The FNM was elected to govern, not the COVID-19 Task Force

Dear Editor,

The Free National Movement (FNM) was elected by the majority of Bahamian voters to govern the Commonwealth of The Bahamas on May 10, 2017, not the COVID-19 Task Force.

Ministry of Health officials must remember this.

Nonessential business owners and employees must now be breathing a collective sigh of relief after Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis finally decided to open up the economy, albeit in phases.

Perhaps coming to the conclusion that COVID-19 will be a thorn in our side for the foreseeable future, until a vaccine is discovered by scientists, Minnis has probably come to the realization that the repeated lockdowns are doing irreparable damage to the economy, while being ineffective in curbing the spread of COVID-19, as confirmed cases are now well over 2,000.

Additionally, with the troubling announcement by Public Service and National Insurance Minister Brensil Rolle that the National Insurance Board (NIB) cannot continue its unemployment benefit scheme beyond mid-September, it is obvious to all and sundry that COVID-19 is dangerously close to maxing out the government’s safety net.

Minnis is certainly aware of an Inter-American Development Bank report that claims that a high percentage of household incomes in the Caribbean has dipped below minimum wage due to the new coronavirus recession.

With horror stories of Bahamian families being months in arrears in mortgage, rent and utilities, I find it astonishing that one particular COVID-19 Task Force official is perturbed by the central government’s decision to ease restrictions on nonessential businesses, with the aim to jumpstart the economy.

The official obviously prefers that the overwhelming majority of Bahamians stay put. But what do you tell a breadwinner who is months behind on his rent, with an eviction hanging over his head, that he must stay home? What do you say to a single mom who is jobless, flat broke and months behind on her rent and utilities?

At times I am left to wonder if COVID-19 Task Force members are oblivious to what is happening on the ground.

One is led to believe that Ministry of Health officials are living in a bubble.

The reader should have noticed that many of the Office of the Prime Minister’s lockdown announcements were prefaced with “based on the recommendations of Ministry of Health officials…” or something to that effect.

Many frustrated Bahamians have assumed that Minnis had governed unilaterally like a despot, while failing to appreciate the COVID-19 Task Force’s massive role in the decision-making process during the lockdown period.

Recall that even Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar had dismissed rumors of a severe lockdown for New Providence, only to be contradicted days later when Minnis announced an immediate seven-day lockdown for the island, which has led to rumors of intramural strife within the FNM Cabinet.

Whatever the case may be, it once again appears to this writer that the COVID-19 Task Force has the undivided attention of the competent authority, and is carrying on like a de facto executive branch of the government, while the FNM Cabinet has been covertly sidelined in the fight against COVID-19.

In a recent press release by Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper, it was alleged that Minnis’ 180-degree lockdown reversal was politically motivated.

In my opinion, Cooper’s conclusions about Minnis are redundant.

As a politician, the overwhelming majority of Minnis’ decisions are politically motivated, as are those of Cooper’s.

In conclusion, Minnis has to start thinking ahead to 2022.

That is a burden that the COVID-19 Task Force doesn’t have to bear.

Whether it’s the FNM or the PLP in government, COVID-19 Task Force officials and other Ministry of Health workers will still have their good paying jobs.

Ironically, many of their decisions, while noble, have caused severe economic hardship to thousands of Bahamian families, to the extent that many are now psychologically traumatized.

It is these Bahamians, fairly or not, who will hold Minnis accountable on election day.

Kevin Evans 

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