The summer of our discontent

Shakespeare in his play “Richard III” laments the winter of discontent but announces brighter times have come as the clouds that lorded over England were deeply buried in the ocean in a glorious summer.

Might we dare aspire to a time in the not too distant future when we can convincingly lament this summer of our discontent, branded by interminable blackouts, labor unrest and stubborn crime, from a perch on a kinder, balmy winter’s day?

The summer of 2019 has been an especially difficult one for Bahamian residents and businesses in New Providence. Indeed, few are of a mind to celebrate the good news of increases in tourist arrivals, the decline in unemployment numbers or the quiet emanating from what has been a smooth transition to private management of the New Providence Landfill and steadily improving residential solid waste collection.

The good news is buried by the stubborn anger and greed dominating the lives of too many young people who kill themselves as if at sport, ruining any hope that may have been encouraged by records of a declining crime rate.

And it is buried by labor unrest in the public sector whether by public servants seeking pay increases, doctors pursuing redress for holiday pay and longer contracts or teachers concerned whether schools will be repaired and safe for teachers and students returning to campuses around the country in two weeks’ time.

Most of all, good news is buried beneath the shameful mismanagement of Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) and the failure of the government to react in a timely manner to a growing crisis, yet unfolding and still not being addressed.

BPL has been less than forthright in its advice to the public, placing blame for power outages on old equipment and the lack of response from manufacturers on acquiring replacement parts for old generator units.

It appears that similar information was given to and accepted by the prime minister. After an interminable summer of power outages, the prime minister claimed on Monday to be “very comfortable” with what had been done and what has to be done at BPL notwithstanding other credible information to the contrary communicated to him.

Hence, we do not share the prime minister’s comfort; nor should the public.

The absence of effective management and direction at BPL is evidenced by management’s failure to put in place appropriate rental units to reduce or ease the negative effect of its known shortfall in generation capacity.

What is more, BPL’s decision to expend monies borrowed to carry out mandated preventative maintenance on acquiring Wartsila generators not scheduled to come on stream until year’s end and the still unexplained, mysterious fires that destroyed its two largest generators at the Clifton Pier site last year are the major contributors to the present shortfall.

To make matters worse, BPL “packaged out” much of its experienced generation and administrative staff, reducing institutional memory and knowledge critical in addressing emergencies as are now being experienced by the company.

The prime minister’s laid-back, disengaged performance and attitude regarding BPL’s catastrophic failures to honor its mission are troubling. His lack of appreciation for the circumstances embroiling the country’s principal power generating company gives the public little confidence in his government’s capacity to overcome challenges not only on the energy front but also elsewhere where unease is being fomented on the labor fronts.

Four years ago, commenting on the failure of the government to ensure adequate electricity supply, then leader of the opposition and now prime minister Dr. Hubert Minnis claimed: “The BEC fiasco exposes a crisis in leadership. The prime minister has relinquished control of this very important corporation to his deputy, who is out of his depth on this matter.”

It was a failure of leadership then. It is a failure of leadership now.

(To be continued)

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