A First World Vision for Passport Production
Bahamians applying to get their passports renewed over the last several weeks have been subject to incredibly long lines and even longer wait times in getting their documents processed. During a recent budget communication, Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell estimated a wait time of 12 weeks. This, during the busy summer travel season where scores of families hoping to take their vacations outside of the Bahamas and where countless more new and returning college students require their travel documents as they prepare for their studies abroad this Fall. According to a recent statement from government officials, that 12 week deadline has been extended, and deadlines given to applicants voided and pushed back as the government attempts to deal with an application backlog of some 6500 cases.
The challenges associated with the production of passports are not new. Year after year, particularly during the summer months, Bahamians face the same issues and after more than 4 decades of producing passports for its citizens, the government still can’t get it right with the minister promising now, that additional manpower and equipment is being brought in to address the issue.
In a 21st century Bahamas, a Bahamas which just 3 days ago celebrated 42 years of independence, this is unacceptable. Despite the many technological advances in the world, the outdated policy directives of the leaders of our country continue to keep us from the cutting edge while our international counterparts and allies continue to serve their citizens in an efficient and cost effective way. While thousands of Bahamians have their applications languish at the passport office, Canadian citizens living within our borders are able to receive their renewed passports – which are processed in Jamaica – within a ten day period. The Canadian government’s first world service to its citizenry should be an example which our own government should seek to adopt.
Even more disturbing than this government’s inability to meet the basic needs of its citizenry, are plans by the Christie administration to cash in on its inefficiency by forcing already struggling families to foot the bill. According to published media reports, all passport applicants hoping to receive their documents in a 48 hour timeframe – or on an emergency basis as described by the government – will now incur an additional processing fee of two hundred dollars if their applications were received after July 1st.
While this decision applies only to applications received after July 1st, it comes at a time when the government has already chosen to increase the tax burden on the backs of Bahamians and can only be described as ill advised. Inefficiencies and shortfalls within such a critical arm of the government’s operation also lends itself to bribery, corruption and cronyism – problems which already plague the department of immigration and countless other government agencies.
To force Bahamians to pay additional sums of money to expedite a process which has been delayed through no fault of theirs is UNJUST and shows a true disregard for the lives and affairs of the citizenry; many of whom may have not needed to use the government’s 48 hour emergency service had there not been a 12 week delay in production to begin with.
Clearly what is needed for the passport office is a FIRST WORLD VISION rather than the third world mentality which our leaders have displayed over many years. Rather than last minute Band-Aid solutions to the inefficiencies plaguing that government department, the time has come to ensure that the resources within the passport office are properly managed. Coupled with new policy directives and improved technologies we can, in the future, avoid the catastrophic meltdown we now face.