Sunday, May 1, 2011

Big Money and Politics in The Bahamas

Big Money and Politics

The Bahama Journal Editorial

Nassau, The Bahamas

While practically everyone talks a good talk concerning the need for campaign finance reform in the Bahamas; practically no one wants to do anything real about the matter.

This is most unfortunate.

With but months to go before general elections must be called, there are some Bahamians who loath the extent to which politics in this country seems to be driven by money; and therefore by the men and women who are rich enough to buy practically everything their little hearts desire.

Today’s word on the street is to the effect that, some of these men and women of the deep pockets are sometimes minded to fund this or that party – evidently expecting some return on their ‘investments’.

Evidently, practically no one would ever step into the light and confess that, this is why they give; or for that matter, ever say that, when they give, they expect some return for the funds they dole out.

We could quite frankly speaking care less about what people say about the purpose to which their money might or might not be put; but for sure, we are fully cognizant of the fact that, we live in a very real world where talk is cheap and where [by the same token] money buys land.

And that there is an intimate relationship between money and power is – as they say a no-brainer; since this is just the way things are in a place where money always means so very much.

The problem that arises – as far as we can surmise – rests with the extent to which money [and especially Big Money] can and does on occasion go to great lengths to conceal itself and its ownership of this or that political party, individual or entity.

This leads [as day follows night] to a perception that, in such circumstances talk about free and fair elections is just so much high sounding hot air.

Nowhere is this truth as telling as it is in the realm of Bahamian politics where any numbers of political aspirants routinely tell themselves and their publics that, they are solely motivated by their desire for public service.

No one with an iota of common sense is ever fooled by these protestations.

We recount these facts as prelude to our contention that big money has played on extraordinarily large role in funding this nation's best organized political entities.

The truth of the matter is that money does talk.

It is true too that big money can be expected to 'talk big'. And so, no one should be surprised when large donors to political parties expect dividends on their investments.

What compounds this matter of the often illicit relationship between money and power is the nagging suspicion that deals are struck by politicians on the make.

When the day for payback comes, the public interest is itself vitiated and undermined. Again, what makes this matter of money even more troubling is that it is often used to create and embellish a notion that the electorate is in charge.

The picture is obviously more complex.

When millions of dollars can be secretly pumped into electoral contests, extreme questions arise concerning the integrity of the entire democratic project.

We note, too, that this problem is one which pervades politics worldwide. In the United States, for example, campaign finance reform is one of that nation's perennial problems. To their credit they have done something about it.

In The Bahamas, on the other hand, little has been done about the matter. Indeed, the record shows that the problem has gone from bad to worse, with the Progressive Liberal Party and its Free National Movement counterpart apparently getting set for an orgy of money-spending.

Big Money might yet prove pivotal in determining the outcome of general elections whenever the date arrives for Bahamians to do their thing in an environment where that thing is preceded by Big Money and its myriad of oily maneuvers.

Simply put, the elementary and undeniable fact of the matter is that the public interest cannot and will not ever be best served if money moguls can between them curry favor with political aspirants and political parties.

The public should be able to know who has paid what to whom.

The way ahead for this country is for its political leaders to so conduct themselves that no one could expect favors in return for money contributions or any other consideration.

If such were to become principled policy in The Bahamas, there would be an ensuing liberating effect on the entire political process.

Debate would be more honest and genuine leadership would be given an opportunity to have its voice heard.

For the moment, the voice of Big Money continues to drown out others, including some which have a genuine contribution to make to this nation's economic, social and political growth and development.

April 28th, 2011

The Bahama Journal Editorial