NASSAU, The Bahamas – As part of his contribution to the 2022/2023 national Budget Debate, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Senator, the Hon. L. Ryan Pinder outlined legislative actions by the government to meet some of its objectives.
He started off by firstly thanking the Law Reform and Revision Commission for working ‘tirelessly’ to ensure the government can proceed with its aggressive legislative agenda from day one. He then went on to highlight parts of the legislative agenda under consideration during the first half of this upcoming fiscal year.
“The ‘Evidence Amendment (2022)’ – this is fulfillment of a promise in our Blueprint for Change – to address needs of disaster victims to return to normalcy. We hope to debate, before we break for the summer, this amendment which will shorten the number of years for those that have gone missing in events of peril. This is fundamentally important to bring finality to scores of families across The Bahamas as a result of missing family members from Hurricane Dorian and allow normalcy to return to day-to-day life,” he said.
He also discussed the ‘Rehabilitation of Offenders (Amendment) Bill 2022’, which he said is ‘consistent’ with the government’s mandate.
“We will shortly table an amendment to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act to expunge records of minor offenses due to violations of emergency orders.”
As it relates to the ‘Healthcare Suite of Legislation,’ he said that in addition to the recently tabled Nurses and Midwives Bill 2022, an amendment will be tabled shortly to the National Health Insurance Bill, and introduction of a modern and comprehensive Mental Health Bill 2022.
This, he said, would be the most comprehensive health care compendium of legislation advanced in recent memory to provide a comprehensive framework for the health care, both physical and mental health care, for Bahamians.
There is also legislation foreshadowing the introduction of a Cannabis industry in the country. “We will advance a comprehensive suite of legislation on the regulation of Cannabis, creating a new agri-business industry in The Bahamas. This legislation is internationally benchmarked against the countries around the world in the industry. The framework will be for the regulation of the medical Cannabis industry from the farm to the border, and will also provide a separate regulatory framework for industrial hemp, for wellness products and for pure industrial uses such as clothing, rope and building materials made from hemp. We will also provide a framework for the de-criminalization of possession of small amounts of Cannabis products,” he said.
The ‘Carbon Exchange Bill 2022’ will advance the monetization of carbon credits. “We will be bringing to Parliament specially drafted legislation to establish a carbon credit exchange in The Bahamas,” said Senator Pinder.
“The desire is to create a regulated framework that will establish The Bahamas as the regional, and hopefully the global center for the trade in carbon credits. We will participate in the vertically integrated carbon credit marketplace, The Bahamas — a leader in the world on this issue.”
Referring to the ‘Mining Authority Bill 2022’ as a “long overdue piece of regulatory reform”, he said it would address the mining of natural resources in The Bahamas. “The approach now is an industry-led approach without a modern regulatory envelope to ensure best international standards are being followed in natural resources mining. We are a country where there is foreign direct investment in real estate development projects, many of these require mining. We also have commercial aggregate mining.”
The ‘Nationality Bill 2022’ is being put in place to advance appropriate legislation to bring equality to Bahamian men and women in the transmission of citizenship to their children. He said this would end the issue of inequality. He said that an initial draft has been prepared and commented on internally with a view to presenting it to cabinet and ultimately tabling in Parliament.
In order to clear up any issues with the bill, the Senator said that the Constitution in Article 13 provides that Parliament may make provision for the acquisition of citizenship of The Bahamas by persons who do not become citizens of The Bahamas by virtue of the provisions of this Chapter. Advancing equality, he expanded, when it comes to transmission of citizenship, is ‘explicitly’ permitted through the legislative mechanisms of Parliament.
There are also plans for The ‘Bahamas Strategic Investment Fund Legislation’, a pledge that the government made to support community projects and initiatives.
In Our Blueprint for Change we pledge:
1) For infrastructure projects, develop PPPs to support community development initiatives
2) Strengthen legislation for a Sovereign Wealth Fund
3) A new sovereign investment fund to hold private sector investment interests (such as APD, BTC Cable Bahamas, etc.).
He said that consistent with this pledge, the government would advance comprehensive, international best practices legislation that would incorporate the flexibility for the government to undertake promises in this area ensuring the highest standards of governance.
The initial draft of the bill, he said, has been prepared and is being reviewed and refined.
Mr. Pinder also discussed Amendments to the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Act & Regulations. He said the government is seeking to update The Bahamas’ legislation relative to underwater cultural heritage by amending the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Act, along with its amendments and regulations. “The proposed amendments specifically relate to licensing requirements, costs, timeframes, geographical areas, and the current government/licensee revenue-split with respect to salvage licensees.”
In a bid to improve the current law pertaining the registration of companies, insolvency and bankruptcy, he said that there will be ‘Company Legislative Reform.’ This, he believes, would be conducive to the rapidly evolving domestic and international economic and financial services environments.
“There is a clear need to improve the current law pertaining to the registration of companies, insolvency, and bankruptcy in The Bahamas. In this vein, the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas led by the Office of the Attorney General has set a goal to revise the relevant law.
He said that Terms of Reference have been finalized and the government is now prepared to appoint a project team made up of public and private sector individuals formed to overhaul the Bahamas’ registered companies, insolvency, and bankruptcy legislative regimes.
“The goal now, is to ensure that these relevant new proposed laws remain current, modern, competitive and reflect international best practices generally. These reforms have the ability to materially change the Bahamas’ commercial offering internationally and provide another boost to our financial services and commercial structuring markets. We look to become the near shore Delaware for corporate structuring and reorganization.” He said that the government is now armed with a distinct legislative agenda that is focused on deliverables to the Bahamian people.