Editorials

A risky proposition

With an anecdotally overwhelming sense of public dissatisfaction in the Minnis administration and the electorate’s recent history of rejecting incumbent governments rather than rewarding them, it would be reasonable to question the wisdom of the prime minister intending to call an election many months before it is due.

But closer examination of the national conditions that exist now as opposed to what will exist 10 months from now perhaps sheds some light on the push for an early election.

Let us not be coy.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis is clearly readying the Free National Movement (FNM) and the electorate for an election this summer.

He has encouraged people to get registered to vote in the shortest time possible.

We have been reliably informed that the current legislative session is, for all intents and purposes, at an end.

All the FNM’s candidates have been ratified.

The paraphernalia is already in the country.

And when asked yesterday, he refused to deny that the House of Assembly will be dissolved this week or that there is an early election coming.

An early election is coming.

All we need now is a date.

All elections are risky propositions for sitting administrations, but let us also not bury our heads in the sand.

The Free National Movement is seeking re-election at a time when our nation has gone through unprecedented social, natural and economic shocks.

The party and its leader are deeply unpopular due to a series of unfortunate events and unintended blunders.

Our country is in a difficult situation to navigate.

But Minnis and the FNM will earn no sympathy for it.

When the fortunes of the people are down they do not consider how hard their leaders have it, they punish their leaders for it.

Though things are bad for many at the moment, for many they are finally feeling able to hold their heads above water and breathe again.

Life has, for the most part, returned far closer to normal than for those who remain unemployed.

With money in people’s pockets, major projects being announced as well as tax incentives, schools and churches reopened and a vaccination plan – albeit a strangely handled one – in place, now may be the opportune time to seek a new mandate.

Yes, things are still extremely challenging for many people now, however, there is no telling what they will be by May.

The government is ending its non-contributory National Insurance Board benefit program in September, which will not be a popular move among those who are still furloughed or unable to work.

And with COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths on the rise there are indications that we have entered a fourth wave.

Add to that a shortage of nurses and healthcare facilities, and dissatisfaction among doctors, and the healthcare system could soon buckle.

The natural extension of that, according to this administration’s conduct over the past year, would be to increase restrictions once again, hampering domestic commerce, tourism services, schools, and people’s general state of mind at being forced off of parks, beaches and placed under heavier curfews and lockdowns once again.

The government is also faced with seeking to borrow $800 million from foreign banks.

With an election looming, international lenders are often reluctant to lend at favorable rates, as there remains uncertainty over which administration will be in power after the polls close and what the victors will do.

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has so far torched the Minnis administration’s fiscal strategy – not that the PLP has many more options than the current administration.

An election would settle who the financial policymakers would be for the next several years.

Then there is the rapidly spreading, more contagious COVID-19 delta variant which is causing an uptick in cases around the globe, including all 50 states in our single-largest tourism market.

Just this week, the yield on 10-year US Treasury bonds dropped as markets feared a pending return to many of the restrictions that so sharply impacted the US economy when COVID-19 was at its peak.

If the American economy experiences a downturn, ours certainly will.

And with the price of goods, gas and construction material climbing due to disrupted supply chains and pent-up consumer demand, many will still struggle even if they have returned to work.

Minnis knows what he is doing is particularly risky, but it appears he believes it is less risky than waiting until next May.

There is no question he will have a tough job convincing Bahamians to put him back in office after what many consider a lackluster job.

But perhaps he will prove history wrong.

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