FOR all the talk of the need for unity in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, it seems as if political sniping might be returning once more.
The new Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction is not even a week old, but Opposition leader Philip ‘Brave’ Davis has already deemed it useless.
He claims that Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis is passing the buck by creating the new ministry and putting Iram Lewis in the post of minister of state.
“We believe that in a national emergency and crisis, the prime minister takes the lead nationally and he must do his job,” said Mr Davis.
Considering the new ministry will operate out of the office of the prime minister, Dr Minnis is still the substantive head of that department –- so it seems rather disingenuous to suggest that he is passing off responsibility.
We do, however, agree with Mr Davis that the likely sum of money that will be needed by Grand Bahama businesses is likely far in excess of the $10m announced by Dr Minnis through a loan guarantee and equity financing facility.
Will that sum likely be $100m? Perhaps. And certainly it seems harsh to limit it to businesses in Abaco and East Grand Bahama and not other hurricane-affected parts of Grand Bahama.
The suggestion of the need for extra funding is the kind of helpful contribution that ought to be encouraged from the Opposition.
Where is that money to come from? Well, it’s hard not to view Mr Davis’ solution there with a little cynicism too. The government is inefficient at collecting tax revenue, he says.
“Collect your revenue and you’ll find the funds there,” he says. One wonders why he wasn’t so insistent upon doing that when he was in office not so long ago as deputy prime minister.
We realise that the habit of political point-scoring is so ingrained that it is hard to shake off - but at a time of national crisis, it is particularly unhelpful - and even offensive.
“Something must be done!” goes up the cry in the aftermath of events such as Hurricane Dorian - and the creation of the new ministry is one of the things that has been done.
The idea is that it will be able to cut through red tape and departmental battles. Here at The Tribune, we have seen some of that confusion in the reporting of the death toll from Hurricane Dorian. At first, there were announcements coming from Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands, and other announcements from NEMA. Sometimes, those announcements were slightly at odds. Finally, a move seemed to be made to ensure all such announcements come from the police. We might wish the information were more detailed when it comes - but it avoids confusion to have different departments giving out different information.
Iram Lewis and his team may also free up people from those other departments from tasks that prevent them from the most important work at hand - offering extra resources to allow the likes of NEMA to focus on its mission, or to provide more transparency with regard to the handling of donations.
The new ministry may work. It may not. It may create its own red tape even as it seeks to cut through it elsewhere. We shall see. But to condemn it within the same week it has been created before it has actually done anything seems petty.
The talk of working together needs to be more than talk. And if something isn’t working quite as well as it might, a useful contribution is to point out how it could be done better, not to fall back on the old, tired, overly familiar ways of playing politics.