COVID-19 presents the most inopportune time to be prime minister

Dear Editor,

The attitude of the Bahamian returnee, whose video of her criticizing the Free National Movement (FNM) administration over conditions at Breezes resort went viral, encapsulates the attitude of Bahamians in general.

For what it’s worth, that video underscores the fact that The Bahamas is a country teeming with irrational people.

The FNM administration spent thousands of dollars repatriating and accommodating the crew who was stranded in the United States.

Rather than show gratitude, especially when tens of thousands of Bahamians are having grave challenges meeting their financial obligations and having difficulty buying food, the returnee decided to make herself look silly by wallowing in ingratitude.

Last month, National Insurance Minister Brensil Rolle revealed that 30,000 Bahamians had applied for unemployment assistance.

In a typical year, NIB receives between 6,000 and 7,000 benefit claims.

COVID-19 has ratcheted up those claims to 18,000, which inevitably raises questions about the long-term sustainability of NIB. Undoubtedly, our financial safety net will be stretched to its breaking point, especially with so many noncompliant Bahamian employers.

COVID-19 could push the unemployment rate to a staggering 30 percent. In a short nine months, providence has tossed two curveballs at the Minnis administration: Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19. Both have the potential of destroying the Bahamian economy, with all aspects of the tourism sector taking the hardest hits.

According to The Nassau Guardian, the Bahamian economy could take a billion-dollar hit due to COVID-19.

The Bahamian people are at their wits end with the COVID-19 lockdowns and curfews. They want a return to normalcy. Many within the healthcare system are stressed out. Meanwhile, the government is tasked with overseeing a two-week lockdown on Bimini, a COVID-19 hotspot.

The Minnis administration finds itself in the crosshairs of an angry electorate.

This was borne out by a group of irate Abaconians at the recent mass burial of 55 victims of Hurricane Dorian. The group expressed their displeasure with the Minnis administration by heckling North Abaco MP Darren Henfield.

Abaco, especially its main hub, Marsh Harbour, was flattened by Dorian.

What was once a thriving economy looked like a cosmic dump yard in the weeks following the storm. It will take billions to rebuild Abaco — far beyond the financial capability of the Bahamian treasury.

Abaco needs outside help if it is to return to its former glory.

Meanwhile, the hurricane season is fast approaching and electricity is yet to be fully restored to that northern island, due to unforeseen challenges caused by the severity of the destruction.

Works Minister Desmond Bannister has revealed that the situation on Abaco has taken a mental toll on BPL workers from New Providence.

Having lived through the horrors of Hurricanes Frances, Jeanne, Matthew and Dorian, I can empathize with those workers.

Meanwhile, the Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport is still in the process of being renovated — much to the chagrin of many impatient Grand Bahamians. Hopefully we don’t have an outbreak on the island, as we would be dangerously unprepared.

The Hugh Campbell Primary School is still in need of extensive repairs.

Many Grand Bahamians are in need of assistance with their dilapidated homes due to Dorian. Many either couldn’t afford homeowners insurance or simply saw no need to purchase one.

And now all eyes are on the Minnis administration which has pledged to give upwards of $10,000 via the Small Home Repair Programme.

With Acting Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson’s revelation that Dorian will drive the national debt to close to $9 billion, one needn’t be a John Maynard Keynes to see that COVID-19 could push the debt to near $10 billion.

In order to take this massive figure into perspective, Jamaica, with its population of 2.9 million, has a national debt of $14.3 billion, as of 2019.

With a population seven times the size of The Bahamas’ population, Jamaica only owes a mere $5 billion more than us. So do we blame successive governments or do we, as Bahamian voters with unrealistic expectations, blame ourselves?

The civil service is overstaffed, with hundreds of unqualified political cronies being added after each election cycle.

We call it the spoils of victory.

Any talk of an administration trimming down the employment numbers would immediately be seen as political victimization. The civil service is one of the reasons we find ourselves in this financial mess.

At the pace we are going at, it is no longer a question of if the IMF will take over the Bahamian economy, but when. Thankfully, we have yet to cross that bridge.

In the event that happens, you can be sure that the IMF will slash thousands of jobs in the public sector.

In all things considered, now is not the time to be prime minister.

Now is not the time to be the government.

Bahamians should not delude themselves into thinking that the chivalry along with Progressive Liberal Party Leader Philip Brave Davis will come to the rescue.

Unfortunately, what we are currently witnessing is simply beyond the control of our Third World country.

These are the kinds of things we watched on CNN and BBC in Third World countries such as Haiti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Congo.

The current annual salary of Dr. Minnis as prime minister is $86,000, which is a small fortune to the overwhelming majority of Bahamians.

Many aspiring Bahamians desire to sit in Minnis’ seat.

With COVID-19 and Dorian, I don’t envy Minnis. He has the unenviable task of steering The Bahamas out of the current unprecedented crises gripping the country — something not one of his predecessors were ever faced with.

We must all pray for him that the Lord would give him direction for the country moving forward, as we are in uncharted territory.

Kevin Evans

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