When it comes to the performance of an administration during its five-year term, anniversaries and halfway marks are only as consequential to the nation as their ability to cause a government to analyze its legislative progress, re-evaluate priorities and re-focus its stewardship.
A mere marker on a calendar has no functional ability to cause any of these things to happen but a key accountability and introspective tool at a government’s disposal does — proroguing the Parliament.
Prorogation ends a current session of Parliament and begins a new one, marked by a new Speech from the Throne which lays out the government’s legislative agenda for the upcoming session.
It is an accountability tool because it causes the government to return to the nation prior to a general election to account for what it has accomplished legislatively versus what it promised to accomplish.
It is an introspective tool because it causes a government to analyze and evaluate the country’s current position with a view to determining which pieces of legislation are no longer expedient or which pieces of legislation should be introduced that were not previously planned or promised.
Regular prorogations can keep a government on its toes, because they necessitate that a government keeps its legislative agenda at the forefront of decision-making, which is especially useful given that any number of factors can impact upon an administration’s ability or willingness to stick to the program it annunciated to the citizenry.
In Britain, from whom the parliamentary system was adopted, Parliament is prorogued once a year by law, and while we do not suggest that The Bahamas must necessarily follow suit with the same duration, a regular prorogation of Parliament can work to keep our government more centered on how best to manage the affairs of state.
A focused government has a higher probability of achieving much of its legislative goals and objectives which, if they are properly aligned with the country’s needs, augurs well for us all.
And focus is what this administration needs, as it has consistently committed unforced errors and displayed Cabinet dissonance that speaks to a lack of essential cohesion and a lack of forward planning.
As it turns out, Hurricane Dorian struck The Bahamas at near the halfway mark of the current administration’s term, bringing with it destruction that has altered fiscal projections and effects that will undoubtedly be felt into the term of a new administration.
When one analyzes the Speech from the Throne for the current session of Parliament, most of what has been pledged — including proposed legislation that requires heavy lifting — has not been introduced or accomplished, with only two-and-a-half years left before an election must be called.
An accountable government ought to now look at its current situation and advise the nation on which of its pledges it is not likely to fulfill within this term of office since after all, accountability was one of the Minnis administration’s chief pledges.
Immediate exigencies for storm-ravaged areas are key to providing relief as Abaco and Grand Bahama work to rebuild, but the shifting of resources will have implications for public finances generally and will require a laser-focused government to mitigate the economic fallout and devise growth strategies for the rest of the country.
Damage to healthcare, education, housing, tourism, law enforcement and public transportation assets on Abaco and Grand Bahama will require both collaboration and innovation if both islands are to return to normalcy and become better than before, as the administration now promises they will.
And if it is that the government considers storms like Dorian to be our new normal, then legislative and policy shifts should be expected to demonstrate this country’s commitment to lowering its own carbon footprint and protecting our natural defenses against the effects of weather emergencies.
At the halfway mark of governance, the Minnis administration needs a fresh approach to its handling of the people’s business.
If a Cabinet reshuffle, which may or may not be beneficial, is considered onerous to the prime minister, a return to the drawing board and a prorogation of Parliament can perhaps help him and his colleagues get closer to a more considered, focused path of governance than has been demonstrated to date.