People and priorities

Central Bank Governor John Rolle recently warned, “Bahamians will see more of the inflation that is being seen outside of The Bahamas. We are going to see it particularly in the goods and services that we import.”

Food prices in the United States increased by 6.3 percent last month according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and while current consumer price index reports for The Bahamas have not been published, skyrocketing grocery prices are an everyday reality that require no official confirmation for Bahamians.

Soaring food prices trigger greater food insecurity and malnutrition risks for the country’s vulnerable.

When combined with high gasoline prices and stubborn unemployment levels, the impact of mounting price increases can put growing numbers of families in the untenable position of having to decide whether to purchase food, pay housing costs, keep the lights on, or spend money on essentials such as medication and healthcare.

Growing the economy is essential to putting Bahamians back to work and in a better position to provide for their needs and aspirations, and keen focus on the part of government will be required to support and enable necessary economic growth.

The tourism sector is experiencing the largest recovery as the COVID pandemic drags on, but there are key areas of concern within the sector which we would have expected the Davis administration to update the nation on during yesterday’s sitting of the House of Assembly.

The government has indicated that it is in the process of identifying a buyer for the Grand Lucayan property on Grand Bahama — the island with the country’s highest pre-Dorian rates of unemployment — and advised via a press release that it was seeking a positive resolution to the announced closure of the historic Hilton hotel in downtown Nassau.

Yesterday’s sitting ended with no communication by the minister of tourism on these matters.

Speaking Monday to the administration’s current trajectory of disengagement from the serious work of governance, we highlighted that the House of Assembly’s agenda contained no legislative initiatives.

No new bills were introduced or foreshadowed yesterday, though a resolution was pursued to create a standing committee to look into the independence of the Parliament, the construction of a new parliamentary complex, and the provision of additional support for the work of MPs.

These matters have their spheres of importance — most especially the independence of the Parliament from administrative control by the executive branch — but in the context of urgent priorities for the nation’s people, we question how this initiative managed to leapfrog all others to be the administration’s only House agenda item thus far this year.

Now that government has made adjustments to its value-added tax and real property tax structures to garner what it expects to be consequential increases in government revenue, it is not publicly known which of the administration’s Speech from the Throne pledges it plans to pursue next.

Global supply chain issues threaten to continue to result in rising costs, and with uncertainty looming about how long the current pressures of inflation will last, additional support for vulnerable and widely unemployed groupings in our society should be prioritized.

With respect to society’s vulnerable, the government’s speech pledged an increase in the pension for senior citizens as well as in benefits for people with disabilities.

It pledged to introduce consumer protection legislation, and to work with all stakeholders to bring relief to mortgage and rent payers to reduce and prevent homelessness.

The administration also pledged to create “a ‘National First-Job’ program that allows young people between the age of 16 and 25 to gain a one-year government subsidized placement in a field of national priority, including the new economies and trade.”

It remains unclear, meantime, where any of its pledges specifically targeted at economic growth will fall on the administration’s priority list this year.

The Davis administration has promised a new day for the Bahamian people.

However, it has yet to demonstrate the degree of legislative focus necessary to make that promise an ultimate reality.

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