By DIANE PHILLIPS
Another day, another week, goes by and before you know it, you look up and another year has gone by. And you wonder, how did it go so fast, no wonder they say time flies, what did I get done? How did the world change and my world with it? For a moment, you wish that was imbued with the annoying trait that normally drives you crazy in people – you wish it would just stand still and procrastinate. Put off ticking. C’mon, just for a little while and let me finish my to-do list.
But, alas, time is the one resource that is not renewable and much as you wish you could get it to stop, it pushes ahead in its relentless pursuit to defeat your most ambitious plans.
And that’s the other thing about time. It is democratic. The most powerful and the most meager among us face the same clock and get the same amount of time doled out to them. Little does wealth or physical stature matter. We are all equal in the eyes of time.
We approach the holidays wondering how they got here suddenly, surprisingly, even though we have had a year to prepare. We eye the end of this year and spy the beginning of the next and say what did we accomplish, who did we befriend, how did we make our family happier, our world better? And if we don’t ask those questions, we ask ourselves why are we not asking the important questions?
So how did we do this year – as a country, as a people, as a player in the eyes of the world?
I think as a country we struggled but remained, as we always do, hopeful.
That is one thing about Bahamians. We may be all out of luck but we never run out of hope.
Like a kid who already spent next week’s allowance, we tried to find money for the things we needed today - for fighting crime, improving education, enhancing social services, repairing aging infrastructure, for building technology capacity.
We did the most expedient thing, we raised taxes, leaping from 7.5 percent to 12 percent VAT with some forgiveness in Customs duties, including corned beef, which inspired the most collectible t-shirts of the year. The economy showed slight signs of growth, but unemployment remained in the double-digit territory while next door in the US there was nearly full employment with agriculture interests pleading to bring in more foreign workers.
In Nassau and Grand Bahama, people you trusted, especially in local retail sales, said it was the worst year in a decade though there were some exceptions, including the high-end real estate market. Tourism and airlift enjoyed a banner year.
Grand Bahama continued to hurt though buoyed by Grand Bahama Shipyard business and hopeful for a re-sale of the Grand Lucayan.
How did we appear in the eyes of the world? Like an obedient servant without option, bowing to the requirements of the world in financial transparency because we had no choice and because we continue to pay for the abuses of what seems a distant past of secret deals and suitcase banks.
The important issue is whether or not, no matter how much we concede, there will be more demands for us to bow to or whether foreign regulators will finally say, Bahamas, you’re good. And we will take a deep breath and utter an even deeper sigh of relief and move on.
While the state of our financial services industry grabs headlines locally and feels all-important to us, most of the world still sees The Bahamas as a stunningly beautiful, glamorous and romantic place to be. For the rich and famous, we are a favourite escape. Celebrities choose the sprawling chain of rhinestone isles for hideaway weddings, hidden honeymoons and private island ownership. Yachtsmen love it for the waters, divers for the coral reefs, diners for the delicacies, golfers for the greens and fairways, most against a backdrop of blue skies and even bluer waters.
Cameras love The Bahamas.
If that is how the world views The Bahamas, how do we view ourselves as individuals? What are the deeply personal questions we should be asking ourselves? Who did we reach out to this year? Whose life did we make just a little bit easier, whose pain did we lessen, whose children did we strengthen?
What did we do to make life in The Bahamas better? What can we as individuals and our leaders do to solve some of the easier issues?
We are an inefficient nation with a bloated civil service pockmarked by some who work very hard and others who hardly work at all. If we only make it our business to improve the systems with which we operate, making more services available online, dishing out traffic violations as caught on camera by CCTV and issuing reasonable tickets payable online tying that and insurance to registration and license renewal, for instance, and requiring proof of sale or change of vehicle prior to cancelling insurance, if we only achieve half a dozen goals like those in the first six months of 2019 we will be off to a good start. In operations, it’s called low-hanging fruit and sometimes you have to settle for that until you can reach higher. In the cases of improving ease of doing business, that low-hanging fruit will make all our lives less stressful.
If we respect our environment, if we ban Styrofoam and reduce single use plastic, if we landscape even a few parts of the inner city with the kind of flowering beauty we see at the roundabouts of Baha Mar Boulevard, if we allow vertical construction east of East Street and begin the revitalization of historic Nassau and the creation of a living city, if we celebrate the distinct culture of our Family Islands, we will come to the end of next year proud and smiling. On the other hand, we could do exactly as we did this year and ask where did the time go?
Wishing everyone a happy holiday season and year in which, when time flies, you are on its wings. And asking for a small favour, please…if you know someone who lost a loved one this year, please call them, reach out to them, make sure they know you care.