By Randolph Jackson for Bahamas National
So, imagine my surprise when I received an alert on a social media platform that Senator the Hon. Maxine Seymour had made a post of her contribution to the budget debate currently underway in the Bahamas Senate. I preface my comments with the fact that I like Senator Seymour, I find her to by an objective voice, trying to legitimize a woefully struggling Free National Movement which is seemingly out of step with the country, more specifically on issues of mutual importance for women voters. Between her and Senator Barnett, they have a tough job ahead of them…how do you make a misogynistic, patriarchal, chauvinist organization, most recently led by an antagonistic, stubborn, and ill-equipped man relevant? Simple, by making statements that are easy to disprove and that are pushed publicly by the likes of Candia Dames and her lot of useless minions at The Nassau Guardian, and well, I guess…. social media. The moral of this story, if you are going to appoint someone, make sure they understand how to at least produce sound bites that can’t be fact checked.
“Conch Salad Priorities,” that’s what she said! Conch Salad priorities, that’s what the good Senator said. Seymour exclaimed that the PLP government had conch salad priorities. How could that be, because there was no priority placed on women’s issues or support for women’s wellness or protection of women’s rights like what we saw from the previous administration. Dr. Minnis and his government were always on the front lines of fighting the good fight to assure women of their equal place in Bahamian society. Whatever! Give me a flippin’ break! These are the comments from a woman who had to cut the throat of another woman just to get her nomination in the last general election. So much for sisterhood! This is the same woman who was an afterthought to even be selected to run. And, now on the cusp of the passage of a new national budget, these well-respected women representing the new, albeit the same, FNM tried to pull a fast one on the Bahamian public.
However, let us begin with the Conch Salad Maven. She made a thing of the fact that the new budget only made available as a contribution to the Women’s Crisis Center the amount of $33,000.00 for 2022/2023. How dare they! What she failed to mention was that the last government only put aside $30,000 in 2019 and did nothing for 2020 and 2021. The new government not only reinstated the contribution but increased it by 10%. Let’s be clear, the Crisis Center is an NGO, in keeping with other organizations like it; they run on private donations. However, it is irresponsible for someone like Seymour to equivocate the level of contribution to the commitment of the government to the protection of victims, especially when her own party has no track record of doing anything. Given the fact validating my point is so easy, for example in the 2019/2020 Budget Communication, the Crisis Center received $30,000, the same allocation that was offered for the prior two years and subsequent years. This is not about the Crisis Center; this is about criticizing something for the sake of needing something to say.
The government’s approach has been clear, even the IMF, World Bank and other agencies have supported their approach to a pragmatic and methodical return to fiscal normalcy. Which brings me to my second point. If you are going to comment on how government should work, a pre-requisite would be that you know how government works. Making an issue of freeing Ministries from their shackles so they can spend budgeted sums and do the people’s business is a noble goal. However, we just tried that with the last government and to be clear….IT FAILED MISERABLY! Adrian Gibson at Water, Lanisha Rolle at Youth, Jeff Lloyd at Education, “Killer” Kwasi Thompson at the all-important Ministry of Finance who defines the concept of make sure take care of family first. Senator Barnett, you seem to forget these people made unilateral decisions and accessed the public purse for appropriate and inappropriate expenditure alike, without remorse or fear of contradiction from anyone, including the all-powerful Minister himself, Dr. Minnis.
In a country like ours, we need to constantly be on the move; hustling to make things happen and unfortunately that requires travelling to ensure that you can tell your story. Even I agree that $14 million annually on travel is a lot, but when compared to $19 million spent by the FNM before COVID and still having NOTHING to show for it, all I can say is, the proof will be in the pudding. The closure of several open matters already, suggest that the Bahamas is on the cusp of a rebirth, as the competent professionals return to public service, drawn by the promise that the government will value their advice and guidance. It is my hope that given our current national trajectory, the Prime Minister will be able to help continue to guide the ship of state safely through our current inflationary environment. Yet, that only works, if we are able to continue opening and expanding the economy for everyone.