The New Birth of Freedom

Aug 19, 2022

Like a gathering wave on the horizon, in the weeks and days leading to the FNM’s
victory on August 19, 1992, there was a quiet and growing confidence that the time
for change and rebirth had finally come to the Bahamas after years of unyielding
struggle by generations of Freedom Fighters in the Free National Movement.

The FNM’s brilliant 1992 campaign marshalled the full force of a party and a
movement determined to realize a new birth of freedom for a country hungry for
greater equality, justice, opportunity – and deliverance.

On the 19th, which gathering wave became a roaring and mighty tide as just over a
90 percent turnout of the electorate helped usher in national salvation and an era of
reform, modernization, and transformation.

This new birth of freedom and hope bloomed throughout the archipelago in a
Bahamas exhausted and bankrupted by years of PLP misrule and indifference.

It was not just a victory for the FNM. It was a victory for the Bahamian people! A
victory for a new direction for the Commonwealth of The Bahamas!

In a preamble to the FNM’s 2012 Manifesto, Party Leader Hubert A. Ingraham
reminded the country of what August 19, 1992, meant for the Bahamas.

Prior to 1992 our country was in great peril! The economy had collapsed. Our public
finances were in ruin because of gross mismanagement and corruption. The Public
Treasury was strapped.

A corrupt and victimizing regime used the power of the state to destroy those they
could not control and those who dared oppose the dangerous drift toward one-party
rule.

A culture of fear and intimidation stalked the land. Many Bahamians were afraid of
expressing their opinions or speaking out, because they feared losing their livelihood
and being victimized.

Some who dared speak out had family members who were not Bahamians deported.
Such cruel victimization destroyed marriages and families. Some who refused to
pledge their allegiance to a corrupt regime were targeted for revenge.

It went so far that calls were sometimes made to private banks urging them to refuse
mortgages for certain individuals who did not support the cult of personality that was
destroying our democracy.

Freedom was under threat by an administration which acted like a dictatorship in
controlling the broadcast media.

The Bahamas was “A Nation for Sale.” We had become a narco-state. Foreign drug
dealers set up bases in our islands. The government of the day turned a blind eye to
the merchants of drugs and death.

Our social order, and the minds and bodies of our sons and daughters, were being
poisoned by illicit drugs and the wanton disregard for human life and life-affirming
values.

Corruption was like a cancer which had spread to every sector of government, and
indeed throughout our culture.

Favouritism was the order of the day, with select families and cronies enriching
themselves as if God had made this country only for them.

Amidst the fear, the mass corruption, the assault on democracy; amidst the brutal
victimization, the destruction of values and the cult of personality arose men and
women of courage, who dedicated their lives to save the land and the people they
loved.

Founding Fathers

A courageous, patriotic Dissident Eight led the way: Sir Cecil Wallace Whitfield, Sir
Arthur Foulkes, Warren Levarity, Maurice Moore, George Thompson, Dr. Curtis
McMillan, Jimmy Shephard, and Dr. Elwood Donaldson.

The Founders purposefully chose the word “Free” in the establishment of a new
movement for freedom and social justice.

For two trying decades the Free National Movement persevered in the long struggle
to save our country and to secure our future.

The new birth of freedom in 1992 was a defining moment in Bahamian history. It
was a validation of the two-party system in a more secure parliamentary
democracy.

The Free National Movement saved our country and saved our democracy. After
1992 our democracy became more complete, more entrenched, more vibrant.

 

The PLP had squandered the promise of our Bahamas with their neglect and abuse
of our democracy. Their tacit support of lawlessness and their toleration of the drug
culture laid the foundation for the climate of violence which today haunts our
country.

The Free National Movement steered the Bahamas in a new direction, launching a
new era of clean, accountable, and transparent government. Government in the
sunshine was productive, forward-looking, and progressive.

The era of reform and modernization transformed a stagnant Bahamas and an
anaemic economy teetering on the brink of collapse. The main priority was economic
restoration. This required the revival of tourism and the provision of modern
infrastructure the length and breadth of the country.

Because of the transformative policies of the FNM, one of the most remarkable
turnarounds in the economy of the Bahamas occurred in the 1990s!

The most telling statistic of the turnaround was the enjoyment of the lowest level of
unemployment in the history of an independent Bahamas, which helped the FNM to
secure a historic 57 percent of the vote in 1997.

The decade of the nineties started with considerable discussion about low-spending
tourists visiting the Bahamas. It ended with the highest levels of visitor satisfaction,
visitor spending and hotel occupancies that the Bahamas had ever enjoyed.

A substantial reason for this transformation was that the 1992 election ushered in
both a new philosophy and new approaches in the conduct of national affairs, with
tremendous implications for tourism, the largest sector of the economy.

The centrepiece was the creation of the Atlantis resort accompanied by the
introduction of a more harmonious working relationship between the private and
public sectors of tourism.

This included the conversion of the benefits of the Hotel Encouragement Act from a
rebate to an exemption that improved the cash flow of many properties that often
waited for more than a year for refunds due under the Act.

That in turn led to many more investments in refurbishing of existing properties and
the stimulation of new investments across the Bahamas.
Confidence Restored

 

Prime Minister Ingraham conducted a major overseas promotion to introduce the
“New Bahamas.” This served to restore the confidence in tourism in the Bahamas.

The development of Atlantis had an additional and unanticipated effect. Travel
agents and travel influencers came quickly to the conclusion that “there must be
something very special about the Bahamas for a private company to make that kind
of investment.”

That perception was confirmed when properties on New Providence and Paradise
Island benefitted from the halo effect when properties that made no significant
investment saw their average room rates also rising rapidly.

The privatization of state-run hotels boosted employment and the economy, easing
some of the drain on the Public Treasury.

The revamping of tourism was also felt in the marketing and promotion of the
Bahamas with resources from the private and public sectors often pooled to ensure
greater coherence across all message platforms in the marketplace.

The dramatic rebound in tourism revitalized the economy and public finances. This
dramatic growth helped to provide funds for investments in infrastructure, health
care, education, social services, and other areas of national development.

Throughout the country, including in long-neglected Family Islands, the FNM
transformed the country’s infrastructure with new and upgraded town centers,
airports, roads, bridges, docks, water systems, schools, health care facilities, housing,
police stations, government offices, post offices and other facilities.

Family Islands that had been abandoned for decades now had potable water, modern
communications infrastructure, decent roads and docks, better schools, life-saving
health care and access to other services taken for granted on New Providence and
Grand Bahama.

From the numbering of homes and new affordable homes to major road and
waterworks to the new port at Arawak Cay to LPIA to the beginning of the
redevelopment of downtown Nassau, the FNM launched numerous projects to
improve the quality of life on New Providence.

To further revitalize the economy and to attract new investments, the FNM created:
the Bahamas Investment Authority, improved regulations in the financial services
sector and regularized the ownership of Crown Land for thousands of Bahamians on
virtually every island in the country.

Shareholding Society

The FNM created a greater opportunity and shareholding society through various
share offering initiatives, while assisting farmers, fishers, artisans, trades people and
other through entrepreneurial incentives and programs.

FNM administrations invested heavily in the promotion and support of small- and
medium-sized businesses through the Self-Starter Program, the Small Business
Development Center and other initiatives.

The new FNM Government in the sunshine also ushered in an era of transparency
and accountability. This included cleaning up the soiled and terribly damaged
international reputation of a “nation for sale.”

A hallmark of the new birth of freedom and good governance agenda was the
liberation of the airwaves through the dismantling of the state monopoly on the
broadcast media.

This freed Bahamians to speak their minds, unafraid of retaliation by the state. It
was a defining moment in deepening our democracy, which endures 30 years later.
The privatization and promotion of the information and communications technology
services included the introduction of internet and cable TV services throughout the
country. It was the FNM that launched digital transformation, including in
government services.

Parliament was televised for the first time so that Bahamians could see their
representatives debate the issues of the day live. The House of Assembly was reduced
by eleven seats from 49 to 38. The FNM introduced elected local government in the
Family Islands.

Good governance was extended through widespread public sector reform, including
the computerization of the public service, which was still using mostly typewriters
when the FNM first came to office.

Public finances were revolutionized and made significantly more transparent. There
was the introduction of regular and systematic reporting to the Bahamian people in
Parliament and through periodic national addresses and annual reports. There was
increased transparency in the government’s bid and procurement processes.

The reform of the legal and judicial sector included: the establishment of a resident
Court of Appeal, an increase in the number of justices on the Supreme Court, the

extension of the Supreme Court to Grand Bahama and the introduction of
magistrates to the Family Islands.

A new Police Force Act helped to modernize the Royal Bahamas Police Force, along
with tremendous investments in training, salaries and benefits, infrastructure,
technology, and materiel.

Extraordinary Investments

To make government more efficient, the FNM created the Hospitals Authority, the
Airport Authority, the Maritime Authority, the Sports Authority, and the Straw
Market Authority.

Extraordinary investments were made to improve the quality of life for the majority
of Bahamians. The major expansion of health care facilities and services included
nine new health care clinics built during the FNM’s first two terms in office.

The FNM built new emergency health facilities and new surgical theatres at Rand
Memorial Hospital in Grand Bahamas, completed a new adolescent care centre at
Sandilands Hospital and began construction of new Critical Care Unit at Princess
Margaret Hospital.

There was also new legislation to regulate all branches of health care and, later, the
introduction of a prescription drug program benefitting many thousands.

In education, the FNM significantly expanded and upgraded the national school
plant from pre-school to tertiary level education. This included the construction of
many new primary and secondary schools around the country, while introducing
pre school places for four-year-old children. Legislation was introduced to create a
teaching career path.

A $100 million education loan program was subsequently introduced. During the
administration of Dr. Hubert Minnis, qualifying students at the University of The
Bahamas and BTVI were able to attend tuition free. Preschool opportunities were
also significantly expanded.

From its inception and throughout its years in government, the FNM has championed
equality and women’s rights, instituting the most socially progressive agenda in a
generation following 1992.

 

The promotion of social equality and respect for human rights included legal reform
to remove various forms of discrimination. Because of the FNM, all children,
regardless of the marital status of parents, legally have two parents.

The FNM abolished primogeniture; increased benefits under the National Insurance
Board, including benefits for widows and orphans; legislated equal pay for men and
women; introduced a minimum wage in the public and private sector; introduced an
unemployment benefit and enhanced legislation to improve health and safety in the
workplace.

To celebrate the Bahamian imagination and ingenuity and to promote our culture,
the FNM: developed the Antiquities Monuments and Antiquities Act, created the
National Art Gallery, created the Junkanoo Expo, began the development of the
National Performing Arts Centre, constructed the new Nassau Straw Market and
facilitated and provided seed money for the construction of the Harry Moore Library
and Communications Centre at UB.

To preserve and protect our natural environment, the FNM more than doubled the
size of the National Park System, created the Bahamas Environment Science and
Technology Commission (BEST), and increased the Government’s subvention to the
Bahamas National Trust ten-fold.

To promote biodiversity, the FNM created and expanded marine protected areas,
legislated protection of marine mammals, sharks, and marine turtles, and instituted
environmental impact assessments.

Thirty years after 1992, there are many things that Bahamians take for granted,
especially younger Bahamians who do not know or do not remember what the
Bahamas was like prior to 1992.

Because of August 19, 1992, Bahamians have more freedoms, greater access to better
health care and education, more modern infrastructure, a country with a better
international reputation, greater equality and freedom for women, a more secure
democracy, and the promise of a better Bahamas for all.

It is a legacy on which new generations of Bahamians may build a more prosperous
and secure Commonwealth. It is a legacy of which the FNM can be justly proud.

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