The hope and expectation
of every parent is to produce offspring that attain higher levels of
success than they did. The genuine desire of each generation should
be one that is built around the attainment of higher heights and charting
of new territories by successive generations.
The Bahamian Dream
was born out of dissatisfaction with a substandard life and discomfort
with the status quo. It is one of deep aspiration, a cherished desire,
unique ambition and daring vision of a Bahamas in which the average
Bahamian can be all that he/she hopes to be. It is a dream embedded
in the minds of our forefathers and defined by the achievement of feats
unimaginable in that era, but conceived in the hearts of our founding
This dream peaks at the juncture where Bahamians hold their
destinies in their own hands and their strength lies in their unity,
fortitude and beliefs. It has afforded Bahamians like myself, who was
born in Farm Road to parents who formed part of the working class at
the time, educated in Bain & Grants Town at the Willard Patton Primary
and C.R. Walker Secondary schools with opportunities to receive tertiary
level education, command decent salaries and have become homeowners.
The pursuit of this dream has also encouraged some of us to take risks
and become entrepreneurs in spite of the challenges associated with
such endeavours - a sacrifice made willingly to provide a better way
of life for our children and generations yet unborn. However, as impressive
as this may sound, reality dictates that far too many Bahamians, particularly
of my generation, have yet to claim the same testimony.
It appears that
the Bahamian Dream is met by roadblocks due to an inability to foster
ownership of the economy by a wide cross-sector of Bahamians. This is
“the tragedy of the shrinking middle-class and select upper class”
that characterizes 21
century Bahamas and threatens the very
essence and crux of the dream. There is the accepted fact that there
are more educated Bahamians up to post-graduate levels today than there
were before, as well as more Bahamian entrepreneurs. In addition, we
acknowledge that The Bahamas has the 3
highest per capita income in the western
hemisphere and it can be argued that we enjoy a decent standard of living
as a result. However, one may ask the following questions - why aren’t
What more do we want? The reality is that as a people
collectively, we are yet to lay hold of the entire dream. There is still
much more to be achieved, more grounds to cover and we owe it to ourselves
and future generations not to stop until we have done so. The dream
encourages us not to become complacent or lackadaisical, but to continue
pressing until we have witnessed widespread prosperity. To many this
is a utopian outlook and nearly impossible, but I belong to the more
optimistic crew of believers who dare to believe that it is possible
and at the least, we should attempt to make it possible.
The global economic
crisis is real and has impacted us severely. Atlantis, the country’s
largest private employer that has created thousands of jobs for Bahamians
and effectively improved the standard of living and quality of life
for many, has been plagued with rumours of possible defaults on their
obligations which can place thousands of jobs at risk. There is a rising
concern that the inability to bring this matter to a quick resolve can
have a negative impact on an already depressed Bahamian economy. The
inability of successive governments to diversify the economy and reduce
our vulnerability and dependency on employment by foreign employers
has contributed to the catastrophic position that we find ourselves
A robust small-medium sized business sector would have safeguarded
to some extent against such possible misfortunes. We are still waiting
on the government to pass legislation concerning SMEs and it is unclear
why such an important piece of legislation has not been enacted to date.
In the same manner that we passed vital legislation to save the turtles
and the sharks almost overnight to preserve our marine resources, the
passage of legislation to make Bahamians more self-sufficient should
have been met with equivalent and perhaps more priority.
It is challenging
for today’s Bahamians to become entrepreneurs being faced with start-up
costs that many of them are unable to meet. There are insufficient venture
capital funds to provide access to seed money and there are limited
alternative sources of funding. Bahamians complain regularly that financial
lend them money to start a business, but instead are quick to provide
funds to finance the purchase of vehicles, vacations, grocery, furniture,
etc. If this is in fact true and the facts suggest that it is, why do
they continue to enjoy our patronage? After all, they have made millions
and billions of dollars which some of them have expatriated back to
their home countries or issued in dividends. We must come together to
demand more from these institutions and in the meantime patronise the
financial institutions, banks, co-operatives and credit unions that
will assist us in achieving the Bahamian Dream and provide more attractive
rates and offers based upon the credit risk posed to each customer.
The power rests with the people and this power should be activated to
make this dream a reality.
In recent times,
the government has made several moves that will delay the economic advancement
of the average Bahamian and defer the attainment of the Bahamian Dream.
In addition to the questionable levels of borrowing, the country’s
fiscal position forced the government to carry out what was viewed by
many as a fire sale of the Bahamas Telecommunications Corporation (BTC).
The firm was sold to foreigners reportedly under value and the bidding
process appears to have been tainted. A Bureau of Public Enterprise
should have been formed to oversee the privatisation
process to ensure transparency in the bidding process and lack of political
interference by politicians who are primarily concerned about the electorate’s
and/or special interests’ concerns. It is worth considering the approach
adopted by the UK in privatising its equivalent of BTC about three decades
ago. In 1981, then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government
announced that her government would be privatising British Telecommunications
(BT) which held the monopoly on telecommunication and informed the public
of a program to phase in liberalisation of the market prior to the sale.
The irony of this transaction from a Bahamian perspective was that Cable
& Wireless, who bought BTC was the first firm to offer alternative
telephone service and receive an operating license through their subsidiary
Mercury Communications in this newly liberalised market. In 1984, legislation
was passed empowering the State to sell BT. In the same year, up to
51% of BT shares were sold to “British” private investors.
was also enacted that enabled BT to be in a position to succeed in the
midst of an already established local competition by allowing BT to
form joint ventures, expand globally and manufacture its own apparatus.
The remaining government shares were eventually sold in 1991 & 1993.
What PM Thatcher effectively did was expanded the middle-class and created
wealth for hundreds of thousands of Britons through liberalisation and
eventual privatisation. Contrasting the UK’s approach to the government’s
modus operandi in choosing to sell to foreigners, one wonders whether
the government is a proponent of the Bahamian Dream or whether it has
a vision for its people. It is little wonder that we are faced today
with a tragedy of the shrinking middle class and select upper class.
If we are to empower
Bahamians in 21
century Bahamas, creating jobs alone from
foreign direct investments and empowering a handful of Bahamians is
not the course of action to be taken. Bahamians need a government in
place that is sensitive to the needs of its people at large. Sir Clifford
Darling, Sir Randol Fawkes, Sir Milo Butler, Sir Lynden Pindling and
Sir Arthur D. Hanna among others are men who were radicals of their
time, understood the needs of the people and fought for Majority Rule.
They denied themselves and swallowed their pride to meet those needs.
That is why, more than half a century later, they are still loved by
many Bahamians. We cannot allow our progress in advancing economically
to be retarded. This generation and future generations will not be satisfied
with just a job in the civil service, hotels or banks which are not
owned by Bahamians. An economy dominated by job seekers as opposed to
job creators will not experience the rebuilding or expansion of the
middle-class. The lack of ownership within The Bahamas’ economy by
a broad spectrum of Bahamians fosters job insecurity and impedes the
chance for a better way of life thereby choking the Bahamian Dream.
The Bahamian Dream: Part 1
Arinthia S. Komolafe
is an Attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed at arinthia.komolafe@komolafelaw.