In The Bahamas, we have an extreme amount of wealth in the hands of a relative few.
Conversely, we have a country where wealth creation remains elusive for the majority of people no matter how hard they work.
That is, if they can find work.
An extremely high cost of living, an economy that has not experienced robust growth over the last decade, a lack of access to capital, lack of rapid national development, and an incredibly difficult environment in which to do business, to name a few, have locked generations out of convenient access to prosperity.
Even before the pandemic, we were witnessing a shrinking of the middle class in this country, with more and more people falling from the working class into poverty.
These extremes of wealth and poverty are socially destabilizing and don’t make for an equitable or sustainable society.
The absence of wealth leads to widespread poverty, being unable to meet basic needs, to feed or educate children, and to keep a roof over one’s head.
Ultimately, the result of this disparity is crime, health outcomes that cripple treasuries, civil unrest and unstable democracy.
It is then understandable to witness the frustration of so many who would protest and march and demand that more is to be done by the government.
However, there is no magic bullet to broadly inject wealth into the economy.
Some would say tax the rich.
Others would say properly value our natural resources and work with companies to gather and sell them with the government getting more royalties and taxes that would directly benefit the Bahamian people.
These are means to perhaps increasing government revenue, but taxing the rich will not somehow eradicate poverty.
Aragonite and aggregate mining will not put tens of thousands of dollars into the bank account of each Bahamian every year while they do not lift a finger.
It is, in fact, dangerous to sell the notion of wealth without work to those who are financially desperate.
The sound thing to do is to agitate for the expansion of economic opportunity and the capacity for more people to harness it.
Contrary to what many seem to suggest, it is not the role of the government to create wealth for its citizens, despite governments assuming credit when the economy is humming along.
Government, however, remains the main catalyst of wealth creation by shaping the right environment for entrepreneurs to thrive, and by investing in effective ways to get new businesses into the market and existing businesses to grow.
More wealth generated by a strong economy will lead to greater development of our society.
Not a society in which we all drive Lamborghinis, though that wouldn’t be so bad; but a society that allows us to more fully realize our individual and collective potential.
To do this, we must grow the private sector where wealth creation starts, not the government.
When businesses open, they employ people; businesses pay taxes, their employees pay taxes.
Taxes fund infrastructure, fund healthcare, fund the police, fund schools, fund social programs.
Jobs bring savings, and investment, and the opportunity for people to open businesses that can create a path to personal wealth.
If there is more of a focus on growing the economy, then we would develop more rapidly and increase the capacity for more people to create wealth.
There is no question this focus has been sorely lacking over the past three years as this administration doggedly focused instead on increased taxation and fiscal prudence at the expense of economic growth.
And that is unfortunate.
But rather than clenching our fists in rage and railing at the “oligarchs”, who some appear to believe are nefariously locking them out of instant, unending riches, we should be insisting that our government keenly focuses on working with the general public and the private sector to create an environment where Bahamians are in a position to help themselves generate generational wealth.
We must be willing to not only fight but work for what we seek to have.