By ADRIAN GIBSON
By all accounts, in 2017 the major political parties will no doubt be conducting a scorched earth policy in the lead up to what will likely be a hotly contested general election.
I am hopeful that in the new year, a line is drawn in the political sand and the dross occupying our governmental ranks is tossed out and a new ethical and moral framework is created for a new generation. Corruption and dishonesty are major stumbling blocks to our country attaining its greatness.
For far too long, our leaders have been fiddling on the deck of the Titanic whilst our economic engines seize up and demoralising social issues continue to afflict our society.
We need a fresh blueprint for the modern Bahamas. Reality has caught up with The Bahamas. What is clear from 2016 is that the game is now over … this is for real.
The bottom is dropping out in terms of foreign direct investment being seen as the panacea for The Bahamas’ economy.
The political rhetoric has proven to be empty and without salvation. The glitter that surrounded the old-time politician is no more.
The people, having realised the state that we now find ourselves in, have found their voices. Life for the average Bahamian is no longer the so-called Cinderella story but reflective of the harsh reality on the ground, where people can hardly find food to eat, have no place to live, have lost all their earthly possessions in the hurricane, are unemployed and so on. All of this forces us to understand that we stand at a singular moment when the decisions we make and the path we choose will have a tremendous impact on the life of subsequent generations in a way that we have probably not known in many decades. In 2017, I am desirous of seeing a level of political honesty and commitment to solving real Bahamian problems. I would like to see a coalition of minds/thought. Such a coalition is necessary for us to move beyond the gridlock we are in.
I would also like to see a national commitment to real energy reform. Energy undergirds almost everything that happens in this economy. While a commitment to clean energy is ideal, the first order of business ought to be to make energy affordable for the running of our economy. Unfortunately, political patronage trumps such initiatives!
This new year, we must make a conscious effort to assist and encourage our student population in a united thrust to strive to increase the national Grade Point Average from a D to a C.
As a former educator, I am not an advocate of standardised tests. I firmly believe that while some students may perform well academically, standardised tests cannot measure the full range of the multiple intelligences.
Standardised tests are also criticised for tending to be outdated as a curriculum changes, failing to assess an adequate sample of skills and for failing to meet the standards of their own field, among several other criticisms. The ministry must align the curriculum with the developmental needs of the country in order to imbue a strong sense of self, speak to nation-building, address the question of self-reliance and entrepreneurship, teach the Constitution, etc.
Only the most scholarly of students, in my opinion, should be permitted to sit the BGCSE/BJC exams. To truly diversify and establish a more comprehensive educational system, the government and private entities should also construct technical and vocational schools to teach the less bookish, academically-disinclined students a trade/skill.
It is a misconception to assume that every Bahamian is studious (or interested) enough to become a doctor, lawyer, educator or to attend university. There will always be a need for repairmen, handymen, plumbers, masons and so on. At grade nine, teachers and administrators should be able to gauge a student’s abilities, and thereby separate the more scholarly students from those with technical and vocational leanings.
Furthermore, consideration should be given to establishing a pilot programme, where male and female students are educated at separate schools/classes. This possibly will revolutionise education and lead to greater productivity, as students of both sexes would have fewer distractions and spend less time seeking to impress one another. Moreover, classrooms must be outfitted with cable tv/internet to foster interactive learning.
One wish is that this new year, a greater number of parents positively become involved in their children’s lives, whilst also constructively reinforcing the lessons learnt at school.
In the new year, Bahamians must strive for greater social cohesion and partake in community drives to reduce violent crimes. As it stands, Bahamas is rated highly among countries - per capita - where rapes and heinous murders are frequent. We must return to being our brother’s keepers.
The government must formally articulate its position on capital punishment. As it relates to capital punishment, the law - as entrenched in the Constitution - must be carried out or reviewed and reformed.
Our declining tourism product needs a facelift, particularly since 90 cents of each dollar earned locally is generated from this industry. The Ministry of Tourism and other interested parties must hastily move to ensure that tourists are offered better vacation packages and services, so that the tourist product is enhanced and that there are superior attractions. Our tourism product must be reinvigorated to highlight the distinction and indigenous nature of this country’s tourism product when compared to any other country in the wider Caribbean, targeting new markets and nurturing wider market share.
Our service quality is poor ... poor, poor, poor. I constantly encounter people giving poor service and behaving as if they are doing a special favour (their job). If such subpar service is being rendered, is there any wonder why tourists are going elsewhere?
Considering the spate of violent crime and other social issues, more emphasis must be placed on implementing mental health programmes and a plan to confront rampant alcoholism and drug abuse. Furthermore, I look forward to the broadening of the healthcare coverage - particularly for the elderly and indigent.
Greater efforts must be made to diversify the economy. We must gradually begin shifting from tourism to other industries or we will become a nation of overly dependent, virtual slaves. Sadly, although the Bahamas’ government may change, their investment policies, which primarily focus on developing hotels and high-end exclusive communities, remain the same.
Our government must encourage the local entrepreneurial spirit and foster economic diversification through a variation of different industries such as farming, fishing, gaming, research and development, manufacturing and so on. Whatever happened to the five-year development plan for agriculture and fisheries that was formulated in 2011?
This year, the implementation and enforcement of more stringent laws/regulations to manage the construction of future projects along beachfronts is imperative. More work must be done to protect coral reefs, mangroves and wetlands; greater monitoring must be undertaken relative to developments on private islands/cays, of cruise ships and the disposal of waste products in our territorial waters; attention must be paid to national parks and those foreign sports fishermen who enter under the guise of gaming, but purportedly leave the country with coolers filled with an illegal catch; and there must be more of a concerted effort to address the environmental impact of climate change, particularly as the Bahamas is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world.
The Family Islands, including Grand Bahama, are in desperate need of socio-economic elevation and must become a greater priority on the next government’s agenda. There is an urgent need of infrastructural improvements, basic amenities like running water and cable TV, job opportunities, road repairs, medicine and improved healthcare, etc.
We must be prepared to engage in a process, preferably of non-punitive correction of the systems challenges that have gotten us to this point. If we take a punitive approach, nearly everyone would perhaps go down and, with so many folks covering their own skin, such an approach would not work.
This year, when electioneering is sure to spring into in high gear, I trust that both major political parties would move forward with the people’s agenda, scrupulously working towards bettering the Bahamas instead of squabbling over semantics and other trivial, rather foolish barbs.
We must bypass the gargantuan egos and pass progressive legislation for the betterment of our country. 2017 must be the year of restoration of our national focus.
Happy New Year Bahamas!
Adrian Gibson is the Free National Movement candidate for Long Island at the 2017 general election. Comments and responses to firstname.lastname@example.org