NOW IS THE TIME!!!
Address by the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie PC, MP, SC
Freeport, Grand Bahama
Friday, January 27, 2011
Hello, Grand Bahama!
Good evening, my beloved Bahamians!
We gather here as a newly energized, forward-looking Progressive Liberal Party primed and ready to take the first steps towards the recovery of Grand Bahama.
I know the people of Grand Bahama are ready to leave these tired and bleak days behind…I’ve been visiting with you and hearing your stories. I have seen your suffering for myself. I know you are ready for change, ready for a new day and a new direction.
Everywhere you go in Grand Bahama, from the East to the West and everywhere in between, the cry is the same : things have never been as bad as they are right now.
The fact is, the middle class has been decimated here in Grand Bahama.
People who had worked so hard to leave poverty behind now find themselves slipping back under water. Small business owners who had taken great pride in their success have had to shut their doors. Too many families have lost not just one job but two, and with both parents out of work, there is no money for the basics – no money to keep food on the table, no money to buy school uniforms, no money to keep the lights on. Single unemployed parents have been hit even harder, with every day a struggle for survival.
Grand Bahama has become the land of pain. Grand Bahama is hurting, suffering from four plus years of almost unthinkable neglect, suffering from a government that has failed to plan and failed to provide; a government that still doesn’t know how to say sorry and still can’t see the error of its ways .
One job after another has disappeared: Island Palm Hotel, City Markets, Royal Islander Hotel, Reef Village, Port Lucaya Hotel, Lighthouse Point, Old Bahama Bay, Xanadu Beach, Gombay Park, Grand Bahamas Distributors…closed, closed, closed.
More hotel rooms in Grand Bahama are closed than open.
And the jobs which haven’t disappeared? Too many of those aren’t going to Bahamians, making matters even worse.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Ingraham – for reasons he does not respect you enough to reveal – has been conducting a dysfunctional relationship, or non-relationship, with the Grand Bahama Port Authority. He stews in his feuds and vendettas, and Grand Bahamians suffer.
Imagine that! Hubert Ingraham has a thing against Hannes Babek – one man – and because of that the people and stakeholders of Freeport are made to suffer.
Now, with elections on the horizon, Ingraham announces that now Sir Jack has sidelined Hannes Babek, the government is willing to sit down with the Port Authority.
One man holding up the show because of his dislike of one man. Have you ever heard of such madness in your life? Is that any way to govern a city or a country? Shame on you, Hubert Ingraham! You should ask Freeport for forgiveness, not for votes!
There has been no vision for the economy of Grand Bahama – no vision, no plan, no strategy and no leadership.
That’s about to change!
Tonight, we’ve introduced PROJECT GRAND BAHAMA, a detailed plan for the revitalization of our nation’s second major population and business centre. We are going to make Grand Bahama a model of success, not just for our nation but for the region, with a diversified economy featuring tourism, entertainment, sports, industry, shipping, international business, financial services, agriculture and other enterprises.
We’re going to start by ending the current impasse and paralysis at the Grand Bahama Port Authority. The Bahamian government has enormous leverage here and must not be afraid to use it in order to get the Port Authority and the City of Freeport out of the doldrums.
I can assure you — we will not allow any personal likes or dislikes to get in the way of progress, so that a new era of economic resurgence can begin for Freeport. And when determining the terms and conditions upon which any exemptions and concessions under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement may be agreed to, Bahamians know that we will put Bahamians first and act in the best interests of the people and stakeholders of Freeport.
But it can’t end there. We have to ensure that the economic resurgence extends beyond the Port Area, beyond Freeport proper, to encompass the whole of Grand Bahama. West End and East End have been left out in the cold for far too long.
They must be brought inside the tent and they must receive a full meal and a square deal at the table of economic planning and progress for Grand Bahama.
You’ve already heard in some detail about PROJECT GRAND BAHAMA from some of my colleagues, but let me highlight again for you some key provisions – a policy of putting Bahamians first, with real enforcement for existing protections for Bahamian workers, increased work permit fees for jobs Bahamians are qualified to perform, and a plan to move aggressively to fill job vacancies with qualified Bahamians.
The PLP is committed to establishing a Ministry for Grand Bahama. This will ensure that Grand Bahama’s development receives the focused, specialized attention it deserves. We will bring back the Ministry for Financial Services and Investment, and we will ensure that an office of this ministry is established in Grand Bahama as well, so that new investment in Grand Bahama can be more efficiently recruited, processed and facilitated.
As for tourism, we need to make Grand Bahama more competitive. To help achieve this objective, we will provide an incentive for the rejuvenation of existing hotels and the expansion of new ones. We propose, therefore, to cut government taxes at the airport and harbour in half, and cut hotel taxes by 50% for a period of five years for existing hotels and ten years for new hotels. .
There’s so much we can do to expand Bahamian ownership in the tourism sector. I believe we should support Bahamians who want to build bed-and-breakfast guesthouses boutique hotels, and small resorts, and those who want to get involved as entrepreneurs in faith-based tourism, eco-tourism, and medical tourism. All these areas present major opportunities for Bahamian ownership. What’s the government’s role? To help Bahamians with access to affordable start-up capital, affordable land, technical support, marketing expertise. We need to re-position and re-equip our national lending institutions to make this a reality.
I encourage all Bahamians to go to www.myplp.com to read about these and many more initiatives in PROJECT GRAND BAHAMA – initiatives which cover Job Creation, Tourism, Energy Costs, Mortgage Relief, Health, Farming and Community Development.
The PLP’s innovative plans to tackle the nation’s most critical issues reflect an extraordinary new partnership between a talented new generation of candidates who bring their energy and new ideas to the table, and our seasoned candidates who bring expertise and experience. Working with the Deputy Leader and with me, and with the very distinguished members of our Platform Committee, we have put together these innovative proposals for Grand Bahama, as well as initiatives for fighting crime, reducing violence and creating jobs nationwide. We have been sharing these ideas with Bahamians for many months now, beginning with my nationwide address on crime last August, and a major Jobs Summit in the fall. We will continue to share these ideas, and we will also unveil new solutions in the weeks to come, because we believe this election should be about big things – about the fundamental right to be free from violence, about the way forward for our nation in the 21st century. You deserve an election about thoughtful solutions.
This government has failed — fundamentally failed — to keep Bahamians safe.
PROJECT SAFE BAHAMAS, the PLP’s tough, comprehensive plan to reduce violence, proposes tougher sentences for illegal weapons possession, and returning police to schools where they’re needed. We are calling for Saturation Patrols in crime hotspots – the areas experiencing the worst crime should be flooded with well-trained police. We need Swift Justice, so fewer people are out on bail, and we need increased surveillance of those who are out on bail. Under Operation Cease Fire, we’ll recruit and train outreach workers in conflict mediation, so disputes don’t turn deadly.
Again – I urge you to go to our website, to learn more. Candidates will also be bringing these plans to your homes, to discuss the ideas with you and with your families.
We’ve presented you with serious plans for the future, because we take you seriously.
On the other hand, the FNM has presented you with a series of complaints and excuses.
Their “plan” is to wait – they’re sitting back, watching and waiting for the US economy to recover. What kind of plan is that? That’s no plan at all.
Europe’s ongoing sovereign debt mess reminds us that our inter-dependent world is volatile, with the next crisis always around the corner.
The challenge is for our small nation to diversify and strengthen our economy so we can thrive despite tough times elsewhere. We must have a strategy for survival and adaptability in these difficult and uncertain global conditions
Keeping your fingers crossed and hoping things get better – that’s not leadership.
Of course The Bahamas has been impacted greatly by the global economy. But the truth is, it didn’t have to be this bad for The Bahamas! World conditions made it bad but this government made it so much worse. Their mismanagement and short-sighted policies – both nationwide and in Grand Bahama – have led to a much darker crisis than was necessary.
Let me tell you how:
The FNM has not fought for Bahamians and they have not put Bahamians first. All that infrastructure spending you hear so much about, paid for by borrowing money from abroad — money our children and our children’s children will be paying back for years and years to come – that infrastructure spending should have been a stimulus for our economy, but just think of the millions paid to stimulate the economy in Argentina instead! What contempt this government must have for Bahamians – to hire foreign construction firms to build Bahamian roads with foreign construction workers.
Crime has skyrocketed under this government. For petty political reasons, the FNM cancelled or gutted PLP programs, including Urban Renewal, Swift Justice, School Policing, and Witness Protection. Nothing effective was put in their place. This toxic combination – cancelling or severely downgrading programs that were working, plus indifference to creating new policies – has resulted in predictably terrible consequences. The explosion in crime has imposed great costs along with great tragedy– in stolen goods, security spending, pain and suffering, and, of course, lost lives. High crime acts like a tax on our economy, discouraging domestic and foreign investment, raising inefficiencies, and reducing the competitiveness of Bahamian businesses.
This government has also failed to reduce energy costs, and here in Grand Bahama especially, has failed to investigate very serious charges of overbilling. Whose side is this government on? On the side of struggling consumers or on the side of corporate greed?
And the government’s greatest failure of all is their failure to believe in Bahamians; their failure to invest in Bahamians.
We need, more than anything now, to invest in people.
Investing in people is the right thing to do and it’s the smart thing to do.
We must diversify and expand our economy in The Bahamas – but we can’t do it without a revolution in how we educate and train Bahamians.
That’s why the PLP is proposing to double the nation’s investment in education and training. We’re proposing more and better educational opportunities for all Bahamians – from our smallest pre-schoolers to graduate students to workers who need re-training to update their skills.
I believe Bahamians can compete with anyone. I know you can. I believe in my people. But you need a government that believes in your capacity to create, to innovate, to own the future
My brother and Deputy Leader, Brave Davis, told you about our commitment to a public-private partnership to build 21st century classrooms. Updating the technology and design and energy sources of today’s schools will create a lot of jobs right now, when we need them most, and having modern schools with the best technology and best practices will give our children the chance they deserve to succeed later on in life. Smart now and smart later!
You’ve heard tonight about Career Path Academies, which will expand technical and vocational training and apprenticeship opportunities for 15,000 young people annually.
Our Worker Retraining 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.
In my term as Prime Minister, my government created 22,000 jobs in just five years. By the end of my term, our Bahamian economy was actually outpacing US growth. So, we know how to create jobs. We’ve done it before, and we know what it takes to do it again in 2012 and beyond. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again!
Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s too expensive to give Bahamians access to world-class education and training. What’s really expensive, and morally indefensible, is letting the status quo continue, with too few jobs for Bahamians in their own country, with too many young men up to no good, with frustration and fear on too many street corners. As far as I’m concerned, we don’t have a choice – we need to think big and act big. If we don’t, we’re going to get left behind in the 21st century.
Progress is not negotiable!
And here in Grand Bahama, we won’t just restore old glories. We’ll work with you to create new ones. A thriving Grand Bahama is critical not just for its residents but for our entire nation.
I’m grateful to you, Grand Bahama,, for hosting this wonderful evening, an opportunity to share our detailed plans with you and with the nation. We know Grand Bahamians are resilient and resourceful, and we know that great adversity has only strengthened your determination to find the way forward.
I’m so proud of the extraordinary men and women we’ve assembled to be our standard-bearers in the next General Election. With your help, we will bring them all home victorious. These are outstanding candidates, and each will have an important role to play in the next PLP government . They will bring energy and smarts and high purpose to our government.
Now, as many of you know – two of the PLP’s Grand Bahama candidates come from big FNM families. But they’ve been paying close attention, checking with reality, as they say, and they decided they couldn’t support this government any longer. Too many years of neglect, too many years of being taken for granted.
Their decision reflects something happening all across Grand Bahama and all across our country – people deciding they’ve had enough, enough of a government that never puts Bahamians first, enough of a government that doesn’t invest in them, enough of a government that abandons them for five years and then comes asking for support.
I say again: the government should be asking for your forgiveness, not for your votes!
They know they’re in trouble, all those FNM MPs on the run, fleeing elsewhere, hoping their records of failure won’t catch up with them in their new constituencies. None of that matters – they are just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic! Make no mistake, they’re going to put on a big show in the coming weeks, a big, shiny show, once again under-estimating Bahamians, calculating people will forget their failure to put Bahamians first.
It’s not going to work! They’re here today but gone tomorrow!
As for us, as for the PLP, we are the party of new ideas and real solutions.
We reach back to the great Sir Lynden Pindling and his colleagues for what they taught us about dignity and tenacity and hard work, and we reach forward to a new generation, for their energy and their new ideas and their commitment to renewing our nation’s promise.
To young Bahamians, I say to you especially: I believe in you. Where others see only problems, I see so much promise.
Choose your way forward, choose a way to contribute to The Bahamas.
No matter what you do, find a way to serve. If you’re going to teach or preach or heal or build, do it with honor, passion, empathy.
Steel yourselves. Failure is not an option.
The cause of justice is everlasting – make it your cause.
Think big. Let your light shine brightly.
If you stumble, get back up. Then take one step, and another, and pretty soon, we’ll be running together, towards a very bright future.
So, let’s join hands and hearts and run together to a new day, a better day for all of Grand Bahama and the whole of The Bahamas.
Now is the time! As we used to say back in the day at times like these: Step Now! Step Now, PLP’s! Step Now, Grand Bahama! Step Now to a better day!
PLP! PLP! PLP!
May God Bless You, and May God Bless The Bahamas!