By Malcolm Strachan
AS we approach the thick of holiday season and goodwill abounds, the Bahamian people take pause to share in the season of giving with their loved ones. Despite the challenging moments on the political front, a year ending means another begins. To that end, as we are creatures of hope, we must recognise through the toughest of times there is still much to be thankful for and to look forward to.
The country being on track for its lowest murder total in years certainly presents something to be celebrated. The Royal Bahamas Police Force, while it still has to ensure it incorporates effective crime-fighting policies that make all Bahamians feel, has done a great job increasing its presence around crime hotspots.
Although there have been nearly 90 murders to date, at the very least, we’re trending downward.
If there was ever a gift the government could have given to the Bahamian people, it was certainly the ramped-up crime fighting strategies that have reversed the trend of carnage on our streets.
Pondering on other gifts we would like to see given to the country, the mind races like that of a child writing their Christmas list to Santa Claus.
Which brings the thought: If Santa was at your beck and call, what would you give The Bahamas for Christmas?
Certainly, increased safety and further eradication of the scourge of crime on our streets would be welcomed. Many Bahamian people still feel unsafe and want to live lives free of worry from being robbed, raped or snuffed out.
Assurances by Minister of National Security Marvin Dames and top cop Anthony Ferguson that the Bahamian public can expect the police to continue a great job have definitely given us something to be hopeful for.
Surely, a safer Bahamas will mean a happier citizenry.
Equally as important, the Bahamian people want to see the cost of living decrease in tandem with the increase of opportunities.
Referring to psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, not only do the Bahamian people want to be safe, they also want to feel a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment.
The Bahamian people, in addition to having the security to move around the country, also want to find employment and entrepreneurial opportunities – the latter with more ease.
If the government can make both of those major needs a priority by slashing the unemployment rate through facilitating an environment that creates jobs and increasing the ease of doing business, the government can beyond question increase its political capital.
We also hope that Santa can help to improve our education system. Increasing opportunities will not do us any good if what we are still producing students from the elementary and high school levels who are not prepared for the rigours of adulthood.
For far too long, we have seen a decline in our educational output. As the new year ushers in, we hope to see more of Minister of Education Jeff Lloyd’s plan take shape. As he has always been a stickler for leadership, we hope out public education system will go through a complete overhaul.
Perhaps the Ministry of Education can undertake studies of jurisdictions similar to ours, where a complete revamp of the public system was required and done effectively.
One thing is for certain, something has to change to help the nation’s youth – those in particular who hail from the harshest of circumstances - to have a chance at being successful.
Meanwhile, we cannot ignore how well the tourism industry has been doing. While official year-end tourism statistics are yet to have been published, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar’s titling 2018 a “banner year” indicates tourists still believe it’s better in The Bahamas
In that same vein, it is also the responsibility of those who work in the tourism industry to continue to provide a fulfilling experience for the people who spend their hard-earned dollars with us.
They could have gone anywhere else in the world but chose The Bahamas.
Those that work within the industry must continue to innovate in product and service offerings.
Certainly, we hope this continues, but in addition we would like to see the Downtown Nassau Redevelopment initiative be launched and executed to enhance the visitor experience. Many visitors and even Bahamians living abroad who return to visit have the same complaint about the area. It is either “too dirty” or “too boring” – all of which indicates there is much work to be done.
Understandably, when in government, some projects slide to the backburner as others take priority. However, after promising the government would be focused on the revival of Downtown last January, Tourism Minister D’Aguilar has to ensure this is a priority item in 2019.
Finally, perhaps the most painful experience the populace has experienced this past year would have been the increase of value added tax. Thus, in the spirit of transparency, the government must be forthright with the Bahamian people and report on how our tax dollars are being used.
Sure, we have been told the increase was to balance the budget, but too often as we have learned – ‘mouth can say anything, and money buy land’.
Governance must be a hand-holding experience where trust and goodwill prevail. Perhaps the greatest gift of all is one whereby the Bahamian people and the government can exist in a symbiotic relationship.
Hopefully, as Dear Old Saint Nick visits all of the boys and girls around the world who’ve been on best behaviour – maybe even the ones who’ve been naughty – he grants some Christmas wishes that would make our country a greater place to live.