Leader of the Opposition’s Continued Failure of Substance and Support Puts All Bahamians at Risk

In response to the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition’s recent statement, the Office of the Prime Minister wishes to note the following information for the Bahamian people. 

This is a time of extreme strain on all Bahamians. Families are hurting. Jobs are being lost.   Businesses are fighting to survive. The Government has had to borrow to ensure the country’s sustainability during the terrible economic shock because of COVID-19. This is a time when we should be coming together as one, not issuing false, misleading statements.

The Leader of the Opposition’s statement released earlier today is sadly mostly fiction, and the same meandering thinking has led him to continuously flip flop as the Government put in place health measures to save and protect lives.

He has been asked to attend meetings, offer suggestions and participate as a Bahamian leader, not as a partisan politician. 

Sadly, the only things we have been able to count on from the Opposition are partisan politics and willful misinterpretation of hard facts.

In this crisis the Leader of the Opposition has not demonstrated an interest in being involved in the hard work of governance.

Leadership is about doing and working with others toward a common goal. The Leader of the Opposition has only been interested in attacking the Government of the Bahamian people for his narrow self-interest.

In response to COVID-19, the Government of The Bahamas has offered a comprehensive program to provide for the health care, social care and economic recovery of The Bahamas.

To boost the healthcare infrastructure to care for COVID-19 patients, the Government repurposed the South Beach Centre, added capacity to the Princess Margaret Hospital and has partnered with the Doctors Hospital on Blake Road, where they have repurposed part of the facility and capacity is also being increased.  

On Grand Bahama, the Cancer Society Building was retrofitted to house infectious diseases patients, including COVID-19 patients. In addition, a new unit is being constructed on the Rand Memorial Hospital site. 

On New Providence, the Government is also making final preparations to utilize Poinciana Inn and Breezes Hotel to care for non-COVID patients to increase capacity at PMH. The east building of Breezes will be utilised as a National Response Facility to meet the needs of non-COVID-19, “low-medical-care” patients during the pandemic.   

Early in the pandemic, the Government put in place the National Coordinating Committee for COVID 19, a cross section of senior public officers, and representatives of industries, civil society, labour and the clergy.  This Committee provided invaluable service to our country, and aided in the immediate reopening of every aspect of our country following the lockdown.  

Subsequently, the Government established an Economic Recovery Committee to propose bold and specific plans for the medium – to long-term economic needs of the country. The Committee’s first recommendations were utilized during the formation of the 2020/21 National Budget; the Government has approved and is implementing others since that time.  This Committee has been engaging in widespread public consultations and, as previously announced, will make its detailed recommendations in September.

The Government of The Bahamas has maintained all public officers. Through the National Insurance Board’s Unemployment Benefit programme, 36,813 people have received a total of $84.2 million since March 23, 2020.

Under the Government’s Self-Employed Assistance Programme, NIB was able to pay 7,183 individuals a total of $15.5 million.

This Government has put in place an unprecedented National Food Distribution Programme in conjunction with leading non-profit feeding programmes, including Bahamas Red Cross, Hands for Hunger, Lend-a-Hand Bahamas, the Bahamas Feeding Network, One Eleuthera Foundation, IDEA Relief and others. 

As of Tuesday, August 11, 2020, 30,649 households were registered, with 3,087 of these registered in the preceding 24 hours. The Government injects into this program $1 million a week, in addition to existing social services programs.

The Government instituted a Tax Credit and Tax Deferral Employee Retention Programme through which medium- and large-size businesses with 25 employees or more were able to receive tax credits/deferrals of up to $600,000 for three months to service non-tax payroll. As of July 20, the Department of Inland Revenue approved $18 million in tax credits.

Through the Small Business Development Centre, $38,681,769 was approved in grants and seven-year term loans for small businesses. A total of $25,908,632.04 has been disbursed to 541 companies. Of this amount $3.1 million are grants.

The Government increased the allocations available in the National Budget for utility subventions to the Water & Sewerage Corporation and BPL to help with payment waivers for those impacted by COVID-19. The allocation for the 2020/21 Budget is $20 million.

The Government is standing shoulder to shoulder with every Bahamian as we fight this pandemic.  

The Leader of the Opposition’s statement ignores the hard work of the Government in this extraordinary crisis. That he would issue a statement in these times absent of the facts, logic and commonsense is disappointing.

The Prime Minister and his Government spend every day focused on bringing solutions to the real-life emergencies COVID-19 has caused Bahamians. This is not the time for political gamesmanship. 

The public is remind that The Bahamas is not alone in dealing with this devastating pandemic.  Every country in the international community has taken measures to protect their public health and their economies. As of today, over 20 million cases have been reported and some 737,417 deaths have been recorded worldwide. Millions have been made jobless.

The Leader of the Opposition is again invited to join with the Government and Bahamians of goodwill to help those in need. It is not too late for him to change course, lay down his political ambitions for a moment and do the right thing.