Minister Dorsett on the Mid Year Budget Debate 2016
Mar 18, 2016 - 1:58:38 PM
Hon. Kenred Dorsett M.P. Minister Of The Environment and Housing Mid Year Budget Review March 2016:
Thank you Mr. Speaker
I rise to make my contribution to the ongoing debate of the Mid Year Budget Review. I do so on behalf of the wonderful people of the Southern Shores constituency. They are the people who gave me the opportunity to serve this country in this place and continue to support me as I do so to the best of my ability. As always I thank them for the privilege to be here and for their continued support. I am their voice in this place and I am humbled and honoured to represent them.
I am a proud member of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), that is the Party I believe in and that is the Party which I also represent. It is my Party. This PLP administration led by the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie, the member for Centreville has done much in the short time since we have been in office. Being ever mindful of the state in which we met the affairs of this nation no one on this side or the other side can refute the fact that this administration has made great strides. Although the side opposite tries to paint a picture of doom and gloom even they cannot do so with straight faces because they know that although this government is not perfect and has no magic wand to wave to do everything in one day, we have made tremendous progress in many regards. Mr. Speaker, while the side opposite would like for the Bahamian people to believe that this PLP administration has done nothing at all for this country. They know full well that it is pure rhetoric meant to aid them in gaining political mileage. As a matter of fact, I ask the public to review the voting record of the side opposite on matters brought to this place. I am certain you will find that the opposition has supported most of the bills and resolutions we have advanced in this place.
The Bahamian people must not be fooled by those who would have them believe that nothing is happening and that we are all crooks and robbers on this side. The Bahamian people must understand that this Government is on the job on their behalf every day, in some instances, all day. Those on the side opposite will say whatever they think will get them from that side to this side. That is all that they have done in the past four years, TALK and sadly, their TALK has now descended to new lows, where character assassinations, rumour, innuendo and baseless rhetoric has substituted constructive criticism, debate and presentations of alternate policies . While they would like the Bahamian people to believe the this government is no good, I put it to the the people through you Mr. Speaker that they (the FNM) are the ones that are inadequate. They have brought next to nothing to the table as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. The member for Marco City has done more to advance alternatives and policy suggestions in his short time on the side opposite, than the collective efforts of the entire opposition over the past four years. They are inadequate and day-by-day they show the Bahamian people that they can’t even be an effective opposition. So you really think the Bahamian people are prepared to have them lead! I don't think so, Mr. Speaker.
For the past four years they have pointed fingers at the Government with nothing but hearsay as proof, they have voted against the national budget for reasons that still baffle many to this day, they have grandstanded or attempted to grandstand and have rejected ideas, initiatives and programmes advanced by this Government without offering any alternative plans. Even when they reject the ideas in their presentations, they still vote to support the bills. So don't mind what they say, mind how they vote. In my view, this PLP Government is a better Government than the FNM ever was and was a better opposition than this FNM is now. This is evident by the irresponsible behaviour displayed by the Leader of the Opposition himself who led protesters over the Sir Sydney Poitier Bridge to Paradise Island and then stood by while private property was destroyed. This after the Prime Minister himself released a statement informing that beach access had been agreed and extended with Access Industries, the owners of the property. The inadequacy of the FNM and their leader is further evident in the speech given in this place by the Member for Killarney on Monday, only to have the proverbial egg on his face the very next day. The Bahamian people should know by now that the FNM is no viable alternative to this Progressive Liberal Party Government which has brought this nation back from the brink of disaster and is steadily advancing it in the right direction.
This Christie led administration has been able in the last three plus years to reduce the deficit from over half a billion dollars to a projected $141 million dollars. I want to repeat that. This PLP government, who they claim has done nothing for this country or its people has been able to reduce the deficit from over half a billion dollars to a projected $141 million dollars. Mr. Speaker - This is a great accomplishment. What it means is that the government has a far less budget shortfall now than it did under the FNM administration. This is progress. This is progress from a progressive government. This Christie led administration established the National Training Agency, a project stopped by the former administration. Since this institution opened its doors, thousands of young Bahamians have become certified in various vocations FREE OF CHARGE. This institution is not just operational in New Providence but Family Island residents also have access to this resource. This is progress. Progress of a progressive government empowering its citizens through training. Uplifting its people and enabling young people to make a positive and constructive contribution to the Bahamian workforce.
For decades many experts Bahamian and foreign have advised that the custom duty regime alone would not sustain The Bahamas economy forever. They advised that we look into other forms of taxation. After many years of discussion, after many months of consultation, after weighing the pros and cons of different regimes, this PLP administration introduced Value Added Tax at a rate of 7.5% which was launched successfully. The Bahamian people should take note that while the opposition inside and outside of this place has said that they would remove VAT from certain items, NONE on that side have said that they will REPEAL Value Added Tax. As a matter of fact, they wanted to implement it before 2012. Committed to implement if they became the Government in 2012 and therefore, there should be no argument between opposition and government on this matter. Mr. Speaker -This is progress and while no government wants to create or impose additional taxes on its people, we have to acknowledge and agree that tax reform was necessary.
Mr. Speaker, for over 30 years, there was a derelict vehicle site in my constituency, it was unhealthy and unsightly and I made a commitment to my people to have it removed. If you were to pass that site today you would see that it is clean as a whistle. This is progress and in the upcoming budget we hope to be in a position to speak to the allocation of funds to transform that tract into a green space and recreational facility for the people of Southern Shores and the neighboring committee of South Beach.
Mr. Speaker, we have invested $200 million to ensure that the Royal Bahamas Defence Force has the vessels needed to patrol the waters of The Bahamas, to ward off poachers, deal with illegal immigrants and protect this nations borders. This is progress. Progress from a progressive government who believes in securing our borders and keeping our nation safe.
Mr. Speaker,we are in the process of the introduction of National Health Insurance, a programme that has been gravely needed in this country for decades. Mr. Speaker, access to universal health care must become a reality for our people. We all know of someone who has been in a position where they needed medical care but could not afford it. We all know that people have died because they could not afford medical intervention. National Health Insurance will save lives. This is definitely progress. Progress from a progressive and focused government.
While this Government has made progress in many areas. We remain focused and concerned about the scourge of crime especially here in the capitol. We understand and acknowledge that there is much work left to do in relation to crime, education, the environment and other issues but we have made PROGRESS and this process of progress is a journey and not a single act. All of this nation’s problems will not be solved overnight or even in this first term. However, Ministry by Ministry, issue by issue, one would be able to examine the work of this government at the end of this term and see that significant progress has been made in delivering on the commitments in our Charter for Governance.
In my view, we have been good stewards on behalf of the Bahamian people, considering the challenges we faced. Particularly the financial challenges. The progress we have made should not be ignored, indeed it should be touted and it must be made known. Once it is made known it must be repeated. Time and time again! The Bahamian people should be admonished not to trade in a well oiled working machine for the proverbial “lemon”, which will looks flashy, but will sputter and die after you drive it off the car lot.
I now turn to the Ministry of the Environment and Housing. The 2015/16 fiscal period was a time of prudence in spending for all departments and units in the Ministry of the Environment & Housing, as we did our part in contributing to what the Rt. Hon. Member for Centreville termed, “an overarching strategy and action plan to bring better economic and social outcomes for all Bahamians.” Under Head 72 (which includes the Department of Forestry, the Botanical Gardens, the BEST Commission and BNGIS), the Ministry was allocated $ 3,075,378 for recurrent expenditure, and as of 31 December 2015 had not spent half of that sum, and the Department of Housing which was allocated $ 1,531,589.00 for recurrent and capital expenditure, had spent $ 1,291,506.00 up to 31 December 2015. The Department of Environmental Health Services, Head 65, was allocated$ 28,641,339.00 for recurrent spending and up to 31 December 2015 had spent
While fiscal discipline and restraint are critical values, we must still continue to act in a manner that will better the lives of all Bahamians; and we must continue, in this Ministry to manage and protect the environment while permitting economic development in order realize the government’s revenue earning potential and fulfilling the aspirations of our people...
Full Mid Year Budget attached below
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