Political Economy Aspects of a Developmental State Framework for the Bahamas

Article excerpt

Introduction

The political economy of development in The Bahamas is characterised by trade relations that take place in a highly monopolised global market; policy issues which are influenced by multilateral agencies and transnational corporations; a lack of focus and clear policies; and, "pork barrel" policies and interference by the political directorate. Shaped by the hegemonic influences of Britain and the USA, as well as domestic culture and social psychology, foreign investment has been assigned a large role in the growth process of the Bahamian economy. In fact, foreign capital controls the country's productive structure, and particularly its most dynamic sectors, and benefits very narrow sectors and activities. As a result, the country encounters unyielding domestic obstacles to its selfsustained growth and development.

Against this general background, tourism has been seen not just as an economic activity capable of creating income and jobs for the country's inhabitants and earning important foreign exchange, but as one of the most dynamic sectors for its future economic development. However, tourism has further subjected The Bahamas to outside dependence. The result of this dependence makes the country vulnerable and more susceptible to external shocks, as well as more dependent on foreign exchange (Higgins 1994: 5).

The line of argument of the paper is as follows. The first part highlights the political economy of Bahamian development. The second section seeks to chart the Bahamian Developmental State framework, and discusses the mutual benefits between tourism and agroindustry on the grounds of local production growth, endogenous competency and competitiveness. The final part of the paper identifies key strategic requirements and offers alternative policy recommendations, which the Developmental State view implies and suggests.

The Political Economy Of Bahamian Development: Past And Present

Historically, it is important to see the economic development of The Bahamas in the context of a British West Indian Colony. Indeed, for Commonwealth Caribbean countries, there was little affirmation of viability except within the framework of the Westminster model and in the context of dependency economic relations with the "Mother country". The fundamental economic philosophy of the British Empire was based on the notion that the Colonies should be complementary to the metropolis and contribute to British trade. In this regard, Colonial administrators viewed agriculture as a productive activity with substantial economic gains which would benefit the British Empire (i.e., agricultural production provided the mainstay of export trade generating foreign exchange and jobs). The output was not only a source of food but also an important source of raw materials for British industry. Besides, to ensure the success of agriculture in the Colonies, the British administration established a scientific network to support the sector, which was "owned and controlled by virtue of their imperial authority" (Eneas 1998: 22).

The ruling class in The Bahamas sought to hold onto socioeconomic power through the acquisition and ownership of economic resources, and control of the administrative arm of the Legislative Bodies. This ruling social elite, given its vast ownership of the means of exchange, not only dominated domestic trade but its historical ties to the metropolis sustained its dominance in the external trade. Predictably, wealth remained skewed along racial/class lines, since the land and resources that underpinned this agrocommercial model of accumulation were in the hands of the ruling class. Consequently, the country continued its legacy of subsidiarity to metropolitan business interests (even today, trade becomes not simply evidence of the structural dependence of The Bahamas, but also serves to support those relations of exchange which can only exist through the systematic reinforcement of the country's structural imbalance) (Karagiannis 2002a: 48). …