Junkanoo, Culture and Abuse of Power

First Published: 2003-05-18

Minister Neville Wisdom is correct when he asks the question…Culture at what price? The problem is $1.8 million dollars has been wasted on two Junkanoo parades as the country faces a looming monetary crisis. The price, Mr Wisdom, might well be a devaluation of the Bahamian Dollar and a huge drop in the standard of living for every Bahamian. There is a long history of government spending and waste that has lead to a $2.2 billion dollar national debt. There was no money for Junkanoo parades in 2002 because it had already been spent long ago.

In the matter of “culture”, a nation expresses a life-style in actions and attitudes learned and adopted in the journey from infanthood to adulthood. None escape the process of subconscious integration of customs and attitudes that form a sense of life for an individual or a nation. Junkanoo is properly identified as an expression of a national characteristic, a custom peculiarly Bahamian, to be enjoyed but not to be confused with a national objective which must first of all be economic stability during periods of falling income.

Junkanoo has emotional appeal and is valued as a particularly Bahamian expression of culture. However, in the face of a potential economic crisis, affordability is a priority. It is particularly shocking to see money thrown away on a two-night fling, when there is desperate need for improvements to the schools and the delivery of essential services like electricity, water, the airport, the roads and so forth.

The Politics of abuse of power

It appears that the current Parliamentary leadership has learned nothing from the failures of the last three governments identified in reports of waste of taxpayer’s dollars. Parliament’s decision to praise Mr. Wisdom for his error in judgement is cheap politics with an eerie resemblance to the abuse of power characteristic of the first PLP regime.

Ethics is the key

The financial circumstances of the country require examination of the ethics of the action taken to spend $1.8 million dollars on Junkanoo. The Oxford Dictionary defines ethics as; “the moral principles governing or influencing conduct”. The government can only spend what it has forcefully taken from its citizens. Wasting taxpayer money is undoubtedly unethical and therefore spending decisions must first be based on need for the basic requirements and not on whimsical fancy of what is pleasurable.

Culture of trust.

Francis Fukuyama pointed out in his 1995 work titled Trust that, “one of the most important lessons we can learn from an examination of economic life is that a nation’s well being, as well as its ability to compete, is conditioned by a single, pervasive cultural characteristic: the level of trust inherent in the society.” Parliament’s action of praising and making light of Neville Wisdom’s costly decision has increased the level of distrust in PLP politicians. If the Prime Minister wants his government to be trusted, then he will request the resignation of Neville Wisdom. If the gentleman refuses to resign, then he must be fired.

In addition, emphasising the rule of law, the sanctity of contracts and the values of honesty, integrity and learning are the messages that must come from Parliament…not defending the indefensible.

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