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Flamboyance and the foreign investor

Published: Jul 22, 2013

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The debate in the House of Assembly over the stem cell bill has been overshadowed by issues related to fashion designer Peter Nygard. Nygard is a permanent resident who lives in Lyford Cay and he is not afraid of attention.

The fashion designer has stated his preference for this political administration and prime minister over the Free National Movement (FNM) and its former leader, Hubert Ingraham. The FNM has in turn called him a donor to the Progressive Liberal Party – he said he has helped both sides – and argued that he is a reason why the PLP has brought the stem cell legislation forward.

The PLP is obviously quite enamored with Nygard. Last Thursday, Nygard was welcomed to Grand Bahama like a king. A large crowd met him at the private section of Grand Bahama International Airport, including Minister for Grand Bahama Dr. Michael Darville and a Junkanoo group. Darville was giddy in the House of Assembly the day before announcing Nygard would visit. This is the same exuberance and chumminess Bahamians saw on the faces of some PLP politicians when they were seen visiting Nygard at his residence in his video “Nygard Takes Bahamas Back”.

The PLP is close to Nygard. He appears to be a friend of the party. Nygard and his neighbor Louis Bacon have been in a dispute for years. In his effort to present his side, Nygard has increased his presence in the public sphere in The Bahamas. And he is not afraid to promote himself and his cause – which is his right. There is another video of Nygard visiting Bain Town when he gets into a debate with Rev. C.B. Moss. What the PLP should realize is that what helps Nygard, in his mind, does not necessarily help the governing party.

The title of one of Nygard’s videos, “Nygard Takes Bahamas Back”, offends many Bahamians. The Bahamas is an independent country, and we do not like when outsiders claim or suggest ownership of these islands. Other statements from Nygard regarding how much he has done for The Bahamas – more than others – also rub many the wrong way.

Governments should court foreign investors who are capable of investing in The Bahamas. However, governments should also keep a reasonable distance from these people to the extent that there is objectivity in governance. When these individuals go too far, a government that has reasonable distance from the individual in question should be able to say so. In the House of Assembly, the PLP appears to be in full defense of Nygard as if he is a key component of its cause. Some members have jumped up and down in this debate to back him up just like a member should defend his leader.

When elected officials look giddy to see, visit or follow behind a wealthy outsider they diminish the offices they hold. The appearance of objectivity in politics and governance is important. The PLP and Nygard appear too close.

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