Legislative priorities 

Dear Editor,

This is a brand new year and I am certain that most of us are looking forward to a much better year than 2021. There are signs that the economy is returning to life and that more businesses are reopening.

Scores of Bahamians who were laid off since the arrival of the pandemic have become self-employed. That translated into more people who otherwise would have remained unemployed or stuck in a dead-end job being hired and trained in new disciplines.

There are certain critical pieces of new legislation which, in my opinion, are badly needed.

The ease of doing business in The Bahamas is extremely poor and frustrating to the point where many people and businesses simply do not formalize within the general system. This results in all sorts of economic dislocations and business failures.

Registration of a new or current off grid “company” should be a one-stop shop situation wherein one applies for a name, registers the same with the short paper work of the objectives of that business; pays the appropriate fee and actually waits while the process is done right there and then at the appropriate ministry or agency.

Legislation must be brought to enforce tax collections from deadbeats.

I have never supported what is called a moratorium and forgiveness of tax arrears. It is an unfair system.

No legislation, as now appears to be the case, should be in place which allows one group of Bahamians to be disadvantaged by another group. Not only is it constitutionally discriminatory but it sends a wrong message to law-abiding citizens and residents: “Don’t rush to pay real property taxes because if you wait long enough the government of the day will declare a moratorium and forgiveness in a desperate attempt to garner revenue.”

We are also going to have to deal with those long vexing issues of citizenship and ease of applications for residency and naturalization.

Again, it is my considered view that The Bahamas is losing scarce potential financial resources, experiencing a drastic brain drain and an almost indefinable loss in national productivity.

I invite Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Philip Brave Davis and his economic team and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell to look at this single issue at the earliest opportunity.

The long talked about National Health Insurance scheme really needs to be legislatively put in a real position to become effective.

The ongoing pandemic and the loss of private health insurance to cover medical care, including dental and vision, by the average Bahamian have demonstrated why this piece of updated legislation is so badly needed. I hope that Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Michael Darville and his team will get to work on this matter.

While doing so, I encourage the Davis administration to allocate additional funding for the nursing school within The University of The Bahamas. Programs to attract younger and not so old Bahamians to the nursing profession are critical going forward.

No doubt, issues like livable salaries and working conditions will also have to be addressed.

My position is that: “The health of the nation is the wealth of the nation.”

I have long advocated for National Youth Service in our wonderful nation. This long overdue program could lead to a drastic reduction in criminality and delinquent behavior amongst our younger people, especially the males.

Thank God that more than 30 years ago, the late former Prime Minister Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling had the vision. Unfortunately, he was unable to generate political support because his detractors accused him of wanting to establishing ‘Pindling’s army’. Today, those who possibly could have graduated from the National Youth Service are languishing at The Bahamas Department of Corrections or are in the graveyard.

There are any other number of issues and concerns that should be addressed by legislation but the above could suffice for now.

Happy new year and may God continue to bless, guide and keep all of us. No doubt, He will give the prime minister and the entire Parliament the wisdom and understanding to take us into the fabled promised land.

Ortland H. Bodie, Jr.

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