I am baffled at how the government constantly finds it necessary to try and reinvent the wheel, when perfectly good solutions are already staring them in the face.
For example, look at the announcement that The Bahamas is taking control of our sovereign airspace and will be able to collect fees from all aircraft flying in or out of the country. All well and good, but the new Bahamas Air Navigation Services Authority (BANSA) will have to start from scratch and learn on the job how to navigate an extremely complex sector in which the Bahamas government has zero prior experience.
According to the Minister of Tourism, due to international agreements, all the fees collected from flights have to be reinvested in the aviation sector, and cannot be paid into the Public Treasury to be used for other purposes.
So, some questions: how much is it going to cost our already severely depleted Treasury to set up, staff and train a whole new government department before they can actually start collecting any fees? How efficient can BANSA possibly be in the initial stages given their total inexperience? What is the likelihood that it will ever become efficient at collecting fees, considering the dismal record of revenue leakage and gross financial loss of virtually every government department and corporation in our history?
In reality, BANSA is no doubt already destined to become yet another grossly overstaffed, slow-moving, inefficient government department that costs the taxpayer millions a year while producing dismal returns far below the expected level.
Meanwhile, a proposal by a private entity to provide the very same service to the government has been sitting, gathering dust on the minister’s desk since long before the politicians began talking about sovereign airspace.
The private entity, led by intrepid Bahamians and others who are experienced aviation experts and know airspace management, proposed to provide a fully automated, turnkey, end-to-end platform to track bills and collect fees from each and every flight, then pay the funds to the government.
The best part of all? The private entity committed to assuming the full financial risk for any non-payment of fees by air carriers.
This proposal would seem like a no-brainer, but as happens so often with any home-grown initiative, the government just ignored it.
Instead, they chose to put the burden on the taxpayer, with the aim of using all of the funds collected from flights for “capacity building” for BANSA, in the hope that one bright, shining day, somewhere down the road, this new department could actually pay for itself and build the necessary expertise to properly and fully take over our airspace.
Because, I forgot to mention: forget all talk about the government now being “in charge” of airspace — The Bahamas will still be paying an $80,000 annual fee to the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) so they can tell us who is using our airspace and when.
I fear this whole project will end up being yet another hare-brained scenario in which the government ends up spending a dollar to make a dime at the expense of the Bahamian people.
And totally unnecessarily. If politicians would just trust in the talent and expertise of experienced Bahamians with good ideas, instead of trying to control everything jealously, things would run much more smoothly in this country.
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