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Malaise in politics

Published: Sep 16, 2013

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Dear Editor,

It must be something in the air that they inhale, or maybe it is something in the water (or other beverage) that they drink, but there is a startling change in our politicians between the time they are on the electoral campaign trail and when they are actually elected.

Bahamians, while a complex people, are relatively “easy” to please. Unlike other nationalities, we, generally speaking, pursue the simple life: a secure source of employment or ownership of a small- to medium-sized business; a cohesive family or stable relationship; a coterie of good friends and relatives; a modest vehicle and, where possible, a nice home or apartment.

We go to the electoral polls, like clockwork, every five years and elect either the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) or the Free National Movement (FNM). After that, we are obliged to hold our collective noses and smell the proverbial coffee. Despite bumbling, arrogant and dysfunctional leadership to boot, with a total lack of imagination and actual performance in governance, we grin and bear it all.

The gold rush administration means well, but it is not living up to its electoral promises or the expectations of the average Bahamian. We do not expect Utopia but what we are getting are mixed signals, jaundice political posturing, flam and pure shaving cream.

People often question my allegiance to the PLP and some have even accused me of being a political prostitute of the highest proportions. They may call me what they like but I am, first and foremost, a Bahamian who loves my country with unequalled passion.

There are far too many Bahamians who are not experiencing or feeling the gold rush. There seems to be a sense of malaise permeating the administration and its leadership cadre. It is something that one is not able to pinpoint but it is palatable and growing, unchecked, like cancer.

No sensible Bahamian really expected the PLP to have the “solutions” to crime or even unemployment. But we expected better policies and, certainly, hands-on delivery. We have to examine the root causes of crime. We also have to liberalize the economy to the extent where the restrictive red tape is reduced or eliminated if new jobs are to be created in the private sector.

The sense of hopelessness and lack of a national development plan must be addressed immediately. Communication between the major parties and Bahamians has been reduced to the issuance of press releases (FNM) and grand sounding sound bites (PLP). They are talking at us, but they are not talking to us.

Ministers and civil servants are still talking down to us and the FNM seems to be “lost” in another universe. Malaise is literally the order of the day. All is not lost, however.

Immediately the PLP must ramp up its public relations unit and get rid of political functionaries. A professional must be selected to run Bahamas Information Services (BIS) and that person must be separated from the party.

The party is not the government as some seem to think and must not be seen to be injecting itself into the governance of the country, which, after all, belongs to all Bahamians regardless of party affiliation.

Ministers must be reigned in and the PM must emerge from his apparent stupor and “hands-off approach” to leadership. Governance is now looking like a runaway train or a ship without a rudder. Mindless statements like “I am tired and have to go home” must cease and desist immediately.

The PLP must now start to believe in itself and think big. Housing must be privatized to the extent where the private sector drives home construction on service lots made available by the government. The box-like and one-size-fits all home units must be revisited. Multi-storied housing must be looked at, as there is only so much vacant residential land available in New Providence.

The ambience of downtown Nassau needs to be revamped and improved immediately. Bay Street, from Arawak Cay straight up to the bridge, is in urgent need of proper paving and repaving. Business owners along that corridor should be offered tax breaks and other incentives to spruce up their properties.

The “broken” educational system is killing the spirit of our students and is producing a generation of “useless” graduates and dropouts. We need to invest more in vocational and trade schools. The College of The Bahamas is taking much too long to evolve into a university and the current campus has outgrown its ability to cater to thousands of wannabe students.

Infrastructure in New Providence is badly in need of upgrades, and it is a challenge for the gold rush to do something about it now as opposed to later. My good friend and benefactor, Philip Brave Davis (PLP-Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador), has his work cut out for him as minister of works. This is his opportunity to “shine” amongst so many of his colleagues who are “lost in space”.

To combat this pervading sense of malaise, the PM needs to address the nation in short order on those issues that plague us as a people. A short and to the point address would do much to soothe the mental anguish of many of our people.

Mind you, I do not expect that his address would move heaven or earth but, at the least, ordinary Bahamians would believe that he has their interests and concerns at heart. Malaise can easily become a “fatal” condition and sap the collective spirit of the nation.

Recently, a PLP Cabinet minister asked me if I had political aspirations. He asked the question while wearing a smirk on his face and appearing to be dismissive. I bluntly told him that I would seek, and obtain, a nomination from the PLP to contest the Bain and Grants Town constituency whenever a vacancy became available. I am determined and focused.

If the PLP rejects my eventual application, I will offer myself as a “Reformed PLP”. It is absolutely necessary that men and women who have a vision plan for the progress of the country to step forward. I have no more time to waste on the sidelines while ignorant and self-seeking individuals grind this wonderful nation into the proverbial dust.

We are still living off the exhaust fumes of the Pindling era, and it is time that Perry Christie and crew rouse themselves and get on with the business of the people. What will be the Christie legacy, if any?

To God then, in all things, be the glory.

– Ortland H. Bodie Jr.


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