When the shoe is on the other foot

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July 07, 2014

Prime Minister Perry Christie's reaction to a U.S. State Department report highlighting his adminstration's failure to fulfill many of its "ambitious campaign promises of economic and fiscal reform" has an interesting parallel to the reaction of former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham after the international credit ratings agency, Standard & Poor's (S&P), was critical of the FNM adminstration in 2008.
In his response to the new U.S. report, titled "2014 Investment Climate Statement -- The Bahamas", Christie accused the Americans of using opposition propaganda in reaching its conclusion.
"Let me state personally as prime minister my disappointment, because they picked up in a similar fashion of Wikileaks what opposition sources were saying and not what, in fact, is an objective assessment of what the government was saying since being elected," he told reporters.
"And that's what I find so puzzling."
But Christie and the PLP were not puzzled when Standard & Poor's adopted a term coined by the PLP to describe the decision of the Ingraham administration to stall and review projects left in the pipeline by the previous Christie administration.
In 2008, S&P concluded that the Ingraham administration's "stop, review and cancel" policy had "added to the economic downturn".
Christie and the PLP praised the agency for its assessment.
The PLP used S&P's conclusion liberally throughout the rest of its time in opposition, stating repeatedly that the agency was credible and reputable.
Three years after the S&P report, the conclusion was still being repeatedly referenced by the PLP.
For instance, in 2011, the PLP said in a statement, "We know that Standard & Poor's expressed the view that his (Ingraham's) 'stop, review and cancel program' deepened the effects that Bahamians felt during the recession, and that pain was felt not by the prime minister, his ministers and his rich financiers, but by ordinary Bahamians who only want the opportunity to pursue their dreams."
Christie's response to the state department last week took us back to a familiar declaration made by then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham at Bahamas Business Outlook 2009 in response to S&P.
"We hope that Standard & Poor's would not in the future take propaganda from opposition personalities and others without at least asking us for a response to it before they publish it," a seemingly irritated Ingraham said.
It is the same complaint the current government now has to the state department's criticisms about the PLP's failure to fulfill some of its pre-election promises.
In that report, which was widely discussed last week, the Americans said the U.S. Embassy in Nassau has received complaints from American companies regarding "undue interference" by the government in contract awards.
Such a significant observation from an independent agency is the kind of statement known to create a feeding frenzy among opposition players.
As the PLP did in response to S&P's scathing criticism of the Ingraham administration, the FNM last week pounced on the report of the state department.
FNM Chairman Darron Cash said in a statement, "The average Bahamian should interpret the U.S. statement as a clear expression of its serious concern about the perceived high level of corruption that exists within the Christie government."
Cash added, "A prime minister worth his salt would demand and accept the resignations of his ministers responsible for investments and trade as a demonstration to the Bahamian people that he is serious about fixing the problems."
The same level of disappointment that Ingraham expressed at S&P's reported failure to allow the then government to respond to its observations prior to publication, is similar to Acting Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis' comments on the state department report.
While Davis seemed annoyed that the U.S. Embassy reportedly did not allow the Christie administration to respond to the observations made in its report, the PLP in 2008 did not get Ingraham's point on this very issue.
"It is unfortunate that the report would contain representations that were made by other persons and no testing of those representations that were made was engaged in," Davis told The Guardian.
We suppose it is all just politics.
Governments are naturally concerned about their image. The PLP administration adopted a defensive tone -- and not praise for the U.S. report. It has done what suits its purpose.
Governments and political parties often tailor their responses to outside criticisms based on how they are being impacted by those criticisms.
This is not unique to any one side.
And it is not seen only in response to outside agencies.
We have repeatedly seen politicians respond to unemployment numbers and the methodology used by the Department of Statistics in multiple ways, depending on how those numbers reflected on the government of the day.
Wikileaks
In his response to the state department, Prime Minister Christie also took us back to our reporting in 2011 on the U.S. Embassy cables released through the whistleblower organization Wikileaks.
Again, Christie accused Wikileaks of picking up in similar fashion what opposition sources were saying. What he, of course, means is that diplomats at the U.S. Embassy, who wrote the cables and also the recent investment statement on The Bahamas, had picked up opposition propaganda.
The embassy cables were extensive.
More than 400 of them were released to The Nassau Guardian by Wikileaks.
In 2011, we reported that a journey through the U.S. Embassy cables on Perry Christie confronted the investigator with the privileged life of a man who has done much, seen much and been a key part of the history of the modern Bahamas.
The Guardian observed that, despite all this, Christie has a problem - a big problem. Some in his party, his good friend Hubert Ingraham and a significant part of the electorate, find him to be a leader who has great difficulty steering an organized and disciplined ship.
The release of the leaked diplomatic cables from the United States Embassy in Nassau by Wikileaks revealed that diplomats from the richest and most powerful nation in the world shared the same view.
That criticism was not the Americans parroting Free National Movement (FNM) propaganda. It was their view based primarily on their engagement with Christie and his government from 2002 to 2007.
Christie later termed the release of those cables a "learning experience", and expressed the view, as he did only recently again, that the Americans adopted what FNM sources had been saying.
Interestingly, the tone of some of those cables is the same tone reflected in a 2007 report commissioned by the leadership of the PLP after it lost the general election.
The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner report said a majority of voters surveyed cited Christie's weak leadership as the reason they voted against the party in 2007.
We suppose the consultants hired by the PLP leadership were also adopting the propaganda of opposition sources.
Today, Christie and his party are back in power.
Politics aside, it is incumbent upon them to assure prospective Bahamian and international investors that there exist transparent and fair processes in the award of contracts.
On matters of our country's reputational issues, we should all have some level of concern.

Click here to read more at The Nassau Guardian

News date : 07/07/2014    Category : Nassau Guardian Stories

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