You can take the man out of politics, but…

First Published: 2004-05-01

"You can take the man out of politics but you can't take the politics out of the man". This truism is born out in the columns of Arthur Foulkes a former politician turned journalist.

As a former functionary of the state, it is not surprising that Mr. Foulkes is hostile to ideas that suggest limiting state power and control. Such "hostility" is apparent in his treatment of the recommendations made by the Governor of the Central Bank at the conference on the "Global Challenge and Need for Reform" sponsored by The Nassau Institute and The Atlas Economic Research Foundation on April 3rd.

The Governor, Mr. Francis, moved beyond "political correctness" in his candid remarks on immigration policies that support the monopoly powers of labour unions.

"Our country is clearly faced with a crises of unreasonableness in the expectation of domestic labour, obviously led by the leaders of our labour unions, and I have said before that it is necessary for the Bahamas Government and the people generally to consider how to break this monopoly. Obviously one of the options available is to consider seriously permitting foreign labour more freely into the Bahamas market".

Mr. Foulkes distorts the meaning of the last sentence when he re-phrases it as, "government should permit the free flow of labour". That is not what was said, but the misinterpretation reflects the former politician's hostility to the statement because he interprets it as a loosening of government controls.

The Governor' knowledge of the state of the country's finances, could explain his cutting to the quick on sensitive issues like the union monopoly on the labour market, and the foreign investment approvals process. On the management of investments he said,

"I am not certain that the strict management by the Bahamas Cabinet is an efficient way of managing investments into our economy today. I believe that very soon there should be consideration by the Government of the Bahamas of the idea of putting the investment policy into the hands of an independent administrative body that would administer it in accordance with strict economic principles and in that way we would remove politics from the process."

Mr. Foulkes rewords the above to "the approval of investment projects in The Bahamas is not one that a democratically elected government should surrender to anyone". Mr. Francis did not suggest "surrendering", only to "remove politics from the process".

The Governor states "I am not a proponent of Globalization" but he left his audience with no doubt about its inevitability. To respond to the changes Bahamians must be allowed to participate "more freely" in all the markets. This requires reducing the monopoly powers of labour unions, legal services, communications and over-reaching state controls, and also speeding up approvals on Foreign Investment.

Mr. Francis is not the only speaker at the Conference recommending that the country explore options to move beyond a 1960's mentality. The Director of Tourism Mr. Vanderpool-Wallace likened Cuba as a potential Wal-Mart in tourism and related a conversation with a senior politician in which he advocated a number of things to meet the coming challenge, including "large numbers of people coming in to do a variety of things".

When senior public officials make recommendations, they are surely based on their knowledge and years of experience. It is a disservice to all Bahamians when journalists distort their statements.

The objective here is to set the record straight and suggest Mr. Foulkes use his pen for accurate analysis instead of redundant political sophistry.

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