Recognising the need to balance economic development with environmental protection as well as the importance of a healthy environment to the country’s principal industry; tourism, the government has increased and introduced allocations to agencies and initiatives engaged in environmental sustainability.

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham announced the allocations during his presentation of the government’s 2008/2009 budget communication to the House of Assembly Wednesday.

The Prime Minister also announced that a new Minister for the Environment will assume office on July 1.

“The Government places the highest priority on the effective management and protection of our natural resources, Mr. Ingraham said.

“In this regard, this Budget provides, in addition to the annual subvention of $1 million to the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) instituted by us in the last Budget period, a further sum of $250,000 for the expressed purpose of covering salary and other costs associated with the engagement of park wardens deployed in BNT managed parks around our country.”

The Prime Minister re-iterated the government’s belief that the country’s need for economic development must be kept in proper balance with the need to secure the protection of its environment including the biological diversity of its islands.

“Therefore, we are requiring all developers, national and international, to observe environmental best practices in the construction and operation of their projects,” he added.

The Prime Minister meantime pledged that the government will continue to support environmentally sustainable activities including the implementation of environmentally sensitive policies, conservation education, habitat rehabilitation and the modernization of related legislation and regulation needed to support effective management of functioning protected areas.

A new environmental allocation included in this year’s budget is The Bahamas’ first contribution of $500,000 toward the establishment of a permanent Bahamas National Protected Area Trust Fund under the auspices of the Caribbean Challenge Initiative.

Prime Minister Ingraham launched via video, the Caribbean Challenge Initiative during a high level event held during the Ninth Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn, Germany.

“The Fund will be financed by a combination of private and public resources committed by regional governments, international environmental organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and other international funding agencies,” Mr. Ingraham explained.

The Caribbean Challenge supports the initiative of parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to conserve, at a minimum, 10 per cent of their terrestrial and marine habitat by 2010 and 2012 respectively.

“We have committed to contribute $2 million dollars over the next four years for the establishment of The Bahamas National Protected Area Trust Fund. Similar action is being taken by other regional governments,” the Prime Minister advised.

“The creation of Funds region-wide will permit the region to benefit from economies of scale for sustainable finance, assure transparency and strengthen local capacities.”