By Lincoln Bain
The Coalition of Independents has taken note of the urgent social crisis that has hit critical levels in this country that must be addressed urgently. Families are suffering evictions and foreclosures at alarming rates. In many instances, these evictions and foreclosures are leading to homelessness. Many Bahamians, particularly on New Providence and Grand Bahama, have been forced to find refuge in vehicles, abandoned buildings and beaches. We have received reports of single mothers living in these dangerous conditions with their children. On the face of it, one could easily attempt to explain this crisis way by blaming it on Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19, however, the Coalition of Independents believes that the problem was augmented by poor, and in most cases absent, leadership; legislative mismanagement; and an absolute lack of vision.
Due to catastrophic economic conditions, many Bahamians have found themselves in a position where they are unable to afford to pay rent to keep a roof over their heads. Landlords threatened with foreclosure are forced to evict tenants in the hope of finding new tenants able to pay the rent needed to cover their mortgage payments. Banks are concerned with covering their expenses and a return on investment, and consequently must proceed to foreclose as a last resort. While banks have continued to show forbearance with borrowers who are facing difficulties, it is incumbent upon the government to step in with policies and incentives to bring relief to all affected.
VAT hold for banks
The Coalition of Independents issues the following directive to the Bahamian government on behalf of the Bahamian people. Commercial banks owe millions of dollars to the government, which they pay on a quarterly basis. The government should allow the bank to withhold the value-added tax (VAT) due to the government. Banks can monetize these funds or use them as the basis to put a moratorium on residential foreclosures. The government can then issue an executive emergency order placing a moratorium on foreclosures affecting residential properties and on evictions.
Rooms for Grand Bahama homeless
With the number of the homeless hitting record highs on Grand Bahama, and further to this, considering the unsanitary conditions these “at-risk” groupings face and the heightened possibility of criminal violence and domestic abuse, we are forced to look at the housing-capable assets of the government in this locale and ascertain how we might best be able to bring relief to our citizenry, even as a temporary accommodation until more permanent arrangements can be secured. We feel that a section of the government’s recently acquired Our Lucaya hotel can be effectively used to aid our Freeport homeless during this period that is more the exception than the rule. The government said that it bought the hotel to save jobs. We are asking them to open the rooms to save lives.
We have to work with what is in our hands to do and see everything at our disposal as a possible tool of emancipation. These are unprecedented times and an unprecedented response is required to provide a timely yet innovative strategic series of responses that can bring urgent housing and debt relief in ways that will reduce community suffering while simultaneously reducing the rate of our national fiscal hemorrhage.
We must be able to see opportunity where others see challenge and innovate to bring resolve, not only to respond to challenges but to anticipate how we can avoid them by being a conscious participant as a national steward. Vision is not only the order of the day but the way of and to the future Bahamas. We challenge all political parties to not spend this political season throwing mud at one another but rather by casting seeds of vision, innovation, transparency, accountability and love. These are foundational principles of the new Bahamas.
Lincoln Bain is the leader of the Coalition of Independents and founder of Bahamian Evolution.