Thursday, April 17, 2014

Create a Bahamas for Bahamians ...and then watch them care more for themselves, their people, their environment and their future

A country with no plan, pt. 1

Nicole BurrowsOf late, when I hear any of our political leaders speak about the need for a national development or economic plan I am baffled.

The prime minister and his deputy, along with the minister of the environment and a number of others in Parliament, have spoken of this on recent occasions and it is instantly disconcerting. If it were intended to display intelligence or passion, it missed the mark on both counts, and it is really not something that any member of a governing party should ever utter.

We have been a sovereign nation for almost 41 years. I know that there are all sorts of growing pains attached to that sovereignty, and, really, we are just an infant country. But, some issues, in particular, keep us stuck in our infancy: the lack of a national and/or economic development plan is the most significant of them.

Why, after all this time has passed since our autonomy are we just now saying that we need national and economic plans for development? As the country’s leaders, how is it that you’re only now asking for these plans, which should have been the crux of your existence and previous governance? Moreover, how do you win an entire government without having had such plans, be it the most recent win in 2012, or the very first win in 1967? What government can govern at all – never mind effectively – without first having a comprehensive plan to govern? As it appears, have we really been on autopilot for all these decades?

As a ruling government, the fact that you have no such plans, by your own admission or public comments, does nothing to inspire confidence amongst the citizenry. What are the 300,000 or more of us – less the ones sitting in Parliament apparently unaware of how significant an issue this is – supposed to think about where it is you intend to take this country and how you intend to do it?

A guest on a local radio show recently suggested that such development plans have not existed prior to now, yet there exists an Economic Development Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister? How is that even possible? What is it that they do there year after year? I am certain I know the answer – maintain the status quo. We are a status quo-maintaining society, and it shows from the top down.

Our direction

Going forward, in the best interests of the country, every man or woman who offers himself or herself as a servant of the people, for elected or appointed public office, should be required to submit a serious analysis of economy and government, in support of an overall plan of how to (sustainably) grow our nation. In the absence of this, and without demonstrating coherent and sustained thought on the question of growth, for what reason will I give you my vote?

With the exception of none, all of the issues we have as a country point to: 1) our (obvious) lack of direction; and, 2) the fact that so much has changed in our economy and society in four decades, yet so much is unchanged with respect to laws and regulations, structures, people and processes that govern their enforcement.

Is it at all realistic to expect to move forward when the framework of your country is so rusty and fragile that you can’t build anything new on it without predicting that it will collapse?

The current government while in opposition campaigned on a Bahamas for Bahamians first. But here’s something to think on: The Bahamas was never for Bahamians. It was a vacation home; a paradise for visitors. And out of that grew a tourism industry, which I suppose seemed the easiest thing to follow through with at the time. But we are surely paying for that easy decision now. To create a Bahamas for Bahamians would have required much more effort than simply leaning on tourism.

That said, the benefits of open trade and foreign direct investment are well known, but we should have developed, be developing, from the inside out, not the outside in. As long as we aren’t, we will always be either stagnant or backward moving because there is no real value being added to human capital and productivity. Employers and employees have hit a ceiling of achievement and most will stop there. Additionally, they have no vested interest in what they achieve internally, but will continually look to the outside for the answers and the reward.

Had we developed instead from the inside out, meeting and securing our primary needs first and steadily growing and expanding real industry, something like value-added tax, or the (threat of) implementation of any method of taxation, would be a far less likely bone of contention, as the desperate scramble for revenue would have been avoided, de facto.

External input into our economy, by way of tourism, foreign banking and other foreign direct investment should never occur without attached domestic investment opportunities for the people these investments are meant to benefit. And if we are to assume those people are the citizens of our country, then why is it that they are the very people who repeatedly end up with the minimum wage or no benefit?

Give the people whose country it is the opportunities to directly invest in the development of their own country, in whatever small portions they can afford. And then watch them care more for themselves, their people, their environment and their future.

• Nicole Burrows is an academically trained economist and a self-trained writer:

April 16, 2014


- A country with no plan, pt. 2

- A country with no plan, pt. 3