By Inigo ‘Naughty’ Zenicazelaya
There’s an old Bahamian saying that goes “He talking out two mouths”.
Honestly, this is the impression I (and many other Bahamians) got when listening to our dear Prime Minister the Rt Hon Perry Christie deliver his (final?) budget contribution this week.
There’s no denying the PM is gifted with words. So gifted, in fact, that when he speaks one must first figure out ‘which mouth is talking’ before trying to figure out what his words really mean.
So for the edification of those who listened intently to the PM’s marathon speech in the House on Wednesday and had no idea what he was really saying (or for those who tuned out after hour three), here’s my interpretation of what those long-winded words amounted to.
On Baha Mar
What the PM said: “The arrangement provides for a framework for putting in place the financing required for the completion of the project, and to re-mobilise and re-start construction to finish the project as expeditiously as possible.”
What I heard: I sent Allyson all the way to China to see how the wibe set and I’ne ga lie all I gat to show y’all is this flimsy letter from the Chinese.
What y’all want me do? I’ne know who buying the resort, I’ne know when they starting up again and I fa sure een know when they ga finish. I ga try to get y’all Bahamian contractors a couple dollars but don’t hold ya breath. And I ga try to get some of y’all former Baha Mar workers ya job back but I can’t promise y’all straight.
Other than dat, tings ga be ‘dead good’ soon. But right now they jokin’.
On the apprenticeship scheme
What the PM said: “$22m has been allocated so people can be paid to work and train in a very formal manner, with certification on completion of the apprenticeship period ... the government also intends to employ immediately individuals from the apprenticeship programme to work on the creation of two green spaces for public use in New Providence. One will be situated at Lake Killarney and the other at the National Heroes Park in an area just south of the Botanical Gardens. We have promised a National Heroes Park and now it is being brought about.”
What I heard: Now before yinne start, dis een nuttin like what Ingraham dem did do back in 2011 cause dis time we giving y’all certificates. Plus I use the word ‘formal.’ And ‘training.’ So don’t call me no hypocrite. Besides, you wan’ dis job or what? Cause I gat one lil job fa you in Minnis constituency and one lil ting going down in Sears back yard to-day! The two a dem round here tryna test me. They musse believe I is play!
On mortgage relief
What the PM said: “The programme has been designed to make it as attractive as possible for eligible borrowers to agree to participate - eg, through large reductions in monthly payments, the ability to immediately start paying lower amounts prior to loan modification paperwork, etc ... we want to ensure that a Bahamian who is delinquent is afforded opportunities to retain his or her home or, if all else fails, gives up that home in a dignified manner.”
What I heard: Since I did promise y’all mortgage relief last election, and Greg Moss running right out in the House about it, I gat a plan.
I ga throw $20 million at this problem and hope yinne satisfied. Now I might as well tell y’all dis all I could do. Maybe in couple years I could actually get round to dealing with some of the predatory banking practices but today een the day. Some a y’all need to go to money school cause y’all got issues. And ya best believe if I save ya hip and you still een wan pay it’s cheaper you pack ya georgie bundle, move out dem people house and kick rocks cause trust me I’ne on ya run.
So that, in a nutshell, is what I heard. But don’t quote me, because with the eloquence of Mr Christie you never know.
Other sweet and sour dreams
Also earlier this week, news outlets, talk shows and social media were inundated with chatter after talk of an alleged letter, purportedly sent to the government of this country by China Construction America (CCA), made its way into public discourse.
According to the rumours, the letter from CCA allegedly outlined demands for huge concessions on casino taxes and (worst of all) a clear pathway to citizenship for 500 Chinese nationals in exchange for who knows what.
Now before I dive into that moo goo gai pan plate of insanity, it’s important to note that the idea of citizenship for sale is not new on a global scale. For example, in the United States (yes, the US!) there is a controversial EB-5 visa programme that allows foreigners to jump the immigration line by investing a cool million bucks in projects that lead to direct employment of Americans. Once in the door, application for citizenship by those investors is a mere few years wait away.
According to an article on cnnmoney.com last month, the US hit the 10,000 EB-5 visa quota the last two years in a row after a wave of rich Chinese nationals flooded the programme. In other parts of the world, similar programmes are in place.
Malta, as another example, will pony up a passport and citizenship if you shell out $1.3 million and rent a villa for a year. But get this: you don’t even have to actually spend time in the country to pass the residency threshold. In other words, just show them the money and it seems you’re good to go.
But we are not Malta.
When respected talk show host Steve McKinney broke the news that Attorney General Allyson Maynard and the Prime Minister’s trusted advisor Sir Baltron Bethel were in the Far East to possibly discuss CCA’s far-fetched proposal, Bahamians of all walks of life went wild. So wild in fact that Minister of Agriculture V Alfred Gray called McKinney’s Peace FM talk show the next day to vehemently deny the allegations.
And that’s when I my ears perked up.
They were not there to negotiate citizenship, said Gray. They were there to discuss ‘staffing’ at Baha Mar, insisted Gray. Interesting. Especially since the last time I checked Baha Mar didn’t have an actual buyer, and even less staff.
That Minister Gray is possibly the worst choice to deliver a believable message to the masses (was Minister Fitzgerald busy?) is a sideshow. But the Prime Minister’s own denial of having sold citizenship for a few Chinese dumplings actually rang true.
Despite his other shortcomings (and honestly there are plenty) I have no doubt that the PM meant it when he said, “This is a non-negotiable position of my government.” But what the public really wants to know - whether CCA ‘had the gumption’ to even send such a letter - remains a mystery.
As it stands, our leaders (who chose to oppose the Delaware bankruptcy filing on the grounds of ‘sovereignty’) are now at the mercy of the Chinese banks and the same construction company that may have been the problem all along.
We have to fly to China to beg the Chinese to hurry up and finish their own billion dollar investment? And now we have to entertain rumours of basically selling our souls?
In the words of Bahamians everywhere “wellmuddasik!’
Almost a year after resort developer Sarkis Izmirlian has been shut out by the other parties to the Baha Mar deal it’s pretty clear that perhaps US bankruptcy protection would have been the better, smarter route for any chance of a speedy opening.
But desperate as we are today, the outright sale of our birthright is (and should always remain) a non-starter. So don’t even ask. We may be over a barrel and our politicians may be fool, but a year before elections they ain’t dat fool.
• Inigo ‘Naughty’ Zenicazelaya is the resident stand-up comic at Jokers Wild Comedy Club at the Atlantis, Paradise Island, resort and presents ‘Mischief and Mayhem in da AM’ from 6am to 10am, Monday to Friday, and ‘The Press Box’ sports talk show on Sunday from 10am to 1pm on KISS FM 96.1. He also writes a sports column in The Tribune on Tuesday. Comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org