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THE PLP LEADER’S PRESS CONFERENCE

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The Leader of the Progressive Liberal Party Philip Davis led his end of year press conference on Tuesday 22 December 2020. Mr. Davis said about the Peter Nygard matter: he is looking to the future not concentrating on the past and the lies that the FNM are telling about the Nygard matter.

Here is the text of his full statement:


Statement by the Hon. Philip ‘Brave’ Davis
Leader of the Opposition
For Immediate Release
22 December 2020

Good morning and thank you all for coming and for tuning in via social media. 

I thank you for taking the time out of your holiday preparations to be with me.

Our holidays will be different this year, but Bahamians are equal to the task of finding new ways to celebrate safely.

I know you join me in hoping for a happier, healthier, and more prosperous 2021 for all Bahamians.

Our colleague Senator Clay Sweeting celebrated a birthday yesterday, bringing him to the ripe old age of thirty-five. Happy birthday, Clay, and we wish you many, many more years.

On a sadder note, the PLP family has lost Lady Rowena Frances Finlayson and Leon Taylor. 

Lady Finlayson made her mark in the areas of business and philanthropy, while Mr. Taylor was a cultural icon – you may know his hit single “Eternal Love”. They both used their talents to contribute to our country and we send our warmest condolences to their families.

THE COVID-19 VACCINE

I want to turn our attention to the issue of COVID vaccines. There are multiple vaccines for COVID-19 in development around the world.

The vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna have been approved for sale and distribution in the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries around the world.

As for The Bahamas, we are advised that the government has made a down payment of 250,000 dollars toward the purchase of 80,000 doses of a COVID1-9 vaccine to be sourced by PAHO. To date the government has not identified the vaccine of choice.

Further, the government has not communicated a timeline for the distribution of the vaccine, an immunization fee schedule if any, or a policy position and guidelines governing inoculation protocols.

Will the vaccine be sourced and distributed exclusively by the government, or will it be a public private sector partnership initiative?

What safeguards are being put in place against the possibility of the introduction of counterfeit vaccines entering the country?

Given the profound impact of COVID on our country’s economic life, and the urgent need to return the country to some semblance of normalcy, the government must move with urgency to provide clarity to the public on the way forward.

On the 19th December 2020, our party’s COVID-19 Taskforce released a series of recommendations regarding the immunization program for COVID-19 for the government’s consideration, including:

1.    The PLP supports prioritized access to the vaccine by the elderly and all high-risk groups within the country. Other prioritized groups should include healthcare workers, frontline workers in tourism, and the uniform branches of government (police, defence force, immigration, corrections and customs officers).

2.    Inoculation against COVID-19 must be voluntary.

3.    The vaccine should be free to every Bahamian. 

4.    The government should establish clear guidelines governing the acquisition, storage and authentication of the vaccines.

We urge the government to undertake a comprehensive public education program to combat misinformation about the vaccines, so that Bahamians can make informed decisions based on science.

THE FISCAL STRATEGY REPORT 2020

I’d like to turn to the Fiscal Strategy Report. The government’s report was late, in violation of the law. It proposes more taxes, which will hurt people who cannot afford additional pain and push the country into further recession. There is no pro-growth strategy in a country where unemployment is as high as forty percent. 

We oppose the imposition of taxes on webshop game winnings by Bahamians. These new taxes are discriminatory and short-sighted. 

This strategy is fundamentally flawed.

I want to point out a trick this government has played on the public. 

Under Accounting Principles and Methods, the following is stated: “Expenditure is recorded in the period it is incurred and paid.” This method of reporting was used by the last PLP government and all previous Administrations. 

The former Minister of Finance upon coming to office in May 2017 used the following definition instead: “Expenditure is recorded in the period it is incurred.” 

Why the change?

This allowed him to inflate the deficit for the last full year of the PLP administration, but now that this definition is no longer politically convenient, given the buildup of arrears in the system, the FNM government has reverted to the more traditional definition.  

However many games and tricks they play, they cannot obscure that things are a mess.

The Government has understated the deficit, ignoring amounts owed to the Disaster Reconstruction Authority, sundry vendors, the National Insurance Board and other public corporations such the Water and Sewerage Corporation. It is widely known that there are huge build-ups of arrears in the system. 

This administration came into office with the lie that there were significant unpaid bills; under this FNM government, that lie has now turned into a reality.  

THE TREATMENT OF HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS

We applaud the courage and hard work of our healthcare professionals. 

Unfortunately, the relationship between our health workers and the government can only be described as acrimonious. It has been marked by insults and unkept promises by the Health Minister, followed by lawful industrial actions by the nurses and doctors to which the government has responded with court orders.

This toxic, ever-deteriorating relationship is unsustainable. The health care professionals who have worked so tirelessly during this pandemic, at considerable risk to themselves, deserve so much better. Instead, we may see industrial actions, because benefits earned and owed to them are being withheld by a government who is no friend to labour unions.

How does the government intend to succeed in its immunization programme without the support of healthcare workers?

The poor treatment of these essential workers by the government undermines the objectives of the government’s health policies and places the public at risk.

This is counterproductive.

There is a leadership deficit at the Ministry of Health.

We again call on the Prime Minister to pay them what they were owed. 

CAT ISLAND, RUM CAY AND SAN SALVADOR

Speaking of mistakes made by the Ministry of Health, in my constituency alone there are multiple health clinics whose funding and construction were stopped and cancelled by this government. 

Did you know that if visitors want to stay at a Club Med in the Caribbean, they have any number of countries to choose from – they just can’t choose The Bahamas, because Club Med in Sal Salvador is closed, and not scheduled to reopen for an entire year, in December 2021. One of the reasons is the resort could not promise guests access to local health care facilities in case of need. The Prime Minister did not even meet with Club Med to encourage and support their reopening.

So they have deprived my constituents of access to health care and cost them hundreds of jobs.

This is a pattern. Sandals, too, is open in other Caribbean nations, but not here.

Remember that, when the government is boasting of their leadership during the pandemic.

The economic crisis we are facing is much worse than it had to be. 

I was in Cat Island last week, and I see the Prime Minister was just there himself, touting a water project that is much reduced – it will reach three settlements, instead of all. Why did he cancel the potable water project for Cat Island left in place by the PLP? This $40 million CDB funded project would have supplied piped potable water to the entire island. 

THE STATE OF GRAND BAHAMA

Turning to Grand Bahama, where Bahamians are facing a very serious economic crisis.

The apprenticeship training program at the Shipyard was cancelled, impacting scores of Bahamians.

The Oban deal turned out to be fake and a selfish land grab.

The proposed $65 million flip of the Grand Lucayan hotel in six months has turned into a two-year black hole costing Bahamian tax payers over $150 million and counting with nothing to show for it.

There is no investment, the hotel remains closed and hundreds of employees were severed.

$150 million later, we have a public dispute between the chairman of the Special Purpose Vehicle that holds the asset and the Tourism Minister. The chairman is saying it’s a bad deal and the Tourism Minister is saying it’s a good deal.

In a last-ditch effort, the government now proposes to open and operate the hotel which raises additional questions.

Who will be the hotel operator?

Who will operate the casino?

Has the government secured consistent airlift?

What is the status of the rebuild of the Grand Bahama international airport, the gateway to Grand Bahama?

What is the status of the Lucaya Marketplace, the shopping, dining and entertainment mecca for the tourists? 

The government is advised that these components are critical to the success of the reopening and operation of the Grand Lucayan Hotel.

THE AFTERMATH OF DORIAN 

More than one year after this tragedy, the true count of those who lost their lives during Dorian remains an open and vexing issue. The rebuilding process in Grand Bahama and Abaco has been slow and there has never been a satisfactory and comprehensive accounting of the $1 billion in donations and pledges the government boasted about in the wake of Dorian.

The public is demanding answers and rightly deserves them.

CONCLUSION

As you can see, we face multiple, overlapping crises in this country. We are entering election season and we will have to make an important decision as a nation: Are we going to have a national conversation about solutions to our problems? Or are we going to have an election about the garbage polluting our social media feeds and tabloids?  We will defend ourselves when baselessly attacked, and we will point out our opponents’ lies and hypocrisies, but we intend to focus our campaign on the way forward for the country. The FNM rode into power on a series of lies, the most famous of which is that it would be “the people’s time”, and they are looking to repeat that formula.