By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamas is suffering from “a shortage” of political leaders who “preach the lessons” of hard work as opposed to offering hand-outs and giveaways, an outspoken businessman is arguing.
Sir Franklyn Wilson, the Arawak Homes and Sunshine Holdings chairman, in a recent interview told Tribune Business that The Bahamas must stop seeking “short cut” solutions to the problems it faces as he blasted calls for the creation of a National Lottery.
That suggestion, made last week by former Democratic National Alliance (DNA) leader Branville McCartney, was branded as “very unwise” by Sir Franklyn, who instead backed the message delivered by businessman Ethric Bowe that increased productivity was the only way to “save the country” and improve economic growth and job prospects.
“I disagree very, very strongly with that,” Sir Franklyn told this newspaper of Mr McCartney’s argument that the country should revisit a National Lottery as a means of redistribution to assist vulnerable Bahamians struggling with the cost of living crisis. “Higher productivity, hard work. That is the talk to which I subscribe.”
Mr Bowe, an engineer with multiple business interests including Advanced Technical Enterprises, an insurance agency/brokerage and a family farm, had railed against the creation of a ‘something for nothing’ mentality among many Bahamians through the constant provision of what was billed as ‘free’ hand-outs.
Sir Franklyn, agreeing that Mr Bowe’s message was “infinitely more sound” and “in my humble opinion, infinitely more wise”, added: “This stuff about a National Lottery being the answer is unwise. Stop looking for short cuts. I thought that was a very unwise comment.”
As to Mr Bowe’s comments, he enthused: “That’s the answer, that’s the answer. The path to development involves concepts of increasing productivity, hard work, more stable families and greater savings. These are the right things that make sense.
“Unfortunately, I think we’re going in the wrong direction because, fundamentally, we have a shortage of politicians in the country, and have had it for some time, who are prepared to preach these lessons... No politician is saying these things. It’s give away something else, give away something else. We don’t have politicians showing any courage, creativity or innovation. It’s give me, give me. It infuriates me.”
Sir Franklyn thus voiced similar sentiments to Mr Bowe, who last week told Tribune Business: “We need to give people support to earn, but we deny them opportunities and give them free stuff. We don’t encourage people to learn. Where do we expect to go. If we don’t get people productive, we will not get the economy to move.
“Our problem is really us. We need people to tell us the truth. We need to earn our way out of this situation. There’s no magic. Every day I go to work at 8.30am, 9am, and there’s a whole line of men at the liquor store. You can’t run a society like this, standing around drinking all day, and spending all the money you earn at the bar.
“The Government has to be honest with the people even if it means getting kicked out of office for doing the right thing. We have to save the country. The Government needs to tell the people every chance they get, they have to be productive. If you do not come to work, we cannot pay you,” he continued.
“There are a lot of people employed by the Government every day who provide nothing of value and get paid. Those that are doing something of value have to take their money to pay them. Any time there are a lot of lines in the country, it means people are standing on those lines and not working. If they’re not working it’s a drag on our gross domestic product (GDP). We have to be productive. We need to focus on our productivity, and for people to understand what productivity and service is.”
Mr McCartney, meanwhile, said that despite suggestions a National Lottery and web shop gaming cannot co-exist there was no doubt the former would “certainly be better” for The Bahamas as a means to redistribute monies to those with the greatest food, clothing and shelter needs.
Although Bahamians might still play the numbers, go back to a National Lottery. I would revisit that again, the development of a National Lottery,” Mr McCartney told this newspaper. “If we do a National Lottery, the proceeds would right now go to social assistance. It’s certainly not to take away from the web shops, but the bottom line is that a National Lottery would certainly be better for the economy as a whole.”
Forming a National Lottery has been mulled many times previously, but the Christie administration never went forward with the proposal and instead proceeded with the legalisation, taxation and regulation of the web shop gaming industry. Numerous countries and US states use lotteries as a mechanism to finance social and charitable causes that are designed to benefit wider society.