Raise the standard

The Bahamian people cannot get the standard of governance they are entitled to if those they elect are devoted to tu quoque, the Latin term for one’s appeal to hypocrisy in an attempt to deflect criticism and divert attention away from one’s responsibilities.

The use of the “you too” fallacy is certainly not unique to Bahamian politics, but it has been a disappointing tactic too frequently used by the current administration as it has sought to defend itself against criticisms of failing to elevate the standard of transparency and openness in government.

The “you did it too” stratagem reared its unproductive head in Parliament yesterday as Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper called on the government to table all agreements related to the purchase of the Grand Lucayan property and the proposed expansion of the Freeport Harbour on Grand Bahama.

From their seats, several government MPs appealed to hypocrisy by reminding Cooper of his party’s handling of agreements related to Baha Mar.

It is fine to highlight the hypocrisy of one’s opponent, so long as you are at the same time righting your own wrongs and/or satisfactorily addressing the problem at hand.

In the case of yesterday’s debate in Parliament, the essential problem at hand was the unknown timeline for the tabling of the heavily touted heads of agreement and sales agreement for the proposed developments in Freeport.

During an intervention, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar chided Cooper for being concerned about operational losses that were contentiously being argued back and forth at around $30 million — a remarkable position to take given that under any circumstance, tens of millions in public funds should be the concern of all taxpayers irrespective of what gains might accrue elsewhere.

The reality is that potential benefits for Grand Bahama of the government’s deal with the Holistica Destinations group do not negate the need for the government to make public all agreements made on behalf of the Bahamian people, nor do those benefits invalidate questions or concerns on the part of the public.

Full and prompt accountability in the context of good governance is not predicated on how popular a government decision is, but is rooted in the public’s right to know, regardless of the ultimate outcome of such a decision.

Were it not for focused inquiries made by this newspaper and other media houses, critical information on the sale of the Grand Lucayan would not have been immediately revealed to the public, such as the sale price for the property, the timeline for construction, the agreed labor component for the development and the fate of Bahamians currently employed at the resort property.

Not only does using the “you did it too” argument fail to address problems head on, it demonstrates to Bahamians that their government, when it suits them, is comfortable with replicating the same standards held by their predecessors that would have been deemed counter to the public’s interests.

In short, such a practice does nothing to raise the standard of political leadership and openness Bahamians anticipated when they granted this administration an overwhelming mandate almost three years ago.

A tabling yesterday of the agreements with Holistica, or a statement on when the tabling of these documents will occur, could have started the process of addressing questions by the opposition and members of the public, and cut through the building up of suspicion or apprehension about levels of concessions and incentives granted in the deal.

Further to this point, it is not unimportant to appreciate that using the “this is a good thing, therefore you ought not question it” position with the Bahamian people is the antithesis of an accountable and transparent posture of governance regardless of which party does so.

If a deal is sound and its provisions are able to withstand objective analysis, then questions should be welcomed and exploration encouraged, as the results thereof should only prove a government’s point that it has done what is in the country’s best interests.

For long-suffering Grand Bahamians who desire and deserve a change in the economic trajectory of their island, the Holistica deal is a promising element in what we all hope will be an eventual upward trend for the country’s second-largest economy.

We at the same time await the details of this deal, which the administration ought to make public at the earliest opportunity.


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