Public policy and economics 

Dear Editor,

Dorian, the pandemic and possibly the management of fiscal affairs by the Minnis administration have decimated the Bahamian economy over the past 18 months. We are between a rock and a very hard place.

Unemployment is suspected of being in excess of 40 percent and counting. No one, I submit, really knows the true figure because of the burgeoning underground economy and unreported informal financial transactions.

Scores of small to medium sized businesses have shuttered permanently. Some say that the national economy may not recover until the fourth quarter in 2021 and maybe not even until the first half of 2022, God forbid.

The much anticipated and touted sale of Our Lucayan over in Freeport looks like it will not happen anytime soon and that property will continue to hemorrhage taxpayers’ monies at life threatening levels.

The national grade average continues to hover at the ‘D’ grade and some say that it is a success. Crime in some cases, especially housebreaking and vehicle thefts have decreased but serious crimes like homicides and assaults remain at unacceptably high levels. Income has plummeted and thousands of mortgages are in substantial arrears and tenants and landlords are at each other’s throats.

Tourism is basically dead in the water. The election of a leftist and decidedly progressive leaning Democratic administration, led by Joe Biden, does not bode well for the recovery of our economy anytime in the near future.

Biden and his people have always declared that taxes, across the board, would be raised in the USA once they would have settled into power. If the consumer in the USA has less disposable income, it is not likely that he/she would splurge on a Bahamian vacation or make investments here. Bahamians will be obliged to think out of the proverbial box. Innovation, focus and perseverance will be key factors in who fails and who will excel in 2021 and beyond.

Successive Bahamian administrations never seem to have any sort of cohesive and well thought out plans for sustainable and game-changing national development. In the civil society, many of the major players are simply going through the motions while pretending to be concerned about fellow Bahamians. In fact, the same musical and political beat that was being played in the 1950s and 1960s is still being played. Nothing much has changed.

Apart from the late Sir William Allen, all of our ministers of finance save one or two exceptions, were not trained economists and hardly knew anything about high finance and crunching national budgets. We had prime ministers, who were lawyers, serving as ministers of finance. Now we have a medical doctor as minister of finance and a lawyer as minister of state.

The PM is reputed to be a ‘good’ medical practitioner. Senator Kwasi Thompson is not in the House of Assembly so Minnis will be obliged to do the inevitable heavy lifting come the next budgetary cycle.

The implementation of public policy is a very serious thing, but I fear that we are still playing doll house with the national economy. A task force was appointed months ago by the PM to formulate plans for the national recovery of the economy and ways and means to diversify the economy. The interim report, to my mind, was a waste of time and resources. One of the major recommendations was the cultivation and marketing of Indian hemp and cannabis. My God, we are really between a rock and a very hard place.

At the very time when the individual and his/her family are already under the water, the administration is proposing to increase user fees (as opposed to calling them what they are — taxes).

There have been no suggestions on creating new revenue streams or industries. The ease of doing business by Bahamians in The Bahamas is atrocious and mind-boggling.

It has been announced that infrastructure works will be drastically scaled back. The attorney general opined that part of the reasons why we were black-listed was due to us submitting the ‘wrong’ email site to the European authorities? If the learned AG had not made this earth-shattering revelation I would never have believed that an administration could be so inept!

The Minnis administration’s time in office is rapidly running out and unless something dramatic happens or occurs within the next six months, a second consecutive term may not be in the cards. The PM and the FNM came to office with a huge lion-like roar but may well demit office meowing like one of our family’s felines. 

Ortland H. Bodie Jr. 

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