The Bahamas has a vast social security system. You can get food assistance from the state if you’re in need. People without insurance or money show up at Princess Margaret Hospital and are served. There is free public schooling from grade one to 12. There is also some free pre-schooling. Governments have built housing subdivisions and loaned Bahamians money to purchase homes. There is government subsidized tertiary level education at The University of The Bahamas and the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute.
These are just a few of the things our state pays for. There is much, much more.
While some are complaining of the reduction in the government’s budget for school uniform assistance, it could be argued that our state is far too left wing and coddling. There needs to be a broader discussion of what is the responsibility of citizens and what the state should take care of.
The Department of Social Services should be a place of last resort. When an individual is on hard times, it should provide temporary assistance while the person tries to re-establish his or her life. No one should think of the emergency aid given by the department as an entitlement.
The Department of Social Services’ uniform budget was decreased from $360,000 last year to $270,000 this year. Shadow Minister of Social Services Glenys Hanna-Martin called the policy shift “drastic” in a statement last week. She called on newly appointed Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell to immediately reverse the “draconian policy”.
“This new policy has the potential of marginalizing untold households and very likely disrupting the education of many children,” Hanna-Martin said.
In response Campbell said that despite the decrease, applicants will be assisted based on need.
“The policy of the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development as it relates to uniform assistance is similar to all of its assistance problems; it is there for the needy,” he said.
“I emphasize ‘needy’ because there is some gray line about who is in need and who is not. The department has a procedure of assessment in determining who is in need.”
If a parent needs uniform assistance the first step should not be to petition government. Ask family members to help. Ask close friends.
The other option for those who have some income is to save, be disciplined and prepare. Many of our low-income people spend too much on non-essentials. They gamble, they drink, they buy hair extensions (weave).
The number houses and liquor stores in poor areas are filled on weekdays and weekends alike.
If those bad habits didn’t exist, many who now have no money for uniforms would find they do.
The other major issue that keeps some poor and desperate is the lack of family planning. Each child carries a cost. If you have little or are unemployed it makes no sense having five, six or seven children. Each child makes the circumstance more difficult. Children have to be fed, clothed and sheltered.
If you have little, plan your family within your means. Contraceptives are cheap.
Our government tries. But it should not be expected to do everything for everyone. Our people need to have pride and do for themselves.
The back and forth regarding the reduction in the uniform allowance shifts the blame for children not having uniforms to the government. That’s not where it should be. Parents and families are responsible for raising children. State charity programs are just that: charity.
We should not encourage our people to be dependent on charity and welfare. Lazy and unproductive societies are the result when a people always look to others rather that finding a way to take care of themselves and their families.