EDITORIAL: Over the Hill - minus web shops - to get facelift

IN announcing his government’s plans “to transform our inner cities in ways only dreamt about”, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis made it clear that tax concessions granted residents to help them rebuild, upgrade and create businesses in their communities, would not be extended to web shops and liquor stores.

“Brave” Davis, leader of a four-member Opposition in the House, had grave misgivings about denying tax breaks to liquor stores and web shops – he feared discriminatioin. When told that such negative influences would only degrade rather than uplift a community, innocently rolling his eyes heavenwards, Mr Davis asked: “Why licence them in the community then?”

This is a question that only Mr Davis can answer. When his party was the government an expensive referendum was held on January 28, 2013, when Bahamians voted not to make the illegal legal — they wanted neither legal web shops nor a government lottery.

However, on September 15, 2014, Government ignored Bahamian voters and legalised the web shop industry. Apparently, former prime minister Christie was mesmerised by unverified information given his government by web shop operators that government could get “some $25m” in penalties, back business licence fees and application fees during the transition period when operators would be required to disclose the revenues generated by their operations in the past while paying a variety of fees. No consideration was given to the damage its legal presence would inflict on a community.

Already Long Island MP Adrian Gibson is complaining of the debilitating affect gambling is having on a community of about 3,000 residents, serviced by 15-20 web shops. Bags of money, said Mr Gibson, are being collected by the web shops in Long Island, put on the plane and flown to Nassau for the benefit of a handful of people. “Nothing stays in Long Island,” he complains. The island is being held down by the vices of many of its people. We have heard of one unfortunate soul, who put every penny he had on the “numbers” and so starved himself of food that he is now in Sandilands.

“If they are harmful,” asked Mr Davis in relation to the decisions being made in an attempt to raise the standards of Nassau’s inner cities, “are they considering revoking their licenses? I am just wondering. If they are saying it is harmful, then you don’t leave harm in the way of people do you? That’s why I am concerned about that.”

What a pity, Mr Davis, that you were not concerned about the people when you could have done something about it and honoured their wishes. Instead you and your party ignored the vote of the people, considering only the money that could be collected from the web shops.

Now we have a major problem. It is claimed that the closing of some banks in the islands is because they have been replaced for money transactions by the web shops. We are told some of the banks are in a holding pattern, waiting to see what decision will be made about their future.

As for raising the standard and the self worth of the residents in the inner cities, we suggest that no web shop be permitted to set up its gaudy tents in their midst. If some of those residents want to waste their time in bar rooms and web parlours then they can walk or drive outside of their model surroundings to where these vices are located. Hopefully the inconvenience of leaving their now comfortable homes will give them time to consider their dumb decisions — especially when they return home drunk or penniless.

These Over-the-Hill settlements should be transformed into clean and attractive centres with boys and girls clubs, playing fields for sports, competition between streets for the cleanest, best kept gardens and homes in good repair. This will give the youth something to do rather than join gangs, carry guns and rob their neighbours.

If the area is to be polluted with bar rooms and web shops, especially near schools and churches, then Over the Hill will remain just that – “over the hill”.