EDITOR, The Tribune.
I must ask all Bahamians this question, “Do we have an existential crisis in our country?”
My own answer to this question is, “Yes, we do.”
Here are my reasons;
Presently, our economy is in shambles. At least it is for the majority of Bahamians. That a majority of our citizens have no savings, have had no increase in wages in many years, and are seeing a dramatic increase in our cost of living, leads me to this conclusion. I am speaking of percentages.
While our politicians, our newspaper editors, our pastors, our business leaders, the web shop owners, and lawyers do have enough food on their tables, and can pay their basic bills, they do not constitute the majority of Bahamians, Yet, they are the ones who get to make most of the decisions. They are the ones whose voices we hear, read about, and are for the most part, reported on. The rest of us are statistics. So, for me, when I am presented with the “statistics” of how many of us are in poverty, are unable to scrap together a couple of hundred dollars in an emergency, how many have to depend on social services, of how many are homeless, of how many are jobless, I say we have a crisis.
But, I don’t want to stop there.
Our crime rates, no matter what the talking heads in the police department say, are out of control. The number of murders, rapes, robberies here, constitute a crisis. The statistics clearly show that on a per capita basis, crime in The Bahamas is at unacceptable levels. No matter how we look at it, nor no matter what we see on TV, the US has a murder rate of 5.35 persons per 100,000 people, versus 28.4 persons killed per 100,000 people here in The Bahamas. This is no small difference.
I say we have a crisis.
As to our national debt and the state of our finances. Though we have no transparency and no freedom of information act here, most of us who have been paying attention can agree that we are in dire straits. Our unfunded liabilities, the losses in most of our government enterprises, and the amount of money paid each year in interest payments, the amount of money lost to corruption and theft, are untenable.
I say we have a crisis.
Judging by the way traffic flows on our streets in Nassau, by the number of traffic accidents, the number of broken up and mashed cars, and by the disrespect for traffic laws in Nassau, I say we have a crisis.
Judging by the reports in the papers of the numbers of people with AIDS in this country, the rate of cancers, of diabetes, of obesity, by my own experience in visiting people in Princess Margaret Hospital and in seeing the clinics in the Family Islands, I say we have a crisis.
My point is not to be completely negative, or to see the glass as half empty. On the contrary, I want us to be honest, and to admit we have a problem so that we can positively move forward and upward. Unless we face up to these overwhelming social failures, nothing can change.
Most importantly, I want to establish the fact that we do, in fact, have a crisis situation in The Bahamas.
And if we do, is it not fair to ask that all citizens of The Bahamas equally share in the pain of righting many of these wrongs?
Presently, no such thing is happening.
VAT, no matter how it is justified, is disproportionately, and unarguably making some people starve and go without. Many Bahamians are being forced to go without food, medicine, electricity, school clothes, lunch money, and on and on. Not luxuries, but the very basics required for life.
Therefore, I must ask, who among us is truly Christian?
Are Dr Minnis and Mr Turnquest and the rest of the MPs who voted on this increase in VAT? They must see the statistics of how many Bahamians are suffering. For god’s sake, we are in a national crisis.
The first thing a decent leader would do is to admit that we must all share in the pain together. The decent thing to do would be to vote for a reduction in pay for all MPs, and to institute a progressive tax for those who are not just making ends meet, but actually getting rich by any standards. What is wrong with my thinking?
Was it only the poor who got us into this mess? Of course not. Honestly, Dr Minnis, are you, or any in your administration unable to put two and two together, to see the direct consequences of your actions? Or, do you just not care?
Yes, I want the richest Bahamians to pay much, much more than the poorest Bahamians. Is this not Christian? Or would you argue that these are not basic Christian principles?
It appears to me that we here in The Bahamas are in a crisis situation. I believe it is only fair that we all chip in to the best of our ability to help stabilise and right this sinking ship.
The way the government is currently going about it, I believe, is entirely unfair, truly hypocritical, wholly undemocratic, and ghastly unChristian. To place such a great, great burden on those least able to bear it, forcing them to make choices which can only degrade their lives, is unforgivable.
That this is the “leadership” mentality we presently have is truly unfortunate for our country.
That the pastors who are supposed to uphold some semblance of Christian values have remained virtually silent, acquiescing to the will of the lawmakers, is unacceptable.
That those who are doing very well by any standards, and have allowed the poor to be saddled with these life and death choices is inhumane and disgusting.
I would ask of all the so-called “leaders” in this country to go home and look in the mirror.
Presently, I can see no other way to describe our treatment of the majority of the Bahamian people as heartless, soulless and cruel, that can never be excused.
I find it sad that we will come out on July 10 waving our flags, and this is the best we can do for the least among us in our own country.
Yes, I am disgusted.
June 30, 2018.