Op-Ed

Consider This | The summer of our discontent

“Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this son of York;

And all the clouds that low’r’d upon our house

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”

– Shakespeare’s Richard III, Act 1, scene 1, verses 1-4

Shakespeare’s opening verses of his play, “Richard III”, could be loosely applied in today’s Bahamas to the concept that the deeds of the current FNM administration, which have made life a “long summer of our discontent”, were supposed to transform everything into “summery contentedness” for our commonwealth, once the FNM was returned to office in 2017.

It was promised to and expected by the electorate that the FNM’s sunshine in the era of “the people’s time” would foreshadow much better times and improved conditions.

“Better now and better to come”, “trusted leadership” and the 2017 election promise that “it’s the people’s time” were the FNM’s successive general election anthems which suggested that once they “took our country back” from the “corrupt” PLP, all would be well in our commonwealth. It appears, however, that the high expectations of the arrival of the “better, better,” “people’s time” that so many had anticipated with a new FNM government have evolved into what can be described as the “summer of our discontent”, just two years after coming to office.

Therefore, this week, I would like for us to consider this… are Bahamians now experiencing the summer of our discontent?

Increased cost of living

Undoubtedly, in our archipelago we are all experiencing increases in the cost of living in so many areas such as food, health care, fuel and the cost of the fuel derivatives such as electricity and transportation. Then there are rising educational costs, bank fees and many other items that are affecting our daily lives.

The exponentially escalating cost of living, which was largely driven by the government’s 60 percent VAT increase last year, has created so much agony and angst for many Bahamians, with very few amongst us immune.

Recent government announcements in the annual national budget regarding some of the measures that will be implemented during the current fiscal year have done little to ameliorate this difficult situation.

Unemployment, underemployment and labor unrest

Two of the most pervasive problems plaguing our society on almost every island in the archipelago are unemployment and underemployment. This is especially so among young Bahamians and this reality offers little hope that help in this area is imminent.

This sad state has a dual negative effect. It both creates a vacuum for unproductive activity and simultaneously provides opportunities for destructive behavior and consequences that have been manifested in various forms in our community, including a gradual elevation in crime and the fear of crime.

There are also those among us who are not just unemployed or underemployed. Some of our fellow citizens have become so totally discouraged by their inability to find work that they have completely given up looking. This further adds to the malaise that they and those around them feel about the society that seems to offer very little to its members in this area.

Additionally, we are now witnessing a sharp escalation in the amount of labor unrest by our unions. Many union members feel hopelessly and helplessly incapable of securing any resolution for their demands and grievances on the short and intermediate term horizon.

We have also witnessed an increasing number of Bahamians who are studying abroad, who feel that it is futile to return home because the opportunities for well-paid employment in their disciplines are severely lacking at best and non-existent at worst.

This will cost us dearly in the long run because we will forever lose some of our best and brightest minds and talents. This contributes to an even bleaker future outlook for The Bahamas.

Crime and the fear of crime

While there has been a perceptible improvement in crime statistics, according to the police, crime and the fear of crime remain millstones around our collective communal collars.

Whatever the reasons for the genesis and the relentless persistence of crime, we, or someone we know, are either victims of or fearful of crime being visited upon our person or property.

There is no short-term solution to this phenomenon. Our efforts to solve this by holing up inside our gated communities and in our homes with barred windows provide only temporary respite.

A long-term solution will continue to evade us as long as we persist in ministering to the symptoms instead of seriously addressing the deep-seated causes of this cancerous malevolence that has infected our community.

The lights have gone out and so has the air conditioning!

The national electrical utility, Bahamas Power & Light (BPL), is undoubtedly in crisis, as recently confirmed by the prime minister.

BPL’s management and board have miserably failed to provide sustained, reliable electricity to our homes and businesses. That company’s production and distribution performance this summer is the worst in recent history, with very few prospects for a permanent resolution anytime soon.

Like our neighbors to the north, we continue to collectively bury our heads in the sand regarding a national energy policy.

The absence of a long-term plan for power will continue to haunt us until we seriously address this concern with a coherent, workable solution that is grounded in less dependence on fossil fuel technology.

Suddenly, the use of air conditioning, refrigeration and household and commercial appliances on which we are deeply dependent, the access to which we regard as our inalienable right, will not be the norm it once was. For the first time, sweating over BPL’s ability to keep the lights on has taken on quite a literal meaning.

Pervasive sense of hopelessness and helplessness

Unfortunately, we have embarked upon what now appears to be a new normal which is grounded in a pervasive sense of hopelessness and helplessness.

We are now experiencing a perennially entrenched undercurrent of despair that things are not working as they are supposed to. This results in a national psyche that is characterized by a deep-seated level of angst and anxiety, with little prospects of imminent resolution to these challenges anytime soon.

Like the constant, impending blackouts that haunt us day and night, there seems to be an ominous funk hovering over us like a gloomy overcast sky, saturated with the fearful foreboding of an impending and threatening tempest.

Conclusion

As we approach the end of the summer of our discontent in 2019, like Shakespeare’s characters in “Richard III”, we have come to appreciate that the adage of the “grass being greener on the other side” of the political divide is really nothing more than an illusion.

What began in “Richard III” as jubilation, frivolity and great expectation with the sunshine that people believed would radiate upon them because of the reign of a new king, ended in tragedy.

By the end of his reign, everyone had turned against Richard III because of the way he ran his country and treated his people, not the least of which was the way he thwarted those who had any claim to his throne, including the imprisonment of his young nephews who mysteriously died in the Tower of London.

His rapid decline was capped off by his being overthrown and killed in battle to save the state from his tyranny, thereby forcibly ending that winter of discontent.

Isn’t it remarkable how life can often imitate art?

• 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 pgalanis@gmail.com.

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