By ROBERT MYERS
We have perhaps witnessed one of the most controversial US Elections of recent history.
Donald Trump’s upset victory defied the odds - disaffected voters turned to the polls in droves to make their disapproval of the status quo very clear.
Across the western world we are seeing a call to return power to the people in populist movements that span the spectrum from the far-left Pirate Party which caused an uproar in Iceland to the right-leaning ‘Brexit’ voters who shocked the United Kingdom and the European Union. It is increasingly clear that the political status quo is under pressure to change or be changed.
The Organisation for Responsible Governance (ORG) believes that in the Bahamas we are also seeing a strong desire for change in the way that our country is governed. Even as citizens prepare for a major march on Parliament, the second major demonstration this year, voter registration is at an all time low, the referendum inspired less than 20 per cent of the population to vote, and there is a grave mistrust of government-led deals and partnerships.
Those in office or seeking office should reflect on what is happening around the world and to take note of the Bahamian people’s desire to attain open and accountable governance that provides opportunity to all citizens and not just the politically connected or political elite.
Open means that the people want a Freedom of Information Act that is written and controlled in a way that is fair, brings power to the people, and protects our right to information. It means a collaborative, consensus-driven, transparent, participatory and responsive approach to the establishment of plans, policies, agreements, regulations and laws and not an authoritarian approach that assumes the political elite know best.
Accountable means the people want the equitable enforcement of the rule of law and expect politicians to be held accountable to it and not use their political power to manipulate it. It means providing an effective, efficient and accountable public sector that serves instead of burdening the people. It means providing an education to all citizens that prepares them to be productive and responsible members of society. It means being fiscally responsible and keeping government spending in line with what it earns, and more importantly, not over taxing its citizens or businesses into recession. It means providing the policies, laws, regulations and incentives to its people that provides them the greatest opportunity for socioeconomic growth and development.
At ORG, we are committed to working in with political leaders, civil society and the citizens to ensure that this dissatisfaction, distrust and genuine concern can be channelled into avenues that positively impact the Bahamas in sustainable and meaningful ways, because as the examples the world over shows, if we continue to ignore the grievances of the people we will be blindsided with unexpected and perhaps unwanted backlash.
We have been stalwart advocates of the passage of a strong, and fair Freedom of Information Act and encourage citizens to join us by signing the petition or writing a letter to their MPs. We invite leaders to join us by pressing for this act to be tabled and ensuring that it encompasses the changes suggested by civil society, private business, and citizens to make it as robust as possible.
Also, we encourage the people of the Bahamas to get out and register to vote. Voting is one of the surest ways to make your voice heard, and for better or worse I think there is no greater demonstration of the strength of the vote than the US Election results announced on Wednesday. The repair and development of our country is a collaborative effort; we citizens must do our part as surely as we expect our leaders to do theirs.
Change is inevitable. So, the questions to be answered are: Who will be courageous enough to provide this kind of visionary leadership for the Bahamas to succeed and become a leading nation again? And will this change take effect fast enough to prevent the country from going over the fiscal cliff that will undoubtedly significantly impact the socio-economic wellbeing of all citizens of The Bahamas?
Robert Myers is Founder and Chairman of the ORG Bahamas Foundation Council