THE SPECIAL SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY FOR AN OVERALL REVIEW AND APPRAISAL OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE OUTCOME OF THE UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON HUMAN SETTLEMENTS (HABITAT III )
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 6th, 2001 NEW YORK
THE HON. ALGERNON
S. P. B. ALLEN, M. P.
MINISTER OF HOUSING & SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
LADIES & GENTLEMEN
It is indeed an honour and privilege for the delegation of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to attend the General Assembly and for me to address this Special Session of the General Assembly for an Overall Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the Outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements.
We meet at a time when the population of our world has surpassed six billion. We meet at a time when the forces of globalization have transformed the relationship of nations. We meet at a time of unparalleled prosperity and yet, we meet at a time of unparalleled disparity between those who are experiencing this prosperity and those who are hopelessly poor and marginalized. We meet at a time when our grand cities and opulent urban centres are juxtaposed to vast areas of hovels, slums and the homeless millions of the people of the world.
We therefore congratulate this Special Assembly. The Bahamas is totally committed to the twin goals of "adequate shelter for all" and "sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world".
Mr. President, The Bahamas is an archipelago of 700 islands and cays covering approximately 80,000 square miles (215,000 square kilometres) which stretches from the southern tip of Florida in the United States of America, to the eastern tip of Cuba. We are a very small nation, having a population of only 305,000. The total land area of The Bahamas is approximately 5382 square miles (15,000 square kilometres).
We are a relatively prosperous and peaceful nation with a stable government and a sound economy supported on the twin pillars of tourism and financial services. The Bahamas has a per capita income of $15,774.00 and an unemployment rate of 6.7%, making it a model for small, developing nations.
The archipelagic geography of The Bahamas presents significant challenges.
Presently, about 70% of the population resides in the capital island of
New Providence which has a land area of 80 square miles or 1.5% of the
total land mass of The Bahamas.
Diagnosis Of Problems
Mr. President, the Government of The Bahamas has taken the following
initiatives to diagnose the problems of urban development and sustainable
human settlements in our small nation by:
(A) Causing in the year 2000, an update of the 1984 housing report which details the state of housing in the country and recommends speck solutions to address rehabilitation of urban centres, funding, availability and accessibility of land to low income persons in need of affordable housing.
(B) Conducting the 2000 census of the population which provides, inter olio, much needed information for the formulation of policies for the alleviation of poverty in all its manifestations
(C) Presently undertaking a living standards measurement survey to determine specific areas to óe addressed within socio-economic groupings and communities in our nation.
Initiatives Of The Government, Civil Society And The Business Community
You will be aware Mr.. President, that the Habitat II Agenda calls for all levels of government to 'Work closely with "representatives of civil society, especially those representing the urban poor".
We realize that a sound economy is necessary for the allocation of resources, particularly from mortgage lending institutions for urban development, An ambitious investment restructuring anti fiscal discipline which reduced unemployment in The Bahamas from approximately 16% to below 7% within the decade, has resulted in many Bahamians of middle and low income qualifying for mortgage financing. As a consequence, home construction has reached an unprecedented high primarily by the private sector, supplemented by government's programmes under the Housing Act and its Mortgage Guaranteed Loan Scheme for low, middle income and older persons.
2. The Government of The Bahamas has waived customs duties for building materials in the remote and less developed islands of the archipelago for specific periods so as to encourage persons in those islands and persons who wish to return to those islands to build dwelling homes far below the market cost.
3. The Government has launched an aggressive "rebirth" and "new birth" programme, designed to rehabilitate or cause the "rebirth" of the traditional communities, particularly in New Providence, and secondly, in the case of the new birth thrust, to cause the creation of new housing communities in the urban centres of The Bahamas for low and middle income persons.
4. The Government of The Bahamas has embraced the business community, the churches and other non-governmental organizations for the provision of housing for low and middle-income persons and marginalized groupings such as women and children in crises.
5. Mr. President, we are particularly proud of the allocation and provision of homes in Government-sponsored housing subdivisions for the disabled and older persons.
6. In each Government-sponsored subdivision, we have sought to provide a mix of house types, active and passive parks, green spaces, commercial sites and homework centres. In particular areas, we have built intergenerational centres where infants are provided day care and older persons are provided living accommodations, thus creating a developmental interaction and meaningful participation for both generations.
With the decentralization of government administration and the implementation of local government, there has been a significant, positive impact on urban development 'in our family islands. We are pleased to report that the Government of The Bahamas, within the last eight years, so as to provide security of tenure for many residents of our family islands, has conveyed more than 2000 lots of land with marketable title to families throughout these islands.
The Mortgage Corporation of The Bahamas and the Department of Housing
through the Government Guaranteed Mortgage Loan programme has caused several
hundred houses to be built and owned by low and middle income persons,
otherwise have been excluded from home ownership, and this has been assisted by the raising of the limit of the guaranteed mortgage loan to both these groupings.
Mr. President, despite our best efforts, we are confronted with small areas of urban degradation caused by: absentee landlords; abandonment of traditional family houses by new suburban families; an influx of illegal immigrants with differing social values and standards of living; and families devastated by drug and alcohol abuse. We are, however, concentrating our focused resources in these areas along with a myriad of social partners and programmes inspired by the words of the Nobel Peace prizewinner, philosopher and theologian, the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and I quote:
"When evil men plot, good men must plan.
When evil men burn and bomb, good men
must build and bind.
When evil men shout ugly words of hatred,
good men must commit themselves to the
glories of love.
Where evil men would seek to perpetuate an unjust status quo,
good men must seek to bring into being
a real order of justice."
Thank you Mr. President as we seek to bring into being a real order of justice in relation to `adequate shelter for all' and sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world".Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.