Beware of election promises

ELECTION TIME is here again and so are the promises. Promises, we might add, without any reference to the Public Treasury.

Bahamians should be aware of the times in which we live and don't depend on election promises -- even in good times they were just that -- promises that never saw the light of day.

In Grand Bahama, for example, Dr Michael Darville, the PLP's Pineridge candidate, has promised that should his party win the 2012 election, Grand Bahama will not only have a new hospital and all its medical facilities upgraded, but, according to Tanisha Tynes, PLP candidate for East Grand Bahama, her area will have its first junior high school.

National health insurance will be introduced to cover the medical needs of all Bahamians. Dr Darville said the PLP has also been working on a national plan to put the island back on the road to recovery through meaningful investments and programmes to create permanent jobs in tourism and the industrial and agricultural sectors.

It is true that Freeport's needs are great, but despite what PLP candidate Gregory Moss has said, the Bahamas (Grand Bahama included), like the rest of the world, is suffering, not only from its own inefficiencies, but from the global recession.

The World Economic Forum, holding its 42nd meeting in Davos, Switzerland, from January 25-29, closed its meeting on a sombre note. About 1,600 economic and political leaders, including 40 heads of state, discussed their fears that Europe's fiscal crisis could put the entire global economy into recession.

Despite the efforts of the Ministry of Tourism, if people have to cut back on their vacations because their finances are tight, this country's tourist dollar will shrink. Recently, Freeport's once bustling Container Port was forced to lay off several employees because one of its major Mediterranean clients, hit by the international economic situation and loss of business, had to reduce its services. The Hutchison Whampoa group also laid off about 72 employees as a part of its international downsizing "due to the economy and the resulting decline in business". In the UK, about 400 Hutchinson staff lost their jobs.

These layoffs were employees from the Grand Bahama Airport Company, the Freeport Harbour Company and the Freeport Container Port.

So it is wrong for any politician to deny that this country is not also caught up in a global downturn.

"The economy in Grand Bahama is at a place where we are not generating new jobs as fast as they are losing them," said Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce president John Swain. And, unfortunately, with tourism slow and all tourism dependent businesses in the doldrums, there are few places in Grand Bahama to find work.

All eyes are now fixed on the USA in hopes of an economic improvement there, which might spill over onto Bahamian shores. Until this happens, no politician from any of the parties can make grand promises and try to make constituents believe they can keep them.

Why even in the good times -- before the economic bubble burst -- Mr Christie was unable to fulfil his election promises after he won the government in 2002. At that time, no one imagined that in a few more years the good times would come to a screeching halt.

In 2002, Mr Christie promised National Health Insurance, which even then the country could not afford. He was in government for five years and never delivered on the promised national insurance "so that poor people will stop dying simply because they are too poor to pay for medical attention". Also, before winning the government in 2002, he promised that if elected his government would "transform the hospital (PMH), the flagship for the entire health care system into the first class care facility that it has the potential to become", to "modernise the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre" and develop a regional hospital in Exuma. None accomplished, and none attempted. They were only election promises.

If these promises could not be kept in the good times, why should voters believe that any political party can guarantee that they can be delivered in the bad times?

The unions, as was to be expected, want to get as much as they can now. They believe that if they don't get what they claim was promised them by the Ingraham government before the election, they will get nothing under the Christie government, should that government win the election. That is probably true. But what the unions have to understand is that no matter which party wins the government, the Public Treasury will dictate who will get salary increases and when.

The voter is now in a privileged position to judge the performances of two five-year term governments -- the Christie government in good times, and the Ingraham government in economically critical times.

As the slow times are not predicted to improve in the near future, Bahamians must now decide whether they want their future in the hands of an indecisive Christie or a decisive Ingraham. As for the DNA, more experience is needed for the difficult times this country might have to face.


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