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While it is true that the iconic Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) was elected to govern the country during the general election of May 2012, the stark reality of the scope of those national issues which are plaguing The Bahamas requires that there be participatory dialogue between all stakeholders, bar none.
The National Institute for Public Policy and Common Cause, nongovernmental and non-partisan organizations which I am privileged to serve as executive director of, calls upon Perry Gladstone Christie, prime minister of our beloved country, to immediately convene a national dialogue forum before Parliament takes its traditional summer break.
Issues of massive unemployment, crime and punishment, regulation and taxation of web shops, teenage pregnancies, at-risk youth, new revenue streams and realignment of the civil service all need to be addressed and addressed now. The PLP does not have all of the answers to these vexing national issues and, for sure, the FNM, et al, do not have them. Collectively, however, we should be able to identify the known issues and come up with viable solutions to them.
Unemployment is rampant within the private sector. The public sector is clearly overburdened and stretched to the maximum due to cronyism, political patronage and inertia. Statistics have shown that each year 4,000 to 5,000 Bahamian children leave high schools and that 80 percent of them seek to enter the workforce. There is already a scarcity of sustainable jobs and where they do exist, access to one depends on who you are and, more importantly, who you know.
This translates into the prospect of no job for the bulk of school-leavers. These economically disenfranchised people then find themselves on the proverbial outside looking in. They see our political and societal leaders living high on the Androsian hog while they and their families are obliged to scrape a meager existence on the few crumbs, if any, which may fall from the table. What alternatives are available to them and who really cares if there are any available?
The private sector must be stimulated and motivate by governmental policies which are realistic and geared towards transforming the way we do business in this nation. Legislation must be put in place, which is crafted to do just that. We have a Cabinet of mostly talented individuals, even if there are some obvious knuckleheads within the same, and I know that we are able to do better in encouraging the private sector to create additional well-paying jobs.
My good friend, Ryan Pinder (PLP-Elizabeth), minister of financial services, is a brilliant man who grew up in a private sector business environment. Both his mother and his father are long-time seasoned business entrepreneurs of the highest order. In addition, Ryan is a noted commercial barrister-at-law. His Cabinet portfolio should be expanded to include job creation and stimulation of the private sector.
Affordable housing in New Providence is beyond the economic reach of the majority of those who live here and don't already have a home. The PM's office is in charge of the distribution of what is commonly known as Crown land. We have tens of thousands of acres of land in the Family Islands. Why is it that the central government cannot make available building lots in properly laid out subdivisions in our larger islands such as Andros, Grand Bahama and Eleuthera at subsidized rates to Nassuvians?
Those individuals could then approach their commercial banks or lending institutions and the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation for financing to construct a home. They could, where they have a job in New Providence, commute back home weekly, etc. Not only would new city centers and commercial establishments be created but additional employment and schools, etc. The over-crowded situation here in the capital would be eliminated at the stroke of the PM's pen. Desperate times require desperate measures.
The re-socialization of our at-risk youth must be addressed. The males of the species are so marginalized that they have now become menaces to society and to themselves. Of course, some of them are simply hell-bent on living the life of a common criminal but there are some who require our collective intervention. How best do we deal with them? A national dialogue and discussion, across the board, is urgently required.
The church has become too secular and too strident on non-issues, such as wagering. Seldom would one hear its collective views on anything that is of importance to nation building. Back in the day, there were members of the clergy who had a burning social consciousness and were prepared to agitate and pontificate by all means necessary. Not so today. The bulk of them are creased up in their pulpit talking fool and doing worse.
The National Institute for Public Policy and Common Cause urges a national dialogue and discussion on fundamental issues. It would be dead wrong for Parliament to take its annual summer recess while the nation is literally burning down before our very eyes. Some, misguidedly, have opined that I am too harsh on the current prime minister.
Christie is a good and tried individual who I respect to the maximum. I am, believe it or not, one of his biggest supporters. Yes, I do and will continue to critique his performance, or lack thereof, when necessary. I will never give any prime minister or minister a free pass when he or she is not up to acceptable standards. Sugar coating is not a part of my style.
Some have sought to label crime as a partisan problem. It is not, I submit. Crime affects all of us regardless of political affiliation. PLPs, FNMs and others have all been the victims of criminal activities. The PLP did suggest during the 2012 campaign that it had the solutions to rampant crime. That, of course, was an electoral stance which held and could have held any water. Crime and punishment are non-partisan national issues and must be addressed as such.
The Leader of the Opposition Dr. Hubert A. Minnis (FNM-Killarney) is a good man and is to be congratulated for being able to hold the then demoralized and fragmented FNM together since his election as leader. Yes, he is too low keyed for some but the majority understands that the era of bombastic and wild-eyed man/woman politics is over. Bahamians want clear and visionary leadership on all sides of the political divide.
The good doctor has called for an urgent meeting with Christie. The PM should immediately grant such a request. After that meeting, the PM should convene a national dialogue at either the Centre for the Performing Arts or at the auditorium at The College of The Bahamas. As an evolving nation, we have no more time to waste pointing fingers and playing the endless blame game.
Christie is at the ebb of his political career, and he has a singular and a golden opportunity to write his legacy in concrete. I really do not know who his advisors are but he needs to boldly seize the bull by the horn and appear to be leader of all Bahamians (as he is). A national dialogue and discussion, prime minister, is the way forward as we seek to sensibly deal with and solve national issues.- Ortland H. Bodie Jr.