Optimistic tone from ministers as new decade dawns

With just over two years remaining in this term, some members of the Minnis administration yesterday shed light on their goals for 2020.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said one of his main goals is to help improve the lives of Abaco and Grand Bahama residents impacted by Hurricane Dorian in September.

“First of all, we pray that there [are] no more storms,” Turnquest told reporters on the sidelines of the New Year’s Day Junkanoo Parade in downtown Nassau.

“We’ve gone through a tremendous, horrendous, traumatic event that has [led to] long-term consequences for the country and it’s going to be a long road to recovery.”

He added, “The first order, obviously, is to put back those institutions that will facilitate residents coming back and being able to access the services that they need – the police, the healthcare, the financial institutions…

“Then we will see how we can assist them, the best we can, to get back into their homes.”

Turnquest highlighted the $10 million that Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said has been allocated as funding for victims of Hurricane Dorian to rebuild their houses that were destroyed or damaged by the storm.

He said he hopes for that program to begin mid-January.

“So, hopefully we’ll be able to get people back into their homes – those who can get back in with reasonable repairs. Then we’ll work on those with medium damage,” he said. 

Noting that recovery from intense hurricanes can be lengthy even for First World countries, Turnquest said “this is going to be a while”.

Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell expressed optimism about the new year.

“Dorian notwithstanding, we’ve learned some lessons. I believe that hurricanes of that magnitude are likely to be more frequent, but we will be better prepared from the lessons that we’ve learned.”

He also hinted at staffing changes that might take place in his ministry this year.

“I have a number of things on my wish list. If I could group them, I would say there are some welfare and working conditions within the ministry that I want to address,” Campbell said.

“We are nearing the end of a review of the career path of social workers [and] seeking to relocate a number of our staff from where they are now to better locations, more suitable – both for social services and urban renewal.

“We’re also looking to introduce legislation; we are in the final stages of the Disabled Persons Protection Bill. As a matter of fact, we’ve sent it back to the attorney general’s office hoping that we will put the final touches on it.

“We have also presented to the attorney general’s office the amendment for the Persons With Disabilities Act because we thought in order to bring the regulations, we needed to make some amendments.

“And so, we are hoping that we would not just celebrate these anniversaries, international dates, but we want to have activities throughout the year that would be supportive of the various dates that we celebrate.”

Meanwhile, Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd said his ministry has ambitious goals for “greater efficiency” in the year ahead. 

“In this new year, we’re going to be having in the ministry what we call the 100-day challenge. Every department is going to establish their goals, and in that 100 days we’re going to exceed those goals – not just meet them, exceed those goals,” Lloyd

“It’s going to be based on efficiency and responsiveness.”

He also noted: “We’ve got to cut down on the timelines. We’ve got to get people’s results to them, whatever that is. Whether you have to be paid or whether you make a request of the ministry – ‘I want my grades’ or ‘I want my diploma’ or ‘I want to get my transcripts’ and so on.

“Instead of having to wait two weeks, we want to cut it down to one week; instead of having to wait one week, we want to cut it down to two or three days because the Bahamian people deserve it.

“In this day and time, the people need and deserve almost instant response [and] we’ve got to work towards that.”

Lloyd added, “Greater efficiency, greater response. We’ve got to be more responsive for Bahamians.”

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert  Minnis also chipped in on his goal for the year ahead, saying he wants: “[To] close that gap of income inequality and create more opportunities for the poor and the indigent, and to uplift the inner city.”

Ending his morning on an optimistic note after rushing with the Saxons Superstars Junkanoo group, Minnis added, “Thank you [and] enjoy your new year.”

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