Editorials

First anniversary of the PLP govt

On September 16, the Progressive Liberal Party marked the first anniversary of its return to government.

The Davis administration is to be commended for completing the reopening of the economy (needlessly shuttered for too long by its predecessors) without triggering an increase in new COVID-19 infections.

Fulfilling a campaign promise, the new government reduced the value-added tax (VAT) rate from 12 percent to 10 percent across the board. Not promised but delivered was the reimposition of VAT on breadbasket food, medicines, and medical insurance.

The Davis administration made good on a commitment to sign long outstanding public sector trade union contracts, with the notable exceptions being contracts for public service, Public Hospitals Authority and Airport Authority workers represented by the Bahamas Public Service Union.

Responding to the continuing shortage of affordable housing, the government resumed the construction of affordable housing, discontinued by its predecessors, albeit with an unusual public/private arrangement.

Public schools reopened on time for the new school year, but with no plan to help students recoup learning losses and achieve age-appropriate education standards lost due to school closures during the pandemic.

The Davis administration increased the number of taxi franchises, hopefully facilitating the issuance of franchises to people who previously leased them mostly from politically favored holders who owned no vehicles.

We welcome news of the reopening of Club Med on San Salvador next month.

However, despite boasts of increasing tourist numbers, the reality is that as many as 1,800 hotel rooms remain closed at the Melia, the British Colonial in downtown Nassau, and the Beach Towers at Atlantis.

Additionally, a number of rooms at the Royal Towers on Paradise Island are closed for renovation. And the 850 rooms at the Grand Lucayan resort and Memories hotel in Freeport remain closed.

This bodes ill for the thousands of hotel workers not yet re-employed in the sector. At the same time, reduced room inventories have not adversely impacted hotel operators who are enjoying healthy revenue streams.

Meanwhile, the government has been slow in advancing a coherent legislative agenda. And it has shown a tendency to disregard and ignore laws rather than repealing or amending those it finds inconvenient or not to its liking.

Our concerningly high level of foreign currency debt and consequent rising interest rates on that debt seem not to be a matter of high priority for the government. Nor is the overdue need to increase the National Insurance Board (NIB) contribution rate to extend the equilibrium of the fund.

Further, the government has increased employment in the public sector, re-engaging a startling number of retired senior public officers and employing many individuals on contract, some with dubious qualifications or experience, at inflated salaries with ill-defined responsibilities, while introducing increased exemptions from the payment of taxes.

And excessively large delegations traveling to international conferences and meetings have exponentially increased the government’s travel budget even while potholed-filled roads remain abound on New Providence.

Meanwhile, the people of Abaco and Grand Bahama are crying out for repair and rebuilding of their homes, and for the repair and restoration of public infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Dorian, including their airports.

Rising incidences of crime, particularly violent crime, continue to wreak havoc in the lives of communities on New Providence.

While ordinary commerce has been reopened, government offices continue to observe pandemic restrictions as at the height of the pandemic.

Applications continue to languish at the Immigration Department. The pace of service at the registrar of companies, deeds and other documents continues to be inexplicably slow. Renewals of driver’s licenses, until recently, was taking up to a week.

Princess Margaret Hospital continues to experience overcrowding and suffer serious nursing shortages. We note an announcement yesterday by the health minister that modular units have been secured to beef up capacity at public hospitals.

Individuals seeking social assistance are experiencing inordinate delays; and the collection of residential garbage, a success under its predecessor, has deteriorated and become uneven.

Overall, the first year in office for the Davis administration has been a mixed performance.

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