The PLP commends the government on “Stronger Bahamas” budget
Bradley B Roberts
Progressive Liberal Party
The consensus among fair and right thinking Bahamians is that the 3rdyear budget of the government is proof positive that many of the government’s key policies were successful, are bearing fruit and the “heavy lifting” by the Christie administration over the past three years have laid a firm foundation for a stronger, safer and more prosperous Bahamas.
On behalf of the Progressive Liberal Party, I warmly congratulate the government for its strong and focused leadership and fiscal discipline as evidenced in the reduction in the budgetary deficit by two thirds, cutting away over $360 million from the deficit in just three years.
I repeat that the government’s fiscal consolidation plan and tax reform measures were game changers for the country as the economy could not rebound if the government did not put its fiscal house in order. Had the government paid any attention to the FNM and other naysayers, the economy would have moved from the “wheelchair” Minnis and the FNM left it in to the proverbial “casket.” Having left the economy on the side of the road in a wheelchair (Minnis’ words), this caring and competent PLP government administered the medication and therapy necessary to nurse the economy back to good health.
Yes the Bahamas is measurably better off today than it was in May 2012 and even a blind man can attest to that.
The $20 million jobs training program for our youth is a step in the right direction in preparing our young people for future job opportunities; they are the most vulnerable demographic group in the highly competitive labour market. As the Caribbean struggles with one of the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, the government must give this vulnerable group focused attention as there are implications for criminality as an option when the prospects for gainful employment among our youth look dim.
The government is to be commended for another important education and social policy initiative involving the tracking of at-risk students with behavoural problems and low scholastic achievements. Isolating these students from the general student population where their specific needs can be targeted and met is a proactive intervention by the government when the parents of these children either refuse to or are unable to bring resolution to a potentially explosive situation festering in the homes and in the communities.
On the issue of National Health Insurance, I simply say once again that the time for talking is over and decisive action is required on this transformational social policy. I thank the government for its policy to implement this system at no additional cost to the tax payer. Some have argued that NHI is more significant to our country’s growth and development than National Insurance. I leave that debate to the historians but what is clear is that the PLP believes that access to affordable and quality health care is a human right and not a privilege. Bahamians must not be hoodwinked by those with selfish hidden agendas that have nothing to do with the development of The Bahamas.
On the jobs creation front, I note with great interest the $100 million bond to be issued by the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation (BMC) for the construction of 1,000 homes. This stimulus has the potential to create several thousand jobs and empower hundreds of independent contractors. Private land owners, skilled contractors, the Department of Housing and the BMC can form mutually beneficial commercial partnerships in this public private sector partnership initiative.
I urge Bahamians of means to take advantage of another of the government’s public private sector partnership programs – in the area of infrastructure development. The government has allocated $200 million in seed money and there is no reason why Bahamian investors cannot match that amount through private capital venture, partner with the government, stimulate the economy through jobs creation, and develop this country while they enjoy economic empowerment themselves. This is a win, win proposition for Bahamians.
It is disingenuous for Bahamians to run to the media or get up on their soapboxes and complain that the government is not empowering Bahamians when they themselves refuse to take advantage of the opportunities right before their eyes – economic opportunities created by the policies of the government.
BAMSI represents yet another great investment opportunity for enterprising Bahamians. The commercial division of BAMSI has secured millions of dollars in marketing and distribution contracts with. The agreement with Super Value alone is worth about $2 million per annum. It is up to Bahamians to partner with BAMSI to provide the products to international phytosanitary standards and quality. The potential and opportunity to reap millions of dollars in personal income was placed in the laps of Bahamians by a stroke of the policy pen. Bahamians must shake this tree of opportunity.
Just today the reciprocal air services agreement between the governments of The Bahamas and China was signed effectively paving the way for direct air services between these two countries. There is absolutely no reason why Bahamasair and any of the more than 41 private air charter companies cannot take advantage of this investment opportunity as it is a reciprocal agreement.
The government is to be commended on the many heads of agreement it has executed upon assuming office in 2012 where there were little prospects if any at that time. Three years later and more than 20 approved projects in various stages of development presents a bright future for The Bahamas and the glass is indeed half full.
I listened to and watched the same budget communication as Peter Turnquest and the FNM and I was able to identify opportunity after opportunity for Bahamians, yet the FNM told the Bahamian people a story of doom and gloom, telling them there was no hope. The fact is that the PLP government created more help, hope and opportunities for the Bahamians in less than three years than Minis and the FNM did in five years. The examples above represent just a small sample of trees with the fruits of opportunity ready to be shaken and picked by willing Bahamians.
I urge the government not to sit on its laurels but to reach out to Bahamians in their communities, explaining their policies to them as not all Bahamians are a part of the digital revolution and do not source their news from cyberspace.
The government must not allow the seeds of its good work that it has sown to be eaten by the proverbial birds or to fall on stony grounds or among the thorns. The government must remain engaged with the Bahamian people and bring them along each step of the way, creating and cultivating fertile ground for its message of help and hope and a stronger, safer and a more prosperous Bahamas.