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Editorial: Extra Borrowing A Drop In The Rising Ocean

THE announcement of extra borrowing by the government – to the tune of $587.9m – will, no doubt, bring a sharp intake of breath from many.

It is a huge extra amount – the budget target was borrowing of $137m, itself a sizeable sum. But then, of course, that target was blown away by Hurricane Dorian.

This borrowing then comes as a very expensive plaster to cover up the wound carved in our nation’s skin by that storm.

It will pay for repairs, certainly, but it will also cover lost revenue from the businesses out of action on Abaco and Grand Bahama. Every day businesses are closed down is a day of no VAT, a day of no business licence renewals, a day of no Customs payments for imports – and that’s not even taking into account a shortage of NIB payments with workers laid off either temporarily or permanently.

We all understand the impact Hurricane Dorian had on our country and, by extension, our country’s finances. And while we appreciate Finance Minister Peter Turnquest saying that this borrowing “will not be used as a pretext to go on unnecessary spending binges”, there is one question that this leads to. It is this: What’s next?

Heaven forbid another storm hits us next season, or the season after that – but where do we stand if one does? This borrowing patches us up to get us back to where we were before, but we talk often about the threat to our nation from climate change so how do we plan for the financial impact on our nation to go along with the physical impact?

Last November, we published a report on research that showed that most of Grand Bahama, Abaco and Spanish Wells could be under flood levels by 2050 because of climate change. That seems far away, but it’s the same distance in time from us now as 1990.

In November, a Bahamian expert, Dr Adelle Thomas, warned that “we cannot continue with a business as usual approach” and yet here we are, with extra borrowing that only gets us back to “as usual”.

Reconstruction needs to go hand in hand with rethinking – whether the designs of our buildings should change, whether we should be zoning some areas as flood zones, whether some parts of our islands are so vulnerable that relocation is the best option.

The researchers who predicted the possible effects of climate change, Climate Central, warned that residents of small island states – that’s us – “could face particularly devastating losses”.

It’s not as if the concern isn’t known by our leaders, either – last September, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis asked at the UN: “How will we continue to exist?”

So as we assess the money being borrowed to cover the costs of Hurricane Dorian, we must be aware that it is a drop in the ocean that threatens to swallow us.

Our future depends on a plan and a prayer – a plan for how to deal with the likelihood of future storms and rising waters, and a prayer that we might be spared the worst.

Never mind the astronomical cost of dealing with Dorian, what will be the cost if we don’t plan to deal with what is still to come?

Did the Earth move for you too?

The Earth may not have shaken, rattled or rolled too much here in The Bahamas – though sufficient for government workers to get the rest of the day off – but the earthquake that took place off the coast of Jamaica has pricked up the Prime Minister’s ears.

Our building codes might need attention! So he declared yesterday in the wake of a quake that barely trembled the windows here.

Fine enough, Dr Minnis, where do we start? Which of the many government buildings in disrepair is up to earthquake code? I mean, we can understand the Churchill Building having a bit of a tremble – it does that when a lorry passes. Or in a strong breeze.

We suspect this lies in the category of looking busy until everyone forgets and moves on – but goodness, if The Bahamas has to replace all the buildings that aren’t earthquake compliant too, the bill from Dorian is going to look tiny by comparison.

As it is, as many of us didn’t feel a tremble, this is one disaster we probably don’t need to panic about just yet.

Comments

Chucky 7 months, 4 weeks ago

If a country needs to borrow to cover lost revenues from businesses now inactive, that’s a clear demonstration that revenue derived from those businesses are greater than need be; ie they pay towards something other than expenses incurred by the government due to the business operation. That is essentially socialism/wealth redistribution.

Seems to me the sums being borrowed are closer to the business volume in dollar amount than they are to the likely obtainable revenue to government has the businesses still been running.

Nobody in their right mind would believe the government obtains 600 million in fees from Abaco business. That’s likely the gdp of Abaco!

This is a scam, in which the government is going to borrow and miss direct these funds to their cronies and pull off one of the greatest heists in Bahamian history

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joeblow 7 months, 4 weeks ago

The purpose of imposing VAT was to pay down the mammoth national debt. Its seems self defeating to continue to impose this tax on citizens when government borrowing continues to greatly outpace paying down the debt! The electorate should protest this continuing burden!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 7 months, 4 weeks ago

And not a single one word about much needed austerity measures and belt-tightening as regards our country's out-of-control and unsustainable recurring annual costs. The corrupt Minnis-led FNM government's solution to any and everything is: Just borrow more and more! That's not governance by any acceptable standard, but rather outright financial suicide for our country and the vast majority of its people!!

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ThisIsOurs 7 months, 4 weeks ago

"We suspect this lies in the category of looking busy until everyone forgets and moves"

Dr Minnis does this incessantly. If a fire starts, he jumps in the middle and pours gasoline on it then runs to get the hose to put it out.

It is an amazing thing to see. Dr Sands described it as planning by sticking your finger in the air to see which way the wind blowing.

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DDK 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Gangsters, pure and simple.

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Porcupine 7 months, 4 weeks ago

So Editor, What exactly are you advocating, if anything, to save this country? Is this the only responsibility of a free press. Just report on the carnage? If there is a value to a free press, what is it? In your lifetime of experience Editor, what exactly is it that has led this country on its tried and true course for the wonderful success we are all experiencing at present? Suggestion, pay attention to some of the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. on Youtube. Does the term "civil disobedience" ring a bell? Or, do you honestly see another path to positive improvement. Please do not say going to the polls. I am posing this honest question to you, Editor. Is there a suggestion that the brilliance in the editorial department can put forth that actually works, before admitting that we must take to the streets? Be honest, and intelligent now.

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birdiestrachan 7 months, 4 weeks ago

The FNM Government did buy hurricane insurance what has happened to that money. how much did they pay out and how much have they received, I remember roc wit doc and Turnquest bragging about the insurance they bought.

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TheMadHatter 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Birdie - the same way when your people were in - you don't get to know what happens to the money. You get to keep quiet and wait until next election. Your leader (Brave) is currently the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. Ask him to look into what's happening to our money. But he won't. That's why the Centreville guy resigned. The opposition Party has NO REASON to come in this newspaper or any newspaper and play dumb - like they don't know the figures. They are in charge of accounting for them.

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larrydfry 7 months, 4 weeks ago

All politics aside, the fact that Abaco, Grand Bahama Island, and Spanish Wells, etc. are projected to be permanently flooded out by rising sea waters around 2050 should be addressed in a non-political manner. Perhaps the Bahamas should investigate installing dike structures similar to the Dutch in the Netherlands) over the next 30 years in order to preserve as much of the livable land as possible. If there is the serious potential for permanent flooding in the areas mentioned, then the tourism, real-estate, and lobster industries will all suffer. No hotel companies will want to build new hotels in the Freeport, GBI area because they will loose their investment within 30 years due to permanent flooding.Real estate values will decline drastically due to the flooding, as all desirable beach-front properties will be underwater (e.g., Lyford Cay, et al).Talking about looming disaster is one thing, but taking action is what is needed. Perhaps the Bahamas should appeal to some of the international entities out there for help,.That's just my humble opinion.

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birdiestrachan 7 months, 4 weeks ago

My Leader is Jesus. You should try him he never fails.

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Porcupine 7 months, 3 weeks ago

The majority of Bahamians are lead by Jesus. Looking around, is this the best we could do? Something ain't right. As they are with many overly religious communities.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I remember when you sanctimoniously believed Poodling was your leader. To you he was Moses sent to lead you to the promised land. As a crony of Poodling you were put on the gravy train and made it to the promised land. But not so for the vast majority of your fellow Bahamians.

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