Adamantly expressing that he supports the government’s 2018/2019 Budget, Minister of Education Jeffery Lloyd told colleagues in the House of Assembly Wednesday (May 13) morning that the country’s credit card is “maxed out.”
He added that something must be done, today, to shift the country’s finances.
“Mr. Speaker, let it be unequivocal I support this Budget. Uncomfortable in some of its terms that it may appear to be, I am happy and proud, distinguishingly so, with the guts shown by this government to confront with conscientious vigor, the fiscal and economic travail that beset this land … travails that have been decades in the making.
“Let me give you an example Mr. Speaker, I can remember an interview back in the 1970s. The interview was given by the Honorable Arthur Dion Hanna, father of the Honorable Member for Englerston (Glenys Hanna-Martin), who at the time was the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance. At that time, Mr. Hanna said that The Bahamas was borrowing to pay salaries; this was in 1975 and he continued that it could not be sustained.
“Mr. Speaker, 45 years or so later we are still borrowing to pay salaries. Because we are so vulnerable, so susceptible to external shocks or to a severe global economic downtown, we Sir, cannot continue the reckless way of living that we have had for these past four and a half decades.
“I have repeatedly said over the airwaves that at some point, the chickens will come home … we have been warned that we were heading (in that direction). In fact, a member of the side opposite, in the previous administration on one of my radio shows, I asked him –‘Do you think the country is headed towards a failed state?’
“This was back in 2006. The gentleman said, ‘not heading, it is galloping towards a failed state.’”
Lloyd added that while many have verbalized their distaste on many aspects of the government’s proposed Budget, he is of the view that many, if not all, remain mute with respect to acknowledging that the country, in fact, continues to bear an overwhelming deficit.
“Take note, 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 reputation, any legitimate disproof of the precarious financial state that this country is in. Nowhere, not one contrary viewpoint about the legacy debts of $360 million; not a single disputing word about our growing debt to GDP ratio; not a single contrast to the position taken by this government.
“I have longed, anyone who knows me, have long insisted that we as a people must act with discipline and order. That was my upbringing, and I have lived by the aphorism, Mr. Speaker, that you cannot hang your hat any higher than you can reach,” said the Education Minister.
“The unpalatable, unpardoning, unvarnished truth is simply this sir. 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, we are over that precipice from which there is no return.
“As the DPM (K. Peter Turnquest) has been reported in the newspaper to have said, ‘We are one disaster away from disaster,” stated Lloyd.
He gave examples of vendors who have been disenfranchised over the years, with regard to salaries which were promised having yet to be paid and if they were, were done so months after the work was completed.
“I have lunch vendors in this country, Mr. Speaker, who provide lunch for our beautiful young people that haven’t been paid for months. Who are these lunch vendors; they are our grandmothers, godmothers, mothers 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 having been paid.
“Mr. Speaker, I have contractors from last year June and July, who did school repairs … we managed to pay them in May of this year. There is simply no money in the bank,” maintained Lloyd.
Speaking specifically to the Opposition, Lloyd said, “I think it is important for the side opposite to hear this. You cannot threaten me about the next election, let me make sure that you understand that. You can’t threaten me and I do not think that you can threaten this side. We did not come here to worry about election. We came here to rescue the country.
“Elections will take care of themselves, Mr. Speaker. Us, 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 and beautiful Bahamaland. Waste your time not threatening me about elections; I am here to rescue the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, as I have been doing all my life,” vehemently expressed the South Beach Member of Parliament.