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Are we there yet?

ARINTHIA S. KOMOLAFE
commentary@komolafelaw.com

Published: Aug 20, 2013

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The numerous announcements on imminent foreign direct investments (FDIs) expected in The Bahamas over the coming months creates a sense of optimism and enthusiasm that the local economy will be getting some much-needed boost. The general feeling is that it appears that the current administration is picking up where it left off prior to demitting office in 2007. The policy of anchor projects throughout the Family Islands, which will most likely be a hallmark of the Christie legacy, seems to be alive and kicking again. In spite of the challenges that lie ahead, the current climate is a positive one and is worthy of some commendation as a quick fix to get the unemployed back to work.


Level of economic activity

There has been news of actual and anticipated increases in economic activity. While this statement can be further scrutinized, it begs the questions: Are we there yet and what does the future look like for The Bahamas? Amidst all the encouraging news on FDIs, is there a level playing field considering the drawbacks to our education? Do we have healthcare systems that will enable us to reap the benefits of these projects? Can we sustain our attractiveness and principal industries with the current crime rate? More importantly, what impact will the expected increase in economic activity have in the gap between the haves and have nots?


The secrets of our success

The Bahamas has done well to distinguish itself as a major tourist destination and financial center over the past few decades. The quality of life for the average Bahamian is relatively decent with the majority of the population having access to basic education and healthcare. In spite of our success however, we still appear to have inequality on various levels.

The secret of our success is in fact no secret as we have relied on the basic fundamentals of nation building over the years. Whereas the number one single provider of jobs in The Bahamas is the public sector and major resort hotels, capitalism as a whole has played and continues to play a major role in the development of our society. There are more and more jobs being created collectively by the private sector as more individuals embark upon the journey of entrepreneurship with all of the associated risks in pursuit of returns. Within the indomitable minds and spirits of our people lie the root of any perceived success we have attained.


The yearning for opportunity

While full equality may be a utopian feat, equal opportunity should not be viewed in the same vein. It seems fair to state that equal is not so far reaching and that today’s leaders owe it to this and future generations of Bahamians to focus on balancing a free market system with equal opportunity and social justice.

The starting point requires a simplistic look at the three major classes of any society that governments must be attentive toward – the poor, the working middle class and the upper class and wealthy. The misconception on special interests must be confronted and we must not forget that each aforementioned class is a special interest in its own right. There is no government system or body of leaders today not influenced by special interests, no matter which level they appear on. The various classes all want the same thing in varying proportions; they want an actualization of their dreams, hopes and aspirations. These can be summed up in one word – opportunity.

The philosophy and message of our leaders should be very clear for all to see, for it is by this measuring stick that the success or failure of an administration is measured. So then, what should be the philosophy of political bodies and governments moving forward if they are to achieve success through capturing and maintaining the interest of the majority of the electorate? One thing is for certain, a pure left-wing mentality or right-wing mentality will not fulfil the order.


The Labour Party story

The story of the UK Labour Party provides some insight into the importance of equity and the provision of opportunity. After its crushing defeat by the Margaret Thatcher-led Conservative Party in 1979 in Great Britain, the Labour Party went through a wilderness period that would last for 18 years until it regained power in 1997. It would take the transformed mind of Tony Blair and others to rebrand the party as the “New Labour”, a party with a left-wing history that moved more toward a centrist position. In New Labour, the party would focus on having a more unified domestic policy and a greater involvement in foreign affairs.

The party would see to it that the free market system – a hallmark of the Thatcher government – would be allowed to prosper, but with a balance of social justice and equal opportunity for all Britons. The rebranding and effective implementation of its evolved philosophy known as the “The Third Way” would lead the party into two landslide election victories and holding on to the reigns of power for 13 years.


The imperative social justice

Likewise, future governments of The Bahamas must embrace the free market system and seek to remove all barriers that prevent the system from operating efficiently. Concurrently, future governments must also ensure that the system accommodates the disenfranchised. In essence, as future governments seek to undertake a paradigm shift in governance through the process of semi and full privatizations of its assets or engaging in partnerships with the private sector, Bahamians should be given increased opportunities to partner with the public sector on various projects.

More opportunity for entrepreneurial activity should be extended to potential business owners, understanding that access to capital and other necessary resources present the number one challenge, among other things. In the midst of it all, everyone will not be business owners and employers. Nevertheless, there should still be a level playing field – understanding that one special interest group should not have an unfair advantage over the other – for this is a recipe for disaster and ultimately failure.

The interests of the weak and less privileged among us must not be subdued by the desires of a select few; every voice must be heard if we are to achieve social justice. In the final analysis, the provision of adequate education through our public school system, healthcare through the provision of national health insurance, administration of a tax system that considers the earning power and diversity of taxpayers and protection from crime and violence must be among other things the driving force behind social justice.


Where are we?

The assertion that we are not there yet, but we are on our way, seems to be a logical conclusion. The economic crisis is proving to be a blessing in disguise in some aspects. We are rethinking our course and direction as a nation like we ought to and the future for The Bahamas is bright if we put our differences aside and our country first. A revolution is taking place right before our very eyes as the government begins to divest itself of power and place more power into the hands of the people. The concept of a public-private partnership must not only extend to an economic definition, but also to a social and political one. We must partner on every level if the optimal level of success is to be achieved.


• Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed at commentary@komolafelaw.com.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 16:00
 

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