Nassau, The Bahamas — Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie said that, in its scope and detail, the State of The Nation Report gives much food for thought and presents a unique opportunity to “fundamentally transform” The Bahamas for the better.
“In the day-to-day business of running government, we have to deal with a raft of issues, most of them requiring urgent attention,” Prime Minister Christie said during his presentation entitled “Planning For A New Bahamas”, his response to the State of The Nation Report, at the College Of The Bahamas’s Harry C. Moore Library, on April 11, 2016.
“The formulation of the National Development Plan gives us a chance to reflect, to think deeply, to address the specifics, and to use the Report as a springboard to a new beginning,” he added. “And so my challenge to you all is this: what can we incorporate into the National Development Plan that will secure the best prospects in life, for that child born this morning at the Princess Margaret Hospital?”
Prime Minister Christie continued and said that his challenge went even further.
“What is the biggest, boldest, most ambitious Vision we can set for ourselves, so that we are not just surviving, not just doing better, but marching towards that common, loftier Goal that will secure our future among the leading countries in the world, for the rest of time?”
He added: “In respect of education: what can we do to ensure that we are the best-educated, most highly-skilled population on earth? What can we do to become the healthiest, ‘most well’ people on the planet? How soon can we free everyone from poverty? How can we build secure, crime-free communities, where our relationships with our families, friends and neighbours can thrive in an atmosphere of mutual respect, civility and social tranquility?
He further asked the following questions: “How do we ensure that our country is one of the best in the world in which to live, work and play, able to withstand and mitigate the effects of climate change? How do we build an Infrastructure that will serve us well into the 22nd Century? How can we maximize economic opportunities for everyone, to build long-term wealth and prosperity for us all? How best to govern ourselves so that the contract between the People and the Government is one based on mutual trust and respect?”
Prime Minister Christie said that, in answering those questions — in seizing this moment to establish a bold Vision for The Bahamas — all Bahamians can work towards an almost unimaginably bright future.
“There will be those who caution against a “Big Vision,” that it’s too hard, an imaginary utopia. There will be those who will say that we should work just to put things right. But I say that putting things right, doing things better, is a just a step along a much bigger path,” Prime Minister Christie stated.
“A Vision tells us where the path is headed. A Vision guides us as to the best way to get there. And we must be guided by the promise of that Vision, the possibility of what we can be.”
He added that Bahamians must not “fall into the trap” of looking at the Present, and limiting their Vision by all that they think they see.
He noted that one of the defining characteristics of what it means to be human is the exercise of Imagination.
“One of the other key characteristics of human beings is that of mass co-operation: to harness the efforts of hundreds of thousands of people to build ships that can sail across the seas, planes that can fly around the world, and rockets that can take us to the moon,” Prime Minister Christie said.
“Taking scraps of paper and making it into the most beautiful and creative costumes in the world. With our collective imaginations, and a national co-operation, we can bring about the fundamental changes necessary for the next stage of our development. That is the kind of transformation that we seek.”
Prime Minister Christie said that all of this effort is to allow each and all Bahamians to be, fully, who they are — to ‘allow each of our spirits to soar.’
“This makes it all worth our while, makes the job essential,” Prime Minister Christie said. “Look at where we are now. Consider how far we have come. And together, with our collective imaginations and creativity, we can improve the State of The Nation.
“We can be all we aspire to be,” he added. “This is the beginning of the next stage of our Future.”
Planning for a New Bahamas RESPONSE OF THE PRIME MINISTER OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF THE BAHAMAS THE RT. HON. PERRY G. CHRISTIE, MP to the STATE OF THE NATION REPORT at College of The Bahamas Harry C. Moore Library Monday, April 11, 2016:
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you tonight, not only as Prime Minister, but most importantly as a fellow Bahamian.
As you have heard described earlier, the Report being launched tonight on the ‘State Of The Nation’, marks the first stage in the construction of a National Development Plan.
I pay tribute to the work of the Chairman of the Steering Committee, Mr. Felix Stubbs, and his team, led by Dr. Nicola Virgil-Rolle. We are enormously grateful to them for their scholarship and stewardship in securing this first milestone.
We also offer thanks to all those persons throughout the country who have participated in the preparation of this Report: those whose information, advice and views have enabled us to arrive at this point.
The ‘State of the Nation’ Report is a snapshot of where the country is at the moment. It is replete with data, full of facts and figures that paint a detailed picture of life in The Bahamas. I urge all of you to read it. The Report provides the evidence on which we can base our ideas and thinking, of how best to plan our future.
As noble and as notable as the effort is, the Report does, however, at this stage, have necessary limitations.
In order to fully understand it, to draw effective conclusions from it, and to inform the construction of a Vision for 2040, we need to understand the ‘State of The Nation’ Report in the context of the journey of our country. Only then will it be possible to undertake the next stage, a deep and vigorous analysis of the information.
We must ask the big questions facing every society :
Who are we?
Where have we come from?
Where are we going to?
And how will we get there?
Fellow Bahamians: I wish to impress upon you that, in embarking upon this long-term, strategic approach to planning our country’s future, we have a unique opportunity to fundamentally transform The Bahamas for the better.
Tonight, therefore, I wish to offer you Three Key Ideas with which to move forward:
* a Brief Review of our country’s journey to arrive at this point in our history;
* a Survey of some of the Key Findings in the ‘State of The Nation’ Report; and
* an offering of a Bold New Vision to move our nation to the next stage of development.
Where Have We Come From?
The ‘State of The Nation’ Report signals both an end and a beginning.
It is an end to our first phase of development: forty-two years of life as an independent nation; and a beginning to the next phase, as we move toward celebrating our fiftieth anniversary.
Perhaps, because we rightly speak with pride about life post-Independence, we easily overlook, or indeed forget, what the State of the Nation was back then.
A child born in 1973 was born into a country in a state of ‘De-pendence’. Even though we were governed by a system known as ‘internal self-rule’, ultimately we were ruled by foreigners. Consider how far we’ve come.
Opportunities were limited for the many, whose hopes and dreams and aspirations went largely unfulfilled.
Education had only become universal with the advent of Majority Rule a mere six years before Independence.
There was limited access to healthcare, although simpler, healthier lifestyles thankfully meant that we weren’t burdened by some of the health challenges that face us today.
Since the 1950s, Nassau already housed more than half the population. But we were still very much an island people, with little of the comforts and conveniences that came with increased urbanization.
Travel between the Family Islands was still predominantly by mail-boat, and the effects of climate change and environmental damage had yet to be manifested.
With a population of around 181,000 people, just under half of what it is today, our GDP was approximately $671 million dollars, and life expectancy was around 66 years.
The physical infrastructure, especially in the Family Islands, was basic. Roads, the provision of electricity, water, and other utilities, were very limited although again the advent of Majority Rule had entrained a massive commitment to accelerated infrastructural development.. For instance, the young people present today might be surprised to learn that, even for those who were lucky enough to have a telephone, if we wanted to speak to someone in Miami, we had to call an operator to make that long-distance phone call for us.
My Fellow Bahamians: once again, consider how far we’ve come.
Just over four decades after the birth of their nations, not many countries can point to the successes we have achieved.
To those who doubted that we were viable as a nation state, that we were capable of managing our own affairs, that we could forge a Bahamian identity, I say: look how far we’ve come.
Who Are We?
But this broad glance across 42 years of our development is by no means to preach complacency.
In the world today, the pace of change is rapid, and our citizens rightly ask for more, and expect results faster.
A child was born this morning at [ … review audio ] at The Princess Margaret Hospital, an energetic little [ girl ] weighing [ … review audio ]. Happily I am told Mother and Daughter are doing well and we wish the Family every joy.
The arrival of this new life in our country brings me to the second area I wish to address tonight.
As I said earlier, the State Of The Nation Report marks both an ending and a beginning.
In doing so, it brings into sharp focus the key challenges facing our country.
We already wrestle daily with most of these issues, and I am proud and pleased that my government, and indeed the governments of my predecessors, have successfully overcome many of them.
But some old challenges remain, and new and sometimes more difficult challenges continue to emerge.
What do we need to do to bring about a better Bahamas for that little girl, and indeed for everyone else in 2040?
In order to solve our problems, we first need to quantify them, to understand the magnitude of what we are dealing with.
Some are small and soon will be resolved, while others are small and growing.
Others are big now, but will soon improve given some of the plans already in place.
Other issues will require a generational effort.
This process is not just an exercise in negativity, lamenting the things we haven’t yet done, or haven’t yet achieved.
Without seeking to minimise the difficulties we face, this process is also about quantifying our Strengths, and identifying national and international opportunities which can give us a comparative and competitive advantage.
Once again, it is a chance to ask Big Questions, and agree some of the Big Answers.
And so at this point, I wish to review some of the specifics contained in the Report, and then move on to detail a Vision for our future.
The information covered in the State of The Nation Report can be categorized in three ways:
Firstly, Challenges and Opportunities for each Individual;
Secondly, Issues and Solutions for Groups and Communities;
And finally, Obstacles and Potential Paths to Success, for the Country as a whole.
Naturally all three are inter-related and inter-dependent, but it helps to frame the perspective by looking at each one separately.
We must of course start with the Individual, as we seek to develop into a society where every person can maximize his or her potential.
The core areas here are Health, Education and Basic Welfare.
For too long, we have viewed health as a luxury.
Wellness is a basic right and we must as a country become more focused on producing well citizens.
The research in the ‘State of the Nation’ Report shows us that too many of us are afflicted by lifestyle diseases: diabetes and heart disease are prevalent, and there is an epidemic of obesity.
My Government has made Universal Healthcare a priority, but now is the opportune time to ask a more fundamental question: how can we ensure that this basic right, the right to wellness, is available to all?
By posing the question in this way, our answers will include the supply of nutritious food, ensuring that healthy breadbasket items are affordable and accessible for all, while at the same time promoting a cultural shift towards healthy eating, diet and exercise.
Without a healthy people, we will not have the imagination and physical strength to develop.
Hand-in-hand with health and wellness, is the need to address the challenges of education.
Much has been done to improve levels of educational attainment in the past 42 years, which we can see in the successes of many of our students.
But despite our continuing investment in education, and even though as in recent years, we continue to make progress, how do we make a significant leap to ensure that no child, and indeed no adult, is left behind?
We have seen recent improvements in levels of educational attainment, but what do we need to do in order to reach for greatness?
Poor health and qualified education contribute significantly to the third core area: that of poverty.
This is more than not just having enough.
Poverty locks individuals into a cycle of despondency, where the daily struggle to survive eclipses all the other opportunities we are seeking to bring about in our country.
We must eradicate it.
The Community Level
At the Community Level, the area where most of our personal lives exist in relation to our friends, families and neighbours, the Report highlights a number of statistics that indicate that we have lost the desire, the will or maybe even the ability, to be Keeper of our Brothers and Sisters.
Pollution, crime, domestic violence and abuse, persistent levels of anti-social behavior, these are indicators of a loss of the social cohesion we once had.
As I and many others have said many times over the years, crime continues to blight our communities.
Again, we are making solid progress in fighting crime, but with the National Development Plan we have an opportunity to analyse, reflect and recommend something deeper: how to move not only towards a massive reduction on crime crime, but to something more positive: a shared sense of security .
The data points to a range of causes of crime.
Over the next 5, 10, 15 years – how do we tackle these causes, to produce the kind of Bahamas we want to bring about?
Our communities are most visibly manifest in their physical spaces. As a start, The Report makes it plain that outstanding issues surrounding land ownership and registration, still need to be resolved.
This is the root cause of many difficulties inhibiting planning and development, and therefore must be a priority for all governments .
We have already made a start, but we look to the National Development Plan to offer us a strategic guide as to the best way forward.
In considering the use of our spaces, we must also consider the strategic choices we can make.
This extends from our capital, Bay Street and Downtown Nassau, to considerations as to how we diversify geographically away from New Providence.
What can and should be, the development priorities for our Family Islands?
In our recovery and reconstruction efforts after the major hurricane last year, we have an opportunity to make decisive choices about the future that we want to build.
The Societal Level
The issues highlighted in the Report which provide data at the societal level, derive from a range of challenges: some are specific to us here in The Bahamas; others are regional, while still others are global.
We are not, by any means, solely responsible for the adverse effects of Climate Change, the degradation of the Environment, and the resulting threat to our way of life.
And yet, as the data makes clear, we are one of the countries most vulnerable in the world to the impact of global warming, rising sea levels and severe weather conditions.
We need an urgent call to action to ensure that we all do what we can to mitigate against these effects, but the data suggests a magnitude and urgency of response which will have a significant impact on our daily lives.
Along with improved efforts at recycling, better waste management, improved husbandry of our natural and marine resources, we have to make some Big, Strategic Choices.
Should we make a short to medium-term commitment to converting fully to sources of renewable energy?
Should we take more draconian steps like Guyana has done recentlyand ban all styrofoam from the country?
And as the recent fires at the Public Dump in Nassau have so painfully demonstrated we need to have safer and more efficient methods for separating and disposing of automobile tires, plastics and the like.
What leadership role can and should we take on the world stage, to ensure that all nations act in ways which will not put The Bahamas under an existential threat?
As we build our Infrastructure fit for life in the next century, how should we develop? This includes our physical infrastructure, such as transport and communications and so on, which I mentioned earlier. But it also includes our intangible infrastructure: what are the possibilities and benefits to be derived from investing in and developing our cultural infrastructure?
And how ambitious are we to be in participating in a future where technology and knowledge are the economic drivers of the 21st Century?
This leads me onto the issues of Economic Opportunity.
I come back once again to the chance to ask some fundamental questions about how our economy is organized.
For many years we have talked about the need for diversification.
We have already achieved several successes in this area. The drive towards enhanced food security is one.
Let us use the data to show us where the areas of opportunity lie, to allow us to remain competitive.
What are the opportunities that lie ahead for Bahamians from having our Cuban friends move to a more market-based economy?
How can we improve and develop our models of tourism and financial services that have served us so well over the years?
In promoting entrepreneurship and creating wealth and employment for Bahamians, where are the strategic opportunities?
Our geographical position confers a host of natural and geo-political benefits.
As native English speakers, from a culture which arose from a host of influences, how best can we translate that into the biggest and best opportunities for ourselves, for that child born this morning, and for her grandchildren?
The last area that I wish to highlight in the ‘State of The Nation’ Report, is to do with governance.
From the information provided, it is already clear that there are a number of ways in which we can develop.
Improved structures and processes of governance will ensure the development of the best policies, best decision-making, and the best implementation of those policies.
I am proud that my administration has already implemented several initiatives to improve the delivery of public services.
In this regard, however, the private and voluntary sectors also need to play their part.
We must all make consistent efforts to improve what we offerto the public.
My Administration, has, all the while, been the most closely scrutinised in the history of our country.
The ongoing advances in media and technology mean that this trend is likely to continue.
We recognise that it is right that citizens demand greater accountability, better governance, and more civic participation.
This is a good thing.
However, we also need to embrace the responsibilities that come with that participation.
We can disagree vigorously about the best ideas and policies to make The Bahamas great.
We all want that.
But we must be careful not to do so in a way that is nothing more than a series of personal attacks, that only seek to vilify people, and call into question their very integrity and humanity.
Other countries are already experiencing the effects of this type of negative citizen action, where good people, creative people, people full of ideas and knowledge and experience, shy away from public service, as they do not want to expose themselves and their families to the constant onslaught of personal attacks.
Contributing to the New Bahamas
In its scope and detail, the ‘State of The Nation’ Report gives us much food for thought.
Earlier, I offered my view that this presents a unique opportunity for us to fundamentally transform The Bahamas for the better.
In the day-to-day business of running government, we have to deal with a raft of issues, most of them requiring urgent attention.
The formulation of the National Development Plan gives us a chance to reflect, to think deeply, to address the specifics, and to use the Report as a springboard to a new beginning.
And so my challenge to you all is this: what can we incorporate into the National Development Plan that will secure the best prospects in life, for that child born this morning at the Princess Margaret Hospital?
And my challenge goes even further: what is the biggest, boldest, most ambitious Vision we can set for ourselves, so that we are not just surviving, not just doing better, but marching towards that common, loftier Goal that will secure our future among the leading countries in the world, for the rest of time?
In respect of education: what can we do to ensure that we are the best-educated, most highly-skilled population on earth?
What can we do to become the healthiest, ‘most well’ people on the planet?
How soon can we free everyone from poverty?
How can we build secure, crime-free communities, where our relationships with our families, friends and neighbours can thrive in an atmosphere of mutual respect, civility and social tranquillity?
How do we ensure that our country is one of the best in the world in which to live, work and play, able to withstand and mitigate the effects of climate change?
How do we build an Infrastructure that will serve us well into the 22nd Century?
How can we maximize economic opportunities for everyone, to build long-term wealth and prosperity for us all?
How best to govern ourselves so that the contract between the People and the Government is one based on mutual trust and respect?
In answering these questions, in seizing this moment to establish a bold Vision for The Bahamas, we can work towards an almost unimaginably bright future.
There will be those who caution against a Big Vision, that it’s too hard, an imaginary utopia.
There will be those who will say that we should work just to put things right.
But I say that putting things right, doing things better, is a just a step along a much bigger path.
A Vision tells us where the path is headed.
A Vision guides us as to the best way to get there.
And we must be guided by the promise of that Vision, the possibility of what we can be.
We must not fall into the trap of looking at the Present, and limiting our Vision by all that we think we see.
Remember: there is NOTHING about a caterpillar, that tells you that one day, it is going to be a beautiful, wonderful, butterfly!
That is the kind of transformation that we seek.
And why are we doing this?
Why all this effort to secure this Vision of a future Bahamas?
My Fellow Bahamians: it is to allow each and all of us to be, fully, who we are.
To allow each of our spirits to soar!
This makes it all worth our while, makes the job essential.
Look at where we are now.
Consider how far we have come.
And together, with our collective imaginations and creativity, we can improve the State of The Nation.
We can be all we aspire to be.
This is the beginning of the next stage of our Future.
Thank you and God Bless Us All!