|Defending the FNM's record|
Published: Jul 19, 2012
In his typical bombastic and inelegant style, the chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) in a letter to the editor of The Nassau Guardian of July 3 responded to legitimate criticism from the leader of the Free National Movement (FNM) of the PLP’s denial of the severity of the global recession by charging that the FNM administration made it worse.
This deceit was part of the PLP’s propaganda when in opposition. Another part of that deceit was the outrageous claim of the billions of dollars of “notional” projects which they had lined up for inward investment prior to their defeat in 2007 and which they claimed the FNM’s ‘stop, review and cancel’ policy had prevented from progressing.
The continued reference to billion-dollar projects that suffered from the alleged ‘stop, review and cancel’ policy must be a reference to the PLP planned massive land giveaways (as was contemplated at Mayaguana) to various prospectors who had not even secured the funding for some hugely exaggerated projects on which they could not possibly deliver even with the sale of Bahamian land.
But this was the propaganda engaged in at the time and presumably being resurrected by the chairman of the PLP now. The PLP seemed to subscribe to a policy of announcing huge investment deals, highlighting exorbitant sums which they hope will be invested and large numbers of new jobs they hope will result, but not making the terms of the agreements public so that if or when they did not materialize the government’s embarrassments might be minimized.
The Free National Movement (FNM) does not go that way; that is why before the end of 2007 the FNM government tabled heads of agreement concluded by the PLP but never tabled in the House of Assembly as follows:
Project/co. name Date heads of agreement signed
1. Governor’s Harbour Resort & Marina March 23, 2004
2. Rav Bahamas (Bimini Bay) June 9, 2004
3. Kerzner International
(Supplement to heads) December 7, 2004
4. Pittstown Landing April 27, 2005
5. Cape Eleuthera Properties &
Powell Point Properties Ltd. May 3, 2005
6. Baha Mar Development April 6, 2005
7. GINN-LA West End Dec 9, 2005
(Amendment to heads of agreement) June 8, 2006
8. EGI Ltd. April 24, 2006
9. Sky Beach Development
(Eleuthera) April 20, 06
10. RC Rose Island Hotel Co. February 13, 2006
(Amendment to heads of agreement) April 12, 2007
11. Crystal Mount (Cat Island) January 16, 2006
12. Royal Island (off N. Eleuthera) December 14, 2006
13. Park Ridge Securities (Albany) November 9, 2006
March 6, 2007 (Amendment)
14. Lignum Vitae Cay Ltd. April 27, 2007
15. Bonds Cay (Berries) May 1, 2007
None of these projects were stopped or reviewed by the new FNM government. Instead everything was done to facilitate them moving forward in a timely fashion. The worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression intervened and stopped virtually all of these projects. Those which proceeded – Albany, Baha Mar, Rav Bahamas – did so because of extraordinary efforts by the FNM.
Such efforts and support to others of the projects – notably GINN, Exuma Resorts Developers-Setai/Aman, RC Rose Island and the Harcourt Group in Grand Bahama – could not overcome the fallout for these projects from the recession and very directly the failure of important international financial groups like Lehman Brothers.
The record also shows that by February 2008 the FNM government had concluded and tabled in the House of Assembly three major agreements which had stalled under the first Christie government: those relating to the doubling in the size of the Baha Mar project inclusive of seeking and obtaining parliamentary approval to transfer a portion of the public road (now deviated West Bay Street) and other government-owned land to Baha Mar; the conclusion with the Park Ridge Securities relating to the Albany project and including parliamentary approval for the transfer of portions of south west Bay Street and of portions of South Ocean Boulevard in exchange for a new south west Bay Street now named Frank Watson Boulevard, and the conclusion of a superseding heads of agreement with the Exuma Resorts Developers for the development of a Setai/Aman Resort at Norman’s Cay.
Bradley Roberts continues the PLP distortion that the FNM chose to award the New Providence Road and Utility Improvement Project to an international (Argentinian) company excluding presumably able Bahamian companies. He ignores the fact that the bid for this project was put to international tender (as required by the Inter-American Development Bank) by the PLP government. Under that government no reputable international company responded to the bid. The FNM’s return to government brought a response from international companies and following a competitive analysis, Jose Cartellone Construcciones Civiles (JCCC) was awarded the contract.
Roberts also conveniently fails to acknowledge that every Bahamian road paving company was engaged by the FNM government between 2007 and 2012 on other important and significant road and utility upgrade projects – many of which are now ongoing in New Providence (deviated West Bay Street and the connector road to JFK Drive; Bay Street from Nassau Street to Mackey Street, intersection improvements along East Bay Street to the Montagu fishing ramp; Moss Road extension and access roads to the new sports center and all Family Island road projects).
Roberts also seeks to ignore that in each of the five budgets presented to Parliament during the FNM’s last administration – 2007/08, 2008/09, 2009/2010, 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 – there was a consistent reduction in customs duties and the elimination of duties on a number of products to ease the cost of living on the community, to improve the competitiveness of the tourism product or to provide specific incentives. This happened in each of the five budgets. It is worthy of recalling that the systematic reduction of customs duty rates and the reduction of the number of rates are policies introduced by the first FNM government between 1992 and 1997.
It is acknowledged that in the 2010/2011 budget, in addition to continuing the reduction in customs duties on selective products to ease the cost of living broadly, provision was made for increases in several taxes to ease the financial strain that was having an unfortunate impact on the country’s fiscal circumstances. Roberts’ claim that the policy was a failure is untrue. The policy produced an increase in revenue over the previous year of $160 million and led directly to a lower deficit.
It is never clear from these critics of that fiscal policy whether they are promoting lower spending or higher deficits. Balancing the trade-off between debt and unemployment in that global recession was probably an issue of such delicacy that it did not likely catch the chairman’s fancy.
Roberts has also not been able to make the distinction between debt and spending that creates infrastructure – fixed assets for the country and debt for which no remaining evidence can be found. This is why he has been able to say such critical things about the increase in debt during a devastating global recession in which the opportunity was taken by the FNM to deficit-finance the construction of infrastructure to facilitate the economy’s future growth while also easing the strain of unemployment. On the other hand he overlooks, and hopes that the public will not notice, the shame of the huge creation of debt during a period of economic growth with nothing to show for the spending during the period presided over by PLP from mid-2002 to mid-2007. He might consider this is why his party while commanding a majority of seats in the House of Assembly, does not command the support of the majority of registered Bahamian voters.
Roberts and the PLP already are getting a sense of the challenge of economic management in a period of economic adversity. Already they have demonstrated that their understanding of job creation is restricted to finding jobs for their members and supporters even if they can only achieve this by firing Bahamians they met working.
It is also to be noted that notwithstanding that economic circumstances have already begun to improve and the recession has ended, they began their term with the largest deficit in the country’s history. No doubt they will seek to blame the previous administration for the size of their deficit, but they understand that they are in charge now, as they are quick to point out, and the choice was theirs to make.
Finally, Roberts objects to the FNM reminding that the PLP has failed to keep its promise and pledge to be ready to govern on day one. He seeks to excuse the failure of the PLP to name new boards including naming new chairmen for the most important public corporations where FNM political appointees resigned their posts at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) and the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas (ZNS) by comparing the PLP record to that of the FNM. The FNM welcomes such comparisons as the superiority of FNM performance in every segment of government can be readily seen. We have a record and we are proud to stand by it.
Roberts will have considerable opportunity to engage in vitriolic bluster in response to legitimate criticism of the PLP’s governance and propaganda, particularly since so much of their governance seems to be conducted by public broadcast by way of the usurpation of ZNS news.
• Charles Maynard is the chairman of the Free National Movement.