Rolle: Island needs true local government
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Exuma Chamber of Commerce president yesterday slammed what he described as an unprogressive and unsustainable “colonial’ system of governance, which has impeded the island’s economic growth and development.
Pedro Rolle, told the Exuma Business Outlook yesterday the only path to true transformation on the island lies in a “meaningful and well designed'” system of local governance.
“For a number of years now, we’ve been proclaiming that Exuma is on the verge of tremendous growth; poised to explode and mature into a significant island economy,” Rolle said.
“Yet each year we continue to talk about the things that continue to hinder our transformation. I believe that one of the challenges we’re facing on our road to transformation is a lack of awareness as to where we are. It’s impossible to have a roadmap to our destination of transformation if we don’t even know where or why we’re here today.”
He continued: “For a number of years, we have been trumpeting Exuma’s potential in the economic landscape of the Bahamas. Like our other sister islands, we have been caught up in a decades-long vortex of economic growth and stagnation, made possible by a government system that is outmoded and systemically inefficient.
“Imagine our governmental system: Designed and implemented by a colonial power with the explicit purpose of exploiting local resources and then sending out of the territory as much of the local resources as possible. This system was never designed for sustained growth and development of the local economy – except to the extent they could exploit it.”
Mr Rolle said that the colonial system is still “alive and well” in 2019.
“This system of governance under which Exuma is managed today – a system designed to exploit and plunder – incredibly remains in force today,” he said.
“The face of the exploiters has changed from white to black; from British to Bahaman – but exploitation is exploitation even if well-intentioned! By assigning the responsibilities of governance to non-locals, non-resident, to political bureaucrats. That’s what the colonial masters did to us; they sent in their English Lords as Governors to dictate, to enforce, to collect and repatriate!”
Rolle stressed there can be no system of local government unless there is local governance.
“Local governance means being empowered to identify the local challenges and the power and resources to address these challenges. If Exuma is to transformed, Exuma cannot afford to sit and wait for a developmental plan to be “given” to us; we must be the architects of this plan. Then, Exuma must be the builders of this plan and finally, Exuma must be the Managers of this plan.”
Rolle estimated Exuma generates some $80 million for Central Government.
“Now I challenge anyone in this colonial system of government to explain to us the rational formula that’s in place that determines what percentage of that $80M is reinvested in Exuma,” he said.
“Whatever factors are used currently, is irrational and has no direct bearing on either our contributed revenues or our actual developmental needs. Can you imagine what Miami or NY or LA would look like today if it had to send 100 per cent of its taxes and collected fees to the Federal Government and then HOPE Washington sends sufficient funds back for things such as infrastructure and salaries? Such a system would be regressive and ridiculous if only because it overlooks local input.”
He said: “Imagine for a moment, if Exuma had at its disposal, 60% of the taxes collected here. That means 40 per cent goes to Central Government for whatever they do; you know what, let’s make it an even split; 50 per cent stays in Exuma and 50 per cent goes to Central Government.”
“Our current system is insulting and degrading; it makes beggars and schemers out of proud and honorable citizens when that, every little bit of infrastructural development required for Exuma, we must reach out to Nassau, with our hands out – begging for that which is ours; begging for money; begging for even the right to make decisions impacting our on well-being,” Rolle added.