REMARKS BY THE RT. HON. PERRY GLADSTONE CHRISTIE MP
PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL PARTY
September 30, 2011
South West Summit * Job Creation & Empowerment
“BELIEVE IN THE BAHAMAS”
Good evening, Bahamians!
It’s been a wonderful Summit, hasn’t it?
Three days of new ideas for creating jobs and empowering Bahamians!
Three days showcasing our candidates for the South West of New Providence!
Aren’t they extraordinary?
I’m warning you now, though – never say I didn’t warn you — if you get cornered by one of these new generation candidates, they’ll talk your ear off all day and night! They generate more new ideas before breakfast than most people generate in a lifetime!
They are truly a credit to The Bahamas – their passion, their accomplishments, their dedication to Sir Lynden Pindling’s legacy, their innovative ideas, their commitment to putting Bahamians first — I couldn’t be more proud to call them my colleagues.
They organized this Job Creation & Empowerment Summit for one main reason. It was so that the Progressive Liberal Party could pose a critically important question to the nation: in the 21st century, a time of information and technology revolutions and rapid change, are Bahamians going to soar and succeed, or are they going to be left out and left behind?
September is a month of new beginnings, the month the nation’s children return to school.
Have you seen them as they start school — don’t we have the most beautiful children in the world, right here in The Bahamas?!
Bahamian children are often on my mind these days. The nation collectively mourns – and each and every one of us in a personal way mourns – the terrible loss of young Marco Archer. I know all of us here in this room and in homes across The Bahamas are praying for his family, whose suffering and grief are unimaginable. We need to hold them close to us.
Bahamians are asking, in shock and in horror: are we really becoming a nation where a child cannot safely go to the neighborhood shop – just a stone’s throw away from his home.
A government’s first duty is to protect its citizens.
In August, I made a national broadcast on crime on behalf of our Party. We have issued a tough, comprehensive and innovative plan to reduce violence in our schools, on our streets, in our communities and in our homes. Please, I urge you: take a look at our plan, and join us in this fight. Our Anti-crime plan is being handed out by PLP candidates door-to-door, and it is available on our website: myplp.org.
We are proposing an updated Urban Renewal program, Operation Cease Fire, an intense law enforcement focus on repeat offenders, intensified Strike Force teams and saturation patrols in crime hotspots, more protection for witnesses, and so much more.
I have said it before and I say it again tonight: too many criminals have no respect for our justice system. We must therefore move heaven and earth to ensure that when these criminals are arrested, they are prosecuted and sentenced to the fullest extent of the law in the shortest possible time, AND that no one is let out of prison prematurely. You do the crime, you do the time!
More than one hundred murders in 2011, with three months still left in the year! This is both a tragedy and a crisis.
Bahamian children should not have to grow up in a nation or culture in which deadly force is routinely used to resolve disputes.
Keeping safe is not the only problem our children face today, unfortunately. There are too many Bahamian children living in broken homes. Too many whose parents cannot afford their school uniforms. Too many children still living in poverty. Too many children receiving a mediocre education.
Too many children without someone who believes in them.
Look at our youngest Bahamian children, just beginning their education — nervous and excited, socks pulled up proudly, bright ribbons in their hair, big smiles, full of energy – what do you see in their future?
Are they destined for low-wage, dead-end jobs they can’t even count on? Are they destined for the unemployment line? God forbid.
But no, that’s not what you and I see for them.
We see something different. We see the next generation of doctors, engineers, computer programmers, designers, contractors, and scientists. We see bankers and lawyers and builders and technicians and inventors and business owners.
I believe, with all my heart, that there’s nothing our Bahamian children cannot accomplish.
But they’re going to need a government who believes in them. And that’s where we, the PLP, come into it.
Ladies and gentlemen, we must believe in Bahamians, we must believe in our own capacity to create, to innovate, and to own.
That’s why the Progressive Liberal Party has proposed doubling the nation’s investment in education and training. We’re talking about more and better educational opportunities for all Bahamians – from our smallest pre-schoolers to graduate students to workers who need retraining to update their skills.
My Deputy Leader, Brave Davis, told you about our commitment to a public-private partnership building 21st century classrooms. That proposal fits in perfectly with our commitment to create jobs now and create jobs for the future, too: Updating the technology and design and energy sources of today’s schools will create a lot of jobs right away, and having modern schools with the best technology and best practices will give our children the chance they deserve to succeed later on.
You can’t create or attract the well-paying jobs of the future without an educated workforce: we need to re-invent education in The Bahamas for the 21st century.
Why can’t all our children achieve scientific and technological literacy? We know they can, if given the opportunity.
Why can’t we have a specifically designed course in our secondary schools devoted to teaching Bahamians how to become entrepreneurs – a course that would encompass math, economics, accounting, the conceptualization and the verbal and written articulation of business plans?
We’re also proposing Career Path Academies, to expand technical and vocational training and apprenticeship opportunities for thousands of young people annually.
We’re also proposing a Scholarship Rebate Program, with business license fee rebates for companies that provide scholarships for Bahamians to attend tertiary education institutions.
We’re also advocating a collaborative effort with the private sector to create new Technology Centers across the nation, where Bahamians of all ages can receive instruction and upgrade their technical and information-technology skills.
And our Worker Re-training Initiative will dramatically expand access to retraining programs and work opportunities, because when technology and industries change quickly, we must keep pace, with a new commitment to lifelong learning.
As you can see, the Progressive Liberal Party believes that modernizing the way we educate and train Bahamians is the number one thing we can do to create jobs and invest in our nation’s future.
We believe that Bahamians deserve access to the best – the best technology, the best education, the best practices, the best opportunities.
Yes, we believe it’s time to invest more deeply in people.
Are you ready for a government that believes in you?!
Are you ready for a government that believes a D average is not acceptable?
Are you ready for a government that believes every Bahamian deserves high-speed broadband Internet access, wherever he or she may be in our country ?
Are your ready for a government that puts Bahamians first?
Are you ready for a government that wants to keep Bahamian industries in Bahamian hands?
Are you ready for a government that will protect our fishing industry from foreign poachers?
Are you ready for a government that believes in creating jobs – jobs for Bahamians?
I know you are! We hear you loud and clear!
Let’s talk about tourism for just a moment. There is so much more we can do to expand Bahamian ownership in the tourism sector. Why can’t we encourage and support Bahamians who want to build boutique hotels, small resorts with strong niche or specialized appeal – for fly-fishing, for example. Faith-based tourism, eco-tourism, and medical tourism also present major opportunities for Bahamian ownership. What’s the government’s role in all this? To help Bahamians with access to affordable start-up capital, affordable land, technical support, and marketing expertise. Why shouldn’t Bahamians own more of the tourism industry? We can and we should and under the next PLP government we will!
As you heard earlier this evening, Khaalis Rolle is a successful business owner and a lecturer at the College of The Bahamas. He just recently stepped down as President of the nation’s Chamber of Commerce. He’s smart and accomplished and tuned in — a fine example of the exceptional caliber of PLP candidates; nobody has a deeper bench than the PLP!
Khaalis spoke about several important new PLP initiatives to support small and medium businesses: a Bahamian Venture Fund, with start-up capital and technical support for new businesses, a Small Business Micro-Loan Fund, and a Community Business Development Program for unemployed and at-risk youth.
What Khaalis will tell you – actually, what any small business owner in The Bahamas will tell you – is that energy costs are killing small businesses. In fact, in many cases, energy costs are an obstacle to getting a small or medium business off the ground in the first place.
We must get serious about renewable energy in The Bahamas. God has given The Bahamas the sun and the wind and the tides, and the PLP intends to move aggressively to harness these forces to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. The technologies involved in generating solar and wind and tidal power are changing rapidly, with new advances happening at an astonishing pace. We need serious research, serious investment, the right partners to share costs, and, above all, focused attention from a government willing to make alternative energy an economic-planning priority.
Some people say we can’t do something this big in tough economic times. I say tough economic times are the best reason to act: energy costs are making a bad economy much worse for too many Bahamian families and businesses.
A new energy industry in The Bahamas would also mean jobs because reduced operating costs for Bahamian businesses would in many cases lead to new hiring. A serious renewable energy industry would also enable Bahamians to be educated and trained in green technology, manufacturing, and research. More Bahamians would , for instance, be able to prepare environmental impact assessments and environmental management plans, design systems for new energy utilization, and produce, sell, install and maintain equipment to support the new forms of energy.
Which leads me to a topic near and dear to my heart: our Coming Home programme. Too many educated Bahamians are in other nations, contributing their expertise and their smarts to foreign companies and nations. We want them to come home! We must build the kind of economy that Bahamians can return to after they finish their education abroad.
So many young Bahamians tell me their heart is here in The Bahamas, but the professional opportunities they need are somewhere else.
A renewable energy industry of the kind I am advocating will create numerous and exciting opportunities for those with a strong education or strong technical skills.
So will the Bahamian Skies Initiative introduced by Renward Wells the other night, and the plan to turn our nation into an international arbitration center, laid out by Michael Halkitis earlier tonight. Other PLP leaders have spoken about expanding the financial services industry, increasing Bahamian ownership in banking, and supporting new Bahamian-owned ventures in this industry. And while on this subject, let me say the next PLP Government is committed to re-introducing the Ministry of Financial Services that was so unpardonably dismantled by the Ingraham Government. We need this Ministry back to give leadership and focused attention to the desperately needed revival of our number 2 industry.
The PLP has an ambitious agenda to fight crime, reinvent education and expand the Bahamian economy. We need the best people we can find to fill decision-making roles in government, and we need the most educated Bahamians teaching in and running our schools. We’re going to bring Bahamians home, by offering them authority and responsibility, training opportunities, competitive compensation, and, of course, something no one else can offer them: the ability to make a difference in their country.
In my last term in office, my government created 22,000 jobs in five years. By the end of my term, we added $1.5 Billion dollars to the GDP. The Progressive Liberal Party knows how to create jobs. Yet we haven’t spent much time during this Summit looking back.
The reason is that our eyes are now turned to the challenges of the present and the opportunities of the future, What The Bahamas needs right now is leaders who are looking around and looking forward – looking around at the new world we live in, the world of Facebook and Twitter and Skype, and looking forward, with a strategic plan for expanding the economy.
The current government is stuck. They are operating on software that needs to be updated! Have you noticed that they never miss an opportunity to blame the global economy? Sure, the global economy is a factor. Of course it is. But so are their bad policy decisions — short-sighted decisions that rarely or never put Bahamians first. That’s why the Bahamian economy is one of the worst-performing economies in the Caribbean.
And the truth is, complaining about the global economy isn’t good enough. As many of you know, Europe is now contending with a major sovereign debt crisis. Equity markets have responded with uncertainty and volatility, rattling investors and governments across the world. Even in the best-case scenarios, it seems clear that rough sailing is still ahead in our inter-connected, inter-dependent world.
The challenge is for our small nation to diversify and strengthen our economy so that we can thrive despite the tough times elsewhere. The FNM is sitting back and waiting for the world to work out its problems – that’s a losing proposition in such a turbulent world, when the next financial crisis is always looming just around the corner.
We must have a strategy for resilience – a strategy to sustain and expand economic development no matter what’s happening in the United States or Europe.
During this Job Creation & Empowerment Summit, we’ve begun to share our plan to do just that: We’re going to reduce reliance on imported fuels by increasing the use of renewable energy sources. We’re going to increase Bahamian ownership in agriculture and tourism and entertainment and fishing. We’re going to support and nurture small businesses. We’re going to reinvent education and training for the 21st century.
We don’t believe in sitting around and complaining!
We believe in creating a resilient and strong Bahamian economy!
Don’t let anyone tell you we can’t accomplish big things in The Bahamas! In fact, let me be clear: we don’t have a choice. We either think and act big, or we get left out or left behind.
It’s too expensive, they’ll say, to give our youth access to world-class education and training. But what’s really expensive, and morally indefensible, is letting the status quo continue – with too few jobs, with the best-educated Bahamians living somewhere else, with too many young males up to no good, with frustration and violence on every corner. So we don’t have a choice – as far as I’m concerned, making progress is not negotiable.
The Progressive Liberal Party believes in thinking big!
We believe Bahamians deserve the best opportunities!
We believe in expanding Bahamian ownership of the economy!
We believe a new generation of leaders is ready to contribute and ready to lead!
We believe Bahamians can adapt, create and innovate!
The Progressive Liberal Party has led the way with proposals to fight crime, we’re leading the way with big ideas for creating jobs and expanding the economy, and we’re not nearly done yet!
And let us not forget Grand Bahama in all this. Things are not getting better in Grand Bahama. They are getting worse. I’m advised that today 60 workers were laid off at Our Lucaya. We are investigating this and will be making a further statement in the coming days. And I’ll be joining a new generation of candidates in sharing our plan designed for Grand Bahama’s future, a future in which not only old glories are restored, but new ones are imagined and created.
We believe in a Bahamas in which every citizen is valued.
We believe that telling Bahamians they “need not apply” is a betrayal.
We believe that a Bahamian government ought to create jobs for Bahamians.
We believe in faith, in the dignity of hard work, in strong families, and in honest purpose.
We believe in a national community, where we all pull together for a brighter future.
On a personal level, it fills me with so much gratitude that in the same way that Lynden Pindling reached out to younger persons like myself so many years ago and invited me to play a frontline role in his Revolution, so many new candidates have responded to my own call to join in the struggles of our time so that they can ready themselves to take the baton when people like me move over to the side so that a new generation of PLP leadership can take its rightful place at the head of the line. The excellent quality and unmatched caliber of our first-time candidates is in itself cause for great optimism for the future. And when this is blended with the wisdom and experience of our other candidates, not only our Party but the entire nation can have the confidence that the best-ever government in the history of The Bahamas is ready to govern………and it ‘aint long now!
May God bless us all, as we strive and work together in unity to meet the challenges that lie before us.
Thank you and Good night!
PLP……….ALL THE WAY!