Oba

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