We typically use the year-end to review the past year and plan the year ahead, making resolutions.
Notwithstanding good intentions, many resolutions fall by the wayside. Circumstances change and adjustments have to be made.
For the great majority of us, discarding new year’s resolutions won’t have terribly weighty consequences, or so we like to think.
Stock taking is also important for the government, as this year marks the mid-point of the Free National Movement’s term in office and coincides with the beginning of a new decade.
The government’s annual report never makes all citizens happy.
The difficulty with grading a government’s performance is that it is done against the heady promises of campaigns for election during which sensible programs are decorated with rhetoric to appeal to voters: Public services will improve. Crime levels as well as unemployment will fall. Salaries will increase. Illegal immigrants will be returned home, and numbers of work permits issued will decrease. There will be no new taxes. Corruption in government will be eradicated – those found guilty will be made to account. Government will be responsive, accountable and transparent.
The realities of a turbulent world economy, increased international competition for investment dollars, stubborn resistance to change, even by those demanding improvements in systems and processes of doing business, and the potential frightening impact of natural disasters don’t receive much attention on the campaign trail.
The government has achieved some notable wins during its two and a half years in office: corruption is less pervasive in the road traffic and immigration departments than under their immediate predecessors.
New leadership and improved efficiencies and reduction in corruption in the customs department through the introduction of the Click2Clear process are making headway notwithstanding protest from some who remain resistant to change.
Regular postal service and delivery of mail has been restored on New Providence.
Renewing or obtaining a new passport is no longer the marathon effort required only months ago.
The crisis of huge fires has been brought under control at the New Providence Landfill and the green sprouts of the promised ecology park are evident.
Regular household garbage collection has been achieved and some progress brought to the regular maintenance and upkeep of public beaches and parks.
Road maintenance, while uneven, is being attended to.
And hope remains strong that Nassau Harbour and historic Prince George Dock will be transformed into a new Nassau Cruise Port with modern entertainment, restaurant and recreational spaces.
There have also been misses.
The public campaign to expose and punish official corruption has so far won no victories.
The fight to contain and reduce levels of crime, particularly violent crime against a person, has had its challenges.
Hotel occupancies opened strong this year, positively impacting job growth in the sector. But declining unemployment levels are being tested by high paying job losses in financial services and the fallout from Hurricane Dorian which destroyed not just homes but businesses, displacing thousands from Abaco and Grand Bahama.
The fiasco that Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) was throughout 2019 culminated with a 48-hour blackout on Harbour Island over Christmas, coupled with the less than environmentally friendly purchase of new generating equipment by BPL and the response to rebuilding generating capacity on Abaco post-Dorian creates doubt about the commitment to developing renewable energy alternatives to fossil fuel generation of power around the country.
And promises of increased access to Crown Land on Abaco, which suggest land transfers to wealthy property designers for development and onward sale to Bahamians, confuse almost as much as does the continued duplicative award of national honors – first of the Bahamian variety, followed closely by awards of the royal variety.
It is our hope that amongst its 2020 new year’s resolutions the government will include living up to its promises of transparency and accountability to the people and further getting its act together for the reconstruction of Abaco and Grand Bahama.