The Leader’s Monthly Press Conference At PLP HQ

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STATEMENT BY THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

HON. PHILIP BRAVE DAVIS QC, MP

MONTHLY PRESS CONFERENCE

LYNDEN PINDLING CENTER

7TH MAY 2019

Good morning media, supporters and those tuning in via the internet.

Thank you again for your support. We pledge to continue to hold the government’s feet to the fire while bringing clarity and perspective to any number of issues of national import

SHOOTING DEATH AT GOVERNMENT HOUSE

Last week I led a delegation of my Parliamentary colleagues on a visit to the home of the deceased marine PO Percival Philip Perpall and privately offered condolences and words of comfort to the family and we do so again publicly.

This tragic event that is painful for many does not preclude addressing the apparent lapses in security protocol at the nation’s most consequential public institution, the residence of the Queen’s representative in The Bahamas and so by extension the residence of the Head of State.

This fatal shooting exposes safety and security weaknesses at public institutions, foreign missions and in public safety generally.

The emotional and psychological fitness of individuals who hold sensitive positions in the uniform branches of the government are critical to the effectiveness of these branches of government, hence the question arises as to what protocols are in place to ensure the mental and emotional health and stability of individuals who are in  these highly sensitive positions?

You no doubt recall our calling out of the National Security Minister Marvin Dames for his emotional and seemingly violent outburst to  what appeaedr to be an innocent comment by a parliamentary colleague within the precincts of the House. I call then for an evaluation of Mr. Dames’ , emotional and psychological fitness to hold high office. Additionally, watching him on the television program “ON THE RECORD,” only heightened my deep concern about the Minister’s psychological and emotional stability.

Mr. Dames ought not to be holding that post in any event.

Illustrative of this need are reports of another RBDF officer drawing a service revolver and threatening another marine in a moment of passion during a heated argument. I note that the government has not commented on this serious issue that could have become fatal.

THE GOVERNMENT’S NINE MONTH FISCAL SNAPSHOT

No amount of self-congratulatory smugness and messaging about reducing the deficit can change the cold hard fact is that the government is on track to miss its revenue target by at least $400 million. It is high time that the government comes clean about the serious mistakes it made.

They were wrong to undo many of the revenue building initiatives the PLP government left in place. This elusive deficit target is being pursued  at the expense of the social deficit. The record is clear that the PLP significantly reduced the budget deficit, but not at the expense of the social deficit.

Since they are not growing the economy, simple math dictates that in order to meet this elusive deficit target, the government must reduce overall expenditure by the same amount. 

As a result, Customs, Immigration Officers, Police Reserves, Teachers and Nurses are not being paid overtime and allowances. In addition, small and medium size businesses are not being paid on a timely basis for providing goods and services to the Government and its agencies. Many of these businesses are hanging on for dear life as a result of monies owed from the Government.

This is the very SOCIAL DEFICIT that the PLP repeatedly refer to and ask the government to fix. When we say to them that the budget is for the people and to put money on the ground, Peter Turnquest makes a big joke about it, but this no joking matter; this is serious business,

I note that as for the PLP’s detailed response to the government’s third quarter numbers or snapshot, the FNM government did not DENY or REFUTE a single assertion or observation made by the PLP. No not one. Turnquest instead deflected and attacked the Deputy Leader. 

Ladies and gentlemen, we are in serious problems as confirmed by Central Bank in its report and there is no dancing around it.

More pointedly, how can the deficit be going down when:

  1. The government is still approximately $1 billon away from its annual revenue target with only three months left in the fiscal year and customs revenue collection is behind last year’s revenue.
  • In the face of this massive shortfall, how will the government make this up? Will there be new taxes?
  • Also on the revenue front, will the government confirm losses of approximately $80 Million in revenue due to the FNM’s failure to defend the Bahamas’ financial services sector and their rushed changes to financial services laws?

4.   Recurrent expenditure is still up by $143 million.

5.With the sixty percent increase in value-added tax (VAT) and reported economic growth, only sixty-three percent of projected and estimated revenue has been collected to date.The expected financial windfall predicted by the Finance Minister is a fantasy. It must be recalled that in their complete ignorance, it was the FNM, now the Government who asked where was the VAT money. With such a large gap between actual collections against the budgeted target, what has the Government to say about their stewardship? Where is the VAT money?

6. Less than half the capital budget has been used which suggests that the government has abandoned its capital expenditure program.  The Government must disclose which projects it cancelled.

7.   The FNM government continues to heap taxes on the poor and a struggling middle class while offering the rich rebates and exemptions they didn’t ask for. Will they now reverse the rebates and exemptions to replace loss revenues or will the loss be taxed again? 

8.  To mask their revenue collection failures, the Finance Minister promised more budgetary cuts, depriving Bahamians of needed services.

9.   The Minister of Finance has suggested the budget targets are expected to be met in fiscal year 2019/2020. If budget targets were way off this year, why should the public expect a realistic budget in the 2019/2020 fiscal year?

10.   To characterize the purchase of the Grand Lucayan as an equity acquisition is inherently disingenuous. The government hastily paid out cash for a hotel that was a partial going concern, incurred additional debt through a mortgage with Hutchison Whampoa and continues to subsidize a non-performing asset that bled jobs and  nothing to the economy of Freeport.

11.   The sale  of this hotel is nowhere near complete or imminent.

12.

THE AMENDMENDS TO THE IMMIGRATION BILL

Clearly the lines that differentiate the FNM from the PLP have been because notwithstanding their propaganda, the FNM have adopted wholesale the policies and programs of the PLP.

All three of these bills, the Commercial Enterprise Act, the amendments to the Immigration Act and the promise to repeal the Investment Incentive Act, together draw very clear and very distinct philosophical, legislative and policy lines between the FNM and the PLP.

These bills together roll back all of the gains and protections this country has secured for Bahamians over the past fifty years, from Majority Rule in 1967. All three bills point to the ideological mindset of the FNM which is to pursue a complete open border policy in an already small, open and vulnerable economy with no consideration for the economic and social welfare of Bahamians. 

We publicly decry the FNM who are blindly supporting these proposed amendments to the Immigration Act that supports this smokescreen of a bill called the Commercial Enterprise Bill. As many FNM’s are professionals who benefitted from Bahamianization and a rigid immigration regime, it is indeed disgraceful that the FNM proposes to pass a bill to allow professionals to walk into this country without a work permit for two weeks on the premise that they are attending a meeting.

The PLP is diametrically opposed to these bills as harmful and injurious to the economic mobility and empowerment of Bahamians to own and manage the Bahamian economy. They will reduce economic opportunities for Bahamians, a right that Bahamians have been calling for and is their expectation. We therefore publicly call of FNM Senators to kill this bill in the Senate.     

AMENDMENTS TO THE ROAD TRAFFIC ACT

The Bill to Amend the Road Traffic Act is now before the Senate.

The amendments effectively criminalize driving without a driver’s license and using a cell phone while driving. The Bill however does not address the serious charge of “killing in the course of dangerous driving”.

We stand with the member for Englerston, our spokesperson on transport, the Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin in calling for the government to continue the work of the last PLP government in this area and revamp of the entire Road Traffic regime.

We again publicly challenge the government to bring an amendment to the Road Traffic Bill to either the Lower or Upper House to deal with fatalities in road traffic accidents.

The families of victims who lost their lives in the cause of dangerous driving have suffered long enough and need closure for their loved ones through the administration of justice.  

Response to the Prime Minister on politicizing the Police Force

We submit and contend that the accusation of the Prime Minister that the PLP politicized the Police Force is false, unfounded and so ludicrous that his claim cannot stand up to the rigors of scrutiny with the facts.

To begin with, the facts are that the current structure, manpower and conduct of the RBPF have all been done under Commissioners of Police appointed by FNM Governments.

The last appointment of a Commissioner of Police by a PLP administration was the late Bernard K. Bonamy who was appointed Commissioner on 21stNovember, 1987. He retired in November 2001. He was succeeded, substantively, by Mr. Paul Farquharson, who was succeeded by Mr. Reginald Ferguson followed by Mr. Ellison Greenslade and now by Mr. Anthony Ferguson.

The last appointee by the PLP, Mr. Bonamy, was done some 31years ago. In the eighteen years since his retirement, the FNM has appointed four Commissioners so how on earth can the FNM fix their mouth to accuse the PLP of politicizing the police force.

More demonstrably, the FNM government has not only politicized the police force, but has taken over that institution without regard for the constitution or the Police Act.

The National Security Minister, Marvin Dames, admitted under oath that in the run up to the Frank Smith versus the COP case, he met with and interviewed the virtual complainant in a criminal case at his constituency office before turning the matter over to the police for further processing.

Court records also revealed that call log records were manipulated.

These illegal and despotic tactics that undermined the rule of law and the administration of justice were the direct result of rank political interference by the FNM in the work and operations of the police.

Sadly, the Attorney General, the people’s chief law officer, stood silently by giving cover, aid and comfort to his cabinet colleagues.

In the end, two Ministers of the government, Marvin Dames and Dr. Duane Sands, were judicially condemned for their ministerial misconduct.

What the PM should do is walk the walk and dismiss both Marvin Dames and Duane Sands since it is clear that both Ministers will not resign.