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Rodgers writes on Bahamian economy

Bahamian Book Shelf

These are the words which immediately came to mind as I”thumbed”through the pages of”Is it Really Better in The Bahamas … for Bahamians?”written by Dr. Jonathan Rodgers, an eye surgeon with a reputation for economic commentary. This book is really that-a commentary on the state of the economy of our young nation. As such, it is relevant, timely and bound to capture the interest of Bahamians”in all walks of life”.

Essentially in this contribution, Dr. Rodgers raises serious questions about the Bahamian motto”It’s Better in The Bahamas!”Now, those who remember when this slogan was introduced back in the 70s when Sir Clement Maynard was Minister of Tourism, realize that it proved most popular. Indeed, it captured the imagination of the whole Bahamian community and certainly proved very attractive to our tourists. The purpose was to identify and distinguish The Bahamas as a premier destination for tourists from all over the world. The question that Dr. Rodgers deals with is whether it is better in The Bahamas for Bahamians!

In so doing, he discusses the major aspects of contemporary Bahamian society. Here he engages in very stinging criticism of The Bahamas today, pointing out that despite the millions of dollars spent on education, health care and housing in recent years”the end result has certainly not been a productive population. Rather, we are a nation on the edge of anarchy with a dysfunctional family structure, a distorted sense of values, ingrained corruption and a general disregard for the law and its enforcement. To compound all this we have an illegal immigration problem of gigantic proportions.”

Dr. Rodgers, being the son of a leading Bahamian educator, the late Anatol Rodgers, is scathing in his criticism of our educational achievements. He asserts that”the status quo is manifested by a national D grade average in education. Asa leading Bahamian physician, he is equally critical of our”public hospital that is a patchwork of aging facilities”and he deplores our”structurally unsound public housing”(p. 129).

Dr. Rodgers, who has taken a very keen interest in economics, with special reference to The Bahamas, comments then on the main components of the Bahamian economy-tourism, banking, communications and energy.

Here, it is germain to emphasize that while highly critical of some aspects of the economy of our young nation, the author is, by no means, entirely negative or pessimistic. His main, over-riding concern is to encourage Bahamians to take a more active role in the ownership of the engines of their nation’s economic development.

This call for Bahamian participation is evident in Dr. Rodger’s comments on tourism. He points out that there are very few Bahamians involved in the ownership of hotels. Observing that a number of Bahamians already hold executive positions in the industry, he calls upon the government”to make available the necessary financial and other related incentives that will allow Bahamian ownership to become a reality”(p. 46). As might be expected, he highlights the tremendous potential for The Bahamas to develop”medical tourism”-providing medical care for wealthy expatriates.

Turning to banking and financial services, the other main pillar of the Bahamian economy, Dr. Rodgers is again concerned that Bahamian ownership is very limited, with the main banks being under Canadian ownership. He suggests that government should transfer its main operating account from the Royal Bank of Canada to one of the Bahamian owned financial institutions. While this is commendable in that it promotes Bahamian participation in the banking sector, one wonders whether it is realistic. For, given the huge amounts of capital required for the day to day running of government with its thousands of employees, a locally owned bank would be hard pressed to finance the operation of government even on a short term basis. In the case of an emergency, the Canadian banks can appeal to their headquarters in Canada if there should be a”run”on its assets during a financial crisis; but a locally owned bank simply does not have this facility(“line of credit”)available. In keeping with its harping on Bahamian ownership, the doctor is very disturbed by the foreign monopoly of the Bahamian fuel industry, which he describes as”the drug cartel”(pages 102-105).

With regard to BTC the doctor maintains that”it is grossly over staffed”. This is most interesting as it is at the heart of the current dispute on this subject between the government and the unions. No matter how you look at it, there must be a serious”down sizing”during the present year(pp. 92-101)?

Generally speaking, then, the purpose of this book is clear-to encourage Bahamians by making opportunities available to them in this”age of globalization”.

“Is it better in The Bahamas …for Bahamians?”Dr. Rodgers’answer to this question is certainly in the negative-it is not better for most of them in their own land. He then, therefore, goes on to suggest steps that Bahamians can take in order to better their condition-saving more of their income, investing it in more creative ways, and being bold enough to take on new ventures of faith. If this were to be done on a large scale, the writer suggests that The Bahamas would soon be a prosperous beautiful land in which to dwell in harmony, peace and prosperity.

A very attractive feature of this book is the many illustrations drawn by popular, well known Bahamian artist”Sideburns”. This book, which has just about 190 pages, was published by Media Enterprises, a company which has published works by a number of Bahamians including the writer of this book review.

“Is it Really Better in The Bahamas . . . for Bahamians”is, then, an entirely Bahamian public. Yes, it has been written by a Bahamian, illustrated by a Bahamian artist and published by a Bahamian company for the edification of Bahamians!This is a lively, provocative commentary on the contemporary Bahamian community. It certainly deserves to be widely distributed throughout The Bahamas and abroad.

Title:”Is it Really Better in The Bahamas…for Bahamians?”

Author: Dr. Jonathan Rodgers

Publisher: Media Enterprises

Date of Publication: 2010 A.D.

Cost:$15.00

Available at Logos Bookstore, Nassau Stationers and other bookstores in Nassau.

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