By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
LONG Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner yesterday reignited accusations that the government’s Stronger Bahamas programme is nothing more than a “partisan propaganda and political tool” being used as a part of the PLP’s re-election bid.
According to the former Free National Movement (FNM) deputy leader, instead of building a stronger Bahamas in which good governance is paramount, the Christie administration is engaged in a “massive public relations exercise to cover-up its gross mismanagement of the country’s affairs.”
In a statement released yesterday, Mrs Butler-Turner insisted that despite its claims that the programme is an independent and nonpartisan initiative, it operates without any advice from opposition members.
“The programme’s website is filled with partisan news touting the supposed success of various PLP initiatives. Various PLP Cabinet ministers are routinely featured on the site,” she said.
“The programme is now set to launch a series of discussion groups throughout the country beginning in Long Island on August 31. In yet another example of the partisan nature of the programme, I was not informed of the discussion groups in Long Island in my capacity as MP for the constituency.
“The discussion groups appear to be a part of the PLP’s campaign to collect information and ideas to be used for partisan purposes and to help the party win re-election.
“The discussion groups are a part of the broader Stronger Bahamas propaganda programme by the PLP which includes broadcast and print ads as well as an expensive website.”
Mrs Butler-Turner added that the most “disturbing” element of the campaign, which was launched May, is the pre-existing relationship between the Progressive Liberal Party and the Fleishman-Hillard Public Relations firm.
She said that firm recently acquired the group Allyn & Company.
According to a PR Newswire report, Allyn & Company has handled some 200 campaigns for US senators, governors, members of Congress, several Mexican governors, the US Republican party, Mexico’s Partido Accion Nacional (PAN), and the Progressive Liberal Party of the Bahamas.
“Allyn & Company, Inc, which was acquired by Fleishman-Hillard, worked with the PLP previously and is now being paid at taxpayer’s expense to help the party now that it is in office,” Mrs Butler-Turner said.
“The PLP’s has hired (Fleishman-Hillard) to design and run the Stronger Bahamas propaganda programme, a group that helped it at the last election.
“The PLP has not even sought to demonstrate the appearance of fairness. This is yet another example of the PLP’s abuse of power and misuse of public funds for partisan purposes.”
In May, as he announced the launch of the initiative, Prime Minister Perry Christie said the government has “consolidated the roughly $4m per year that we already spend on public engagement, research and communication to facilitate an ongoing national conversation about our country’s future.”
In the 2015/2016 budget, nearly $4m is allocated to the Office of the Prime Minister for “advertisements and media supplements.”
The PLP has maintained the programme’s bipartisanship.
According to a statement released by the government last week, all feedback gained through Stronger Bahamas initiatives will be used to help draft the country’s National Development Plan. Feedback also will be used within the public service to guide policy-making, the statement said.
“We want to ensure that Bahamians feel positive and hopeful about our future as a country,” Prime Minister Perry Christie recently said.
“This can only happen if our citizens feel engaged in our plan for the future. We want all Bahamians, no matter who you are, where you live, or who you vote for, to be part of the plan so that we have a clear road map to a Stronger Bahamas that reflects the realities of our people.
“The National Development Plan will contain concrete and measurable actions aimed at building a safer, more prosperous and more modern Bahamas for future generations, which is something all Bahamians can support. It is also a plan that will guide government decision-making and policy development until 2025, no matter which political party is in power.”