Will the FNM deliver?
Guardian Managing Editor
Nassau, The Bahamas
When Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham addressed the nation last week in his annual New Year’s address, there was something decidedly different about the tone of his presentation.
Outside of political rallies, formal communications such as an address to the nation are often relatively void of emotion.
Last Wednesday’s address was different. It sought to give Bahamians a reason to believe. At a time when many are struggling under the weight of a sluggish economy, and some are simply hopeless, it could not have been more appropriate.
Ingraham assured Bahamians that despite the tumultuous times brought on by the global economic downturn in 2008, and the impact that it has had — and continues to have — on The Bahamas, the country is headed in the right direction.
“Despite the severe economic shock of 2008 and the challenges of tomorrow, we are a fortunate country and we are moving in the right direction,” the prime minister said.
“So I say to you... that as a people, we can rightly feel a spirit of gratitude for the many blessings of our Creator. Let us build on this spirit of gratitude with a spirit of hope. Let us do so in grateful acknowledgment of the many blessings and the promise of our beautiful Bahamaland.”
This could turn out to be a hard sell for the hundreds of unemployed and underemployed Bahamians who are finding it difficult to meet the most basic of necessities. Many cannot afford to pay their utility bills and are laboring hard to buy groceries. Some have lost their homes. Others have given up any hope of finding a job after months and months of searching.
Convincing Bahamians that the country is headed in the right direction may prove to be a difficult task. Yet, as a general election looms, convincing voters that the country is headed in the right direction will be crucial to the Free National Movement’s success at the polls.
Even Ingraham’s harshest critics would have to admit that the Free National Movement in the last five years has accomplished a number of items on its ‘to do’ list.
Whether it has been enough to secure another term in office, and whether the party has been effective in communicating what it views as its major accomplishments, remains to be seen.
In his New Year’s address last week, Ingraham took the opportunity to remind Bahamians of the FNM’s accomplishments. The New Year’s address reads a lot like a progress report.
The list of accomplishments highlighted by Ingraham was extensive.
It included job preservation and creation, the re-development of Lynden Pindling International Airport, the Airport Gateway project, the New Providence Road Improvement Project, an increase in funding for the resources for formal education, an increase in youth development programs, and sports funding.
Ingraham’s list also cited transforming the country’s crime fighting and judicial legislative structure and facilities, investment in healthcare through the prescription drug benefit and the upgrade of facilities at the Princess Margaret and Rand Memorial Hospitals, improved public educational facilities, the relocation of the downtown container port, the dredging of Nassau Harbour, the construction of a new straw market, and infrastructural improvements in various Family Islands, among others.
While Ingraham has not articulated the ‘national plan’ that many have called for, the significant infrastructure projects on which he has placed a priority in this term in office provide some insight into his vision for the country.
“Investing in infrastructure is a means to achieving essential national goals and creating jobs,” said Ingraham. “Investing in infrastructure and in housing is an investment in people and communities. It is an investment in the quality of life, livelihoods and life spans. It is an investment in the future of The Bahamas.”
But some of the significant infrastructure projects, such as the New Providence Road Improvement Project, may do more harm than good when it comes to the party’s re-election prospects.
This point has not been lost on the prime minister, seen in his public apology to motorists during last week’s address. Many have been greatly angered and inconvenienced by the extensive roadworks undertaken in the troubled project.
“I again thank you for your patience and apologize on behalf of the Government of The Bahamas for the delays, inconveniences and disruptions,” said Ingraham.
“Despite these challenges, we believe that in the end it will be well worth the sacrifice.”
But by the end of the project will it be too late for some voters?
The address also provided an insight into how the party plans to convince the voting public that it deserves another term in office.
It attempted to drive home a message of action, a message of an administration that “gets the job done”, in comparison to a PLP administration which the FNM has labeled as indecisive and slow to act.
Referring to what he described as a response to “urgent infrastructure requirements” in the context of the global economic crisis, Ingraham said in the address: “No responsible government could have followed the path of delay, indecision and half measures. We had to act decisively and comprehensively. Not only was a collapse (of the Bahamian economy) prevented. We are now moving forward.”
The campaign season is well underway. The Free National Movement officially launched its slate of candidates for the entire Bahamas last night. Its apparent messages were ‘We Deliver!” and that the FNM is, ‘Best for Bahamians and Better for The Bahamas’.
One is a familiar refrain from the “Delivery Boy” slogan used when Ingraham first joined the FNM as its leader. The other seems a clear strategy not to cede any ground to the PLP on which party is more committed to the interests of Bahamians.
But it remains to be seen if these messages will deliver to the FNM and Hubert Ingraham a fourth election victory.
• Log on to thenassauguardian.com and take part in our regular web poll: Do you agree with Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham that the country is headed in the right direction?
Jan 30, 2012