Budget Debate Contribution by Minister of National Security Marvin Dames
Jun 11, 2021 - 9:37:00 AM
BIS Photo/Ulric Woodside
The Hon. Marvin H. Dames, M.P.
The Minister of National Security
2021-2022 National Budget Debate Contribution
The House of Assembly
Wednesday, 9th June, 2021
I deem it an absolute privilege to confidently rise in this Honourable House as I make my contribution to the 2021/2022 Budget Debate.
A strong family structure is very important, if not, the most important factor in the life of a successful politician. Having somewhere to go and call home is essential. Having someone to love as a family is priceless. And having both is a blessing. Mr. Speaker, I am blessed and grateful for a home and, most importantly, my family.
Truer words were never spoken when it was said that a man is usually a reflection of his wife and family. Stacey, my wife, is the glue that keeps us all time on task and my biggest supporter. My children, Joshua and Kai, remind me that the work I do is for their future and, by extension, the future of all Bahamian children. To my wife and children, I say thank you for being my greatest inspiration.
An unknown author once stated, “no one is irreplaceable, but some folks you never want to have to replace”. The people of the Mt. Moriah Constituency are amongst those folks that I would never want to replace. Specifically, I am grateful for the FNM Council of the Mount Moriah Constituency, the Consultative Committee and the Associations of the Yellow Elder, Millennium and Stapledon Gardens communities.
To my constituents in Mt. Moriah, as your representative, I know how difficult the last 15 months have been. There was great uncertainty and an immeasurable amount of turmoil in your lives - the loss of jobs; the inability to meet financial obligations such as mortgage, rent, and utility bills; and perhaps the thought of not knowing where the next meal was coming from. As your Member of Parliament, I have sat and listened to your stories and rendered assistance where I could have because we are all in this fight together.
In fact, the entire world has been tossed into this global experience that has brought immense pain and despair. But, I am here to tell you today, that while we are not perfect, you can take comfort in the fact that you have the right leader and a competent Government in place to get you through this most difficult challenge in our lifetime. While there remains much work to be done, over the last four (4) years we have been able to accomplish a great deal of work to improve the constituency one household at a time. All of the individual time, talents and treasures were all important and have provided a better quality of life and economic development opportunities for you, the Mt. Moriah constituents.
I wish to extend a belated Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers in Mt. Moriah. Despite not having our annual celebration, we did recognize our mothers and had fun doing so at our Virtual Mother’s Day Giveaway – Mt. Moriah style. To the fathers in our constituency, no worries because our Virtual Father’s Day Giveaway is scheduled for Saturday, 19th June, 2021. I encourage all fathers in the constituency to register online via the Mt. Moriah’s Facebook page.
Day after day we see and hear countless stories of first-world countries such as the United States, France and Canada all fighting a common enemy. The World Health Organization (7th June, 2021) has confirmed one hundred and seventy-three million, five thousand, five hundred and fifty-three (173,005,553) positive cases of COVID-19. Meanwhile, The Bahamas has recorded twelve thousand and twenty-four (12,024) positive cases (Ministry of Health, 6th June, 2021). Further, for The Bahamas, this pandemic was preceded by Hurricane Dorian which devastated our northern islands in September, 2019. This is by far the worst global crisis in over a 100 years.
I want to impress upon Bahamians that increased healthcare demands and socio-economic challenges associated with COVID-19 are a global problem and not exclusive to The Bahamas. It is one in which no Government in the world was immune from. This Minnis Administration is doing its best given the circumstances. The decisions made by our Government prior to Dorian and during COVID allows us to maintain our economic stability and ensures that all Bahamians will persevere and exit this pandemic more resilient than before.
This is not a make believe or hocus pocus Government as we were accustomed to under the previous Administration. Pure and simple, this is accountable and transparent governance by this Minnis led Administration. In retrospect, if you believe the side opposite when they give the impression that if they had been in Government this would have been a non-issue, or I suppose they would have found a cure and created their own vaccine, distributed it and made it magically disappear – this is totally absurd! All of a sudden they have become expert scientists, economists and strategists of all kinds. In actuality, all they would have done is borrow us into oblivion, hire consultants in the form of friends, family and lovers with no accountability whatsoever. That is what they do best!
The Bahamas is a small-nation state that is heavily reliant on tourism. Statistics indicate that 70 percent of our workforce is directly and indirectly connected to the tourism industry (Tourism Today, n.d.). The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO, 2021) predicts that the COVID-19 pandemic is anticipated to result in a possible 20 - 30 percent contraction in the tourism sector in 2020. Consequently, even after travel restrictions are lifted, the COVID-19 pandemic is still expected to have long-lasting effects on the tourism industry.
In light of the above, the socio-economic impact could have had devastating consequences if our Administration didn’t consider the human implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Government did not simply provide lip-service and empty promises to the thousands of Bahamians affected by these crises. We trusted and relied on our professionals, primarily in the public sector, to chart the way for a safer passage through both of these unprecedented occurrences.
This Minnis led Administration introduced ‘The Resilient Bahamas Plan’ which was anchored in engendering well-being in confidence, maintaining economic stability and planting seeds for accelerated recovery. Specifically, the plan focused on:
A twenty-five point nine million dollars ($25.9) investment in public health and safety measures;
A one hundred and eighteen million dollars ($118) investment in Government-funded unemployment assistance for unemployed and self-employed Bahamians;
A thirty-two point eight million dollars ($32.8) investment in social assistance to support the food assistance programme;
A forty-four point four million dollars ($44.4) investment in the Government’s payroll support programmes; and
A fifty-three point three million dollars ($53.3) investment in the domestic economy for business continuity to support Bahamian entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Purposeful debates are healthy to any democratic system of Government. However, when misleading statements are made by those who are seeking to lead our nation, they only serve to undermine investors’ confidence and further add to the pain and misery already being felt by Bahamians as a result of this pandemic.
Members on the side opposite continue to engage in partisan politics which they have become so famous for. They purposely and knowingly fail to acknowledge good governance principles and best practices. But, what do you expect from a group who prior to us coming into Office made history by spare-heading, arguably, the worst Government in our nation’s history.
This Hubert Minnis led Government is no hocus, pocus – out of focus Government. The member for Killarney deserves credit for the manner in which he has been able to maintain course despite the many storms he has had to endure during his short time in Office. As he is no stranger to saving lives - rest assured my fellow Bahamians, he will safely guide us through these challenging times. Under his leadership, we will persevere. Better him than the crew who got shipwrecked in 2017 in calm seas and still can't find their way home.
I would like to remind Bahamians that prior to 2017, under the last Administration, The Bahamas received three (3) credit downgrades by Standard and Poor’s (S&P) and three (3) credit downgrades by Moody’s during the 2012/2013 to 2016/2017 fiscal years. Before the dual crises, the country’s deficit prior to the FNM being elected, was calculated at $660 million dollars or 5.4 percent of our GDP.
Upon coming to Office, we sought to reduce the nation’s national debt and we did exactly that. In the fiscal year, 2017/2018 we reduced the national debt to four hundred and fifteen million dollars or 3.3 percent of the GDP. This reflected an approximate two hundred and forty-five million dollars ($245) difference just after one term. The following year (FY2018/19), it was further reduced to two hundred and fifteen million dollars ($215) or 1.7 percent of our GDP. This reflected a two hundred million dollars ($200,000,000) difference. Just imagine if there were no Dorian and COVID-19 during our term in office.
Despite all that we have endured beginning in 2019, we were still able to rescue our economy from the brink of disaster. At the end of May, 2017 our foreign reserves stood at nine hundred and fifty-four point three million dollars ($954.3), according to the Central Bank Quarterly Statistical Digest for the period ending June, 2017. At the end of March, 2021 foreign reserves stood at two billion, two hundred and fifty point seven million dollars ($2,250.7), according to the Central Bank Quarterly Statistical Digest for the period ending March, 2021. This represents an increase of one million, two hundred and ninety-six point four million dollars ($1,296.4) over the period. Please note that much of the increase in foreign currency reserves is attributed to:
This FNM Government putting Bahamians first and making a conscious decision to adjust the composition of its borrowing to favour more foreign currency borrowings due to the COVID-19 pandemic to sure up reserves; and
The Central Bank of The Bahamas limiting repatriation of funds since the onset of the pandemic locally to also protect The Bahamas’ foreign reserve position amidst the global pandemic and reduced foreign currency earnings, traditionally associated with tourism revenue.
While some may not agree with everything we would have done during this crisis, I accept that. However, the fact remains that we were never here before and these are unprecedented times. The situation warranted decisive leadership and responsible decision-making. This Minnis-led Administration is all about making decisions not in the best interest of a select few, but in the interest of the Bahamian people and the future of our nation.
According to the World Bank (2021), while families across the globe are still experiencing devastating ramifications from COVID-19, Governmental assistance continues to provide a critical lifeline for the most vulnerable in society. Our Administration continues to do just that. Our comprehensive response provides supportive policies coupled with various social protection programmes for all communities throughout The Bahamas.
Our Government’s efforts to get its population vaccinated should be commended as there is no doubt that it is tied to the successful recovery of our economy. Your children’s future and that of our nation are tied to us controlling this virus. It is a known fact that those countries who are leading the world in vaccinations are witnessing tremendous declines in their positivity rate and are gradually returning to normalcy. I would like to encourage everyone within the sound of my voice to get vaccinated and disregard the misleading comments and conspiracy theories.
The IMF (2021) stated that vaccination will be a driving force in economic recovery. The more people that are vaccinated the better the economic outlook for nations across the globe. There has been a global response by world Governments to render vaccines to their citizens. To date, 1.78 billion doses of vaccine have been administered globally, while 62,183 doses have been administered in The Bahamas. The IMF Report further indicated a projected stronger recovery for global economies compared to the January forecast. In the latter part of the year, world economies are expected to grow 6 percent in 2021 and 4.4 percent in 2022.
..TO CONTINUE SEE ATTACHED
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