Fresh from trouncing the administration of former Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, The Bahamas’ new government is slowly settling into office but says it plans a major overhaul of the management of the COVID-19 pandemic that was so badly mishandled by the previous outfit and move to minimize corruption in the award of major state contracts.
First, it will cancel a set of emergency operational measures, which have been in place since the first quarter of last year and which, analysts say, had contributed significantly to the unpopularity of the Free National Movement (FNM) and its 32-7 defeat at snap general elections held last Thursday.
Sensing that the FNM was losing the battle for political hearts and minds, Minnis called general elections eight months before fresh polls were constitutionally due, figuring that he would catch the now governing Progressive Labor Party (PLP) off guard with a snap poll. Like many before him including late Trinidadian Prime Minister Patrick Manning who went the same route and lost, those plans backfired spectacularly with most of the FNM ministers losing their seats. Minnis, a medical doctor, is now even under severe pressure to quit the leadership of the FNM as well as his ambitions to lead the FNM in parliament with its less than handful of seats.
Freshly minted Prime Minister Phillip Davis, 70, a prominent attorney, says the cabinet will immediately overhaul the pandemic system and improve conditions at the main state and other hospitals. After a tour of the main one in Nassau, the capital on Tuesday, Davis described conditions as “dismal and bleak,” vowing that the situation has to change.
“The healthcare system is a high priority for us. At the moment, the system is such that it has been overwhelmed by the COVID cases. That has to be addressed first to determine exactly what we do. I have to sit down now with my minister of health and we will craft a way forward. In the immediate term, we will have some short-term solutions to what we see here. It is accepted by all that the state of the hospital is dismal and we need to address it.”
Attorney General Ryan Pindar said pandemic emergency measures will be abandoned and governance of the country will return to the days of ordinary legislation.
“I think the prime minister is clear in his messages before election in that we’re looking to not go to emergency order to emergency order but to set up a framework and an existence in legislation that will allow us to govern in these instances and pandemic without having to put emergency orders in place and have that oversight of the Bahamian people.”
The FNM, was meanwhile, weighed down by persistent allegations of corruption in the award of state contracts to chronies during its four year term, but Minnis said he believed that voters would have shown some understanding of the fact that the archipelago was battered by mega storms Irma and Dorian in the past three years. Just when the recovery from Dorian started, he argued, the global pandemic struck as countries shuttered airports, cruise lines switched off engines in ports and as the lifeline tourism sector and revenues dried up. These handed him a political death sentence he said. More than 40 American dollar multi millionaires were among the 229 candidates vying for the 39 seats including — of course Davis and Minnis.
Bahamians have restricted every government to a single term since 1997. Minnis thought he would have bucked that trend.
In his acceptance speech, Davis promised to avoid the FNM pitfall of also being out of touch with the electorate, noting that” there is much work to be done. We are going to listen. We are going to consult widely. And we are going to bring people together. That is the best way to make progress as a nation. No leader and no government should be isolated from the people.”