You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.  You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.  You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.  You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred.  You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.  You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.  You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence.  You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.

– Abraham Lincoln

The problems facing the Bahamian economy are daunting especially when it comes to issues of government spending and the current deficit.  Across the world over, we continue to see countries downgraded by rating agencies due principally to two things: first, ever increasing debt; and secondly, no coherent plan to grow the economy.  The most recent country cited by the agencies was Spain which was downgraded three notches to BBB from A.  We saw recently again where Spain had to seek a bailout of $125 billion for its banks.

We are reminded in the Bible in the book of Proverbs that the borrower is slave to the lender.  We read this time and time again and few of us ever stop to ponder the truth in this statement. 

Like our government, the majority of Bahamians have the same challenges with high spending and high debt.  In the case of the government, there are limited options available to correct the situation due to high unemployment and a continuing weak jobless economy. 

We have repeated time and time again the need to save and plan for a rainy day.  Regrettably, few Bahamians either save or plan for the proverbial rainy day.  Today, those who are retired and have planned are being penalized with low interest rates on their savings.  It is important that government seriously considers the implementation of a mandatory savings or retirement plan to assist the ever growing needs of an aging population and to minimize the impact on National Insurance.

As we move forward, it will no longer be an issue only of the “haves” and “have nots”.  It will be between the generations (the generation gap) as we live longer and have more needs that have to be met and a younger generation which is jobless and does not and cannot contribute to the tax base. 

This minority, who save, place their funds in financial institutions with a promise of a fair return on their deposit.  The bank then lends the money to a number of interested groups including, the government, businesses, private citizens et al.  The end use of the funds are for the purchase of government bonds; the expansion of businesses; employed as working capital; home mortgages; car and furniture purchases; or any number of acquisitions of goods and services by the public.

It is not good public policy to punish savings.  Industrious savers are adversely affected and punished by reduced interest rates on deposits.  Moreover, the financial institutions whose job it is to protect and preserve the value of those savings are often vilified, mostly and ironically, by those who spend beyond their means, or those who defraud the government by not paying National Insurance and other government taxes.

Savings is a virtue that is seldom recognized and often goes unappreciated.  Instead, we show a preference for persons participating in any scheme that can deliver the easy money.  No need to save, and we assume that the good days will go on forever.  The Christian nation has forgotten the biblical promise of seven good and seven lean years.  Perhaps the time has come for us to prepare for the inevitable seven lean years.