Ingraham, Hubert A. 1947–
Hubert A. Ingraham 1947–
Prime Minister of the Bahamas
The rise of Hubert A. Ingraham and his Free National Movement Party has ushered in a new political era for the island nation of the Bahamas. In 1992, Ingraham became only the second prime minister since the country’s passage from status as a British colony into independence as a Commonwealth nation. His 1992 win, according to the New York Times’s Larry Rohter, “can be seen as the start of the generational change” of politics in this and other Caribbean states. Like several of his colleagues, Ingraham has left behind the party-dominated political campaign, similar to the British system, in favor of a more American-style, candidate-driven contest. More importantly, during his two terms in office Ingraham initiated a series of government reforms that did much to restore the reputation of the Bahamas.
Hubert Alexander Ingraham was born on the island of Grand Bahama on August 4, 1947. Grand Bahama is just one of the archipelago’s 700 islands that spread out over 80,000 square miles of Atlantic Ocean territory. With a balmy climate, and a landscape of unequaled beauty, the leading industry in the Bahamas is tourism. Ingraham’s father worked as a stevedore, a dockhand who loaded and unloaded ships, and his mother was a maid. He attended schools in Cooper’s Town and in the capital of Nassau, and studied for a law degree. Called to the Bar in 1972 while in his mid-twenties, Ingraham eventually became a senior partner in the firm Christie, Ingraham, and Company.
Ingraham grew interested in a secondary career in public service during the first years of Bahamian independence. His mentor was the Bahamian political leader Sir Lynden O. Pindling. Pindling had led the fight for self-rule in the 1960s. After the Bahamas were granted independence from Great Britain in 1973, Pindling’s Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won the majority in the first elections and he became prime minister. The country, however, remained part of the Commonwealth, with Queen Elizabeth II serving as Bahamas’s official chief of state along with a governor she appointed. Pindling and his PLP continually won re-election until challenged years later by Ingraham.
Ingraham’s first foray into government service came
At a Glance…
Born August 4, 1947, in Pine Ridge, Grand Bahama, Bahamas; son of Jerome (a stevedore) and Isabella Laroda (a domestic servant; maiden name, Cornish) Ingraham; married; wife’s name, Delores Velma (Miller) Ingraham; six children. Education: Studied law. Politics: Free National Movement.
Career: Called to the Bahamas Bar, 1972; Christie, Ingraham, and Company, senior partner; Served as member of Air Transport Licensing Authority, and chaired the Real Property Tax Tribunal; elected to the National General Council of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), 1975; elected national chair and member of national executive committee of Progressive Liberal Parry (PLP), 1976; elected to Bahamas House of Assembly as PLP candidate, 1977; re-elected, 1982; named Minister of Housing, National Insurance and Social Services, 1982-84; dismissed from cabinet, 1984; expelled from party, October, 1986; elected to National Assembly as independent candidate, 1987; joined Official Opposition, April, 1990; appointed Parliamentary Leader of Official Opposition; became leader of Free National Movement (FNM), May, 1990; became Prime Minister with the FNM’s electoral victory in August, 1992. Named to Her Majesty’s most honourable Privy Council, July 1993.
Member: Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government (former chair).
Addresses: Office —Office of the Prime Minister, Sir Cecil Wallace Whitfield Centre, P.O. Box CB-10980, West Bay St., Nassau, Bahamas.
with a spot on the Air Transport Licensing Authority; he later chaired the Real Property Tax Tribunal. In 1975 he was elected to the PLP’s National General Council, and the following year was chosen national chair and member of the national executive committee of the Party. In the elections of 1977, Ingraham won a seat in the Bahamas House of Assembly as a PLP candidate. He was re-elected in 1982, and Pindling named him Minister of Housing, National Insurance and Social Services in the new cabinet that same year.
Though he was considered a protege of Pindling, Ingraham grew increasingly disgruntled by the government corruption he witnessed. He found fault with both official and covert practices and grew critical of Pindling. Ingraham’s official biography noted that “in 1984, in the midst of a Commission of Inquiry into illegal drug trafficking and trans-shipment through the Bahamas and the attendant disclosures of corruption inside the government and the civil service, Mr. Ingraham, as a result of his protests against that situation, was dismissed from The Bahamas Cabinet. He continued to speak out on the issue of corruption and other unsavoury practices, and was expelled from the governing party in October, 1986.”
The situation in the Bahamas worsened in the late 1980s, when the nation became known as a nexus for drug trafficking. As the New York Times’s Rohter explained in a 1992 article, “witnesses in the trials of both Carlos Lehder, a founder of the Medellin drug cartel in Colombia, and Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, the deposed Panamanian dictator, testified to payoffs to Sir Lynden, and some United States officials have long recommended that he be indicted on drug-trafficking charges.” Ingraham’s outspokenness found an audience with the electorate even though he had been expelled from the PLP. He won a seat in the National Assembly in the 1987 elections as an independent candidate, a rather unusual occurrence. He put together the Free National Movement (FNM), a political foe to the PLP, and in the spring of 1990 was named Parliamentary Leader of the Official Opposition. General elections are called in the Bahamas every five years, and in August of 1992 the FNM took a majority of seats in the National Assembly and Ingraham, as its party leader, replaced Pindling as prime minister.
Despite the political turmoil of the last few years, Ingraham seemed eager to relegate the less savory aspects of recent politics in the Bahamas to the past. There were calls for an official investigation and perhaps even an attempt at prosecution of Pindling, but Ingraham concentrated on more impacting political and economic matters. He reshuffled the structure of the cabinet in September of 1993, and shortened his own title to Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, transferring some of the duties in his portfolio to other cabinet ministers. In another reorganization taking place in early 1995, Ingraham again cut his title to simply Prime Minister.
Other visible signs of a new era occurred during Ingraham’s first term. He launched an infrastructure-improvement program, used a firm hand in eradicating the drug trafficking problem, and reintroduced death by hanging. Ingraham also initiated a plan to boost the island nation’s sagging tourism industry by privatizing some of the poorly-run government-owned hotels and resorts. He also began courting foreign investment by rescinding laws that restricted foreigners from holding real estate in the Bahamas, and introduced a new, quick process to officially register a company. Such tactics quickly attracted a growing number of individual and corporate foreign tax exiles, since Bahamas has no personal, sales, corporate or capital-gains taxes.
Under Ingraham, “the Bahamas has started to live down its reputation for corruption and mismanagement,” declared the Economist in 1997. In that year’s election campaign, Ingraham and the FNM reminded Bahamians that not only had they created several thousand new jobs, the new regime had also done much to restore the country’s international standing. Ingraham again ran against Pindling and Pindling’s PLP, and won another overwhelming victory: the FNM took 34 of the 40 House of Assembly seats. Yet the campaign was marred by a tragic and shocking murder: Ingraham’s campaign manager, Charles Virgill, disappeared at a political rally just a week before the election. His body was found, and three suspects were taken into custody. “One of the men accused of shooting Mr. Virgill took part in a bizarre ceremony” at a PLP convention earlier that year, reported the Economist. Some young men, associated with Bahamian gangs, took an oath styled after the creed of the Nation of Islam in which they pledged to uphold the family and eschew weapons. The magazine noted that Pindling was unconnected to the crime.
It is unlikely that Ingraham will enjoy the long reign of his predecessor, since he is eager to see a term-limit amendment to the Constitution passed before he leaves office. Other goals for his second administration are to further divest the island of large hotel and resort holdings, and sell off some of the government-owned public utilities as well. Ingraham has often spoken of his goal to “conduct the affairs of The Bahamas ‘in the sunshine,’” and put in place a system and mindset where the misdeeds of the previous era would not be possible. “What I want to bring about,” Ingraham told Peter C. Newman in Maclean’s, “is to shape a new political culture—to trigger a genuine revolution in … the way Bahamians see themselves.”
Ingraham was named to Her Majesty’s most honourable Privy Council in 1993, and has chaired the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government. He is married to Delores Miller Ingraham, with whom he has six children.
Detroit News, March 15, 1997.
Economist, March 8, 1997, p. 48.
Jet, April 7, 1997, p. 16.
Maclean’s, March 28, 1994, p. 48.
New York Times, August 22, 1992; July 27, 1997.
Travel Weekly, June 17, 1993, p. 47; May 16, 1994, p41; May 11, 1995, p. C21; November 16, 1995, p. C110.
Further information for this profile was obtained at the Government of the Bahamas official World Wide Web site at http:www.bahamas.net.bs/government.