By Malcolm Strachan
IF I had a dollar for every time I heard a member of the government blame the previous administration for the state of affairs in the country, I would fare quite fine in our current economic climate.
This administration has regularly reminded the electorate how terrible the previous government was, particularly when things are not looking so bright.
No stranger to this hackneyed tactic, the Bahamian people have seen straight through this for a while now. Truthfully, it looks more like weakness and reaffirms theories about the Minnis administration’s inability to effectively lead.
The fact is real leaders find solutions – they don’t continually waste time reminding everyone about the problem. It’s as if they are stuck in campaign mode when we need them on the front line shepherding us through uncertain times.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest gave the government a tall order when he announced his quest to balance the budget in three years.
While wounds are still fresh from the May announcement, the Bahamian people were stunned to hear that revenue targets may shift less than three months after the Budget Communication bombshell.
As a result of a lawsuit filed by the gaming house operators against the government after its lack of consultation before “arbitrarily” making its decision to introduce a sliding scale tax and five percent patron tax, the government is already slated to lose $8min uncollected tax revenue.
In his statement to the media, the finance minister said we would not be in this position had the former government not been so reckless with the country’s fiscal affairs. Surely, Minister Turnquest would win that argument any day of the week. However, the Bahamian people are concerned - nearly a year and a half into this new government - what is going to be done about it?
We have yet to see a concrete plan laying out a vision for the country. As disheartening as this is, we still have to hear the same tired campaign messaging regurgitated by the nation’s top two leaders in the prime minister and deputy prime minister.
Everyone is asking the same questions, only to be ignored. What is the plan for The Bahamas? How long will it take for us to feel things are better in the country? We want our leaders to lead us as transparently as they promised they would - with vision and dedication to the common good. No more buzz words. No more blame games. We require them to put their election victory behind them and understand the responsibility that belongs to them today – governing the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
The crushing defeat the Progressive Liberal Party received in May 2017 is evidence enough that the majority of the Bahamian people do not need any further convincing of how terrible their brand of governance was.
What we need now are clearly delineated plans of the way forward.
Too often, it seems as though they are shooting from the hip. Unfortunately, that will not be good enough.
There have been a number of opportunities for the government to show it has the wherewithal to effectively lead. For instance, though there has been some traction on immigration, the Bahamian people do not get the sense that the proper planning went into this initiative. While it seemed the prime minister gave a clear indication that they would eliminate shanty towns, the poor execution has allowed Fred Smith to become known as a vigorous opponent of that cause.
As he challenges the government on the issue, there has been no impetus shown to change the law. Instead, the government would prefer to waste the taxpayers’ money in legal wrangling when they have the power to make the constitutional changes that would circumvent such issues.
It is absolutely unconscionable.
It is maddening that we are, yet again, at the mercy of a bunch that could not be more disconnected from the people.
Though they promised different this time around, it feels eerily the same. People may feel even more limited under the current regime of increased taxes and belt tightening.
Although crime has decreased year on year, citizens on New Providence are still weary of the ever present danger. Grand Bahama’s economy is still struggling and on the verge of complete collapse. The hurricane-ravaged Ragged Island has not become the nation’s first green island, as we are in the middle of another active season. Immigration issues still plague us, despite the strides we’ve made in this regard. Further, The Bahamas is not becoming more diversified and being prepared to compete on the international stage.
The government ought to be focused on transforming what it is that we do well. Tourism and financial services have served us greatly, but we have to be diversified. Depending on tourism and banking alone may sustain us, but will not trigger the transformational change we need as a country.
Our children depend heavily on the decisions made in Cabinet. Our leaders should always be operating with them in the fore of their minds and it should be shown in their actions.
Likewise, the electorate must be open-minded to transformational change. We must move beyond mere talking with little action. Certainly, each citizen has a role to play in our success or failure.
We cannot continue to wander aimlessly toward our future – stumbling through the present and blaming the previous government for the past.
This is a task that we’ve entrusted our elected leaders to complete. And yet, while the mission is still far from being completed, it does not inspire confidence in an electorate when there is a habit of pointing fingers when the pressure is on.
Real leaders accept challenges and see adversity as opportunities to be great. It is time for the government to decide how history will remember their names. Will they get their act together and rise to the occasion? Or will they amount to nothing more than another disappointment?
Much remains to be seen.