Members of the National Development Plan (NDP) Steering Committee paid a visit to Abaco on September 21 and 22 to inform residents of the initiative and to gather information to assist the development of their 25 year plan.
The National Development Plan, Vision 2040, is a project initiated out of the Office of the Prime Minister to develop a national plan that will guide the country’s growth for the next 25 years independent of any political party’s agendas. It will be a framework that will be legislated and overseen/enforced by an independent body.
Dr. Nicola Virgill-Rolle, director of economic development and planning, led the team who visited with local heads of government departments, the Abaco Chamber of Commerce and residents of Central Abaco and Hope Town on their initial visit.
The plan is currently being funded by a $450,000 grant from the Inter-American Development (IDB). Launched in November 2014, Prime Minister Perry Christie originally hoped to complete the plan by the summer of 2015. However, committee members and government officials have since stressed the need for proper deliberation with no firm completion date for the later phases of the NDP.
Dr. Virgill-Rolle outlined the progress the committee had made thus far in gathering information on the state of the nation regarding skills and economics relating to the present state of the country and its future growth and progress.
The project includes three phases, beginning with diagnosis, which was recently completed, and includes a national conversation, which includes consulting with everyone from industry experts to average citizens. The idea is to develop a plan that is truly of the people.
“As we go forward with the work and begin the consultation phase we’re going to have to pull in from all of The Bahamas, including institutions,” she said. The Committee has visited a number of family islands seeking input on the issues and the ideas each community has.
In almost every meeting held with the stakeholders of Abaco the concerns and ideas were similar. Many Abaconians spoke to decentralization of government and more particularly the desire to have more autonomy on local decisions free from central government interference. This also included talk of keeping at least a portion of taxes collected locally here in Abaco.
Other concerns related to infrastructural issues such as roads and utilities, and other topics such as resources, both relating to personnel as well as equipment, with examples of the lack for both in the case of the Police Department, as well as for immigration and other agencies.
Another issue that was on many minds was allocation of Crown Land and the need for affordable land for residents. Also touched on in most places were concerns about illegal immigration and shanty towns, crime issues and school issues.
Answering a question that was often asked of the committee, the President of the College of The Bahamas, Dr. Rodney Smith said that COB would have a committee that would do annual audits on the government to check that they continue within the scope of the National Development Plan.