The Bahamian dream
ARINTHIA S. KOMOLAFE
Published: Oct 22, 2013
As we celebrate national youth month, the future leaders of our Bahamas have engaged in discussions regarding what constitutes the Bahamian Dream. I found it fitting to reprint the following article originally printed in two parts and now merged. It is welcoming to see the youth of the nation engage in discourse on issues of national importance, and we wish them every success in developing a policy that will benefit future generations of Bahamians.
The birth of a dream
Majority rule holds a place in history similar to Emancipation Day, Labour Day and Independence Day – accomplishments that played major roles in the prosperity that we experience in The Bahamas today. More importantly, majority rule gave birth to the “Bahamian Dream”. It was a clear demonstration to Bahamians of all races, ethnicities and backgrounds that we possess the ability to govern ourselves and that we could be whatever we aspired to be. It was the stepping stone that brought about independence from British colonial rule a short six years later on July 10, 1973. After delivering on the promise of political freedom, it paved the way for economic freedom.
In this sense, faced with a largely illiterate population, the government of the day placed significant importance on educating the masses. They understood that education was the currency that would advance a people to a better way of life. Hence, education was very essential to the attainment of the Bahamian Dream. They embarked upon a task to expand the learning institutions that were available. They built more primary and secondary schools and built The College of The Bahamas as well as technical and vocational institutions of higher learning. They also made provisions for scholarships to be provided to attend local and international institutions of higher learning. It was clear to all and sundry that education would lead to higher paying jobs that would enable many to own a home, save for retirement and educate their own children.
Greater expectations for future generations
The hope and expectation of every parent is to produce offspring who attain higher levels of success than they did. The genuine desire of each generation should be one that is built around the attainment of higher heights and the charting of new territories by successive generations.
The Bahamian Dream was born out of dissatisfaction with a substandard life and discomfort with the status quo. It is one of deep aspiration, a cherished desire, unique ambition and daring vision of a Bahamas in which the average Bahamian can be all that he/she hopes to be. It is a dream embedded in the minds of our forefathers and defined by the achievement of feats unimaginable in that era, but conceived in the hearts of our founding fathers.
This dream peaks at the juncture where Bahamians hold their destinies in their own hands and their strength lies in their unity, fortitude and beliefs. It has afforded many Bahamians with opportunities to receive tertiary level education, command decent salaries and become homeowners.
The pursuit of this dream has also encouraged many Bahamians to take risks and become entrepreneurs in spite of the challenges associated with such endeavors – a sacrifice made willingly to provide a better way of life for our children and generations yet unborn. However, as impressive as this may sound, reality dictates that far too many Bahamians, particularly of the new generation, have yet to claim the same testimony.
A dream met with challenges
It appears that the Bahamian Dream is met by roadblocks due to an inability to foster ownership of the economy by a wide cross section of Bahamians. This is “the tragedy of the shrinking middle class and select upper class” that characterizes the 21st century Bahamas and threatens the very essence and crux of the dream. There is the accepted fact that there are more educated Bahamians up to post-graduate levels today than there were before, as well as more Bahamian entrepreneurs. In addition, we acknowledge that The Bahamas has the 3rd highest per capita income in the Western Hemisphere and it can be argued that we enjoy a decent standard of living as a result. However, one may ask the following questions: Why aren’t we satisfied? What more do we want?
The reality is that as a people collectively, we are yet to lay hold of the entire dream. There is still much more to be achieved, more ground to cover and we owe it to ourselves and future generations not to stop until we have done so. The dream encourages us not to become complacent or lackadaisical, but to continue pressing until we have witnessed widespread prosperity. To many, this is a utopian outlook and nearly impossible, but I belong to the more optimistic crew of believers who dare to believe that it is possible and at the least, we should attempt to make it possible.
Moreover, it is challenging for today’s Bahamians to become entrepreneurs being faced with start-up costs that many of them are unable to meet. There are insufficient venture capital funds to provide access to seed money and there are limited alternative sources of funding. If we are to empower Bahamians in the 21st century Bahamas, creating jobs alone from foreign direct investments and empowering a handful of Bahamians is not the course of action to be taken. We must transfer ownership to Bahamians and the environment must be created for small and medium-sized businesses to prosper and improve access to capital for growth and expansion.
It is imperative that we place priority on educating our people once again; otherwise we will not be able to compete in our own country, much less globally. We must expand our industries to provide job and entrepreneurial opportunities for Bahamians outside of tourism and financial services, which are heavily dependent upon the stability and prosperity of the U.S., E.U. and Canadian economies, for the most part. A failure to do so could result in a brain drain and an exodus of some of our nation’s brightest minds.
We must make every effort to reduce the gap between the haves and have nots and a revised tax code to bring relief to the poor, working and middle class is imminent. We are witnessing a threat to our nation’s stability through the increased level of crime that is spiraling out of control. Arguably, this has a direct correlation with the economic challenges that we face as a nation today. It is imperative to state that we all have a role to play in building a better Bahamas and increasing the possibility of laying hold of the Bahamian Dream.
We cannot allow our progress in advancing economically to be retarded. This generation and future generations will not be satisfied with just a job in the civil service, hotels or banks which are not owned by Bahamians. An economy dominated by job seekers as opposed to job creators will not experience the rebuilding or expansion of the middle class. The lack of ownership within
The Bahamas’ economy by a broad spectrum of Bahamians fosters job insecurity and impedes the chance for a better way of life thereby choking the Bahamian Dream.
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