NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Davis administration reached its first 100 days in power this weekend after a landslide defeat for the National Free Movement (FNM) in the September 16 election.
The Liberal Progressive Party (PLP) swept the general election, winning 32 of 39 seats and nearly reversing the FNM’s sweep in 2017.
The PLP got 53 percent of the vote, the FNM got 35 percent, although officials reported a record turnout of 65 percent – more than 126,000 voted out of 194,000 registered voters and more.
However, in the wake of the polls, the new administration encountered a downgrade in the rating of the global rating agency Moody’s.
The country’s sovereign ratings have been lowered to Ba3 from Ba2, underscoring the daunting economic and fiscal realities facing the country and the new administration led by Davis.
In its first three months in office, the new administration moved quickly to continue to juggle handling the COVID-19 pandemic and the struggling economy, with cases now increasing rapidly amid the discovery of the new omicron variant.
Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis began his term on September 17 by extending the country’s curfew to 11:59 p.m. for the first time since the Bahamas was placed under a state of emergency in March 2020.
The state of emergency, which officially ended on November 13, has been replaced by new legislation – the (general) rules for health services (COVID-19) 2021 – imposing similar health protocols within a statutory framework .
Several government decisions and actions have been criticized, with the Prime Minister’s decision to appoint a “Gussie Mae Cabinet” being the administration’s first real blow.
Davis handed out 22 nominations, including himself and his Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper, along with seven other parliamentary secretary titles that effectively reduced his backbench to three members.
More than 1,700 supporters, dignitaries, civil society actors, religious leaders, parliamentarians and other government officials attended a lavish opening of Parliament in Baha Mar as the new administration presented its program for the Bahamas for the next five years .
The Government’s Speech from the Throne, delivered by Governor General CA Smith, underscored several key aspects of the Davis administration’s mandate and a commitment to good governance, based on the principles of transparency, integrity and accountability. responsibility.
Among the 94 legislative and policy commitments made in the speech were plans to reduce the country’s value added tax (VAT) from 12% to 10%; stabilize public finances and increase public revenues with a debt management plan; to amend both the law on public procurement and the law on fiscal responsibility; increase the minimum wage, the pension for the elderly, the benefits for the disabled; and introduce tax incentives and tax benefits for domestic investors.
To date, the cost of the opening has yet to be disclosed.
With Cabinet ministers appointed and assimilated into their respective ministries, the administration launched broad reviews of the previous government’s work and has since placed several government agencies and corporations under investigation.
The Civil Service Ministry also temporarily suspended hires and promotions under the former administration in preparation for the elections.
The government’s supplementary estimates increased the allocation for social assistance benefits by almost $ 37 million and the allowance for pensions and gratuities by almost $ 20 million.
The revised budget reduced allocations to several ministries, including the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction by more than $ 7 million respectively.
Davis noted that the government’s plan will not increase the deficit but re-prioritizes unnecessary budgeted spending in areas where it is most needed, restores the country’s fiscal health over the medium term, and ensures that the government continues to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable in society.
Since coming to power, the Davis administration has already kept several campaign promises, including the removal of the curfew and the state of emergency; the end of the travel health visa for Bahamians nationally and internationally; a reduction of VAT to 10%; and the adoption of the Merchant Shipping Bill.
However, just as the country began to experience a ‘rapid rebound’ in tourist arrivals to pre-pandemic levels, a new variant of COVID-19 was identified and quickly spread globally. , becoming the dominant strain in the United States.
The PLP’s COVID-19 action plan outlines 10 initiatives in which the Davis administration would seek to address testing, tracing, isolation, treatment, protection of frontline workers, public education and ventilation of interior spaces.
The plan also outlined initiatives to build confidence by expanding the competent authority to include a range of experts, as well as providing economic support to Bahamians.
This role has now been replaced by the Minister of Health and a COVID-19 advisory committee under the new health rules.
In October, the government launched free COVID-19 antigen testing on several family islands, as islands such as Eleuthera, Mayaguana, Inagua, Long Island and San Salvador began to record significant increases in infections and deaths. .
On the 100th day of the government’s mandate on Christmas Day, 330 cases were confirmed, bringing the number of cases in the country to 23,960.
In a statement on the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, Health Minister Dr Michael Darville said the government will announce details of the deployment of free COVID-19 tests in New Providence and will also provide details regarding the distribution of free medicines of medical quality. masks.
At a press conference last week, Davis spoke of the isolation after his wife Ann Marie and several other relatives contracted COVID-19 following a family reunion last weekend that included several relatives from abroad.
He was quarantined as a result and out of caution, but said after several tests he remained negative.
The prime minister warned the country could be heading into the worst phase of the pandemic and announced new COVID-19 rules that will see stricter measures at borders and for social gatherings.
With less than three days remaining in 2021, along with continued mitigation from the lingering pandemic, the Davis administration will move forward into the new year to focus on other key policy initiatives promised ahead of the general election and outlined in the Speech from the Throne.
These include the legislation on sovereign wealth funds; regulation of carbon credits; legislation to regulate the Bahamian Institute of Agricultural and Marine Sciences (BAMSI) and other agricultural developments; financial management changes; cannabis legislation; and anti-corruption reform.