In July 2020, the Minnis Administration made a series of blunders which will haunt the Bahamian people for many years to come. On that date, the government – without prior bilateral diplomatic consultation – effectively banned travel by Americans to the Bahamas and, for good measure, breached a number of Air Services Agreements with other countries.
Although they quickly walked back these poor decisions, obviously not everyone, especially the Americans, is satisfied. Now they have struck back and placed a Level 4 (do not travel) ban on the Bahamas.
The more optimistic of those amongst us hope that, once the US gets its Covid-19 problems sorted, they will lift the ban but that may be false hope. The Bahamas’ own Covid-19 pandemic is racing forward and shows no sign of diminishing or improving. In addition, this government has not indicated that they have a plan, other than protracted lockdowns of Bahamian citizens, to control the virus. At a time when effective national leadership is sorely needed there is no plan.
The lack of a plan should come as no surprise. Although a government has every right to employ cronies and buddies, they have a moral obligation to taxpayers to ensure that these political appointees especially in sensitive positions, are competent. This is clearly not the case. Since 2017, we have witnessed the appointment of persons who are clearly not qualified to a myriad of technically sensitive positions. We did not have to wait long to see the results of these clearly political decisions. Budgets that should have been balanced were not and, in fact, showed massive deficits; the Central Bank effectively encouraging Bahamians to diminish our foreign currency reserves and invest in foreign countries; highly trained public officers put out to pasture and ministries stripped of the organizational memory required to function; musical chairs at the head of police and defence forces; and so on. Then came Dorian and exposed just how incompetent this administration really is.
The restoration of damaged areas still has not occurred despite millions being paid out to cronies and their hastily formed companies. Rather than bringing order to the process, the appointment of a Ministry of Disaster preparedness, which overlaps NEMA, causes even more confusion and expense. Police are operating from their own playbook during lockdowns and ignoring the disjointed and ever-changing directives issued by the Competent Authority.
In any event, the Level 4 travel ban should be a cause for concern. When and how will it end? What will the Bahamas have to do with its Covaid-19 efforts to reassure the US that the Bahamas is safe for its citizens to travel to?
Will Bahamians be allowed to enter the US if we fail to reduce our R- rate to less than 1? Will they accept the Covid-19 statistics collected by our medical institutions when considering lifting the travel ban?
In future, will US Preclearance procedures at LPIA and Freeport include a mandatory rapid Covid-19 test before Bahamians are allowed entry to the United States? These are all questions that the Minnis Administration should consider. These are the possible consequences of unnecessarily embarrassing a world power.
But, given their reluctance to plan and their proven inability to execute even a basic plan, I doubt they are even checking for this. This administration is bringing the Bahamas to the brink of economic and societal ruin and making our country the laughingstock of the Caribbean. They have ignored the science on Covid-19 and isolated our country from sorely needed medical resources when we need foreign assistance the most. Covid-19 poses an existential threat to the Bahamas and a logical, well thought out and clearly articulated policy is urgently required, or we are in for a very rough ride.
Michael J. Brown