NEW YEAR REMARKS
BY THE PRIME MINISTER
THE RT. HON. PERRY CHRISTIE
JANUARY 2nd, 2015
As another year dawns, we pause to give thanks to Almighty God for all his many blessings during the year that has just ended.
It was a year of great challenges for us as a nation and as a people, and for many families as well, as the scourge of crime continued to menace us, and as unemployment and underemployment continued to affect too many of our citizens.
At the same time, however, we were able to achieve commendable progress in tackling a number of pressing issues.
For one, tax reform is now in full stride with the introduction of VAT on the 1st January 2015. This is the single most fundamental change to our public revenue system in the modern history of The Bahamas. It may not be the most popular move for a government to make but it is an absolutely necessary one.
Moreover, I have complete confidence that once we get beyond the inevitable growing pains that always attend the early days of important changes, the Bahamian people will see that we were right to introduce VAT and do it when we did.
We were right because VAT is going to expand the revenue base in a way that will enable the Government to better meet the social and infrastructural needs of the Bahamian people, now and well into the future.
Our obligations to build hospitals and clinics; to build schools and community development facilities; to provide critical funding support for our electricity, water and sewerage infrastructure; to provide relief to the elderly and indigent in our communities; to meet the costs of Family Island development; and to meet the costs of our public service bureaucracy – these obligations could simply not be met out of our traditional sources of public revenue any longer.
VAT, therefore, is a necessary improvement and one that is destined, I am convinced, to bring brighter skies and clearer days for our country and its finances.
2014 was also an important year for immigration reform. We were able to make impressive strides in tackling our illegal immigration problem. Our measures in this regard have been broadened and intensified while at the same time ensuring that all relevant constitutional and human rights protocols have been scrupulously observed.
We intend in 2015 to continue on this course to ensure that the tide of illegal immigration to The Bahamas is stemmed. We are a compassionate and generous people but there are limits to what we can do. We simply cannot afford to absorb the ever-increasing costs of an ever-increasing body of illegal migrants. The entire well-being of The Bahamas will be irrevocably compromised unless we continue to stand firm on Immigration. My Government intends to do just that.
In 2015, you can also expect to see major positive advances on the economic front. The multi-billion dollar Baha Mar project – the largest of its kind in the entire region – will come on stream, beginning at the end of March. This is going to create no fewer than 5,000 new jobs for thousands of Bahamians while at the same time consolidating The Bahamas as the pre-eminent tourism destination in our region.
In addition, resort development projects from one end of The Bahamas to the next are now at varying stages of fruition. As these new resorts come on stream, the employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for Bahamians can be expected to multiply greatly.
The prospects for economic diversification in 2015 are exceptionally promising as well. No better example of this can be found than BAMSI in Andros. It is already shaping up to be the spearhead of our revitalization strategies for the development of agriculture and fisheries.
I’m feeling really optimistic about our economic future – more so now than at any time since we came to power in May of 2012!
We are all geared up for positive economic growth in 2015.
Finally, the biggest single challenge facing our nation today is crime. It threatens to unravel all the good things we are doing. The continued stability of our country, so long the envy of the region, hangs in the balance. It is incumbent upon all of us, therefore, to work collaboratively with each other so that together we can defeat the forces of criminality in our land.
Accordingly, we will be implementing a series of innovative initiatives aimed at breaking the back of crime, especially violent crime, in our country. These measures will be the subject of further discussion in due course but it would obviously not be politic for me to go into specific detail on these sensitive matters in this forum. After all, we do not want to tip our hand to the criminal elements!
As we begin this new year, therefore, let’s join together to continue the building of The Bahamas into a safe, peaceful and prosperous society for the good and benefit of all. And let us pray that Almighty God will guide us as we pursue this mission.