By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff reporter
PRIME Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis revealed yesterday that stabilising the country’s finances and bringing economic relief to Bahamians will be key priorities for his administration for the remainder of year.
Mr Davis – who was elected to office last September- was asked about his government’s agenda and their main areas of focus for the rest of the year.
“Well, we set it out in our budget communication,” the prime minister responded reporters.
“Our continuing to stabilise our finances, our continuing to bring relief to our people. We have done so in some of the initiatives that we have already put into place like ensuring that we bring some initiatives to relieve the pressures brought on by inflationary pressures because of what’s happening worldwide.
“Like for example, lowering our import duties and being more effective in connecting our finances,” he added.
Surging gas prices and high food costs – largely a direct result of inflation and the ongoing Russian-Ukranian war - have been among the list of grievances expressed by Bahamians in recent months.
In his budget communication in May, Prime Minister Davis announced a series of relief measures aimed to assist Bahamians struggling with the inflationary high cost of living.
The proposed measures include increased social assistance, targeted minimum wage increases for workers in the public sector, duty reductions on certain food items among other things.
Yesterday, Mr Davis told reporters the government had also been negotiating with several shipping companies to bring in imported items at discounted rates.
“We have also negotiated with some of and we continue to negotiate with some of the transport shipowners to lower the cost of containers,” Mr Davis added.
“We’ve been successful in at least identifying savings for containers coming from the far East. At least 40 percent of the costs has now been reduced in respect to that. We hope to have that being passed on to consumers so those are some of things, but my primary goal is to relieve the suffering that our people are having.”
Mr Davis also spoke to the issue of mental health in the country, which is something he said his government is addressing.
Earlier this month, the government tabled the Mental Health Bill 2022, which, once enacted, will allow people suffering with mental illness to be better protected.
“There’s a mental health issue in our country,” the prime minister said.
“It’s not manifesting itself as people would think but it’s simmering and it’s something that we’re addressing as well because we need to have our people feeling good about themselves and not (being in a) depressive state brought on by all of the issues that’s attentive to persons, particularly the most vulnerable.”
He was also asked whether the government planned to advance legislation on gender equality regarding the transfer of citizenship at the end of the year.
However, Mr Davis could not commit to it because he said it was not a priority for his administration at this time. However, he noted the matter was under review.
The government has previously said it intends to bring legislation to allow both Bahamian men and women to pass on citizenship in any circumstance.
Last month, Attorney General Ryan Pinder said the government wanted to advance legislation on the issue by the end of summer.
However, yesterday, Mr Davis said: “I will not raise my expectations for the end of the year. Those things are under review. They are not a priority right now. The priority for me is to relieve the suffering and mental anguish to what are people are going through right now,” he said.
Currently, children born outside of the country to a married Bahamian woman and a foreign man are not automatically granted Bahamian citizenship and thus must apply to receive it.
Bahamian men who have children with foreign women out of wedlock also cannot automatically pass on citizenship to their children.