DOMESTIC LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF ABS IN THE BAHAMAS.  THIS LEGISLATION IS SCHEDULED TO BE TABLED IN NOVEMBER 2020.