EDITOR, The Tribune
IF one were to peruse the annals of modern Bahamian history, dating back to the era of the United Bahamian Party, when the Bahamian Colony first achieved internal self government from England in 1964, one would be hard pressed to name one other PM who has had the kind of challenges Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis is currently faced with. Indeed, after watching Hurricane Dorian plow through Abaco and Grand Bahama in September 2019, leaving scores of dead Bahamians and Haitians and over $3 billion in damages in its wake, Minnis now has to contend with the COVID-19 disease, which has been dubbed a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, and its far-reaching implications for the entire Bahamian economy, especially in Nassau and Paradise Island. Tribune Business has stated that Dorian has “produced a near fivefold increase in this year’s deficit to $677.5 million, and a projected $1.5 billion debt increase over the next six years.” This gloomy economic forecast means that the Bahamian welfare net (AKA NIB and Social Services) will be stretched too thin if conditions don’t improve.
With Atlantis requesting its employees to take two weeks unpaid leave; Norwegian, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises all suspending trips for the next month, in addition to the downturn in business on Bay Street (which now resembles Freeport), a catastrophic recession seems inevitable. According to Tribune Business, even Club Med on San Salvador will close its doors for one month, which will negatively impact the economy on that Family Island. Whatever one’s opinion of Minnis is, all objective Bahamians would have to agree that the PM is walking on uncharted territory. Former Prime Ministers Hubert Ingraham, Perry Gladstone Christie, Sir Lynden O Pindling and Premier Sir Roland Symonette had never faced a crisis of this magnitude – never. Granted, Ingraham had to guide The Bahamas through the global crisis left in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the US in 2001 and the Great Recession in 2008, owing in part to the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But both crises were separated by seven years, the former occurring during his second administration, while the latter occurred during his third non-consecutive term. Conversely, Minnis is having to contend with two earth shattering crises within a span of a mere six months. Christie had the mammoth challenge of Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004, but both hurricanes had nowhere near the number of casualties as Dorian - which was simply an unprecedented storm. Pindling faced the 1973 OPEC Oil Crisis and the First Gulf War in 1990-1991. In my opinion, both crises pales in comparison due to any number of factors, population increase and the urbanisation and socio-economic advancement of so many Family Islanders and Nassuvians being three of them. What’s more, both crises had an interval of 17 years between them. That interval afforded Pindling an opportunity to take a deep breath. Providence hasn’t given Minnis this luxury.
The time for partisan politics must now take a back seat, as this COVID-19 crisis has the potential of crippling this country. Members of the Progressive Liberal Party, Democratic National Alliance and Free National Movement must all set aside their political swords and spears for the good of the country and pray for the PM of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. We are all in this together!
March 17, 2020.