FIRST, there was a proposal by the FNM to provide free food in schools for all children at government schools.
Now, there is a plan to provide concessions on housing construction for all first-time Bahamian homeowners building a house valued at $300,000 or less.
We welcome both of these proposals – as long as they can be afforded, of course. Each gives a step forward to different sections of our community. The children who might go hungry or who could do with being set on a better path for their diet, in the first case. And a chance for those Bahamians who haven’t been able to get their foot on the property ladder in the second.
The plan would see no customs duties on building materials, and no VAT on building materials or the value of the construction contract. Plus, no real property tax for five years.
It can be hard to get started as a homeowner. It seems there are all kinds of costs and fees that inflate the amount you have to pay. It might even be a factor in the brain drain we see where young professionals uproot and go to the US to work instead, and get their first home there instead.
Giving people a chance to have somewhere they belong is a tempting prospect indeed. These are the kind of sensible, forward-looking proposals that, frankly, we would have loved to have seen more of in Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ first term in office. If he’d introduced these earlier, we suspect many would have felt more warmly towards his candidacy for re-election.
As it stands, that re-election is up in the air. We shall find out after Thursday’s vote who the next government will be. If it is the FNM, we look forward to the implementation of policies such as these. If it is the PLP, we would equally encourage policies that look to lift sections of our society, to offer a helping hand where needed.
Too often, policies don’t really touch too many of those in our country – so it’s good to see this kind of thinking on show. We would absolutely prefer to have more of this kind of debate on the campaign trail than the playground pettiness on show too often.
When it comes to casting your vote, you ought to be able to judge not just on which leader you like more, but on what each of them is really offering in terms of change for the better.
If a leader isn’t clearly spelling out ways to take the nation forward, are they really the person who deserves your vote?
Clear the waters
There’s treasure in those waters!
At least, that’s the thinking of explorers who think they have detected 13 shipwrecks in Bahamian waters, with one of them a billon-dollar find.
And yet, despite such a potential bonanza, very little fanfare was made when a different explorer was issued a licence. That went to Carl Allen, the owner of Walker’s Cay, and his company.
As one source told Tribune Business yesterday, “That’s crazy. There’s no news to the public.”
The potential for retrieving salvage is a good thing – companies take on the risk of exploration and the public purse gets a cut of the proceeds.
What is not good is when this kind of thing takes place in silence. There are already enough worries about transparency with government, and our place in the corruption index. When one hears about a potential treasure trove of five tons of gold on one ship, one worries whether such profits would indeed ever end up in the public purse.
This should be a good thing for the country – and a good thing for the private companies involved in the exploration.
All that is required is for everything to be above board. Clarity over the process of issuing licences, clarity over who the government contacts are dealing with these bodies, and clarity over how the salvage will be presented for valuation and assessment. There is no reason for any of this process not to be conducted in the light of day. So let’s do just that, shed a little more light – to get rid of any shadows of suspicion.