Saturday marked the second anniversary of the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) victory at the polls over the Minnis-led Free National Movement (FNM).
The now former prime minister, Dr. Hubert Minnis, for reasons that still remain unclear, called a general election eight months before one was constitutionally due and in the midst of a terrible wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the end, the PLP crushed the FNM, emerging with 32 of the 39 seats in the House of Assembly.
Voter turnout was 65 percent, which is probably attributed to widespread disgust toward Minnis, even by FNMs, and fears over COVID-19.
The PLP came to power with just 34 percent of registered voters voting PLP, but with 32 seats, Prime Minister Philip Davis viewed that as a mandate.
Two years on, there are certain irrefutable facts, notwithstanding the narrative of the PLP, the FNM and political operatives.
Though the prime minister and others in his government have frequently repeated that they “reopened the economy”, and even that it was in a “recession”, this statement is just not factual, as we have explained previously.
Davis did end the curfew Minnis had in place and he did allow the COVID-19 restrictions to fall away in November 2021, as previously announced by Minnis when he was prime minister.
In 2021, the national economy grew by 14 percent, a turnaround that obviously could not have happened based on anything the Davis administration did between September 17, 2021 and December 31, 2021.
The economy has continued its recovery.
Tourism continues to perform impressively with Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper, who is the minister of tourism, declaring earlier this month “we are roaring back”. He expects a record-breaking year for tourism, and that’s great news for the country.
On July 31, Central Bank Governor John Rolle reported, “Gains in tourism during the first six months of 2023 were still driven by significant pent up demand, as travel was no longer constrained by COVID-19 precautions.”
The PLP points to the creation of “thousands of new jobs” as a major achievement.
In late June, the Bahamas National Statistical Institute reported that the unemployment rate in The Bahamas was recorded at 8.8 percent in May 2023.
The government also touts among its biggest achievements to date, increasing the minimum wage from $210 to $260 per week, lowering value-added tax from 12 to 10 percent (though it added VAT on previously zero-rated items), and attracting $6 billion to $7 billion in investments (much of which has yet to materialize).
Davis, who has been a frequent flier in the last two years, also touts his international diplomatic thrust as a major accomplishment.
Yesterday, he said, “We are securing the future by advancing the global conversation on climate change and developing practical solutions to finance our progress toward climate-resilient infrastructure and renewable energy for cleaner, cheaper, more affordable power generation.”
The PLP in opposition pledged to make “massive” investments in infrastructure and energy. That pledge has yet to materialize, though the government says major upgrades of Family Island airports are on the way. It has also pledged a new hospital for New Providence and has broken ground on a new health center in Grand Bahama.
There are significant challenges that face this administration as it nears the half-way mark of the term, however. Inflation remains high with low-income families struggling to survive and even many middle-income Bahamians finding it challenging to exist in the current economy. This summer has been a summer of high electricity bills for Bahamas Power and Light customers, many of whom have continued to suffer consistent blackouts.
Crime, meanwhile, remains stubbornly high, particularly in New Providence.
The PLP has also pledged the development of a cannabis industry, which it says it is embarking on soon.
It has promised legislation to ensure gender equality in citizenship matters, though the status of that bill is unknown.
The PLP said it would ensure transparency in government contracts – a pledge that remains largely unfulfilled.
It also committed to providing affordable healthcare through National Health Insurance (NHI), and the establishment of local government in New Providence – initiatives that have also not yet gotten priority attention.
We have previously opined, and we state again, the Davis administration’s overall success will depend on its ability to avoid scandals, its handling of our fiscal affairs, how people feel about their pocket books, and the performance of the national economy.
It will also be judged on how efficiently Davis handles any major crises that come our way.
Affability and good PR will only get you so far.