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‘Arrogance’ cost FNM election

Turnquest says party must learn its lesson

Acknowledging that the Free National Movement (FNM) was voted out of office last September, due to a “perception of arrogance”, FNM Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest urged party members during its convention last night to listen to the people, consider their opinions and empower them.

In his final speech as deputy leader of the party, Turnquest, who did not run in the last election, and is not seeking re-election as deputy leader, praised the work of the former government, pointing to initiatives he said helped Bahamians during the COVID-19 pandemic, the passing of fiscal responsibility legislation, and advancing educational opportunities for many.

“While this is all very well and good, it is in the ordinary course of governance and what an enlightened Bahamian public should expect from their government,” he said during the party’s first day in convention at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island.

“They should expect us to raise The Bahamas’ standing as the best and most envied small island state on this side of the Atlantic, and we did. Yet, we are painfully reminded that we were still voted out of office.

“We were voted out not because of lack of good governance but because we allowed the perception of arrogance to once again be painted on us as reality, and it stuck.

“We must bear these lessons in mind, honorable leader and chairmen. We must remember not to leave our people behind again in our haste to progress our national development goals and create opportunity for all.

“We must hear and consider the disappointments and hopes of our people as we deliberate, keeping them front and center in our thoughts while crafting policies, not just to progress the national interest, but to also empower people with real and sustainable opportunities to participate in it.”

The FNM was swept out of office last September, winning only seven of the 39 seats in Parliament.

When he stood down as party leader last year, Killarney MP Dr. Hubert Minnis asked members of the FNM to forgive him for any mistakes he made.

The party’s three-day convention ends tomorrow. All positions except the leadership position will be contested. 

The party held a one-day convention last year, where Marco City MP Michael Pintard was elected leader. 

Regression

Turnquest said despite the good work of the Minnis government, the Davis administration is already regressing.

“Our founding members would have suffered ugly bias and exclusion because they stood for their principles,” he said.

“Today, in opposition, there is credible evidence to suggest that this destructive mentality is back, with unjustifiable terminations of service and employment contracts, particularly in Beaches & Park and Social Services after much ado about nothing.

“Yes FNMs, tribal politics is back on full display by the masters of the game and we must continue to be vigilant, expose and discourage it. We must continue to fight for equality of access for our foot soldiers.

“In fact, delegates, this is why the Public Procurement Act was so critical to be passed before the end of our term and the tight provision in that Act drafted the way they are.

“They are intended to remove the temptation for any politician to simply award contracts to friends, family or others without a fair and competitive process, so that the Bahamian people get the best possible deal.”

Contracts issued by the Bahamas Public Parks and Public Beaches Authority under the Minnis administration were brought into question after Minister of Works Alfred Sears said there was a “rash of contracts” issued by the authority shortly after the general election was called.

Sears said many of the contracts were also issued without board approval and some were duplicated.

It was also revealed that the authority went consistently over its budget by millions of dollars between 2019 and 2021.

St. Barnabas MP Shanendon Cartwright, who is running for deputy leader of the party, and was the executive chairman of the authority at the time, has maintained that he never did anything untoward.

The former deputy prime minister also lashed the government for reintroducing value-added tax (VAT) on breadbasket items.

The government, in a move to fulfill a campaign promise, reduced VAT from 12 percent to 10 percent in January 2022. However, the government added VAT to breadbasket items and on certain exempt medicines.

“If they had listened to the voice of caution from the opposition, University of The Bahamas economic researchers, the Central Bank, and leading retailers and experts, they would have delayed the disastrous 100 percent tax increase on breadbasket items and medicines, which, combined with rising import prices, is proving to be a heavy burden on the backs of struggling Bahamians,” Turnquest said.

“Indeed, this policy decision is making our situation much worse than it has to be.”

With inflation causing prices in the food store to rise, many Bahamians lament the addition of VAT on breadbasket items.

However, the government has disputed that argument.

Last week, Prime Minister Philip Davis said, “Insofar as this issue of VAT on the breadbasket items, we have to appreciate that breadbasket items make up but a mere 10 or 15 percent of a grocery bag.

“When you compare the savings, if any, compared to the savings that you get for the other 80 percent on that grocery bag, I think it is negligible.

“More savings has been accrued to the consumer than any loss to the consumer.”

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Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Travis Cartwright-Carroll is the assistant editor. He covers a wide range of national issues. He joined The Nassau Guardian in 2011 as a copy editor before shifting to reporting. He was promoted to assistant news editor in December 2018.

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