FROM THE DESK OF GILBERT MORRIS…END THE LOCKDOWNS

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Please no more lockdowns! This is unsustainable!

We have a bad habit in this region – which is a bad habit in politics in general – in that we constantly make excuses for failure. 

For instance, we’ll make poor decisions in the face of obvious unheeded advice, with catastrophic consequences, then we’ll say “But the Coronavirus is nothing like has ever been experienced”, as if that could explain all the previous failures and habits of failure that led to our condition before Coronavirus. 

As a friend of mine likes to remind me: We are nearly $9 billion dollars in debt…but we can’t point to a single thing that advances this nation on which $9 billion dollars has been spent. We don’t have either excellent infrastructure or efficient institutions. The majority of Bahamians live in misery and tens of thousands of Bahamians now stand or sit in atrocious daily lines for food, when a simple technology used in children’s toys or a basic APP, could eliminate those sickening, disgraceful, dehumanising lines.

I saw the sign below on future Governor General Ca Newry’s page yesterday. 

It reflects the utter confusion that has gripped the Bahamian people, because we are failing in our attempts to deal with the pandemic in a humane manner. But what is really happening is our hideous decision-making methods, poor management systems and our reckless disregard for human misery are on full display. These are the traits of a plantation system; which we have failed – over many administrations – to reform and which now infects our psychology of political power.

Let there be no doubt: Covid 19 is treacherous. But DORIAN was also treacherous. Selling Batelco for nothing was treacherous. Failing to account for the 7.5% of the Port Authority is treacherous. The millions that went missing at Road Traffic was treacherous. The failure to account for who holds Crown Land or mining leases and who gets paid is treacherous. The absence of an electronic land registry is treacherous. Defending “D” grades is treacherous. Engaging OBAN, the Post Office deal, the Freeport hotel deal that can’t get done, the Lighthouse Point deal are all a continuing tale of treachery: the fact that Bahamians cannot live their best lives in the Bahamas is the vilest of all treacheries. 

Our problem is not Covid 19. Our problem is a retrograde demented concept of power, a system that favours only the advice of lackeys, all extended from political tribalism!

For instance, our failure at DORIAN aftermath was not about how vicious DORIAN was. Its about the failure to have learned from all the previous hurricanes of the last 100 years and to have built our social economic and political systems around that knowledge and experience to foster resilience and induce human comfort. 

I wrote on January 20th 2020 – in these pages – in letters, in proposals and expressed in Zoom calls the following: 

a. Covid 19 is not going away. Bubonic Plague arose in 1347. Killed 50% of the known world. Spent 300 years popping up killing tens of thousands and there were 10,000 cases in the 20th century and China closed down an entire village last week for a plague that arose nearly 670 years ago!

b. I wrote the US will not regain an appreciable normalcy until Summer of 2021, if then. Do you mind of I say I was right? Consider: 27 states are experiencing increased infections; 1000 people died each day for the last 9 days; there is no federal programme; nearly 60 million Americans are out of work; the wealth gap has exploded, and its unlikely Americans can come out of this crisis with any sort of a middle class; There are BLM protests; Mr Trump is destroying the Post Office to rig the elections, which means more conflict, more protests; even if Biden lives long enough to win, he won’t take office until January 20th, 2021, then it will take him 30 days to shut down the entire country for 30 days; then another 3 months – tax and stimulus fights – to reopen the US economy by Summer 2021.

c. What have I said about this consistently? IT MEANS NO TOURISTS, which means NO US DOLLARS; which means given our debt is nearly 100% of GDP, we’re experiencing over 50% unemployment, our Reserves (whilst over $2 billion reportedly) is falling, our deficit is approaching $1 billion, our credit rating is junk bond status and we’ve lost over 80% of national income…THIS MEANS our crisis in the Bahamas is structural, systemic and existential!

d. I designed and argued for the Bahamas to “act as if the US ceased to exist” and to lead by being FIRST IN THE WORLD in establishing COVID (Free) TRUST ZONES (CTZ). (Singapore, Dubai and a cluster of Eastern Caribbean states are now implementing it together with a major regional hotelier). Our advantage in the Bahamas over most of the world is that we are an archipelago, our tourists derive meanly from one source country, we have (as Leon R. Williams teaches us) 53 airports and we own our own airline. We should have been testing travel methods between our islands since February 2020, and by now become sufficiently expert to LEAD THE WORLD!

e. I advised that if we failed to have national testing by February 20th 2020, testing becomes irrelevant, because testing is arithmetical but the infections are exponential. Therefore we must switch to detection, monitoring and risk management through the use of coordinated technology platforms that include Bluetooth contact-tracing and eDiagnostic Surveys. I proposed that we remove the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions to hotels for the next 6 months. Had we done so, the staff that would service those properties would have been experts in Covid 19 Compliant Hospitality by now with 7 months of tested experience. 

WHATEVER YOU THINK OF THIS CURRENT ADMINISTRATION, WE NEED THEM TO SUCCEED:

They are NOT, as this sign below shows….but they can.

1. In January -on this page – I stated: “Borrow Big and Borrow Now”. These funds would have been to upgrade power and broadband infrastructure and to develop a care-model for at risk Bahamians. It would have required, removing the at risk population to hotels or confirm arrangements for their loving-separation under self-quarantine conditions. (This would require an electronic registration platform) 

2. Provide a food distribution system for EVERY LIVING SOUL in the Bahamas that needs it (This requires a basic online booking system. And it requires a bold fund raising/donations approach (of between $300 million to $500 million) for the next 9 months; which was communicated to our own masterful Mr. Ken Kerr.

3. Simultaneously, launch Covid 19 (Free) Trust Zones (CTZ) in Exuma, Eleuthera, Paradise Island and other hotel properties that can be made Covid 19 compliant “all inclusives”! (This would require an exclusive national eBooking system to ensure settlement of US dollars in the Bahamas).

4. Use Bahamasair, and bring other qualified domestic airline companies under Bahamasair, establishing a fleet of scheduled charters, eliminating our dependence on commercial airlines…to ensure a vertically integrated system. (Again, an eBooking platform)

5. We have launched/proposed the Study-visa programme. I have explained: I wrote that concept into the draft Turks and Caicos Immigration Ordinance in 2007. It was not followed because Turks and Caicos hotel pricing was not aligned. Barbados launched a variation of it. I wrote that at $3,000 per year, its too cheap, requires too many students (which is a Covid 19 risk) and it does not even dent the loss of national income. To be fair, the programme could help AirBNB operations and if 1000 Bahamians earn $1000 US dollars per month, that’s not a bad thing. ($12 million per annum). But it is NOT what we should spend time about at the highest levels. That could be designed and managed by UOB students. (I don’t address here the power and crime issues). (But what is need is an eResgistration system that aggregates the available spaces for rent, pricing to prevent gouging and compliance).

6. As I also proposed in February 2020, forget laptops and eLearning. Use ZNS and a channel from Cable Bahamas to run an education curricula on cable for 4 hours daily, with round-table discussions by scholars and thinkers for Bahamian students (I’ll release the curricular I proposed in another post), and incentivise this approach with cash prize essay completions at all grade levels based on the education channel content. (This requires two cable channels and 12 Bahamian historians, technologists, scientists, economists and intellectuals). 

Two further points: 

I am not recommending we stick to tourism. But in a crisis, you go with what infrastructure and skill-sets are available and maximise them.

2. This approach is really applicable to the entire Caribbean with variations and would be more powerful of all Caribbean governments bundled together  and drove these policy options. 

LET’S REMEMBER: we don’t succeed in a crisis by controlling our populations, locking them down or creating committees: We succeed by engaging the entire country around an inspiring national purpose that unleashes innovation!