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'After 50 Years Of Neglect, You Cannot Resolve Inner-City Problems In One Year'

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis. Photo: Terrel W Carey Sr/Tribune Staff

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis. Photo: Terrel W Carey Sr/Tribune Staff

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

DESPITE a poor response to the concessions offered under the government’s Economic Empowerment Zone initiative, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis is confident the plan will work.

The Tribune exclusively reported last week that nearly four months after the Over-the-Hill zone went live, just 17 applications for concessions were submitted and of these 14 were approved.

And only a few of the more than a dozen people interviewed by this newspaper had even heard about the programme and its tax concessions.

Asked about it on Saturday fresh from high level talks he and Caribbean leaders had with United States President Donald Trump, Dr Minnis admitted more needed to be done to inform inner-city residents of the initiative’s offerings.

Dr Minnis also slammed critics, saying it was impossible to undo in one year the damage done over 50 years in the Over-the-Hill community.

“Whatever I embark upon I do my best to ensure that it works and I will continue to do my best for the Bahamian populace and not just the inner-city but the Bahamian populace at large and I will focus and concentrate especially on the poor,” Dr Minnis said.

Earlier in the interview he said: “I’m glad you asked. The inner-city is dear to me. Poverty is dear to me. I would aggressively attack poverty being a descendent of poverty, but it’s amazing and, before I answer your question, it’s important that you understand and that’s all of you.

“It’s amazing that the inner-city was neglected for 50 years and you want resolution in one. That’s impossible. Pregnancy takes nine months before the baby is delivered. It don’t happen overnight and when the baby comes they crawl before they walk and then they run. They don’t enter the Olympics, the Olympics is 20 years or 30 years away. So it can’t happen overnight.

“Seventeen? We will ramp up. We recognise that there are some in spite of all the PR that we did, there are still some that said they did not know.

“I visit the inner-city and as I speak to businessmen they themselves say that they don’t know. So we will ensure to increase it but still don’t expect a complete resolution overnight. We cannot correct 50 years of neglect in one year.”

There are many businesses in the inner-city community that stand to gain considerably from the concessions offered under the programme.

Take for example Trevor Moss’ tyre shop in Bain and Grants Town with no restroom and an unseemly roof.

The savings would help Mr Moss and others who want to renovate and equip their homes or businesses, be exempt from real property taxes or bring in cars duty-free for work.

However some who this newspaper interviewed said their homes or businesses do not need to be renovated. People like August Stevens, owner of a mom-and-pop store in Masons Addition, want to renovate their property but won’t because they don’t own the land. Others like Mr Moss said the concessions are too limited to address problems that have locked their families into a cycle of poverty for generations.

For their part, government officials noted last week that hardly three months have passed since the Economic Empowerment Zone went live in late November and officials are preparing to ramp up their education campaign to encourage more people to take advantage of the concessions.

“People are calling in, we’re receiving numerous calls,” Samita Ferguson, head of the Over-the-Hill Unit at the Office of the Prime Minister, said last week.

“We didn’t have a target of how many (applications) we wanted by a certain point. We are speeding up in our public education. We are working on a commercial. We will make sure it’s spread through social media. The environmental monitors we have hired will be very strategic because when they walk about in the zones they will be able to pass out flyers or get names or numbers of persons that would be interested in tapping into the concessions. “We have also tapped into the Urban Renewal Centres so applications can be found there.” Ms Ferguson said some who called her unit have been directed to the Small Business Development Centre, which, among other things, can provide financing to small businesses and may be a better fit for their needs.

Government officials also stress that the Over-the-Hill programme is bigger than tax concessions. The government wants to create a food market for native products in the area; eliminate outside toilet use by 2025; create an auto-mechanic cluster that eliminates roadside mechanics in residential areas; build a multi-purpose community centre that offers care for children, the elderly and opportunities for counselling and construct a sports complex, among other things.

Comments

ThisIsOurs 3 months, 3 weeks ago

"Seventeen? We will ramp up. We recognise that there are some in spite of all the PR that we did, there are still some that said they did not know."

It's weird but the FNM chalks up ALL its missteps and miscalculations to "PR". It's not PR, you created a solution for a problem that didn't exist. Why would a rash of businesses outside the inner city rush to plant themselves in a community of persons with no money? And how can a community of persons with no money take advantage of tax concessions on building materials??? The plan literally makes no sense.

Your problem is people with little to no education, no job opportunities, no money, crime, teenage pregnancy and crumbling infrastructure. Create the solution for that.

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OldFort2012 3 months, 3 weeks ago

There is only one solution for that: education. And that takes a generation. Or two.

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ThisIsOurs 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Id argue that there are alot of valuable skills beyond answering a phone that could be taught in a 1-2 year period. I think it takes vision and a whole lot of inspiration.

Let's assume an adult is unable to read, it might take an additional 2 years to teach them. So 5 years max.

And no, not everyone will want to renew their minds but I'll bet at least 1/3 of them will. And they have to be able to eat in the interim.

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birdiestrachan 3 months, 3 weeks ago

It is said that a true liar believes his own Lies. That is roc wit doc.

He raised VAT 60% Which affect poor people and give rich people duty free exemptions which includes VAT exemptions example OBAN and Disney and then he says to the poor he cares. He has increased the cost of living on those who can afford it least.

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sheeprunner12 3 months, 3 weeks ago

The inner city naturally decays as society changes ............... so, when The Bahamas went through its social transformation following 1967-1980, there was a need for reform - that never came ......... Bahamians moved out to the suburbs, and immigrants moved in and the policy makers did little to address the socio-economic decay ............ Hence the Over the Hill after "putting lipstick on the pig" for 50 years .......... Perry's Urban Renewal did not make any transformative change to the inner city.

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bogart 3 months, 3 weeks ago

YEP.......YA HAS GOOD UNDERSTANDING OF DA DYNAMICS....INNER CITY.....DECAY.......MANY HOMES USUALLY HAD...OR HAS....3 generations wrapped in insufficient income....POVERTY....Coupled with the depopulating of FAMILY ISLANDS.....abetted...facilitated by inept govt officials........decreasing business oppoptunities...opportunities ..families fled to start over with other families...some broken families....some incapacitated members has to taken care at homes...some disfunctional families....single mother number of kids different fathers neglect ....kids growing up with different fellas visiting abode...no food...no electricity....Success is getting brilliant children out brain drain....teachers...nurses...making good living conditions abroad.....Gaps fill with migrants....many illegal..Servants housekeepers gardiners 'good paying tenants'....exersperating ...kerpungling up ...I think you can go on fer a few pages.......BUT there is lack of joining the dots for easy solutions......but stead...it nots understanding..by salaried officials.....AND yes there are salaried officials who choose to just warm seats...one first ting is to survey census..who in dese inner city...!!!!

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TalRussell 3 months, 3 weeks ago

*Correction Comrade PM meant say now nearing his Imperial red regime's 2nd Birthday as government, not one year out, yes, no that if you refuse to do what is promised sin of voter rejection is crouching at your red shirts 2022 door, yes, no?
Whatever the PM embarked upon since 10th Day May, 2017 - please PM, do ya best to educate PeoplePublic what in hell it was/is that that actually works, yes, no in old God days the Comrade was known severely deal harshly such people for uttering before PeoplePublic nonsense bullshi# things, yes, no?

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John 3 months, 3 weeks ago

The problem is there may be a disconnect. When Marlon Johnson and others started out publicizing this project, they published that all persons wishing to benefit from this program must be current with all their taxes, including property taxes and business license. Well government has since removed the business license fees that will benefit most of these businesses but many may be delinquent on their property taxes. And since many of the buildings in this area are delapidated or abandoned, the taxes being assessed is too high. Another problem is the persons occupying property in that area do not have title to the property. Grandma may have died and left if to a son or daughter and now some of the grandchildren occupy the property. Another issue may be was there was implied threats of sending persons who apply for benefits to jail if they could not account for the materials they get from government. The problem with that is there is a lot of theft going on in the area and if the material gets stolen the property owner will be responsible. Also the owner will be responsible for hiring a contractor who may also be dishonest. And steal some of the material.

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TalRussell 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Yes, yes and yes ma comrade prime minister was to tax homeowners at Lyford Cay fund his Over-da-Hill scheme that is until gated community's residents threaten climb over gated walls pull a Guy Fawkes revolution night against Imperial red shirts cabinet, yes, no just can't be making up site Lyfrod Cay's well-to-do's new rich tossing they grappling hooks climbs over high walls Lyford Cay, yes, no?

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BONEFISH 3 months, 3 weeks ago

This is complex socio-economic issues they are dealing with.Education will pay a major role in this matter.Both parties have launched schemes to redevelop the inner cities without proper studies.

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TalRussell 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Comrade Pindling without fanfare elevated two generations out from Over-da-Hill and from poorness and economic neglect, yes, no........ 65% students under Pindling were the first generation from thousands families to ever complete High school and go on to enter halls of high learning, yes, no what lasting generational change foundations are Imperial red shirts standing on...... send reporters interview the offspring new rich residing behind the gated walls throughout Nassau Town - and all they knows about Over-da_Hill is from older family folklore talks yes, no?

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FreeportFreddy 3 months, 3 weeks ago

NO.

You just stated that your saviour (Pindling) did so much good...where are the long term effects of that - other than for his family???

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sheeprunner12 3 months, 3 weeks ago

What happened to the Out Islands, happened to Over the Hill ......... Pindling told them to get office jobs and move to the suburbs/cities ...... the rest is history Now, the Out Islands and the Over the Hill stand dilapidated and dying. And it will take a huge injection of $$$$$$$ and human resources to reverse that ........ God knows if this will truly happen with the political stakes as high as it is.

The Out Islands account for 10 of the 39 seats and have not affected the political balance of power since 1992. At least the 6 seats of Over the Hill are near to the centre of political power.

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TalRussell 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Has asks, okay comrades - who exactly are Over-da-Hill landowners? Why is it there is never talk about any foreigner investors lining up wanting invest in Over-da-Hill - yes, no?.... And, has asks same about we own newer to wealth natives, yes, no...... including Minnis and KP?

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Papa Doc Minnis still can't figure out whether he's going east or west. On the one hand, he and his corrupt cronies have allowed the Great Disney and Great Lucayan Giveaways to foreign interests who will now get to enjoy the benefits of outrageously (in fact, disgustingly) generous concessions for many decades to come. Meanwhile Papa Doc Minnis proposes to once again increase the taxes on us already over-burdened Bahamian taxpayers in order to begin addressing inner-city (over-the-hill) problems. Anyone notice that his reference to 50 years appears to be a reference to the period since we gained majority rule. What a joke! LMAO

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joeblow 3 months, 3 weeks ago

These guys don't seem to understand that ignorant, uneducated people with no moral values CANNOT raise children who are going to make positive contributions to society. It is that simple. We need a shift in mindset before anything changes!

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