In a speech that cast Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis as a unifier and visionary, Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest last night also pledged that a Minnis administration would create new industries and grow the economic pie to ensure “there is more to share not less to fight over”.
“This is not about us and them, but a rising tide for all of us together,” said Turnquest on night two of the FNM’s three-day convention being televised nationally.
As the shadow minister of finance, Turnquest outlined some of the plans he and Minnis have to energize the national economy and create jobs.
He pledged, “We will ease the restrictions on our economic and monetary policies so as to improve the ease of doing business in the country and to make capital available to fund new technological and scientific discoveries and businesses.
“Unlike our prime minister, who tells the world The Bahamas has no natural resources, we believe The Bahamas is teeming with natural mineral and human resources, waiting to be discovered, tapped and exploited.
“We know about the salt, aragonite, seaweed, sponges, fisheries, bush medicine, teas, craft products, etc. which have been underperforming for Bahamians.
“With investments to jump-start the research and the eventual processing of these and other raw materials in a locally domiciled production facility for export, we can create new jobs and entrepreneurs. Again, we must think deep and not be afraid to invest in our young people and in research and technology to identify and utilize all of the natural assets we have available to us.”
Turnquest said an FNM government would make trade and industry a key focus to grow the economy and provide new careers.
At a time when many Bahamians continue to suffer from constant blackouts and a lack of confidence in Bahamas Power and Light, Turnquest also outlined plans for energy reform.
“The FNM will bring relief to this situation with a short, medium and long term plan centered around the immediate engagement of public-private partnership arrangements with known generation providers and a plan to develop alternate fuel sources right here at home,” he said.
“Whether it be solar, biofuels, wave or geothermal technology, a serious effort to reduce our reliance on costly fossil fuels will be undertaken.”
Turnquest said this proposal can free up tremendous capital for reinvestment within the economy without outsourcing valuable jobs as some other parties have suggested.
“Again delegates, if we are to take ownership and control of our country and our economy, we must be bold and creative. Energy security is an important plank in that platform,” he said.
The deputy also pledged that a Minnis administration would be conservative in spending and aggressive in the management of government resources to produce a balanced budget and start repaying the debt.
“We also propose a fiscal rule where these large, unexplained contingent amounts we see in the annual budgets are reduced or eliminated,” Turnquest added.
He also said, “The requirement to strengthen the control of our spending and the management of our resources is critical if we expect to get ourselves out of this mess the PLP has plunged into with a national debt of over $7 billion; hear me now, $7 billion or 76.3 percent debt to GDP, well above the danger zone recognized by international agencies.
“Your FNM is committed to financial conservatism. We will engage the private sector to help us achieve efficiency in government and we will create entrepreneurial thinking and entrepreneurship within the civil service.“
On the eve of the party’s elections, Turnquest also praised Minnis’ leadership.
“Our leader, Dr. Hubert Minnis, has remained focused and has been slowly destroying the lines that kept our progress confined to that proverbial box where winners and losers are pre-determined based upon status or who you know versus what you know,” he said.
Turnquest said Minnis has demonstrated respect for all of his colleagues despite being bated into public arguments.
He said Minnis’ temperament speaks of self-confidence, control and a spirit of tolerance.
Turnquest is being challenged by Senator Dr. Duane Sands for the deputy leadership position and Minnis is being challenged by Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner.