By Jerry Roker
for Bahamas Press
Anyone who believes that this Government can continue to spend money to fix the country’s many problems the way successive governments have done, seemingly forever, is either a fool or someone who regards us as a nation of fools.
The harsh reality we face is when the good times rolled, most of us, from politicians and the business elites to plebes and philistines, intoxicated by the flow of money, felt we could and should spend, spend, spend, and let the Devil take tomorrow.
Well, the Devil has taken tomorrow, which is today, and now we must pay the Devil.
A cursory glance at the national balance sheet shows that for a small country with less than 400,000 people, that has little known natural resources, we have, particularly during the period 1991-2012, spent money like a drunken sailor. I stress “we” because while the parties and persons who wielded power did the dirty deeds, large sections of the population cheered them on, whether it was the PLP or FNM in office.
The few voices that dared to speak out against the squandermania were reviled, spat upon, declared enemies of whichever party was in power. We all should remember Mr. Penn, whose daily cry was: BALANCE THE BUDGET. And we all, to the man and woman, thought him crazy.
I—no economist, no intellectual—wondered aloud and in my writings prodded governments to save more, to pursue diversification of the economy, to wean people off dependence on handouts.
And so it has come to pass that the lot has fell on the Christie PLP incumbent Government to convince the populace that the party is over, that unless we adjust our lifestyles, lower our expectations, do as the old people in my younger days advised—eat little, live longer—then we are doomed to a fate worse than death. It is not a popular thing to do, but what other choice do we have?
We all have to make sacrifices.
A cardinal caveat I will add though: no first-time homeowner who has serviced his mortgage satisfactorily for a minimum of 10 years must lose his property because of matters outside of his/her control (temporary unemployment, catastrophic health issues) The Government must find ways to rescue such persons—defer payments through State banks, something.
And no citizen must starve, least of all children, the aged and the infirm. Ensure that all staples, especially locally-produced foods, are available, and no one must suffer for lack of medications and other essential supplies.
The government might also have to ask public sector trade unions and workers that in order to secure their jobs, they may have to surrender at least one three-year cycle of wage and salary increases.
The party done. We must now clean up.