23 July 2012
By Bradley B. Roberts
I read with amusement the Insight article in today’s edition of the Tribune. My initial reaction to the title, “Why the PLP is still afraid of Hubert Ingraham” was that its author, Paco Nunez, surely wrote that title in jest because in pure political terms, the only constituency who is afraid of Mr. Ingraham is the group of FNM parliamentary colleagues he chose to surround himself with.
The PLP has publicly stated this position over and repeatedly and that is the prevailing belief today. Mr. Ingraham abused his power and used his office to strike fear into his colleagues. A good example was the performance of former House speaker Alvin Smith. Mr. Alvin Smith will go down in history as one of the worst House speakers for his failure to execute his primary constitutional responsibility which was to maintain order while protecting the rights of the minority members. He failed to perform his job because he was afraid of Hubert Ingraham or more specifically, he was afraid of being victimized by Hubert Ingraham.
This prevailing view is confirmed by the referenced foreigner in the article who told the writer that Mr. Ingraham “made it seem obvious he was still running the FNM.”
The foreigner went further in adding that “actually, it gave the impression that he is still running the country.” I submit that the visitor got that impression from the media gave him free rein during the press conference. He was hypocritical, evasive, boorish, insulting and was never seriously challenged or aggressively pressed on his government’s failed policies that significantly contributed to the country’s current state of affairs.
I concede however that Mr. Ingraham still is and has been for the last twenty years the beneficiary of a generally sympathetic and uncritical media.
The former Prime Minister for starters was not grilled over his cowardice behavior. He said he would resign from and not take his seat. It turns out he did take his seat. After the speech from the throne he said that the initiatives outlined in the speech are ones he could support, then less than one day later he was again in the press saying how the government would fail. Further, while as Prime Minister he denied all of his parliamentary colleagues the opportunities to address their constituents, he was again in the media complaining about how he was not given the opportunity to do the same. His behavior is at least enigmatic, unpredictable and hypocritical.
There were no questions on the wisdom behind his stop, review and cancel policy and its deleterious effects on the Bahamian economy. Further, no explanation for his government’s handling of the road works – specifically why he chose to yank the contracts from Bahamian road builders only to engage a foreign entity and cost overruns near $100 million.
No accountability on why BEC was run into near bankruptcy under his government’s watch with no maintenance to or expansion of power plants resulting in continuous blackouts, adversely impacting both residential and commercial customers. The saga of the new power plant in Abaco is just as sorry where both the old and new power plants continue to operate simultaneously today with no end to the blackouts in sight.
Further, there was no explanation on his government’s failed fiscal and tax policies. For example, how could a Prime table five unrealistic budgets where the annual budgetary deficits averaged almost $400 million. After collecting almost $500 million in one-offs, this former Prime Minister imposed more taxes and budget cuts on tax payers and institutions to narrow the huge budgetary deficits incurred because he was a bad Minister of Finance and poor manager of the people’s money. The former Prime Minister should have been pressed tenaciously to give an intelligent account of his stewardship.
His evasive and dismissive quip about “my record speaks for itself” as a way of not accounting for his policy decisions is inexcusable.
And this FNM propaganda talking point about the Bahamian people being able to “see, feel , and touch” where the billions of dollars were spent as another way of explaining away his mismanagement of the economy is equally inexcusable hog wash. At the end of the 2010/2011 fiscal year, the FNM had borrowed $1.4 billion, but $700 million was spent on recurrent expenditure less than 25% was spent on infrastructure or the things one can see, feel and touch.
In the world of the FNM, I guess it was acceptable to account for twenty-five cents after spending a dollar of the people’s hard earned tax dollars.
People ask my colleagues and me all the time why the PLP does not make these cases and I always respond that the PLP does all the time, but the fourth estate is the distribution network through which information is disseminated into the public domain.
I am of the considered view that Mr. Ingraham appeared “masterful” in the eyes of the writer because he was surrounded and questioned by sympathizers, not objective and tenacious critics who felt it necessary to hold his feet to the fire.
So no Mr. Nunez, the PLP is not afraid of Mr. Ingraham. We believe that he is a polarizing figure who is boorish and uses fear to gain an advantage and is to some extent encouraged by the sympathy of the gate keepers of truth, fairness and balance.