by Larry Smith
My Country, Right or Wrong...
Eileen Carron’s recent editorial on Fred Mitchell’s use of the jingoistic slogan “my country, right or wrong”, to demand loyalty to the political directorate was intriguing.
He was promoting the restructuring of Caribbean economies for a more meaningful sovereignty. But his comment can also be applied to the behaviour of citizens, and their relationship to political authority, within each country.
As Girvan’s mentor, Professor Lloyd Best, famously declared in the 1970s, “You can’t lead your country to Independence wearing a waistcoat”. Best was referring to the colonial mentality of the regional political class at the time, who (despite the hot West Indian sun) all dressed like Europeans.
But here we are, 41 years after independence, and our political and economic elites still wear their waistcoats and suits in the hot sun. And we still have a shortage of independent and critical thought - to the point where the foreign affairs minister can denounce anyone who disagrees with his political line as a traitor.
And when you think about it - how many Bahamian public intellectuals can you name? And how many of them engage in actual independent thinking, speaking and writing to critically address national issues?
BAMSI and BARTAD
The agriculture and marine science institute under construction in North Andros at a cost of nearly $30 million is said to be affiliated to the College of the Bahamas. But it has its own board of directors (as yet unidentified); a president - in the person of former civil servant Godfrey Eneas; and a Jamaican consultant, whose credentials have been questioned.
According to Bahamas Information Services, BAMSI's goal is to operate a tutorial commercial farm to "demonstrate that the production of farm and fish products is financially and commercially self-sustainable.”
But that is about all we know of this project, which is being politically driven by Eneas and the prime minister. There is no published business plan that we can refer to. And there is nothing visible about BAMSI on the COB website.
BAMSI is located roughly where the country's first agriculture school was located. In 1973 this project (known as the Bahamas Agricultural Research, Training and Development Centre) was heralded as "the capstone of Bahamian agricultural self-sufficiency", and funded by a $10 million grant from the United States.
BARTAD had a herd of 300 Santa Gertrudis cattle, and a flock of 600 breeding sheep. The project included a 500-acre research farm, 16 model farms of up to 80 acres each, credit facilities, marketing support, and training programmes. Among the crops grown were soybeans, corn and sorghum, as well as citrus, avocadoes and mangoes.
But by the late 1980s - after the Americans left - the project had dwindled to nothing. Livestock was left to starve, and expensive equipment discarded to rust. The machine shop, training centre and other central facilities were abandoned. And government officials, including then agriculture minister Perry Christie, sought to cover up the failure.
Now, the same Perry Christie is driving BARTAD’s successor - BAMSI - with a similar lack of transparency.
Those Pesky BEC Bills
"We have an arrangement with BEC. I don't think it's anybody's business.” said media boss Wendall Jones recently about his $100,000-plus debt to BEC.
Let's assume that Jones is staying current with his electricity bill (although no-one has confirmed that). Let's also say he is paying down his huge receivable at the rate of $100 per month. It would take him almost a century to clear the debt - always assuming he doesn't go into the hole any further.
Meanwhile, Chairman Miller condemns BEC workers for ripping off the company - using practices he and other politicos agreed to over the years (Miller was also BEC chairman in the late 1980s) - and rages in the House of Assembly that copper thieves are living off the rest of us.
Stay tuned for more WTF Bahamian Moments in future columns.