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 Bahamas Commentary

2003-07-08 15:21:56

Are Politicians Misleading The Public?

I have said it before and I will say it again. What PLP Chairman Reynard Rigby had indicated in his review of the PLP's first year in office about the state of the Bahamian economy is pure rubbish.

Rather than mislead the Bahamian people as to the true state of the Bahamian economy, Chairman Rigby should have made it clear that such opinion was his own and not that based on sound, factual, expert advice.

In the aftermath of the budget debate 2003, a more sobering and realistic position must be taken by those hoping to mold public opinion. The Minister of State for Finances, the Honorable Senator James Smith has emphasized in his contribution to the debate that the Bahamian economy "is in a lot worse state than most people believe." He then went on to qualify his decision by submitting the necessary supportive financial data.

In addition, Prime Minister Perry Christie has also reminded us to reduce unnecessary spending and to tighten our belts. Provisions of this year's budget calls for sacrifices almost across the board as there was no guarantee that a request to take care of certain expenditures would have been accommodated. Yet despite the call for austere measures, the public was surprised that after the civil servants were told to be patient and not to expect to receive their new increases this year as promised, that provisions were made for other priorities such as new cars for cabinet ministers and Sir Lynden Pindling's pension for his widow.

A further public interest is the PLP government's efforts to divest itself of some of the Bahamian assets that has been the source of major liabilities over the years. This is something that the previous FNM government had attempted to do despite much criticism from the PLP Opposition. This was an effort to end the "voodoo economics" practiced by the old PLP government. This term refers to "Reaganomics" as it was introduced under President Ronald Reagan of the United States. With "voodoo economics" the economy was developed on the backs of the tax payers and not by market forces. Government and not private business take the lead in the economic development of the country. Needless to say, this system is a waste of time. Mismanagement, inefficiency, waste, etc. with economic stagnation being the end results.

However, when the previous FNM government attempted to take this sensible approach, they were aggressibly criticized by the PLP Opposition who accused the FNM of selling the country in particular to foreigners. Ironically and in full contradiction, the current PLP has been taking a similar approach. Unfortunately it may be a little too late as the Bahamas may have lost some golden opportunities to cash on some of the sales. For example when the Bahamas had an opportunity to get top dollar for the sale of Batelco. The potential sale was frustrated by the PLP Opposition.

We can all recall how Shane Gibson, now Minister of Housing and National Insurance marched on Bay Street with his gang in a most lawless manner. Today with the granting of another license to operate a telephone company, Batelco's exclusive monopoly would be broken before the sale of Batelco is completed. Clearly, now at best, Batelco will be sold at a bargain basement give-a-way price. Furthermore, the Honorable Bradley Roberts has indicated that the cost of long distance calls will go down, but at the same time, the monthly rent charge will go up. In other words, six of one and a half a dozen of the next. Who is he trying to fool? The consumer will still end up paying the same amount for Batelco's service Also, utilities Minister Bradley Roberts has also promised an across the board reduction for the price of electricity. This is unrealistic as the cost of electricity is closely pegged to the fuel cost. There is no way anyone can guarantee what will be the cost of fuel will be in October. One can understand the PLP government trying to assist those persons currently experiencing difficult times, but to give the rich and businesses with good cash flow just doesn't make any sense. Another Bahamas government liability and nightmare is Bahamasair, our national airline. With its new restructuring efforts, Bahamasair will cease to operate on a number of its traditional Family Island routes. Therefore, it can no longer truly be a national airline. In particular, the lost of the North Eleuthera route after operating for forty plus years since the days of Bahamas Airways is most ridiculous. With its most elite tourism product and the area is in an upswing, it would be a bad decision for Bahamasair to cease its North Eleuthera route. Instead, more emphasis should have been placed on the reasons as to why Bahamasair is in the state that it now finds itself. For example, the issue of overstaffing, tardiness, marketing strategy, etc. Yet, despite the cutbacks, Bahamasair is proposing to extent its services into the international market such as those routes currently operated by Laker Airways. Ironically, under the Bahamas Express program, Bahamasair has gone down this disastrous road before. with the results being tens of millions of dollars misappropriated or "did walk-about." If these routes were so profitable then why would Laker Airways give them up?

The bottom line in all this is that there is little optimism for relief in the near future. Here in Grand Bahama, people are losing their jobs as jobs in places like Our Lucaya, the Princess Properties have laid off employees in recent weeks. The Running Mon Marina and two supermarkets have been closed. With the pending opening of the new casino, over 2,000 applications have been received for 300 positions. Hundreds of young people who are fresh out of school are beating the pavement looking for jobs. The future looks bleak. What is the unemployment rate in Grand Bahama today? Maybe Investment Minister, Allyson Maynard-Gibson should find out as she has mislead the Bahamas as to the true unemployment figures in Grand Bahama before. Fortunately, the PLP government is sensible enough to follow the economic development blueprints left in place by the FNM government.

By Dr. Lea Percentie
Letter To The Editor
July 4th 

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