Havana – Here We Come

First Published: 2005-08-12

In June The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced, "plans are quite advanced" for opening a Bahamian Embassy in Havana Cuba.

The Bahamas Ministry of Works is designing a building to be constructed in Havana, Cuba. It is alleged to be required for the "considerable demand for consular and diplomatic services" for the "20,000 or more Bahamians who travel to Cuba every year".

The decision for an Embassy has consequences that go far beyond serving the relatively few Bahamian visitors to Cuba. The money for a new Embassy and its future high operating costs is money diverted from other important needs of the larger population at home.

Invariably, politicians seeking political benefits downplay the costs with the argument that some things are so important that costs shouldn't even be considered. Nevertheless political decisions are equally subject to 'scarcity'.

Scarcity comprises two integral and conflicting aspects – unlimited human wants and limited resources. Trading-off wants with resources is a rule of life that no one can duck, not even politicians.

The accumulation of a massive public debt since 1973 suggests that neither political party pays much attention to the scarcity principle. In this instance, tax money that could be applied to reduce the debt is traded off for money to build and support an Embassy in Cuba. Reducing liabilities (debt) has the added benefit of reducing the amount of interest paid on the debt, whereas the embassy is 100% liability that is only likely to increase over the years ahead.

The economy has slowed and the number of unemployed Bahamians has increased. As Bahamians have had to 'tighten their belts' one would expect the big spenders in government to do the same. Why an Embassy when a Consulate would do?

Another troubling aspect of a Bahamian Embassy in the Totalitarian state of Cuba is the potential of it being used as a safe haven for dissidents. The limited resources of this small country are good reasons for limiting the risk of exposure to international incidents. Consular offices do not provide facilities for refugees, whereas Embassy's usually do.

Bahamians have been visiting Cuba for years without Ambassadorial services. Why an Embassy now instead of a Consulate?

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