By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts yesterday stressed that the Bahamas has come a long way during the past three years under the leadership of the Progressive Liberal Party.
He added that the country’s “key performance indicators are much better than May 2012, therefore, the government has good reasons for its expressed informed optimism.”
In a statement released yesterday, Mr Roberts said with the opening of Baha Mar expected in 2016 “the challenges of unemployment will greatly diminish.”
His comments came on the heels of the Department of Statistics’ grim unemployment figures that were released last week. Those figures showed the national unemployment rate rose to 2.8 per cent, from 12 per cent in May to 14.8 per cent in November.
Mr Roberts, in a press statement, was responding to recent comments by Free National Movement Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest, published in a local daily, who urged Bahamians to take “with a grain of salt” the government’s response to the new unemployment statistics.
Mr Turnquest was referring to Labour Minister Shane Gibson’s assertion that despite the latest Labour Force Survey results, “The Bahamas has made tremendous strides since the global recession and more Bahamians are in fact working.”
Mr Roberts said: “It is a fact that the government has engaged in much heavy lifting over the past three years to put the country’s fiscal house in order and to turn around the country’s number one industry. Additionally, Mr Turnquest has failed to refute any claim made by the government in its response to the preliminary results of the November Labour Survey.
“If Turnquest wants to talk about ‘cold hard facts’, he must account for the cold hard fact that unemployment doubled from 7.6 per cent to 14.8 per cent in just five years under the watch of the FNM government - that amounts to 15,000 additional Bahamians being put out of work under the watch of the FNM.
“Also, he must explain how and why the economy contracted during that period of time; how the national debt expanded by 40 per cent; the fact that the government’s bank overdraft stood at several hundred million dollars; why the budget deficit stood at $670 million and why tourism performance stood at a twenty-five year low.
“To add insult to injury, there was no investment project of significance in the pipeline to stimulate the economy so having left a budgetary surplus, near full employment and billions of dollars of projects in the pipeline in 2007, the incoming PLP government found itself back at ground zero with virtually no fiscal headroom and nothing to work with. “
He added: “With such a terrible record of governance, Turnquest has the temerity to shamelessly tell Bahamians not to trust the PLP government.
This was the fiscal mess the PLP government inherited in May 2012. This is a matter of public record and Bahamians must not forget that.”
Mr Roberts said tourism has clearly rebounded in a big way, with increased airlifts in a number of family islands due to an aggressive and successful tourism marketing and co-branding campaign.
“The Bahamas government has executed at least 22 heads of agreement for tourism related projects to further strengthen the tourism project and brand, stimulate the economy and create jobs. The 30 per cent decline in the number of discouraged workers is proof positive of the confidence and optimism that unemployed Bahamians continue to express in the economy.
“In its latest assessment of the local economy, the Central Bank expressed optimism, projecting that the economy will ‘continue to grow at a very mild pace in 2016.’ This is positive news compared to the terrible news of economic contraction just a few years ago under the watch of the FNM. Additionally, the Central Bank’s projections corroborate the earlier statement by the government that we continue to operate in a global economic environment marked by a ‘subdued and protracted’ economic recovery. The government recognises this and candidly admits to this reality,” Mr Roberts said.