As always at this time of year we are delighted to wish our readers season’s greetings while across the globe Christians celebrate the birth of their Saviour. In a world beset by division and conflict, it is heart-warming that the festive season brings people together, with families and friends gathering in a spirit of goodwill and harmony.
This is also an occasion to reflect on events here at home during the past year. Despite inevitable differences within our body politic and the FNM government’s continuing programme of austerity that it claims will reinforce the country’s long-term economic viability, we believe Bahamians have much for which to be grateful.
We are blessed with the beauty of nature in a unique geographical environment which we need continuously to nurture and protect. We also live in a stable democracy under the rule of law; and, although crime - in particular the current appalling murder rate - remains at an unacceptably high level that government ministers attempt to play down, the vast majority of our citizens pursue their lives protected by the law and order that exists in our generally peaceful archipelagic nation.
Nonetheless, for those of us enjoying relative prosperity and a good quality of life it is all too easy to forget - or to ignore - that high levels of poverty and social deprivation exist in our country.
The casual observer of the apparent affluence in our capital Nassau and its environs may be misled by so much upmarket property, well stocked shops and frenetic Christmas shopping and luxury cars stuck in endless traffic jams. So it can be hard to realise the gap between rich and poor appears to be growing. This problem is brought into sharper focus by the juxtaposition of riches and poverty on our small island of New Providence. The answer is not to condemn the wealthy or to penalise them with higher taxation, as some people wish to do, but for politicians and the private sector to work together in developing meaningful and effective measures to try to alleviate the poverty in our midst.
Overall, we believe that, after more than 18 months in office, the most charitable judgment about the FNM administration is the past year has not lived up to expectations. This is not the time to reiterate the government’s many failings which have been examined and criticised ad nauseam, but there is clearly widespread disappointment that too many of the 2017 election promises remain unfulfilled. Above all, the pre-election hype about it now being the ‘people’s time’ has proved to be something of a chimera so that, despite the pledge of a new beginning and a more enlightened and honest approach to governance, the electorate has been served up with the old ‘politics as usual’. This is profoundly disillusioning to far too many people.
So, we are prompted, in a mood of optimism and warmed by some welcome Christmas cheer, to urge the Prime Minister and his colleagues to take serious stock of the government’s performance up to now and determine what it wants to achieve in the coming year. They should also take steps to communicate better with the electorate.
In face of a weakened Opposition unable to mount an effective challenge, they have a huge responsibility to govern fairly and efficiently in the interests of all Bahamians and to bring about greater national unity. They need to reassure the populace that it is indeed being put first in accordance with the FNM’s much vaunted election slogan.
But, in doing all this, they should surely be aware of the famous warning by French diplomat and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville about the tyranny of the majority and the need to guard against the exercise of unlimited power by any government.
Meanwhile, as we hope for better times ahead, we also have a responsibility ourselves to work together as fellow citizens for the good of our nation. We need to learn to love one another more as human beings and to show gratitude for our many blessings in a spirit of peace and goodwill.
We wish our readership a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.