Remarks by Bradley
B. Roberts National
Liberal Party Meeting
of the Grand Bahama Council of the PLP
Parliamentarians, Stalwart Councilors, Officers, Members
and supporters of the Progressive Liberal Party, a pleasant good evening. I thank you for the invitation and the opportunity to
address you this balmy evening.
Grand Bahama is of great importance to the economy of
the Bahamas because of its diversified economy ranging from tourism, ship
repair and farming to pharmaceutical manufacturing and petroleum storage,
blending and distribution. The recent announcement of the tax reform measures
by the Prime Minister is of particular importance to Grand Bahama because it is
the industrial and manufacturing hub of the Bahamas.
For the Value Added Tax regime to succeed, these sectors
must be returned to their full economic strength. After suffering through an
unnecessarily long recession and economic stagnation, your newly elected PLP is
addressing the concerns of Grand Bahama with the focus and vigour this island
rightly deserves beginning with the creation of the Ministry for Grand Bahama,
the seat of power for the government on this island.
Grand Bahama is also of significant political interest
and importance to the PLP as this island could easily hold the balance of
political power in any competitive general election. We saw evidence of this in
2007. It is therefore incumbent upon us to always remain organized, focused and
The message of the PLP in these critical times is no
increase in taxes on the backs of Bahamians and the Christie government will
use prudent economic stewardship to navigate The Bahamas through these perilous
economic waters and challenging times.
We have a strong and resolute leader at the head of the
ship of state in the name of the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie. He led us through
similar circumstances from 2002 to 2007 and he is poised to do it again. We
must throw our full support behind our government and confident carry the
message of the PLP. The latest unemployment figures revealed that almost 2,000
jobs were added to the economy during the first six months of our
administration. The country has clearly turned the corner and there is no
The Grand Bahama Council is now in need of the strong
and focused leadership that Dr. Darville brought to the chairmanship of this
Council before his ascension to higher office. My choice for interim chairman
of the Grand Bahama Council of the Progressive Liberal Party is Albert Gray, a
tried, tested and accomplished leader in his own right.
I also take this opportunity to thank the Hon. Dr.
Michael Darville for his tireless service leadership as chair of the Grand
Bahama Council. He has taken on increased responsibilities as the Minister for
Grand Bahama where I am sure he will do well in leading the government’s
efforts in facilitating the resurgence of Grand Bahama.
I beg your indulgence as I take a few minutes to explain
to you why Grand Bahama and The Bahamas will emerge un the leadership of the
The economy was good in 2007 when FNM came to office.
Government revenue had increased by 57% in five years to record levels;
stopover arrivals and tourism expenditure were at record levels; 22,000 jobs
were added to the economy and there was record Foreign Direct Investment.
The incoming Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham confirmed that
the Bahamian economy was strong when the FNM took office
on May 2nd.
He admitted that the PLP government did some things right and that Prime
Minister Perry Christie assembled a team of smart individuals. As a matter of
fact, in their first budget (for the 2007/2008 fiscal year), the FNM government
forecasted a budgetary surplus of $25 million. This was before they “hit the
first lick” so this projected surplus was the result of the good and prudent
fiscal stewardship of the first Christie administration.
We all know how that chapter in Bahamian politics ended.
Everything Ingraham and the FNM touched turned to powder. His government spent
some $300 million on Tourism but stopover visitors to our shores plunged to a
26 year low while stopover arrivals and expenditure grew in competing
jurisdictions such as Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Cuba.
The FNM government collected in the neighbourhood of
$500 million, but through mismanagement continued to heap unbearable tax
burdens on the backs of working Bahamian families. I will break it down for you
because this remains a little known fact to this day:
We left almost $130 million in the bank account of BTC in
May of 2007; the FNM took $120 million of that in dividends.
They turned around and sold 51% of BTC for a reported fire
sale price of just $210 million.
They collected $40 million in stamp tax from the sale of
BORCO to Keystone Partners.
They collected nearly $100 million in stamp duties from
the sale of South Riding Point Holding Limited and the equity position the
Chinese government took in the Baha Mar project inclusive of hundreds of acres
of crown land.
Notwithstanding this financial windfall Mr. Ingraham
still insisted on raising an additional $100 million through tax increases – a
policy decision that helped to cripple the Bahamian economy and kept us in a
protracted recession. There is no absolutely no question that the policies of
the FNM government made the recession worse and contributed significantly to
the current economic malaise on Grand Bahama.
It is your responsibility to ensure that Abaco Dragon
remains in his cave, never to rear his ugly head of hatred, divisiveness,
incompetence and victimization ever again in this Bahamaland. Like Dr. Minnis
said, “THE INGRAHAM ERA IS OVER.” We do not agree on much, but I certainly
agree with him on that point.
I am happy to report however that in the era post ABACO
DRAGON, in our sights are a silver lining and a bright light at the end of this
long, dark, painful and difficult tunnel. Many of you are aware that the Prime
Minister announced in the House on Monday that an agreement had been reached
between Hutchison Port Holdings Limited and the Sunwing Travel Group of Canada
to renovate and reopen the Reef Village. This much anticipated reopening of
this this five star resort will create 1,000 well-paying jobs in addition to
hundreds more during the construction phase. I credit the tax incentives offered
by the government as laid out in our Charter for Governance as playing a
crucial role in bringing this deal to fruition.
The announcement in October of last year was heralded as
“one of the most important and encouraging announcements made over the last
decade relating to Grand Bahama’s vital tourism industry,” by Prime Minister Christie.<
The announcement is in keeping with his Government’s
Charter for Governance, in which it pledged to give the highest priority to
addressing the ailing economy of Grand Bahama, particularly the vital tourism
industry that has been in a serious state of decline for several years, the
Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister went on to say that “this state of
affairs (in Grand Bahama) resulted in the closure of large and small hotels,
failed resort projects, massive losses to hotel owners, losses of hundreds of
jobs and much lower Government revenues, with a multiplier effect on businesses
and households throughout Grand Bahama.”
The Government also promised in its Charter of
Governance to appoint a Minister dedicated to Grand Bahama, a Minister of
Tourism from Grand Bahama, and two Senators to ensure its plans were realized.
So said, so done.
I have every reason to be confident about the future of
Grand Bahama and you should to. I ask for your patience and to work with the
government to bring about the economic turnaround Grand Bahama so desperately
needs. I also hasten to point out that the government is not the sole reservoir
of knowledge, information and solutions to the problems of this country. I urge
you to offer your suggestions, ideas and opinions – become full partners and
participants in the governance of this country and the deepening of our
I also came to Grand Bahama to personally ask you to support
my choice for interim Chair of the Grand Bahama Council. Albert Gray is no
stranger to PLP politics, Grand Bahama politics and the business of Grand
Bahama. He has been a faithful and loyal soldier and a leader in the business
community here in Freeport having served in the capacity of senior management
in the Grand Bahama Port Authority group of companies.
As a politician, he was the PLP candidate in multiple elections and recently served as Campaign Coordinator in the 2012
general elections. His leadership, organizational skills and political acumen
led the PLP to victory in three of the five seats in Grand Bahama. He is an
accomplished leader, he is my choice for interim chair and I am confident that
Albert will direct our efforts of activism and community outreach here in Grand
So without further delay, please put your hands together
and give a rousing PLP welcome the newest chairman of the Grand Bahama Council
of the Progressive Liberal Party, Mr. Albert Gray.