“Celebrating” our Independence
This past weekend we ‘celebrated’ what we called our 38thAnniversary of Independence. But, just what is it that we celebrate?
I ask this question in all seriousness.
I ask the thinking citizen to objectively look at his/her environment- social, physical, spiritual, political, economic and familial- and determine for his- or herself if what we have is good or if it needs improvement. If it is good, sleep well. If it needs improvement, become an active part of the solution rather than a casual part of the problem.
We suffer from a serious disconnect between those citizens who seem able to insulate themselves from deprivation- financial or social- and those who are mired in pain.
I consider our acceptance of a horrendous murder rate most disturbing. Yes, politicians, religious leaders and social activists offer criticism of either the government- and they must accept their share of blame- or the police; but, the community continues to facilitate casual lawbreaking and teaching petty thievery to our children.
Some well-to-do ‘Christians’ regularly go to Church but rail against the institution of National Health Insurance as their having to pay for some deadbeat’s medical care. Never mind Biblical injunctions to providing for the poor and dispossessed as necessary to serve God.
Even though public education is generally failing to meet the needs of our young, we still have a cadre of talented citizens who are ignored by the government and business when it comes to challenging opportunities. A case in point is the awarding of a contract to a company out of Singapore by the Government, without offering a bid opportunity to Bahamians, to craft a system for providing government services online. Ministers, who are not themselves experts in software development, advised by public servants who are not experts in software development either, contracted with a foreign company at a cost of $10,000,000 of tax dollars to provide a service which they could not themselves knowledgably assess. The thinking must be that since the Singaporeans live in a country with a respected government-on-line regime, they must know what they are doing. If you are going to make such a determination without having the skill set yourself then make it about Bahamian talent- who could themselves augment their skills from outside as they know is required.
The government signed a contract for $71,000,000 to build less than seven miles of Airport roadway- albeit four lanes of road with underground utilities and landscaping- with a sister company to the company which loaned them 80% of the total contracted price- at a discounted interest rate. The government signed this contract, again without going to competitive bid, and did so BEFORE the planned road was engineered and technically designed. Yes, there were and are pretty pictures but these are not engineering design works as far as I am able to discern.
Improving New Providence roadways is a good initiative. But, the approach we are now suffering through is not a good idea- insulting to the community and expensive to many citizens.
One could go into so much more, and I would be happy to do so, but I really don’t want to ask you to burden yourself with too much of my ruminations; rather, I would like to encourage you to demand more. Demand excellence and integrity from your political leaders, religious leaders, business leaders, civic leaders, educators and public service institutions. You get what you require and insist on. Require more of leaders and refuse to accept less.
Philip P. Smith