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EDITORIAL: Items left on the govt’s to-do list this year

AS WE head towards Christmas, government seems to be more stumbling rather than sprinting towards the year’s finishing line.

Take yesterday’s front-page story in The Tribune, for example, on the long-promised marijuana legislation that seems to have taken forever to move through consultation after consultation.

Finally, there were promises that it would see the light of day before the end of the year. In July, Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis said Bahamians would know the direction his administration intended to take by year end, while Attorney General Ryan Pinder said in June that the government intended to advance comprehensive legislation in the first six months of the fiscal year – so by the end of 2022.

Instead, in yesterday’s Tribune we are told that such legislation is “not likely” by the end of the year by Mr Pinder. He says the government is still working on the legislation. He said: “It is coming along well.”

Just not well enough apparently to meet the government’s self-imposed timeline.

Elsewhere, there has been equal stagnation in progress towards legal moves on the issue of marital rape and tackling violence against women.

The murder rate has sadly soared above the total over previous years, with much of December still to run.

And somehow the issue of price control changes has still not been resolved.

Yesterday, inspectors showed up at Super Value and sought to confiscate all merchandise in 19 mostly pharmaceutical product lines only for principal Rupert Roberts to warn that if that were to happen there might be pre-Christmas store shutdowns.

As he put it, “We don’t want war, and you don’t want war.”

Whether you agree with the government side on the issue or the store owners’ side, it is staggering that this remains unresolved when the revisions became law back in mid-October.

That the government failed to properly consult and consider the impact of the changes ahead of their decision seems inescapable.

A resolution was achieved with pharmacies that reportedly gave the government an even better outcome – so talking can yield positive results.

But businesses had spoken in recent weeks of everything going quiet in talks on the grocery side.

Yesterday, Mr Roberts warned: “If you take our merchandise, the Retail Grocers Association will close our stores. We may sell-off the perishables, and stay closed until Christmas. If they would have taken our merchandise, John Bostwick told me to shut the stores. All the grocers would have shut the stores. Bring the merchandise back and we will open back up. He [price control official Mr Johnson] backed off.”

This is, of course, no place to be. Inspectors need to be able to do their job – but store owners need to know their concerns have been listened to and addressed.

It sounds as if negotiations have fallen quiet – why has that been allowed to happen?

Economic Affairs Minister Michael Halkitis says the government intends to enforce the law against operators who refuse to implement the changes. We will see if that means closed doors at stores or whether retailers’ tough stance prompts a rethink.

In the middle of all this, one of the government’s own has raised his own voice in criticism – and credit to Clay Sweeting for doing so.

Mr Sweeting, the Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs, has spoken up on the issue of poor water supplies in Eleuthera. He said some residents have been without water for seven days.

Among those to be criticised were those on his own team – he expressed his “disappointment” over the issue to both Works and Utilities Minister Alfred Sears and Water and Sewerage Corporation Sylvanus Petty, also the North Eleuthera MP.

Mr Sears has already been under fire over a lack of clarity over what advice he received pertaining to the BPL fuel hedging proposals, and the ever-slipping date of completion of the Village Road roadworks – with that road still looking closer to the surface of the moon than anything you’d wish to drive upon.

We applaud Mr Sweeting however for speaking out on an issue that needs to be addressed. As he says: “The residents of Eleuthera deserve better.”

As for the government’s leader, Mr Davis has his own view of the year’s accomplishments. He has promised “a full statement of what is expected legislatively in due course before the year is out”.

We hope that promise actually is kept before the days in the calendar run out. We shall see.