By ADRIAN GIBSON
I know that the New Year has already passed and that I’m late in bringing my remarks to you but, that’s nothing new.
As we begin the New Year, we pause to give thanks to Almighty God for all his many blessings during the year that has just ended.
My fellow Bahamians, as we continue to face great challenges in our country – led by my very remarkable, bodacious, fantabulous, dazzling and, yes, A-OK administration – we have had commendable success in tackling many of the pressing issues we face. Now, I won’t tell you who has been commending us, but do know that it has been super-duper, praiseworthy, meritorious, thankworthy and copacetic stuff!
When we were first elected, we promised that we would deliver certain pledges set out in our most esteemed, mostly fulfilled 95-page Charter for Governance and so, we hit the ground running. Some of our main promises were to prioritise a doubling of the nation’s investment in education and training; to launch key elements of Project Safe Bahamas and Operation Cease Fire, including the reintroduction of Urban Renewal; to create a ministry for Grand Bahama; to re-establish the Ministry of Financial Services and Investments; to introduce an Employees Pension Protection Act; to institute a mortgage relief plan, among many other pledges. Yes, I know we haven’t delivered on many of these 100-day promises but at least I delivered a Ministry of Grand Bahama.
In my next 100 days, we will wipe tears from every eye and have every Bahamian – who wants a job – employed. And, what’s more, if BTC is able to connect enough phone calls in a day, we’ll be able to fly a space ship, loaded with paw-paw and bananas from Andros, throughout the Bahamas in the blink of an eye. That’s BAMSI for ya!
I’m going to borrow the words of my good friend President Barack Obama and say to you that I believe that my next 100 days will be so successful, I will be able to complete them in 50 days and on the 51st day I shall rest.
Well, everybody knows that just like I’m a fan of family, friends and supporters, I am a huge fan of dictionaries and reference books, but I’m going to try to keep this speech to seven minutes. Well, maybe ten.
During my time in Opposition, on the campaign trail in 2012 and in our glorious and ground-breaking manifesto – I mean charter – we called the FNM the “spend more and tax more” crew. We said in our charter that the course of the country must change and so we changed it by introducing the most fundamental, well-organised adjustment to our public revenue system. We made history and introduced a Very Awesome Tax (VAT). It may be painful for you but, hey, somebody has to take on the stress.
The only certainties in life are death and taxes. God gave the first and we will all feel the sting of that. I gave you the second one and you will feel the sting of that!
In 2012, we promised that we would slow down the increase in the national debt and so we gave you VAT and higher customs duties. We promised a review and we delivered. It’s a matter of trust baby!
VAT is an issue that crosses party lines and has tainted our politics going into 2017, but we’re counting on you Baha Mar!
Whilst I do not regret putting up big blue and yellow billboards throughout our archipelagic chain, I really, really, really thought that the brothers were going to stop killing each other.
Fellow Bahamians, I’m going to yet again take out my crayons and I, along with my crime commission, will go back to the drawing board and draw some more. And, I will let you know in due course what we drew.
Ladies and gentlemen, I bet you – and you can now box that – that unlike the referendum on Gaming, I will listen to you on future occasions. Or at another time. Or if faith permits. Or, if the spirit so moves me.
Within my government, we feel that absolute secrecy is necessary in the interests of national security and so therefore you won’t find us answering any questions on Renew Bahamas; on the Renward Wells/letter of intent fiasco; on those four bodies found at Anguilla Cay and the true statistic reflection of the murder count for 2014; on the new BTC deal where we really, really did take back two per cent; on Resolve Bahamas and the Bank of the Bahamas; on the purportedly missing funds and allegations of malfeasance at the Public Hospitals Authority; on why we haven’t put any legal framework in place for the National Intelligence Agency; on the proposed BEC sale; and on so many other issues. It’s a secret in your own best interest ... that is why there’s no Freedom of Information Act.
You would have to have a seat around the table to truly understand but ... I’m the Prime Minister, you can take my word for it. Who would’ve known that a boy from Centreville, who got kicked out of school, would one day become Prime Minister? You know, I have a very exciting and interesting life because on any given day, when I wake up, I can be one of three things: Leader of the PLP, Prime Minister or Minister of Finance ... and sometimes, they don’t always agree with each other. I enjoy all of these roles but the one I enjoy most – and I have to keep reminding myself of this – is that I am the Prime Minister and so I say it at least once per day and I think I need to repeat it to myself at least twice right here.
I’m the Prime Minister.
I’m the Prime Minister.
My fellow Bahamians, we devised a mortgage relief plan and we were prepared to spend as much as $10m to eliminate all the mortgage debt in the Bahamas. Of course, you should not mind the fact that mortgage debt is more than a billion: after all, that isn’t important because, as you would recall, in Biblical times 5,000 people were fed with five loaves and two fishes.
We also promised to introduce the Office of Ombudsman to these fair shores. That’s still on the drawing board but, in the meantime, I’m the Prime Minister and I will solve the issues. Besides, we’ve got pastors for that!
Ladies and gentlemen, though the price of oil is more than half ($47) of what it has been in recent years, we promised to reduce the price of electricity but you might argue that prices are going up. I know we said that we’ll decrease the price of energy so when we kept the fuel surcharge and threw 7.5 per cent VAT on that, most of you will get cut off anyway and that will result in a reduced consumption of energy. As it stands, this is our energy conservation strategy for the Bahamas. Believe it or not, it’s also renewable because every time your current is turned back on, it’s only a month before it’ll be turned off again!
We also promised to build a state-of-the-art hospital in Grand Bahama, to upgrade and expand the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre, to foster medical tourism and to institute the office of health ombudsman. We promised to deliver a National Health Insurance plan and, though we have not been able to finish and furnish one building (Critical Care Block) or any of the mini-hospitals (Abaco, Exuma) started prior to the last general election, we still believe in you. I know we haven’t done these things yet but, well, we’ll see how things go.
As I told you before, my government panders and caters to family, friends, lovers and diehard supporters. In that vein, my government has an unequivocal, an unambiguous and undisputable belief in cronyism, not competition. I’m sorry, that was a Freudian slip on my part. What I meant is that I believe in competition, not cronyism. We believe in market economics, not crony capitalism just like we believe in Bahamians first and not Chinese – unless, of course, we receive an extraordinarily mind-blowing offer.
Ladies and gentlemen, my personal advisers have advised me that those in charge of the Bank of the Bahamas are not the ones responsible for its demise, they are not the ones responsible for the bad loans engulfing the institution. And so, those of us who sit around that glorious table have decided to re-appoint them and/or leave them in place at least for a little while longer!
I profoundly, deeply, frankly and fundamentally believe it’s time we shone the light on political campaigning in our country and I’m going to move to ensure that campaign finance reform legislation is brought into force ... but not ’til after the next general election.
My fellow Bahamians, yes, the economy of the Bahamas is now on its last leg; yes, crime has spiralled out of control; yes, joblessness is at an all-time high ... but, I told you I done see. I know I done see!
Having said the aforesaid, I just want you to know that while I have no solutions to these problems and no policy to improve the standing of our country’s economy, I do have some scripture that I often quote at funerals and on many occasions, even in reference to my own political career:
“As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.” Amen.
Yes, the FNM may claim that we sold dreams and promises, and we all know what a promise is ... but they’re merely making political mischief.
My fellow Bahamians, as I draw my address to a close, I am thinking about 2017 and it comes down to one thing: To run or not to run ... for that is the question?
I’ve got a legacy to protect here and I cannot allow a stain of mud to touch the robe of my legacy. I’m trying to make it to the finish line spotless and so the best way to deal with controversial issues is to avoid them. If you ignore something long enough, it will most likely just go away.
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