|The traveling foreign minister|
Published: Jun 25, 2012
It has not been two months yet since the general election on May 7 and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell has already travelled to the faraway continents of Africa and South America. I read in a Tribune article that Fred Mitchell had attended the Global Diaspora Conference in South Africa along with former Fort Charlotte PLP MP Alfred Sears and foreign service officer Frank Davis.
In the article, Mitchell said that he had visited South Africa several times as a PLP minister between 2002 and 2007. Just recently Mitchell attended the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil along with representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, the Met Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I have read that the purpose of the summit in South Africa was to explore ways to encourage African unity. Apparently, this summit had absolutely nothing to do with enhancing the economic development of The Bahamas. In The Tribune report, nothing was said about meeting with foreign investors in order to lure them to this country that has an unemployment rate of 15.7 percent. How The Bahamas will benefit from this trip to South Africa remains to be seen. Black Bahamians have very little interest and affinity for Africa.
The conference in Brazil appeared to be about the environment. I also read something about the United Nation’s highly touted “Green Economy”. According to an Associated Press report, negotiators from 188 nations who met at the conference had failed to get a breakthrough on sustainable development. In the end, said the report, this conference was a conference to decide to have more conferences. Again, one has to wonder what are the immediate benefits from such a costly trip to a senseless conference. Even more disturbing is the report that representatives from the Ministries of Tourism, Foreign Affairs and the Met Office were also in attendance. That’s money that the struggling taxpayers of this country will have to cough up. And this is at a time when the government cannot even earn enough revenue in order to meet its financial obligations.
Between 2002 and 2007, Mitchell had gone on a globetrotting expedition to the tune of nearly $1 million, according to his critics. Some years back, former Free National Movement (FNM) Immigration Minister Janet Bostwick and her party colleagues had lambasted the first Christie government for allowing Mitchell to rack up huge travel costs at the expense of the Bahamian taxpayers. In its first 10 years, it was alleged the FNM government did not spend as much as Mitchell was alleged to have spent in just five years.
That is why he was nicknamed Foreign Fred. He was always travelling somewhere faraway. As a minister in foreign affairs, Mitchell’s job obviously entails travelling to different nations. But at a time when the PLP government is in the process of borrowing $500 million in order to break even; at a time when the national debt is hovering around $4.5 billion; and at a time when a reported 40,000-plus Bahamians are jobless, the Christie administration must tighten up its belt in regards to how it spends the hard earned money of the taxpayers of this country.
Prime Minister Perry Christie must curtail the travelling of Mitchell during these challenging times. He must not allow his foreign affairs minister to go on another globetrotting voyage around the world at the expense of the treasury. This country just cannot afford it at this time. We are in a recession. I know that the PLP downplayed the severity of the recession before May 7 in order to score political brownie points. It worked like a charm. The FNM administration was repeatedly accused of spending money like drunken sailors on payday. Well, the Bahamian people expect the PLP government to be fiscally prudent. One way of being fiscally prudent is to cut back on Mitchell's unnecessary trips abroad. He made a lot of trips in the first Christie government. But our economic situation today is vastly different from that of 2002 to 2007. For what it’s worth, those were the so-called good years. That was when the then PLP government had allegedly created 22,000 jobs. If the economy was good, I wouldn’t mind him travelling around the world at my expense as a hard-working taxpayer. But times have changed. Let me reiterate my main point: Mitchell should not be allowed to make any unnecessary trips to conferences and summits that have no meaningful benefits for this country. This nation, which is wallowing in debt, cannot afford them.
– The Squealer