Advice to those in authority

First Published: 2003-08-24

In a letter “Bahamian people are facing ‘outright discrimination’” in the August 8th Tribune, Mr. Geoffrey B. Stuart starts by quoting article #26 of the Constitution, “No person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner by any person acting by virtue of any law or in the performance of the functions of any public office or any public authority.”

He then went on to list several examples of discrimination including –

1. “Atlantis gets tariff concessions on its Phase III expansion while the Bahamian public gets no comparable break”, and

2. A foreigner can earn money in the Bahamas, take it out at par and invest it abroad while a Bahamian can take his Bahamian dollar out not at par but at par plus a 25% penalty.

In example #1 Mr. Stuart did recognize the contribution that Atlantis has made and is about to make to the economy…implicitly recognizing a need for incentives to those who create jobs in the Bahamas. He did not identify any job-creating Bahamian investors who were denied such incentives.

His example #2 appears as a case of discrimination; but he does not state that foreigners will not invest in the Bahamas without “repatriation” rights, nor does he say why the country needs such capital controls.

In short he just thinks discrimination is unfair and he wants “those in authority…to correct these anomalies.”

Mr. Stuart should be admonished for the “selectivity” of his discrimination list. For instance, he did not include the following:

1. Some telephone and electricity customers do not pay their bills while others are disconnected when they do not pay their bills on time.

2. Some property owners do not pay their real estate taxes while others do.

3. Some businessmen do not pay their business license fee and others do.

4. Some steal without fear of retribution while others do not; but the latter pay for the cost of stealing through higher prices of everything they buy.

5. Some benefit directly from grossly padded Government payrolls and others do not…they simply pay for them.

These acts discriminate in favor of the politically powerful and connected.

Learn from the past.

Mr. Stuart did not indicate what “those in authority” should do. For instance, he could have advised “those in authority” to learn from the past.

The Bahamas experienced a period of prosperity in the late 1990s that had eluded the country for decades. Furthermore, it resulted in a significant redistribution of income in favor of the lower 60 per cent of households. That redistribution was the exact opposite of the actual experience of the 1980s when the distribution of household income became more unequal.

Yet politicians of both parties will not recognize this reality and take actions consistent with that reality.

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