In what ways is the government investing in infrastructure?
DAVIS: The government of the Bahamas is responsible, and particularly the Ministry of Works, my Ministry, has within it a department called the Department of Public Works. That department’s responsibility and mandate is for the basic infrastructure of the Bahamas: roads, bridges, docks, airports, and the maintenance of that infrastructure. Insofar as investments are concerned, we assess investments for new roads and new infrastructure projects by assessing the internal rate of return to determine for sure that when we do invest, it will spur economic activity and will attract economic activity to the particular area. The Bahamas is an archipelago, we have islands of varying size and population, and sometimes the investment has to suit the island itself to ensure that there will be some return to the community where the investment is being made. Additionally, the government wants to ensure the money made stays in the country, so the use of Bahamian companies and work force is essential
What is being done to ensure that none of the communities of the Bahamas are marginalized and that all are being allocated the infrastructure they need to grow and develop?
DAVIS: Part of our mandate, particularly this administration, is to ensure that all of the Bahamian communities, wherever they may be, whatever their population may be, have the same kinds of services that the people in the urban communities have. Though it is a strain on the capital budget, we do attempt to ensure the same amount of attention is paid to all of the communities. Islands are not discriminated against because of political persuasion.
What was the most recent budgetary allocation for Works?
DAVIS: Specifically for capital works, the allocation was around $229m. Of that $229m, more than 80% had already been committed to works that were already ongoing. For example, the New Providence Road improvement program that you would witness driving around the island has been going on for several years now. That used up a lot of our capital budget. The airport gateway road also used a great deal of the allocation to my capital budget. So that left very little to invest into infrastructure into the other communities. Sadly, over the past 3 years, this has left a lot of the infrastructure in some of the rural communities and in some of our urban communities in dire need of repair. So this upcoming fiscal year, we intend to shift our focus from the mainland of New Providence to the family islands in order to attempt to restore and rebuild the infrastructure in the family island communities that has fallen into disrepair.
What role do you play in the ICT industry?
DAVIS: We have divested ourselves from the ICT industry. We are still holding a 49% share in BTC (Bahamas Telecommunications Company). Fortunately in our former administration between 2002 and 2007, our visionary leader then, the Prime Minister, saw it fit to lay fiber linking all of the islands. This laid the basis for an ICT explosion and made our whole country technologically ready. The basic foundation was laid between 2002 and 2007. Between 2007 and 2012, the divestment in BTC and all of these assets, and BTC's own plans to revitalize, restore, and change platforms, caused there to be a belief that the delivery of these communications services leaves much more to be desired. We have been assured by the directors of BTC that it is all a work in progress and their assessment of what they are delivering is meeting and has met world class standards.
What initiatives are you involved in as the Deputy Prime Minister?
DAVIS: We are engaged in a number of initiatives. When we were elected, we were elected on the basis of the fact that crime had reached an unacceptable level. We felt and still feel that there can be no economic growth, or what I call a vibrant economic base, when people are in fear of the criminal activities that surround them. So the initiatives that we have been involved in are taking on criminal activities. The Urban Renewal 2.0 plan is specifically under my portfolio, and that in and of itself has been an initiative that we have been working on jointly and that has been working. I am happy to say that criminal activity is trending downwards. We have seen a decrease to date and we hope to see it reduced even further. The fact of the matter is that the level it has been at is unacceptable. Although we are making headway in bringing it down, every day, or every other day, an incident occurs. We do not tout that, all we say is that the sustained effort that we are now engaging in will bring the criminal activity to an acceptable level. Not that crime in any fashion is acceptable, but we need to continue to reduce the crime rate until it has dissipated among our residents and our people.
What is the plan to ensure that the Bahamas has sustained foreign direct investment in the future?
DAVIS: We think that the successful conclusion of the Baha Mar project will be able to sustain us for quite some time yet. That does not permit us to sit on our laurels. What we intend for the foreseeable future is to attempt to diversify the other fundamentals of our economy, like agriculture and fishing, and to try to reduce some of the dependency on foreign direct investment. So there will be an effort to diversify the economy in the areas of manufacturing, agriculture, fishing, and small cottage industries. By doing that, we may be able to save more of the foreign dollars that are spent here. It is said by economists and pundits that of every dollar that is spent here in the Bahamas, at least 80 cents of that is sent back out of the economy. If we can keep 50 cents here, we will be doing much better. So those are the long range plans going forward. That will not, of course, stop us in attempting to divert other projects developed in other parts of our rural communities in the family islands.
What we intend for the foreseeable future is to attempt to diversify the other fundamentals of our economy, like agriculture and fishing, and to try to reduce some of the dependency on foreign direct investment. So there will be an effort to diversify the economy in the areas of manufacturing, agriculture, fishing, and small cottage industries.
What types of incentives were granted to Baha Mar and what types of incentives can future investors anticipate in working with the government and working with a Ministry such as yours?
DAVIS: There were some incentives that were granted to Baha Mar for the project. The extent of any incentive will be measured by the economic impact that the investment will have. So the level of incentive that will be given to any investor coming in will depend on the size of their investment, the economic impact their investment will have, and the sustainability of their investment. If the impact is significant and the sustainability is elongated, then the more attractive the incentive will be to their project.
Where do you see the best opportunity for investment in the Bahamas?
DAVIS: Whenever governments consider where they should invest in infrastructure, one of the components that is taken into account is the internal rate of return for that particular community. Social implications do play a role in the decision making process, but if there is a significant rate of return in a community, the government will make that commitment to put in that particular infrastructure. That is for the purpose of attracting investment. So the kinds of investments that we would like to be seeing in the future in the family islands are small boutique hotels, second home visitors, and we would try to attract big farmers who would be farming to the extent that they will have export potential. We are seeing a tremendous interest in investment in alternate energy, such as solar for instance. Of course, all investments are looked as to employment opportunities for our people.
What are the primary goals you would like to see achieved during this term in office?
DAVIS: I would like to still see crime reduced further to the point where our Bahamian people feel safe about themselves and their property. That has always been my first and primary objective. Secondly, by the end of my 5 year term, I would like to say to the Bahamian people that I reduced the cost of your electricity. It is just unacceptably high at the moment and of course a lot of it is outside of our control. However, there is enough of it within our control that we can exercise and produce initiatives to reduce that cost. So those are the twin pillars, alongside the aim to increase employment and create a booming economy.