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'20,000 people' without indoor toilet facilities

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ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel.

By KHRISNA VIRGIL

Deputy Chief Reporter

kvirgil@tribunemedia.net

BEFORE the Minnis administration rolls out legislation to regulate its inner-city incentives plan - an initiative which was a part of its 2017 campaign - the government plans to carry out an intense study of Over-the-Hill areas taking into account very specific factors to improve the way of life for residents, Attorney General and Senator Carl Bethel said yesterday.

These factors, he said in the Senate, include whether homes are equipped with running water and inside toilets.

According to Labour Minister and Senator Dion Foulkes, there are more than 3,300 households without running water or indoor toilet facilities. He explained during his 2017-2018 budget communication in the Upper Chamber that this number affects close to 20,000 people, opening them up to indignity and health hazards because of the use of outdoor toilets.

During his wrap up of the debate, Mr Bethel said: "When we are able to do it, we want to have real businesses that are going to be in the Over-the-Hill area as defined right now, the traditional inner-city. They will set up, renovate or build buildings (and) people will want to move to the area.

"The Bahamian people will develop their own ancestral homes and want to live there and want to live on wider streets with better street lighting, with better police protection, with better traffic flows, with a sewerage system.

"Right now, the government is on the verge of considering whether to do a full house-to house survey where we will map out with the help of the NGIS unit of the government dealing with all of the technologies. We will have photographs. We will have satellite documentation of exact locations. We will go street by street, house by house, yard by yard, apartment by apartment.

"We will know the ownership structure, the occupational structure of every building whether it has running water (or) whether it has toilets. We are going to do this so that when we bring that incentive act in we will have empirical evidence and we will have a standard by which our effort can be judged but before we can do that we have to set the ship of state aright."

He continued: "This year is our year of testing. This year we would have sought wherever possible to restrain public spending. We have sought to keep the budget as close as possible in terms of appropriated revenue account spending to its predecessor. Yes, we are some $250m or so above last year's appropriated limit but we are working every day in all of our ministries to cut back the excessive expenditure," Mr Bethel said.

For his part, Mr Foulkes said he was pleased that the government was addressing the serious situation present in the inner-city.

"I fully endorse the prime minister's initiative to revitalise and rejuvenate the Over-the-Hill communities. Most of the crime committed in our communities is rooted and is a result of the poor social and economic condition of our people especially the young.

"We will never have a significant reduction in crime unless we address the social and economic roots of crime.

"I compliment the prime minister and other colleagues who have shone their commitment to eradicate the social ills in our communities. I assure them of my unequivocal support," he said in the Senate.

While on the campaign trail ahead of its stunning victory over the then governing Progressive Liberal Party, the FNM proposed tax breaks including the duty-free importation of construction materials for residential and commercial properties; no business licence fees or real property taxes; no taxes on household furniture; no taxes on capital goods and business equipment "after proper vetting"; and lower import duties on business vehicles.

However, the Minnis administration appeared to narrow these plans in the May 24 Speech from the Throne which set out the government's policy and legislative agenda priorities. That speech said the government would "take action to effect a reduction of VAT on breadbasket items."

The language differs from Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis' campaign promises, in which he pledged to eliminate - not just reduce - the 7.5 per cent value added tax (VAT) on 'breadbasket' items, which are the basic food staples required for everyday living.

The scope of the VAT 'exemption' plan also appeared to have narrowed, as the prime minister had promised the levy would also be eliminated from utility bills (water and electricity) and education services.

These were not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, which also appeared to claw back on the breadth of the inner-city or Over-the-Hill tax breaks plans promised during the campaign.

Comments

SP 6 years, 9 months ago

Carl Bethel must be joking again. There are probably more than 20,000 people scattered around illegal Haitians villages in NP alone!

These people are a health hazard to the entire country and just one step away from causing major health and disease issues.

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John 6 years, 9 months ago

IF there are over 6,600 homes without electricity, there definitely are that many more without running water and without toilets. Many of the homes that have no electricity had water pumps that ran of electricity so when the lights went off, so did the water. Then there are those homes that had their water supply disconnected for non-payment. Then the lower end are the homes that never had running water or lights. Most of these would be in the shanty towns or in traditional Bain and Grants town inner-cities, where residents depend on government street-pump supplied water or water from a picture pump over a well. These, in most cases are the lower income families who cannot afford to upgrade to inside toilets/running water, or the illegal immigrant, who will not have the necessary documents to get their water or light connected. Several years ago government went on an initiative where they 'forced' landlords to put in toilets with running water or face hefty fines. Many who complied did it by putting in toilets that operated on an electric pump or connecting to the city water supply. In both instances the plans were not successful because tenants misused and abused the metered water supply running up hefty bills for the landlord or the pump and facilities that ran on the electricity were vandalised or not properly maintained. The toilets became facilities for the neighborhood. So now many of the properties are now mostly abandoned.

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