Recent events and statements by senior FNM ministers and chairmen suggest that the administration is trying it’s level best to lose the next general election. In the midst of the ongoing onslaught, economically and medically, the interim government has notified Bahamians that in short order there will be increases in user/service fees at Bahamas Power and Light, the Water and Sewerage Corporation and for tickets at Bahamasair.
Since long before March of 2020, the economy was not doing too well. There were signs of life but growth was slow and anemic at best. The aftermath of assorted hurricanes, especially Dorian, decimated some of our Family Islands, along with vital infrastructure. Many lives were lost. The real body blow has been the pandemic and the reactions of the administration towards the same. The arbitrary lockdowns and erratic curfews did the rest.
It has been suggested by no less a personage than the competent authority that unemployment is in the lower 40 percent. The esteemed director of labour, Brother John Pinder, has also shared the same suggestion while the indomitable Minister of Labor Senator Dion Foulkes recently claimed, without any empirical data, that “most Bahamians have gone back to work”. Many employees who would have been laid off over the past year have yet to be recalled. Many small to medium-sized businesses were obliged to close their doors and may not reopen.
Yet the Minister of Works and for public utilities says brace for increases. If one is not working or pulling in some sort of an income, where will he or she find the monies for the regular billings, much less the portended increases? Where is the compassion, heart and soul of this regime? Increasing user/service fees is not the way to win general elections. It has also been announced that some $200 million of proposed infrastructure work will be delayed or postponed indefinitely in the midst of a reduced economy.
All sorts of sidewalks are now being built on and through side streets at a rapid rate. Bannister once suggested that the issuance of these sidewalk contracts provide employment for Bahamian contractors and their Bahamian workers. I beg to differ in that just through a side road off East Street and Balfour Avenue, a sidewalk is being constructed across from a Haitian church. The contractor is “known” to me to be a Bahamian. His four workers, however, act, look and talk like foreign nationals. The Ministry of Works must ensure that ONLY Bahamian labor is used on these sidewalk jobs.
We are in a sorry economic state and this is the worst time for a government that says that it cares about its people to capriciously increase fees/costs. Where will the money come from? Whatever happened to the tens of millions of dollars of uncollected real property tax or NIB (National Insurance Board) contributions that would have already been deducted by employers but have yet to be turned over to the agency? Why are we not introducing a progressive income tax regime? Wealthy Bahamians and expatriates do not pay a single dollar on their huge annual incomes while the poor Black and conchy Joe Bahamians are being taxed to “death”?
The simple process of outsourcing the collection of the above could bring in countless millions of dollars for the economic and fiscal well-being of The Bahamas. We need to start to think out of the box because it is now clear that the run-of-the-mill Bahamian politician will not. Indeed, where is their compassion? Where is their heart? Where is their soul? To God, then, the great I am, in all things, be the glory.
Ortland H Bodie Jr,
Business consultant and talk show host