I’ve got to say how much nicer my commute home is now. After dedicating so many columns and words to the road situation it is incredible to see, and feel, actual progress. Yes, ladies and gentleman, the roads in Central Abaco –at least the big problem areas on the main thoroughfare – are well on their way to being completely paved in blacktop.
Strike one up for the good guys.
How much did it cost? Certainty more than the $1.3 mil initially allocated for the vague “road repairs” back in January of 2013. But how much more? How much of the work done was in the initial scope of works versus contract extensions?
We don’t know. And we won’t know – because we the people have not demanded that our government be transparent with its business. We have no freedom of information act in our country.
Should I be complaining though? You may ask. After all this paper has made it a point that Abaconians DESERVE these new roads despite the cost (within reason) because of how much Abaco pumps into the national Treasury. Aren’t we on the way to getting what we want? Shouldn’t that be enough?
Yes and no.
Yes, it is fantastic when much-needed projects like the roads and <ahem> airport <ahem> are completed. It’s called Nation Building and we are all in it together.
And that’s where the “no” comes in. It is not enough BECAUSE we are all in it together. Including our money. And especially our children’s money.
There’s always going to be waste in government. If your government shows you the books at the end of the year and there’s no waste then something is very, very wrong. But here’s the thing: we don’t even get to look at the books. Yes we are made aware of the budget, but when simple things – like even the nature of Simmons Construction’s road contract – are unavailable we can’t possibly hope to get an accurate picture.
The Coalition for Responsible Taxation has been learning the hard way about the lack of transparency in government as they seek out how the government exactly came to decide on VAT as our best course in this time frame. It may very well be, but we don’t know because we haven’t been given real numbers to work with.
Hold on now because I’m about to step into some very speculative territory. Get your tinfoil hats ready.
The problem with the lack of transparency is that it leaves us vulnerable to political manipulation. For example, say a government wanted to legalize something. For the sake of argument let’s say this thing is numbers houses and gambling.
And let’s say the government cannot get a public consensus, or feels that legalizing gambling would be a very unpopular move – politically. To test the waters, in a very expensive way, they call a referendum on the subject. The referendum fails, and the government doesn’t get what they want.
So the government creates a specter, a boogeyman, and let’s calls that boogeyman the VAT Tax. The government swears up and down that VAT is coming, and it is coming very quickly. July 2014 in fact! You let the public get riled up against the impending boogeyman all the while hinting that it is their fault since they chose to reject the ballot that would have given the government easy money.
Imagine it is zero hour now. Private businesses are in a panic because in four short months VAT is supposed to be enacted, the government has not budged on this date, and yet next to nothing is known about how to go about preparing.
Then the kicker: government is considering legalizing numbers houses anyway, despite the referendum, and taxing them. In fact, they tell us, doing that may delay or even prevent the VAT all together!
But we have no way of knowing – we don’t have the facts. Because there is no true transparency. Not in this administration and not in the administration before it. It’s all a great fun game of which political party can score the most brownie points on our dime.
Weird stuff. Purely speculative. And don’t say I suggested it because that scenario sounds absolutely bonkers.
In all seriousness, though. It is time we demanded a Freedom of Information Act. We need to stop being appeased when we are thrown a bone, even if it is a year or <ahem> in the case of the airport <ahem> several years late.
If we keep awarding those who lead us with brownie points for half-baked dishes we deserve to get burned.