2021-2022 Budget Debate

Madam Senate President, I begin today, taking nothing for granted, but truly humbled that I have had this amazing opportunity to be a part of the proceedings in this place; to lend my voice to the concerns of all the citizens of this country, especially those that reside on the Family Islands, whose voices, cries and needs are only scraped on the surface in an attempt to pacify the masses. I wish to thank the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, The Hon. Philip Brave Davis, a visionary leader, one who doesn’t make decisions because they seem safe or comfortable, but one who understands the depth of each decision and weighs the pros and cons and act in the best interest of the majority, for having the wisdom, foresight and courage to select me to represent the views of the people, when there are so many extremely qualified and able Bahamians throughout the country and he could have chosen any of them to stand here in my stead. I would like to extend thanks to the Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Hon. Fred Mitchell, a man whose wealth of knowledge, political astuteness and dry wit is unmatched; for teaching us all, how to maintain Honor and Dignity and ensure that when we are in this place, we are adhering to the rules policies and procedures that govern our words and actions and ensure that we all are challenged to be our best and do our best on behalf of the Bahamian people. I would like to thank my colleagues on both sides for the relationships that we have fostered over these last years and the mutual respect for accepting the fact that each of us desire similar things, but we each choose different vehicles to get from point A to point B. While our politics are different, we seek to do our best for we believe is best for everyone.


Madam President, before I begin to dissect this budget and the communications conveyed in the other place, I would like to take a few moments to call the names of our loved ones from the Central and South Eleuthera Constituency that have gone on to take their rest in glory Ms. Tamika Burrows and Shelrene Whylly of Green Castle Eleuthera, brothers Craven and Alfred McKinney Jr. of Deep Creek, Mr. John Philip Hilton of Tarpum Bay, Mrs. Brenda Johnson a pioneer in the Governors Harbour community Mrs. Gretel Sands of Palmetto Point, and Ms. Ophelia Bannister of Rock Sound. On behalf of my wife and family we extend our deepest sympathy we send our love and our prayers to the families and friends of all those who have lost their loved ones may their souls rest in peace and rise in glory.


Madam president, I would also like to take this time out to honor the many students from the Central and South Eleuthera district that will be graduating this week. Last year’s graduates and this year’s graduates have all lived through what can be termed as the most challenging times in education around the world they’ve had to endure situations and circumstances that are unimaginable yet they have persevered they have held fast and many of them moving on to tertiary level education, entrepreneurship, and technical and vocational studies. My team and I are excited to have been of assistance in even the smallest way. We understood that this teaching gap exists due to these circumstances and we are proud to have sponsored 86 hours of BJC and BGCSE exam prep support to 329 students from Inagua in the South to Abaco in the North. We are extremely proud of our students and we wish them much blessings and success in their exams and future endeavors. Whilst on the topic of education; I would like to extend my congratulations and well wishes to Mrs. Marie Galanis who has taught many students throughout this country for over 30 years and she is now retiring from her position as principal of the Central Eleuthera High School, whose motto is the School of First Choice. I would like to thank her for contributions to building a better Bahamas and wish her Godspeed and an enjoyable well-deserved rest.


Madam President, as I listened to the submissions in the other house pertaining to the budget, I observed a very common thread in almost every communication. Platitudes, speeches, patting themselves on the back for having survived the last four years. It seemed so very much like a pity party, or some would call it excuses for the mistakes that were made, the missteps that were allowed to go unchallenged. Almost every speech embodied a feeling of defeat, and for so many they presented what was their last hurrah in that honorable place; many of whom, who had thought that they would be getting another opportunity to represent the people but were sideswiped and alas conceded that this was their final budget presentation.

For me Madam President, personally, I too feel the need to give my final hurrah as what may also be my final budget presentation, but only from this place ya see! Because unlike some in this place and in the other place, the people of South and Central Eleuthera, and my leader, has confidence that I am capable and ready to join him in the other place, where we, The Progressive Liberal Party, will undoubtedly revolutionize all of our islands throughout this archipelago. These last four years has been impactful to say the least. And yanno Madam President I feel really bad you know, because I would have expected that if nothing else these last few years would have shown us all the potential that exists in this room to move from one house to the next, but I guess that is not meant to be it seems as though only my colleagues on this side will be moving to higher heights.


Madam President being in this place I’ve had the opportunity to learn so much about reality, actuality, and intention. Every administration presents grandiose plans and ideas (THE INTENTION). The difference between an idea and reality is in planning and execution, expecting accountability and transparency in all of the actions(ACTUALITY). This generation of Bahamians are expecting more. They live in real time where information can be garnered in real time where real issues exist and where real solutions can be implemented to solve our problems. What they have seen in this administration over the past four years is it government of intention and bungled implementation, excuses and transfer of blame. In opposition, this government presented its intentions to do so much to revolutionize our country, this government criticized the past administration (and they still do) in their efforts and plans that were actually being fulfilled and the sad reality is that in the four years of preparation leading up to the general election this administration has proven that it was and it still is unprepared to govern. Unprepared to lead and ill-equipped to provide the solutions that we need to move our country forward.

The Most Honorable Prime Minister and Competent Authority himself, said “I don’t believe in increasing taxes, I believe in decreasing taxes and increasing opportunities,” he said. “Increasing taxes is a lazy way out. When you don’t want to think, you just tax.”

(THE REALITY). The reality is, that while in opposition, members of this current administration began by being lazy! Increasing VAT. The Reality is that to date we have borrowed and in this budget we continue to borrow EXCESSIVELY and we are gambling on ONLY ONE lifeline to pull us through, Tourism!

This administration boasts that it has the ability to collect almost 600 million dollars over this next budget period. With all the outstanding rebuilding of Hurricane Dorian ravaged island of Abaco and Grand Bahama, with the purchase and seeping funding to maintain Our Lucaya, the Grand Bahama airport, the grandiose plans we have seen for airports and bridges, and the god sent asphalt roads; the pretty charts and the gassing of egos exerted in the other place, where in fact will we collect these millions. We recall that when this administration took office, it relieved almost an entire department responsible for collecting outstanding government revenues. The budgets boast of granting concessions to the tune of 100 million dollars, where will this money be recouped. We are all aware of the catastrophic blow dealt to us through Dorian, and then the Pandemic.

Let us be realistic. We can all accept that 99% of countries have debt. What is most worrisome to the average Bahamian is the fact that this debt will be their responsibility. The ordinary citizen of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas will be burdened with higher taxes, increase in essential services while the wealthy amongst us get richer on our backs. We on this side have warned over and repeatedly to provide transparency throughout the Dorian Recovery Process and the management or rather mismanagement of the pandemic. We see a recent article in the newspaper by a renowned retailer in the food industry, who warns of the increase in the price of food by year end. We understand the global pressures that exist and that as a result of the pandemic, many industries were forced to halt their operations including the food industry, which resulted in huge losses in product and time. There is no way to recoup these losses immediately, only time will restore the balance. With this reality we must ask, shouldn’t we be looking into increasing the minimum wage of employees throughout the country to meet this rise in food cost, and construction increases? How will the people make it? Every right-thinking Bahamian have adopted the phrase, “make it make sense”. We are boasting the approval of upscale housing developments not one, but three such developments; We expect that the young professionals are financially equipped too both finance these lots and also build, when Stevie Wonder can see how much the cost of construction materials have increased. (A member of the other house said concerning the $15,000 lots in Carmichael and I am paraphrasing here, that in order for the average Bahamian to qualify, they better go couple- up, cause on their own it was impossible). In a post Dorian climate and an on-going pandemic, where is this liquidity in capital coming from to achieve these plans? It makes us all wonder if there is a particular group of individuals that we have already injected this capital into? We can already see the growing number of new companies halfway mentioned in the other place to ensure that the names of these companies go on the record. What we do not see is a full disclosure of the agreements and contracts that the Government has entered into over the course of this pandemic which has given the Competent Authority the aright to enter into any agreement without having to obtain cabinet approval or bring to parliament. We the people require transparency and accountability that you marched for? The same measures of accountability and transparency you demanded when you were on the opposite side. The time has come for us to end the war of Tit for Tat. We must become serious about the Business of the citizens and residents of the Bahamas. We already see an increase in the cost of Fuel, especially those of us that live on the family islands. We have no public transport system to fall back on should people be unable to afford gas. How will the people make it? We listened to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries speak at great length about the initiatives towards food security and moving away from state owned operations. While this is a great initiative for entrepreneurs and agri-business cooperatives, will the government offer insurance guarantees for such ventures should the markets crash, should there be another catastrophic natural disaster? Agriculture must catch up with fisheries and become a major exporter of foods. To accomplish this, a major investment by the government must be made to increase the capacity in the BBSQ (Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality) to ensure that the standard of the product is up to par with international requirements. We see the increase in technology in farming and fishing. However, we do not see the investment in revolutionizing the education system. There is no good reason why every school in this country does not have a garden.

Gardening from an early age does several things; changes the mindset of our people who moved away from subsistence farming and fishing to embrace more modern conveniences. It regularizes farming so that it becomes innate. Farming at an early age, ignites the passion for agriculture, integrate this with science and technology at an early age and we can begin to actualize new advances and the growth of the agricultural industry will become organic. We have a problem; the world has a problem. We need to increase our food capacity. We have the solution, hundreds of acres of arable land, thousands of unemployed people and a failing school system that is not teaching our children to be problem solvers. Change this game and we have just created a billion- dollar industry. We have heard the boasting about grants and funding available for these industries. Let’s build the capacity to do just that and fund them.

Madam President, if the Prime Minister was really serious about advancing new industries and agriculture I would have thought that he would have tabled the Marijuana legislation as part of the budget debate. In May, the Prime Minister promised to table it in a couple weeks, but here we go again…lip service to the Bahamian people. Whenever the legislation is tabled, The Prime Minister must ensure that there is transparency with the applications and granting of license. This is a very important issue, especially with the farmers of Eleuthera, who are not subsidized by the government and a probably some of the most successful in the country. It would not be fair for the hardworking agriculturalists of Eleuthera and family islands.


Madam President, we embrace wholeheartedly an improved health care system. For those of us residing on family islands, this budget still manages to marginalize us. It always amazes me that members who reside in the capital seem to think that a million dollars investing in anything should be praised and lauded by them “out island people” as if we do not deserve a capital investment in health care that is on par with counterparts in the city. The family islands aren’t asking for a 4 story medical facility with fancycafeterias and waiting lounges. We are a practical people. While we understand our population sizes we do insist that a facility be constructed on our major islands with a interconnected air lift system that allows us to quickly respond to trauma. I had the distinct pleasure to participate in the activities of Nursing Professionals Month in May. I applaud each and every nurse in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, especially the Nurses working in substandard conditions on the family islands. These nurses do more than tend to the sick. These nurses have assessments of the types of patients on the island, critical needs, chronic illnesses, manageable illnesses and terminal illnesses. These professionals if given the resources can identify what makes sense to implement in each island to minimize loss. Their passion and level of dedication to their patients’ health is second to none. Yet in the budget we see the Minister boasting of a few things, repairs toGovernor’s Harbour Clinic and Rock Sound Clinic and “the construction of a state-of-the-art facility on mainland Eleuthera.” One thing I can say about Eleuthera is that what’s done in the dark usually comes to light. Cause in the old saying every friend gat friend. That said, we ask if there was a tendering process for these repairs. Also, we are curious as to the electrical contractor in particular on these sites. Another question that residents have asked, is; has the Government acquired the ownership of the Rock Sound Clinic? If this is still a private building that we are leasing, have we negotiated the costs of renovations and repairs to at least be deducted from future rents or are we ok in this instance in building on and improving someone else’s real estate that we do not own? Now, to the elephant in the room. In 2017, the PLP entered into an agreement and began the works to construct a state-of-the-art mini hospital in Palmetto Point. Ironically, the home of the sitting MP, for now! Upon taking office, one of the first acts by this government was to terminate this construction and offer no alternative for the people of Eleuthera. Now the Minister touts and I quote “the construction of a state-of-the-art facility on mainland Eleuthera.” If ya don’t laugh you ga cry! It is amazing to me and to the people of Eleuthera to hear that these plans have been actioned once again. With the property already purchased by the Government of The Bahamas, we hope to see nothing less than the continuation of the design and plans to complete the mini hospital at Palmetto Point, and to see the contractors paid in full for the work that has already been completed. The people of Central and South Eleuthera in particular, would love to have something to actually “Thank this Government” for. But they do remember the misery he inflicted in calling for a complete lockdown and he left the island in a semi police state with no concern of their well-being. We on Eleuthera take health seriously. We have all spent too many hours wasted watching our loved ones die or suffer in excruciating pain waiting on an air ambulance. Serious investments in health care facilities must be a reality, barring this, the government needs to invest in a larger fleet of air ambulances to be able to accommodate the islands of this archipelagic nation at moments notice.

Madam President, these advances go hand in hand. And for years we recognize that most ministries operate in silos. Only focused on their goals. If The Bahamas is to move as one nation and grow over the next few years we must begin to realize that we rely on each other to be successful. As I pointed out earlier, agriculture will not succeed without education, and without science and technology. The same is for health care. Because we are an island nation health care efforts must be improved in all islands and because we know that it is not feasible to build HOSPITALS on every island, we have to have contingency plans in place for serious injuries. The health care sector cannot succeed if the Aviation sector is not improved to meet these challenges. It is incumbent upon the ministry to ensure that runway lights are always operable on every island. Accidents never give advance warning they just happen. We must be prepared. But the reality is that we are not. There is much boasting about funds allocated and ironically funds are allocated in every budget to accomplish some things. How is it that we keep spending over and repeatedly on the same things and the problems continue to exist? By now we should be experts in problem solving. In areas like waste management. As small in size and population we are, we have not proven to be able to effectively manage our waste. Our islands are all standing on their own reliance for electricity. Almost 50 years as an independent nation we have not found one solution to reducing the cost of energy and ensuring minimal disruptions in the generating capacity?

What are we spending exorbitant amounts of money on if it is not to solve our problems and create avenues for economic advancement?

Madam President, I want to briefly touch on the extension of the misery index for family island residents. We hear the boasting about a rebound in tourism and other sectors but family island communities are being stagnated. And the growth of our communities are being impeded by policies implemented by this administration. Madam President, for the first time in a very very long time, during the month of May, not one building plan was approved in Spanish Wells. This is not because none have been submitted, this is a direct result of the new requirements by the Department of Environmental Planning & Protection. We again are asking for you to make this make sense . Especially for Family Islanders. We walk into the house with plans that are easily implemented in Nassau because that is all we know. There is little care or concern to how the decisions made in these places affect Family Island Residents. At least if you are going to create new requirements, train an individual from a corresponding ministry to be able to assess the requirements and ensure that the standards are met. But in this instance, family island residents must wait for the once per month visit which is unscheduled. So if you have a building plan, and you submit on the 6th and the inspector left on the 5th, your project is delayed another month, unless you gat extra change to pay for covid test, round trip flights and per diem. This is an insane policy. There has to be a solution. Family Island residents can not continue to be treated like second class citizens because they happen to live outside of the capital. I listened attentively yesterday at the Minister of Finance debate and the government continues to speak of digitization and streamlining processes, and I support policies to make things easier for Bahamians. That’s why I cannot understand for the life of me, in a country where Bahamians are grappling for work, why the Government would make it more difficult for people involved in the construction industry in the Family Islands to survive.


Madam President, we have heard talk this budget debate on what has been spent on Eleuthera. We have heard the boasting of 11million dollars of road, and we had to sit quietly and listen to how ought to be a grateful people for the provision of capital works. The same works that our public money is supposed to be spent on. We the people understand that no favors are being done on our behalf we are simply recipients of what we have contracted all governments to do. Let us not forget that recession or not, Eleuthera and Harbour Island pours millions into the economy. I reiterate the sentiments of the writer in a facebook post that compared the roadworks on Eleuthera to that of a Spanish Wells quilt “patch patch”, I just want to make one lil correction to the writer, The Spanish Wells quilt although patch patch is sewn meticulously and seamlessly. Unlike the roadworks which I travel on daily. Sections of smooth asphalt roads having your tires whistling, and then suddenly jut jut jut… like you’re driving on cobblestone. Let us not forget the holes that they just drove over without even dropping a lil bit of cold patch in. But not only do they boast about it. They want to guilt you into gratitude.

We watched in awe at the final presentation in the other place and the excitement of sharing the news of repairs to the Glass Window Bridge.

“What is amazing is that the Glass Window Bridge is listed as an FNM accomplishment that Senator Sawyer bragged earlier today and it hasn’t even happened yet! How can you brag about something that you haven’t even done?”

Immediately I saw sections of social media on fire buzzing about the ideocracy of the placement of the “new bridge” while no one with an engineering degree comment when I last checked, everyone had intimate knowledge of the rages and has seen it in action. The placement of the new bridge will not allow motorist to travel across the bridge during a rage. The height and force of the rage will still cover the proposed bridge and jeopardize lives. If we are going to invest millions and borrow millions, then make it make sense. An investment of this magnitude should be well planned and executed. WE have waited long enough to be able to get this right the first time.


Madam President, I am pleased to see the resurgence in the Tourism economy, especially on Eleuthera. While we are glad to see employees reengaged fully on their jobs, we caution thisadministration to not put it’s faith and hope in just the vaccine alone as a protective measure. As dependent on Tourism as we are, we should be implementing as many measures as possible to safeguard the health of our countrymen and the health of those coming to our shores. The minister boasts of the creation job that’s being done by the Bahamas travel visa group to ensure that ”no visitor gets left behind” he even boasts about the visitors applying at the last minute and at the airport; while this may be great for visitors, Bahamians are getting a slap in the face. Bahamians returning home to the Bahamas paying the same price for travel visas and they are being denied.

During the last PLP administration, some people campaigned on and were adamant that the VAT money had been stolen. While we know this to have been a complete falsehood , we can rightly ask the question under this administration where is the travel visa money? The minister of tourism and the other place flagged and boasted on the following statistics

In January of this year, 22,000 visitors received a health visa. In February, 30,000 visitors received a health visa. In March, 64,000 visitors received a health visa. In April, 68,000 visitors received a health visa. In May, 110,000 visitors received a health visa.

If my math is correct that’s 294,000 travel visas that were issued during January and May of this year.

When we hear the words visitors we expect that this is only foreigners entering our country. At $40/travel visa that leaves us $11,760,000. Yet with all money collected, we are to believe that the company responsible for collections have not given the government one single dime as yet? I ask again, Where da travel visa money? Madam president, earlier I inquired as to where this administration was proposing to make up it’s shortfall, I take noteof the Minister’s comments in the other place, he said and I quote “Mr. Speaker, We don’t have to dig, we don’t have to drill, we don’t have to mine, we don’t have to extract, we don’t have to dredge anything, we don’t even need to pontificate any more. We just need to bill and collect to get what is rightfully ours!” Does this stand true for those residents of Lyford Cay who seem to be able to avoid tax collection?

WE believe in Exuma, and we can see the enormous potential this airport facility has to not only create employment and expand the economy but create jobs for Bahamians and opportunities for entrepreneurs at the Airport and the area immediately surrounding this nearly 60,000 sq. ft. facility. North Eleuthera – we have not forgotten you and your airport will come.”

“Here we go again, the North Eleuthera Airport is on the FNMS list of accomplishments and no work has even started yet. What else are they bragging about that they haven’t done?”

Madam President, also in this debate, the Minister responsible for tourism was extremely generous with forecasting and information about the statistics. These are not numbers for past years or administrations but up to date data. He gleefully described the breakdown in stop over visits on the family island 27% of the persons going to the Family Islands went to Eleuthera (mostly Harbour Island), 20% went to Bimini and Cat Cay (mostly by boat from Florida), 19% went to Abaco, which is quite remarkable given the damage Hurricane Dorian put on that island and leads me to conclude that those second home owners are very very loyal to Abaco, and 17% went to Exuma.” When we examine this distribution of visitors, we see that Eleuthera leads the charge. Yet it lags behind Long Island in getting its much newly constructed state of the art terminal and runways. Another wait, and see period.

Madam President, I am hopeful that next year this time so, elections would be over and the progressive thinkers would be in place to chart our course out of these tumultuous times. As I close I reflect on the objectives of this budget with questions and concerns of my own;

The first objective is to

• Develop policies and manage resources to maximize sustainable socio-economic growth and stability

We the fallacy in this statement. The only sector to grow economically are the rich. The Most Honorable himself admitted that this administration proposes to help the poor in the next administration. He was right here, because it is the PLP: that looks out for the poor and marginalized. And the policies implemented in the last 4 years have certainly done that.

• Provide efficient and effective service to all stakeholders

We again see this statement as airy and without depth. Tell this to the sick that need to be airlifted or who want to be treated without having to go to Nassau where they have no family

• Collaborate with the private sector to improve the ease of doing business and facilitate private sector involvement in economic development

This has most certainly been achieved. We can see the partnership with Kanoo, Island Pay, we see the board appointments, we see the signing of fake deals, we see the issuance of contracts.

• Demonstrate accountability and transparency in the management of fiscal affairs

Has the public accounts committee been activated to shed light on this? Has the FOIA been truly designated

• Ensure appropriate financial management of ministries, departments and agencies that fall within the purview of the Ministry of Finance

• Retain a team of high performing professionals operating in an innovative and supportive work environment

We see that this administration is set to ensure that the 52 week workers around the country are regularized, are these the high performing professionals?

Madam President, with all that we have endured, by far Hurricane Minnis is the absolute destructive and denigrating storm to have ever actually HIT The Bahamas. Thankfully this is His last budget. Thanksfully there is a PLP administration working diligently to be able to implement austerity measures that will rechart the course and take us into safety. I stand with my collegues and I do not approve the budget.