IT WAS reported in The Tribune’s weekend newspaper — The Big T – that the operating budget for the College of the Bahamas will have to be reduced over the next two fiscal years because of the country’s present financial crisis. In short, the economy can no longer support the College’s current costs.
According to a source very close to the situation, the Finance Ministry will reduce its subsidies to all public corporations and statutory entities in an effort to save money.
It was claimed that the first cuts will come early next year when the College will have to face a 10 per cent reduction, followed by a further 25 per cent reduction in 2015.
The source said that COB administrators are now scrambling to put together a plan so that the college’s daily operations will not be compromised by the cuts.
Of course, no government official was available to confirm or deny the report. However, the source was so impeccable that we published because we are satisfied of its truth.
On Friday morning, 130 Wyndham Nassau Resort employees marched on Prime Minister Christie’s office to complain that the day before they had been dismissed by their employers without notice. Although curiously enough Labour Minister Shane Gibson admitted that he had known of the hotel’s plans several days before, the workers say it came as a surprise to them. The most that Mr Gibson said he did was to advise hotel administrators to meet with union officials and honour their industrial agreement.
Yesterday, a hotel spokesman said that because of the critical economic climate Wyndham was forced to reduce its losses so that it could start working towards breaking even. He revealed that even after the lay-offs the hotel is still burdened with 0.9 staff to one room. The industry norm is 0.6 staff per room. Despite the layoffs, the hotel still has 350 Bahamian employees on its staff.
The spokesman further revealed that many of the staff were under performing. If this is true, then in the private sector that translates into the fact that they have fired themselves.
Anyway, the hotel is suffering from the tight economy, and, if MPs did not realise it before, so are the workers.
In September last year, Standard & Poor, the international credit rating agency that had once considered the Bahamas’ economic future “stable”, slashed it to “negative” with a warning salvo…
“The negative outlook reflects,” said the Wall Street agency, “the possibility of a downgrade if the recently-elected Progressive Liberal Party government does not put forth a medium-term plan to address the higher deficits and to stem the rise in government debt to GDP. The negative outlook reflects the increased likelihood of a downgrade if the new administration does not take action to reduce the Bahamas’ fiscal deficit and arrest the increase in debt-to-GDP over the next several years.
“A weakening in our current assessment of the Bahamas’ general strong commitment to deliver sustainable public finances and economic growth could head to a downgrade,” said S&P.
Despite all of this… despite the colossal waste of money on poor management, and lack of proper planning of the Urban Renewal programme. Despite the recall of retired civil servants to fill government positions, paying not only their salaries, but also their pensions, despite the largest cabinet in this country’s history, and the unnecessary referendum that will put this nation at least a million dollars further in debt… despite all of this a newcomer to the House of Assembly had the effrontery last Wednesday to announce from the floor of the House that a new parliament building was now needed.
Bahamians losing their jobs, Bahamians resorting to soup kitchens for at least a daily meal while a member of their government announces that even if a new parliament cost $50 million, the government could find a way to pay for it. And that way would be to exact $5 from every tourist for a peak at the new edifice. What Dr Andre Rollins, MP for Fort Charlotte, fails to realise is that tourists are attracted to history. The quaint colonial assembly room with its painted kings and queens hanging from the walls, recording the history of how far this country has come, would have far more attraction for the visitor than what we now have, or even what we might produce in a costly new structure.
But Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell’s reasons for wanting a new building, considering the present economic condition of this country, is even more offensive:
“I do not like to work in this building,” he said. “It is cramped. It is inadequate. It is too intimate and too accessible. It has long ago outlived its adequacy.”
How many generations of Bahamians probably had the same thoughts, but soldiered on in the cramped quarters because they knew that the needs of their people came before their own comfort.
Mr Mitchell also wanted MPs and Senators’ salaries and pensions reviewed, while many of their constituents only want a job to go to.
On Friday, a Tribune reporter interviewed Bahamians at random. Chavez Johnson, a hard-working young Bahamian, summed it up for all those interviewed: “I definitely don’t think that the House should be moved off Bay Street. And even if it is needed, how can we address that now, do you see the debt that we are in?”
We often wonder if these MPs live on a different planet from the rest of us.
It will be indeed a miracle if this country is able to endure another four years of this insanity.