Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper has been tasked with fleshing out his party’s platform to the Bahamian people. Addressing hundreds of PLPs at their recent convention, the Exuma and Ragged Island MP gave a laundry list of ideas he obviously hopes to bring to fruition if the PLP is elected to office in 2022. Cooper mentioned the following:
(1) Transitioning The Bahamas to a republic like Trinidad and Tobago.
(2) Fighting for equal pay for Bahamian women.
(3) Greater inclusion of women in politics.
(4) Prioritizing gender equality and citizenship reform.
(5) Campaign finance reform.
(6) National youth service.
(7) Legalization of marijuana.
(8) Establishing a sovereign wealth fund for Bahamians.
(9) Establishing a ministry of natural resources, which would utilize and manage the country’s natural resources.
(10) A capital investment of $250 million over five years for small to medium-sized businesses.
(11) Economic empowerment that would create hundreds of new millionaires.
(12) A national development plan dubbed B-Vision 2050.
Cooper also chastised the Free National Movement (FNM) government for neglecting the National Development Plan which was left in place by the previous government headed by former Prime Minister Perry Christie.
Why this lofty plan wasn’t activated in the 10 years Christie was prime minister is anyone’s guess. To suggest that Cooper’s goals are ambitious would be an understatement.
Nonetheless, Cooper’s platform raises several issues with this writer. I will mention only several. One of the issues I have with Cooper’s presentation is that the Bahamian people have heard over 90 percent of these ideas before, dating as far back as the Pindling era.
Listening to Cooper, if you didn’t know any better, you would think that what he was proposing was new. However, nothing could be further from the truth. For instance, the matter of transitioning the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to a republic has been proposed before. The matter of gender pay gap in The Bahamas is a non-issue, as far more women than men have college degrees and are therefore making better wages. Look at the ratio of females to males enrolled at the University of The Bahamas, which is massive.
The plan to include more women in politics is indeed noble, but this had also been the goal of former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and his FNM administration, with women such as Dame Janet Bostwick, Dame Ivy Dumont, Sylvia Scriven, Theresa Moxey-Ingraham, Italia Johnson, Juanianne Dorsette, Loretta Butler-Turner, Verna Grant, Kay Forbes-Smith and Lynn Holowesko, among others serving in various roles.
Under Sir Lynden Pindling’s 25 year reign, only one woman sat in his Cabinet, the late Dame Dr. Doris Johnson. The first meaningful attempt at addressing gender equality was made by the Ingraham government in 2002, in which among five proposals, was the issue of removing gender discrimination from the constitution.
Thanks to the PLP, all five proposals were outright rejected by the Bahamian people. Even the matter of citizenship reform could’ve been addressed in the 2002 and 2016 referenda by the FNM and PLP respectively. The current FNM administration is now considering recommendations by the Law Reform and Revision Commission to make sweeping changes to the Bahamas Nationality Act and the Immigration Act. In light of this, it was redundant of Cooper to make such a proposal to PLP delegates.
Cooper’s talk about campaign finance reform has been proposed before by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis and Christie. Cooper should not take the Bahamian people for fools in thinking that they will accept the narrative that the two major parties would turn down huge donations from their wealthy benefactors.
The plan to establish a national youth service was an idea that was probably first bandied by Sir Lynden. Again, nothing new there.
The proposal about legalizing marijuana was first introduced by the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) in 2016, not the PLP. Cooper and PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis have simply borrowed this idea without acknowledging where they got it from.
The proposal to invest $250 million over five years towards small to medium-sized businesses mirrors to a lesser extent the FNM’s Access Accelerator Small Business Development Centre, of which 18 aspiring Bahamian entrepreneurs were each granted $45,000. And besides, with a skyrocketing national debt in the area of $8 billion, where will this $250 million come from? What’s more, under a PLP government, will the doling out of a quarter billion dollars be done in a transparent and unbiased manner, in light of this country being traditionally tribalistic? It seems as if whichever party is in government, its loyal supporters are the ones to hog up the spoils of victory.
Cooper’s economic empowerment initiative is far too ambiguous and seems to amount to nothing more than a grandiose pipe dream.
With a woefully inefficient and untrustworthy bureaucracy, no Bahamian should take seriously a sovereign wealth initiative, or that they would ever benefit from this county’s natural resources.
In the grand scheme of things, it is always the same set of families who get to partake of the fat of the land in this country; not average Bahamians.
The creation of a ministry of natural resources would just be adding another ministry to an already oversized cabinet in PLP and FNM administrations.
Cooper’s highly touted B-Vision 2050 sounds eerily similar to former FNM Senator John Bostwick’s 2011 national development plan called Bahamas 2020 Vision. Even his Exuma eVision 2030 plan is similar to Bostwick’s. Again, you get the impression that the borrowing of ideas without the courtesy of acknowledging those whom these ideas and concepts were borrowed from is at play here.
As I read portions of Cooper’s address, I couldn’t help but notice his repeated use of the phrase “New Leap Forward”. If that political cliche sounds eerily similar to the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward, then that’s probably because it is.
In closing, there’s one more item that was mentioned during the PLP convention that was borrowed from the DNA: the call for a vote of no confidence in Minnis, over the relocation of the General Post Office to the Town Centre Mall, which is owned by former minister Brent Symonette and his brother.
PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis, during his speech at convention, said that the PLP will bring a no confidence motion against Minnis. Again, the PLP has simply borrowed another idea without so much as an acknowledgment of where it originated.
It was DNA Leader Arinthia Komolafe who had initially called for a motion of no confidence in the prime minister, well over a week before the PLP’s convention.
Judging from the message that came out of the convention, it’s beginning to look like the current PLP leadership is struggling to be innovative. Hence, the passing off of ideas as if it were their own. Ideas were borrowed from Sir Lynden, the Ingraham administration, the Christie administration, the Minnis administration, the DNA, John Bostwick and Chairman Mao without any acknowledgment.
– Kevin Evans