Sunday, February 7, 2021
The Bahamas is ill-equipped to become a model republic state
By Dr. Kevin Alcena:
The Commonwealth of the Bahamas is a state found in the West Indies in the Atlantic Ocean. The Bahamas gained its independence on July 10, 1973, effectively ending the 325 years of British rule.
It appears that the government of The Bahamas is considering to like so many other countries - completely sever from the British and become a republic state.
This paper seeks to provide some clarifications and information to The Bahamas government and people as they consider this position. In doing so, one will provide information comparing and contrasting the benefits and effects of becoming a republic state.
This paper will also consider and examine states, that from independence moved to the republicanism, and indicate their successes and or failures.
The term Republic is a form of government in which representatives of the citizen body rule the state. Moreover, states that are republics are founded on the idea that sovereignty rests with the people.
However, who is included and excluded from the category of the people has varied across history. Since citizens do not govern the state themselves, but through representatives, republics may be distinguished from direct democracy, though modern representative democracies are by and large republics.
The term republic may also be applied to any form of government in which the head of state is not a hereditary monarch. This is the case in several states, for example, countries in Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, where the head of state is the president.
While it is true that several states that achieved the status of a republic, the system of government are different and their head of states are either executive or ceremonial.
The benefits of becoming a republic are much of a mixed bag. There are a few success stories. On the contrary, issues of mismanagement, corruption, and misrule plagued several of these states.
It is of vital importance that The Bahamas look at the operation of these countries before it decides on whether to push to become a republic or not. It is said history is life's most outstanding teacher. Therefore as a people, one should be apart of the decision making process for our country's future.
Before the discussion begins, one must understand the basic facts of a republic, such as the types and forms of a republic. In so doing one must point out that there are five types or forms of republics: federal, Islamic, unitary, presidential and parliamentary. One must also note that approximately 156 countries are republics.
The Bahamas is on a stable developmental trajectory, and like Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, The Bahamas has recently discovered oil. There has been much negotiation with the government and offshore investors as it relates to the sharing of profits and royalties.
It must be noted that much of this negotiation took place behind close doors, and the people of the Bahamas are left out. Recently, allegations were made that the Attorney General met and renegotiate this deal; whether this is true or not is anyone’s guess. If this were to be accurate, it speaks volumes of this government's scant regard to the people of The Bahamas.
The few prosperous republic countries and their governments are transparent, accountable, and government official corruption is minimal.
For the most part, the republics that fail are managed by corrupted regimes and social, political, economic disorder and mismanagement is present. If one were to examine the republics of Africa, one would find that mismanagement and misrule have plagued those countries - Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
South Africa is a country with a modern constitution but fails to deal with public officials' corruption adequately.
The Caribbean and Latin America are no different. This is particularly so since several states upon achieving the republican status have removed themselves from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
This move has caused several international investors not to invest in these states because they believe that the courts were also corrupt - and hence they did not believe they will get a fair and impartial trial if matters are brought to the courts.
When one examines the progress of states that achieved the republican status, it will be seen that the afore-stated comment is valid in Africa.
The Republic of South Africa became a republic on May 31, 1961, after the referendum in 1960, which practically legitimised the country becoming a republic. Even though she was granted self-rule, a system of apartheid remains until 1994.
While the Republic of South Africa's constitution is one of the best globally, it must point out that it has its own corruption problems. This has caused its former president to resign amidst scandals of corruption in 2018.
In 2014, a ministerial task force when examined the public education sector - found that it was inadequate. In 2010 a survey was conducted among fifteen countries and found that South Africa’s students were ten of fifteen and eighth of fifteen in mathematics and English (Reading).
On the other hand, this country has struggled with its fight against the deadly HIV/ AIDS virus in public health. These challenges have now caused this country to be on the brink of becoming a failed state. It is now a burden on the president to act decisively and aggressively to prevent this from occurring.
It is also true that many of her failures must be attributed to the apartheid. But this notwithstanding one must equally lay some blame at the feet of her leaders. The lack of political will, fortitude and the will to reward people based on merit remain lacking in South Africa.
Other African republics are also in tatters. When one examines Nigeria, for example, one finds that this country can become the Dubi of Africa, but it is also nearing a failed state.
Nigeria's GDP has indeed surpassed that of the Republic of South Africa, making it the largest in the African continent. But this is not because of prudent economic and fiscal management.
The expansion of the telecommunication sector created avenues for vast economic growth. Notwithstanding its apparent economic strength, about 40% of its peoples live below the poverty level. This is due to the inequality, in terms of income and opportunities, the lack of job opportunities is at the core of the high poverty levels, regional disparities, and social and political unrest.
In addition to the preceding, there are issues of massive developmental challenges, including the need to reduce the dependency on oil and diversify the economy, address insufficient infrastructure, build strong and effective institutions, and address governance issues and public financial management systems.
It was for this reason, the Fragile States Index in 2019 claimed that Nigeria is among the fifteen most failed states in Africa. It must be noted that the continent of Africa has ten of the fifteen states.
All is not lost; there are success stories in Africa, Ghana is one such.
The Ghanian economy was built on oil, gold and cocoa. Like many other African countries, Ghana was struggling with poverty, but she embarked on a significant expansion in education, increased agricultural production and human capital development helped deliver Ghana’s rapid and steady decline in poverty.
Ghana has changed its trajectory through visionary leadership, which inspired the people to develop themselves. It must not be underscored the role education played in the development of Ghana. Equally important is the receptive people. They trusted their leaders and worked to develop themselves and their country.
India is also a republic state. It was observed that like states in Africa, India has the embodiment of corruption.
According to a country report, this is based on the slow and complicated bureaucratic process, unnecessary red tape, and unclear regulatory frameworks. Accordingly, this forces the citizens to utilise alternative ways to get results. Hence bribery is done to expedite the process. This report cites bribery as a plague in India.
When one examines the republics in the Caribbean, it will be noted that they have some common trends like Africa and India. If one were to examine all of these states, one would find corruption, mismanagement of financial and other resources.
The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago has been for a long time - one of the Caribbean leading countries. Its economy was boosted with the oil fine and the country’s ability to refine crude oil.
This notwithstanding did not stop the incidence of corruption. This culminated with the court finding the former Prime Minister guilty for corruption and sentencing him to jail for two years.
It is clear that the allegations of corruption are present in both administrations. And in some cases, charges were made against public officials in Trinidad and Tobago.
On the other hand, Guyana, the charges of corruption is used as a political stunt, on the one hand. In contrast, on the other hand, the presence of corruption within the police force and the judiciary is evident.
In 2016, the present President was charged with nineteen fraud charges. To date, none were heard. The party used its affiliates within the court system to delay the hearings - and immediately after he became president the charges were discontinued.
While in 2021, other government officials who are charged with other offences in 2021 are being hauled before the courts almost on a daily basis. This country is like those in Africa, blessed with natural resources, but have not managed to be a developed country.
The finding of oil offshore while promising seems to be creating more problems, for that state that coupled with the deliberate exclusionary politics is further dividing the country and widening the disparity of wealth among citizens.
The Caribbean Community was formed to like the European to assist member countries with trade, regional co-operation and integration. This community was established via the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas on August 1, 1973.
This Treaty was revised in 2005 with the Caricom Single Market and Economy CSME, which created an indigenous court in the form of the CCJ. This court operates in two jurisdictions – the original to interpret and apply the Treaty of Chaguaramas, and the appellate jurisdiction as the final appellate court for states. It must be noted that not all states signed onto this jurisdiction of the court.
While it is apparent that the United States and China are among the world's leading republics of the world, they are sometimes plagued with rising unemployment issues.
The United States had recently demonstrated her vulnerability to the world when a few days ago, a sitting president coerced an angry set of his followers to storm the states, capital. It also showed that politicians would stop at no point to consider their actions - as in the face of the most deadly pandemic - politicians were prepared to ignore logic reason and rationality in their assessment of the pandemic's impact.
The United States has now actively and aggressively taken the necessary steps to reduce the impacts of the erstwhile president's acts. This was done through a series of executive orders signed into law by the new president.
Immediately the world has been a welcoming the deeds of the new president, who has vowed to ensure that his actions will be for the good of the people. Whenever needed, he will step across the aisle to have participation from the other side.
While China has emerged from communism under Chairman Mao Tse-tung, it has propelled to becoming among the largest economy in the world. Much credit must be given to the meritocracy system to promote individuals in government and public service.
In China, the accused must prove his/ her innocence while it is the reverse in other states.
In The Bahamas, there is a largely unproductive public service. This one respectfully submits there is cause for concern.
In addition to this issue, The Bahamas' educational standard must improve drastically, as her average education is graded at ‘D’. This seems to be compounded the problem of the civil service.
In order to improve and be a productive state, The Bahamas must radically, revamp and upgrade the educational standards and access across the board.
One must also point out that The Bahamas is not one of the Caribbean states that produce or rely on natural resources that can propel its GDP.
The Bahamas relies on tourism to stabilise its GDP. Hence, the need to improve the educational standards ensures that employees understand their roles, function, and responsibilities.
The employment and promotion policy concerns the professional in The Bahamas, based on politics and political affiliations. This is very bad for this state since it prevents competent professionals from actively serving the Bahamian people.
The Bahamas must learn from other states - to survive as a state - much less become a republic state. The government and opposition must put country first over selfish personal and myopic needs and desires.
The Bahamas must collectively improve its service and hence, the need for co-operation among the government and opposition.
Having taken the preceding, into consideration, in the context of the proposition that The Bahamas likely will consider her option of becoming a republic, the recommendations that appear hereunder are relevant.
If The Bahamas is seriously considering joining her sisters in becoming a republic, several reforms must occur. In the first instance, the quality of education must be improved.
The service and size of the public service must be evaluated and addressed accordingly, and corruption must be a thing of the past.
It is imperative that present and future governments take note of the effects republicanism on other states. It is also crucial that The Bahamas remain annexed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, so that at the very least, respect for the court’s decision will be held in high regard.
There are also need for constitutional reforms to enable a suitable, safe business climate to attract foreign direct investment.
Happy black history Month!