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National Pride – Is It Worth The Price We Pay?

prideRecent events have caused me to focus more closely at the given circumstances and I can only conclude that decisions have been taken in the name of “national pride”, but nobody has questioned at what cost. Having lived in The Bahamas for more than 50 years I earnestly believe that I have a strong streak of national pride in being a resident of The Bahamas.

National pride is something one acquires, however it is not a commodity that can be bought and sold. What does disturb me however is that decisions seem to be taken in the name of national pride, yet they are detrimental to the country as a whole. Let’s look at recent events:

Baha Mar occupies much of the news these days with a variety of finger pointing and blame games – a natural outcome when things go wrong. This project was to have had a big positive impact on The Bahamas but in the interim there is significant embarrassment at the paths taken by the various parties in an effort to resolve the impasse.

This was a big project for The Bahamas, this was also a big project for the Chinese construction company. In such circumstances, why wasn’t there an insurance safety valve – i.e. a performance bond?

Performance bonds are not unusual in projects of this size – yes it is a type of insurance and carries a high cost, however the cost would be insignificant in relation to the $3.5 billion cost of the project.

Who are the current losers most affected – the 2,000 employees who are now wondering if they still have a job. I noticed that the government was very magnanimous in using the public’s tax dollars to pay the salaries of these employees. This was a very dangerous precedent with an unquantifiable cost for national pride.

BAMSI is another project that backfired because the construction company did not have fire insurance. Who is the loser here? It is also the Bahamian public as it has resulted in a disappointing setback to the national pride we would feel in producing our own food supply.

Then there is BTC. Remember the strong arguments regarding the perceived pros and cons relative to the company being owned by Bahamians to the tune of either more than 50 percent or less than 50 percent?

All this discussion about + or – 2 percent was centered on national pride. Why? What were the perceived advantages? It would have been far better if the entire shareholding had been sold to a third party allowing the maximized proceeds to be applied to the excessive national debt.

What has this act of national pride given us? The union has taken a strong position regarding the recently announced redundancies at BTC and even patted themselves on the back when they ‘scared’ away Digicel from bidding for cell/mobile services.

What is the cost of national pride? An overstaffed, inefficient BTC and the reality that even though the cellular monopoly has expired, no competitors are in sight. In fact one of the other bidders – Cable Bahamas – has been openly told to cease and desist building their infrastructure. In the interim the Bahamian public has to contend with inferior and costly service.

BEC is another utility service that is in trouble and boasting a tired infrastructure, thereby providing unreliable service at very high cost. We have been told that BEC is not for sale but the government is seeking a partner who might help them become more efficient.

This decision had been taken some time ago yet over 12 months elapsed before the government eventually announced a “partner” – a company based in North Carolina. The deal in general was quickly agreed some time ago but since then we have been advised that the details of the contract had yet to be finalized.

The resolution of details is taking an inordinate length of time given the seriousness of the situation. I can only imagine that the government is trying to “tie” the hands of their partners e.g. by not agreeing to redundancies, etc. – another play on national pride, but at what cost?

The Bahamian public suffers through the many power cuts and fluctuating power supply, which wreak havoc on appliances and the cost is still excessively high even if it is slightly less than last year.

Junkanoo Carnival was a heavily promoted event that was going to produce a significant addition to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Again, there was considerable back and forth as to the benefits of such an event, which surprisingly sought to showcase non-Bahamian performers.

This element could not be argued as an item of national pride, yet the overall event was promoted under such a theme. Fortunately in the end there was little foreign participation. The whole event was sold as an item that would attract much needed visitors to our shores but did it?

From my casual observation it seemed that Bahamians made up 99 percent of the attendees. How was this going to meaningfully increase GDP? It was money out of one Bahamian pocket to another Bahamian pocket.

Shortly after the event, which was declared to be a big success, we were told the financial results would be given within 21 days. The 21 days came and went a long time ago and still no figures – we do know, however, that stall owners had to be refunded permit fees due to lack of sales and that other parties have misappropriated over $30,000. Without question the event will have been undertaken at an ill-afforded cost. Yet more evidence of the cost of national pride.

In conclusion therefore it appears that when government is involved, the Bahamian public is being taken advantage of in the name of national pride. Why does government even get involved with any of these issues, especially as they have an abysmal track-record and frequently nominate spokespersons who have questionable business backgrounds? It is outside their scope and competence yet it is being explained away as national pride.

– Fair and Balanced

Posted in Local News, Opinions

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