As tens of thousands of Bahamians head to the polls today to cast their ballots in the 2021 general election, the paramount concern for the majority of voters is economic recovery, according to data from Bahamian research and polling company Intel Cay.
A survey conducted using a sample size of 5,669 people living in The Bahamas found that 44 percent of them believe economic recovery should be the top priority of the government, after the general election, followed by COVID-19 and healthcare at 39 percent.
Broken down by party affiliation, economic recovery is the top issue for Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) supporters at 49 percent, while it comes as a second priority to Free National Movement (FNM) supporters at 43 percent compared to the 45 percent who are more concerned about COVID-19 and healthcare.
Forty-two percent of undecided voters said economic recovery should be a priority compared to 39 percent who said the pandemic and healthcare should be, similar to the PLP’s 38 percent.
“We also see that undecided voters prioritize economic recovery over COVID-19 and healthcare, although there’s just a minor variance there’s a clear pattern of alignment with the PLP more so than the FNM on these important issues. Given the fact that Economic Recovery and COVID-19 and healthcare represent top political issues for 83 percent of persons surveyed, this is significant given the high volume of undecided voters,” Intel Cay’s Head of Company Queswell Ferguson told Guardian Business.
“When we compare this with the view of the electorate from our early poll conducted in Q3 2020 – Q1 2021, corruption, education, immigration, crime and national security, natural disaster preparedness and other non-COVID or economic issues were top issues for nearly one third or 32 percent of the population versus being just 17 percent now.”
Intel Cay said the top six most selected actions that 81 percent of polled respondents said they would like to see after the election include: an increase in minimum wage at 29 percent; upgrades to Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) at 22 percent; a decrease in value-added tax (VAT) at 19 percent; ending emergency orders at 11 percent and legalizing recreational marijuana at five percent.
“Economic recovery and COVID-19 and healthcare-related actions were selected by 81 percent of total respondents as top actions. Among FNMs, top three desired actions are PMH upgrades at 27 percent; a minimum wage increase at 26 percent; and a decrease in VAT at 17 percent,” the data showed.
“Among undecided voters, minimum wage increase at 32 percent; PMH upgrades at 21 percent; a decrease in VAT at 21 percent. And among PLP (voters) minimum wage increase at 27 percent, a decrease in VAT at 22 percent and PMH upgrades at 21 percent.”
The economy shrank 14.5 percent in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and is expected to only marginally expand by about 2.5 percent this year, now that the tourism sector has recovered.
Nonetheless, unemployment numbers remain high and the country’s debt and deficit continue to grow at what economists have called an alarming pace.