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2004-11-18 16:21:32

US Election Teaches Bahamas A Lesson

We need politicians who will create the climate for growth, selling off government monopolies and creating competition within the system that will in turn create thousands of new jobs for Bahamians.

Please allow me some valuable space in your columns to give my impressions of the US Presidential election and the lessons we can learn from it.

Two years of campaigning has finally ended. The people have made their choice. The valiant warriors, each sharing a different vision for the future of the US, have ended their marathon divisive struggle.

Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry has conceded defeat. George W Bush has been re-elected to a second term in what can only be described as an historic victory. Historic in the sense that George Bush won more popular votes than any other President in US history. Americans turned out in record numbers to vote amid war, threats of terrorism, divisions over health care, abortion, family values, gay marriage, US foreign policy, outsourcing of jobs and a many other issues.

On the Democratic side John Kerry's platform of bigger government, higher taxes, more social programmes, liberal social handouts, free medicine and government intervention in people's lives was defeated by George Bush's platform of less government, fewer taxes, proactive foreign policy, family values, religion, pursuing and eliminating terrorists overseas; privatizing parts of social security; medical malpractice and law reform.

In addition to the platform differences this election was more about the style of the two men. Sen Kerry, a 30-year  member of the US Congress has had a history of flip-flopping all over his voting record. He voted against ejecting Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991. He voted for Bush to invade Iraq then voted against the bill to provide fuel, armour and everything else to the troops that were there. He voted for partial birth abortions, despite being a Catholic.

Mr Bush, on the other hand, was strong, decisive, steeped in faith and morals. He let everyone know where he stood on abortion, on marriage and on anything that affected his faith. Sure you may not have agreed with him, maybe you hated the man, but at least you knew where he stood and he told you the decisions that he was going to take if elected.

Politicians need to understand that doing your best is not good enough. Admitting your weaknesses and seeking partners, even should they come from the other side of the aisle to ensure the people's best interests are served, is of paramount importance.

Here at home the PLP is more than half way through its term as the government. Yes, we have heard many words. I daresay that if we put all the words and unfulfilled promises together we could walk from Nassau to Australia without getting our feet wet. And just like Senator Kerry, the current government has certainly aided global warming by the copious amounts of hot air spewing from the House of Assembly.

We have committees upon committees to consult, report, recommend, discuss, decipher and finally bring up to Cabinet for more of the same.

Wouldn't it be nice to have an individual like George Bush or Hubert Ingraham in charge who told you what they were going to do and then did it! It's so refreshing to see people who have a bold vision for their country and where they believe it could be, in say 10 years time. They are no-nonsense individuals who say what they mean and mean what they say.

Today we are drowning in partisan politics by legions of politicians whose future goals and ideas seem to be limited to who gets what as favours to those who supported them.

You might not agree with what some of our leaders have done. But at least they have taken the initiative and have had the boldness to lead and serve in public life. George Bush and Hubert Ingraham can never be said not to have done what they told you they were going to do.

Certainly you might disagree vehemently with their course of action. As a Bahamian I am so sick of ignorance, slackness, mediocrity, and a general level of nepotism, perpetuated and indirectly supported by politicians whose idea of public service for many of them is coined in the "all for me baby" phrase.

When in the world is it going to sink in that Bahamianization is dead. Long dead! It's time we realized that we are part of a global community and as such, the best from all walks of life should be welcomed in the Bahamas. To compete in the world we need to be the best of the best.

President George Bush says that the US needs to ensure a first class education for its youth for the jobs of the 21st century. We need a programme like the “no child left behind' for Bahamians. The Bahamas needs first class teachers and schools. If a school fails to achieve a certain grade then the administrators are held responsible. Is anyone, other than the Ministry of Education, proud that our national grades are D and E?

We need politicians who will create the climate for growth, selling off government monopolies and creating competition within the system that will in turn create thousands of new jobs for Bahamians. Why is it that we are constantly okay with the status quo?

We need pride in our country to be the best and when we aren't we need to be man enough to admit it and go out and get the expertise to help us to reach our goals.

Our telecommunications infrastructure is a mess.

BaTelCo's rates and overcharging of its customers are  offensive — if anything has held this country back, it's BaTelCo's monopoly; the national airline is a crying shame.

Can you imagine how many scholarships could have been awarded or homes built with the US $360 million debt Bahamasair has been kind enough to leave our children?

How many computers and other IT projects could have been funded with this money? BEC is grossly inefficient and the Water Corporation loses almost 50 per cent of our water in their pipes. And yet we have the audacity to proclaim “It's better in The Bahamas'. Well it's not!

We need leaders with vision and drive to drastically change and come up with a vision for the future? We need a civil service that supports entrepreneurs and does not suffocate them with red tape and bureaucratic baloney!

There was a fascinating article describing the difference between Mexico and China in a weekly news magazine last week. Despite Mexico's unbeatable access and proximity to the US, its natural resources, its abundant labour, rigid and rife with unions, China is fast luring investors away. Why? Simple — low labour costs, extremely skilled, flexible and intelligent workers, low electricity costs, new transportation infrastructure springing up everywhere. Most of all the Chinese have pride in their work. There is little disagreement that China intends to reinvent itself, break out of the old moulds and become the global superpower of tomorrow. Its people have a vision; its government has a vision and it is going to achieve its goals.

Mexico is stuck, like the Bahamas, with chronic weaknesses: high cost of electricity, monopolies all over the supply chain, protective tariffs, appalling transportation fees and costs, recurring budget deficits that no politician seems willing to tackle and a civil service lost in the stone age of inefficiency.

Where is our vision for the future?

How can e-commerce be the third pillar of our economy when today, almost three years after that declaration, Bahamians cannot conduct any e-commerce locally as the banks will not cooperate and validate. We need bold, compassionate, strong leaders willing to take risks and enact bold plans to improve our country. The time for voting for an individual based upon his race or origin is long gone. White Bahamians must not be afraid to run in over-the-hill constituencies, as well as black Bahamians should not shy away from white strongholds. The only reason for the ridiculous suggestion that there is no political place for the white Bahamian in his own country is the short-sighted divide and conquer philosophy of the old guard politicians.

We need fearless people with principles in politics today. People who will think outside the box; persons who respect the spirit of laws. We need, as Senator Edwards said today, "politicians that will fight for the people. We need people that will honour each and every person no matter what political party or ethnicity. We need people that don't start fighting for you when the election campaign begins in earnest, but who always fight for what is right, what is honest and what is necessary, no matter the cost or the consequences.' We need a plan for the future fast!

Robert Carron
Nassau, November 16, 2004.

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