I am happy once again on my own behalf and that of my wife and family and on the behalf of the Government of The Bahamas to extend very best wishes for a blessed and peaceful Christmas to Bahamians everywhere and to all those resident or visiting with us during this season.

I hope that this year Bahamians will continue what is our tradition at Christmas time of sharing with those in less fortunate circumstances than ourselves. 

We are particularly conscious this year that many of our citizens are being adversely impacted by the fallout from the global financial and economic crisis.  Some face unemployment, others reduced work weeks, and so they must deal with reduced family income levels. 

We are especially mindful of the uncertainty that looms for many persons engaged in the hotel, tourism and financial services sectors of our economy as those sectors are most directly and immediately impacted by the weaknesses in the global economy.

We express sympathy to the residents of Inagua who suffered losses this year as a result of the passage of Hurricane Ike.  We are especially grateful that the damage was not more widespread and that we suffered no serious injury or loss of life during this year’s active and destructive hurricane season. 

In this regard, we express sympathy and solidarity with our near neighbours in Cuba, Haiti and the State of Texas who suffered terrible losses as a result of major storms and hurricanes this summer.
Crime continued to  extract a terrible toll on our communities during 2008.   While capital crime has fallen below last year’s level, the incidence of violence remains unacceptably high; other crime continues to disturb too many of our neighbourhoods; and a desirable level of road safety has not yet been achieved.

We must continue to pray and to act, personally and jointly with our neighbours, to raise levels of compassion in our community and to bring about better understanding among our people.   

Notwithstanding our challenges, we have much for which to be grateful. 

Civil and ethnic warfare and political unrest continue to disrupt life in countries around the world.  Millions of individuals on every continent have been left jobless as a consequence of the global financial and economic crisis.

Indeed, much of the progress achieved internationally against poverty and disease, and in economic development are increasingly threatened by the international economic downturn.

We must remember at Christmas time all those who suffer from these conditions and we must remember to give thanks to God for His many blessings.

As is my custom, I take this opportunity to recognize and thank the many around our country, both private enterprise and individual donors, who give generously to help and support those impacted by tragedies and those who are otherwise disadvantaged.

I thank also all those individuals, businesses and non-government organizations who continue to give time and financial resources to national charities and non-profit organizations dedicated to the care of orphaned and abandoned children, the aged, the sick and the shut-ins. We are grateful for that generous response.

As always, we must be especially mindful of those who will work during the holidays so that others of us may enjoy the season: members of our Police Force, Defence Force, Fire Brigade and Prison Service, as well as our police reservists.  And, we express thanks to the other branches of the uniformed service, the staff of Customs and Immigration, Road Traffic, Civil Aviation and the Port Department.

And, we recognize the dedication of doctors, nurses and health care workers who seek to improve the health and well-being of people around our country.  We especially recognize social service workers and assistants who labour to improve the welfare and comfort of people throughout the year but very importantly following disasters and emergencies whether natural or man–made.

To teachers, teachers’ aides and support staff of all government, church and privately-operated schools, I voice the thanks and appreciation of the Government and people of The Bahamas.

On behalf of the Government, my family and myself, I am pleased to wish you a blessed, peaceful and safe Christmas, and the joy that only Christ can bring.