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 Bahamas Commentary

2003-07-08 00:02:01

Dealing With Economic Realities Not Theories

We think it significant that the leader of the country's largest and most successful trade union has signed on to the Tourism Task Force report on trade liberalisation released last week.

Though trade liberalisation is a somewhat vague and academic term, the report actually points out that our economic future is at a crossroads and we cannot continue with business as usual if we want to avoid the problems that have assailed other countries, such as Jamaica.

Bahamians have tended to take too many things for granted in the past half-century of prosperity that we enjoyed because of tourism and offshore banking, with little effort or investment on our part. But, just as the world changed in our favour after World War Two, it is changing now in ways that could be to our serious detriment if we do not pay attention and make the necessary adjustments in order to adapt to new realities.

The enlightened leadership of trade unionists such as Pat Bain and politicians such as James Smith is critical to ensure that we do not suffer the kind of economic dislocation that could lead to social instability and our ultimate demise as a desirable place to live, raise families and do business.

We should remember that, despite a warm climate and nice beaches, The Bahamas does not have any major role in or hold on the world economy. We are still little more than a backwater made prosperous by air conditioning and air travel.

The conflicting signals being sent by our current government are the result, we think, of a reluctance to come to terms with the realities created locally by the previous government, and objective constraints imposed by the changing world economy.

If, on the one hand, we can talk about downsizing and selling off Bahamasair (which has lost the country more than $300 million to date), why are we talking in the same breath of revitalising ZNS (which also continues to lose millions) just so we can see more politicians looking cool while wearing shades on TV?

The task force report makes it clear that education and training are the critical issues going forward. The government should not be in the business of writing airline tickets or producing TV shows. It should be focused on fixing the public service, education and the justice system.

Why doesn't the government respond to the important points contained in this report rather than wasting time talking about airy-fairy ideas such as the free movement of people throughout the Caribbean, and other similarly irrelevant issues?

Editorial, The Nassau Guardian

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