EDITOR, The Tribune.
Recent events and statements by senior FNM ministers and Chairmen suggest that the administration is trying its level best to lose the next general elections. In the midst of the ongoing onslaught, economically and medically, the interim government has notified Bahamians that in short order there will be increases in user/service fees at Bahamas Power & Light; the Water & Sewerage Corporation and for tickets at Bahamas Air.
Since long before March of 2020 the economy was not doing too well. There were signs of life but growth was slow and anemic at best. The aftermath of assorted hurricanes, especially Dorian decimated some of our Family Islands along with vital infrastructure. Many lives were lost. The real body blow has been the pandemic and the reactions of the administration towards the same. The arbitrary lockdowns and erratic curfews did the rest.
It has been suggested by no less a personage than the Competent Authority that unemployment is in the lower 40%. The esteemed Director of Labor, Brother John Pinder, has also shared the same suggestion while the indomitable Minister of Labour, Senator Dion Foulkes, recently claimed, without any empirical data that ‘Most Bahamians have gone back to work’! Many employees who would have been laid off over the past year have yet to be recalled. Many small to medium sized businesses were obliged to close their doors and may not reopen.
Yet the Minister of Works & Public Utilities says brace for increases. If one is not working or pulling in some sort of an income where will he/she find the monies for the regular billings much less the portended increases? Where is the compassion; heart and soul of this regime? Increasing user/service fees is not the way to win general elections. It has also been announced that some 200 million dollars of proposed infrastructure work will be delayed or postponed indefinitely in the midst of a reduced economy.
All sorts of sidewalks are now being built on and through side streets at a rapid rate. Bannister once suggested that the issuance of these sidewalk contracts provided employment for Bahamian contractors and their Bahamian workers. I beg to differ in that just through a side road off East Street and Balfour Avenue a sidewalk is being constructed across from a ‘Haitian’ church. The contractor is ‘known’ to me to be a Bahamian. His four workers, however, act, look and talk like foreign nationals. The Ministry of Workers must ensure that only Bahamian labour is used on these sidewalk jobs.
We are in a sorry economic state and this is the worst time when a government that says that it cares about its people to capriciously increase fees/costs. Where will the money come from? Whatever happened to the tens of millions of dollars of uncollected Real Property Tax; NIB contributions that would have already been deducted by employers but has yet to be turned over to the agency? Why are we not introducing a progressive income tax regime? Wealth Bahamians and expatriates do not pay a single dollar on their huge annual incomes while the poor black and Conchy Joe Bahamians are being taxed to ‘death’?
The simple process of outsourcing the collection of the above could bring in countless millions of dollars for the economic and fiscal well being of The Bahamas. We need to start to think out of the box because it is now clear that the run of the mill Bahamian politician will not. Indeed, where is their compassion? Where is their heart? Where is their Soul? To God then, the great I AM, in all things, be the glory.
ORTLAND BODIE Jr
February 19, 2021.