Consider This | A year of continuous challenges, pt. 1
“We are a country with great potential. We have the political will to make deep changes in a just and equitable way, to put our country back on a development path, to meet the challenges of a new world.” – George Papandreou
As we commence our 11th consecutive year of our Consider This columns, I would like to thank the readers of this column for their continued support and comments, positive and otherwise, over the past decade. This author has always sought to present a balanced perspective on the pressing issues that face our nation and affect our daily lives, and to proffer a viewpoint that our readers might wish to consider regarding those issues. I trust that the readers of this column will continue to challenge the writer to remain true to the principles that we have sought to maintain: intellectual honesty, objectivity and balance.
It is a singular honor and privilege to be afforded a forum in the vitally important and superlative daily that The Nassau Guardian has become, particularly in forming and shaping public opinion, the hallmark of a free press and an open society. I would like to publicly thank the management of The Nassau Guardian for providing this forum to publish the sentiments expressed in this column.
As we begin the final year of the second decade of the new millennium, I would like for us to consider this… What are some of the important challenges that will continue to confront us in the year ahead?
The co-equal branches of government, namely the executive, legislative and judicial branches, will continue to encounter significant challenges.
The executive branch of government, the Cabinet, must constantly reassess its effectiveness in providing progressive, visionary leadership for national development. As we have previously observed, successive post-independence Cabinets, instead of demonstrating decisive incremental improvements, seem to be incapable of learning from their predecessors in office. Surely it is not too much to expect that, with the installation of each new administration, those who occupy the elevated positions of national leadership should not only notice and comment upon the mistakes of their predecessors; those mistakes should become their firm guidelines on what not to do.
One of the most persistent problems that confronts us is that the executive continues to take decisions without adequate consultation from societal stakeholders who are most impacted by those decisions. The result is that, all too often, the executive must reverse those decisions because of the strong pushback from those who were not adequately consulted. Consensus can only be reached on policy decisions after fully consulting with those who are most directly affected by the proposed policies and laws.
Bahamians are intelligent and well-read, globally exposed and well-traveled. With the inundation of fast-breaking news that instantaneously reports developments from all corners of the globe, we are deluged with a barrage of revelations and developments, which, though far away, frequently affect us here at home. This creates a very well-informed populace, perhaps the most knowledgeable in our history. Each new administration should recognize this new 21st century Bahamian and utilize him or her in decision-making wherever possible.
Therefore, the executive must more fully engage in wider government consultation if its decisions are to be generally accepted by the governed.
The legislative branch
As in the case of the executive, the quality of the legislative branch of government has steadily deteriorated in the post-Independence Bahamas. The responsibility for offering an informed, educated legislature rests primarily with the major political parties from whom our legislators are chosen.
Over the past few decades, our legislators are generally less informed about the Westminster system and about their responsibilities as members of Parliament and the Senate. Many of them do not read widely and are surprising uninformed about global issues; many do not know or have not traveled widely throughout the islands of The Bahamas and generally possess a myopic frame of reference. The caliber of our legislative candidates must be better scrutinized if they are going to offer a higher standard of governance.
Therefore, our political parties must be more committed to selecting better candidates who offer for Parliament, cognizant that the executive and many of those who are appointed to lead our state-owned enterprises and government boards will be chosen primarily from persons who are successful at the polls on election day.
The judicial branch
If ever the dictum “justice delayed is justice denied” is true, one has only to visit our courts on any day of the year to realize that the wheels of justice grind exceedingly slowly and that our judiciary is highly challenged. It has become increasingly obvious that our judicial branch is overloaded and under-resourced.
It is frequently difficult to get timely court dates, except in highly urgent circumstances, and, all too often, trials are constantly adjourned for one reason or another. In addition, we regularly observe that too many of the young men and women who are brought before our courts are not represented by competent legal counsel and are frequently remanded to Her Majesty’s Prison for inordinately long periods before their trial.
It is therefore imperative that we urgently address this challenge if we are going to improve the administration of justice in our society. Our failure to adequately and urgently address this challenge will continue to breed criminals among our youth, who are incarcerated without being afforded more expeditious trials for the crimes with which they have been charged.
The same case can be made for the more timely, expeditious execution of civil cases, which are inordinately protracted.
State-owned enterprises and infrastructural challenges
One of the persistent challenges confronting our society is the ineffective administration and management of our state-owned enterprises. For example, as we approach the end of the second decade of the 21st century, there is absolutely no excuse why our power generation and distribution systems should be so woefully challenged.
Barely a day goes by that we do not wonder if we can expect the electricity supply to be interrupted, or if we can go to work or hold a social activity without angst as to whether the power will be readily available or unexpectedly interrupted. We must have the political will to make the investment that will remedy this deficiency. It is dramatically retarding national development.
We must also urgently repair and upgrade our roads, our ports, our docks, our water delivery systems and our airports throughout the archipelago.
In the final part of this series, we will review some of the persistent challenges to our all-important national institutions, including how we will deal with the issue of over-regulation of businesses.
We will also specifically address the continuous challenges that we will confront this year regarding our educational institutions, the development of a comprehensive approach to healthcare and the environment and how we will tackle the ongoing challenges to the two major pillars of our economy: tourism and financial services.
As the former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou noted: “We are a country with great potential. We have the political will to make deep changes in a just and equitable way, to put our country back on a development path, to meet the challenges of a new world.”
The all-important questions that we must answer in the year that lies ahead are: Do we, and will we?
Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to email@example.com.