April 20, 2015
The Urban Renewal 2.0 program, as conceptualized by Prime Minister Perry Christie, is an excellent one. It is designed to uplift depressed areas of the nation, foster a sense of community, wipe away the tears from every eye and, of course, provide job training skills. The concept is wonderful and badly needed as a societal safety net. The successful implementation of this vital program could well be the first solid plank in what the PM seeks to be his legacy.
As the implementation rolls out there will, naturally, be hiccups, weak policy deployments and a degree of potential abuse. We are not a perfect people and we do not operate a perfect governmental system of checks and balances. It is, therefore, almost inevitable that there will be abuse, dishonesty and greed.
Having said that, it must be clearly understood and appreciated that individuals who hold statutory positions, protected by security of tenure under the constitution and other enabling legislation, should not be seen to be "attacked" on his/her integrity in a cavalier manner. A case in point is the recent report issued by the Auditor General relative to Urban Renewal 2.0. That report was hard hitting and contained some serious findings about the operational status of that program. It was brutal, to say the least.
Nowhere in that now celebrated report were any allegations of misconduct made against the co-chairs of that commission or any of the workers attached thereto. Slackness, lack of oversight and gross breaches of transparency were cited. No allegations of criminal behavior were made and the police have not been called in. The weaknesses which have been exposed are easily remedied and the broken system, such as it is, can be mended.
The office of Auditor General, at least under the watch of the current holder, Terrance Bastian, is not involved in politics and the bidding of any politician. This man is known to me and I am more than certain that his reputation and professional integrity are beyond reproach. The message that was delivered in the report may not be palatable to many, but the man and his staff merely did their mandated job. Why shoot the messenger because you don't like the message?
The PLP in this term in office has proved to be too secretive; thin skinned and prone to disparage its perceived and very real opposition. When the PM himself is not sending journalist and other media personalities 'to Hell' others in his administration seek to question the veracity and sincerity of all who dare to expose or oppose them. This seemingly intolerant attitude toward critics is bad for good governance and certainly does not bode well for the successful implementation of the long expected Freedom of Information Act.
The auditor general is to be complimented for exposing critical weaknesses in the execution and operations of Urban Renewal 2.0. No one should take it personally as no one was singled out. What is the beef all about?
More than a year ago, the PM, in the presence of almost half of the Cabinet at his plush offices out west, instructed the DPM to appoint me as media advisor to the Urban Renewal Commission. I have yet to be appointed, despite being a close political confidant and advisor to the DPM.
Is this a form of contempt toward me, or are there certain hidden forces within the PLP who do not wish to see me publicly rehabilitated and brought into this administration?
The PLP needs to ramp up its marketing and public relations. Bahamas Information Services should be the propaganda arm of the governing party and not a simple repository for partisan hacks and sycophants of any individual. Facts are stubborn things and will always convey the real message whether it is acknowledged or not.
The next scheduled general elections are just around the proverbial corner and the PLP and its leadership cadre really need to get a grip on reality and come to understand that they were elected to serve the people and to make life better for all Bahamians, not just known or perceived PLPs. The message of the PLP, such as it is, is being lost in translation and where it is able to be heard it is garbled and disconnected.
The V. Alfred Gray matter was bungled and should never have been referred to the police. Why was it in fact referred when there was no apparent evidence of corruption or criminal intent on the part of the erstwhile minister? Is there a faction within the PLP out to 'get' Gray? Cannibalism politically or posturing?
Few of us are able to forget or dismiss the Renward Wells debacle. The PM and Wells have yet to say one sensible word about this matter. Why, if it is about nothing and so simple? The stark lack of explanation is a gross contempt for the sensibilities of the average Bahamian. Communications, PM, is mandatory in public life, especially after 40 long years in the forefront.
A few short months ago, The Department of Statistics, which has always been considered impartial, was vilified by PLP politicians who questioned the accuracy of figures showing that the employment rate had gone up as opposed to coming down since the party was returned to office in 2012. Many of them shouted from the roof tops and cussed about personnel at that vital government agency.
The slight increase in unemployment should not have shocked anyone, especially the politicians who are supposed to be on top of things. The global economy, except for a few very isolated pockets, is still depressed and it will be at least another year before we see any real improvements. Direct Foreign Investment is still important to our overall economic picture but the time has come for real diversification of the financial base of The Bahamas.
We need to be more communicative and appear to be less hostile to perceived detractors. The ongoing saga with the developers at Baha Mar is atrocious and a natural disgrace. No, we do not have to bend down to the biddings of any investor but when one is anticipating the creation of more than 4,000 jobs at Cable Beach, we should seek to resolve all outstanding issues as quickly as possible so as to facilitate the delayed opening of that resort.
Sarkis Izmirlian lashed out at the Christie administration over several issues: crime, BEC and, of course, the wait for the return of Baha Mar's contribution toward the road construction linking Cable Beach to John F. Kennedy Drive. His project is the biggest one we have seen in a decade. It is too big to be allowed to fail or for the government to appear to be in an unseemly public squabble with its principals.
As a dedicated and lifelong PLP member and supporter, I will continue to encourage my colleagues in government to do the right thing, but I will call out recalcitrant members and keep their feet to the fire, where necessary.
To God then, in all things, be the glory.
- Ortland H. Bodie Jr.
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