By INIGO ‘NAUGHTY’ ZENICAZELAYA
THIS week has been a busy one in politics. Grand Bahama, my second home, entered the chat. On top of that, many Bahamians are wondering whether “new” taxes are on the horizon. Let’s begin.
DON’T CRY FOR ME, GRAND BAHAMA
Let me get this out of the way: Grand Bahama (GB) is my second home. Of all the beautiful islands in this wonderful archipelago, I have to admit that Grand Bahama has a special place in my heart.
Now those of you who know me personally will likely say, “Of course, his wife is from Freeport, so that’s a no-brainer.” While that is true, it’s also true that Abaco and Eleuthera, where my grandparents hail from, also hold unique places in my heart. But the truth is that growing up, Grand Bahama, or Freeport, was the ‘other Bahamas’ where we Nassauvians imagined a land of opportunities and talent that were different from (but the same as) all the greatness that being Bahamian represented.
So colour me surprised when the Prime Minister announced on the world stage that, “The Bahamas today is really growing and continues to grow. But for Grand Bahama, there is always this sort of question mark. And why is there that question mark, if they are willing to invest in The Bahamas? When we ask them if they’d like to come to Grand Bahama, there is always some reluctance on their part.”
Without venturing deep into PM Philip “Brave” Davis’ head, I admit that I was disappointed at his words.
Sure, it’s good to let all Bahamians know the challenges we continue to face as a country because of this ongoing pandemic, but why single Grand Bahama out as some unwanted stepchild?
Let me tell you about my memories of Freeport. Growing up, I remember my parents reminiscing about dinners with Uncle Albert (Albert Miller) and his brood, who were dear family friends, and the great nights of dancing and conversation centred on developing Freeport into further greatness. I also remember my father’s ship (he was Captain on The Emerald Seas) docking in Freeport and having many dinners at the world-famous “Crab House”.
Freeport was, after all, the “Magic City,” where I would later compete in fun but super competitive swimming matches, knowing that the swimmers that GB produced were on par with (and sometimes superior to) those reared right here in Nassau. Grand Bahama was like that cool cousin you admired, who was on a different but complementary path to prominence.
I met my wife in 2002. By then, because of the failure of successive governments, a lot of what made Freeport remarkable was beginning to fade. Still, meeting her family (who were Grand Bahamians through and through) reminded me of that place in our country with over fifty-thousand residents who were striving to make our nation more diverse and progressive, yet offered an alternative to congested city life in New Providence.
Looking back, I now believe the truth is that The Bahamas has failed Grand Bahama.
We have failed to give the resources needed to restore our “second city” decimated by numerous hurricanes. Through the vast powers of the central government, we have also failed to build up a place where opportunities can roar for every Bahamian.
There’s no shortage of headlines documenting how our elected governments have disregarded, disengaged from, and (at times) denigrated the potential that Grand Bahama represents.
Sure, we have a ‘Ministry of Grand Bahama,’ but what’s the point if we can’t even keep the lights on for Grand Bahamians?
The Prime Minister says the headlines generated from his words this week on investors in Dubai hating on GB are not accurate. What is true is that he told the world what these so-called savvy Emiratis think of GB. So, where do we go from here?
READ MY LIPS
An interesting debate broke out in the House of Assembly this week. For the limited time our lawmakers sat in there making laws on Wednesday, a back and forth between Opposition Leader Michael Pintard and Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell caught my attention.
Pintard, like many Bahamians, wondered whether the New Day government was getting ready to unleash a fresh batch of “new” taxes on the unwashed masses.
It turns out it may not be new taxes but rather “new tax measures.” See? Nothing to worry about, I’m sure.
Still, during the last few weeks Bahamians have felt the squeeze of inflation, particularly at the grocery store, where sweet peppers rival the price of gold. Property taxes, for some Bahamians, has increased by some two hundred percent. On top of that, there has been an outcry over ten percent VAT added to construction costs, something this New Day government failed to tout when bragging on the VAT change.
At the heart of everything happening is a righteous fear Bahamians should have about where our leaders are taking us.
The VAT decrease of two percentage points, only to be increased by ten percentage points on breadbasket items, feels like an election bait and switch. So does everything we hear from the current administration.
Before the election, “increased fiscal activity” was the talk on generating additional government revenue. Now, Bahamians have to worry about where to find the money for food and whether we will be kicked out of our homes because of these “new tax measures.”
NO ONE VOTED FOR THIS
A mid-term budget is on the horizon, which may shed some light on all our worries. Some people are optimistic, but I’m not so sure. A lot of what was promised has been twisted to obscene proportions.
I would never have guessed that the PM would announce to the world that our second city, Freeport, was being derided by investors globally. So I honestly have low expectations for anything good coming out of the next budget.
My advice to Bahamians is Biblical; gird your loins, everyone. Caesar is coming for his tings!