The curtains have been drawn on 2023 and the new year is now upon us. It is that time when New Year resolutions on health, spirituality, career, family and humanitarian efforts are established by many Bahamians. On a national level, there are a number of developments, events and things to watch in 2024. This non-exhaustive list highlights the first 12 of the 24 things to watch in 2024 in no particular order.
- Cost of Living Crisis
The cries of the Bahamian people were loud in 2023 as many sought to survive amidst soaring prices and diminishing purchasing power. The taxes and fees imposed by the government placed a burden on struggling Bahamians with no relief in sight. The justification using global inflation and supply chain disruptions will not cut it in 2024. The government will need to confront this crisis head-on or face the consequences at the polls. The imposition of VAT on breadbasket items and basic necessities was simply a bad idea that made matters worse. The government must address this cost of living crisis in 2024.
It appears that interest rate hikes within major economies are now behind us, and rate reductions in 2024 are on the horizon. The global economic outlook while uncertain, seems positive, albeit GDP growth is expected to slow down in 2024. In the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, The Bahamas like other tourist destinations, has benefited from pent-up demand and revenge travel. The major contraction of the economy at the height of the pandemic has been replaced by robust growth in subsequent years, albeit the general sentiment remains that this is not being felt by the masses. As tourism numbers normalize and GDP growth levels off in 2024, how will The Bahamian economy perform? Does the government have a plan to move The Bahamas’ credit rating from junk bond status to investment grade?
3. National Budget
The IMF and rating agencies have expressed concern that the government is unlikely to meet its deficit target with the former noting that the deficit will come in three times more than projected. In a recent report, it was noted that the fiscal deficit for the first quarter was almost triple the deficit for the prior year due to increased spending and flat revenues. Bahamians and external observers will be watching to see whether the government hits its targets for revenue and expenditure. In the same vein, struggling Bahamians need to be provided with relief from taxes and high prices in the next budget.
4. Grand Bahama
The government and the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) were engulfed in a war of words during 2023. There were threats and grandstanding while residents of our Grand Bahama wanted solutions to revive their economy. After the premature celebration of the sale of the Grand Lucaya, there remains no clear direction on the future of that resort. Our nation cannot reach its full potential until Grand Bahama fulfills the enormous promise it holds. The government must move beyond pandering and work with the GBPA in the best interest of the nation in 2024.
5. Abaco and the Family Islands
Hurricane Dorian inflicted much damage, pain and suffering on Abaco. The loss of lives and devastation that storm wrecked on this jewel in our chain of islands was significant. Prior to Hurricane Dorian, Abaco was major contributor to the GDP of The Bahamas. More than four years later, several displaced Abaconians have not been able to return home and the island’s economy is yet to fully recover. The same can be said of Ragged Island and other Family Islands. There must be a deliberate focus on them in 2024.
6. BPL Woes
Consumers saw astronomical increases in their electricity bills and the summer months were unbearable for many in 2023. Residents on our Family Islands suffered much during 2023 with the lack of electricity and the correlating impact on their water supply during the last year. The government’s pronounced efforts to move towards renewable energy will be further scrutinized during the year. The true measure of progress will be the reliability and cost of power supply in the summer months. Businesses and residents can simply not afford a repeat of the 2023 BPL saga in 2024.
The menace of crime continues to eat into the very fabric of our country. In 2023, the number of homicides was in the triple digits again despite the optimism of the Commissioner of Police. While crime is not political and should not be politicized, we still place reliance on the government through policy and resources to keep our communities safe. This was the argument made by the PLP when it advertised the number of murders on billboards in tourist areas prior to the 2012 general election, only to significantly surpass the advertised numbers during their term in office. The Davis administration must get a handle on the crime problem in 2024.
8. Deplorable roads
The deplorable state of roads and endless potholes in New Providence was a major complaint of motorists in 2023. However, this issue is not confined to New Providence as many Family Island residents have been lamenting the poor state of their roads as well. This issue endangers lives and adds to the financial burden experienced by residents who have had to repair their vehicles due to damages sustained. Bahamians would like to stop driving on obstacle courses and the government must fix (not patch up) these bad roads in 2024.
9. Outcome of Government Probes
The government has said much about probes into the activities of certain statutory bodies and programs implemented under the Minnis-led administration. Since the PLP assumed office in 2021, there have been non-stop pronouncements about irregularities within the Food Program, Disaster Reconstruction Authority and Public Park and Public Beaches Authority among others. Persons have been subject to innuendos and their characters questioned by government officials. The government should conclude these probes and let the chips fall where they may in 2024. The conclusions will take the matter out of the court of public opinion and into the legal system or end the mind games.
10. Good Governance & State-owned Enterprises (SOEs)
We desperately need a national good governance framework in our nation. The full implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, Whistleblower legislation and adherence to procurement laws are long overdue. Taxpayers have also continued to bear the financial burden caused by inefficiencies and poor governance of SOEs due to the lack of political will. The history of challenges faced by NIB, BPL, WSC, BOB, BMC and BDB over the years suggests that 2024 is unlikely to be an exception.
11. RBDF Deployment
The Commodore of the RBDF informed the nation that the PM had issued a warning order regarding deployment of our marines to Haiti but admitted that no explicit instructions had been received on the actual role or function the RBDF will perform. It is clear that Bahamians do not generally support this decision with the associated perils as the situation in Haiti remains volatile. Our people question why a small nation with limited resources facing a crime problem can afford such a mission. As seen in other countries, neither the citizenry nor their representatives in Parliament have had a say in this major decision. Bahamians will be waiting for answers in 2024 while praying for the safety of our sons and daughters in the uniformed branches.
The Privy Council ruled in May 2023 that a child born out of wedlock to a Bahamian man is a Bahamian citizen at birth, regardless of the nationality of his/her mother. It is simply unacceptable that this decision has not been fully implemented and several Bahamians continue to be adversely impacted. Of equal concern is the fact that the Bahamian woman remains at a disadvantage in this regard. This matter should be addressed in 2024.
Stay tuned for the second part of this piece where we highlight the next 12 of the 24 things to watch in 2024.