Bradley B Roberts
Progressive Liberal Party
National General Council Meeting
Thursday Aug 24th 2017
Fellow Councilors, since we last meet in July more than 100 days elapsed since the May 10thgeneral elections and many Bahamians are looking back and assessing the achievements of the Minnis led FNM government. The truth of the matter Councilors is that the FNM did not outline a goal achievement program like the PLP did in 2012 so there is little to nothing with which to compare.
The unvarnished truth is the FNM promised everything during the election campaign but delivered nothing in 100 days save and except a few inconsequential window dressing items.
I again raise the issue of the projected business license fees which were estimated in the 2016/2017 fiscal year at $147,000,000. The estimates for the 2017/2018 fiscal year equal $150,000,000. The 2017/2018 estimates did not provide a break down but it is estimated that the reduction in taxes for very large companies will total some $10,000,000 as announced by the Minister of Finance during the recent budget and communication, yet with a reduction of $10,000,000 the total estimate for Business License fees will increase by $3,000,000 to $150,000,000. With no discernable economic growth or plans for the same, what is the source of this $13 million increase in business license fees? Clearly, this is voodoo economics.
I will be remiss Councilors if I did not again draw the country’s attention to the dishonesty of the FNM and the rank disrespect and disdain it has shown for our national institutions such as Parliament and the high offices of MP and Cabinet Minister. The DPM did in fact mislead Parliament on the budget deficit. The published figures by the Central Bank clearly proves this.
Duplicating accruals is a violation of Stand Accounting Practices and patently dishonest; I dare say criminal. This too is voodoo economics just like their projections from business license fees.
Any Finance Minister ought to know better but day by day Bahamians in increasing numbers simply expect dishonesty from this Minnis crew.
SINCE GARBAGE IN CAN ONLY RESULT IN GARBAGE OUT, THE ENTIRE FNM BUDGET IS FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED AND UNREALISTIC!
Fellow Councilors, it was reported in the press on the 4th of July that State Minister for Grand Bahama confirmed that the government was “in the middle of trying to negotiate the deal” and that the government was talking to the Wynn investment group every day. “We are trying to close the deal as quickly as possible” said Thompson and that they were “trying to get the best possible deal for Grand Bahama” in “the shortest possible time.”
Fast forward to today’s business report in one of the local dailies where the Wynn investment group has reportedly pulled out of the deal to purchase the hotels on the Lucayan strip. They claim that the FNM government did not reach out to them, sending a negative message to them.
It is important to note that the Christie administration was negotiating a Heads of Agreement with the Wynn investment group; former Tourism Minister Wilchcombe and a delegation from Tourism and the Attorney General’s Office travelled to Canada to commence negotiations.
The FNM government is clearly misleading the Bahamian people on this Grand Bahama project. Who was the government negotiating with in July? If it was so close to a deal, why did the Wynn group pull out? Why is the FNM government investing in the hotel if they are negotiating with a third party for a sale?
Ostensibly the third party has the requisite funding to close the sale as a precondition for the government to enter negotiations on a HOA. Has the FNM back tracked on its policy of government divestment in hotels and what is the justification for this policy change? Who is the current front runner to purchase and operate the hotels in Grand Bahama since the Wynn Group has pulled out? There are rumors that the government wants to ensure that Sarkis Izmirlian takes over these hotels. The FNM should come clean to the Bahamian people and confirm or deny these rumors.
You know fellow delegates, the more Dr. Minnis talks about transparency in government, the more dark clouds seem to gather around his secret dealings.
Pictured at far right is Jack Andrews (Mal Jack), FNM lead contractor who was barred by the Ministry of Works for shoddy workmanship on projects including Garvin Tynes primary school. He is seen here now receiving a non-competitive bidding $4 million contract for Stephen Dillet primary school. Photo Yontalay Bowe OPM Media Services
The same rule applies to contract management and administration. The process is neither transparent, competitive, fair nor accountable. There can be no justification for the award of a $4 million contract to Mal Jack or the award of most of the contracts in Grand Bahama to Cyril “Boxer” Minnis, the Prime Minister’s brother. Minister D’Aguilar just inked a huge contract for Tourism advertisement without public tender to ensure value for money and transparency. The Minnis government could talk about transparency, accountability and cleaning up the process of contract administration and procurement until they are blue in the face – there remains a huge gap between what they say and what they do. Bahamians see the same old FNM secrecy, cronyism or like they say – friends, family and lovers sharing in all of the choice jobs and contracts.
Cyril “boxer”Minnis (brother of Prime Minister Hubert Minnis) who recently got the majority of the school contracts on Grand Bahama.
I could go on and on but in the interest of time I will quickly list some of the glaring deficiencies of the FNM government that is setting a negative course for how they would govern this country.
1. They have not introduced one new piece of legislation for study and review during the long summer break but simply left on an extended 90-day vacation.
2. They arrested the former Deputy Speaker and others but had to declare weeks later that there was no evidence of wrong doing. The press reported today that the Office of the Attorney General has asked legal counsel Wayne Munroe for more time to consider the BAIC case against the government.
3. They went on a political witch hunt, charging three former MP’s with conspiracy to commit bribery and extortion while ignoring well established United Nations guidelines for the conduct of these types of matters including the requisite legislation, regulatory regime and specialized and independent administrative body. What is interesting is that the FNM railed against the PLP for the establishment of the NIA because they claimed there was no legislation and regulation in place to govern it. They made the same argument on the issue of contract administration and procurement but they proved incapable of following their own self-imposed rules of governance. They could not wait on legislation and regulation to persecute their political opponents and awarded numerous non-competitive contracts well above the $50,000 ministerial limit. That is classic FNM hypocrisy, double-speak and double standard: one standard for them and another standard for everybody else.
4. The FNM has taken bread out of the mouths on struggling Bahamians in taking away jobs without logical justification. In an interview with Jerome Sawyer earlier today, State Minister for Legal Affairs the Hon. Elsworth Johnson sought to justify the mass firings by the FNM by accusing the PLP of creating jobs by stacking the public service. This assertion is at odds with the facts. The size of the public service is basically the same today (roughly 22,000) as it was in 2012 when we came to office but 39,505 jobs were added to the economy between 2012 and 2017. It is too early in the FNM’s administration for them to rewrite history and create fake news to justify their odious and baneful policies.
5. The Government employee verification program was a waste of time and public resources when the same could have been done through the department of the public service and HR Managers at the various government agencies. Perhaps Minnis could now show the public evidence of the $80 million this redundant exercise promised to save tax payers.
6. The much heralded Audits of the various government agencies have not commenced yet four senior executives of the National Insurance Board who were sent home on the pretext of a pending audit; they are still home. Talk about putting the cart before the horse.
7. Despite the declarations by PM Dr. Minnis and National Security Minister Marvin Dames, crime continues to grow and in particular murder which is up 39% over 2016 figures. The press conference hosted by Dames offered no new strategies. He offered the same action plan he and the FNM claimed were failures while in opposition. We will watch and wait to see how long it will take for PM Minnis to fire Dames the way he gleefully called for former PM Christie to fire the late Dr. Bernard Nottage. It is amazing how quickly the rhetoric changes when the shoe is on the other foot and the critics are in the hot executive seat.
It should be abundantly clear to all Bahamians that the FNM had no plans for governance on May 10thand that they are feeling their way through day by day while seeking to distract Bahamians. The country is at a critical stage in its development with a myriad of challenges facing us. We can ill-afford unprepared pretenders and fakers at the tiller of our Ship of State.
There must be a clear plan to fight crime, create jobs, grow the economy, empower Bahamians, protect the environment and educate our people as we work together to cause for an orderly and systematic development of this country.
The PLP inspired National Development Plan left in place is a good place for the FNM to start just in case they are too embarrassed to acknowledge its existence.