One year of political success says PLP Chairman

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PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts

By Bradley B Roberts
National Chairman
Progressive Liberal Party
6th May 2013

In a review of the first year anniversary of the Progressive Liberal Party government, it appears that there has been a major spin on the facts of the accomplishments of the PLP in its first year. Here are the unadulterated facts.

It is a fact that the incoming PLP administration met almost $700 million in bills left behind by the FNM government and there was very little fiscal headroom for the PLP to implement its programs as quickly as many would have liked. In its editorial and to its credit, the Tribune did not deny this fact but questioned where the PLP was “during the FNM’s five-year term when the world economy crashed taking the Bahamas with it?”

Okay we get the FNM apology and excuse already – it wasn’t the decisions of the FNM government, it was the global recession. The editor accused the Prime Minister and PLP Chairman for making “a litany of excuses and buck passing” at the thanksgiving service, yet in the very next paragraph she apologized and made excuses for the FNM, then quickly passed the buck onto the recession, giving the FNM a free pass.

It was not the recession that caused the former Prime Minister to immediately cancel and delay projects that negatively impacted the economy. Standard and Poors said that policy decisions of the FNM did, not the recession. A leader in the construction industry said that the country went from “boom to bust” in six months of the FNM coming to office. I remind all and sundry that the financial crisis did not take place until August of 2008, a full seventeen months after the FNM came to office and long after the harmful policies of the FNM had taken
root negatively impacting the country.

The decision to increase hotel room taxes and taxes generally; the poorly managed road works that was over budget by almost $100 million and the tens of millions of dollars wasted on the jobs training program and the millions wasted on the jump-start program with nothing to show pushed the country to the fiscal cliff.

Even though the FNM government expended over $300 million on tourism, stopover visitors were at a 27-year low and tourism expenditure was down during their term while competing destinations in the region enjoyed growth in their tourism sector.

So it was not just the recession – the policy decisions of the FNM amounted to tremendous waste of public funds, made the recession worse and its recovery protracted.

The truth is, the new PLP government has been quick to take on the big issues that affect the Bahamas. Crime, unemployment and the economy, immigration are the big issues that the FNM failed to adequately address.

On the crime front, a key part of the success of the PLP’s crime policy was the reintroduction of the Urban Renewal program. Other crime fighting initiatives include Saturation Patrols and Rapid Response Strike Forces by the Police and the Swift Justice by the AG’s office. These programs have yielded positive results as crime is down 13% and the conviction rate is up 18%. These are also good news for the country.

On the economy, it is worthy of note that of the businesses adversely impacted by the road works, 248 applied for the PLP government’s hugely successful $15 million compensation plan and 229 received relief, a 92% success rate. The businesses and jobs saved by this initiative are good news for workers, the business community and the economy. This is an FNM mess that the PLP government cleaned up.

In restoring the economy, the Prime Minister moved quickly in letting the international investment community know that The Bahamas was open for business. There will be full employment on Bimini this year with the Genting Resort and Marina; the transformation of the Reef Village in Freeport will begin shortly; several small hotel properties are opening and being constructed in Eleuthera; final approvals for the $220 million PGA Village on Cat Island will be concluded this week and there are active negotiations on projects for other islands such as Abaco.

The government is moving quickly and working assiduously in stimulating the economy and creating jobs for our people. The Prime Minister has done more to get new direct investment in the country than the FNM did in five years and he is just getting started.

Legislation has been tabled in Parliament for the establishment of a National Training Agency that will have the mandate of matching the skill sets of the country with the labour demands of our economy. This is very different from the FNM’s 52-weeks training program.

The last unemployment report in November 2012 indicated a decline of about one percent. It will only get better I can assure you.

The $10 million Mortgage Relief Program has been retooled and distressed homeowners are now qualifying for relief under the Plan. Let the record show that the FNM government’s failure on the economy of the Bahamas contributed to thousands of mortgages going into foreclosure and the FNM government did NOTHING – DID NOT LIFT ONE FINGER to assist homeowners.

A word on the stricter enforcement of our Immigration and work permt regime. The business class, the professional class and the middle class were created and flourished because of our Bahamianization plan where jobs and business opportunities were reserved or prioritized for Bahamians. Do not sell public hysteria, it’s lazy and predatory, just point to one business that failed because of our Bahamianization and work permit policies.

The record shows that Bahamianization ushered in a period of unprecedented prosperity. Yet, detractors are all up in
arms that the policy will have a negative impact on the Bahamian economy but are unable to provide proof. The law is 40 years old. If economy has not failed yet, then it is not going to. I appeal to Bahamians to reject knee jerk reactions and public hysteria.

So let us be honest in our reviews and criticism of the first year of governance. There are still four more years to go. The full impact of the success of any government should be measured over the full duration of their time in office, not over a one year period.