October 2017 Contribution-
Resolution to Thank Her Excellency Governor General for presenting the Speech from the Throne.
Senator, Hon., J.L. Coleby-Davis- Opposition Senator and Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, and Youth
Madame President, Senate Colleagues, my fellow Bahamians, I am grateful to God and thank him for another opportunity to present in this place once again. With pleasure and gratitude, I rise to thank Her Excellency the Governor General, Dame Marguerite Pindling, for the gracious and eloquent delivery of the Speech from the Throne. The actual speech, as we all are aware, was prepared by the FNM Administration to outline their legislative agenda, priorities and focus for the upcoming session of Parliament. Being given by the Governor General, the intention is, to present a level of commitment, seriousness and dignity to the words and policies set out in the Speech.
Madam President and my fellow Bahamians, while I rise to thank the Her Excellency the Governor General for delivery of the speech with distinction; though 5 months later, one cannot rise to thank this FNM Administration for any achievement of goals set out in the said speech. The FNM, in the speech, stressed the urgency to implement a number of important polices. However, the FNM has stimulated a disengaged snail’s pace to move a legislative agenda forward that is reflective of the promises made to our people.
Stop Complaining, K.I.S and GET TO WORK!
Madame President, My advice to this FNM Administration, STOP COMPLAINING, KEEP IT SIMPLE AND GET TO WORK!
Now in this statement, Keep It Simple is abbreviated to K.I.S!
The Bahamian people voted for this FNM government on the promises and expectations that they posses effective plans to bring about economic growth. The mass numbers at the polls indicated the urgency to be placed on the challenges continually faced by the Bahamian people.
Therefore, now is not the time to backpedal or point the finger to the previous administration. You did that during the debate, we indulged you on your extended summer holiday, with the expectation that you would be laying some bills on the table. As a result, is it our request that the FNM place focus and attention to the urgency or depth of economic decline faced in this Bahamas.
There is no need to complicate the job; the Government was hired by the people to Govern, the fact that we are here today thanking the Governor General means that they have presented a clear mandate. I suggest to the Government, STOP COMPLAINING, K.I.S AND GET TO WORK!
As to some of the laundry list of promises, so eloquently laid out by our lovely Governor General, Dame Marguerite Pindling:
This FNM Government promised that they will establish a One-Stop-Shop to improve the ease of doing business! Though this is a necessary and modern approach to doing business; how do we achieve removing barriers to encourage Foreign Direct Investment and increase the growth of Entrepreneurs across the Bahamas? Much must be provided to the Bahamian public as to the plans on implementing such promises. There should be step by step guidance following review and consultation of similar programs. Furthermore, the Government should by now, be advancing the Conversation on what they plan to change or implement to make doing business in the Bahamas easier. So I ask:
- How will they reduce regulatory inefficiencies and reduce red tape for all investors?
- Do they intend to bring legislation to update Company laws?
- Will they introduce regulations to streamline businesses and ensure adequate and effective processes are implemented?
- At present, we have automated systems that allow local limited liability companies to register online. In addition, we have the new electronic license and registration systems at Road Traffic, all thanks to the PLP. Where do we go from here? How do we expand on this system to effectively reduce regulatory complexities surrounding doing business in the Bahamas? The business community needs answers, not promises!
So I say, Stop Complaining, K.I.S and GET TO WORK!
This FNM Government promised to launch the rebound of the island of Grand Bahama in accordance with the template for a master strategic plan designed for Grand Bahama. Yes, I read that exactly how it is written. Whilst, they are good at making promises, I am not entirely convinced that they can deliver. I go further to suggest that this Government, over- abuse of words, almost seems as if they think, if the sentence appears to be long, then it would look as if they are doing A LOT. However, let me KEEP IT SIMPLE, here is what the Government must do, in a nutshell, FIX GRAND BAHAMA NOW!
All of that long drawn out discussion, about master strategic plan, is worth nothing if you continually ignore the critical, but yet unique challenges that presently exist in Grand Bahama.
Once again I say, Stop Complaining, K.I.S and GET TO WORK!
This FNM Government promised to renew the Family Island Incentives Act to promote growth in agriculture and manufacturing and support diversification in growth of agricultural produce among Family Islands and encourage and enhance inter-island trade.
As I stated before, providing these promises in such long drawn out sentences does not get the work done. Here are my questions related to this promise:
- Do you intend to include legislation that will speak to industrial policies to develop manufacturing in the Bahamas?
- Are you providing tax incentives, subsidies and land concessions to manufacturers to ensure the introduction of this industry has minor burdens and to avoid unnecessary setbacks?
It is evident on a daily basis, that the Bahamas needs innovation, expansion in industry, and a modernized structure for ease of doing business. Therefore, this Government has no time to waste.
Stop Complaining, K.I.S and GET TO WORK!
Another promise by this FNM Government is that they will take action to effect a reduction of the VAT on breadbasket items. See, Madam President, I would be remiss if I do not properly speak on behalf of my Bahamian people. There is no time for the games, on the Campaign trail, the FNM promised REMOVAL of VAT on bread basket items not reduction, and THAT is the promise we will hold you to.
As a result, of the promise to REMOVE VAT, I ask, when can the Bahamian people expect further information on those plans of VAT removal? I go further to state, on behalf of the Bahamian people, please ensure, while you are removing VAT off of breadbasket items and essentially reducing the tax burden, DO NOT, try and sneak in another burden by the name of INCOME TAX!
Again, I say, Stop Complaining, K.I.S and GET TO WORK!
Madam President, I want to speak to one more of the promises by this Government before I move on to other matters. This FNM government will implement a pilot programme for single gender classes at the Junior High School Level to assist with closing the achievement gap between boys and girls.
Here again I ask relevant and necessary questions:
- Did the Government embark on a review of whether the Bahamian public or parents wanted such pilot programme?
- Has any consultation been completed within the schools with teachers, administrators and students prior to making this promise on the campaign trail?
- On what basis are we certain that we would get positive results from such programme?
- Why not look at other educational programmes and societal changes to increase our literacy level?
Madam President, I took some time to read and review various articles that debated the pros and cons of single gender schools.
From my review, I have made some assessments on my own:
- First, from the majority of the reviews, there has yet to be a definitive research study that shows single gender classes produce a larger majority of intellects or a better learning environment as opposed to coed classes.
- Second, as persons from African decent, we are continually fighting this subject of racial segregation; however, does one not think gender works in much the same way?
- Unless we forget, social psychology states that one of the impacts of segregation is that it promotes stereotyping and sexism. I further state that this single gender class plan does not appear to be forward thinking!
Further, we live in a society that is not Gender-Blind! More importantly, women are continuously overlooked for positions which society deems would be better suited for a Man. Additionally, we live in a society where equal pay across genders is still thought of as a foreign language.
Madam President, therefore, because of the ever-present gender ills in this society and those around us, I feel it is important for our girls to be taught early on the realities of life and some of the challenges they may face. Integration should remain throughout the public school system so that both genders learn confidence to speak-up, to voice their opinions, to accept their differences, to discuss matters and to learn about issues faced by both genders. This is empowering and helps with social development skills which they need to embrace, because college, university or on jobs, there will be no segregation.
Madam President, as we are discussing the school system, the focus must be placed on combating social ills within the Bahamas and the inefficiencies that exist in the public schools.
- Let us focus on the underlying issues of having younger parents, the lack of after school or youth mentoring programs in various communities.
- Let us focus on completing the school repairs on time to ensuring the learning environment is conducive to produce the result we desire;
- Let us focus on ensuring the classrooms are equipped with adequate tables and chairs not to frustrate the learning process.
- Let us focus on preparing a curriculum that is relatable to the challenges and changing times in our Bahamaland. For instance, how about we place less focus on Christopher Columbus and we begin to give in-depth teachings on the Bahamas Constitution, which many persons still to this day does not know or understand!
- Once more, it is apparent that all of our students are not academically inclined, they just cannot get it! Madam President; therefore, let us focus on building some Charter Schools that allow for a broader approach to learning. It is time we take the focus on just teaching, and place it on educating! Education goes beyond whether you get an A or B, but it helps with nation building and empowerment; one may not understand the theory, but may possess many useful practical skills. And there is still an appreciation for those skilled and gifted young people!
CRY FOR BAHAMIANS.
A few months ago the Prime Minister spoke on an issue that pulled on our hearts, he spoke on the bad state of Dominica’s economy. In fact, while he was listing off the challenges and unique situations faced following the passing of Hurricane Irma, he became overwhelmed with sadness and began to weep. This inspired him to make some policy changes to allow for DominEeKan children to be afforded the opportunities to come and continue the education until their country has been rebuilt. Madame President, I was torn, on how I felt when I saw the emotions that consumed the Prime Minister, on the one hand, I have been taught Christian values and principles by my parents, I will not quote the bible, but I know and understand what being our brothers keepers mean. However, I felt shortchanged as a Bahamian, because while the entire international community along with the Bahamas focused their resources and relief efforts on Domineeka. I felt we as Bahamians with our own unique problems were forgotten.
Therefore, Madam President, I invite the Prime Minister to redirect his tears and cry for this place:
- There is a place where presently the largest hotel on the island has an overall occupancy of 14 persons, a place where Pisces restaurant a staple in the community has now closed its doors after being around for 30+ years, a place where Shipping agents are complaining about the new taxes that has recently been enforced despite the decline in the economy, a place where a shipyard employment program which employed about 200 persons recently terminated 70+ with no employment opportunities on the horizon, an economy that is so bad that persons cannot afford to license their vehicles, a place where evictions are being exercised daily with no affordable housing options available, a place where Small Business owners are closing on a daily basis due to lack of revenue or profits, a place where some have resorted to sleeping in their cars, a place where a mother can admit how happy she was to have made $5 dollars in five weeks at the Straw Market, a place with no ships at the harbor for days and weeks on end. A place leaving many of the residents homeless, jobless and HOPELESS. Cry for this place, this place is my home, where I was born, Grand Bahama. Why not cry for them? They are on their last leg, shouldn’t they be positioned to gain much, with all five seats to the Government and the Minister of Finance holding one of the five? So why not cry for them? If that is too much to ask:
- Then cry for the Southern Bahamas, that received catastrophic damages following Hurricane Irma, our Bahamians in Ragged Island, with total devastation, and the insult and demand by persons in the Government that suggested everyone must relocate and leave their island they know and love, without second thought. Why not cry for them?
- For the families that lost their loved ones due to crime, for the family that suffered recent lost of their 8 year old son, Eugene Woodside by a stray bullet, Cry for them.
- For the families still awaiting home repairs following hurricane Mathew, Cry for them;
- For the young man or woman that was sent home, fired, and removed from their honest paying job, and are now unable to provide for their families. Cry for them?
- For the young lady that worked and had perfect attendance on the 52 week program, but 3 months later have yet to receive her pay. Cry for them?
- For the thousands of Bahamian students who completed high schools but are unable to attend UB because of financial hardship yet their counterparts from Dominica are eligible to attend. Cry for them?
Madam President, as the Prime Minister did not think it important to cry for those Bahamians, I submit that the People of the People’s time Bahamas CRY SHAME ON YOU!
IMF this IMF That!
Madame President, I want to speak a little on these drastic recommendations by the IMF. They are foreign, they do not understand the Bahamian Dream, I question their recommendation, and how they will impact the lives of Bahamians and the cost on the Bahamian society. Most importantly the IMF were NOT VOTED IN BY THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE, in fact it is the FNM that the people gave their confidence to govern. And govern they must!
Therefore, the IMF strict measures should not be used as a governing plan by the FNM Government. Madam President, by placing so much focus on the IMF advice of austerity measures one can only assume that the people’s time Government is NOT about working for the people.
Hundreds of civil servants depend on their wages, if you cut their wages; you cut their way of life. Whilst some may live somewhat above their means, this strict approach can only wipe out the already weakened middle class. Think about that mother who was unable to attend private but works hard for her wages to provide her daughter/ son with private school education. How do you explain cutting this mother wages? After cutting her wages, what if she goes to take on another job to keep her children educated at the same private school? Can you imagine the further social damages that may result? Social ills entirely related to troubled youths, and a possible increase in crime, because parents have to work 2 or 3 jobs. Furthermore, where will some of these jobs come from as the unemployment line has increased tremendously?
Madame President, this strict approach by the IMF has the potential to lead us into a poverty stricken Bahamas, one that is very UNFAMILIAR to Bahamians, and not the Bahamas our forefathers and those that marched with the Woman Suffrage Movement fought long and hard for.
Is it truly the People’s Time? Because austerity measures will NOT WORK! Bahamians should not have to live dishonestly to survive in their own country. Bahamians should not be forced to working 2 and 3 jobs just to stay broke. And ANY government that seeks to take from the people should no longer have the people’s confidence to govern them!
It is the Government’s time to GROW THIS ECONOMY:
Madame President, All campaign talk aside, the Government must take serious that they are 5 months out with 55 more months to go. Focus and attention must be placed on the important need to transform and grow this economy. Some of the things this Government must seek to do sooner rather than later are the following:
- Reduce crime in our society;
- FIX GRAND BAHAMA
- Reform of the Immigration Policy;
- Implement ease of doing business to encourage Entrepreneurship and Foreign Direct Investment;
- Produce an efficient and effective plan to eliminate the sub-standard conditions under which too many families still live in our inner cities;
- Meet the demand for decent Affordable Housing;
- Provide free UB education to Bahamians as promised;
- Introduce new strategies for the economic improvement of our Family Island Communities;
- Stimulate an expansion of our Tourism industry;
- Reinvigorate our financial services sector;
- Promote economic growth and prosperity in all other sectors; and
- Protect our coastal and marine environment and our fisheries resources.
Madame President, before I take my seat, I wish to briefly address the blatant hypocrisy by the FNM Government, in particular, the Member for Yamacraw in the other place. It was as recent as February 2017 when the Former Bahamas Bar President joined activist on public protest to resist the Interception of Communications Bill, which the member called the “dangerous” spying legislation.
Months later, Madame President, following elections, and with the transfer of power, the Member for Yamacraw, now unashamedly provided communication in the other place to the Government’s intention to table the Interception of Communication Bill. Surprisingly, instead of producing the bill as drafted by the previous administration; and in accordance with the Maycock decision by the Privy Council, to grant the authority to the Judiciary; the Supreme Court; independent and free from any political influence. The new Interception Bill, which is out for consultation, gives the Executive (including the Minister of National Security) the right and power to intercept.
Madame President, while I understand we have yet to table this bill and it is in early stages out for public consultation, subject to amendments and changes prior to the debate. I wish to simply remind the Members in the other place and those in this place of the same concerns of trust by the public and the need for assurances that interception warrants would only be obtained in the public interest or the interest of justice!
So, Madame President, I patiently await the day by which my colleagues in this place and members in the other place prepare for the GREAT DEBATE!
I end with one of my favorite scriptures to bring back hope and encouragement to those across the length and breadth of this great Commonwealth of The Bahamas. I wish encourage you, that though times might seem tough, be reminded of the word of God in Jeremiah 29:11, For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Therefore, my fellow Bahamians, I implore you to continue to be encouraged, do not lose hope in New Providence, stay strong in Grand Bahama and press on in Salina Point, Acklins, Ragged Island, Inagua and all the other Family Islands.
Madame President, though it took long enough, I wish to once again thank Her Excellency the Governor General for delivering this speech from the throne, so eloquently and with distinction. May God continue to bless and keep her.
May God continue to bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.