I am currently watching the NBA Playoffs. The broadcasts include commentary which helps me appreciate the various strategies employed by the teams, and to evaluate their success in a more entertaining way.

It occurred to me that it is a shame we don’t have real colour commentary for such public events as the Budget Debate. First of all, then most of us would have an appreciation for the intent and the economic strategies, and the level of our public (and private) conversation would probably rise somewhat.

The choice of a colour commentator would be based upon well established criteria: someone who by involvement is an expert at the budget exercise; someone who no longer has a vested interest in “who wins”; someone with a proven ability to communicate verbally; above all, someone passionate about the development of the “sport”. These are the criteria used by the networks, and the result is higher levels of participation and a more entertaining process. Along the way, we all learn more and more about the sports we are interested in.

A colour commentator, for example, might begin his observations about the current Budget Debate by noting that the primary engine driving the Bahamian economy is tourism, and that he would be very interested to see how the Budget proposed to stimulate and revitalize that area. While waiting for the speakers, he might point out that there are two types of tourists: Stopover and Cruise and that it is the Stopover tourist that is the primary customer of a Tourist Destination, so any strategy to energize the tourism sector must certainly address the development of the Stopover tourist. He might, if time allows, continue to point out that while from 1991 to 2000, the Bahamas’ Stopover visitors increases by 11.9%, the Dominican Republic’s increased by over 200%, Cuba’s by 329% and even Jamaica’s by 79%, and that therefore this is a critical time for the Bahamas to address the Stopover tourist in its Budget.

After listening to the opening round of the debate, the commentator might declare his surprise that while over $100 Million is to be spent on Cruise tourists, there was no indication of any money allocated for the lifeblood of the country, the Stopover tourist.

The Budget is about the management of the economy, not the creation of hand-outs. It is sad that the Broadcasting Corporation should still feel the need to brag that “the Government is looking after the poor” as its way of starting its report on the Budget presentation. It is the Government’s job to “look after the poor”. But its job is much bigger than that. Its job is also to manage the economy so that the promises of services can be delivered because the revenues are coming in. Anyone who expects Government to give them something simply because they need it is living in a dreamworld.

But back to my main point. Much of my appreciation of the finer points of professional sports result from the colour commentary. Because of it I am able to follow the ebb and flow of the games, predict outcomes and judge management strategies, almost as if I was a professional.
It is unfortunate, to say the least, that when it comes to transacting my own National business, I am condemned to remain in the dark.

Patrick Rahming
June 4, 2008