Bahamianization was once a fully formulated, implemented political ideology. Its twenty year popular rise, post 1967, was to address the dearth of a negro Bahamian presence in medium to large private enterprise; the lack of a palpable presence in high level government positions; and the obvious blight of poverty, which defined negro life in the Bahamas since the 1700s.

With more than 85% of the population of the Bahamas, since the 1800s, being of or related to various African lineages, Bahamianization had the support of the statistical majority of persons throughout the islands.

The demise of Bahamianization however, can be linked to several factors. Unquestionably, personalities hovering in the historical periphery of the islands, sought to associate Bahamianization, solely with the bare tenets of naked nationalism. This ignored real economic facts but succeeded in degrading the core principles of Bahamianization, to an international audience eager to fault what it saw as fearful anti-white, black nationalism.

(The Miami Herald, Tuesday, 17 February, 1970)

It must also be said that attitudes of native Bahamians towards the doctrines of Bahamianization were mixed. Opinions ran along racial and economic class lines. The very legitimacy of the economic legs, which supported the ideology that The Bahamas must first be for Bahamians, and second, for everyone else, was questioned from the very beginning.

How could a black economically challenged majority, create a sustainable and successful financial model without foreign investors, was the question asked over and over again.

(Pampa Daily News, Sunday, 08 July 1973)

Bahamianization was linked with particular political personalities and one political party. As the popularity of its principal proponents declined, so did many of their espoused ideologies.

The fact that Bahamianization has not been expanded upon, written upon, elevated to higher international spheres through academic rigour, is solely due to the fault of unimpressed native Bahamian as well as a rapidly changing population mix and the economic need to partner with foreign investors and foreign sources of labour.

(The Miami Herald, Thursday, 01 June, 1972)

For the expatriate worker, settler and investor, the Bahamas had been like an open oyster shell, filled with an unlimited supply of valuable pearls of prosperity. This was so even before the British settlement which began in 1718 with the landing of Woodes Rogers and some 300 or so English settlers.

Two hundred and forty-nine years later, in 1967, when newly elected, first black Premier Lynden Pindling, took the government mantle, his administration’s mantra of Bahamian jobs for Bahamian workers, reflected a sharp about turn policy.

It is one of the greatest ironies in all of Bahamian history that, Bahamianization as a political ideology, would be ushered in by the son of a Jamaican immigrant.

It was no surprise that foreign investors, foreign governments and expatriate settler communities, predicted that it would all eventually end in failure.


1973 – CANADA’S LUKEWARM RESPONSE TO BAHAMIANIZATION.

OFFERS A MATTER OF COURSE INDEPENDENCE CONGRATULATIONS

Canada had been an important banking and trading partner with the Bahamas under the United Bahamian Party prior to 1967.

(The Miami Herald, Thursday, 19 July 1973)

1975 – BAHAMIANIZATION STILL IN ITS INFANCY BEGINS TO BEAR FRUIT DEYING INTERNATIONAL CRITICS.

YET MORE CHALLENGES LIE AHEAD AS TOURISM SPENDING DECREASES AND INFLATION INCREASES FOR THE BAHAMAS

(The Miami Herald, Monday, 28 April 1975)

1977 – BAHAMIANIZATION SHOULDN’T MEAN GIVING BAHAMIANS THINGS THAT THEY DO NOT DESERVE SAYS BAHAMIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADER J. Henry Bostwick

By 1977, Bahamianization ideology would be tested in ways Prime Minister Lynden Pindling could have never imagined in 1967.

The Progressive Liberal Party’s Bahamianization policy took an unexpected, costly turn, when the government was forced to purchase five failing hotels, and a large agricultural business, on the brink of bankruptcy, in order to save Bahamian jobs.

Pindling, with all his rhetoric about the Bahamas for Bahamians, couldn’t sit idly by, while potentially more than a thousand poor to middle income blacks, would be left jobless, if five hotels closed simultaneously.

The purchase of the failing businesses did not sit well with the opposition party, Bahamas Democratic Party (BDP). Six members of the BDP were white former members of the Bay Street oligarchy UBP – United Bahamian Party. Among the members was former UBP leader Sir Roland Symonette who was back in picture seeking to challenge another general election.

As Bahamians were hired for top positions in the new government owned hotels and has a hotel corporation, a new government ministry, was formed to oversee operations, to some, it appeared as if Bahamians were being rewarded for something they hadn’t yet earned.

The Bahamas Democratic Party was largely opposed to the Progressive Liberal Party government getting into the hotel business, even to save Bahamian jobs. They felt that instead, foreign investors should have been brought in to buy these ailing businesses.

When the slave movie ROOTS premiered in the United States, in that year 1977, it was also shown in the Bahamas. Bahamas Democratic Party members accused the Progressive Liberal Party of playing the race card by premiering the movie in the Bahamas. Under the UBP, it would have probably been banned for fear of inciting racial hatred against whites.

(The Miami Herald, Tuesday, 12 July 1977)

1979 – BAHAMIANIZATION BECOMES SYNONYMOUS WITH BEING BLACK. “AND IF YOU ARE BLACK YOU HAVE A BUILT IN EXCUSE FOR FAILURE” says white Bahamian businessman and appointed Leader of the Opposition of the Bahamas Democratic Party in 1979 and Member of Parliament (1967 – 1982)

Many contentious citizenship cases were heard and denied, as the Bahamianization policy rolled on and over many expatriates who owned businesses and made The Bahamas their home, but who had not applied for citizenship before 1973.

These cases, pitting foreign whites against an immovable ideology of bringing Bahamians up from the least considered in their own country, inevitably fell along racial lines with harsh words being lobbied on both sides.

Prime Minister Lynden Pindling was painted as victimiser; while foreign whites bathed lavishly in the international spotlight of the oppressed and hard done by in the ungrateful foreign land of the Bahamas.

(The Montreal Gazette, Saturday, 17 February 1979)

1979 – A NEW POLICY: ECONOMIC BAHAMIANIZATION. BAHAMIANS ONLY TO OWN WHOLESALE, RETAIL, SMALL GUEST HOUSES, HOTELS, REAL ESTATE BUSINESSES, NIGHT CLUBS AND RESTAURANTS

In the same year the Bahamas marked 250 years of Parliamentary Democracy, the Progressive Liberal Party rolled out an enhanced version of its original Bahamianization policy. ECONOMIC BAHAMIANIZATION was rolled out to push black Bahamian entrepreneurship.

By 1979, tiny cracks had become significant fissures in the PLP’s Bahamianization labour policies. While Bahamians were becoming more educated, obtaining professional degree qualifications, fewer and fewer were interested in blue collar jobs or taking the economic risk of being a small business owner. There was more money and prestige of employment to be had in the professional sphere. Large hotels, government jobs in the expanding civil service, banking, law and healthcare offered job security, access to education loans and retirement benefits. These perks were limited, if not impossible as a sole entrepreneur.

With the lure of more jobs and higher salaries on the capital island New Providence, the Family Islands became almost depleted of labour. Soon, immigrants, both legal and illegal, would fill many vacant jobs in the Family Islands as native Bahamians left to go to New Providence and Grand Bahama.

(National Post, Saturday, 08 December, 1979)

ECONOMIC NATIONALISM

Courtesy of the book: An Economic History of The Bahamas, 2nd. Ed. (2008) Anthony Audley Thompson, LLB. published by: Commercial Services Group, Nassau, Bahamas.

1983 – BAHAMIANIZATION POLICIES MOVES TO LIMITING LAND ACQUISITIONS BY FOREIGNERS

Land had long been a high prized, tradable commodity in the Bahamas. For two centuries, land grants and sales underpinned the economic growth of the islands. Bahamianization ideology was expanded even further in order to give some oversight and native born advantage into this lucrative sector.

On December 19th. 1980, the Immovable Property (Acquisitions by Foreign Persons) Bill was introduced in the Bahamas House of Assembly. The bill introduced new regulations regarding the acquisition of immovable property by foreign persons. It also sought to establish a Foreign Investments Board headed by the Prime Minister.

It would be three years before The Immovable Property Act was signed into law in November 1983.

The Immovable Property Act 1983 was quickly repealed by the first Free National Movement government after its August 10th. 1992 general election win. The repealed Act was replaced by the new International Persons Landholding Act which effectively facilitated the “holding of land by non-Bahamians and companies under their control.”

The historical political loss and the rolling back and repealing of key tenets, effectively ended the twenty-five year reign of Prime Minister Lynden Pindling and his Bahamianization ideology.

Courtesy of the book: An Economic History of The Bahamas, 2nd. Ed. (2008) Anthony Audley Thompson, LLB. published by: Commercial Services Group, Nassau, Bahamas.


1983 – Bahamianization Begins To Fracture Under Youth Unemployment, Lagging Education Attainment, Drug Scandals, Economic Problems, International Pressure, and Foreign Investor Fears

As the 1980s began, the Bahamas began to fracture under the pressure of the apparent success of Bahamianization.

As more and more Bahamians graduated into the middle and upper economic classes, a new generation of the economically poor were either native born or arrived via boat and plane. A massive increase in the native population, in the Haitian and other Caribbean country poor populations, created a unemployment time bomb that the Pindling administration didn’t see coming.

By 1983, 62% of The Bahamas population was under 25. Unemployment hovered around 25 to 30%. 30,000 of the 120,000 person strong work force was unemployed. In 1983, some 4,000 high school graduates left education with no employment possibilities. Added to its economic problems, The Bahamas had one of the highest birth rates in the Caribbean region.

(The Miami Herald, Friday, 08 July, 1983)
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