Governor General Sir Cornelius A Smith reads the Speech from the Throne. Photo: Donavan McIntosh/Tribune staff
By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
A FINANCIAL expert has echoed calls for a national development plan following government's Speech from the Throne earlier this week.
Speaking to The Tribune Friday, Gowon Bowe, chief executive officer of Fidelity Bank & Trust, noted that it should be first considered that all promises made in previous speeches have financial attachments.
“The Speech from the Throne for me is a ceremonial hitch because it is really expected and a part of the opening of Parliament,” Mr Bowe said. “I think the intent behind it is probably dismissed because it is has been overshadowed by the pomp and pageantry. If it is to be meaningful it’s probably a speech that refers to a wider document.
“I don’t think any government goes into it believing that they can’t keep the promise. I think they go into it naively, not understanding, ‘for every promise that I make there has to be funding, planning, execution.’ The smartest element would be, how do we set out a strategy document for all Bahamians regardless of their political persuasion can review?”
He said the Speech just highlights priorities of the incoming government and will refer persons to the details of a document perhaps the party’s manifesto or blue print.
“That is how it happened in the past three election cycles,” he said. “Candidly put, the Speech from the Throne is the ceremonial delivery of aspirations by an incoming administration.
“I say that not to come across somewhat dismissive of it but really saying that it highlights the need for a national development plan because ultimately when you read to it, it is and has always been certainly very light on details.
“In the absence of having very holistic and comprehensive plans, the best they can be described are aspirations. The reality is that any administration that wins an election and within three weeks is having a Speech from the Throne read is still in the midst of understanding. Meaning if it was a diligent opposition paying close attention to what was in the public domain, however being in the chair is very different.”
Mr Bowe continued by drawing a timeline from the election win to the opening of Parliament, one which he believes illustrated there is no real time to make a meaningful Speech.
“In the absence of it being an incumbent government recurring, the reality is there has not been enough time to put out a plan that is going to be one that I can hold as being commitments or elements that I take any more seriously than a ceremonial speech,” he said.
“I think that while the initiatives in it are what I will call the popular agenda items. This means if you go to the average citizen, everyone is going to say pay me more, give me more benefits and tax me less. That is just in reality what the human nature is going to be, but we have to pay for all that it is we are going to do.
“If we were in the scenario of having a national development plan, I believe we would have a more meaningful Speech from the Throne. That is only because what it will then turn to is saying, ‘these are my actions’ in relation to my generation plan which is 25 to 30 years in terms of the making and ‘these are the elements that I am hoping to achieve in the next election cycle towards this wider plan.’”
He called on all governments to remove the partisan approach from their Speeches from the Throne and realise the promises made can come back to haunt them in the future.
“We have to remove the partisan politics from the Speeches from the Throne,” he said. “We have to avoid the desire to attract our base or to satisfy our base, because it gets us into problems by virtue of saying, ‘these promises you couldn’t keep’.
“I think there are elements in the Speech from the Throne that leave people bewildered by saying you can’t increase benefits, wages, and social programmes and reduce taxes because they are incongruent. So it means that you must be prioritizing these things that are different phases and times.
“The Speech from the Throne is no different than previous ones, the political parties need to rest their swords aside on this one because criticizing it for lack of details can be thrown on all administrations for the last 25 years.”