By Sharon Turner
The Bahamas is a country of islands, but the country is not an island unto itself. We are a part of the world, the globe’s village made smaller by the regional and international organisations of which we are a part.
Since May 7, two critical annual meetings have been held and our Prime Minister was a no-show: the Caricom Annual Heads of Government Meeting and the Annual Meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Both meetings are designated for the head of a nation’s government, not a junior minister or a stand-in. But for the Caricom Meeting we sent our Foreign Minister (Caricom has separate and different meetings held for Foreign Ministers in the Caribbean Community) and for the World Bank and IMF we sent junior Finance Minister Michael Halkitus, when for the World Bank and IMF, Prime Minister Christie as the Minister of Finance for The Bahamas holds an important post.
Every Minister of Finance is a Governor of the World Bank and IMF group, and for the first time in at least five years (led by the Ingraham administration), the Bahamas’ Governor was a no-show at these critical meetings.
For those who will want to run to political defence of our Prime Minister and suggest that our involvement in the regional and international organisations of which we are a part is not that important, that defence is inarguably unworthy of debate. I’m certain right-thinking persons would agree.
The “we don’t have any money” excuse obviously does not apply here, otherwise we would not have sent anyone to the meetings, but we sent persons, just not the person who is supposed to be present and accounted for – The Prime Minister.
When the Caricom Annual Meeting was held, Mr. Christie used the reason of his mother-in-law’s funeral for his not attending – even though the meeting for the Heads was held days before that funeral.
In the case of the World Bank and IMF Meetings, Mr. Christie opted not to go because of the Abaco by-election, even though the meeting of the Board of Governors of the World Bank and IMF was scheduled for days before the by-election would be held, and even though almost his entire Cabinet, in addition to the necessary Party officials, were on the ground in Abaco for that election.
In short the Prime Minister was well able, insofar as the scheduling of the aforementioned events was concerned, to do his job in attending both these critical meetings – and he did not.
Being Prime Minister means you no longer have the freedom of blowing off meetings and obligations that you may feel you can when you are not in that seat.
For the benefit of those not familiar with these and other annual fiscal and governmental meetings, a nation sends a message when it does not send its head of government to a meeting designated for heads of government. The message is that The Bahamas is not taking its roles in these organisations seriously.
And for a country that has just had its economic outlook downgraded from stable to negative by the S&P with the warning of a possible downgrade of the economy on the horizon, The Bahamas should be especially concerned about sending such a message.
Additionally, for both annual meetings, the country has not been given any information by the government on the issues raised that may and will affect The Bahamas and our economy, even though we sent officials on taxpayer money to these meetings. The country should always be given this information.
A portfolio Minister in the Prime Minister’s Cabinet is not the Prime Minister. A junior Minister in that Cabinet is not the Prime Minister. The country voted for Perry Christie as Prime Minister, no one else. If the country wanted someone else to be its Prime Minister, it would have voted for that person. The Prime Minister, having been chosen by the people, should not now take the liberty of behaving as though he was not so chosen. Mr. Christie is now repeating his same no-show trend of his previous administration (2002-2007).
It absolutely matters that our head of government is so far, not carrying out his responsibilities in this regard, and while there is never a good time for our Prime Minister’s involvement in regional and international organisations and our reputation as a nation to be taken lightly, the precarious times in which we live today are certainly not the time.
I know the job of Prime Minister is a full and weighty one, but you applied for this job Mr. Christie and The Bahamas hired you for the job – so please do it.