THE LEADER’S PRESS CONFERENCE

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In this month’s press conference by the Leader of the Progressive Liberal Party Philip Davis, the major thrust was that of education.  In wishing the Bahamian people a happy independence day, Mr. Davis decried the savage cuts in the budget of the University of The Bahamas which he says will threaten the very survival of the university.  Here is the full text of his statement:

PRESS CONFERENCE
Tuesday, July 7th, 2020
HON. PHILIP BRAVE DAVIS QC, MP
LEADER OF THE PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL PARTY
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

THE PROMISE OF INDEPENDENCE – EMPOWERING BAHAMIANS”

‘The Next PLP Government Will Make Education It’s Number One Priority’

The Promise of Independence is To Educate & Empower Bahamians’

‘Davis Slams Government for Slashing The Opportunities of A Generation’

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen of The Press, our supporters and those joining us via social media.

Thank you for coming this week as we celebrate the 47th Anniversary of the Independence of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

THE PROMISE OF INDEPENDENCE

Just a few short weeks ago, during the Budget debate in parliament, I spoke about the ‘Promise of Independence’ for our country.

The Promise of Independence was more than just freedom from colonial rule.

It was also the promise of self-determination, the right to lead lives of dignity and purpose.

It was the promise of unlocking, for the first time, real economic opportunity and empowerment for all of our people.

The PLP truly believe that our fight is not complete until we wipe every tear from every eye. 

I regret deeply that this year the Government has chosen not to have a physical celebration of independence.

THE ASSAULT ON EDUCATION

At the heart of this promise to empower our people was and still is the provision of education for all.

Universal access to education and training from the cradle to the grave remains the agenda of the PLP for our people as no one should be left behind.

Now, 47 years later, education remains at the heart of that promise.

If we are to meet the challenges of the health and economic crises facing us, if we are to be able to seize the opportunities for a better Bahamas, we need to continue and expand that investment in education.

When our country has expanded educational opportunities, Bahamians have made the most of them, responding with determination and ingenuity. Bahamians have started small businesses, built first-class companies, become nurses and teachers, judges and musicians, coaches and scientists.  

We all know how serious our country’s challenges are right now. But no matter how hard things get, we cannot give up on creating opportunities for Bahamians.  

Sadly, the choices being made by the present government threaten to turn the clock back on all that has been achieved.

Even worse, the slashes in our current education budget threaten to slash the opportunities of the next generation.

This attack on the education and empowerment of ordinary Bahamians is coming in several ways.

Firstly, the government appears not to understand a basic truth: education is an investment, not a cost.

It is an investment in all our futures, especially that of our youth.

Why has the government chosen to impose such savage cuts of over $16.1 million on the University of The Bahamas?

And these cuts are on top of the cuts already previously made.

And, as is typical of this government, the cuts have been imposed without consultation with the officials of the university.

This is not wise. Our policy position is very clear. There should be no budget cuts at the University of The Bahamas.

These cuts undermine the continued viability of the University of The Bahamas.

And why is the government cutting the public scholars programme, frustrating the aspirations of the next generation of students?

The arithmetic is plain for all to see.

Massive cuts in scholarships and funding for the University of The Bahamas will deny thousands of students a tertiary education.

This is not only regressive, but totally reprehensible.

Only education and training can power our growth and resilience.

Instead, the government is moving in the opposite direction, hurting young Bahamians in ways that are likely to last long past this current crisis.

And don’t tell me it’s all due to the pandemic. Remember, this government cut funding for young people and athletes before Dorian, before COVID.

The scholarships must be restored immediately.

They must because the harm that is likely to be caused to the futures of young people will last beyond this semester or this year: the harm may potentially last a lifetime.

If the FNM thinks the country cannot afford to educate our people, the PLP says we cannot afford not to educate our people. 

This makes me so angry, particularly when I think about young people who are the first in their families to attend university. Think about what their achievements mean to their families, and how this is being taken from them even though they’ve done everything they were supposed to.  They worked and studied hard; we ought to keep the promises made to them in the form of scholarships.

Education is not a cost: it is an investment in all our futures.

This was the Promise of Independence.

The myriad of opportunities contained in the Blue, Green and Orange Economies are fleeting illusions in the absence of adequate education. 

If we are to take full advantage of the technology revolution, we must invest heavily in technical education from the primary school level to close the digital divide and increase our national digital literacy.

Education was the key to my success, and is for the overwhelming majority of Bahamians.

SHORTSIGHTED HEALTH POLICY

In the middle of a public health crisis, the government has chosen to fire an entire generation of Junior Doctors who have just completed their training.

This makes absolutely no sense.

We should be building our health capacity.

We need trained doctors on every island and a partnership training program in place to ensure that our young doctors receive the specialized training necessary to adequately address the health needs of our people.

THE UNDEMOCRATIC HOUSE SPEAKER

It has been three years in office, and the FNM still has not learned the basic functions of parliament.

The House Speaker, who presides over this, still has not fully educated himself on his primary role which is the protection of the minority.   And has proven himself unfit, threatening the promise of independence.  The speaker is not an enemy to the Opposition but an enemy to democracy.

This parliamentary structure is the check on unbridled power and to safeguard against autocracy, dictatorship and ultimately tyranny.

The majority will always have their way.

But the minority must always have their say.

This was not what Independence promised.

THE BAKERS BAY DEBACLE

Bahamians remain upset and disappointed over the sight of foreign workers hired to displace Bahamian workers.  Even as we watch thousands of Bahamians being terminated while the feeling of hopelessness, despair, and uncertainty creeps in.

The excuse of insufficient qualified Bahamians has run its course and is totally unacceptable.

Bahamians built Bakers Bay. Bahamians can repair, renovate and restore Bakers Bay.

This decision flies in the face of Bahamianization, an immigration policy that was established under the PLP which formed the foundation for the professional, merchant and middle classes in this country.

LAND USE, NATURAL RESOURCES AND FOOD SECURITY

Currently, the national conversation is being dominated by salient issues such as land use, the exploitation of our natural resources and food security in the era of pandemics.

This raises the question of the more than 200,000 acres of arable land in The Bahamas, 134,000 of which exists in Andros.

As a people, we cannot talk seriously about independence without addressing the issue of food security.

The FNM is yet to articulate a clear policy on BAMSI and its role in national food security.

Mr. Pintard, the current Agriculture Minister, is at odds with the stated objective of BAMSI by its previous chairman, so which is it?

The Bahamas needs to build its food production capacity and BAMSI is the vehicle to achieve this through education, research, training, development and extension.

Surely if that industry supported 10,000 jobs and 90,000 acres under cultivation in 1978, the economic empowerment opportunities are boundless in a post-COVID-19 era.  

This principle applies to the use of ALL of our natural resources including land, mineral and petroleum.

All resources are for the primary and principal benefit of our people.

Let me repeat that!

All resources are for the primary and principal benefit of our people.

It requires vision and a commitment to investing in our future. The PLP legislated the establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund to superintend the use of our natural resources and to hold all financial resources received from the sale or use of our natural resources.

This public instrument ensures that each Bahamian shares equally in the national patrimony.

We must not be made to pay the price for this government’s lack of vision and economic mismanagement of this country’s scarce financial and material resources.

CONCLUSION

As we look to the future on our 47th Anniversary of  Independence, I am happy to announce that the next PLP government will put education for all at the centre of our administration’s policy focus.

This was and still is one of the major promises of Independence.

This is a very serious time for our country – and this FNM government continues to fail the people.

The Progressive Liberal Party stands ready to offer the kind of competent and compassionate leadership the country is crying out for.

I wish you all a Happy 47th Independence and now welcome your questions on any matter of national importance.