Prime Minister The Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie, M.P. as Minister of Finance today in Parliament presented his Mid-Year Statement on the 2015 2016 National Budget. He noted the importance of the occasion as a time for taking stock of where the nation finds itself at the mid-point of the year and where it is headed over the balance of the year in respect of the economic and fiscal programme set out in the 2015/16 Budget Communication.

The theme of the [2015/16 Budget]( was “Building a Stronger Bahamas”, and the Minister of Finance noted that it succinctly encapsulates the Government’s unflinching commitment to that programme of reform and modernization. *”Through a modern approach to governance, policy development and communication, we are engaging Bahamians in a national dialogue on the future of our country,”* he said.

The [Stronger Bahamas]( initiative was designed to strengthen public engagement, transparency and governance and in this connection the Government is developing an innovative investment and development planning model in which the Bahamian public is being fully engaged. *”If we are to be successful in building a safer, more prosperous and modern Bahamas for the benefit of all citizens, it is critical that we do so with a broad, non-partisan consensus on our national priorities and policy approaches going forward.”*

Prime Minister Christie noted that the Government’s achievements in executing its agenda for change and reform have been significant to date. His Mid-Year Budget Statement spoke to a variety of these, including:

* Fiscal Reform: We have reduced the deficit by $398 million since coming into office.

* Tax Reform: We have introduced Value Added Tax and the lowest rate. Having done so, we must continue to review its impact on the most disadvantaged in our country with a view to ensuring at all times that the Government can move to bring relief.

* Energy Reform: We have reformed BEC and brought in private management setting the framework for substantially lower electricity bills in the near future. This also sets the framework for the immediate elimination of up $200 million of Government Guaranteed debt.

* Healthcare reform: We have created a new industry by passing legislation for Stem Cell Research and made substantial investment in both tertiary and primary care facilities. The Princess Margaret Hospital and the Rand Memorial are undergoing the most sustained period of investment in our history and new healthcare facilities or substantially renovated facilities in our major Family Islands.

* Education Reform: We have introduced new standards for high school graduation and established the STAR Academy for the most vulnerable of our student population. We are committed to a policy that every child counts and that none should be left behind. We have created the National Training Agency and are actively working with the private sector to create sustainable and permanent employment for our citizens.

* Aviation: We have invested over $30 million in the upgrade of aviation infrastructure in New Providence and the Family Islands. In addition we have invested over 100 million to re-fleet Bahamasair.

* Social Services: We have modernized the delivery of assistance to the most vulnerable through the issuance of debit cards and we have through the RISE Programme tied social assistance to positive behavior.

* Sports and Cultural Industry: We have put The Bahamas on the map with the successful hosting of events like Junkanoo Carnival, the IAAF World Relays, the Popeye Bowl and next year we will host the Junior Commonwealth Games. We have also given significant government support to Junkanoo.

* Communication: We have a successfully re-vested the majority economic ownership of BTC in Bahamians and provisionally awarded the 2nd cellular licence.

* National Resources Management: We are establishing new regimes governing the exploration of oil, salt and aragonite. We have created the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Institute, providing a roadmap for the reduction in our $1 billion food import bill.

Prime Minister Christie said the Government’s approach to reform is broad-based, targeted and balanced on a multitude of fronts that both require reform and are critical to economic and social success. *”We fully appreciate that the challenges that confront us are numerous and complex. Our plan of action is commensurate with those challenges. It offers innovative solutions for the wide range of economic and social challenges facing the nation.”*

**National Development Plan**

The Mid-Year Budget Statement also spoke to the [National Development Plan]( (NDP), which will:

* set out a vision and roadmap for the future;
* elaborate short, medium and long-term economic and social objectives;
* include wide non-partisan consultations such that all stakeholders are engaged and committed; and
* be institutionalized in law and be continuously monitored and evaluated.

The development process for the NDP has begun, with an in-depth diagnostic of The Bahamian economy and society leading to a State of the Nation Report that will be focused on the economy, human capital and social policy, the environment and governance.

The Prime Minister also reported on the over six ($6) billion dollars in resort development committed, and with over seven thousand (7,000) construction jobs and five thousand (5,000) permanent jobs either on stream or in the pipeline – unabated efforts to expand the economy and increase direct investment in the tourism and other sectors. The Government also has committed millions of dollars of infrastructure spending to improve roads and airports in several of the Family Islands to modernize the country’s infrastructure and improve access.

He concluded that the Government’s plan eschews capricious and opportunistic short-term quick fixes that invariably fail to produce lasting results. *”Instead our action plan is targeted, balanced and focused on the attainment of sustainable economic and social progress for the benefit of all Bahamians.”*