It is indeed an honour and a pleasure that I formally address this Honourable chamber for the first time. As in all things I first give thanks to Almighty God for all of His many blessings that he has showered on me. He is my rock and my shield and I pray that the Lord will guide my words, thoughts, and actions inside and outside of this Honourable place.
Madam President, I would like to congratulate all that has been selected to represent the people of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. I congratulate the Government members for success at the polls and I also congratulate my colleagues who were selected to represent the Opposition in this Senate. We must be reminded colleagues that as the book of Proverbs 3:4-6 encourages us by stating that even if “You will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths”
Madam Present, I do not take this opportunity for granted as it is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life and I pray that I will indeed be an inspiration to the young people of this country and a steward for all Bahamians, fighting for their rights and best interests.
I must thank the people that supported me in my political endeavours during the past 8 years especially the people of North Eleuthera. I have had many persons who have stood with me and encouraged me to push forward. These people who I speak about are too numerous to name but it would be remise of me if I did not recognize them at all. These people were steadfast and unmoveable through the thick and thin, win or lose, in the good times and the bad. Their passion to continue to fight for their beliefs year after year, election after election just shows their dedication to the betterment of North Eleuthera. I must thank the Leader, Hon. Philip Brave Davis for awarding me this opportunity and having the faith in me to appoint myself to the Senate. It just shows the Progressive Liberal Party’s commitment to the young people of this country, being the current youngest Senator in this Honourable House and the second youngest in this country’s history.
I am the oldest of four children, the child of a traditional fisherman and a housewife. My father Stanford and mother Melonie Sweeting pushed me to excel from a young age and I am sure they are so proud today. I am from the small community of Spanish Wells, the fishing capital of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
At the young age of 21 I got involved in politics, becoming a member of the Local Government Board in Spanish Wells and later vying to represent North Eleuthera. I knew it was a hard seat to win, Madam President, but that didn’t deter me, I dreamed of making a difference that positively impacted the people of Eleuthera and the generations that followed.
Madam President, when you find something worth fighting for, you don’t give up, you fight that much harder! That’s what I believe!
I must say a big Thank You to my wife, Delia, who remains steadfast and supportive through all my endeavours. To my young son, Davin and to my family, who has sacrificed so much, I say Thank you and I remain forever grateful.
We must ensure that whatever is done in this place, is done so for behalf and for the betterment for all the people of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
Madam President, The people of this country know that I have a special passion for the fishing industry. It was indeed a privilege to be named the Shadow Minister for Fisheries, Agriculture and Local Government. I along with many other fishermen of this country have been extremely vocal about the neglect of our fishing industry by the former FNM administration as well as the successful implementation of the initial phase of the Sandy Bottom Project by the PLP.
There hasn’t been a government in the history of the Bahamas who has committed more to the protection and advancement of the fisheries industry than this current Government.
I can remember as a young fishing vessel owner attending meetings when different Ministers visited our communities to speak with the locals and how they would improve the fishing industry. Many meetings, many times and it seemed as if no one heard the cries of the fishermen.
That is why it was I was so excited to see the implementation of the Sandy Bottom Project. The previous government spent 252 Million in order to accomplish the hard task of providing the proper equipment and vessels to protect the fishermen of this country. Some people may say that I feel the PLP put the lobster on the banks, this past fishing season. That is not so! We may never know why crawfish behave the way they do or why certain areas of the banks perform better at certain times than other areas, other than God controls their movements. However, Madam President if it wasn’t for the now Commodore, Captain Tillis Bethel, the defence force officers and the use of the new fleet, the crawfish would not have been there to harvest.
Who would have retrieved the crawfish if they banks had not been patrolled…maybe the Foreign Poachers?
I must commend the Progressive Liberal Party and the defence force for an outstanding border protection this past season and I hope that the defence force continues to do so.
The Communities such as Spanish Wells, Long Island and Abaco make up the largest fishermen population of this country. It is my hopes that the Government does not turn a blind eye on them but builds upon the foundation towards the proper poaching preventative measures that the PLP initiated. I listened tentatively at the Speech from the Throne and there was nothing mentioned about the fishermen of this country or the industry. I trust and hope that it was just an oversight and that the Government of the day remains committed as did the previous administration.
Step one was to eradicate the country of illegal poaching. We have established a good defence force patrol system in the Southern Bahamas and we must continue to build upon that. Now we must now look at the non-Bahamians that have work permits in our fishing in this country. The law specifically states that commercial fishing is for Bahamians alone.
There are many foreign nationals that are fishing on Bahamian owned vessels. These individuals are issued permits under the presumption of being employed as a boat engineer, but last time I checked a fishing vessel didn’t need 10 engineers. This is an issue that the people of Spanish Wells, Long Island and Abaco would be extremely happy if the Government would look into this matter and take the appropriate action. It is important to the continuous sustainability to the fishing industry of this country.
Madam President, the fishermen are looking towards a bountiful season when the season opens on August 1st, 2017. During this off season, I plead to the Government to continue with the patrolling of the fishing banks as the off season is when poachers seem to attack the banks viciously. The southern border is necessary as well as the areas around Bimini and northern Andros. The fishermen has experienced off season poaching in both the north and south Bahama banks.
I have noticed in the budget that the Government has indicated that they have allocated 4 million dollars to continue with the Sandy Bottom project and construct the Inagua Defence Force Base. This base is vital to continue to eradicate the poaching problem and I support the continued provision of proper sustainable measures to protect the fishermen. 731610
During the PLP term in office between 2012 and 2017 the stats attributed to the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and in part to Sandy Bottom speak for themselves.
-13 illegal poaching vessels seized.
-Over 100 poachers arrested and prosecuted.
-Over 190,000 pounds of seafood seized.
-6,000 illegal migrants interdicted at sea and arrested.
-17 illegal weapons brought in on pleasure seacrafts intercepted.
-Over 100 distressed persons rescued at sea.
My hope and prayer is that the FNM will continue with this program and continue to provide refuge for the fishermen and a safety net against foreign poaching. I remain committed to the fishermen of this country and will be vocal on their behalf.
Madam President, Agricultural Imports currently equate to almost $1 billion a year to The Bahamas. We have always believed that a strong and thriving small business community can be the catalyst for a strong and vibrant economy, not only employing thousands of Bahamians but, economically empowering the people of The Bahamas.
The agricultural industry has experienced a continual and dramatic decline in the Bahamas, becoming almost insignificant as to the total economy. As my grandfather would say, the agricultural industry today is less of an industry now than of years past. We need revolutionary policies to reverse this trend and establish the Bahamian agricultural industry as a significant element of our economy, providing entrepreneurial opportunities for Bahamians to participate.
The policy initiative must encompass both an industry development plan, and then a plan to incorporate Bahamians into ownership opportunities with adequate training and preparation. Agriculture, to be a viable industry, also has to encompass a full circle – from growing to processing to export and distribution.
Technology – The advancement of technology in agriculture is a necessity to promote the industry. To be viable for hotels and the hospitality industry, agricultural production must be consistent and uniform, technology allows for this ability. In order to produce a wide range of produce and fruits, modern farming techniques are required.
Today successful commercial farming operations are utilizing technologies such as hydroponics, aquaponics, and organic farming. There must be a provision for training opportunities for Bahamians to learn modern day farming techniques. By providing an opportunity for existing farmers, and for new farmers to learn modern farming techniques, the agricultural industry will have the tools to develop and grow.
Distribution – The distribution channels is a key to the success of an agricultural industry. Today the Bahamas utilizes the packinghouse system as well as produce sales on the docks of Nassau to distribute the product. This has proven inefficient and results in a high degree of waste. Implementation of a modern day logistical distribution system which will have the ability to know what products are being farmed, what products are in demand of restaurants, hotel and distributors, and match up the supply and demand to maximize distribution by the farmers, while ensuring Bahamian grown produce makes it to the local consumers.
Entrepreneurial Opportunities – Once trained, Bahamian farmers will need the ability to go into business for themselves and utilize the knowledge that has been provided. Constituent with the theme that the former PLP Government will give a hand up to Bahamians, the Government needs to implement a plan to facilitate entrepreneurial endeavors in modern farming techniques.
Once trained, the farmer will be provided access to commonage or crown land in an identified family island. This will be limited to certain acreage, 5 – 10 acres. Modern farming techniques require much less land.
Madam President, The Government must find ways to stimulate, facilitate and
encourage the development of agriculture in the Bahamas And to Engage in any
other activities designed to promote the Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial
Development of the Bahamas.
The Government must be mindful of the need of bridging the gap of the estimated Agricultural import bill and engaging Bahamians in the ongoing proposed billions of dollars of investment mainly via anchor projects throughout the Bahamas. Previously BAIC had commenced work on the following initiatives:
• Expansion/Creation of large scale commercial enterprises
• Expansion/Creation of smaller cottage industry
• Assistance to School programs
The targeted product items include, Vegetables (Cabbage, Tomatoes, Sweet Peppers, ETC.) Livestock, tree farming (limes, mangoes, avocado, coconuts etc.) and plants for landscaping (sea grapes, coco plums, etc.). Where the present or potential market and or project exist, the entities will be encouraged to produce for that market on that particular island in the first instance and subsequently for the larger Bahamas.
The initiatives undertaken by the corporation via activities inclusive of the following:
• Review the possibility of further developing and expanding green house technology
• Provide and publish a listing of incentives for the agriculture sector
• Review and comment on training for the agriculture initiatives (e.g. Budding of Trees, Animal husbandry)
• Review and comment on funding for the agriculture sector (public, private, and guarantee funds)
• Develop business profiles for the various components of the initiative
The corporation is dedicated to pursuing its mandate to stimulate, facilitate and encourage the development of agriculture in the Bahamas.
Some of the actual services included:
• Project Proposal Assistance
• Farm Visits
• Farm Review and monitoring
• Farm Appraisals
• Input Supply and Procurement
• Assistance to strengthen and form farmers groups or associations
In the FNM manifesto it states that an FNM government will Provide tax incentives and concessions to encourage Bahamian farmers and farming cooperatives throughout the country to promote sustained production and packaging to ensure a continuous supply of quality products to customers.
How can the Government do this if they are reducing duties on fruits to thus encouraging foreign imports? We should be looking at avenues to encourage domestic crop growth with farmers and farmer entrepreneurial success.
One of the questions that can be asked is why has the FNM eliminated duty on certain fruits that are grown locally?
Why eliminate the duty on pineapples?
Why eliminate duty on Limes?
Why eliminate duty on grapefruits and why on oranges?
Eleuthera is known for its Sugar Loaf pineapple across the country, possibly world renowned and now, we want to say to the farmers that we do not believe in you anymore? How is it that the manifesto says one thing and the Government does another? If the Government cared so much about the farmers and if it is the people’s time wouldn’t they find ways to assist the farmers of the Bahamas?
Let’s face it, it will be impossible for the farmers of this country to compete with Local Food Stores that can now import the fruits duty free.
When we took office in 2012, we were faced with a Bahamian economy in shambles and an agricultural sector was collapsing due to a lack of investment in the training, tools, and resources. Our country’s food import bill was far too high, which meant we were depending too much on foreign imports and paying too much for produce.
BAMSI grew out of the former Prime Minister Christie’s vision and his leadership – he was determined to diversify our economy, to revive the nation’s declining agricultural sector, and to create new opportunities for Bahamians. Where there was nothing just few years ago, there are now fields and fields of papayas, bananas, tomatoes, onions, citrus and much more. Where there was once nothing, there is now a school graduating Bahamian experts in agriculture and science who have their choice of jobs. Where in the past some Bahamian agriculture and marine scientists might have been tempted by jobs abroad, they can now contribute their expertise here at home.
Even though BAMSI is so new, it has already created hundreds of jobs for Bahamians, Bahamian farmers are working with BAMSI to produce and sell crops, and the first class of students graduated from the institute in 2016. BAMSI also means more agri-business scientists and professionals, wealth creation and wealth expansion, economic growth, and greater foreign exchange retention potential and economic diversification. As of now, $100 million worth of food in the Bahamas has already been supplied by BAMSI.
As part of creating a successful BAMSI, the former government supports farmers and fishermen throughout The Bahamas by “granting them duty free concessions, for farming equipment such as tractors and trucks.”271 They also offered assistance in land clearing, irrigation systems, animal feed, vegetable seeds, and fertilizers.”271
BAMSI was the first big step towards sustainable agricultural growth, but the work is not done. I am encouraged by the governments dedication to BAMSI and to allocate 12 millions dollars in the budget to its continued success. BAMSI’s success is now poised to create new opportunities throughout our islands, for both farmers and entrepreneurs.
It is important that we as Bahamians, Buy Bahamian!
Family Island Economies
Madam President, We must start to focus on the economy’s of the Family Islands and find ways to add economic and structural growth. Economies should be developed in the family islands as full circle economies, where
production, processing, packaging and distribution are done at the respective family island locations. This would permit residents of various family islands to participate in all aspects of an economy and industry, not just one, for example, as farmers. To illustrate this position I use the Spanish Wells fishermen as an example.
Spanish Wells Fishing Industry – The residents of Spanish Wells are very talented fishermen, having some of the highest per capital income in the country. But, the success of the fishing industry in Spanish Wells is because the fishing industry on Spanish Wells is a full circle economy. The development of the industry was as a result of the following occurring on Spanish Wells:
• Once built the boats (skiffs)
• Selling the engines for the skiffs
• Repairing the engines and other mechanical matters
• Fishing for the crawfish and fish
• Wholesaler purchase the fish from the fishermen
• Fish is processed at the wholesale facility
• Fish is packaged at the wholesale facility
• Fish is exported by the wholesale facility
By developing full circle economies, the proceeds from the industry remain within the island, providing a significant multiplier effect. Developing a full circle economy on family islands also provides employment opportunities in all sectors of the industry on the island.
This model should be translated to all family islands in a variety of different
industries. Examples of industries that this theory should be applied to include:
• Agriculture – from growing to canning and juicing to exporting and
• Green Energy – from research to assembly and manufacture to export of
alternative energy technologies.
A Government must operate under the fundamental and obvious premise that The Bahamas does not consist only of New Providence. That means, therefore, that the other Islands of The Commonwealth deserve our attention. We must be active in islands throughout our country. The former Government traversed this country, taking our “Gospel of Entrepreneurship” and BAICs mandate, we conducted successful programs through working partnerships with the Administrators stationed there. Wherever there is a resident population with ambition for economic development/improvement through entrepreneurship, BAIC’s Business Services Division came to their aid.
Farmers Associations & Agri-Business Development
The Division travelled throughout the Commonwealth promoting the development of Farmers Associations as a business model proven to increase business success for farmers. Associations have been formally organized and legally registered in North Andros, North and South Eleuthera, Exuma, North and South Abaco.
Our activities included:
Farmers Empowerment Workshops
1. Corporate Governance (officer training)
2. Establishing New Associations
3. Business Training/Capacity Building of Existing Associations
We worked hard to empower manufacturers, bringing focused attention to their business problems with a view to fostering solutions. To this end we will be undertook a number of initiatives.
1. Manufacturers Empowerment Workshops/Seminars (3 per year)
2. Manufacturers Business Forum (2 per year)
3. Solar & Alternative Energy Solutions Review Briefings
4. Manufacturers Business Expo
5. Information Brochures
I would like to express to you some goals that we have accomplishes just with BAIC in Eleuthera.
1. We approved a facilitated property and dockage for Bahama Biters. A Eleuthera based company that currently has around 14 young individuals employed. They export Stone Crab biters to the U.S.A. direct.
2. Eleuthera Island Organics- Is an organic farm that was established in 2012 with approved property from Agriculture facilitated through BAIC. They have invested in excess of 300,000 dollars and are doing very well. They are in the process of selling there items where people can purchase organic fruit and vegetables direct. They currently have numerous Bahamians employed.
3. We at BAIC has just approved another property for another large organic farm in the Hatchet Bay area. They too will employ people of Eleuthera
In the 2015/2016, the PLP extended the Family Island Encouragement Act to other family islands which included Eleuthera, Abaco, Bimini and Grand Bahama (excluding the Port). The purpose of this act was to increase and stimulate economic growth as well as to offer relief to people who wanted to construct homes locally. The Act allowed duty free concessions on items that are used for construction as well as home and business repair. This included removing the duty off many items that were previously 45% such as cabinets, plumbing supplies and other items used for the construction. In return, the economic impact in many communities was extremely positive. Contractors enjoyed and still do continuous requests for work and this program has positively impacted the lives of many.
Madam President, this added much needed relief to the locals of the islands and ignited a surge of housing improvement and construction projects. The positive impacts are numerous and if you don’t believe me try calling a contractor in Harbour Island or Spanish Wells and ask for an estimated start date that they can construct your home. I am glad the FNM has taken the PLPs lead and extended the Family Island Encouragement Act.
In the budget, Capital Detail 732280, the Government has allocated 4.3 million dollars to build new schools across the country and 4.7 million for expansion and refurbishment of existing schools. As I welcome the Government’s investment in education, I sure hope Eleuthera was on their minds when the funds were allocated.
Madam President, in just Eleuthera alone there is a need for new school in Gregory Town and a new school block in Harbour Island. To build just these schools would possibly exhaust the total budget for new schools in this country.
In the earlier part of this year there was a meeting held in Harbour Island outlining the proposed architectural plans for a new K4 through grade 6 Primary School Block. I hope that this project is not subject to a stop, cancel and review policy. Harbour Island is in dire need of the school block to provide proper educational facilities for the children there.
I also hope that out of the capital funding for this year, the school for Gregory Town is contracted and built. The children have been meeting in a lodge hall for far too long and I hope that we can provide proper schooling facilities for them as well.
Madam President, as a young businessman I understand that we must find ways to promote the ease of doing business in this country. It is important that Governments realize the need to promote small and medium size business development and entrepreneurship. It is also important that if Governments feel the need to extend tax concessions to business owners, then wouldn’t we hope that the young up and coming businessmen/women enjoy these concessions. Don’t you think that…
– The business owner who owner gets up 6 o clock in the morning and is at his store before some people think about waking up deserves it.
– The business owners that stay late after closing time just to make a couple extra dollars, would you think he deserves it
-The business owner who has worked relentlessly to ensure his business survives when others thought it would fail; don’t you think he deserves it as well!
It is most unfortunate that the business license act was only altered to give relief to businesses that gross 50 million or more.
What happen to the relief for the small and medium sized businesses?
How about the young business owners and entrepreneurs?
We are a hard working people Madam President and there are many small to medium sized businesses across this country that would have welcomed the same .25% reduction in their business license fees.
Madam President, in the budget, capital detail 736299, family island airports, it is unfortunate that no airports in Eleuthera was included for reconstruction or renovation. While it is important that other airports need repair and constructive improvements, the North Eleuthera Airport is in dire need of not just repair but new. North Eleuthera, including Spanish Wells and Harbour Island has become premier tourist destinations in this country. In return we have outgrown the current airport. Numerous times through the week you can see people sitting outside of the airport because there are not enough seats to accommodate the travels. Some people may look at this as a good problem, which maybe so but it is a problem that needs immediate attention. They say a first impression is a lasting impression, so we should want our guests, to arrive to a WOW factor in North Eleuthera and give them a reason to come back.
To date this year, Aircraft Arrivals in North Eleuthera total an estimated 5,400 with a passenger total of an estimated 30,300 passengers. Just this week Silver airline made 6 round trips to North Eleuthera in one day.
I plead to the Government to take action ASAP to correct this issue.
Madam President, whether recreational or professional, sports are a positive outlet for people. Sports promote discipline, precision of skills, teamwork, coordination, enjoyment and help people to stay fit.
During the PLPs term in office we –
-Launched the Bahamas ‘Sport in Paradise’ program
-Launched a National Sports Academy
-Created three new stadiums designed by young Bahamian architects, engineers and contractors
-Constructed a one of the kind FIFA Beach Soccer Arena at the foot of the Sydney Poitier Bridge
– Commenced construction of the National Sports Academy on Moore’s Island
In the budget, there is an allocation of 5 million (731260) capital expenditures for 2017/2018 budget, for the construction of gymnasiums in Abaco, Cat Island and especially Eleuthera. I am hoping that these indeed comes to fruition and the money assigned actually is used to construct these much-needed sporting facilities. Eleuthera is one rich with sports history.
-Chris Brown, from Green Castle is an Olympic Gold medallists and has won numerous medals in various competitions around the world
– The Senior Girls Basketball Team in Harbour Island won the National Championship in 2016,
– Sean Rolle from Bannerman Town won the silver in Javelin in the 2017 Carifta Games and
– just recently the Samuel Guy Pinder All-Age school won their fourth national softball championship at the annual Austin Knowles Softball tournament.
As an island, Eleuthera is rich in athletic ability and is well deserving of the sport facility. A sport facility will be able to help in fitness testing/assessments and will provide a location for specific conditioning programmes. I do believe that we have only touched the surface with the sports abilities in this country with the likes of Buddy Hield. Providing proper facilities will expand the abilities of our local athletes. I hope the FNM expands on the foundation the PLP has started. I will do my part to keep reminding the Government of the allocation for the complex in Eleuthera, Abaco and Cat Island to ensure they get it!
Local Government plays an important role in executing the duties of the central government in local communities throughout the family islands and Grand Bahama. The local government election took place in the family island last week, June 22, 2017. It was a peaceful election and I must say I was very impressed of the slate of candidates offered across the island of Eleuthera. There were many young individuals who offered themselves for the first time and they ran passionate, clean campaigns, and some of them were ultimately successful. Some of these young individuals include Terrence T.J Davis, Wanda Percentie, Damon Bethel, Holly Bartlet, and Sumer Pinder. These names who I have called are young people in these communities who are passionate about promoting domestic economical growth, empowering young people and making their communities better.
Madam President, the campaign and rallies are officially over. The Government must get do what they were hired to do, Govern. We are not here to play the blame game! We will support the Government in policies and legislation that align with our beliefs and convictions. We wish the government well and wish them success, however we will hold their feet to fire, so to speak. We will keep the Government accountable to ensure that they govern in the best interest of the Bahamian people.
The PLP was voted OUT. We have a new administration, they promised to give us free education, no tax to over the hill communities and impoverished areas and to give us transparency and accountability.
Let’s get to it so that we can obtain these campaign promises made by the FNM.
It is important that the Government puts people over politics. These are real people who has real problems in real life. Let’s ensure that the policies and legislation passed is done so in the best interest of the Bahamian people.
God Bless you and God Bless the Commonwealth of the Bahamas