NASSAU, The Bahamas – During his broadcast National Statement, titled ‘Building on Progress, Driving New Change,’ Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon. Philip Davis announced, on September 3, 2023, that some of his government’s cabinet ministers will be taking on new responsibilities with new portfolios, as will ministers of state who had shown “that they are ready to serve as full ministers in Cabinet.”
“In making these decisions, my priority was to strengthen policy execution, and to balance continuity and experience with renewal and fresh perspectives,” Prime Minister Davis said, “Cabinet is a team; and as on any team, individual strengths and talents add up to make the team stronger.”
Prime Minister Davis announced that Jomo Campbell will be the substantive Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources.
“As the Minister of State in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Jomo Campbell worked to bring important changes to the Department of Public Prosecutions and to the operations of the Judiciary, with a focus on adding capacity and attacking the judicial backlog,” he said. “His leadership was an important factor in improving conviction rates.”
“He has contributed wise counsel on a range of complex legal and policy issues,” Prime Minister Davis added. “He has shown he can do the hardest and most important thing in government, which is to take a plan on paper and make it real.
“His ability to drive change will be essential in his new role as substantive Minister for Agriculture and Marine Resources.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that in that new post, Minister Campbell will build on a wide array of initiatives put in place by Minister Clay Sweeting, who “achieved much in these two short years.”
“From expanding education and training, to creating the Golden Yolk Programme, reopening packing houses, and investing in vertical farming, cultivation centres, and climate-smart technology, he has moved the industry forward for the country,” Prime Minister said of Minister Sweeting.
He added: “As the new Minister of Works and Family Island Affairs, Minister Sweeting will oversee the significant number of infrastructural projects and upgrades that are underway. Pulling Works and Family Island Affairs together makes sense in our government, because of the scope of our ambitions for our Family Islands. With two new airports already opened, and 14 more to go, and major roadworks across multiple islands, we are looking at transformative change.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that Minister Alfred Sears oversaw the initiation of those infrastructural improvements, as well as the very significant repairs which were required to make schools across the country ready for in-person classes after two years of closure.
“He has served our nation in previous administrations as the Attorney General, and as a Minister of Education, Science and Technology,” Prime Minister Davis said. “Now we are asking him to bring his formidable experience to serve as Minister of Immigration and National Insurance.”
He added: “As you know, because of the global inflation crisis, Bahamians are experiencing a significant strain in their finances. Because of this, we decided to postpone a much-needed increase in NIB rates until July of next year. This will give Bahamians time to plan, and give the National Insurance Board time to undergo a process of reform.
“Minister Sears will be overseeing those reforms, to make the system simpler and easier to navigate.”
Prime Minister Davis stated that it was important to prevent fraudulent claims, and to expedite claims for people who deserve them. The National Insurance Board, he added, should be there when Bahamians need it, so his government needed to strengthen the fundamentals, and improve services and accountability.
“Minister Sears will also oversee the enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws, and will be responsible for implementing the reforms which emerge from the review of immigration procedures,” he said.
“I know that he will build on the very substantial accomplishments of Minister Keith Bell.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, in less than two years as Minister of Labour and Immigration, Minister Bell recruited a record number of immigration officers and oversaw a record number of repatriations.
“Because of his leadership, we have a new temporary detention facility in Inagua, which can hold 800 persons, reducing the time and cost of repatriating those who cross into our waters illegally,” he said. “Also because of his leadership, thousands have been deported for immigration violations, and 600 migrants were taken into custody in Abaco this year alone.
“He has worked with the Royal Bahamas Police Force to target human smugglers, as well as those who break our laws by employing or housing undocumented migrants.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that, during Minister Bell’s tenure as Minister of Labour, the minimum wage was increased, and Labour on the Blocks job fairs across the country resulted in more than 3,000 job placements for Bahamians.
“I know he will bring his trademark energy and determination to his new role, as Minister of Housing and Urban Renewal,” he said. “Building affordable homes and building stronger communities is a priority for us, and doing it in a big way requires strength and focus.”
“Keith Bell was part of the team that originally launched Urban Renewal,” Prime Minister Davis added. “His experience and commitment to that mission will help to drive the programme to even greater success.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that Minister Bell would be taking over from Minister JoBeth Coleby-Davis, who “revitalized a housing department that had not built even a single house in years”. He added that she “wasted no time turning things around, as the proud new homeowners in the Pinecrest and Renaissance developments can confirm.”
Prime Minister Davis said that, he spoke earlier in that National Statement about how important Energy Reform is to The Bahamas’ national development.
“If we want to make electricity affordable, if we want Bahamian companies to compete and prosper, if we want to create a more dynamic and inclusive economy, we must transition away from our country’s expensive, outdated, and unreliable electricity infrastructure,” he said.
“Around the world, as companies and countries wake up to the dangers of the climate change era, massive new investments in research and development are leading to technological advances in renewable energy,” Prime Minister Davis added.
“It’s a very exciting time, but also a very challenging one.”
He noted that energy reform could be a “game-changer” for The Bahamas; but no one should underestimate the up-front costs and complexity of transforming the country’s grid.
In a rapidly-changing sector, Prime Minister Davis said, his government needed to make decisions that help Bahamians as soon as possible. Change is urgent, he added; but his government also needed to make decisions that hold up over the long term.
“Minister Coleby-Davis is to serve as Minister of Energy and Transport, to do the critical work of bringing together and coordinating experts and teams from throughout our government to tackle our energy transition,” he said. “As many of you know, she has a background in providing legal counsel in the industry, and understands how to navigate complex negotiations with energy executives and companies.”
“Minister Coleby-Davis, whose dissertation for her Masters’s Degree focused on overcoming barriers to renewable energy deployment in The Bahamas, is going to be a formidable advocate for our country as we transition to clean energy.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that, when his government came into office, many Bahamians told it that they were inspired to see a new generation of leaders receive top posts in his Government.
“Minister Pia Glover-Rolle has been another bright star in this new generation,” he stated. “She has overseen salary increases across the public service, including increases for uniformed branches, teachers, and nurses, and an increase in public service pensions, and the return of annual increments to alleviate inflationary pressures.
“She has conducted a Public Service-wide skills audit to inform human resource needs and policies,” he added. “She is revamping how government recruits, onboards, and trains public servants.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed that Minister Glover-Rolle had significantly reduced a decades-long backlog of promotions, and resolved hundreds of pending matters related to backpay, gratuities, and other matters. She also led the first public service-wide promotional exercise in over nine years.
“She has terminated more than a dozen under-utilised government leases – saving the government money,” he said.
“Her work has been important to improving labour relations, setting the stage for the successful negotiation of 22 labour agreements in 23 months,” Prime Minister Davis added. “I am confident she will serve with distinction as the new Minister of Labour and Public Service.”
He noted that his administration had advocated “passionately” around the world for The Bahamas to be supported, as it deals with the impact of climate change on the country and its people.
“As we move forward with our agenda to adapt and make ourselves more resilient, we need to strengthen the work of the Ministry of the Environment,” he said. “To help drive this push for more sustainable development, Zane Lightbourne will take on the role of Minister of State in that ministry.”
Prime Minister Davis said that, as he mentioned earlier in that National Statement, his government had a strong focus on accelerating the expansion and development of airports throughout the nation’s family islands.
He added: “Airports do more than facilitate travel. They are a force multiplier in supporting the economic growth of those communities. Because of the scale of resources and requirements needed to make this a reality, Basil McIntosh will take on the role of Minister of State in the Ministry of Aviation. His long years of experience in major engineering projects around The Bahamas will greatly strengthen our efforts.
“While other ministers will remain in their substantive posts, there are some changes in portfolios,” Prime Minister Davis added. “The full list of responsibilities will be published at later date.” (Photos/OPM)