Six months into the current Free National Movement (FNM) Minnis led administration, the Bahamian people have watched with much dismay and disappointment as this administration reneged on campaign promise after campaign promise. The promise to provide relief to the masses by eliminating Value Added Tax on bread basket items, healthcare, medical insurance, and children’s clothing was placed on the proverbial shelf as soon as the election was won. The hopes of our young people for free tuition at the University of The Bahamas and opportunities for economic stimulation from proposed tax-free zones in over-the-hill communities were also dashed in one fell swoop by an administration that asserted that the “cupboard was bare”.
It was an open secret that the FNM had no viable plan for The Bahamas in the lead up to the general elections. Now the chickens have come home to roost. We are plagued by a government that fumbles from pillar to post and bungles from one misstep to the next. Our reality is an administration that runs the affairs of the country based on ad-hoc, ill-conceived and spontaneous decisions.
The economy and crime are the main issues impacting the average Bahamian but the government’s priorities have been different based on their actions. They have reduced the content of their manifesto to nothing more than a novel and taken up issues that were not included in their “no plan”.
The purchase of the Grand Lucayan, Spy Bill and more recently an increase in pay for MPs in the 2018/19 budget can hardly be found in the document they touted as their plan when they sought to be hired by the Bahamian people on May 10, 2017.
A few members of the Government have doubled down on the Prime Minister’s plan to increase the salary of MPs in the next budget while others have avoided the issue like a plague. Besides the argument that we are doomed to have corrupt leaders unless we increase their salaries, the most recent justification of the pay rise is mind boggling. The Minister of Finance, not stating his unequivocal rejection of a possible pay increase consideration has stated that there is an expectation that the country’s finances will improve enough to seemingly allow for MP salary increases during the next budget cycle.
The following questions ought to be answered: How does the Minister and his cabinet colleagues intend to measure improvements in our finances? What level of improvements is deemed appropriate to trigger a pay rise? What are the indicators or targets that would trigger a pay raise in terms of economic growth, unemployment rate, youth unemployment, fiscal deficit, national debt, improvement in ease of doing business and foreign direct investments? Where is the much-anticipated comprehensive plan to grow the Bahamian economy? When can we expect a balanced budget or budget surplus? If in fact our finances improve significantly, is an increase in MP’s salaries the first issue to be addressed? Will the Government prioritize increasing MP’s salaries over the ditched or shelved promises on VAT, free tuition, and tax-free zones? Is it really the people’s time?
The sporadic actions of the current administration over the past six months are cause for concern and we advise them to regroup, refocus and concentrate on the issues that impact the lives of Bahamians. They should get their priorities right. The struggle is real for Bahamians and there is just too much at stake.
Arinthia S. Komolafe