Dear BP Editor,
Please allow me space in your daily to respond to a letter that was published in the Tribune newspaper on Tuesday, March 21, 2017, titled “Grand Bahamians are fed up with Michelle Reckley & her PLP antics” written by “The Whistle Blower”.
This letter, in an attempt to defame the Progressive Liberal Party by aligning this progressive organization with the perceived antics of one person, stated some grave untruths, which my letter seeks to address.
First and foremost the author, who seemingly has a personal grievance with Reckley, sought to throw some mistruths between his or her rants, hoping to add credibility to this story. Ever since the PLP’s successful convention, held in New Providence in January, 2017, FNM operatives have been trying to assassinate the PLP candidates’ characters and defame this organization by spewing lies and propaganda on social media. One such lie, which the ‘Whistleblower’ stated is that Minister Darville and Ginger Moxey said that the economy of Grand Bahama is BOOMING! This is a blatant lie as neither Darville nor Moxey said anything of the sort!
I have been following Dr. Darville from his Senate days, and since he was inducted as the very first Minister for Grand Bahama, he has always been optimistic about his outlook for the nation’s second city. However, in his optimism he often spoke about the government’s accomplishments and progresses on the island of Grand Bahama, but never once has he ever used the word “booming” to describe the island’s economy. In fact, an excerpt from his convention’s speech clearly indicates that he is cognizant of the challenges that the island faces: “I remain optimistic about the future of Grand Bahama, as we have successfully executed a plan that will cause resurgence in our island’s economy….We are painfully aware that many people are still hurting, in need of relief and employment opportunities. To see that so many needs are still not met, and that we are unable to more quickly respond to those needs, is one of the greater challenges that I face as the leader on this island. But I pledge to continue to fight for the people of Pineridge and Grand Bahama.” Darville can only be held responsible for what he says, not what the opposition perceives was said. Furthermore, a digital copy of his convention speech was available on his Facebook page which, if the detractors would take the time to watch, they will hear exactly what was said. But these propagandists are strangers to the truth! They would rather listen to rhetoric, and believe and spread a lie.
The author went on to address Grand Bahama’s unemployment rate, a mistruth that has been circulating on social media and needs to be addressed. For weeks, the Opposition has been spewing the lie that the unemployment on Grand Bahama is at 19%, that the Government has done nothing regarding the old Royal Oasis building, and that there are less jobs now on the island than there were in 2012. Each of those erroneous talking points are patently false and in some cases, blatant lies.
The former FNM administration tried to patch things up on Grand Bahama just in time for the 2012 general election through its so-called “Job-Readiness” 52-week program in 2011. However, one year to the date, the pay cheques stopped, and the contracts and “jobs” all came to an end. Hence, when the PLP administration assumed office in May 2012, the labour force survey in November, 2012 reflected a high unemployment rate of 19.5%, which was a direct result of the end of this program. And, I would like to add, the PLP did not stop, review and cancel, despite the fact that many were employed just days before the election.
The newly elected PLP Government in 2012 was ready for the challenge and instead of a quick fix, offered long-term sustainable jobs both in the public and, primarily, the private sector. To do this, Dr. Darville, as Minister for Grand Bahama, immediately sought to partner with the industrial companies on the island of Grand Bahama to provide training initiatives for the local workforce, which would result in meaningful employment opportunities. The Minister, in conjunction with the Grand Bahama Shipyard, was able to do just this, with the creation of the G.B. Shipyard Employment Programme. This new initiative would result in the training and hiring of 150 Bahamians per year, creating some 600 jobs in total, spanning a four (4) year period, making the Shipyard a Bahamian-majority operated company. In addition to this semi-skilled job programme, the Shipyard has also partnered with the government to accept more high school graduates into its apprenticeship programme, increasing its enrolment from twelve to forty participants, per year. These youngsters are afforded the opportunity of enrolling in BTVI while working at the Shipyard. Additionally, other programmes such as the Youth Empowerment, Earn as You Learn, as well as the Trained Clinical Nurses and the soon to come Mediterranean Shipping Cruise employment programme, which has been touted to create up to 220 jobs for Bahamian crew members to staff its ships, would have created hundreds of additional jobs for Grand Bahamians.
Even with the recent closures of the Memories Resort, the economy of Grand Bahama has not stopped, rather it is evolving. And while the job losses are always seemingly touted in the media, what is not promoted, is the hundreds of additional jobs that were created in the home repair program and the clean up and restoration campaigns, post-Hurricane Matthew. What is also not talked about and touted is the impact that the government’s duty free concessions initiative for East & West Grand Bahama has had the economy of Grand Bahama. I understand that almost 100 businesses in these outlying settlements, both existing and new, have taken advantage of this initiative, which has resulted in the creation of some 100 new jobs. Additionally, the government has continued its infrastructural projects inclusive of the Fishing Hole Road bridge, Potable Water projects for East & West Grand Bahama, The Crown Subdivision in McCleans Town, Improvements at the Rand Memorial Hospital and the land preparation for the soon-to-come groundbreaking of the new Freeport Community Clinic on East Sunrise Highway, and the construction of the new junior high school in West Grand Bahama, just to name a few, which would have created hundreds of jobs in the construction industry as well. In fact, the Department of Statistics’ labour survey of November, 2016 would have reflected a slight decline in the unemployment rate on the island of Grand Bahama, due to the numerous jobs created as a direct result of Hurricane Matthew. In fact, the unemployment rate now stands at 13.3% and NOT 19% as the opposition forces are advocating.
The Whistleblower goes on to talk about the Royal Oasis, which has been closed since Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne of 2004. The closure, of which, had a crippling affect on the island of Grand Bahama. The property was sold by Hubert Alexander Ingraham’s FNM government in 2007 to Harcourt Development for $33 million. Instead of asking for the VAT money, Grand Bahamians need to ask where the Royal Oasis money gone, and how the $33 million was spent on Grand Bahama, if it was ever spent on Grand Bahama at all!
By December of 2007, the PLP was voted out of office and it was during this time that Hubert Ingraham and his band of misfits in the House of Assembly, along with Kay Forbes-Smith and her band of allies in the Senate passed a resolution to pay Harcourt Development some $4 million dollars in “marketing support.” That was $4 MILLION of Bahamian taxpayer dollars to “market” an abandoned building! Today the building not only remains abandoned, but has become an eyesore in the community. Instead of asking about the VAT money, Grand Bahamians need to demand to know, where the $4 million dollars to market an abandoned building gone?!
Opposition forces love to use their little catchy phrases such as “Where the VAT money gone, or Where the BORCO donation of $400K gone?” Well my friends, as explained by Minister Halkitis on several occasions, all money collected by the government goes into one consolidated fund, the Treasury. The government has spent in excess of $100 million dollars in social, capital and infrastructural projects on the island of Grand Bahama alone, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, in the clean up and restoration campaigns, as well as home repairs post-Hurricane Matthew, on the island of Grand Bahama. In addition to the $400K donation from BORCO, this is where some of the VAT money gone!
Things are far from perfect on Grand Bahama Island! But it’s a lie to claim that all is doom and gloom. And no, the island is NOT BOOMING!! However, the promising truth that all right-thinking Bahamians should acknowledge, is that Grand Bahama is better off today than it was in 2012 and for that reason alone, the people of Grand Bahama must unite and vote PLP. Vote PLP to continue the progress that this party has made on the island of Grand Bahama. Vote PLP to move our people, our economy and our island forward, together.
March 24, 2017