With the seeming impending legalization of the illicit numbers trade and the PLP’s stamp of approval on a private lottery system favouring the superrich over the poor, the country is rushing toward a slippery slope with a potential fury of destructive gambling forces set to be unleashed on generations of Bahamians.
Akin to the pernicious effects of, and the complicity of the Pindling administration with the illicit drugs trade of the late 1970s and 1980s, the country may witness another mega spiral of social decay, illegality and criminality.
Just as many in the PLP traded their institutional soul to the drug barons of the last century, many in the party seem content to sell the Bahamian soul to certain numbers men at the beginning of this century.
What is still shocking but no longer surprising is the open and bold fraternizing of senior PLPs with certain web shop owners and the statements by cabinet ministers seeking to bless such owners as if their nefarious trade is legitimate. It is not. They are engaged in known criminal enterprise.
A recent Royal Bank of Canada compliance report noted that a number of individuals involved with web shops may be involved in, “nefarious activities in the past, such as drug smuggling and human trafficking. The web shops provide an accessible means to launder these proceeds, which funds are then integrated into the economy as outlined above.”
The ongoing campaign by many in the PLP, in seeking to launder the reputations and illegal activities of various web shop owners, speaks to a certain mindset by many in the party, the same mindset complicit in the destruction of generations of Bahamians by illicit drugs and the attendant ripping apart of our social fabric, mores and values, much of which spawned today’s orgy of criminal conduct and a culture of criminality.
When you entertain, feed, turn a blind eye to and fraternize with the tiger, do not be surprised when it becomes even more ferocious, turns around and attacks you, your children, innocents and generations onward.
Drive through many Over-the-Hill communities and the major industries and growth sectors are bars and liquor stores, the dealing of drugs and web shops.
In Nassau Village and some other areas represented by the PLP for generations, there is a loss of hope especially by an urban underclass, especially of disaffected young men, especially of young women who exchange their youth for various commodities, some as cheap as a few phone cards.
Our social decay is such that our young girls are often cruder than young men in gangs, all of whom watch the complicity of much of the political class with illicit trades, wondering why the latter are given a pass for their conduct while a young man’s life can be ruined for much smaller infractions of the law.
There are a few moments in history where a seminal decision may make all the difference in terms of the direction of a country or a people. We are at that moment. And the PLP is about to fail our people – spectacularly!
We have in our reach an extraordinary and sustainable pool of resources in terms of lottery proceeds which can be directed to lift many out of poverty, to potentially reduce the level of violent crime and to help to restore our social fabric.
We can create a national lottery which will be used for the national good. Or we can create a private lottery which will be used overwhelmingly to further fatten already fat cats.
Bahamians should not be fooled by this good cop/bad cop routine. Given our size and the economics of a lottery there is really only room for either a national or a private lottery.
What makes the case for a national lottery even more compelling are the prohibitions on accepting funds into the banking sector by commercial banks.
The recent Royal Bank of Canada compliance report also advised:
“In addition to the concerns raised above with respect to the operation of these web shops, and the clear money laundering risk they present, even if legalized, these entities fall into either the category of Restricted (the online component) or High Risk businesses (the land component) as per RBC’s AML/ATF Policies.”
The report makes this clear distinction about a government-operated lottery:
“Only government operated online gambling sites, as an extension of land based government operated lotteries, are excluded from this prohibition.”
A national lottery is not only better on moral grounds and general public policy grounds. It also poses no risks to our banking sector and international reputation. On these grounds alone a national lottery is clearly preferable.
Why then do the PLP and Prime Minister Perry Christie prefer to reward certain web shop owners? Why indeed?
The country must choose between a common good or private greed. That is the unambiguous moral choice before the PLP. The choice is that stark. It is that clear.
The party which helped to usher in majority rule, the party which claims love of the mass of black Bahamians, the party which sings of its love of the poor continues to abandon the revolution, the mass of Bahamians and the very poor in the interest of a few super wealthy numbers barons.
The Department of Statistics recently released a report on the level of poverty in The Bahamas. It has risen by three and half percent with 43,000 now living below the poverty line.
A report in this journal noted:
“The absolute poverty line – the minimum required for an individual to meet his or her basic needs – stands at $4,247 annually.” The numbers bosses can spend that amount in a single afternoon as if it were next to nothing.
With the proposed introduction of a VAT in January 2015, the cost of living is expected to rise by at least four per cent, further affecting poorer Bahamians, hitting even harder those below the poverty line.
Social assistance is often necessary. But lifting people out of poverty requires centers and strategies designed to offer opportunity and hope, such as training and education, and economic and entrepreneurial opportunities.
A national lottery would fund in a sustainable manner strategies and centers of opportunity and hope, life-giving solutions instead of death-dealing illicitness.
During the 2012 general election the FNM proposed a tapestry of ideas to help repair our social fabric, ideas which go beyond the more limited urban renewal approach of the current administration.
A program designed with the inspiration of the highly successful Afro Reggae arts program in Brazil would marry the performing arts and artistic abilities of young people, especially those at risk, with entrepreneurial skills and business training.
Imagine a new version of Jumbey Village and taking into account the reality that artistic ability needs to be tied to sustainable economic activity as often noted by cultural icon Pat Rahming.
Imagine such a centre in the heart of an Over-the-Hill neigborhood, something new and awe-inspiring for young people to see in their neigborhood, instead of the proliferation of web shops.
And imagine Ed Moxey, Pat Rahming and a treasury of Bahamian artists helping to design such a center dedicated to a new generation of Bahamian talent in music, poetry, the entertainment arts and other forms of artistic expression.
An Over-the-Hill Native Food Market would transform a given area of New Providence providing tremendous economic opportunity, leveraging the talents and enterprise of micro- small- and medium-sized businesses, able to secure both tourist dollars and domestic spending.
Both the proposed Summer School for Boys and a Youth Development Center might help to provide opportunity and training for young people, alternatives to gangs and anti-social behaviour.
The FNM also proposed a Bahamas Youth Corps, where young people post-high school would receive funds in exchange for some sort of service. The funds could be applied toward purchasing material for a business enterprise or toward training and/or college.
We have in our power to create a new architecture of hope, literally and figuratively, for young and poor Bahamians, centres and facilities, opportunities and strategies, all designed to empower thousands.
We need more than urban renewal. We need the sort of transformation that will provide real economic opportunity and enhanced social development strategies. We have the pool of resources necessary to embark on such renewal.
Either Perry Christie and the PLP will follow a more enlightened path or they will simply hand over hundreds of millions, and over the longer run, billions and our future to the numbers barons.
The PLP must now choose between what Pope John Paul II deemed a “culture of life” or a “culture of death”. We shall see what culture and what future the PLP chooses. Sadly we seem on the verge of another national tragedy wrought by unrelenting greed.