A weighty blueprint
The articulation of an ambitious legislative agenda buttressed by noteworthy precedents for women and young Bahamians, marked the opening of a new legislative session under the administration of Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis.
Yesterday’s historic simultaneous ascension of women to the offices of House speaker and Senate president, and the election of the country’s youngest Senate vice president, were among key firsts for the administration.
With a record number of women elected this term, five women appointed to the Cabinet, and both houses of Parliament led by female parliamentarians, an important tone has been set for what ought to be greater and more substantive participation by women in decision-making at the highest levels of government.
Setting an equally important tone was the government’s Speech from the Throne, which struck an appreciable balance on the imperative of economic growth, the need for youth and civic development, and support for vulnerable groups including those released from prison whose productive return to society can not only lower rates of crime, but reduce the country’s high recidivism rate.
We welcome the Davis administration’s pledges to govern in a consultative and inclusive manner; to introduce “effective” anti-corruption legislation; to hold no tolerance for corruption; and to bolster transparency and accountability necessary to maximize opportunities for economic revitalization, and to facilitate sound fiscal management.
These are pledges we call upon the administration to faithfully execute not only as its duty to the Bahamian people, but to foster the investor confidence and business climate necessary to convert outlined economic and fiscal strategies into successful revenue and growth policies, so that promised social and infrastructural initiatives can be adequately financed.
Good governance will also aid in mending essential but strained public trust, without which an administration’s likelihood of buckling under the weight of its mandate is increased.
The speech terms as a priority a return to normal constitutional order through the introduction of legislation to address future health risks — a critical element of good governance, given that a suspension of ordinary parliamentary oversight and of constitutional rights for all is not necessary to manage public health risks posed by some.
With regard to economic growth, tackling ease of doing business constraints must figure prominently in pledges to streamline the investment process, and we look with interest to how the administration will approach its pledge to develop an investment portfolio for Family Islands with an emphasis on specialized industries.
Laudable pledges to launch a Community Youth Service featuring stipends for young Bahamians to provide service to NGOs and community groups, as well as the creation of a national “First Jobs” program for Bahamians ages 16 to 25, not only create avenues for enhanced employability, but promote constitutive civic involvement so sorely lacking in today’s society.
Most necessary for national development is the fulfillment of government’s pledge to implement a comprehensive remediation program to address shortfalls in education caused by COVID-19 protocols.
The government’s speech made several references to addressing mental health challenges in youngsters and adults, which we hope will include a much-needed revamp of the country’s Mental Health Act, to bring this piece of legislation current with modern realities and requirements.
Meantime, government’s inarguably necessary pledge to increase the pension paid to senior citizens will aid in preserving the health and vitality of older Bahamians beset by unmanageable cost of living increases.
The Davis administration pledges to build upon the Ingraham administration’s creation of local government, repeating the familiar though unfulfilled pledge under the Minnis administration to pursue local government for New Providence.
Meaningful, if fulfilled, is the administration’s pledge to give local government what stakeholders have long sought — the power to raise revenue, and “share jurisdiction over local affairs and community management and development”.
After suffering budgetary cutbacks over the years, local government districts would no doubt be pleased with the administration’s pledge to increase the budget for local government councils during its term in office.
The governing Progressive Liberal Party secured its victory on a first-time permanent register of voters, and now pledges to reform the country’s electoral process.
Consistent with recommendations made by successive international electoral observer groups, such reform should not only include campaign finance legislation, but a departure from paper voter’s cards.
To see a promised “new day”, Davis and his team must commit to the standard blueprint for good governance, which is honesty, openness and fair dealing.
This is how the administration’s weighty blueprint will bring about best results for the Bahamian people.