PM Address Falls Flat for Bahamians

Summary:


  • Speech was uninspiring and underwhelming

  • No new ideas or information for economy

  • Government fails to articulate economic or financial services growth plan

  • Address failed to demonstrate strategy to return Bahamas to investment grade

  • Silence on WTO and OBAN deafening


In the immediate aftermath of the release of labor statistics which show that unemployment is on the rise, many Bahamians looked forward to the Prime Minister’s address to the nation. The widely publicized address was supposed to focus on the government’s plan for the economy and outline plans for its revitalization.

Regrettably, the speech fell flat as it failed to inspire hope among the Bahamian people or offer innovative ideas for the resurgence of an economy with stunted growth. The PM sought to spin the unemployment narrative by touting a reported fall in joblessness in Grand Bahama and Abaco but glossed over the approximately one percent rise in New Providence. This is despite the reported record increase in tourism numbers for 2018 and announcements of multiple foreign direct investments.

It was disappointing to watch the nation’s leader make a feeble effort at justifying his recent visit to Europe with a delegation. The PM could only report that the bilateral talks were constructive, and the objective was to ensure that the European Union (EU) understands the government efforts in meeting the EU’s demands. There was no communication of a Financial Services Growth Action Plan (FSGAP); rather, the government has maintained its reactive and myopic approach to this vital sector of our economy. The government seems to have resorted to presiding over the demise of our financial services sectors through the proverbial thousand cuts.

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) welcomes any initiative that is aimed at improving the ease of doing business in The Bahamas. In this regard, improvements in the operations at the Department of Inland Revenue (DIR) come as a relief to businesses. We submit that while the creation of a promotional arm of the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) could provide some gains, there are operational inefficiencies plaguing the BIA and modernization is long overdue.

Bahamians anticipated a report on the economy that included an update on the economic impact of the austerity measures imposed via the budget of hardship for 2018/19. Unfortunately, no accountability or report on stewardship of the people’s money was provided; consequently, an opportunity to distinguish the FNM Government from its predecessor was squandered.

The PM spent a considerable portion of his address on listing several intended or proposed projects and investments. The challenge here is that we’ve seen this script before with successive administrations outlining multiple projects across our archipelago of islands with a vast amount never coming to fruition for the foreseeable future. The simple response of the Bahamian people to these grandiose announcements is that the proof is in the pudding and we will not count our proverbial eggs before they hatch.

Commentaries on the Commercial Enterprise Act (CEA) have become monotonous to the populace. We call on the government to provide the Bahamian people with a report on the economic impact of the CEA including the capital injection or inflow to date, local and permanent jobs created, work permits issued, and government revenue derived from the increase in economic activity following the enactment of the legislation.

Public utterances and lamentation on the ease of doing business in The Bahamas vis-à-vis opening of bank accounts and the blue economy by the government constitute nothing more than grandstanding. We implore the PM and his government to simply get the job done rather than communicating with his ministers and stakeholders via a national broadcast.

In his national address, the PM failed to inform the Bahamian people how he and his cabinet will position The Bahamas’ credit rating from a junk bond status to investment grade.  Further, the PM was silent on the topic of The Bahamas’ accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the OBAN deal which has resurfaced in recent times. This deliberate silence was deafening and telling for a government that campaigned on transparency and accountability. Has the government concluded that the WTO and OBAN are not priority areas and will not positively impact the Bahamian economy in the manner that they’ve been touting? The nation’s leader missed a rare chance to address the concerns of the Bahamian people. While many had minimal expectations for the PM’s address to the nation, we are saddened that he proved them right and delivered yet another underwhelming speech.

Arinthia S. Komolafe, Deputy Leader

Democratic National Alliance



DNA: Government has failed to make case for WTO accession

DNA: Government has failed to make case for WTO accession

It is our official position that The Bahamas should not move forward with its accession to the WTO. We propose that as an alternative, The Bahamas should explore bilateral, plurilateral and sector-specific trade agreements with its main trade partners with the sole criterion being the best interest of the Bahamian people.

Unemployment Figures Reflect Government’s Dismal Performance

The recently released preliminary results of the labor survey conducted in November 2018 confirm that the government has failed to adequately incentivize the private sector and stimulate the economy to put a dent on unemployment figures within our nation. Our people are suffering under an administration that failed to prepare for governance while in opposition and assumed office without an economic growth plan.

Despite the touted boom in the tourism sector and publicized record number of arrivals in 2018, it is apparent that this has not translated into sufficient jobs for the Bahamian people during the referenced period. The true state of the economy is further worsened when the loss of high paying jobs in the financial services industry and the level of underemployment is factored into the equation.

There is no empathy for an administration that has done little to alleviate the suffering of the masses and refused to implement deliberate policies aimed at economic empowerment of our people. On the contrary, the current administration has increased the rate of taxation within a regressive tax system that burdens the less privileged and middle class. Bahamians may recall that the DNA had warned that the 60% increase in the Value Added Tax rate to 12% would impact investor and consumer confidence while threatening the job security of Bahamians.

The government of blunders has invested millions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds in a dilapidated hotel and passed a Commercial Enterprise Act without anything to show for these initiatives. It is inconceivable that the recent voluntary separation exercise at the Grand Lucayan will increase unemployment in Grand Bahama which will be reflected in the May 2019 figures unless the current trend is reversed.

At a time when economists are predicting an imminent slowdown in the global economy and a recession by 2020, the private sector will remain challenged to create enough jobs to absorb new entrants into the labor market. The International Monetary Fund’s estimation that  The Bahamas needs 5.5% economic growth to absorb all new entrants into the Bahamian workforce and to cut existing jobless rates in half will continue to be unattainable until the government develops and communicates an economic growth plan.

Political rhetoric and spinning of obvious facts are not helpful to the plight of struggling Bahamians who live the reality of an increase in the unemployment rate from 9.9% in May 2017 to 10.7% in November 2018.

Surviving under a budget of hardship and an increase in the cost of living, the increase in the unemployment rate from 10.1% to 11% on New Providence is significant seeing that the capital accounts for 70% of the employed labor force. This rise far outweighs the minimal decrease in unemployment in Grand Bahama and modest fall in Abaco.

The released statistics show that the government continues to fail the youth of our nation as unemployment within this important category stood at 23.1% in November 2018 when compared to 20.1% in May 2017. The unemployment rate among women was 11.3% when compared to 10% among men; evidence of the lack of any specific focus on economic empowerment of our people.

While we laud the spirit of entrepreneurship of our people, the 11.9% increase in self-employed persons between May 2018 and November 2018 could also be attributed to the softening of the jobs market and Bahamians resorting to starting their own businesses to make ends meet.

In total, the unemployed labor force has increased to 25,135 in November 2018 from 21,880 in May 2017 showing a further deterioration in this important statistic. This is despite an increase in the government’s recurrent expenditure from a projected $2.1B for 2017/18 to an estimated $2.6B for 2018/19 and a rise in capital expenditure from a projected $233M in 2017/18 to approximately $300M for 2018/19. It is apparent that only the government and its loyalists are feeling the policies of this administration.

We maintain that deliberate actions, steps and initiatives have to be undertaken to achieve the desired and target growth levels. This must entail a combination of fiscal, monetary and economic policies as well as social reforms. It is simply reckless and irresponsible to leave this to chance, luck or coincidence.

On behalf of the Bahamian people, we petition the government to get its act together and implement an articulated economic growth plan or vacate office. There is too much at stake and our people have been suffering for too long.

Arinthia S. Komolafe, Deputy Leader

Democratic National Alliance

Campaign finance reform long overdue

  • PLP and FNM have avoided reform for decades

  • Curious timing following NPO Bill backlash

  • Robust legislation will reveal special interests

  • No further delay to passage of legislation

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) notes the comments attributed to the Attorney General that a draft bill seeking to regulate the financing of campaigns for political parties in The Bahamas.

This announcement comes on the heels of significant pushback and backlash following the tabling of the Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) legislation. The legitimate concern of the populace that political parties just like NPOs should not be exempt from scrutiny seems to have forced the Government to finally propose campaign finance legislation.

We believe that it is extremely important that the Bahamian people are aware of the sources of funding for political organizations. The legislative and policy priorities of successive administrations upon assuming office point to an obvious need for transparency and accountability in the campaign finance process. An effective campaign finance legal framework will reveal special interests and groupings that may seek repayments in favours, contracts and appointments from political parties following election victories.

The discourse on campaign finance regulation has been taking place in The Bahamas for decades without any meaningful progress by the Progressive Liberal Party and Free National Movement administrations to date. Campaign finance reform in The Bahamas is long overdue and should not be delayed any further.


While it can be argued that the Government’s recent pronouncement is only an attempt to placate the Bahamas Christian Council, NPOs and the Bahamian people, we are hopeful that this is not another grandiose announcement without any intention to implement this vital framework. The Bahamian people deserve and urgently demand good governance from an administration that promised that it would be “the people’s time”.

We implore the Government to proceed with completing the drafting, tabling and passing of the legislation without any further delay and pray that this crucial legislation does not meet the same fate as the Freedom of Information Act, which has been put on the proverbial backburner. Campaign Finance reform has been at the heart of the DNA’s platform for good governance and the DNA looks forward to providing valuable input into the draft legislation and working with the Government to complete this process as soon as possible.

Arinthia S. Komolafe

Deputy Leader, Democratic National Alliance