Bahamian Politics
Opposition Leader's Monthly Press Conference remarks
Jan 7, 2020 - 10:45:05 PM





Good morning to all and a Happy New Year. I wish for all of you, health, safety, happiness and prosperity.

I also take this opportunity to congratulate the newest member of the Bahamas Supreme Court, Mr. Loren Klein. A career public servant, Mr. Klein served with distinction as a senior officer on the Royal Bahamas Defence Force before joining the Office of the Attorney General and serving as an attorney and consultant following his call to the Bahamas Bar.

Response to Finance Minister

I wish to respond to media comments attributed to the Finance Minister where he accused former government administrations of entering into contractual agreements that “took advantage of the Bahamian people” and that “the conditions that have been agreed, nobody in a commercial or objective sense would ever agree to.”

Mr. Turnquest need only look in the mirror to identify the culprits who are taking advantage of the Bahamian people. It was he who dismantled the Revenue Enhancement and cancelled agreements with contractors to collect outstanding tax revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

That was a bad policy decision. The decline in revenue resulted in a 60% hike in VAT which took advantage of the Bahamian people because the hike was redundant at the time.

The $65 million capital outlay to flip the Grand Lucayan Hotel in six months was another bad deal.  The flip has not occurred. The hotel was valued at less than $65 million before it sustained hurricane damage and the government said that scores of potential buyers were lined up to purchase the property.  Where are the potential buyers today or again, again was this another lie. 

The price tag to the Bahamian tax payers to date is well in excess of $100 million with no economic benefit to Grand Bahama.

Cancelling the initial contract for the post office at the former Independence Shopping Center will cost the Bahamian tax payers conservatively $20 million.

Tampering with the lease at the Summer Winds Plaza could cause the Bahamian people as much as $66 million according to counsel for Summer winds plaza.  Other contracts tampered with will cost the government in excess of another $100,000 million.

These fiscal challenges and needless expenses that the FNM government is currently faced are the result of bad policy decision driven largely by political considerations instead of the public interest.

As the government’s chief accountant and financial advisor, Peter Turnquest bears much of the responsibility for these poor and expensive decisions. He has given his cabinet colleagues and the government bad financial advice.

The fault is not in the stars or in the PLP Mr. Turnquest – the fault is in the mirror.

We have branded Mr. Turnquest as the worst Finance Minister and we stand by that!

Yesterday’s headline quoting the Public Works Minister who said that the government must invest $40 million in road works throughout The Bahamas ‘just to get through this year’ as it aims to plug ‘a huge hole’ in deteriorating infrastructure, was laughable.

This is an admission by the Minister that the government was starving infrastructure and refusing to put money on the ground, pay contractors and civil servants in a futile attempt to reach some elusive deficit target. at the expense of national development which includes ongoing maintenance of public infrastructure and superstructure.

We told them this decision was a bad one as it was not sustainable. We urged them for the last thirty months to ‘put money on the ground,’ put Bahamians to work and allow capital to flow through the economy. Until now, our unsolicited advice has fallen on deaf ears. 

The government must now do the right thing and pay contractors and civil servants outstanding funds duly owed to them.

The ban on single-use plastic bags

I wish to share my observations on the ban on the ‘4bidden four’ – namely the use of plastic utensils, plastic straws, Styrofoam containers and cups and single use plastic bags but specifically the plastic bags which came into effect on 1st January 2020.

The public is up in arms and angry and rightly so over the permission granted by the government for businesses to charge a fee of $0.25 to $1.00 for plastic bags – a product and service that were provided free of charge until 31st December 2019. What is the purpose of this permission granted to businesses to sell the plastic bags to their customers?

Is this meant to be a windfall for their friends?

Ostensibly the product cost build up model already accounts for the cost of the plastic bags so the government in effect granted permission to businesses to charge their customers twice for these plastic bags. Our position is that there should be no charge for the remaining plastic bags in inventory.

This is a case of taking more monies out of the pockets of ordinary working Bahamians who can least afford it and transferring these funds into the bank accounts of wealthy business owners. This is wrong and I call on the government to reverse this bad decision.

Further, the government should set up strategically located collection points for these plastic products in order facilitate the removal of these products out of circulation.  

The new policy on the ban of single-use plastic products was poorly planned and is being poorly rolled out and managed to the irritation of many Bahamians consumers.

We are also concerned how this will impact the income of packing boys.

FNM Letter to the Editor

I wish to respond to what I consider an intellectually dishonest self congratulatory letter to the editor from the FNM recently published on the performance of the FNM over the last two years. In my view, the letter must have been written by Rip Van winkle himself or somebody who had just emerged from a Rip Van Winkle-esque slumber because the writer was clearly asleep over the last thirty months.

The Minnis government did not end corruption. In addition to blatant self dealing and conflicts of interest, the sworn evidence presented in the courts revealed gross prosecutorial misconduct including witness tampering, evidence tampering and political interference by the FNM in the persecution of former PLP parliamentarians. Two sitting FNM cabinet Ministers were judicially condemned in the process – a condemnation unanimously upheld by the Court of Appeal.

The letter stated that the FNM government “promised to improve our infrastructure and has done so…” Well, Minister Bannister who speaks for the cabinet and the government just admitted that the government neglected infrastructure maintenance and development over the last thirty months and needs to invest some $40 million during the second half of this fiscal year to begin to catch up. The FNM government and the FNM party do not agree and cannot get their stories straight – lying again.

On the issue to road works, just drive East Street, Bamboo Boulevard and Nassau Street to experience the neglect first hand. The experience is like driving on a washboard so the FNM be serious about improving the roads.

The FNM claims in its letter that they made the decisions on solving the power issues as one of their accomplishments since coming to power. This government did not advance the situation one bit. In fact, they made it worse. Their stop, review and cancel coupled with bad decisions caused multiple fires and daily blackouts. Their dithering and infighting at the Board caused consumers millions of dollars in losses. The cost of electricity is at an all time high with no relief in sight.

By every measure we worse off than we were two years ago.

This means that the letter to the editor contains a pack of lies.   

Response to Bahamasair Chairman

Bahamasair Chairman, Mr. Tommy Turnquest, claims that the Bahamasair US ban should not be made political. The Chairman is claiming the issue is operational while the Minister is saying it is Bahamasair. Ministers and Board Chairmen cannot be Pontius Pilate and wash their hands when it becomes convenient to do so. The fault is political because the FNM made a political decision to abandon the plans left in place by the PLP to advance the development of the fleet. There is simply no excuse.

As for the claim by Mr. Turnquest that this ban will not result in losses to Bahamasair or inconvenience to the traveling public, I wish to share some Bahamasair passenger experiences with you.

Their 6:30 p.m. flight into Fort Lauderdale was 1st postponed until 9:00 p.m.

Later, it was decided that instead of sending the passengers to Fort Lauderdale, Bahamasair will fly them into Miami then bus them to Ft Lauderdale.

The passengers arrived in Fort Lauderdale at about 9:00 pm, but had to wait until midnight for their baggage. You tell me if that isn’t a loss to Bahamasair and great inconvenience to its customers.

UWI students who had connecting flights to the Caribbean reported having to spend as much as nine hours at LPIA waiting on a flight, only to have to drive three hours to Orlando to catch their connecting flight.

On The Charging of The Prime Minister's Brother
We note that the Prime Minister's brother was not arrested, charged and placed in handcuffs but summoned to court on a criminal charge. This reinforces our view that there was a deliberate political decision to bring our former PLP MPs to court in handcuffs and shackled for slave shaming, public humiliation and to create political intimidation and fear in the eyes of the public. There is clearly a double standard that is intolerable. 

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