Sunday, Oct 20, 2019
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Walking on eggshells

We are a very small sovereign nation with a population of just under 400,000 whose livelihoods depend on the success of our tourism industry. The fragility of this industry is well understood, as we acknowledge that it can be turned upside down by the slightest unpleasant variable.

We have seen what can happen when our biggest customer and neighbor to the north sends out a warning to its citizens that travel to The Bahamas is not safe, warning them not to go to certain places where tourists typically visit.

Yes, we do have a crime problem in The Bahamas, perpetrated by a few thugs who appear to be hell-bent on destroying our country. The government needs to throw all its resources behind the police and social services in ridding ourselves of these menaces. The United States Embassy staff on the ground that live here in the country know very well the situation where most of these crimes occur and know very well that tourists very seldom are the victims of crime.

I don’t have the statistics which show direct violent crimes on our visitors, but I am sure it’s not that alarming for such a warning to be broadcast which subsequently impacts so many local businesses that depend so heavily on those tourists’ dollars.

It seems we are always walking on eggshells when it comes to dealing with the U.S.; something as routine as travelling to the States and getting pre-cleared becomes stressful, not to mention the anxiety at times with the U.S. Immigration and Customs, where you are treated suspiciously and left wondering what will happen next.

Some time ago I was going through and must have said something funny to the agent which apparently he did not find too amusing, so he took me into a room and had me sit for over an hour. No questions were asked. I just sat there until I was told I could leave. There was no apology, no explanation.

I left scratching my head, wondering what the heck just happened. It taught me an important lesson – just answer their questions and don’t volunteer any information.

The pre-clearance that we enjoy seems to be always hanging over our head that if we upset the Americans they will pull this privilege which only a few countries enjoy.

I wonder if those persons that issue these travel warnings are aware of the major economic damage that they create, and the untold damage they do to our economy?

Travelling to the States, perhaps, is a lot more dangerous for us than the tourist coming to The Bahamas; from the mall shootings to cars being hijacked, our car rentals robbed of our belongings. Every day you hear of mass shootings at concerts, theatres, where anyone can carry a gun, so when we travel to these places we know how to behave and places to avoid. Any traveler with an ounce of sense should know what to do when you travel to another country.

It seems we are in a no-win situation like David going up against Goliath, The Bahamas being David and the U.S. is Goliath. It is said we are like a mosquito on the backside of an elephant – no bother at all!

One has to wonder the extent these superpowers go to, to get what they want. Recently there was a vote at the United Nations regarding the moving of the United States Embassy to Jerusalem. There was condemnation from a host of countries and before the vote was cast, the U.S. ambassador at the United Nations very bluntly said she will be watching to see how nations vote – either for the U.S. or not.

It seems as though we took the easy way out by abstaining to vote, which probably meant we didn’t upset the U.S. by voting against them. I guess in reality we have to know where our bread is buttered.

Our nation has always been very good friends with the Americans and always cooperated with issues that have affected our countries. We remain on excellent terms with law enforcement agencies. Now they should seriously help us with all of these weapons that are flooding our streets, which appear to be coming from the United States; it seems they have a role to play in reducing these instruments of death which can placed firmly at their doorsteps.

So, U.S. Embassy, before you press that send button on your computer, warning your citizens to be careful coming to our country, think about the damage that will unfold and what you could have done to help. After all, these guns are not made in The Bahamas but bought and shipped from your country.

• William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, and two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association. William Wong is a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. E-mail: williamuwong@gmail.com.

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