A Young Voter’s Perspective on the Upcoming Election
I was born February 26, 1985 and as such I’ve only been able to vote in the 2007 election thus far. However, I keenly followed the 2002 election because I was only a few months shy of being eligible to vote and was very interested on how its outcome would affect the future of our country. I recall being mesmerized by the eloquence of the leader of the opposition, Perry Christie.
I remember thinking that the promises he espoused were what The Bahamas needed to truly move into the 21st century. I heard him speak about national health insurance for the poor so they wouldn’t have to host cookouts anymore to pay for medical expenses. I heard him speak about creating an ownership society where all Bahamians could partake in the bounty of this nation, and I heard him speak about how he would govern with integrity and accountability. I heard many promises and like a smitten young girl experiencing her first crush, I believed them all. I went away in 2002 wishing I had the opportunity to vote for Christie.
In 2003 I went abroad to further my education at a Canadian university. During those five years that the PLP governed I intently followed their progress and rooted for them from afar. I was sorely disappointed, and felt hoodwinked, when not one of the promises which convinced me that Christie was the right man to run this country were kept.
Instead I remember hearing about countless committees appointed to address pertinent issues but nothing ever coming out of them (in some cases not even a report). I remember sitting in my apartment and watching on CNN my country caught up in the whole Anna Nicole debacle, and seeing pictures on the Internet of a then sitting Cabinet minister caught in a very unflattering and compromising picture with the deceased Smith. That was enough for me, I had had it. I decided to look at the FNM and its current leader at the time, Hubert Ingraham. I knew well about how effectively Ingraham had governed from 1992-2002; bringing needed infrastructure to Family Islands that were neglected for decades; restoring the image of The Bahamas in the eyes of the international community as not being a nation for sale; and brining in much needed foreign direct investment. However, I refused to be hoodwinked again. I decided to do some more research on Ingraham and the FNM. What I found out was a party that believed in transparency – opening the airwaves for private individuals to own broadcasting companies. I found a party which promoted young people – appointing the youngest ever minister (Zhivargo Laing) to the Cabinet of The Bahamas. I was impressed with Ingraham and the FNM, so in May 2007 whilst still in school I flew home to cast my first vote for the FNM.
It has been almost five years now since the FNM was elected and I’m very impressed with the way it has governed given the worst global recession since the Great Depression. I was fortunate enough to attend one of the top Universities in Canada and obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Finance with a minor in Economics. I thoroughly understand the precarious state most of the major world economies face and its impact thereof on smaller dependent states. It’s not easy for any government to govern during this time. If you need an example just look to our northern neighbor and witness the myriad issues its talented but beleaguered president faces at this time.
To me this election is about clear, discernible choices. Governments are elected to make tough, sometimes unpopular decisions, but decisions that will positively impact our generation and those not yet born. We are now seeing the makings of a true ownership society where average Bahamians can now invest in lucrative and what once were exclusive entities such as Cable Bahamas, the Arawak Cay Port and Commonwealth Brewery, just to name a few. Investments in the dredging of Nassau Harbour, the building of the new straw market and the New Providence Road Improvement Project will certainly benefit us, but will also benefit future Bahamians.
I’ve heard the inane and politicized argument about the government racking up debt, and its implications for our country. Let me first say I understand the importance of fiscal responsibility and the need to restrain government borrowing. However, The Bahamas is a country that hasn’t had a budget surplus since 1999. This means that every year since 1999 when the government goes through our budget exercise we have to borrow from some external source to cover the budget shortfall.
It’s strange that the Perry Christie-led PLP would talk about fiscal responsibility when not once during its term in office was it able to balance the budget, and the PLP governed in good economic times.
The FNM was able to not only balance the budget but produce a fiscal surplus in the years 1998 and 1999. In an economic recession when already limited government revenue is further strained by the slowdown in business activity and consumer spending, we have to borrow even to meet our fiscal needs. How else are we to pay for the unemployment benefit program, the self-starter program or the various infrastructure investments going on in the country?
Think for a second what would have occurred in this country had the government not stepped in and introduced these programs. These are programs and initiatives that are putting people to work, assisting individuals who have unfortunately lost their jobs and providing young entrepreneurs with much needed capital – capital they would have otherwise not been able to obtain.
Most major governments in the Western Hemisphere, including the United States, and many European countries are being forced to borrow record sums of money because of this recession. We are in the enviable position of having one of the lowest debt-to-GDP ratios in this hemisphere at 48 percent. A responsible government doesn’t just spend money – it invests money. I commend the prime minister and the Minister of State for Finance, Zhivargo Laing, for having the acumen and the courage to make the tough decisions,and prevent the Bahamian economy from falling off the proverbial cliff. It can be expected that once the Bahamian economy gets back on its feet we will not need to borrow as much and will begin paying off our debt more rapidly.
The stakes couldn’t be higher this election, and as a result we need a leader who is capable of deftly steering the ship. Contrary to what the opposition says this election it is all about leadership. It takes capable leadership to put words into action, and it takes strong leadership to keep those around you focused on the task at hand. I implore all young Bahamians and everyone voting in this election to not be swayed by empty rhetoric, but to evaluate each leader on his record of accomplishments and what he brings to the table.
By: A Bahamian Patriotelections, FNM, government, PLP, vote