Nassau, Bahamas – The following are remarks by Bradley B. Roberts, National Chairman, Progressive Liberal Party at the Monthly Meeting of the PLP’s New Providence Women’s Branch on 22 March 2015:
Madam chair Sharine Johnson; executive officers and members of the New Providence Women’s Branch of the Progressive Liberal Party, a very pleasant good afternoon.
Today marks the 85th anniversary of the birth of the Father of the modern Bahamas the Rt. Hon. Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling we pause to give thanks to Almighty God for the work and witness of one of our noblest son, champion of the Bahamian people, may his soul continue to rest in peace and rise in glory.
We are one my sisters and brothers. We are members of ONE party UNITED in service and purpose. There can be only ONE captain of the ship at a time, ONE party leader, ONE national chairman and yes only ONE chair of the Women’s Branch. You must continue to liberally offer your time and talents to this august body to ensure that the branches remains vibrant and strong, but that can only be achieved with all hands on deck. There must be NO hidden agendas, NO backstabbing and NO undermining as these unseemly acts are all counterproductive to and will surely sabotage the objectives of this great and historic organization.
Lest we forget my sisters and brothers, our common political enemy is the Free National Movement.
The FNM’s stewardship of the Bahamian economy and its management of our public finances leave much to be desired as the ill effects are still being felt today.
The record will show that during our last term in office, the PLP government was able to overcome the reckless spending, borrowing and mismanagement by the FNM and grew public revenue by 51%, added more than $1 billion to the economy and recorded a budget surplus in just five short years. Those are the facts and you must be the messengers of these facts.
In our current term, the PLP government is projected to add some $600 million to the Bahamian economy after inheriting an economy that the FNM admitted was sick and “in a wheel chair” as a result of their excessive borrowing, spending and general incompetence. We must continue to remind Bahamians of the cost overrun on the NPRIP of over one hundred million dollars. In thirty short months the PLP has successfully cut the deficit in half and by some $160 million in the current fiscal year.
This government’s fiscal prudence has attracted praise from credit ratings agencies and the World Bank. As a matter of fact, the last time The Bahamas enjoyed an upgrade to its sovereign credit ratings was in 2006 under the PLP. Those are the facts and you must not allow Bahamians ever forget that.
This performance is in stark contrast to the FNM who presided over multiple downgrades during its last term in office. The record will show that the economy contracted under the FNM; the national debt ballooned by 40% in five years, the largest on record and government revenue deteriorated year after year despite huge tax hikes and unsustainable borrowing.
To add insult to injury, the FNM collected some $500 million in one-offs during that period and all the monies were squandered. Additionally, the FNM government managed to exhaust the government’s banking overdraft facility to the tune of another $200 million. In the end, the Bahamian people were left with huge debts to pay off, high unemployment and an economy teetering on the brink of collapse.
So as much as the FNM criticizes in a lame attempt to deflect from their record of abject failure, there is absolutely no nexus between the drivel of the FNM and reality, the facts and the empirical data surrounding the fiscal stewardship of the PLP government. Further, the FNM managed to flip flop on all of the policies they agreed to as the government and of all of the PLP’s policies they continue to oppose, they are yet to produce one viable alternative. This is pathetic and they are clearly not ready to govern this country. It is your responsibility to carry this message forward.
You would recall just last week how Dr. Minnis was quick to call a press conference at the headquarters at BEC to criticize the government after the fire and subsequent blackout, but when asked what his and the FNM’s plans were for BEC, Dr. Minnis was unable to articulate a viable plan. After almost three years as the leader of the opposition and after repeated calls for PLP ministers to resign and after calling for a general election, Bahamians were able to see that Dr. Minnis and the FNM really have no plans to move this country forward. He does not deserve to be Prime Minister as he is clearly not ready for Primetime and the Bahamian people know it.
Having the ability to arbitrarily oppose and criticize government policy is not a qualification to be Prime Minister.
So while the FNM tries to find its way, your PLP government continues with its aggressive reform agenda to build a prosperous and secure future for all Bahamians.
I strongly encourage you to be true party surrogates and openly defend the necessary and successful policies of your PLP government as our record is clear on any number of national issues.
Policies such as Urban Renewal 2.0 (UR2.0) intervene and touch the lives of the marginalized in our society and UR2.0 is a pre-emptive strike against criminality. There is no doubt about that.
The National Training Agency (NTA) has trained more than 1,400 young Bahamians in preparation for new job opportunities that continue to come on stream and answered a longstanding complaint voiced by employers for many years.
The Bahamas Agriculture Marine and Science Institute (BAMSI) will diversify the economy, expand the agriculture and agri-business industry and promote food security while reducing our exorbitant and unsustainable import food bill that is in excess of $1 billion. At present the agriculture sector only produces $70 million worth of food annually.
The National Development Plan VISION 2040 is the blueprint for the future sustained development of our country and I encourage you to become involved in its preparation.
The rescue of the Bank of The Bahamas (BOB) was the right decision for that institution in spite of the efforts of the FNM to destroy it after they approved all of the loans that were the subject of the rescue plan. The plan has already caused the reversal of $49 million in losses and the bank is on schedule to become profitable by the end of the year.
Our Fiscal Consolidation Plan which included tax reform, or VAT, is beginning to bear fruit. Had the FNM not totally wrecked the economy in five years through excessive borrowing, spending and gross mismanagement, the implementation of VAT may not have been such an urgent policy initiative. In the end, VAT was the best decision for the country under the circumstances. The PLP was right on VAT.
Other major policy initiatives undertaken by your government are as follow:
Financial Services Reform
National Health Insurance (NHI): Almost half of our people are without health insurance and the PLP believes that access to affordable healthcare is a human right, not a privilege; that is a no-brainer. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) supports the government on this because they appreciate the value of health insurance coverage for all of their members. Recent stats in the USA disclosed that 16.4 million Americans gained Health Care Coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act in America.
Education Reform, including the implementation of a standardized graduation criteria and certification together with the establishment of the University of The Bahamas by the end of 2015 has made this administration under the leadership of the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie one of the most reform driven administrations in recent history.
My sisters and brothers, we have turned this economy around from the doldrums of 2012. Our tourism arrival numbers are the highest in the history of the country and with the opening of Baha Mar later this month, thousands more Bahamians will be employed.
I note the refurbishment of the former Nassau Resort, the Quality Inn and the British Colonial Hilton Hotel. Together with the construction of a new hotel adjacent to the Hilton, a new Marina Village, high end entertainment and a waterfront board walk, your PLP government has led the way in the economic resurgence of Bay Street after years of neglect and the absence of a vision by the FNM whose only policy was to oppose the sale of the Hilton.
There is also positive news on the horizon for the people and the economy of South Eleuthera. Very shortly the government will execute a significant Heads of agreement for a major tourist investment project as was mentioned by Prime Minister Christie at last Thursday’s National General Council meeting. This project will stimulate the economy of South Eleuthera through the creation of hundreds of direct jobs, spinoff employment opportunities in addition to entrepreneurial opportunities for Bahamians.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that next month will mark the 50th Anniversary of Black Tuesday. This was a significant day in the modern political development of our country, the suffrage movement, for freedom and for social justice generally. I acknowledge the role played by the women like the late Ena Hepburn, mother of Athama Bowe, Effie Walkes SC who turned 91 on 27th February, Dr. Doris Johnson, our Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling and the other brave women who demonstrated for justice on Bay Street on Black Tuesday.
I wish to offer congratulations to our new Senator who will be sworn in shortly. Robyn Dawn Lynes is a bright, accomplished young attorney who has used her considerable leadership skills to assist disadvantaged youth in the inner city. She is an excellent addition to our parliamentary caucus and I am sure she will do well and I encourage you to give her your usual full support.
As I close, I reiterate my opening theme of unity. Ladies, hear me when I say that there can be only one Women’s Branch leader at a time. You must put aside all petty differences and hidden agendas because what binds us is more significant and important than what divides us. Remember that a house divided cannot succeed. The growth and development of the PLP through your organized and consistent fund raising projects, membership drives, commentary on national issues, social and community outreach in addition to your vibrant political activism must form your common purpose and should compel you to speak with one collective, purposeful and powerful voice. Your efforts must convince civil society that the PLP is the preferred governmental vehicle through which many of the country’s needs, desires and aspirations will be satisfied and realized.
On that note I thank you for your kind invitation and I am always available to use my good office to assist you in any way I can within the parameters of the constitution.
Good afternoon to all and God bless.