Jeff Lloyd, Minister of Education. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
EDUCATION Minister Jeff Lloyd proclaimed yesterday threats of an election loss will not impede the government from making “gutsy” decisions, insisting he would put saving the country ahead of risking defeat at the polls.
In a sometimes emotionally charged speech to Parliament, the South Beach MP addressed critics who have maintained the Minnis administration could lose political traction over its 2018-2019 budget, which features a value added tax increase among other things.
Responding, Mr Lloyd said the country’s credit card has been “maxed out”, leaving the country in a “precarious state of disaster”.
Before insisting the country has “not a single cent to spare”, the minister revealed a handheld electronic “pocket book” showing a highlight video of his ministry’s plans moving forward. It also showcases a newly composed theme song “I Believe”.
The device was handed out to members of Parliament, senators and reporters.
This “pocket book” along with the production and editing of the video cost the ministry nearly $7,000 to produce, Mr Lloyd later told The Tribune.
“You cannot threaten me about no next election, let me just make sure you understand that,” Mr Lloyd said in the House of Assembly. “You can’t threaten me. And I don’t think you could threaten this side. We didn’t come here to worry about no election. Elections will take care of themselves.
“Us and our children and our grandchildren have to live here. We have nowhere to go.
“I would rather lose an election any day than to lose my Bahamas. So, waste your time not threatening me about no election. I am here to rescue the Commonwealth of the Bahamas as I have been doing all my life,” Mr Lloyd said.
“They heard what I said. You ain’t gonna hear nothing more from them (on the side opposite) for the next five years,” Mr Lloyd also said.
“Let me be clear, this side, we ain’t tired of politics. We are servants. We came to serve and lend to the benefit of the people our gifts talents and abilities. At any time the sovereign power of this country, which happens to be the people, can decide whether they want that service or not,” he said.
Earlier in his speech, Mr Lloyd said the country was vulnerable and susceptible to external shocks or to severe economic downturn. He said the opposition party had struggled to justify the actions of the former Christie administration between 2012 and 2017.
“We have listened to the responses. We have listened to the commentary. Nowhere have I heard from the side opposite or the armchair pundits elsewhere any credible refutation, any legitimate disproof of the precarious state financial state that this country is in, nowhere.
“Not one contrary viewpoint about the legacy debts of $360m. Not a single disputing word about our growing debt-to-GDP ratio. Not a single contrast to the position taken by this government.”
Mr Lloyd also said: “The unpalatable, unpardonable, unvarnished truth is simply this: we have maxed out our credit card. We have not a single cent to spare and the country is sitting at a precarious state of disaster from which if not some serious and gutsy decision is not made today, we are over that precipice from which there is no return.
“As the deputy prime minister said or is reported to have said in the newspaper, we are one (hurricane) away from disaster.
“I have lunch vendors in this country who provide lunch for our beautiful young people that haven’t been paid for months. Who are these lunch vendors? They are our grandmothers and godmothers and aunts. Some of them have been brought near to the point of financial ruin because they have had to go on month after month after month without being paid.
“I have contractors from last year June and July who worked last year, did school repairs. We managed to pay them in May of this year. There is simply no money in the bank,” he said.
Mr Lloyd also announced free enrolment to the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI).