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Highlighting what he called "unimaginable suffering" in Grand Bahama, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Perry Christie on Saturday night vowed that his administration would create jobs during tough times.
Speaking at a political event in Marco City, Christie said unemployment in Grand Bahama is "through the roof" and "young Bahamians, old Bahamians and everyone in between [are] out of work and out of hope."
"I hate to see the middle class slipping into poverty, the poor getting even more desperate. It hurts me to my core because I know we can do so much better," he said.
Amid the intensifying election season, the PLP, the governing Free National Movement (FNM) and the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) are all promising to improve economic conditions on Grand Bahama.
The most recent labor force survey, taken by the Department of Statistics last November, showed unemployment on Grand Bahama rising from 15.4 percent in May to 21.2 percent.
The category of people known as discouraged workers -- because they are ready, willing and able to work but have given up looking because they believe there are no jobs available -- climbed 42 percent on Grand Bahama. Discouraged workers are not calculated as part of the unemployment rate.
Staying on message, Christie said Saturday night that the global recession is only part of the explanation for Grand Bahama's economic troubles.
"The FNM made it worse, much worse. It never had to get this bad," he said.
"Grand Bahamians trying to succeed during the recession had an FNM boot on their necks, keeping them down.
"The FNM has failed you - starting with an unthinkably dysfunctional relationship with the Port Authority. Families losing their homes, losing the dignity that comes with work and with raising your children in security - and this government cannot find a way to sit down, come up with a plan for the way forward?"
Christie said the PLP plans to revive tourism in Grand Bahama with big cuts in airport and hotel taxes.
He said his government would expand Bahamian ownership in tourism by making sure Bahamians have access to affordable start-up capital, affordable land, technical and marketing support.
"We have initiatives for worker retraining, for technology centers, for more and better vocational and technical opportunities, and for upgrading our schools to meet 21st century standards."
Christie added: "We have to move to aggressively reduce energy costs, and we have to investigate very serious charges of over-billing here in Grand Bahama."
Christie told Grand Bahamians that if they had a dollar for every minute Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham spent worrying about them and their troubles, they still wouldn't have enough money to afford a haircut.
The FNM has failed, and The Bahamas is much worse off than it was five years ago, he said.
"But we're going to turn things around," Christie declared.
"In Grand Bahama, we're going to overcome this terrible adversity - we're going to do it together, hand in hand.
"The FNM might not know how to create jobs during tough times, but we do.
We did it before and we're going to do it again."
Is it the politically correct thing to say that the "chickens have come home and will continue to come home to roost" regarding the overcrowding of Nassau? Then that question begs another question: Why is it that we are politically intimidated and extremely cautious when it comes to freedom of speech, especially speech that is non-treasonous?
Hundreds of North Abaconians gathered at the Central Abaco High School Grounds on Saturday evening to hear from their PLP Candidate, Mr. Renardo Curry and the Nation’s Chief, Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie.
Curry wasted no time laying the foundation, “It starts with education,” he said. “I’ve been working in youth development for a long time, and it is my deepest conviction that education is a necessity, not a luxury.”
Hello, Grand Bahama!
Look at all of you – aren’t you amazing?! You look like you’re ready for a new direction! A new direction and a new day!
Grand Bahama, are you with us? Are you marching to victory with the PLP?
Are you ready for change, Grand Bahama?
We’re ready, too!
FROM WHAT I CAN SEE TONIGHT, IT LOOKS LIKE GRAND BAHAMA IS GOLD RUSH COUNTRY!
I know you’re ready for change, Grand Bahama.
When I visit with you, I hear words like “ghost town” and “devastated” and “abandoned”.
Colour Red is in the great constituency of Long Island. We are in FNM country. You have been with us for a long time. Like the saying goes, “Love is a many splendored thing!” We love you. Pappa love you. We know you love us back.