Almost 1000 people have been terminated from the Atlantis Resort. Hundreds of other Bahamians from other resorts have also been laid off over the past few months. It is projected that more people will lose jobs before the end of the year.
Because of all these terminations, the talk around town is that it is going to be “a lean Christmas.” Most Bahamians are used to celebrating Christmas with tables overflowing with food, presents stacked high under the tree and liquor flowing freely at every house party. Rich or poor, Bahamians would make every effort to put out the best for Christmas, even if it meant borrowing money from the bank, or deferring on a mortgage payment.
This year, however, the economists are calling on everyone to “tighten their belts” and be very frugal with spending this holiday season. Because of this heralded call, the tune is changing somewhat and there are whispers of “not having a Christmas” this year.
But when was Christmas ever about money? We allowed the merchants to tell us that we had to pay for Christmas, so year after year we bought into it and now believe that we are too broke to be active participants in this most joyous holiday.
Recently, Prime Minister Ingraham spoke to the nation about the economic situation in this country. He spoke about the loss of jobs at the second largest employer in this country, but I wonder if perhaps now the Government may actually begin to spend some money on developing industries other than tourism.
With so many people in the tourism industry losing their jobs one would think that the government might actually put some money into developing the agriculture industry, straw industry, or fishing industry instead of just talking about it.
Since the development of a year round tourism season in this country more than 50 years ago, no government has spent any significant money in an effort to create other meaningful sources of revenue for this country. Millions of dollars is spent on advertisements each year in an attempt to lure tourists to our shores.
I don’t have the data, but I tend to believe that more money is consistently allocated to the Ministry of Tourism over Agriculture and Fisheries. Some may argue that The Bahamas does not have the soil or a climate conducive to large scale farming. But, have we ever tried to supply the country with fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish or pork?
We have locked ourselves into a corner thinking that all we have to offer is sand, sea and sun. Grand Bahama, Abaco, Long Island, Eleuthera, Inagua and so many other islands that have been recently ravaged by hurricanes, know that these natural attributes about which we boast and advertise, can change in the blink of an eye.
After the landscape has changed, we must be able to move on with life. We cannot pay for the sun, sea or the sand. It is not ours. So why not spend more money on developing the people so that they can find the ingenuity needed to keep this country thriving.
Too many brilliant minds are leaving this country because we have brainwashed an entire generation into believing that they need to prepare themselves for the service industry. They must prepare themselves for our “number one industry-tourism.”
It is not very good financial sense to sink any more money into promoting Grand Bahama as a “tourist destination.” This island needs to be allowed to continue the shipping, construction and oil industries that are growing. Budding engineers, navigators, pilots and architects need to know that there is a place for them in their own country.
So yes, we may be having a “lean Christmas” this year, but until we change our entire mindset about who we are and what we can do in terms of economic development, educational development, and personal development, nothing will change.
Until the government of The Bahamas takes a more proactive approach to such a complete development, we will be forever bubbling in the ebb and flow of the American, European, and Asian tourist markets. And, until this day of enlightenment, we may find ourselves taking out a loan to have Christmas while the government is out for recess and the rest of us are in a recession.
About the author: Joye Ritchie-Greene is an Educational Consultant, Writer and Martial Arts Instructor. She is the owner/operator of The Bahamas Martial Arts Academy; president of Time-Out Productions; and is also a columnist for the Freeport News. She has a B.A. in English and an M.S. in Human Resources, resides in Freeport, Grand Bahama with her husband and enjoys playing tennis. Joye can be reached at