By MORGAN ADDERLEY
THE Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Interim Leader Chris Mortimer lambasted the government for both the layoffs of more than100 Bahamians at Resorts World Bimini last week and the decision to raise salaries of Members of Parliament in the next fiscal year.
These issues led Mr Mortimer to call the Minnis administration “aimless, visionless, and ill-prepared to govern.”
In one of two separate statements, Mr Mortimer said: “In a week marred by unprecedented reports of layoffs across both the public and private sector, during the worst economic crisis our country has ever seen and at a time when Bahamians are experiencing suffering at an exponential level, PM Dr Hubert Minnis has put the country on [notice] that members of his government will receive pay increases during the next budget.
“Not only were the PM’s comments, sickening and tone deaf, but they reek of hypocrisy and prove once and for all that Dr Minnis is a far cry from the transformative leader he wishes us to think he is.
“Bahamians might recall that while in opposition in 2014, the Killarney MP told the media that if voted into office, he would not support any pay increase in light of the pain and suffering experienced by Bahamians.
“Now, just six months into his term in office, he is singing a different tune? Clearly when the PM said it was ‘the people’s time’ he was referring to members of his government and not the wider voting public.”
Regarding the layoffs at RWB and reports that some 18 people were recently let go from the Gaming Board, Mr Mortimer said: “Having rode into office on a myriad of promises, including plans to fix the economy and address crippling unemployment, the reports of these terminations are indeed a difficult pill for Bahamians — many of whom voted for this administration — to swallow.
“It is most distressing that these layoffs come as we prepare to enter the busy holiday season, a time dedicated to spending time with loved ones, and a time typically associated with gift giving.
“Sadly, since taking office the FNM seemingly embraced the need to make difficult decisions, but has ignored its responsibly to ensure that impacted Bahamians are not also stripped of their humanity.”
Mr Mortimer also offered suggestions for the Minnis administration.
“The news of these layoffs should by now be accompanied by a concrete plan of action detailing economic goals, initiatives to encourage entrepreneurship - particularly among young Bahamians - improve the ease of doing business and work to modernise the processes by which business is done and money is made within our borders.”
Since the Minnis administration took office in May 2017, more than 100 people have been let go from the public sector for various reasons, according to The Tribune’s reports. In October, 18 people were terminated from the Gaming Board. In August, at least 27 employees of the Ministry of Tourism were let go. Fifteen people were let go that month from the Bahamas Agriculture and Industrial Corporation (BAIC) as well. The contracts of 21 workers at the National Insurance Board (NIB) were terminated in June after their agreements expired and in recent months the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) has let go at least 42 people in its bid to make its budget work.
The government has accused the Christie administration of adding to the already bloated public service by hiring cronies and others months ahead of the general election.
Mr Mortimer said: “The rationale surrounding these firings is that these terminations are the results of the long-held practice of inserting political appointees, family and friends into key roles within the public sector.
“What Bahamians want and need now more than ever is a manifestation of the hope they felt on May 10 as they voted in a government who pledged to do things differently. In the absence of a clear and defined plan, the Minnis administration only affirms the narrative that they are aimless, visionless, and ill-prepared to govern. Is it really ‘the people’s time?’”