Saturday, May 30, 2020

Kicking the can

Kicking the can seems to be a favorite Bahamian thing among our governments, as important matters are often put off without any follow through. The handling of Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) is a perfect example of this. Successive administrations have failed to diagnose and cure its ills.

BPL has tried and failed to consistently keep our electricity on for decades and the public has had to pay for this because our governments did not pay enough attention. Our governments did not put forth the effort to implement the necessary upgrades to keep the lights on. I am puzzled by this proposed new arrangement with Shell North America. Who owns what and what will our bills look like at the end of the day?

BPL’s communication strategy — even going back to the summer, when power outages were at their worst — is confusing, even when it comes to seemingly minor matters, such as its name. It has only been a few years since BEC became BPL and now it seems its about to change to the POWER CO.

Moody’s has raised the alarm along with others that The Bahamas, along with four other nations, will be significantly impacted by climate change. More than 67 percent of us will be affected. What are we going to do about it? Are we going to just kick the can down the road for our children and grandchildren to deal with?

My agents had a discussion recently on how to answer this question. After all, investors who wish to live in The Bahamas need to be satisfied they won’t be under water in a few years. This is also important to consider for ordinary citizens who wonder where to build in our country. I don’t know if the powers that be are prepared for this phenomenon, but if experience is considered, we better take matters into our own hands. We must definitively find out where to buy and build, as well as where to invest, because most of our islands are low-lying.

Climate is not in the minds of mad scientists, despite what United States President Donald Trump thinks. It is real. We can see it for ourselves right here on New Providence, where our beaches are eroding and the swells from the oceans are flooding our streets with more and more frequency.

We have treated Mother Earth very poorly. Pollution is destroying our oceans and the cruise ships are not helping by dumping refuse into our beautiful waters. I dread the day oil tankers cruising our waters ever experience a major disaster. Such an event would wreak havoc on the already declining health of our waters and fisheries. Why do we have to wait for this disaster to happen when we have the power to decide who travels through our waters?

On a similarly environmental note, the most discussed subject on the street is the ongoing plastic ban. Bahamians, like most folks around the world, are resistant to change. We knew this time was coming for over a year, that is true. However, I do not think we were properly prepared. A more consistent education approach was needed, rather than just putting up a few billboards that said the ban is around the corner.

I recently went into the store to do some shopping and lo and behold, I forgot my beautiful Rotary bag in the car. There was no way I was making the trek back to the parking lot to retrieve it. Instead, I went to the back of the store and picked up a few empty boxes and packed my groceries. Bam, problem solved, and I saved 75 cents on three bags. This is what we do when we go to Costco in the United States and plastic bags are becoming much less common worldwide. Why should it be any different at home?

Which brings up the question: if there is a ban on these plastic bags — which by the way are not single use, as I use them as garbage bags — why are merchants selling them? Yes, I know the full ban goes into effect on July 1, but in the meantime they are making an extra 25 cents per bag. It appears once again this was not properly thought through and the consumer is getting ripped off!

The Bahamian government’s intentions are good. Many Bahamians also agree that the plastic ban is good for the environment. However, this plastic ban has been poorly planned and executed so far. Perhaps they should try and come with the ideas themselves instead of cutting and pasting from our neighbors to the south. It seems that’s our story: cut, paste and pass on to our people. Heaven help us.

Where are our free thinkers?

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

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