THE Free National Movement has pledged to “review an increase to the minimum wage,” pass legislation to replace the emergency orders and introduce a medical marijuana industry if the party secures another term.
The party also pledged to invest $50m to $70m in upgrades to Bahamas Power and Light’s transmission and distribution infrastructure to further reduce electricity outages.
The pledges, among others, were outlined in the FNM’s 2021 Manifesto, which was released yesterday.
Regarding marijuana, the FNM says: “In recent years attitudes toward cannabis have changed around the world. The old view that use of the plant was dangerous has given way to widespread acceptance of its various medicinal and industrial uses.
“Our cannabis laws are antiquated. They have unfairly punished too many Bahamians who used the plant for various personal, medical and religious reasons.”
Draft marijuana reform legislation was circulated by the Minnis administration for consultation this term, however, it was never brought to Parliament. The FNM now says it will introduce marijuana reform in its next term if it is successful at the polls later this month.
“In the next term we intend to decriminalise possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use; legalise medicinal marijuana; expunge the records of Bahamians who have convictions for possession of small amounts of marijuana; establish a Cannabis Licensing Authority to oversee the new cannabis industry in The Bahamas.
“This will include regulation of issuance of licenses and other matters related to the sector,” the manifesto says.
All companies in the new cannabis industry would be at least 51 percent Bahamian and the FNM says it would make Crown land available for Bahamians to grow legal cannabis.
Regarding its plans for the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minnis administration says it will ensure there is enough vaccine supply for all residents; ensure there are booster shots as needed on the advice of health professionals; and acquire equipment to conduct in-country analysis to determine the presence of coronavirus variants.
Other promises relating to the pandemic include providing the National Reference Laboratory with the resources needed to continue expanding its testing and analysis capacity; ensure there are adequate supplies of proven medical therapies to treat those with COVID-19; provide the resources to ensure robust contact tracing continues; and pass and bring into effect legislation to replace the emergency orders.
The Minnis administration tabled draft legislation in the House of Assembly to replace the emergency orders shortly before the House of Assembly was dissolved and a general election was called.
Regarding the electoral process, the FNM says it will establish a new and independent Parliamentary Registration Department to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of election administration; continue the digitisation of the electoral process; and create opportunities for greater participation, accountability and transparency regarding the electoral process.
The Minnis administration also says it will create a National Sovereign Wealth Fund and a National Infrastructure Fund.
The wealth fund will be a “vehicle for public-private partnerships in order for Bahamians to economically benefit from our natural resources and to invest in infrastructure development and to provide a source for the generation of future wealth,” the FNM says.
“The fund will be vested with Bahamian assets, which are the basis of the country’s wealth, and it will accumulate and convert those assets as necessary in order to spur developments in the country; and income generated through the fund’s activities as well as returns on investments will accumulate in the fund for the benefit of the Bahamian people,” the party’s plan says.
The FNM said it will also create a new Ministry of Investments, Financial Services and Commerce if it secures a second term.
Regarding its plans to ensure access to land and homeownership, the Minnis administration says it will launch the Bahamas Homes Initiative, through which there will be the creation of at least one major serviced lot development on all major Family islands. The FNM said it will also make materials for home construction in government subdivisions VAT-free and continue with the duty free and real property tax concessions it previously implemented.
The party said it will also continue creating communities for young professionals throughout The Bahamas; repair all government-owned rental properties in inner-city communities and sell units for a nominal fee; and continue to work with the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation to make home ownership available for more Bahamians.
The Minnis administration’s previously announced plans to upgrade hospital infrastructure at Rand Memorial Hospital in Grand Bahama and Princess Margaret Hospital in New Providence are also noted in the manifesto.
Regarding social development, the FNM said it would work with NGOs to establish four transitional shelters in New Providence, one in Grand Bahama and one in Abaco to accommodate the homeless population using existing grants and provide grants to non-profit organisations to establish safe homes for women and families experiencing domestic violence, among other promises.
The FNM also pledged to implement a universal school meal programme if re-elected, that will provide nutritionally balanced, free breakfast, lunch and snacks to all school children in the government-operated education system regardless of income.
Although promised, but not delivered in this term, the FNM has committed to introducing local government in New Providence if re-elected.
The full manifesto can be viewed at ourfnm.org.