Passionately stating her reason for supporting the 12 percent tax increase, announced in the 2018/2019 Budget Communication earlier this month by Minister of Finance K. Peter Turnquest; Member of Parliament for West Grand Bahama and Bimini Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe said, it is not a question of why the 12 percent increase, “the question is where do we go to take advantage of what the 12 percent brings.”
Making her contribution to the 2018/2019 Budget Debate last evening – Tuesday, May 12 – Parker-Edgecombe not only encouraged Bahamians, particularly residents of West Grand Bahama and Bimini to remain steadfast, but appealed to relevant authorities to assist in West GB meeting its challenges.
“I want to answer all of those persons who continue to ask why 12 percent? Twelve percent, because one – to make sure we stop the practice of under budgeting; two, to circumvent problems that some of our neighbors are now faced with, where they waited until there was a crisis and their currency lost value; to make sure that we don’t continue to keep borrowing and borrowing and borrowing, leaving the bill for our children to pay back; four, to make sure that we don’t cause NIB to collapse by owing them over $1 million in bills that should have already been settled.
“Why 12 percent, to make sure that this government pays its light bill and water bill on time and not years later causing BPL, Water and Sewage and other agencies not to have the monies to improve services.
“Why 12 percent, to make sure we don’t have to suffer another rating downgrade, which will make our interest rates higher on new loans and cause even bigger tax increases in the future.
“The question is to why 12 percent, Mr. Deputy Speaker … That is not what I am asking, I am asking where do we go to take advantage of what the 12 percent brings?”
Noting that the country is at a crossroad, Parker-Edgecombe said, whether to sink or stay afloat solely depends on each Bahamian in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
“I have a problem with us going to another man’s country, spending thousands of dollars in taxes and not saying a word and when we return home, we have a problem in building our nation.
“It has to stop!” declared the MP. “This is our nation; this is the only thing that we have and if we can do it in another man’s country, we can certainly do it for ours. We should be able to invest in our country … we are truly investing in ourselves, when we do right by the government and the government does right by us.
“We are building a country together,” said Parker-Edgecombe, referring to the value added tax increase. “This is not done to isolate any class of people; it is being done to assist everybody. If we are real with ourselves, we know that we are a resilient people. We are a country that dealt with serious hardship as a result of hurricanes, we have been hit with natural disasters and we came out on top.
“All we are doing is planning for the future; it is not bad to do that. What are we teaching our children, when we continue to live pay-check-to-pay-check?” asked Parker-Edgecombe.
She noted that living pay-check-to-pay-check is not because Bahamians are unable to plan, but because they choose not to plan. “Mr. Deputy Speaker, our past is what it is; but we must look beyond and look to the future for our children.
“Many are asking the question why, I say because it is necessary. This country needs a balanced Budget, and it has to be done now. We are not giving ourselves enough credit as a people. When the 7.5 percent came, we were afraid, but we’re here today and with 12 percent we will be here tomorrow.”
Speaking to the challenges in her constituency, Parker-Edgecombe noted that the importance of reopening the West End Government Dock, making repairs to the existing sea wall, the West End Police Station and Primary School; dredging the channel and the removal of the makeshift dump site.
She added that the school is in desperate need of an electrical overhaul, having already experienced a slight blow-out of its air conditioning unit causing a fire.
“In Jones Town, Eight Mile Rock we are calling for the cultural site of Sunset Village to be equipped with Wi-Fi and better vendor booths, as budgeted and signed off in 2012 for construction, but was halted thereafter.
“In Martin Town, Eight Mile Rock we are calling for better working conditions at Eight Mile Rock High School. It cannot be, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that an institution which once boasted of some 1,400 students less than 15 years ago, now has less than 500 students. It is the only existing high school for our community of West Grand Bahama. Our teachers and students, especially, should have at their fingertips the best in core subjects, extra-curricular activities and classrooms.”
The MP also addressed concerns at Martin Town Primary School, which she said needed major renovations for years. “This very school, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is also the institution which residents are calling to be named in honor of veteran educator, Dorothy Lightbourne, which we believe is more than fitting for someone who has given so much to the field of education.”
The issue of homeownership, in her constituency, was also raised. “Homeownership by many, particularly young couples and single mothers is desired and we look forward to the government identifying crown land in West Grand Bahama and Bimini, which our residents can make application for in order to become first time homeowners. There are many throughout our community, whom this program will significantly impact for the better,” said Parker-Edgecombe.
“I believe in West GB and Bimini, I believe in my constituents and I believe that together we can press forward. We are going to be each-others’ neighbor, we are going to look out for each other, when someone is hurting we are going to assist. This is how we are going to press forward to the future,” said the MP. “This is not for now necessarily; this is for tomorrow. And tomorrow looks brighter with a better Budget, a balanced Budget.
West GB and Bimini supports the 2018/2019 Budget.”