By Malcolm Strachan
ANY number of pronouncements made by the prime minister can be pointed to when trying to assess what has caused the rapid deterioration of the goodwill he’s had with the Bahamian public. Whether we look at the use of superfluous campaign rhetoric that has come back to haunt him, or careless use of speech on a few too many occasions when we needed to hear from a coherent and composed leader.
The prime minister is now seen as a walking public relations timebomb that can go off, or say something that will typically cause confusion and disbelief at any moment. It is simply what we’ve come to expect from Prime Minister Minnis. Certainly, he must dread having to face the media. Perhaps this is why those promised press conferences that were recommitted to at the beginning of the year haven’t happened as yet. And being quite honest, based on his last interaction with the media when he attempted to suggest them doing their job could be likened to sitting atop the moon to fish, helps us to understand why.
Just as he dreads it, so do we. In a short ten-month span, we have heard so many cringe-worthy statements leave the prime minister’s mouth that it has become must-see TV – the kind you know is not good for you, but you still can’t take your eyes off the box. This is what we’ve come to expect when we hear from our nation’s leader.
It is utterly tragic.
While some have made it their sole purpose to remain a thorn in the prime minister’s side, I think there are a great many of us who want to see him succeed. This is not necessarily because we represent the “Hubert Minnis fan club”, but because we want to see the country become a better place.
However, with respect to the consistent questionable decision making, and lack of a plan that is accessible to the general public to be able to cross reference and make sense of, we aren’t left with much else.
The government’s most recent decision to sign a heads of agreement with Oban Energies without an EIA - which includes a stipulation that prevents us from pulling out if the report reveals potentially hazardous findings - is one such decision. With all of the implications that exist, the government has compromised us to a degree where we have been bounded to work with Oban to cooperate and “mitigate” any potentially hazardous situation.
Seriously. Are we this much of a Third World country?
Moreover, those same rules, per the heads of agreement, do not apply to Oban, which can abandon the project at any point throughout its development.
Let’s be clear. The deal has great potential to be a very lucrative venture. However, who really stands to benefit? Furthermore, it is just poorly constructed and was terribly communicated to the Bahamian people. The least the prime minister could have done was explain to us why , at the signing ceremony in Oban’s representative we were looking at the antithesis of whom we would like to see the government signing deals with.In fact, his presence was merely for show. A public relations spectacle.
For the prime minister who came into office championing transparency and accountability, how are we to have confidence in a leader whose word is so shallow?
He hasn’t even addressed the public regarding the confusion that exists with who the owners of the company are and why have we not tried to achieve the best possible deal for his people - the Bahamian people. What is the difference between the former administration, which Minnis railed against for not being a government of the people, and the current one if both bring forth these landmark deals that only produce jobs for Bahamian people.
Could not the government be creative enough to negotiate a few cents on every barrel? Is our big win in this whole deal simply 250 jobs? Further, could they honestly present it to the Bahamian people as a big accomplishment when juxtaposed with the billions of dollars Oban stands to make on this deal?
When are we as a people going to demand more from our government? When is our government going to demand more for its country?
The major disappointment is the prime minister led us all to believe he would be that leader. He would usher us into a new era after the pain and suffering that has been experienced for far too long for so many of our brothers and sisters. Rather, he follows an unsustainable model for advancing our country. Job creation alone will not serve as our end-all, be-all. The more astute business minds in government must know this and advise the prime minister accordingly.
The cost of living is rising much higher than wages, and while jobs will be a much-needed help for our brothers and sisters in Grand Bahama – how sustainable is this model if it is all we have to offer them?
Just as a job can be given, it can be taken away. And unfortunately, our government signed a deal that does not guarantee protection of those jobs, in the event Oban decides to pull out.
At a time when the nation would like answers from their government - from their prime minister - we get defensiveness. We are somehow the enemy because we don’t like how something is done, and therefore, must be disregarded.
This flawed thinking will land this government where it landed the last one – on the outside. Thus the story of the revolving door of governance goes. But in the meantime, what of the hopes and dreams of regular Bahamians who want to experience the fullness of the possibilities that living in a country so beautiful should provide?
Our circumstances do not exist because we do not have the resources. Rather, they exist because of the underwhelming use thereof.
Our government should first get a clear understanding of what the Bahamian people really want, since it truly seems as they have no clue. Our circumstances have become so depressed too many of us settle and sit on the sidelines while successive governments have run the show as they pleased to our detriment.
We decided last year that we had had enough. Now, it is obvious that we must continue with the same fervour towards demanding our government earn our confidence. We are hurting ourselves with the nonsensical lowering of what should be the debate when we argue over silly party politics.
Undoubtedly, if we are unable to see the great potential of not just this deal, but the many more that will come under this administration, and not allow ourselves the freedom to be critical of it, we are doomed to fail.
The reality is no one in government is an expert on governing. Certainly not the prime minister, as we have seen through the series of missteps he has had. Therefore, the government, in particular Prime Minister Minnis, should be listening twice as hard as they speak. Because it will be a long four years, not only for us, but for him as well. And once that time is done, if he is a man that truly cares for others, and also what they think of him, life as a civilian will not treat him kindly.
It is our incessant hope the prime minister is able to continue forming and hopefully become the leader we need him to be. His wagon is hitched to that of future generations of Bahamians.
He should not only want his legacy to be one that affects that positively, but he should also work for it. If that means being able to accept that people are going to be critical of what he does, he has to be able to be humble and rise to the occasion.
It is the only way he will grow and realise his potential as prime minister.