The current Free National Movement (FNM) administration under Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis and the previous two under former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham have all been snakebitten.
Every time the FNM is in power, it seems, some once in a lifetime event occurs that has ripple effects globally.
For example, the COVID-19 pandemic is the worst since the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak — 55 years before independence and 49 years before majority rule.
In other words, providence has tossed curve balls at FNM administrations — a thing it hasn’t done to any Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government since majority rule.
It was not some egregious Cabinet scandal coupled with an aggressive campaign orchestrated by the PLP that severely weakened the FNM in 2002, 2012 and between 2020 and 2021, but devastating events beyond the control of our political apparatus.
When the United States of America sneezes, The Bahamas catches the cold. This has been made painfully evident since March 2020, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in North America.
According to the Pew Research, 9.6 million Americans lost their jobs during the current pandemic and 25 percent of adults said that either they or someone in their household lost their job.
The complete shutdown of the airline and cruise industries had brought the Bahamian tourism industry to a complete standstill, which impacted tens of thousands of Bahamian breadwinners, directly and indirectly.
With hundreds of millions pumped into the domestic economy via government aid through NIB, The Bahamas has become a welfare state.
With the national debt edging closer to the $10 billion mark, the extent of the COVID-19 fallout is becoming more pronounced. And the FNM now seems set to suffer the political consequences of it all, while the PLP stands to fortuitously benefit, as it did in 2002 and 2012.
A mere eight months prior to the May 2, 2002 general election, 19 Muslim terrorists hijacked four airliners, American Airlines Flight 11 and Flight 77 and United Airlines Flight 175 and Flight 93, and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York City; the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, respectively.
The Sunni Muslim Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organization declared a fatwa on the West and The Bahamas was caught smack in the middle.
Al-Qaeda terrorists not only managed to murder 2,977 civilians, but they caused $55 billion in damage, bringing the American economy to its knees.
The stock market would shut down for four days — a first since Franklin D. Roosevelt closed it during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Not only would the Dow drop to historic lows, but oil prices plummeted. The airline industry would also suffer, as millions of Americans feared flying, causing massive temporary and permanent layoffs in that sector.
At home, there were mass layoffs in the tourism sector, as visitor arrivals dried up. The economy, already reeling from the Great Recession that began in March 2001, would plummet further.
Venting their frustration at the polls, the Bahamian people would give the PLP 29 of the 40 seats in the House of Assembly.
Somehow, political rivals of Hubert Ingraham managed to convince the electorate that he was partially responsible for the recession. This, while the name Osama bin Laden, whose 9/11 attacks were the worst since the Pearl Harbor incident 70 years prior, was probably never mentioned once on the same campaign platforms Ingraham’s name was repeatedly excoriated.
Now, fast forward to 2011 and it’s déjà vu all over again for Ingraham. A year and a half after becoming the government, the Ingraham-led FNM administration had to contend with another recession, made worse by the Stock Market crash of September 2008, after the housing market collapsed.
It was so catastrophic that Washington had to bail out Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Chrysler LLC, Fannie Mae Freddie Mac and Bear Stearns.
Between 2007 and 2008, 8.7 million jobs in the United States were lost, while nearly four million homeowners foreclosed.
At one point, the jobless rate peaked at 10 percent. Even the mighty Lehman Brothers collapsed.
To counter the American Great Recession, Ingraham would embark on the ambitious $119 million New Providence Road Improvement Project. This was Ingraham’s strategy of injecting money into the domestic economy and putting hundreds of Bahamians to work.
Hindsight being 20/20, Ingraham has been vindicated, especially with the subsequent approval of the Inter-American Development Bank.
Still, with annoying disruptions to many businesses, coupled with the PLP’s effectiveness in capitalizing on this widespread discontent (Geno D’s “Dig up” comes to mind) on the campaign trail, the FNM’s general election loss in 2012, nearly mirrors the one a decade prior.
The PLP captured 29 seats to the FNM’s nine. Again, external factors did in the FNM, not the PLP.
Not counting Hurricane Dorian, three world-changing, historic events — the 9/11 attacks on the United States, the Stock Market crash of 2008 and the COVID-19 pandemic — have all done far more political damage to the FNM brand than any PLP campaign strategists or any other political rival could ever dream of.
To the FNM and its snakebitten brand, providence has been merciless.
— Kevin Evans