There has been considerable confusion surrounding next week’s referendum, which was postponed from last year because of a lack of good and proper process. Besides the confusion created by the incompetence associated with conducting the poll, there remain many questions of ethics and policy about the two questions.
There are various compelling reasons to Vote NO on the question of legalizing web shops, seven of which are offered in this week’s column, and which readers may wish to pass on to others.
The overriding argument is that a national lottery is in the better interest of the Bahamian people, while legalizing web shops is not in the national interest.
One: Bahamians don’t need a system that will throw them out. We need a lottery system that will lift us up.
With a national lottery the bulk of the proceeds will return to the Bahamian people in government revenues earmarked for social purposes such as education, culture, health care, youth and sporting programmes and others.
With web shops, the bulk of the money will remain in the vaults and hands of a few rich people, making them even richer at the expense of the needs of tens of thousands of Bahamians.
Despite the glaring self-serving rhetoric of a few, legalizing web shops is not in the interest of progress or economic advancement. It is a backward and regressive step, especially in light of a potential lack of transparency, openness and accountability in terms of how licences will be granted, and to whom.
We don’t need a system that will redistribute millions upon millions to “the boys” and certain cronies, while tens of thousands of children and youth are left out of the pot of gold.
Various proponents of legalizing web shops have conveniently and cleverly ignored the social costs of their position. The costs include both the money taken directly from the poor, and that the bulk of this money will never return to the poor and working Bahamians.
Like a church raffle or a Bingo night, a national lottery offers a means of directing collective wealth for the common good rather than the narrow self-interests of a few.
Two: Web Shops Will Reward the Greed of a Few
Legalizing web shops fails the test of the common good. Don’t mind all of those side arguments about legalizing web shops. A yes vote will reward the greed of various criminal elements, certain politicians and some politically-connected oligarchs who want more, and more, and even more, and then some more.
Bahamians should not vote for a system in which a few can hoard extraordinary wealth from a non-productive industry based on games of chance, fuelling the avarice of these few at great cost to the needs of the many.
Avarice is a fancy word for greed, the very root of the world-wide financial meltdown that spawned the Great Recession from which the global economy continues to reel. It is the self-same greed that is behind the no-expense-spared campaign to legalize web shop criminal enterprises.
Three: Those promoting legalizing web shops are like Robin Hood in reverse
Whereas Robin Hood sought to enrich the poor, web shops will only enrich a precious few at the expense of working Bahamians, especially the poor. A national lottery will give back to the community and the poor the money they may spend purchasing a lottery ticket.
A national lottery rather than web shops is in the better interest of the poor, and best serves economic and social justice. In terms of basic fairness, legalizing web shops will do more harm, redistributing money from the poor to the very rich. Robin Hood would likely be disgusted by the campaign to legalize a system that would do more harm than good for the poor.
Four: The last-minute ploy to offer shares is a joke, a trick, a distraction
When someone offers a last-minute inducement on a matter of which there is a lack of clarity and confusion, it’s usually a trick. The last-minute ploy to offer shares in legalized web shops is a joke, a trick, a distraction, insulting to the intelligence of voters.
The number of shares offered will likely be minimal as the numbers barons will want to maintain the vast bulk of the ownership of their enterprise for themselves and their political collaborators. More importantly, with a national lottery, the government may offer shares to Bahamians. With this possibility, Bahamians can reliably hit the jackpot – twice.
Not only may one own shares in a national lottery, the proceeds will also be used for national purposes which will benefit all Bahamians, including potential shareholders.
Five: The Government Needs the Revenue from a National Lottery
With the government struggling financially, inclusive of debt and deficit, a national lottery, while no panacea, may help improve government finances. This is critical so that the government can pay the salaries of civil servants, fight crime and meet its obligations to businesses and those contracted by government.
Six: With Web Shops Only a Few Win
The choice is clear: Legalizing web shops will enrich the few at the expense of a better future for our children.
Seven: With a National Lottery Just About Everybody Wins
The choice is clear: The bulk of the proceeds from a national lottery will go towards financing projects and causes that are in the best interest of the whole community.