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Urban Renewal 'In The Works'

By DANA SMITH

dsmith@tribunemedia.net

URBAN Renewal 2.0 is already in the works and will be up and running within the next two weeks under the leadership of Minister of State for National Security, Senator Keith Bell.

National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage made the announcement yesterday after being quizzed about the PLP's 'First 100 Days' initiative in which the party has made a hit-list of promises .

One was the launch of key elements of Project Safe Bahamas and Operation Cease Fire, including the reintroduction of Urban Renewal, to 'immediately reinvigorate' the fight against crime and violence.

"Urban renewal 2.0 is in the making as I speak," Dr Nottage said.

"Mr Bell, the Minster of State, who has tremendous experience in Urban Renewal 1.0, will be spearheading that matter even though it will be in the portfolio of the Minister of Works."

Dr Nottage said 'for a variety of reasons,' the police will also have 'a very important part' in the success of the Urban Renewal programme.

"I expect Minister Bell can speak to the details of that, but we expect that to be running within the next week or two," he said. "In fact, the police have already appointed the officers who are going to head the various regional offices for Urban Renewal 2.0."

In addition to Urban Renewal, Dr Nottage said he has already begun talks with the country's various security organisations.

"We're going to review all of the organisations - the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Defence Force and the prisons," he said. "I've begun that process already. I've had meetings with the heads of those three agencies. We're discussing the agencies themselves, their operations, (and) their problems.

"We're also discussing the formation of a National Security Agency, the director of whom will be Commodore (Clifford) Scavella who has also sat in on meetings with us."

The Agency, Dr Nottage said, will comprise of all the country's law enforcement departments and will address all categories of major crime.

He added: "We're looking at the structure of the police force, we're looking at re-enforcing where the needs are in terms of their staff, in terms of their resources.

"We want to hit the ground running with the saturation patrols through our communities, that means we have to enforce mobile control.

"We want to appoint the violence breakers of whom we spoke during the election campaign so that we have street fellows who are working along with us together - intelligence and assistance and being able to preempt many of the violence crimes that are currently being perpetrated."

Also planned is a National Firearms Control Strategy which will combat illegal firearm smuggling. The strategy will include 'intensive surveillance' of Bahamian waters by the Defence Force who will be equipped with 'suitable vessels and aircrafts.'

Other items the PLP promised to accomplish during its first 100 days include doubling the nation's investment in education, creating a Ministry for Grand Bahama, and taking steps to secure the nation's borders.

Details of a referendum on a national lottery and gambling are promised, reduction of stamp tax payable on real estate transactions to 10 per cent, re-introducing a ceiling on the maximum level of real property taxes payable, the creation of the Employees Pension Fund Protection Act, the creation of a Grand Bahama Ministry, and more.

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