Reality and Expectations a Year Later

The last Free National Movement (FNM) administration had a tough time from 2007 to 2012. The financial crisis in 2008 left the FNM playing catch-up. The crime problem it could never bring under control. The roadwork project could not come to an end.

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) had all the ammunition it needed in the 2012 general election campaign. It attacked and attacked, exposing the challenges the FNM had during its term. The PLP also promised the world. The party, or its members individually, promised to bring the crime problem under control; to get rid of the roadwork contractor; 10,000 immediate jobs; a commission of inquiry to examine FNM actions; national health insurance in a year, etc.

The PLP said it “Believed in Bahamians” and that a “gold rush” of dreams was coming if only we re-elected Perry Christie as prime minister. Bahamians inhaled the intriguing electoral opiate the PLP was selling and had sky-high expectations for the party. The PLP did not say it would bring incremental change or mere stability. It promised it all.

A year later, Bahamians think what was promised is not being delivered. After eight months in office, in a year when the FNM governed for the first four months, the murder count was not a record again as was becoming the annual expectation. Instead, it was the second highest murder tally in our modern history. This year we are again on pace for around 100 murders, slightly better than before but nowhere near what would be argued as success. Other crime categories this year have declined slightly, but it is too soon to declare a permanent trend. The level of crime and violence in The Bahamas is still far too high for such a small place.

On the economic front joblessness too has declined slightly, but it remains high. The rate of unemployment dropped from 14.7 percent to 14 percent nationally, according to the latest labor force survey released by the Department of Statistics in February. The results of the survey refer to the period October 29 to November 4, 2012. In the previous Labour Force Survey, released in May 2012 and representing the period April 23 to April 29, 2012, unemployment nationally decreased from 15.9 percent to 14.7 percent.

Thousands of Bahamians have become discouraged, however. They no longer look for work. Many feel the only major plank of the PLP economic plan worth looking forward to is Baha Mar – a deal, in its current incarnation, made by the FNM. The thousands of immediate jobs promised by some PLPs seem a mere election promise. Progress is coming slowly. There is no immediate gold in sight.

The party too has had to fight through several self-inflicted crises. The gambling referendum was a debacle. The current Gaming Bill has angered many Bahamians. The problem here is that the Christie government can’t make a decision and move on from the issue. The leadership of the party appeared to want to legalize web shops, but it was afraid to do so as a result of church opposition. The people voted against the changes proposed in the referendum after a poor performance by the prime minister in the run-up to the vote. Many people are now angry that the government has before it a draft bill to authorize online gambling for the established resorts, and to allow legal residents to gamble. Bahamians would be the only ones not able to gamble in The Bahamas.

The PLP, of late, has also been embroiled in immigration controversy. It says it wants to stop issuing work permits to domestic laborers – a move that seems excessive to many. It has also pledged a more aggressive enforcement of the country’s immigration laws, meaning a crackdown on the issuance of work permits to all foreigners. This has caused uncertainty in the business community.

While Bahamians were sold hope of a “gold rush” and immediate solutions under the PLP, we have seen incremental change and some confusion. The PLP’s problem is it irresponsibly promised too much and Bahamians want what they thought they were going to get. The governing party will not be able to deliver on all it pledged. The people now realize this. While they should never have believed all those campaign promises were possible, anger now exists toward the party in charge because it is failing to deliver the grandiose dream.

Who knows how it will all end. Only 20 percent of the mandate is now gone. If Baha Mar is able to bring forward 4,000 jobs to 5,000 jobs, that might make the people happy enough before the next general election to think favorably of the PLP.

A weak, near non-existent opposition also keeps the PLP viable. So despite a slow start in year one, the gold rush administration is still in the game.

Editorial from The Freeport News
May 8, 2013