By NICOLE BURROWS
IF you want to know about the real economic welfare of Bahamians in The Bahamas, take a complete tour of New Providence island, since this island represents The Bahamas’ greatest “development”.
Official reports say one thing about our economic wellbeing, but the full story is evidenced all around you. Just open your eyes and look at it. Look at what you’re standing in the middle of when you venture beyond your home. Look at what you see out your window when you take a drive.
Driving around most of New Providence is depressing, unless you have an ocean view on the drive to distract you from the fact that you will encounter at least one of the following irritants.
We have a few nice, fairly new roads, some that are recently constructed and seem to be resilient, and some that have to be dug up over and over again, never being restored to a pristine, newly finished condition. But for every nice, new road, there are about 50 connecting to it which are in a horrible and shameful state. Cracks, potholes, caverns, tyre-puncturing particles... any number of things are in the streets to destroy your vehicle, your peace of mind, and your quality of life.
Since I was in the 5th or 6th grade, there’s been an ongoing campaign against litter and people who litter, so how is littering still one of our biggest problems? Are Bahamians just a nasty set of people or a people who cannot learn? Either they didn’t get the message back then and never have, or there are new people here who don’t care about (our) cleanliness; perhaps both. Major thoroughfares like Milo Butler Highway and Bethel Avenue North are constantly draped in garbage. There is garbage in the streets and garbage in the bushes. It reflects a nation without pride; no individual pride, no national pride. Who wants to convince me otherwise? How could there possibly be real national pride about any feature of the Bahamas when, as a larger group, we have barely the simplest pride about our own health and hygiene and continue to be comfortable living amongst the garbage?
How much does it inconvenience you to keep that bottle, can, plastic bag, cup or KFC box in your car until you get where you’re going, if you can’t be bothered to use a public trash bin along your journey? I live in an old neighbourhood that used to be immaculate; now I have to remove garbage from in front of my house every day. My neighbourhood is a ghetto slum because the people who have moved here in the last 25 years live like ghetto slum people – Bahamians and immigrants alike.
And, if actual garbage in the streets and bushes wasn’t enough to contend with, we now suffer garbage in our breathing space by way of air pollution from the dump smoke, which, this past weekend, was the worst I have ever seen. How’s that for your quality of life, the standard of well-being?
They sit on the street-side watching the traffic all day long, you’d think they’d learn how to manoeuvre in it. But they cross the road haphazardly, at any part of the street, even if it’s two feet from a crosswalk. They drag themselves across the street, because you have to wait for them, you in the car on the street made for cars. They cross when the light is green and cuss you out if you don’t let them. They walk in the street, with two spanking new sidewalks on either side made specifically for pedestrians. They walk three abreast in the street, and to hell with vehicular traffic, because they own the road and they gat bumper.
And the lawless drivers are as bad as or worse than the lawless pedestrians, given that they’re moving a ton or more of metal down the street well above the speed limit. If you travel at 50 mph down East Street, you could expect that you will injure or kill someone who is unfortunate enough to get in your way.
Idiot drivers in popular “drug dealer” cars, private buses, government and unmarked armoured vehicles side swipe you to get ahead of... I don’t know what; because where on earth are they going? The island is only 21 by seven. Furthermore, you wouldn’t know where they are going because they often don’t use an indicator, and when they do it is not unusual for them to use the wrong one. There are two directions, direct opposites of each other, so how is this a problem? There’s that D-average again catching up to us, and it’s affecting our general quality of life.
Vehicles are left to fall apart on the side of the street; some fall apart while driving. There are many vehicles on the streets that are smashed up and worn out. Most Bahamians can’t properly afford one decent vehicle in their entire lifetimes, not without paying for three. For their whole lives, they get to drive the same, steadily handicapped vehicles which degenerate faster because of the horrible road conditions. If they buy a new car, its life span is immediately shortened after banging into a few craters in the roads. Add to that the illegal drivers – people without license to drive and people without license to live or drive in The Bahamas – who have no insurance, cannot drive, and when they slam into your vehicle you have no recourse. The disc says they have insurance, but when you go to claim for the damage they’ve caused, the insurance company tells you there is no policy in their system for that vehicle.
Even when you have police reports and take the offenders to court they manage to escape the law, at least long enough that you get so pissed off and inconvenienced you stop chasing them and end up paying for your own car repairs, or you join the band of unfortunates destined to drive a decrepit vehicle.
And, in the end, when you’re done paying for a vehicle to one of the scam artist commercial banks, just to get from work to home and back in a decent amount of time, run errands on the weekends, and shuttle your children to and from school, you are grossly out of pocket.
You keep pumping money into this one, worn out vehicle because you can’t afford to pay for three new ones rolled into the price of one. Are we not informed enough to recognise that this system of ‘ownership’ through eternal personal debt to commercial banks defeats our ability to move forward? What is the real quality of this kind of life experienced from year to year?
Where is the quality of life we should expect from a nation of richness? Why can’t we maintain our roadways, environmental cleanliness, traffic regulations and safety, and personal incomes?
The wealth of the nation sits in the pockets of a dozen people, or in the pockets of the corrupt, or the bank accounts of the families the once corrupt have left behind. Admittedly, riches being in the hands of a few, relative to country and world populations, is a global occurrence.
Certainly, if you are productive and innovative, you have every right to be wealthy. But what is the “society” and the “government” doing to ensure that people have opportunities to truly be productive and innovative?
Education is restrained without an environment to facilitate its innovations, but the problem of the Bahamas is worse, still, than a lack of environment and opportunity. Students are graduating illiterate and innumerate; they can’t speak, read, spell, or write, they can’t add, multiply, or divide. And as their numbers grow so do the gaps in economic welfare.
It has been established that you don’t need a college degree to excel in business, but when you have no academic achievement coupled with no ability to reason and think in an organised, rational way, which is the entire point of education, then you are deadweight on a society, especially a struggling one.
Few people pay attention to you or what abilities you may have; they’re not combing you with microscopic eyes to find your worth and value; they toss you by the wayside. And all because your government and society couldn’t find a way to make holistic education a priority for you and allow you true liberty in your own land.
There are so many lost and missed opportunities, so much ignorance about what is owed and earned, so many people being taken advantage of. And corruption is a layer atop the ignorance which results in a sort of deliberate blindness to what is happening beneath the surface of our lives.
In a recent BBC World News interview, the interviewee reaffirmed that the key to creating wealth is education and job creation through entrepreneurship, the latter being “where job creation happens the fastest”.
But we, in The Bahamas, continue to advance the inept and incompetent and then push them out into a world of touristic servitude, mindless, uninventive labour, in some implanted resort property, with their only hope of elevation being based in the improbable event that they will get an inclination and a chance along the way to study medicine, law, accounting, banking, or engineering, and be groomed to perpetuate the cycle of inequality and limited opportunity.
We are now trying to catch up to what should have been done at least 30 to 40 years ago. With the present fractured condition and limited educational attainment of large numbers of Bahamian people, what real promise does the future hold?
How do you erase/ minimise the impact of decades of poor education (miseducation, and brainwashing)?
Maybe you don’t... maybe you can’t. Maybe poor education, through its far-reaching and penetrating tentacles, will inevitably result in an irreversibly low and declining quality of life and the death of our economic freedom.
• Send comments via Tribune242.com or nicole@politiCole.com.