Nassau, Bahamas – The following is the 2017 Budget Presentation Senator, Hon., J.L. Coleby-Davis- Opposition Senator and Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, and Youth:
I feel extremely blessed to formally address this place for the very first time. Additionally, I count this a privilege and one of my most proud moments as a young professional; to have been afforded this opportunity to take part in the continued effort to build, empower and unite this great country, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. I pray that God grants me continued favor and my contributions in this place will be beneficial to the betterment of the Bahamian society, and by extension the Bahamian people.
I wish to extend praise and adoration to the Heavenly Father, who has instilled in me the faith and confidence to be fearless, work hard and reach for the sky, because it is indeed the limit!
To Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling, THANK YOU for presenting to me the instrument of appointment to the Senate.
I am so pleased to send THANK YOU to the Leader of the Opposition, The Hon. Philip “Brave” Davis for inviting me and entrusting in me, the opportunity to be an opposition Senator. I am honored and extremely grateful to the officers and members of the Progressive Liberal Party, National General Council, Progressive Young Liberals, my good friend Ryan Oneal and all those that have personally reached out to lend their assistance; your words of encouragement, support and guidance have assisted me in my preparations.
I wish to extend further congratulations to all of my colleagues represented here today, inclusive of the side opposite. To the Prime Minister and to the Cabinet Ministers, MPs, Senators, and Parliamentary Secretaries, I extend congratulations for your appointment. To the leader of opposition Senate and my esteemed colleagues, I am so honored to serve in this place with you. I wish to also thank those that have already contributed, even if at times we disagree, I wish to remind you that we are all here to work for the people and that is a job I take seriously.
To my Bishop Helen McPhee and the Agape Church, thank you for your continued prayers.
To my family, friends, and the people across the waters in the Turks and Caicos Islands, thank you for your love and support.
To the people of this great country, to the Bahamian people, THANK YOU, for your love and support, from near and far.
To my beautiful, loving and caring family, my parents Pastor Wayde and Irma Coleby, my sisters, Tameka Hadley, Owenta Coleby, Angel Taylor and Crystal Coleby and my in-laws Donavon Davis Sr. and Suzanne Davis, words cannot describe the LOVE and GRATITUDE I hold in my heart for you. THANK YOU for everything that you have done, and what you will continue to do in the future.
Lastly, THANK YOU to the man that stole my heart many years ago and keeps my soul smiling, to my husband, Donavon A. Davis Jr. For always pushing me to higher heights, for your continued words of encouragement, for your friendship and always lending your support to many of the ideas and plans that enter my mind, THANK YOU.
I also would like to send Happy Belated Father’s Day to ALL Father’s, especially my Father Wayde Tyrone Coleby and my father-in-law Donavon A. Davis Sr.
Lastly, congratulations to all the recent graduates in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. I wish to encourage them to take pride in their talents and gifts, work hard and strive to be better than you were yesterday.
On a separate, I wish to extend prayers to the family of Dr. BJ Nottage, especially my friend, his nephew, Mr. K. Kelly Nottage, my thoughts and prayers are with you and I pray for a speedy recovery.
As a representative of the millennial, I find my position in this place very important. At every obstacle in my life, I have always faced rejection; so much so, that rejection was my expectation, in fact, I perceived it to be the norm. Everything else was gained through hard work that someone finally noticed or my blessing from the man upstairs. Therefore, this appointment as an opposition Senator is not seen to me as a struggle, as I have come to the conclusion that my blessings will continually come in the most unique and unexpected packages. As a result, I am here to embrace and work for the Bahamian people.
I have thought long and hard about what my platform in this place. As I am presently wearing a number hats and in my life, and this appointment just added another hat. Madam President, I am by profession an attorney, we are trained in this honorable and ethical profession, to be truthful, respectful, confidential, but most importantly to give responsible representation of our clients. On my job my client is Bahamas Petroleum Company, in my personal life as a wife, my client is my husband, and now with this appointment to this place my clients are the Bahamian people. Therefore, Madam President, it took quite some time for me to find my bearings, as I wish to represent all of my clients in the most honorable, honest and REAL way.
I listened attentively during this budget debate, because I was taught at a very young age to ‘listen to understand and not to respond’ and so I do my best to uphold that practice throughout my life. Therefore, if at any time I may have misunderstood the contributions of any Member in the other place or anyone in this place, I will gladly accept correction. In any event, listening to understand is a very important trait one can have, so I listened!
I then read and reviewed the budget upon receipt of the package. I looked over the reductions and concessions, I even reached out to persons that may be more adversely affected by many of the changes and I inquired on their particular feelings.
I spoke to millennials on both sides of the political divide and challenged them on some of the issues raised. See, because I do not wish to express only my concerns, I aspired to allow persons to vent and raise issues, which I may have not raised or thought about.
Here is what I concluded:
I respectfully commit that this budget is flawed and lacks MANY of the promises that gave the middle and lower class hope, faith and trust in the new Government. After, days and days of deliberation, I summarize to say that this budget a BLATANT slap in the face to middle and lower class, VERY stingy for the rich man and one can only assume the campaign promises was THE ART OF DECEPTION.
This Budget is filled with big words, huge insults, unsupported allegations, and percentages, projections and more percentages.
What it lacks, Madam President, is the growth which was promised to the Bahamian people, it lacks the plans and road maps to ease the way of doing business and bring the anticipated tax relief to the Bahamas. It does not discuss in any detail the way forward…oh wait that was the PLP slogan –Forward Together. Let me rephrase that, what it lacks is the answer to one very important question, WHEN DOES THE PEOPLE TIME START?
To that end, it is very clear that this Government has No PLANS, Just ideas! And ideas are not worth the paper they are written on, if there is not an effective plan to follow!
Furthermore, to detract from the inadequacy of this administration having no plans, the BEST strategy this FNM Government can come up with, (which is from the usual FNM playbook) is when all else fail, let’s just ATTACK THE PLP! Keep talking about bad this and bad that, don’t worry about providing any substantial evidence to back these claims up, ATTACK is the order of the day.
In fact, this Government seems to think they are still on the rally stage, I heard the Prime Minister say, there is a particular calm over the Bahamas since the general elections, so I am left to wonder, are the recent crimes and murders are being committed calmly? Madam President, we must get SERIOUS about the work of the people! I wish to advise the Government that Play time is over, as kids we would say, ALL FUN AND JOKES ASIDE, let’s get SERIOUS. FNM, let’s get serious, time up for play, IT IS TIME TO GOVERN. In case you are confused, YOU WON, GAME OVER FOR THE PLP, until 2022 or before. BUT YOU WON, YOU ARE THE GOVERNMENT! Don’t bother pinching yourself, 35-4; you are in the winning seat. I beg you, please take this country off of auto-pilot, and drive us into a future filled with greater accountability, good governance, and transparency, as promised.
Madame President, additionally, if this government was serious to get the work started from day one, they would have rolled out plans, NOT IDEAS, plans that can effect change. Let me guess, your argument is the PLP left the country in a bad state, right?
If that is the case, then I have a few questions. There is a saying amongst millennial and it goes; asking for a friend; WELL I AM ASKING FOR A COUNTRY, and by extension the Bahamian People. Madam President, we wish to determine the answers to these questions:
During the year 2012-2017, was the then opposition in hibernation? Did the Minister of Finance just relocate to the Bahamas from space?
Where was the Minister of Finance, when his government borrowed to remediate the Landfill and DID NOTHING substantial?
Again, where was the Minister when the now Prime Minister admitted that the FNM left the country in a wheelchair?
Oh and this is very important one, Where was the Minister when the mid-year budget was presented that spoke to the projections increasing to over $350 million due to Hurricane Mathew?
While this budget so eloquently took us down memory lane, lambasting the PLP administration, and what they did so wrong, it also ignores and excludes the largest of our Bahamian populace. One would think that if it truly important for this FNM government to bring tax relief and lower the burden on the middle and lower class, the focus and priority of this budget would have been to ensure they implement if not all, some of the plans to start the process of tax reform. I submit, Madam President, that once the FNM Government received the first draft of the previous administration budget, they adopted SOME of the previous administration policy, and input the parts of their policy which were important to them. I go further to say, they made “THEIR PEOPLE” the priority, and I will speak further on who their people are later in my contribution.
There is a familiar quote that I will use at this instance, by Abraham Lincoln, you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Madam President, this budget did not fool me.
REFORM OF PUBLIC SPENDING
I now turn to discuss reform of the public spending. Madam President, I am of the view that this budget does not represent the policies or promises of this FNM Government. Borrowing a billion dollars does not appear to be reforming of the public spending. Actually, a song comes to mind whenever I look at this budget; a song by Shirley Bassey titled “Big Spender”. Yes, that’s what this appears to be, we are now dealing with some BIG SPENDERS.
For this reason, I can only predict that this FNM budget may inflict further taxation, fees and penalties on the Bahamian public. If not a new tax, they are heading down a road that will lead to a potential increase in the VAT percentage, in order to avoid a possible recession.
In fact, during the campaign, the FNM said that it was irresponsible for the Christie Administration to borrow $2 billion over a period of 5 years! Can you believe that the same FNM that called the PLP irresponsible for borrowing $2 billion in FIVE YEARS; has just asked the Bahamian people to approve the borrowing of 1 billion dollars in just 3 weeks.
If the FNM feels the PLP acted irresponsibly with borrowing $2 billion over 5 years, I wish to ask, does this government intend to borrow less than $1 billion for the remainder of their term in office?? I hope so, or otherwise, by its own admission, it would be acting irresponsibly and by its campaign rhetoric, should either resign from office or invite the Bahamian people to FIRE THEM come 2022 or before.
BROKEN PROMISES, REALITY SETTING IN
Madam President, I turn now to discuss broken promises and reality. Madam President, this FNM Government, under the wise council of I don’t know who, went on the rally stage and promised a number of items to the middle and lower class of our society. Promises that if they are successful in pulling them off, would be impressive; granted they have also made a commitment to reduce spending and retain revenue in the economy. However, it appears that many of those promises were JUST IDEAS, and this recent Budget communication shows that they have yet to determine a PLAN and a way forward to implement such tax relief. What is astonishing, Madam President, is that the FNM INSIST that all of those promises will be fulfilled, when in fact at the very opportunity to bring some relief to those that truly need it, they blatantly excluded that part of society in this first budget.
What is more disheartening was witnessing the tax relief that has been granted to those that does not need it, and reading articles of them celebrating. The shocking amendments to Business Licence Act, grants a reduction of .25% to companies with a turnover of $50 million and above, so these companies now only pay a 1.25% tax per annum on their turnover.
Let me break that down further, if you own a company which earns a turnover above $50 million or more, then you receive a tax break. Therefore, I ask, WHAT ABOUT MY OVER-DA-HILL PEOPLE? They are going to need “dat lil ting!”
What happen to those persons that were promised immediate relief on taxes upon bringing this FNM Government to power?
On behalf of the Bahamian people, I ask:
Where is the elimination of VAT on breadbasket items? I submit that the people of “The People’s Time” Bahamas, need “Dat lil ting”.
Where is the VAT off of electricity? I submit that the people of “The People’s Time” Bahamas, need “Dat lil ting”.
Where is the tax-free zones promised to the Over-da-hill community? Again, I submit that the people of “The People’s Time” Bahamas, need “Dat lil ting”.
Where is the application form for Free UB Education for all? I submit that the people of “The People’s Time” Bahamas, need “Dat lil ting”.
To summarize, Joe Brown Bain Town, the 75 year old Mama Sue who is struggling to care for five of her grandchildren, Sally Mae from Englerston, the young female aspiring Hotelier or Entreprenuer that is struggling to pay college tuition at UB, I SUBMIT ALL OF THEM NEED “DAT LIL TING!” They are all a part of The People’s Time movement and voted in record numbers that they to can be interviewed by the dailies to tell the Bahamian people that their change has indeed come.
I ask further, was it necessary to use this first budget to give tax relief to the businessman that can afford to operate without such relief? I note Madam President, that we have taken care of the wealthy first, although my grandmother always told me that a little tells what a great deal will be! I trust that this trend would be reversed in short order to bring relief to Bahamians and Small to Medium Bahamian businesses.
This FNM government action is so blatant, and the beneficiaries follow the same protocol. In fact, one businessman celebrated publicly, stating, that as a result of the proposed tax relief his business gets to enjoy a savings of some $444,000. He didn’t stop there, Madam President, the article went further to state that he, the Businessman, have a choice of whether the profits will go back to the Consumer? What? Man, come on, that should have been an automatic! It should have went something like this, oh wow, I have a tax break, since we are saving so much money, let me help you THE CONSUMER save! But no, this Businessman needs to think a little more about how he will enjoy this tax relief and will decide later if, at all, there will be some relief passed on to the consumer! Madam President, I must then ask, where is the Consumer Protection? This Government must look into bringing a Consumer Protection Act, implementing this Act and ENFORCING THIS ACT!
Because, as I stare longer at the obvious, I can only assume that the FNM campaign strategy was to HOODWINK AND BAMBOOZLE THE BAHAMIANS.
OR, Madam President, it might be that we were all mistaken, in that, “The People” who they spoke of were a special interest group of not “A FEW GOOD MEN”, but “A FEW WEALTHY FNM MEN”! Madam President, this Budget reminds me of that scripture in Proverbs 22:16 and it says He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want. FNM oh FNM, be very careful the perceptions you are creating in this first budget!
LACK OF VISION OR PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
Madam President, I turn now to discuss the lack of vision or planning. I viewed this budget and listened to the contributions, and upon adjournment, I was left wondering, WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH? This Government better get serious with governing this country and get serious VERY FAST, otherwise they will be met with lots of challenges and very little time to fulfill them! I remind the governing party in this place that millennials are very impatient by nature, and we are the microwave society, which is a double-edged sword. However, I remind this FNM government that they have approximately 45-50 months to govern! It is no excuse, to blame the PLP that is not good enough! The Bahamian Economy, not only New Providence, but the entire Bahamian Economy wants to know the plan for ECONOMIC GROWTH. However, this FNM government seems to be figuring their way through the maze of Reality, on the corner of No Plans and down the Highway of How TO GOVERN. Therefore, as an impatient millennial, here are some things they should think on in terms of growing the economy:
1. ACCESS TO FUNDING! There needs to be a link between foreign direct investors and Bahamians, the local banks are not cutting; this government need to remove that barrier and allow Bahamians access to REAL FUNDING, MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR FUNDING, found in the International Stock Markets!
2. Expand the government contribution to other industries, including by not limited to Agriculture, Maritime, marine and Cultural Sectors. There need to be more information and education of the sectors to encourage growth and promotion. Don’t talk about it, BE ABOUT IT!
3. There must be investment in the Non-Hotel Tourism industry through public private partnership. The sort of investors that will build museums, parks (water park, heroes park, etc). It is urgency for the FNM to ensure the necessary public private partnerships are created with Bahamians to build on the many ideas that exist in the Bahamas, to empower and create Entrepreneurs. At this time, I wish to state I saw the Prime Minister state on the news the intention to create a museum that display junkanoo and cultural artifacts, I look forward to this project and hope that many Bahamians from various backgrounds and expertise are allowed to be apart and gain from this project.
4. Madam President, the Government must work hard to REMOVE THE RED TAP & THE BARRIERS of doing business. This FNM government had the perfect opportunity to do something for the Small and Medium Business owners; instead they gave businesses with a turnover above 50 million a tax break. GET REAL AND GOVERN FOR ALL BAHAMIANS!
5. There needs to be an impactful Reduction of the CRIME rate, they must increase the size of the force and implement strict rules and policies to eliminate corruption!
6. Immigration Reform, the size of our immigration officers must be tripled; it is impossible to speak about building the economy and our borders are continually threatened by illegal immigrants. TRIPLE IMMIGRATION, PROTECT THE BORDERS.
7. Unemployment is a serious issue, in order to combat this, we must create jobs. However, there needs to be training for persons who lack the necessary skills to qualify for specific jobs. Therefore, I commend Minister of Labor, for his outspoken support of the National Training Agency, and I look forward to further building up and implementation of that program, created of course by the PLP, the party with the PLANS!
Madame President, I can go on and on, but I digress, and state those points to show the importance of having plans rather, than ideas. Focus and attention must be placed on the major concerns across the Bahamas as it pertains to growing the economy. This Government has been elected to GOVERN, stop with this party bashing and mudslinging, and get on with presenting PLANS, not ideas!
REDUCTION OF CRIME
Madam President, I must admit, the Minister for National Security had a well edited video during his campaign about how he can turn things around and bring crime at a very low level. Whilst I admit crime is a social ill and all must work together to reduce the rate; it is clear that the Minister has NO PLANS! I saw an article that stated, the Minister of National Security intends to continue NIA, and then I saw another article that stated the Minister of National Security discontinues NIA. I must inquire; does the Minister have a plan?? If so, when will the Minister present those plans to the very anxious people of the People’s Time Bahamas?
However if he does not have a plan, Madam President, I wish to advise that there is no need to scramble, as the PLP has left a very good foundation to build on. In fact, the PLP 2012 administration carried out a number of programs and initiatives to assist with the fight against crime. To name a few, Madam President, the following programmes have been left in place:
· Implemented Swift Justice;
· Urban Renewal Programme;
· Tourism based policing;
· School based policing;
· There are over 70 new cars for the RBPF and 15 new buses;
· More than 200 Police officers has been added to the force;
· More than 150 Prison officers has been added to the prison;
· More than 220 Defense Force Officers have been added to the Defence Force;
· The PLP acquired new sea crafts; and.
· To date hundreds of guns have been seized along with substantial ammunition, substantial cash and significant quantities of cocaine and Marijuana have been seized.
Madame President, this is a very good platform, one that had the FNM been attentive over the last 5 years, they would have an appreciation and a better understanding of the work, cost and time it takes to build a safe and secure environment.
Additionally, Madam President, I ask that the FNM Government focuses on Rehabilitation of Offenders, but most importantly, first time offenders. This Government must give offenders a hope, a future and an expected end. CRIME, PUNISHMENT THEN REHABILITATION is the smart and best approach! I remind those on the governing side in the other place and also in this place, you have approximately 50 months to bring the crime rate to a manageable level. GET TO WORK. STOP WITH THE IDEAS, TELL US THE PLANS!!
Madam President, the PLP 2012 administration introduced a new Correctional Facility Act 2013, which provides the legal framework towards rehabilitation of Offenders. This Act provides the tools to move the Department of Corrections from a Penal Institution to one of Rehabilitation. It is time the Bahamas stop harboring criminals and transition men and women back into the society to give them the second chance they deserve. Nonetheless Madam President, I say to our Minister of National Security in the other place, STOP WITH THE IDEAS AND BUILD ON THE PLP PLANS. They are there for you to use, so take advantage of the hard work that has been implemented by Dr BJ Nottage and Mr. Keith Bell. Just get to work, govern, and build on the foundation laid by the PLP!!
CLIMATE CHANGE AND SUSTAINABILITY
Madam President, I wish to turn to the matter of CLIMATE CHANGE. I wish to stress to the government in the other place and those represented in this place, that CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL! Let me break it down a little, Climate Change or Global warming, means the earth is getting warmer. However, that does not mean oh great, good weather! That means, oh my, we must get prepared for the domino effect! Climate change will make our weather more unpredictable and extreme. Madam President, as temperatures rise, the following can result:
· More rainfall;
· Melting sea ice;
· Sea level will rise; and
· Changing climates.
Madam President, two of the largest contributors to climate change occurring hear in the Bahamas are, BURNING FOSSIL FUELS, AND DEFORESTATION.
Madame President, as it relates to the burning of fossil fuels, if every Bahamian take a drive on Frank Watson Boulevard, heading west towards Clifton, you will see something that looks like cloudy gray fog going into the atmosphere, coming out of the boilers which burn fossil fuel. Those gases that are being released into the atmosphere act like an invisible shield or blanket trapping heat from the sun and warming up the Earth with its own heat. This is called the Greenhouse Effect, the warmth we would feel is not natural heat from the sun, and it is mostly the heat from the gases released in the atmosphere!
Madam President, I bring this issue forward, because, whilst some are focused on publicly dilly dallying about what they didn’t like about the PLP government, there is a major concern about climate change, even more so, as we are presently once again in Hurricane Season! This season is being projected by meteorologist and experts alike, to be a very active Hurricane Season.
I pray that God grants us mercies this year as we are still trying to recover from the damages of Hurricane Mathew.
Nonetheless, Madam President, this government has to stop with this media frenzy of having pictures taken and headliners that bash the prior administration, it is imperative that the FNM Government GET TO WORK. There is a need for greater focus and attention to be given to the matter of Climate Change. I quote from the Honorable Perry G. Christie stated at the United Nations Small Island Developing States and Sustainable Development Goals symposium, “we do not need any further evidence in the Bahamas that sea will claim the land” because it will and it does during storms.
Madam President, the National Development Plan Secretariat also recognized the importance of mainstreaming the Sustainable Development Goals into the country’s development planning to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Bahamas Sustainable Development. Madam President, this is where the focus should be! This government had the perfect opportunity to show they are different, they are mature and not amateurs, that they understand how to GOVERN and possess THE PLANS to do it! However, they are still wrapped in their efforts continually blame the PLP for everything, instead of getting on with more pressing issues presently in the Bahamian economy. I once again remind the FNM government, you have about 45 to 50 months to prove yourselves, STOP WITH THE IDEAS, AND SHOW ME THE PLANS!
Madam President, I ask that this Government bring some Climate Change legislation to address how we as a developing country will work with the International Organizations to implement preventative measures and contingency plans. I appreciate that the Prime Minister stated in his contribution, his government intention to continue with the National Development Plan, as that will be very helpful and beneficial in preparing the Bahamas for proactive Climate Change preventative measures and sustainable development.
Energy Conservation and Sustainable Development
Madame President, there is a tremendous need for this government to turn their attention to educating the public on Energy Conservation and Sustainable Development. Madame President, I wish to commend the Minister of Environment as I heard him speak in the other place, and it appears he realized that this government had NO PLANS and the manifesto possessed only IDEAS. I say this because much of the Minister’s contribution was a detailed overview all of the plans and programmes implemented by his predecessor. Madam President, it appears to me that the Ministry for the most part will be business as usual, and, in actuality, many of the Ministers will reap from the efficient and effective hard work of the PLP. Additionally, I am most pleased with this outcome because Renewable Energy is the way forward and that was indeed the focus of the PLP administration.
FNM UNTRUTH AND PLP VINDICATION
Madam President, I now turn my focus on the recent vindication of the PLP party following many untruths that were spoken on the FNM rally stage. It is important that I address some of these matters, as I am new to frontline and many millennial’s and aspiring politicians does not appreciate the way in which the FNM campaign lambasted the PLP with PURE AND EGREGIOUS UNTRUTHS! As a result, Madam President, I wish to present the following:
First, FNM UNTRUTH
I quote the Minister of Tourism from the rally stage April 7th, 2017:
“They are thiefing, theifing our VAT money…”
A quote from the FNM Chairman Collie May 15th, 2017:
“Now, we knew that they didn’t steal the VAT money but they did not live up to their promises.”
· Prime Minister Minnis in August 2016 said the PLP had the courts seal the Baha Mar Deal.
· Prime Minister in the other place said: the deal was sealed by the courts upon the request of the buyer!
· Further, Madam President, the AG on 23rd June, 2017, admitted that and I want to quote him, “There are, and we are cognizant of this, other commercially sensitive documents which were sealed at the request of the private parties in the Baha Mar matter, and which remain SEALED.”
· This proves that former AG and former Prime Minister was honest with the Bahamian people in saying that due to “MARKET SENSITIVITY,” the commercial transaction between the two private parties involved in the sale of Baha Mar, CTE and EXIM Bank, had to “remain sealed for the time being” as per the Bahamas Supreme Court – not Mr. Christie.
· Minister of Finance said in the budget, the cupboard is bare;
· Further, Minister of Environment says on June 13th, 2017 “Our country is Broke; every Bahamian needs to understand that our country is broke with a capital B.”
· AG Bethel on 23rd June, 2017, in this place stated, “The Country is NOT BROKE OR INSOLVENT!”
From the campaign trail, scolds of FNM supporters chanted “Dey gern ta jail, Lock Dem UP!”
AG Bethel state during an interview, and I quote, “… I do not believe that anything that’s been said by anyone in Parliament has gone to the extent of raising any criminal concerns.”
OVER DA HILL REVITALIZATION
Madam President, I now turn my focus to the people of the People’s Time that live Ova Da Hill. Madam President, there were many promises made during the rally, and there is grave concern that some will not be fulfilled. When you consider some discussions that have ensued regarding the revitalization of Ova Da Hill, I begin to think first what about also revitalizing, Gambier? What about Adelaide? Oh, and also what about Fox Hill? All of those communities and more are very important to the History of the Bahamian society. Therefore, I submit, first and foremost, any discussion on revitalization should not exclude, but include the above named communities, along with Ova Da Hill.
First and foremost, Madam President, as it pertains to Ova Da Hill community, the FNM government must initiate a study to determine the owners of the property Ova Da Hill. If the study determines that it is indeed owned by the less fortunate, tax incentives for urbanization can prove beneficial to incentivize development. However, Madam President, if we find that the landlords are wealthy Bahamians, the FNM may consider passing regulations that provides use of land standards, which would require that landlords maintain their property at the appropriate levels.
Madam President, I request that this FNM government ensure that any form of planned urbanization occurs without gentrification! Let me explain, gentrification, is the restoration of run-down urban areas by the middle class, resulting in the displacement of lower-income people. To put it even simpler, gentrification is the arrival of the wealthier people in an existing urban area, i.e., Ova Da Hill, and following their arrivals and them acquiring the land in that community, it becomes unaffordable for the Ova Da Hill people to remain. The FNM government must ensure that any form of revitalization blocks the development of condos, or townhomes or any form of development that will misplace the people of the Ova Da Hill community.
Madam President, additionally, I submit that creating a tax-free zone in the Ova Da Hill community presents a moral dilemma! This is because the less fortunate in New Providence are not concentrated in one specific location. It is stretched across various parts. Additionally, Madam President, small to medium businesses like “Mom and Pop” stores are likewise, not concentrated in one location. Therefore, I query, how can the FNM pass a law giving tax incentives to the small business owner within the tax free zone boundary, and neglect his neighbor, also a small business owner, who would potentially be across the street outside of the determined tax-free boundary?
Madam President, this can also potentially lead to fraud! Again, I query, what enforcement provision and legislation will the FNM implement to accompany this initiative and ensure the wealthy business owners are not defrauding the government and the community?
Lastly, Madam President, there must be assurance to the Ova Da Hill community that savings earned by the business owners in the community, will be properly passed down to the consumer, otherwise, your plan to bring relief will be ineffective!
A BETTER BAHAMAS
Madam President, before I close, I wish to briefly mention something that troubled me. I was raised in a Christian home, in fact, both of my parents are Pastors and Ministers of the Gospel; and they uphold a certain standard when it comes to their relationship with God, the church and the people of God. Madam President, I have been disturbed by the silence of many of the Ministers of the Gospel represented in the other place and in this place. I say that because, Madam President, the Bahamas atmosphere at present is filled with hate, anger, revenge, spite and no love! All across social media, people enjoy tearing apart ex-politicians, their families, friends and any other person associated with them. There seem to be a lack of morale or respect for one another! In addition, Madam President, presently in the Bahamian atmosphere, there is a lack of concern of one’s feeling and it seems anything is accepted. This is across both parties. However, this hatred is not a depiction of what it means to be truly Bahamian. This beautiful country needs healing! The nasty campaign almost made me forget what a beautiful country we live in! Our pledge of allegiance says to the end, “one people united in love and service.” We must serve this nation, but ensure we are encouraging everyone to live in love.
However, Madam President, I am particularly disturbed due to the fact that many of the FNM statements have proven to be dishonest or alternative facts. Additionally, the Ministers of the Gospel have yet to speak out and demand the new Government, act honest, responsible and uphold the truth. In fact, Madam President, some of the Ministers of the Gospel, also spoke alternative facts. To go further, some made very vile and insulting comments about a particular spirit that needs to be removed from the government. I must admit, at first viewing of a viral FNM rally video during the campaign, I was disappointed and disgusted by the statements, because the bible says in Mathew 7 1-2, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Therefore, Madam President, I say to the Ministers of the Gospel, represented in the other place and in this place, if you serve the same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; I call upon you this day to stand for whatever is true, honest, godly, Christian and Good! Speak out against this vicious, vengeful and dishonest behavior, no matter what side of the political divide it came from. I encourage them to take this opportunity to use this platform to help and heal the nation! Bring back the spirit of love, respect and honesty to this great Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Further, if my statement today convicted anyone of them, I urge them to please use the first opportunity to offer a prayer of repentance, because God hears the prayers of the righteous.
In closing, Madam President, there have been much threats and statements of Corruption, Malfeasance, and public chants of “Lock dem up,” all resulting in no charges or convictions. As Shadow AG, I say to this FNM Government, stop with all of the threats. There is a Justice system in place in the Bahamas, one that is clearly understood. If this Government is confused in any way on the protocol and procedures for criminal charges or convictions, then the PLP will gladly explain. Where the government has evidence of malfeasance, corruption or any other criminal matter, it is unnecessary to continually make vile threats in the House of Assembly. Madam President, they can simply request the Minister of National Security to carry out the necessary investigations, and turn the facts and the matter over to the AG for criminal prosecution. Additionally, if there have been proven; upon efficient review of the facts, any form of criminal wrongdoing, I say, “let the chips fall where they may.” Madam President, I do not condone and will not condone any wrongdoing by anyone, let me state for the record, that is not my position or platform. However, I am requesting the government to act maturely and execute the powers afforded to them by the justice system of the Bahamas. Present the facts and the evidence and if proven to be criminal, bring the prosecution and convictions.
There is a quote I think of when quantifying the time this FNM government have to implement their policies and govern this Bahamaland. The quote is by Damon Brown and it states, “Remember that money can come as quickly as it goes, but time, once it is gone, never comes back.
Madame President, I wish to remind the governing side in this place that time is of the essence, use it wisely and GOVERN this great nation, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.