Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie, M.P.
Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas
Dinner in Honour of The Nature Conservancy Annual Board Meeting
Kamalame Cay, Andros
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Distinguished Members of the Board of the Nature Conservancy
Senior officials from the Inter-American Development Bank
Senior Government Officials
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure for me to be in lovely Kamalame Cay, Andros at a resort facility known around the world as a shining example of the convergence of tourism and environmentally friendly development. This is a fitting place for The Nature Conservancy to have its annual Board meeting and I wish to welcome all of our visitors to The Bahamas, and particularly, Andros where so much is happening in terms of environmental and other related developments.
Andros Island is often referred to as â The Sleeping Giantâ of The Bahamas. Andros has a landmass that rivals that of some of the larger countries in our region. The three segments of Andros the North, Central and South are, in themselves, unique ecosystems with varied landscapes. The magnificence of Andros always amazes me from the basket weaving and straw work techniques which can be found in some areas of the North, particularly, Red Bay, to the tall pine forests and blue holes, to the endless maze of creeks, to the tales of the legendary chiccharney. This is truly a special island.
In this term in office, I look to awaken our sleeping giant and through our partnerships with environmentally conscious organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and others, along with the soon to be created Economic Development Planning Division within my office, I feel that we can cause real economic development to happen in Andros built around its unique natural attributes.
I am, however, seeking a new type of economic development. I am searching for true development which, has at its centre people and, of course, the environment in mind.
Indeed, my vision and wish for Andros is to have true, meaningful, sustainable development which is organic to the island and generated and embraced by Androsians and all Bahamians.
I want to talk a little this evening of how I plan to get there.
First, as a general philosophy, I have always embraced two important concepts: (i) that of planning and (ii) results-based management.
Indeed, planning or rather strategic thinking allows us to successfully take an idea from concept to execution. Over the years, I have looked around at how government was carrying out its duties; and while we have been extremely successful as a nation, I am also aware that there have been instances where a better result would have been attained if there was stronger strategic planning for development and investment.
Therefore, early last year, I met with the IDB and asked them for assistance in bringing a more structured and institutionalized approach to planning for development to my government. This conversation led to a technical cooperation grant to develop an Economic Development and Planning Unit within the Office of The Prime Minister that will oversee the development and execution of a National Economic Development Plan. In this plan, we hope to elucidate a shared vision for The Bahamas. What do we want to be in 20 years, what do we want our country to look like! However, most importantly, we would like to have a statement of who we would like to be and a strategy to achieve this.
And so, I seek to establish a Unit that has, among its objectives, the following:
• Serving as the Centre of Government for the execution of the Prime Ministerâ s vision for the development of The Bahamas;
• Effectively managing the National Development Plan project and overseeing its implementation;
• Serving as a technical resource for the various Ministries and agencies of the Government as they complete their general strategic planning processes;
• Effectively managing the various projects being executed by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM); and
• Proactively seeking new opportunities for implementing the governmentâ s objectives.
Evidenced Based Planning
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Planning would be a useless exercise without good data. And so, to ensure that we implement strategic and evidence based planning and analysis, my Government is also working with the IDB to strengthen our data collection and statistics capabilities. And so through another program with the IDB, we have focused on ensuring that the data we collect is so valuable that it will be demanded by policy technicians as the basis for evidenced based policy and planning.
As the Bahamas Investment Authority analyzes investment projects, I want to be able to have well-researched and stronger data to support our decisions. I have always supported the work of The Bahamas National Geographical Informational Services (BNGIS) and the important work which is being done by our environmental organizations like the Nature Conservancy. We have found that an important by-product of your work are the studies you produce and data that you collect. I want to make sure that this data is routinely used for policymaking.
Andros Ecosystem Services Master Plan
I am extremely excited about an upcoming project being developed in concert with the IDB. This proposed project will serve as a pilot project for all other development master plans throughout The Bahamas.
This proposed project, which should be up for review and approval by the IDB board this month, involves a $600,000 grant to The Bahamas to carry out four major activities:
• The measurement of the economic value of Androsâ ecosystem services, inclusive of its coastal and marine ecosystems, pine forests, mangroves, seagrass beds and tidal creeks;
• The development of realistic development scenarios taking into consideration the well-being of Androsians and the entire Bahamas.
• An assessment of the various alternative development scenarios for Andros; and
• The development of a proposal for a viable physical development plan that optimizes the economic value of Androsâ natural capital.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are awakening the sleeping Giant among the Bahamian islands. There are indeed a number of important things occurring in Andros right now.
Chief among them is the new Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI). The Government of The Bahamas plans to invest upwards of $20 million for the creation of a world-class agricultural and marine science school which will equip Bahamians and others alike to feed this country in a sustainable manner. Through BAMSI's extension services, we plan to revitalize, re-organize and rebrand the Agriculture sector of The Bahamas.
Andros is also known for its eco-tourism – an example is this wonderful facility that we are in today. We plan to support the development of other such facilities and small lodges which engage in activities that support economic development for The Bahamas and its people, but are also friendly to the environment.
We also plan to explore how we might best use, in an environmentally sound manner, the deep-water port in Morganâ s Bluff in North Andros.
Finally, as part of our Andros Ecosystem services project, we plan to build capacity. We would like our technical staff in the public service to become familiar with the techniques and research principles which considers the environment, nature, bio-diversity and the real lives of the human beings living in a place, before making development and investment decisions. We are grateful for the partnership, thus far with the IDB and invite the Nature Conservancy to continue to partner with the Government in these ventures. We know that your experience is rich and deep in these areas and we encourage you to continue to engage in knowledge exchanges that can enrich this aspect of development for Bahamians.
B. Measuring and Monitoring Results: Accountability
The final concept, which I will leave with you tonight, is my vision for a more results-oriented government. I firmly believe that such an approach to government will support accountability. Notwithstanding the great plans which Governments and their societies create; at the end of the day, the people of The Bahamas are seeking results. As Prime Minister, I need to be able to show what my Government and I have done. In this vein, I have partnered with the IDB, once again, to implement greater results-based management within the public service.
The IDB is developing a computer application (â an Appâ ) to help the OPM as the Centre of Government to monitor progress with the key goals elucidated through the development plan. We are designing a governance arrangement around this reporting tool to ensure that it is used appropriately and that public servants are held accountable for reporting their progress in achieving the Governmentâ s key initiatives. We feel that the addition of this tool will make Government more responsive and more accountable to its citizenry.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I hope that in this short presentation that you have had the opportunity to understand my vision for my beloved Bahamas. We are in a dynamic, transformative period, filled with new ideas and new responsibilities.
As The Bahamas has just recently celebrated 41 years of independence, I am determined, through these projects, to ensure that the next 41 years is even brighter.
I let a simple principle guide me. I think about The Bahamas that I want for my grandchildren to inherit. As such, there are a few things that I know. I know that I want a country that is peaceful, where the people are healthy and happy. I want a country which is as green and lush and as pristine as when I was a boy; I want a country where men and women can still make their livelihood by engaging in fishing and farming free of worry of contaminants; I wish for a country where the Queen Conch, Nassau Grouper and Spiny Lobsters are plentiful; a country where the waters are still crystal clear and a country where the air is still crisp and fresh. This is a simple, but powerful guiding principle.
To my friends at the Nature Conservancy, I thank you for your years of partnership with The Bahamas. I look forward to speaking with you as the evening progresses and to working with your great organization in the future. I salute you and wish your organization, board and staff well.
Thank You and Good Evening.
Published Thursday, September 11, 2014