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Prime Minister Christie Opens Caribbean Local Government Forum

Prime Minister Rt Hon Perry Christie

Nassau, The Bahamas - Local government leaders throughout the region held roundtable discussions this weekend to further the development of local government systems, and discuss sustainable development goals to end poverty and disparity. Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie officially opened the Caribbean Forum of Local Government Ministers (CFLGM) and Caribbean Association of Local Government Authorities (CALGA) Meetings, August 30, in the Arawak Room, Melia Nassau Beach Hotel. The regional delegates were hosted by Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Local Government, the Hon. V. Alfred Gray.

The Prime Minister stated in his opening address that local government authorities in The Bahamas play a vital role in the overall development of our Family Island communities. He declared he placed Local Government within the portfolio of the Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Local Government because of the synergy that is required to achieve the success of his Government’s initiative towards food security, one of the objectives of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Initiative.

Prime Minister Christie said “the UN’s first goal -- ‘to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger’ -- is crucial to the development of the Caribbean and The Bahamas. My Government upon taking office set national food security as a priority and made strategic steps to address this issue in planning the establishment of the Bahamas Agricultural & Marine Science Institute in North Andros.”

He noted: “Regional bodies like CFLGM and CALGA are assets to the development of the small states of the Caribbean. Their efforts would be limited without support and funding from International agencies such as the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF), United Nations Habitat and United Nations Development Programme, and Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). 

“I express the gratitude of a grateful region in general and the people of The Bahamas in particular to your continued support and intervention to ensure our sustainable and eco-friendly development.

“CALGA’s vision and CFLGM’s programmatic framework are both in tandem with my Government’s sustainable economic development plans for The Bahamas,” he said. “The CLGF support is of significant importance in assisting the region with deliberations in moving forward. To this end, my Government supports wholeheartedly all the programmes and initiatives of your organizations.”

To continue, he remarked a well-oiled Local Government machinery and structure is vital to productive economic development thrust via agriculture and marine resources, and added that his Government’s Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute under construction in North Andros is envisaged to provide such an economic development catalyst.

“This initiative will heighten civil society participation in local development and create a sustainable framework for local economic development of our Family Islands. In particular, BAMSI will transform North Andros and represent a major effort in crop diversification and diversification of the economy itself. Therefore, Local Government authorities need to focus on being catalysts for economic development within their districts, empowering their residents,” said Prime Minister Christie.

“During my address at the 68th General Assembly of the United Nations in September 2013,” he said, “I renewed The Bahamas’s pledge to play our part to help make our planet a place of peace, stability, collaborative endeavor, and mutual support for the good of humankind. I called for a revamping of policies that correct practices that adversely impact the environment and bring about climate change that can catastrophically impact small nation states like The Bahamas.”

Prime Minister Christie stated that Bahamians should not just ‘talk the talk,’ but ‘walk the walk’ too.

“To cite one such example with respect to Local Government development in The Bahamas, my Government is on the verge of enacting a Local Government (Amendment) Bill, 2014, presently pending approval that will provide for the establishment of statutory leadership to head the new Department of Local Government, and further empower local government practitioners in our Family Island districts. This Bill is an important step to ensure the modernization of the Local Government structures and help strengthen community associations in the country,” said Mr. Christie.

“In reviewing CFLGM’s programmatic framework, I am happy to note that this framework is consistent with my Government’s policy objectives. We in The Bahamas stand ready to play our part in these joint efforts. Of particular note, later this year, my Government will table in Parliament, constitutional referendum Bills for enactment.

“At the centre of these is a Bill that would allow a Bahamian woman the same access to spousal citizenship as a Bahamian man under the Constitution.”

Prime Minister Christie encouraged the other Caribbean countries that have not yet endorsed CFLGM’s Regional Policy & Cooperation Framework (RPCF) to do so with haste. “Such an initiative can only serve to enhance and sustain local governance and deepen democracy. The Bahamas endorsed this Agreement on 18th November 2008.

“Considering the stakes in respect of securing consensus on the Agreement, it is hoped that all efforts will be made during these meetings and roundtable discussions to complete this requirement so that the Agreement can be re-submitted to the Legal Affairs Sub-committee of CARICOM for its review.”