PLP hits the ground in Grand Bahama to make ready the Party for 2017
Bradley B. Roberts
Progressive Liberal Party
Meeting of the Grand Bahama Council of the PLP
18TH February 2013
Parliamentarians, Stalwart Councilors, Officers, Members and supporters of the Progressive Liberal Party, a pleasant good evening.
I thank you for the invitation and the opportunity to address you this balmy evening.
Grand Bahama is of great importance to the economy of the Bahamas because of its diversified economy ranging from tourism, ship repair and farming to pharmaceutical manufacturing and petroleum storage, blending and distribution. The recent announcement of the tax reform measures by the Prime Minister is of particular importance to Grand Bahama because it is the industrial and manufacturing hub of the Bahamas.
For the Value Added Tax regime to succeed, these sectors must be returned to their full economic strength. After suffering through an unnecessarily long recession and economic stagnation, your newly elected PLP is addressing the concerns of Grand Bahama with the focus and vigour this island rightly deserves beginning with the creation of the Ministry for Grand Bahama, the seat of power for the government on this island.
Grand Bahama is also of significant political interest and importance to the PLP as this island could easily hold the balance of political power in any competitive general election. We saw evidence of this in 2007. It is therefore incumbent upon us to always remain organized, focused and purpose driven.
The message of the PLP in these critical times is no increase in taxes on the backs of Bahamians and the Christie government will use prudent economic stewardship to navigate The Bahamas through these perilous economic waters and challenging times.
We have a strong and resolute leader at the head of the ship of state in the name of the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie. He led us through similar circumstances from 2002 to 2007 and he is poised to do it again. We must throw our full support behind our government and confident carry the message of the PLP. The latest unemployment figures revealed that almost 2,000 jobs were added to the economy during the first six months of our administration. The country has clearly turned the corner and there is no turning back.
The Grand Bahama Council is now in need of the strong and focused leadership that Dr. Darville brought to the chairmanship of this Council before his ascension to higher office. My choice for interim chairman of the Grand Bahama Council of the Progressive Liberal Party is Albert Gray, a tried, tested and accomplished leader in his own right.
I also take this opportunity to thank the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville for his tireless service leadership as chair of the Grand Bahama Council. He has taken on increased responsibilities as the Minister for Grand Bahama where I am sure he will do well in leading the government’s efforts in facilitating the resurgence of Grand Bahama.
I beg your indulgence as I take a few minutes to explain to you why Grand Bahama and The Bahamas will emerge un the leadership of the PLP:
The economy was good in 2007 when FNM came to office. Government revenue had increased by 57% in five years to record levels; stopover arrivals and tourism expenditure were at record levels; 22,000 jobs were added to the economy and there was record Foreign Direct Investment.
The incoming Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham confirmed that the Bahamian economy was strong when the FNM took office on May 2nd. He admitted that the PLP government did some things right and that Prime Minister Perry Christie assembled a team of smart individuals. As a matter of fact, in their first budget (for the 2007/2008 fiscal year), the FNM government forecasted a budgetary surplus of $25 million. This was before they “hit the first lick” so this projected surplus was the result of the good and prudent fiscal stewardship of the first Christie administration.
We all know how that chapter in Bahamian politics ended. Everything Ingraham and the FNM touched turned to powder. His government spent some $300 million on Tourism but stopover visitors to our shores plunged to a 26 year low while stopover arrivals and expenditure grew in competing jurisdictions such as Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Cuba.
The FNM government collected in the neighbourhood of $500 million, but through mismanagement continued to heap unbearable tax burdens on the backs of working Bahamian families. I will break it down for you because this remains a little known fact to this day:
We left almost $130 million in the bank account of BTC in May of 2007; the FNM took $120 million of that in dividends.
They turned around and sold 51% of BTC for a reported fire sale price of just $210 million.
They collected $40 million in stamp tax from the sale of BORCO to Keystone Partners.
They collected nearly $100 million in stamp duties from the sale of South Riding Point Holding Limited and the equity position the Chinese government took in the Baha Mar project inclusive of hundreds of acres of crown land.
Notwithstanding this financial windfall Mr. Ingraham still insisted on raising an additional $100 million through tax increases – a policy decision that helped to cripple the Bahamian economy and kept us in a protracted recession. There is no absolutely no question that the policies of the FNM government made the recession worse and contributed significantly to the current economic malaise on Grand Bahama.
It is your responsibility to ensure that Abaco Dragon remains in his cave, never to rear his ugly head of hatred, divisiveness, incompetence and victimization ever again in this Bahamaland. Like Dr. Minnis said, “THE INGRAHAM ERA IS OVER.” We do not agree on much, but I certainly agree with him on that point.
I am happy to report however that in the era post ABACO DRAGON, in our sights are a silver lining and a bright light at the end of this long, dark, painful and difficult tunnel. Many of you are aware that the Prime Minister announced in the House on Monday that an agreement had been reached between Hutchison Port Holdings Limited and the Sunwing Travel Group of Canada to renovate and reopen the Reef Village. This much anticipated reopening of this this five star resort will create 1,000 well-paying jobs in addition to hundreds more during the construction phase. I credit the tax incentives offered by the government as laid out in our Charter for Governance as playing a crucial role in bringing this deal to fruition.
The announcement in October of last year was heralded as “one of the most important and encouraging announcements made over the last decade relating to Grand Bahama’s vital tourism industry,” by Prime Minister Christie.
The announcement is in keeping with his Government’s Charter for Governance, in which it pledged to give the highest priority to addressing the ailing economy of Grand Bahama, particularly the vital tourism industry that has been in a serious state of decline for several years, the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister went on to say that “this state of affairs (in Grand Bahama) resulted in the closure of large and small hotels, failed resort projects, massive losses to hotel owners, losses of hundreds of jobs and much lower Government revenues, with a multiplier effect on businesses and households throughout Grand Bahama.”
The Government also promised in its Charter of Governance to appoint a Minister dedicated to Grand Bahama, a Minister of Tourism from Grand Bahama, and two Senators to ensure its plans were realized. So said, so done.
I have every reason to be confident about the future of Grand Bahama and you should to. I ask for your patience and to work with the government to bring about the economic turnaround Grand Bahama so desperately needs. I also hasten to point out that the government is not the sole reservoir of knowledge, information and solutions to the problems of this country. I urge you to offer your suggestions, ideas and opinions – become full partners and participants in the governance of this country and the deepening of our democracy.
I also came to Grand Bahama to personally ask you to support my choice for interim Chair of the Grand Bahama Council. Albert Gray is no stranger to PLP politics, Grand Bahama politics and the business of Grand Bahama. He has been a faithful and loyal soldier and a leader in the business community here in Freeport having served in the capacity of senior management in the Grand Bahama Port Authority group of companies.
As a politician, he was the PLP candidate in multiple elections and recently served as Campaign Coordinator in the 2012 general elections. His leadership, organizational skills and political acumen led the PLP to victory in three of the five seats in Grand Bahama. He is an accomplished leader, he is my choice for interim chair and I am confident that Albert will direct our efforts of activism and community outreach here in Grand Bahama.
So without further delay, please put your hands together and give a rousing PLP welcome the newest chairman of the Grand Bahama Council of the Progressive Liberal Party, Mr. Albert Gray.