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 Bahamas Commentary

2005-09-16 09:24:46

Whither Goest Thou Bahamas?

It might have served the purpose of the ruling elite of yesteryear, but even a blind man can see national disaster ahead, if meaningful and appropriate changes are not made.

Today we would like to throw out some population growth figures for readers to consider in the light of how we govern our country. Will we continue to govern ten or twenty years from now in the same regressive and selfish way in which we do now, or will circumstances force us to change? Will the present political and economic structures and their administration be suitable enough to sustain the kind of socio-political and economic order to which we aspire?

At present there is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the way the country is operating, which is nothing new. Ever since the Burma Road riot in the middle of the last century, there have been fires of discontent, which government has been reluctant to address in fundamental and holistic ways. Instead of studying the underlying causes of those fires and removing the incendiary and combustible elements that give rise to them, government has tended to take a rather superficial or cosmetic approach to deal with the problem.

This is somewhat understandable in the light of early historical circumstances. The majority of the population were black slaves who were eventually granted freedom some 171 years ago. They were not concerned with the franchise of governance. They were more concerned with eking out a living for themselves and their family from harsh farming circumstances, while governance was left up to the former white masters. Democratic participation of the black majority was the farthest thing from the consciousness of the white ruling elite. A placating patronage system was adequate to sustain the status quo of the time.

As time passed the descendants of the ruling class refined the patronage system of marginalizing the majority, through economic and political control. Even though the industrial age was forcing rapid changes in politics and economics in Britain, Europe and America, which triggered the civil rights movement, greed and prestige retarded similar movements in our country.

Then the tide turned in 1967. At last there was some hope of true emancipation with Moses Lynden Pindling leading the country to the promised land. In a matter of two years however, signs of the seduction by the newfound power and prestige of government began to rear their head. Greed eventually won, as serving in government became a means of instant riches for the victors and total annihilation of the vanquished. No less than total control of mind, body and soul seemed to be the objective of the political directorate of the time.

This approach to governance caused the country tremendous amount of pain and embarrassment both at home and abroad. Then the people decided to try an emancipation proclamation of their own in 1992. A new Moses was given the mandate to empower the majority and give a new meaning to democracy. This new democracy would begin to put the power, control and prestige in the hands of the people. Unfortunately many of those who feared total emancipation turned on new Moses Hubert Ingraham and returned to safety of the plantation of chaotic control and slackness.

Once again there are ramblings of discontent. Forest fires have been flaring up across the country, as the gatekeepers of bondage scurry here and there and everywhere. With their hoses of pretence and their magical spin-doctors, they perpetuate the myth of deities who have everything under control, and everyone is happy. Is this what the future holds for the orderly development of an empowered people of the future?

At a population growth rate of 3% per year our present population of some 350,000 will be almost 475,000 in ten years, with almost 318,000 living on New Providence and 157,000 or so living on the Family Islands. By 2025 A. D. those numbers will jump to 427,000 in New Providence and 211,000 in the Family Islands, bringing the country's total population to almost 640,000 people. What kind of socio-economic and political structure will there be to orderly manage the reality of that situation?

The present structure is woefully inadequate right now, if the present rumblings of discontent are any indication. It might have served the purpose of the ruling elite of yesteryear, but even a blind man can see national disaster ahead, if meaningful and appropriate changes are not made. Do we have the courage and vision to do the right thing?

By: Vincent L. Ferguson, The Bahama Journal

 
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