EDITOR, The Tribune.
Two years into Dr Minnis’ administration, it’s most ardent apologists increasingly find themselves shielding it with the excuse of well-intentioned incompetence.
But to be fair, mere incompetence (however strenuously applied) cannot explain the near perfect record of opaque, unaccountable and impenetrable governance we have witnessed since May, 2017.
Take, for instance, the Oban scandal. The most generous narrative proposes a Prime Minister so fully out of his league that he was fooled into accepting one-sided terms by savvy foreigners, then coaxed into a buffoonish press conference where he and his whole cabinet sat grinning in the presence of a televised mockery. While that narrative is essentially correct, it is still too kind.
The whole saga in reality began with an act of secrecy, followed by what appeared to be straight-out dishonesty and, finally, contempt for any notion of accountability. The first act in the tragi-comedy was the Prime Minister’s attempt to secretly remove responsibility for the BEST commission and Environmental Impact Assessments from his Minister for the Environment to his own office. When found out, he labelled it “fake news” and outright denied it on camera. Then a persistent reporter pointed out that the move was actually evidenced in a government gazette publication, which entailed almost verbatim the “fake news” he had just denied. Rather than explaining, he bristled at the reporter.
Intelligent observers will view all that came later (straight down to the cringe-worthy press conference and missing file) in the light of those events. Somebody clearly knew that the normal processes of scrutiny would need to be departed with for such a deal to make it through to the PM’s well-orchestrated publicity stunt. They just didn’t wager on it all falling apart so clumsily. Incompetent? Clearly. Well intentioned? Clearly not.
Sadly, the same holds for the many other acts of this administration that could conceivably be described as mere ill-judgment. Take the recent hyped announcement of divesting government buildings to “the Bahamian public”. While Minnis himself may genuinely have been snookered into seeing this as some radical, bright new idea, it is far more likely yet another trick from the FNM’s playbook of providing state welfare to its wealthy backers at the expense of the public. Given the pitiful national savings rate and skewed availability of investment capital, it is not hard to guess the names that will end up owning these public assets, deriving income in perpetuity from the taxes of an involuntarily investing public.
Incompetence, even where it is manifest and undeniable, is not sufficient to explain, much less to excuse, the shady and damaging record of the Minnis administration to date.
May 6, 2019.