A letter to the Editor
I wish to comment on the government’s handling of the proposed referendum on gambling to date.
Contrary to some of its detractors, the PLP government is leading on the issue of gambling by being responsive to the needs of the country. The Prime Minister is on record decrying a country that sits back and allows literally thousands of its citizens to engage in the unlawful activity of lottery or buying numbers and supporting what some call an illegal industry.
His government has led by taking action to regularize this industry through a referendum. Through this action the government is demonstrating the courage of its conviction where its predecessor failed; this is inherent leadership.
The Prime Minister’s decision to forego a parliamentary vote on the issue of gambling demonstrates not only his leadership, but his political maturity and wisdom. His government is simply facilitating an opportunity for the Bahamian people to exercise their free will on the issue of gambling– free from the pollution of partisan politics and its associated and sometimes irrational emotive rhetoric. The latter (irrational emotive rhetoric) sometimes causes the central and salient issues to be lost and cultivates a redundant descent into acrimonious political bickering. This debacle must be avoided at all costs.
The Prime Minister promised to cultivate an atmosphere that will encourage healthy and vigorous debate on the subject in the public domain. This too is laudable.
On the issues of general structure and mechanics, there is compelling evidence that the people of The Bahamas want the numbers industry de-criminalized, regularized and equitably taxed to further advance our national development and will vote in favour of de-criminalizing this industry; this is a reasonable expectation. The government was therefore proactive in its decision to engage the consultative services of a firm out of the United Kingdom to advise the Bahamas Government on the general structure and mechanics of a lottery program. This proactive approach further underscores the inherent leadership of this government.
I conclude by reiterating that the Prime Minister and his government are to be applauded for demonstrating leadership on two fronts: They demonstrated the courage of their conviction and they decided to make the referendum about the free will of the people and not about what Prime Minister Christie and his parliamentary colleagues think.
It is all about using the instruments of the state to facilitate the process on behalf of the people, making the process as efficient and more importantly, the public policy as relevant as possible; it is not about what the Prime Minister thinks. This is what people hire governments to do.
26th August 2012