65_G15_Spotlight_Bahamas

Global Issue 15

Spotlight e Bahamas ed a full slate during the last elections in 2012, have so far failed to secure any seats in parliament. The Pindling government encouraged investment from the US to help establish what has grown into one of the slickest, most profi table tourism sectors in the region. Like other Caribbean island states, it found itself ideally suited to becoming an off-shore fi nance centre. However, its geographical proximity to both the sources and markets of illegal drugs drew the unwelcome attention of organised criminal syndicates and the Pindling administration found itself having to fend off allegations of corruption and drug traffi cking. In 1992, the FNM, led by Hubert Ingraham, defeated the PLP and ended Pindling’s 23 years in power. In 1996, Ingraham, responding to public alarm over a rising tide of crime and murder, reinstated the death penalty, despite strong protests from Britain. He won the 1997 elections but a rejuvenated PLP, led by Perry Christie, came back strongly to win the 2002 elections. With politics becoming increasingly fractious and personal, the FNM regained power in 2007 but suffered a heavy defeat in the 2012 elections as Christie's PLP won 30 of the 38 legislative seats. All Bahamian governments have had to walk the fi ne line between raising the living standards and vocational capacities of the majority, while not alienating the foreign companies that provide the bulk of employment. Nevertheless, there has been considerable progress – education is widespread, but many question the quality it provides. The College of The Bahamas, set up with great fanfare, has still not been able to consistently deliver the type of high achievers it was meant to. There is a growing, well-heeled black middle class, but unemployment among the young remains high and while wages are some of the highest in the Caribbean, only a small proportion can expect to rise to senior managerial positions. More galling is the fact that most large businesses are still owned by foreigners. The local population wants a bigger stake in ‘paradise’. This sparked uproar in 2011 over a controversial $210 million deal which gave international telecoms giant Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) both a 51 per cent control in The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and a three-year monopoly right in the sector. While in opposition, Christie had said “the deal stinks” and pledged a full public inquiry into it. Now in power, he has hinted that the monopoly, due to end next March, might be extended, as the government could not afford to buy back the two per cent which would return control to the state. Extending the exclusivity clause would scupper hopes that the sector will be liberalised and usher in a welcome era of competition. A commission to review the constitution, set up by Christie a year ago, reported in July. Its chief recommendation was to abolish the automatic right for Supreme Court jury trials, believed by some commission members to be ineffi cient, a waste of resources and ultimately unfair. It also tackled the running sore of conferring automatic citizenship based only on paternity/maternity. Commission chairman, Sean McWeeney suggested that “all provisions relating to the acquisition of citizenship and transmission of citizenship to children or spouses should be cast in gender neutral language”. This is an emotive subject with several social ramifi cations. The recommendations will be put to a referendum towards the end of this year. Compared to other island nations in the region, the Bahamian political issues, apart from the fi ght against crime and illegal immigration – especially from Haiti – are relatively minor and more characteristic of an increasingly confi dent people demanding a more generous slice of a fairly big pie. e Bahamas 1492 Christopher Columbus lands on the island of Guanahani, now known as San Salvador, on his maiden voyage to the New World 1647 The fi rst permanent European settlement is established on The Bahamas, consisting of Eleutheran adventurers and English and Bermudan religious refugees 1717 The Bahamas becomes a British crown colony 1834 Slaves are emancipated 1940 Britain’s Duke of Windsor begins a fi ve-year stint as governor of the islands 1950 Britain grants America a military test range and tracking station for guided missiles in The Bahamas 1964 The islands are granted internal autonomy 1967 The fi rst legislative elections take place with Lynden Pindling of the centrist Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) sworn in as Prime Minister 1973 The Bahamas achieves independence and joins the Commonwealth of Nations in its own right 1992 The centre-left Free National Movement (FNM) wins an absolute majority in the general elections with Hubert Ingraham becoming Prime Minister, ending Pindling’s 25-year rule 1996 Ingraham reinstates the death penalty for murder in response to the high crime rate global thi rd quar ter 2013 www.global -br ief ing.org l 65


Global Issue 15
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