Member of Parliament for Central Grand Bahama Iram Lewis, revealed that he has developed a Zone Development initiative, which is intended to utilize his constituency’s allowance over the entire constituency, zone-by-zone.
Explaining the initiative recently Lewis said, “Over five years we are going to take each zone, over an annual period. Last year, we spent the funds in the Hunter’s area, and that was money that was well spent. The YMTA was restored and we have the first smart park on the island and again that is properly utilized. This year we are also in the Lover’s Beach, Hanna Hill and Bartlett Hill areas, that part west of the creek. We are focusing on that area. Year three we will be in the Williams and Russell Towns and the Malibu Reef areas. Year four Imperial Park ad eventually Caravel Beach. We will move year-by-year, to ensure that once the money is spent, it will actually be seen in a tangible way.
“We want to encourage the residents of Central Grand Bahama and Grand Bahama, in general, to look at the move that the government is making with respect to job creation.”
Continuing Lewis noted, “We just passed the resolution to purchase the Grand Lucayan Resort, so we encourage our residents to look at the two categories of persons in the job market – those looking for a job and those looking to create jobs. There will be a lot of spinoffs from the hotel, so we want to encourage our residents to look at ways that they can partner with the hotel. There will be goods and services required by the hotel, so we want them to go beyond just looking for a job; seek ways that you can partner and see how you can become owners of your own businesses.
“One of the initiatives that we are starting in CGB, as a part of goods that the hotel might be requiring is backyard farming. We are well on the way with that initiative. We have our first community farm, again in the YMTA area in Hunter’s. We have a second plot of land approved at the Sunrise Park, and we will start that initiative very soon.
“The Minister of Agriculture (Michael Pintard) has been very cooperative, we have gotten our first load of topsoil last week and we are using that to place in our community garden that we will be starting soon. We have a community nursery right now, in South Bahamia, and we have quite a lot of plants underway. We will be harvesting, I am happy to say, our pineapples by next June. We have a number of coconut palms, goat peppers, okra; any number of table item crops. Who knows, this may go perhaps to the level where we can even provide plants for the hotel. Again, this is a way that we can form co-operatives, to ensure that more funds are made here and stays here.”
He noted that the motto in CBG is ‘Planting today for a sustainable tomorrow.’ “We have taken that initiative very seriously, and I am happy to say that the Minister of Agriculture is now in Grand Bahama and his officer Mr. Michael Flowers, has been very cooperative in providing all of the necessary supplies. As they get more seeds and fertilizers, they promise that they will provide it for us and we can, in turn, provide and give it to those interested in backyard farming.”
Another aspect that Lewis informed that he is working on is what he dubbed Eco Parks Initiative, that he is hopeful will become another venture for guests of the island to enjoy.
“Again, as a part of services that will be required by the hotel, we have started the Grand Bahama Eco Parks Initiative. Tourists may want to get out of the hotel and explore some of the jewels that we have on Grand Bahama, so we are enhancing those areas.
“We have those pretty much mapped out, however, one of the restrictions is funding. So, we are finding ways to fund the initiative, and I am sure that as soon as we have adequate funding, we will be phasing those projects in also.
“One of the things that we are also doing in CGB, in the absence of funding, is finding ways to partner with the constituents. One of the initiatives that we have taken on, as a pilot project and this will of course spread to all of our Parliamentarians, is what we call the Parliamentary Empowerment Program (PEP), where professionals in Parliament, give back.
“I am an architect Mr. (Michael) Pintard has his degree in agriculture and business. We have college professors in Parliament, and we are encouraging Parliamentarians to get out of Parliament and go into the classroom and partner with the teachers,” said Lewis.
“For the last three weeks, I have been going to Sister Mary Patricia Junior High School, teaching technical drawing. It is very encouraging to mingle with the students, just to impart my knowledge with them. I can say that as a pilot project, the reception is better than I expected. I am getting encouragement from my colleagues, and they have also confirmed that over time, they will find a school in their constituency and partner with the school to ensure that we not only talk about our national average being a ‘D,’ which we are concerned about, but we will go into the classrooms and do something about it.
“These are some of the initiatives that we are looking at from the Parliamentary level and also from the constituency level. I want to encourage Bahamians to stay focused; I am getting encouragement from my colleagues, and they have also confirmed that over time, they will find a school in their constituency and partner with the school to ensure that we not only talk about our national average being a ‘D,’ which we are concerned about, but we will go into the classrooms and do something about it.”
Additionally, Lewis and Pintard provided an update on the Government’s Small Home Repair Programme, from which they both acknowledged a number of residents have benefitted.
Lewis said that the National Recovery and Repair Unit (NRRU) was responsible for issuing checks to approximately 700 homes.
“We have received some very good testimonials; persons have expressed appreciation … the funds went as far as possible. There were a lot of persons that sent in pictures, and the Ministry of Works had the opportunity to inspect some of the repairs. So, the programme was effective. We wished that we could have helped more, but there was a deadline of April 20 that was met.
“Those that brought in all of the requirements, as required by the Unit, received some form of relief and we were happy to be able to ensure that those persons got the necessary funds to secure their home and have them ready for Hurricane Season. So far, we have not had to worry about any hurricanes and we will continue to knock on wood and pray to God that we will be free and have some relief for a period of time. Nonetheless, cheques were issued, and the majority of homeowners did the proper thing to ensure that the money was well spent,” stated Lewis.
Pintard added, “The Members of Parliament in Grand Bahama would like to express our gratitude certainly to the minister with responsibility for Social Services and Urban Development, for the work that has been done in the Small Homes Repair Programme (Frankie Campbell) and also to the Assistant Director, Senator Jasmine Dareus, for the role that she has been playing.
“A number of homes in each of the five constituencies have been repaired through the Small Homes Repair Programme. As the public would be aware, Alvy Penn (Urban Renewal Home Repair Team) and his team came over and Ministry of Works played a pivotal role.
“It was really an inter-sectorial approach in addressing this issue. We would also like to express gratitude to all of the contractors who played a pivotal role, during the recent distribution of cheques. We are hoping that residents have used the funds to repair their roofs in preparation for this Hurricane Season,” concluded Pintard.