Today marks the third anniversary of the Progressive Liberal Party’s term in office, a term that could be described as disappointingly drab and littered with failures to live up to the plethora of election promises made on the campaign trail in 2012.
As a Bahamian, I am dissatisfied with our governance over the past few years. I have keenly observed as the government rolled from one crisis to another, from one scandal to another, from one disgraceful episode to another and from one failed promise to another.
All things considered, it’s difficult to believe that at the helm of our government is the party that promised us that they believed in Bahamians, but has patently demonstrated only a belief in PLP Bahamians.
Yes, this is the governing party who stated in their campaign manifesto that “Bahamians are in pain and immediate action to counteract this is needed on a number of fronts”, but have instead delivered more pain, have seemed totally discombobulated when it comes to any notion of good governance, who seem totally enthralled by the trappings of office and have become estranged from the electorate.
The most appropriate metaphor that fits the Christie administration emanates from imperial China – death by a thousand cuts. In days gone by, the Chinese use of torture was reserved for those who committed the most egregious crimes, who they felt needed to suffer before death.
In modern times, that term has come to refer to incremental happenings, usually small or happening one after the next, none of which are fatal by itself but, when added up, could lead to a slow and agonising demise. This is the track that the governing PLP now finds itself on.
The PLP rode into power in 2012 with grandiose schemes that even convinced some of the most sceptical among us. The “gold rush” was adopted by many and many voters believed their description of their notion of Canaan land. Bahamians believed that the government would demonstrate that they believe in us, that they would put Bahamians – all Bahamians – first and that they had learned from their scandal-ridden past.
Having demonstrated over the last three years that these were all fantasies, and taking into account the governing party’s progression from one scandal or mess-up to another, for them, these events/incidents can amount to nothing less than death by a thousand cuts.
Unfortunately, members of the governing party are now watching their administrative ship spring leak after leak whilst they are scurrying around daily in a woefully frantic state, in what could only amount to inadequate attempts to keep the ship afloat. In so doing, we stand on the sidelines and watch as reputations and political careers wilt and/or go belly-up, from Prime Minister Perry Christie himself to V Alfred Gray to Brave Davis to Allyson Maynard Gibson to Ken Dorsett and so on.
If you look at BAMSI, VAT, Rubis and crime, these are all poignant one-word reminders of the disaster that has become this administration. There are some in the wider community – PLPs, FNMs and DNAs – who have now become, to sum up the government’s performance thus far, by asking: “They juice you aye?”
The bleeding is now accelerating and the cuts are getting deeper as the Marathon/Rubis gas leak cover-up deepens, is exposed and debated on an almost daily basis. The comments, retractions and explanations all point to efforts to salvage whatever residual credibility remains.
What’s more, the stormy weather that currently threatens the much talked about Carnival provides an almost mythological omen of things to come.
So, today, we know that Randy Rolle, Consul General in Atlanta, has returned to duty after what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs describes as “a period of intensive review, reflection and consultations” and one where he apologised; we see that the government has now apologised for covering up a hazardous oil/gas leak and has been sitting on a report for a year whilst our people risked their lives daily; and the Attorney General has apologised (or I think it was an apology or some version thereof). We see all this and yet many of us don’t see sincerity in the actions of many of these people at the helm of our government.
Whilst the AG is apologising, could she also tell us the name of the bribe taker who sat on BEC’s Board and why that person hasn’t been charged as yet? Could she reveal the outcome of the police’s investigation into allegations that her colleague V Alfred Gray interfered with a judicial officer fulfilling his duties?
Politically, this government has demonstrated nothing more than insincerity. They have demonstrated contempt for the Bahamian public, whether that contempt is manifested fiscally, via policy, via numerous delays, in ignoring the comments, referendum outcome and complaints of the public. They have waffled and have, thus far, shown that they are unable to provide the promised mortgage relief or energy reform – and even after a grandiose announcement a week ago, nothing tangible has been seen or felt.
Unfortunately, most of the wounds that make up the thousand cuts are self-inflicted.
And so, let’s take a brief look at the record of the government so far (and yes, I know there have been some positives but there have been many major, stomach churning negatives):
1 They didn’t deliver on their 100-day promises;
2 They didn’t deliver mortgage relief;
3 There is not empirical data to show where they delivered the thousands of new jobs promised (and I am not talking about counting the NIB payments of temporary Chinese workers and claiming that it’s long term new jobs);
4 National Health Insurance continues to be a white elephant (more on that in a later column);
5 There has been no reduction in the cost of electricity or energy reform;
6 Where are the 1,500 new homes and unprecedented construction that were promised?
7 There has been no reduction in crime, but rather they delivered a reduction in the statistical reporting of crime;
8 They promised to complete and/or build mini-hospitals in Exuma, Abaco and Eleuthera and that has not been done. What’s more, the Critical Care Block took forever to open;
9 There is still no solution to the fires at the city dump and this continues to be a vexing problem;
10 They promised a scandal-free, reformed administration and yet every week there’s another scandal;
11 Grand Bahama has not seen the explosion in economic activity as was promised;
12 There is no palpable change in the challenges faced by illegal immigration despite controversial policy changes that have generated local and international reproach;
13 The Central Bank has revealed that the Bahamas’ debt-to-GDP ratio has now breached the 70 per cent “danger threshold” at year-end 2014 and that’s just booked liabilities;
14 Baha Mar is not complete and that is in part due to the government withholding monies owed to the project and due to the fact that BEC has not yet completed its electrification of the property;
15 Supreme Court judges and court staff are crammed into a derelict building at Ansbacher House;
16 BAMSI has been little more than a controversial, poorly administered slush fund for party supporters and thus far has generated little more than banana and paw-paw;
17 COB is still COB;
18 The doubling of the investment in education has given way to higher fees in tertiary education;
19 Victimisation is on the rise (in fact, it was hinted to me that if I wanted business, or wanted to eat or to see my son benefit, I need to be quiet and careful … careful of whom? Moving on …)
20 The economy grew by one per cent last year, less than what was predicted and promised by the government and clearly representative of very sluggish growth which is inadequate to cause a turnaround with some of the challenges we face;
21 The development of local sports has been less than adequate with a lack of commitment (think Chris Brown Invitational);
22 Junkanoo has been snubbed for Carnival, which stands to be a money losing event even by the admission of the organisers;
23 Unemployment among young people, between 15 and 34, skyrocketed to 32 per cent in 2014;
24 There have been a plethora of challenges with the environment – from Clifton to the Great Bahama Bank to complaints about oil in major spawning grounds off Andros; and on and on and on …
Frankly, there has not been a great deal of achievement since 2012. It will be interesting to see if the governing party comes out with any form of celebration of their three-year milestone (perhaps the Carnival will be). However, the best acknowledgement would be for the governing party to use this date as a time for sombre reflection and atonement.
Though I have spoken about this term of office being likened to a death by a thousand cuts, there are those in the public who would wish that this government would change the suffering from the Chinese form of torture to the Japanese harakari, a ritual suicide where they fall on their own swords – or, in this instance, call an election.
However, we know that they are unlikely to do so and so the beat goes on.