WHO do you trust?
That’s the question our front page headline asks today, and it’s a question that voters must find an answer to. Who do you trust with the future of our country?
On one side is the incumbent party, the FNM. On the other, their predecessors, the PLP. The DNA seems to be struggling to find its voice so it’s really about the two traditional rivals right now.
The FNM is running on its record since winning the 2017 election. It has had monumental hurdles to face, that would have challenged any government. First there was Hurricane Dorian, and then the even greater storm of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his national address yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis indicated that securing enough vaccines for the country played a key role in his election decision.
“As a result of our country reaching the goal of securing the vaccines we need, it is now time for the Bahamian people to choose who they want to lead them as we move toward vaccinating every Bahamian who wishes to be vaccinated,” he said.
That is indeed a notable achievement – just ask any government around the world still struggling to get enough vaccination doses for its citizens.
But the FNM has fallen short in other ways. The much-touted marijuana reform dragged on for years and hasn’t made it to the finishing line in Parliament before the election. Freedom of Information wasn’t implemented in time. Then there are the promises that seem to have gone nowhere at all – campaign finance reform, for example, which should have been a priority long before another election came close.
There have been other problems – the much-touted Oban deal that seemed not to have been properly investigated was an early embarrassment, the Grand Lucayan sale has dragged on and on, and did little amid opposition to the Bahamas Petroleum Company’s oil drilling.
In the FNM manifesto in 2017, the first item on the checklist was to introduce term limits for Prime Ministers. That has never seemed to be a priority. The second item was to introduce a system of recall for non-performing Members of Parliament. Not a whisper has been heard on that. Other promises too have gone by without being fulfilled. The government can’t complain that it didn’t have the votes – it had an overwhelming majority.
Which brings us to the Opposition. The FNM had that overwhelming majority because of how tired the Bahamian public was of the Christie administration. The PLP has Christie’s deputy as the would-be Prime Minister, in Philip “Brave” Davis, and former Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell as the party chairman and the candidate for Fox Hill. What marks this PLP out as any different from the one people were so tired of? It’s hard to see any difference.
Throughout the pandemic, the PLP has offered criticisms but few solutions. They seem to have been in favour of fewer restrictions – yet not offered much guidance on how they would curtail the spreading infection instead. Today we report 14 new deaths from COVID-19 in the latest data from the government – dealing with the pandemic will be the number one priority of whoever wins the election. Who will do that best?
Mr Davis last night talked of “chaos and collapse and crisis” everywhere we look. While he’s right when he says “our hospitals are stretched beyond capacity”, and “our economy is stuck”, he offers no solution. He talks of “armed robberies in broad daylight” as if we didn’t see high murder rates throughout his time as Deputy Prime Minister.
While the first priority for any incoming government will be the pandemic, there are many more things to be tackled. There is the prospect of taxation reform, with international pressure for change and a mountain of debt to be paid off. The economy needs to be revived, and crime remains a constant problem. We still feature in international reports on corruption, and transparency is more talked about than delivered.
It won’t be an easy task for any government – or an easy choice for voters. So back to our original question – who do you trust? The parties have just a few weeks to convince you.