It feels that there are people influencing policy that are either intentionally destroying the economy or are, in fact, too stupid to be held accountable for their missteps. I am not sure which option is sadder. I know that whichever it is, though, is indeed baffling.
The most recent example of this is the proposed new fishing regulations.
The crux of the new regulations include: No Unguided Fishing, No Foreign Owned Boats, No Foreign Owned Lodges, Permits Costing $30 per day. This means that a tourist, coming to spend money in this country would have to hire a guide every time he wanted to fish and could not fish from his own boat even if he or she did have a guide with them.
Suppose a mother or father walk down the shore from their own private home (which they pay the government dearly for in taxes every year) and they want to cast a line from the beach to teach their son how to fly fish? Sorry, that would be illegal.
While many agree that fishing licenses are a good idea, including many anglers who have been visiting for years, the rest of the law as it is presented now would be unenforceable and is already having a detrimental affect even before it becomes law. The bad press internationally has been instant and vicious.
Who’s pushing for this to be made law? The most vocal figure is Andros bonefish guide Prescott Smith. Smith, as some readers will remember, was able to rig the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association vote causing many national, professional organizations such as the Abaco Fly Fishing Guides Association to disassociate with the BFFIA.
But the most dangerous threat to the bonefishing industry, and the one who is actually bringing the legislation to Cabinet, is Minister of Fisheries and professional clown, the Hon. V. Alfred Gray. This newspaper, the professional flyfishing guides of Abaco, and anglers around the world who truly love our country and spending money in it ($140 Million every year) hope and pray the rest of Cabinet ignore Mr. Gray and vote down these short sighted laws.
The regulations almost made it all the way without consultation with the people it would affect the most. You can almost hear the proponents, in their best Scooby-Doo villain voice, “And we would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for those medaling [insert anybody with sense and paying attention.]”
Now I know there are some in this country, outside of Mr. Gray who agree with the laws as they understand them. Jobs for Bahamians, they’re thinking. Unfortunately there would only be jobs for a season and then the industry would collapse. While I can appreciate their sentiment (protecting our fisheries), they are wrong if they think this bill will accomplish that.
What we have is something special. Small industries are what make us, especially Abaco, special.
You want to tear apart small businesses until all we have left are the biggest and largest projects? You do not need a crystal ball to know how that turns out. Look no further than the failure of Baha Mar. A failure as colossal as the egos behind it.