Some Things The Country Could Do
There are three major areas that need to be seriously addressed by government.
At the beginning of every new year it is worth taking stock of the last year so that past mistakes can be corrected and the prospect of a better future assured.
Here in the Bahamas there are many mistakes that have to be corrected and so we will devote this column today to some of the more serious ones.
There are three major areas that need to be seriously addressed by government. They affect us all and unless something is done to correct them, the consequences of their neglect could be serious.
First there is the question of the standard of education in our schools - mainly the public schools.
Although this country spends a fortune on trying to adequately educate our burgeoning school population, the results are far from satisfactory. Not only are exam results poor, they are unsatisfactory in every way as they show there has been no improvement in the past five years - in fact, results seem to be getting worse, rather than better.
There has been much discussion about what should be done to correct this. It is our belief that the type of curriculum in the schools needs to be overhauled to reflect a less academic approach and a more realistic and utilitarian approach structured more to the needs of people in today's world.
The older generation is amazed that youngsters today have no proper foundation in the basics - reading, writing and arithmetic. These are the fundamentals that have to be nurtured, before any progress can be made towards higher learning. One without the other is not getting the job done, as so many employers in the country will tell you.
It is tragic that a young person can leave school today without being able to write a simple letter in his own mother tongue that is free of grammatical and spelling errors. It is a shame that they don't even seem able to understand a simple job advertisement, and will apply for the position, listing skills that have no bearing on the job being advertised.
It is also obvious that not every person in the public school system will be able to attain a 3.0 point average grade to get into college. More should be done to guide these students away from academics and into the technical fields where today there are more demands than there are skilled persons to meet them.
People who have learned a trade can go on to build up their own businesses and win contracts on some of the larger projects that will be on line in the Bahamas for some years to come.
Plumbers and electricians hired by The Tribune charge $60 to $75 an hour, which is not a bad return by any standard.
By now it should be obvious to Prime Minister Christie that the Ministry of Education needs a full time minister, who, being only human, cannot be expected to be in two places at once. It is obvious that no one - no matter who he is or what political party he belongs to - can give the attention that the schools require, and at the same time adequately meet the demands of the Attorney General's office. It is unfair for any government to expect him to.
Secondly, tourism is the main engine that drives our economy. Today one wonders if government fully appreciates this fact.
For years there has been disgruntlement over conditions at Nassau International Airport, the sight of which makes a visitor wonder how this country can be classified as a first class tourist destination.
Government has a report before it highlighting the airport as the tourists' main complaint with the Bahamas.
As tourism brings in nearly $3 billion a year, there should be no problem in spending a few hundred million on a new, properly planned airport. And, of course, the car park cannot be forgotten. Isn't it about time that a multi-storied car park were constructed to accommodate more cars with a covered walkway leading to the airport terminal? Rainy days can be avoided, and on dry days travellers will not have to pull their luggage through the puddles that now settle after a downpour in the uneven pathways leading to the terminal.
Baggage handling needs to be overhauled as today it's in a state of confusion and wastes a traveller's time.
And thirdly, there's the crime. No amount of planning and improving our tourism facilities is going to build us a better future if the growing problem of crime is not tackled and brought under control.
Allied to the crime problem and increase in violent crimes, especially the use of firearms, there is more and more talk of some officers taking bribes and shaking down Haitians and Jamaicans. This is a tough one for the Police Commissioner who has to be ruthless in removing unworthy officers from the force. More often than not there's not enough of a police presence in the neighbourhoods to discourage crime. Let's get more police out to protect our citizens on the streets. The Commissioner is now working hard in this area and reports that the results are encouraging.
But in addition to the work of the police, more should be done in the courts to enforce the law. Too often judges lean on the side of the criminal, which discourages the police, who having caught a criminal, now have to go chasing him again after the courts have returned him to the streets - his happy hunting grounds. The judicial system needs to look into charges such as these that are now being heard more frequently in many quarters of the community.
Editorial from The Tribune, Nassau Bahamas