PRIME Minister Philip “Brave” Davis speaking in the House of Assembly.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis said the 2022/2023 Budget will provide a financial boost for the social assistance needs of Bahamians who continue to struggle beneath the pressures of inflation.
He said his administration made a permanent increase in social assistance by 50 percent by comparison to pre-pandemic levels.
There has also been approved funding increases for non-governmental organisations by ten percent “across the board” in an effort to provide relief to hurting Bahamians.
In this vein, he said that money has been allocated for two local feeding programmes, headed by Bishop Walter Hanchell and Bishop Lawrence Rolle.
“They have provided meals throughout the pandemic and continue to do so now with little to no public sector support,” Prime Minister Davis told parliamentarians yesterday.
“I’m sure the whole House will want to join me in thanking Bishop Hanchell and Bishop Rolle, who, with such little support, fed thousands of people during the pandemic.
“However, our support to these hard-working NGOs goes even further. Under this new budget, all property owned by religious organisations, trade unions, civic organisations and burial societies will now be exempt from the payment of Real Property Tax. This reduction in taxes will put money back in the pockets of the entities to allow them to further their reach in communities.”
However, Mr Davis was also clear that the government will ensure that taxpayers’ monies sent to NGOs will be accounted for.
This comes after concerns were raised about the former administration’s feeding programme.
The Davis administration has said they have no record of how more than $10m given to two NGOs under the now disbanded National Food Distribution Task Force was spent.
He said: “The audit of the food programme recently tabled in the House, showed that there was no accounting for a sizeable portion of the funds allocated to assist citizens during the pandemic. We are intent on taking the steps necessary to avoid a repeat of this outcome in the future.”
As for other related assistance, Mr Davis said his administration has increased the allocation to Urban Renewal by an additional $500,000.
He said this will allow for “expanded reach into inner city communities, through more meaningful educational and community programmes, including its world-renowned marching band.”