EDITOR, The Tribune
With the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) securing only four seats in the 2017 general election, it seemed like a farfetched notion that the oldest political organisation in The Bahamas would be able to rebound and become a viable alternative to the incumbent Free National Movement (FNM) with its 35 seats. Consequently, with such an overwhelming mandate given to it by the Bahamian people, the FNM losing to Philip Brave Davis and his PLP in 2022 would be nothing short of an existential crisis. Yet here we are approximately 26 months into the tenure of the Minnis administration and that is now very much a possibility due to, among other things, Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Brent Symonette and the narrative that the FNM’s primary concern is looking out for wealthy FNM mucka-mucks who are descendants of the defunct United Bahamian Party.
The FNM top brass seems unwilling to examine Symonette’s short and long term costs to their party. The PLP will always harp on Bahamas Hot Mix getting hefty government contracts. In February 2009 former FNM Cabinet Minister Neko Grant told Parliament that the construction company had received $77 million in contracts between 1999-2009 -- under both the FNM and PLP. Notwithstanding this fact, however, the FNM under Hubert Ingraham would go on to suffer a devastating loss to the PLP under Perry Christie in 2012, in large part due to Brent Symonette. The FNM was unable to overcome the optics of looking out for the Symonette family.
Fresh off the heels of gaining a $20 million contract from the Nassau Airport Development Company to repair runways at the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA), the Minnis administration has gifted Bahamas Hot Mix with three water supply contracts for Crooked Island and Long Island. I read that the Bahamian construction firm Apex Underground Utilities and Construction Co Ltd had placed lower bids yet failed to win any of the contracts due to its failure to meet requirements set by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
Whatever roles that the CDB and the Jamaican engineering firm Noel Whyte & Associates Ltd played in the procurement process, that will do precious little in quelling suspicions among low income Bahamian families that the FNM is only interested in looking out for the wealthy Symonette family. Surely the Minnis administration could’ve at least circumvented CDB’s rigid requirements and give the losing bidder one of the projects, with the aim of saving face. But they opted instead to give Bahamas Hot Mix all of the contracts.
I was willing to accept Deputy Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest’s explanation for increasing VAT by 60 percent last year, despite it harming my family economically. I understood the FNM’s decision to cave in to the threat issued by the Lyford Cay Property Owners Association over the former’s amended Real Property Tax Act in 2018. I accepted the explanation for the planned establishment of a credit bureau. I have accepted the explanation for the Education Loan Authority in going after delinquent Bahamian students who collectively owe the state $83 million in education loans.
I accepted the FNM explanation for moving the General Post Office into the Town Centre Mall, notwithstanding the appearance of a conflict of interest. I had also accepted the explanation given for rewarding Bahamas Hot Mix the $20 million LPIA contract. I have stated before that this FNM administration seems willing to risk losing the 2022 general election for Brent Symonette. I don’t know how the Minnis administration will manage to overcome this latest development with the Symonette clan, which further feeds into the narrative that the FNM is anti-small man and pro-mucka mucks. Minnis ran on a populist platform. But his policies can hardly be considered populist. I will not question Symonette’s devotion to the FNM or The Bahamas. I think, however, that him not offering himself in the 2017 general election would’ve spared the FNM from all of the political backlash it has encountered due to him.
June 30, 2019