It has been 48 years since The Bahamas gained independence, yet we continue to struggle with upholding our motto, “Forward, Upward, Onward, Together”. This motto, which is evident on The Coat of Arms, heralds the manner and direction in which we as a nation should move. However, we have been running backwards as our governments continue to make bad decisions on our behalf.
Attention needs to be drawn to the Paradise Island deal with Royal Caribbean International, which could run for 150 years. How can our government officials be such incompetent negotiators? I find the 150-year lease, which covers seven acres of Crown land on Paradise Island, to be completely absurd. Let me remind you of the One Eleuthera Foundation and Disney agreement at Lighthouse Point in Eleuthera, where residents opposed development at the southern tip of the island, although privately owned. Nevertheless, here we are again giving away our land to foreign developers.
I can attest that our very own Bahamian people have applied for Crown land and have yet to receive a response, let alone be granted, however, we are giving away land to foreign entities, assisting them with their multimillion-dollar projects, a prime illustration of adding salt to the wound. In no way, shape or form should our Crown land be given to foreign bodies if there is a backlog of Bahamians waiting to receive land that belongs to them. Our Bahamian people must come first!
The Royal Caribbean matter alone has raised a Supreme Court action against the former government, which remains ongoing. Other instances, such as the mistreatment of civil servants by their human resources departments, law enforcement officials aiding in assault and battery against citizens, or even false imprisonment of the innocent, are all lawsuits filed against the government and being swept under the rug, thus causing us, the taxpayers, more money. Someone needs to be held accountable for the loss of public funds.
The Statute Laws of The Bahamas (Financial Administration and Audit) states in section 22, that the financial secretary can surcharge officers responsible for “any deficiency in, or for the loss or destruction of, any public money, public stores or other government property”. This forces public officers to take responsibility and pay for their actions, as opposed to taxpayers being wrongfully punished. It is time we place emphasis on this law and put it into full effect. Every time a public officer screws up, it costs Bahamians more money, however, if it was the private sector their jobs would be lost.
It’s bad enough we are not receiving what is rightfully ours, we shouldn’t have to pay for the negligence of the decision makers also. It is time we quit the black crab syndrome and move “Forward, Upward, Onward, Together” as an independent nation!
• William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association and a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. He is also a former president of the Rotary Club of South East Nassau and is currently a member of the Rotary Club of West Nassau. E-mail: email@example.com.