Chester Robards The Nassau Guardian
Exuma’s economic growth has been stagnated by an “outmoded” and “systemically inefficient” government system, Exuma Chamber of Commerce President Pedro Rolle said yesterday.
Rolle also called for 50 percent of the revenue generated in the Exuma economy to stay on the island.
Rolle suggested that a revenue estimate for Exuma could be as high as $80 million per year.
Rolle contends that 50 percent of Exuma’s government revenues should stay on Exuma for Exumians to exact their own growth projects.
“The bottom line is, the unwillingness of central government to allow for decisions to be made locally on matters of local concern will continue to prevent the transformation of Exuma,” Rolle said.
“Local decision making allows Exuma to set its priorities based on local realities and not on the political agenda of Nassau.”
According to Rolle, the island’s lack of effective local government is part of the reason the island’s growth has been stagnant.
“For a number of years now, we’ve been proclaiming that Exuma is on the verge of tremendous growth, poised to explode and mature into a significant island economy,” Rolle said.
“Yet each year we continue to talk about the things that continue to hinder our transformation.
“For a number of years, we have been trumpeting Exuma’s potential in the economic landscape of the Bahamas.
“Imagine our governmental system: designed and implemented by a colonial power with the explicit purpose of exploiting local resources and then sending out of the territory as much of the local resources as possible. This system was never designed for sustained growth and development of the local economy – except to the extent they could exploit it.”
Rolle called for the local government on Exuma to be staffed with Exumians who understand the pulse of the island.
“ … You can’t have local government without local governance,” he said.
“Local governance means being empowered to identify the local challenges and the power and resources to address these challenges.
“If Exuma is to be transformed, Exuma cannot afford to sit and wait for a developmental plan to be given to us. We must be the architects of this plan. Then, Exuma must be the builders of this plan. Finally, Exuma must be the managers of this plan.”
Rolle said local priorities include the repair of Bahama Sound Boulevard; the urgent redevelopment of Exuma International Airport; local input into the Out Island Promotion Board; the implementation of a local investment board having the significant voice in determining who and what is invested in the community; and a voice in determining who is awarded franchise licenses.