Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday expressed confidence in Yamacraw MP Elsworth Johnson’s ability to work “diligently” as minister of financial services, trade and industry and immigration.
Johnson was sworn in by Governor General C. A. Smith during a ceremony at Government House yesterday morning.
On Sunday, it was announced that Johnson has been appointed to the ministry following the resignation from Cabinet of St. Anne’s MP Brent Symonette, who had responsibility for the portfolio since May 2017.
In a statement, Minnis said, “I am confident that Mr. Johnson will work diligently to help to secure and promote our financial services sector.
“He will also be responsible for helping to promote trade and industry as the government continues to secure greater Bahamian and international investments in our economy, including throughout the Family Islands. This includes support for small business development and greater Bahamian entrepreneurship in a variety of sectors.”
The prime minister continued, “Mr. Johnson will also be responsible for the ongoing reform of the Department of Immigration, including speedier processing of immigration applications and addressing the backlog of applications.”
In November 2018, Symonette said the Department of Immigration had a backlog of approximately 10,000 applications.
The U.S. Department of State’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons report, which was released last month, raised concerns over reported corruption at the department.
When asked how he intends to address these concerns, Johnson said, “We’re a sovereign country. The immigration department is going to work together under the spirit of the rule of law and equality under the law to ensure that everybody is treated fairly.”
He continued, “And treating people fairly means that we have to continue to create a system that responds in a timely manner and to continue to create a system that is fair and just for all. So, if we start to speak about fairness, justice, equality before law and the rule of law, there is no place for corruption.”
He said he intends to finish the work started by Symonette and focus on the digitization of the Department of Immigration.
Johnson said there needs to be a “proper” reorganization of the department so it can “provide reasonable, fair service to the persons who find themselves coming to that institution”.
The minister said he hopes to build a financial services industry that is “comparable with the world”.
Johnson expressed gratitude for the confidence that Minnis has placed in him.
Following the 2017 general election, the prime minister appointed Johnson the minister of state for legal affairs.
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