By Youri Kemp
THE president of the Exuma Chamber of Commerce, Pedro Rolle, has hit out "exploitation" from the system of governance in The Bahamas.
Speaking at this year's Exuma Outlook yesterday, Mr Rolle said: "For a number of years now, we've been proclaiming that Exuma is on the verge of tremendous growth; poised to explode and mature into a significant island economy. Yet each year we continue to talk about the things that continue to hinder our transformation. I believe that one of the challenges we're facing on our road to transformation is a lack of awareness as to where we are. It's impossible to have a roadmap to our destination of transformation if we don't even know where or why we're here today."
He added: "My fellow Exumians, the year is now 2019 and this system of governance under which Exuma is managed today - a system designed to exploit and plunder - incredibly remains in force today. The face of the exploiters has changed from white to black; from British to Bahamian - but exploitation is exploitation even if well-intentioned!"
He hit out at a system that assigns "the responsibilities of governance to non-locals, non-resident, to political bureaucrats. That's what the colonial masters did to us; they sent in their English Lords as Governors to dictate, to enforce, to collect and repatriate."
He said the first thing we need to do to transform Exuma is to recognise that the current government system is non-progressive and unsustainable and that a meaningful and well-designed local government system is needed.
He added: "What we have today in Exuma is not local government; you can't have local government without local governance. Local governance means being empowered to identify the local challenges and the power and resources to address these challenges.
"Exuma cannot afford to sit and wait for a developmental plan to be 'given' to us; we must be the architects of this plan. Then, Exuma must be the builders of this plan; finally, Exuma must be the managers of this plan."
Mr Rolle estimated that Exuma contributes $80m a year to the national economy and demanded that authorities explain the formula that determines what percentage of that $80m is reinvested in Exuma. He pointed to the United States Federal tax system with each individual states proposed a system where the government would collect only 30 percent of the taxes it now takes from Exuma and Exuma gets to keep the rest. He pointed at Florida, saying: "They look at their revenues, create their budgets, determine their priorities - based on the needs of Florida, not Washington or California."
Highlighting the benefits of a larger share of tax revenue staying in Exuma, Mr Rolle said: "We are content to continue to travel this archaic road to mediocrity.
"The bottom line is - the unwillingness of Central Government to allow for decisions to be made locally on matters of local concern, will continue to prevent the transformation of Exuma."