January 14, 2013
Members of the business community are expressing concern over making Majority Rule Day a public holiday in The Bahamas, noting that the country already has 10 of them during a full calendar year.
Public holidays in The Bahamas - including New Year's Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Whit Monday, Labour Day, Independence Day, Emancipation Day, Columbus Day, Christmas and Boxing Day - are enjoyed by thousands that have the day off. However, for 24-hour industries, that means much higher overhead costs for business owners, driving up costs in an already difficult economy.
"I don't think we need another public holiday," said Dionisio D'Aguilar, the president of Superwash. "It is one of those populous things that don't cost them a penny. The vast majority of people are not employers. So immediately it will be very popular. But it doesn't make any sense. We don't need another public holiday."
D'Aguilar, who is also the chairman of AML Foods, agreed that Majority Rule Day is a significant moment in the nation's history. He felt that recognition should mean the discarding of an existing national holiday, such as Columbus Day.
He noted that Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. all have 10 or fewer public holidays. In the U.S., for example, 2013 public holidays can vary based on the state, but on a national level they include New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas.
"For businesses open on those days, such as hotels and resorts, you double your labor costs. Everyone gets double pay," D'Aguilar told Guardian Business.
What that adds up to, he said, is hundreds of thousands in additional overhead for larger businesses.
Winston Rolle, CEO of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC), said he has not yet conducted an extensive poll of the overall mood towards Majority Rule Day.
Whether people agree with it or not, he acknowledged that there is definitely a hidden cost element to the inclusion of such days.
Rolle said that The Bahamas, while tipping the hat to moments in history, must also be practical in its approach that even holidays come at a cost to society.
"But another underlining issue, is we're talking about adding another public holiday, and we already have productivity issues," the BCCEC executive noted. "We need to analyze the message we are sending."
Last week, in the House of Assembly, Prime Minister Perry Christie announced that Majority Rule Day belongs to all Bahamians. He said it represents the moment of transition from the old Bahamas to a new Bahamas.
"January 10 should be commemorated and celebrated by all of us because it represents one of the most singular moments in our evolution as a people. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, with the exception of Emancipation from Slavery in 1834 and the attainment of Independence in 1973, there is no event of greater consequence and historical importance than the attainment of majority rule on January 10, 1967."
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