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Govt more interested in creating opportunities for investors

Published: Aug 30, 2013

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Dear Editor,

The Nassau Guardian’s editorial on “Smart Growth” was a painful read, especially when we look at what is happening with the issue of opportunity for Bahamians. In its zeal to “create jobs” the government has side stepped the challenge of creating opportunity for the people they claim to believe in.

Anyone can create jobs. It is a simple process. A group can come into The Bahamas and sell an idea to the government. If they do a good job of selling, the government “gives” them some land and concessions. They then use that “package” to approach the local banks in which Bahamians have money saved and make use of that money to “create jobs” for Bahamians.

This is a bit simplistic but the government seems to be more interested in creating opportunity for investors. They would be further ahead if they spent more time creating opportunities for Bahamians.

They should strive with all diligence to keep out the monster of unbelief. The current practices are sowing seeds of discontent. We need investors but only in the sense that they align themselves with what we have agreed to. But since our “negotiators” define our identity in terms that are politically expedient, it is dishonoring to the people that they claim to believe in. If they continue, it will eventually come to a place where this “unconditional love” the Bahamian people have for the Progressive Liberal Party is played out.

It is no secret that if the PLP was judged by the same yardstick we used to judge the Free National Movement, the PLP would be extinct by now. As an aside, almost everything that the prime minister and his entourages are opening, inspecting or touring, they met in place on May 7, 2012.

Foreign direct investment as it is currently practiced is like a weed or drug for leaders who do not want to do the hard work of creating opportunity. It is a pernicious weed that we can never entirely remove from the soil but we must aim at its root with zeal and perseverance. It is also harmful in the sense that it deceives leaders into thinking that they are really doing something for the people they are leading.

I must commend those Bahamians who are creating opportunities for other Bahamians and not just jobs. The issue was also touched on at the recent crime forum.

Some would want us to believe that poverty creates crime, but truth be told, it is the lack of opportunity that creates poverty. We should remember that in 1967 no one was particularly concerned about job creation. Bahamians had too many jobs.

When the change came in that era, we saw the creation of opportunity. Even white Bahamians who had been under the thumb of the old regime saw their fortunes improve under the “new regime”. The material successes experienced by this particular group after 1967 would make an informative documentary on the extraordinary events that can happen when opportunity and preparation intersect.

One of the problems the present administration will have to deal with immediately is that the word has gone out all over the investment world that they are into “job creation”. Investors see this as a “free lunch” scenario.

The government must take on the responsibility of creating opportunity to find out who the serious investors are, inside and outside the country. A lack of due diligence has resulted in escalating real estate prices because some “investors” have become tenants and landlords who impact the local real estate market and hotel market by having very lucrative side businesses, not so much in Nassau but the “private dwelling accommodating” and land speculation that is rampant in the Family Islands can be likened to the old ball and chain.

“Opportunity” is a wind that blows everywhere and a community such as ours may not feel that wind if we allow structures to continue that stifle or block the flowing of those breezes. Perhaps there are constructs that have to be broken down or minimized, so that those of us who pay the bills for the overall financial and social infrastructure in the country can benefit. If something goes wrong, the investors will always have a place to run to, but we who really want to live here may not have that option.

Those who lead and those who say they want to live here should keep that in mind.

— Edward Hutcheson

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