Fueled by arrogance
The Minnis administration is living in a bubble.
In that bubble, The Bahamas is all sunshine and rainbows.
There is low unemployment, fewer people in need, reduced crime and improved education.
This bubble is the place to be. It’s a wonderful place. The Minnis administration isn’t the first government to have found its way inside this bubble. Nope.
The Christie administration was there too.
But like every one of Elizabeth Taylor’s eight marriages, the fantasy ends, reality sets in and the bubble bursts.
Two years in, the Minnis administration seems to be afflicted with the same disease that cost the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) in 2017 – arrogance.
This arrogance plays out in Parliament, in interviews, in statements and in many of the actions our government takes.
Arrogance is increasing electricity bills after six months of blackouts. Arrogance is telling Bahamians to manage their money and not complain about said light bill increases.
Arrogance is then privately telling people that your comments were taken out of context, or that your words were twisted or there was a miscommunication or that a story in the paper or on the news failed to capture what you were saying.
As the late comedian George Carlin once said of politicians and language, “Such a nice touch. A person who routinely spends his days torturing the language complains, ‘They twisted my words.’”
Bahamians by and large have become savvy to the game of politics. When politicians speak in private, they love to use the words “us” and “them”.
“You aren’t one us,” they say. “You’re one of them.”
You’ve got to love the language of politics.
The recent opposition-led vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis was more politics.
It was a vote the opposition knew it couldn’t win. Clearly, PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis sought to make a show of the motion and wound the government in some way.
The resignation of Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller from the Free National Movement (FNM) may be one such outcome that the opposition welcomed.
The government flipped the motion to one of confidence in Minnis.
Thus began a parade of MPs praising the prime minister.
But Michael Pintard, minister of agriculture and marine resources, gave a more sobering contribution.
When Grand Bahama was being battered by Hurricane Dorian in September, Pintard was on the front lines.
He was home on Grand Bahama when near 20-foot storm surges poured into his home. He and his family had to be rescued by jet-ski. He saw firsthand how bad Dorian was.
When he spoke last week on the confidence motion, he made sense.
“…As we debate this resolution, we have to be cautious that we ourselves do not put in place a culture that ushers us out [in an] election,” he said.
“We have an obligation to stay on the path, the same path that created a euphoria in this country prior to the last general election, the path where we committed to making business easier in The Bahamas so that persons that supported us with good enthusiasm would continue to do so.”
Pintard did not seek to disparage the PLP or its mistakes. He rightly pointed out that the comparison is not between the PLP and the FNM.
“I could never engage in the back and forth,” he said.
“That part of my life is largely over. The comparison is between who we are right now, two and a half years in, and what we could truly become for the remaining two and a half years.”
He also admitted that the government must move with a greater sense of urgency.
“If you ask me, are we on the right road? I’d say in many areas, yes,” Pintard said.
“Are we moving at the right pace? Mr. Speaker, I want to humbly submit that there has to be a greater sense of urgency.
“That means that we are to be more collaborative. The public continues to make that point to us.
“There are some talented people in the business community that just wants the government to get out of the way.”
Not everyone who spoke during that debate made sense.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest spoke shortly after Pintard.
He said the level of support The Bahamas received in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian was because of the respect the international community has for Minnis.
“I don’t think there is any question with respect to the support of our leader, the support for our prime minister, the member for Killarney,” Turnquest said.
“And so, the respect that he commands from his Cabinet, the respect he commands from his party, is only matched by the respect he has from the international community.
“You heard about the efforts and the support that has been given to this country following Hurricane Dorian, unprecedented support, because of the respect the international community has for this prime minister and this government.”
So let me get this right, India, Canada, the U.K. and other countries only decided to help The Bahamas because they respected Minnis? Did the level of destruction not play a part?
Turnquest was talking fool.
He, like other colleagues, was fueled by arrogance and demonstrated that they are becoming increasingly tone deaf.
Last month, House members passed the Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Bill, 2019.
The bill will allow Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) to refinance its $321 million legacy debt and raise another $350 million for new spending – $70 million of which would be used to fund an expansion of the Wartsila plant at the Clifton Pier Power Station.
But it will also saddle Bahamians with an increase to their monthly electricity bill for 10 months.
The bill was passed in the Senate, just in time for the holidays.
When parliamentarians began debate on the bill in the House of Assembly last month, the FNM played the blame game. BPL’s current woes were largely the result of the PLP, they said.
It was for this reason that such action was necessary, they argued. But all many Bahamians heard was that their light bills were going up.
No one cared about the history lesson that it was the PLP’s lowering of the tariffs in 2003 that led to BPL losing profits.
“They are losers, Mr. Speaker,” Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister said last month when he led off debate on the bill.
It was all politics. There was no apology for the rolling blackouts that afflicted residents on New Providence for months.
For many who voted for the FNM in 2017, that debate was a disgrace.
It showed how much of an ugly transformation some can undergo once elected to office.
It was the very culture that Pintard warned about.
Take a moment and reflect on the mandate given to the FNM in 2017.
After five years under the Christie administration, Bahamians took to the polls and voted the PLP out. Even the political titan, Perry Christie, was toppled in humiliating fashion.
Never before in the history of The Bahamas has a sitting prime minister lost his seat. After years of mismanagement, neglect, arrogance, scandals and apparent utter contempt for the masses, Bahamians – even PLPs – sent that party packing.
On the streets of New Providence that night, Bahamians celebrated. I witnessed people dragging PLP shirts in the road.
Hubert Minnis was the beneficiary of this disdain. He promised that his party would focus on lowering crime, root out corruption and help the poor.
But this government has increased the cost of living. The poor suffers most from the hike in value-added tax (VAT) from 7.5 percent to 12 percent.
In opposition, of course, Minnis had condemned the PLP over VAT. In government, he has reversed positions on multiple fronts.
It is clear that if the election were held tomorrow, the government would lose and the PLP would once again be the government of the day.
Education: College of The Bahamas, English