Opinion

Referenda success and the fight between the parties

February 05, 2014

Chairman of the Constitutional Commission Sean McWeeney said earlier this week that the bills for the promised constitutional referendum on gender equality may be tabled in the House of Assembly next month...

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Trinidad drug bust: A cautionary tale for the Caribbean

February 05, 2014

The discovery of over US$100 million of cocaine hidden in juice cans bearing the brand name of a major Trinidadian company at the end of 2013 caused quite a stir in that country, with statements of commitment by government and the manufacturing industry association alike on a need to protect the brand name of the company and the country.
While investigations continue as to exactly who was responsible for exploiting gaps in the export control process, the fundamentals are clear. Supply chain security in the Caribbean is weak and known local and regional solutions need to be applied and strengthened.
More known as an exporter of empty containers, the Caribbean region has consistently failed to develop a framework of standards that it needs to protect itself from being used as a conduit for contraband bound for the shores of its largest trading partners. Drug busts in Europe and Canada shed light on the weakness of the current piecemeal efforts to address trade security and expose efforts by multilateral agencies such as the Organization of American States (OAS) as woefully inadequate.
The failure of institutions such as CARICOM and regional trade and security ministers to work towards regional standards in the supply chain security mechanism is probably the most glaring factor that has served to leave the Caribbean region exposed to those within and outside of this space committed to the traffic of illicit cargo.
In the case of Trinidad, the region's economic, manufacturing and supposedly security hub, the concern has to be that there is a serious lack of an effective export control mechanism. The fact that U.S. agents used knowledge of the Trinidadian port and information about recent smuggling cannot be a comforting thought to the government of that island nation.
Beyond Trinidad, however, the fact is that there is also a thriving inter-island trade in contraband well known to international law enforcement. Vessels that move between the smaller economies in the Eastern Caribbean are known to transit drugs through the ports of neighboring islands, too often leaving the interception duties to third-party countries within the regional space. Claims that port and security managers are either abdicating responsibility or, worse, are complicit, are getting harder and harder to ignore.
Fundamentally, the lax attitude towards supply chain security highlights a lack of understanding by governments that trade security is sacrosanct. For those who have ignored the warnings that their ports are conduits for contraband the situation is more ominous. Branded a problem port negates your trustworthiness and makes you a risky location for carriers. It ultimately exposes them to delays in entering other ports and that means money.
A weak port also brands a country as an unsafe location for other vessels including the cruise industry, as the use of your port as a conduit for drugs intimates that criminal elements call your country home. It also exposes this industry to the fact that your port is porous enough to be a staging area for an act of terrorism and sullies the reputation of your government and people.
While one cannot in good conscience advocate for the awesome expense that comes with acquiring scanning technology, nor can one endorse the tactics of the sometimes overzealous public sector that sees efficiency as an anathema to security, there is still time for the region to act on the development of a regional standard as it relates to protecting the supply chain and to invest in some basic risk assessment tools.
From St. Maarten through to Saint Lucia, and from Barbados to Trinidad and Jamaica, it is time for industry and government to recognize the holes that exist and fix them before the problem gets worse. The current hub and sub-hub and spoke system that the region depends on has to be fixed - the Caribbean cannot continue to fail the secure supply chain test. Ministers responsible for trade, ports and elements of the security apparatus can no longer be absolved of responsibility if their facilities are being breached and neither for that matter can the institutions that purport to provide solutions. This especially as we know how strategically located Caribbean countries are, and how dependent the region is on its port facilities for economic survival.

o Anton Edmunds is the head of The Edmunds Group, a boutique business and government advisory service firm that focuses on the Caribbean, and a senior associate at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS). He can be contacted by email here and prior posts reviewed at the firm's website: www.theedmundsgroup.com. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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International agencies and the Bahamian economy

February 04, 2014

Globalization has basically removed boundaries that separate nations creating a global village in which countries are effectively connected to one another. While the increased interdependency and interconnectedness of countries has fostered better relations and unity in the world, it has also created vulnerabilities of significant proportions.
At the center of the movement towards more integration of our economies and systems are international agencies such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). These agencies play pivotal roles in shaping the economies and financial systems of countries around the world. The relevance and prominence of these entities have been further enhanced in the aftermath of the recent Great Recession - the most significant financial crisis since the Great Depression. In addition to the aforesaid international bodies, regional bodies with similar mandates have emerged and international rating agencies have assumed a prominent role in determining the fortunes of countries. In this piece, we take a brief look at the pronunciations made on The Bahamas in recent times by these bodies and whether there is consistency in the positions taken.
International Monetary Fund
The IMF had expressed concerns with The Bahamas' debt-to-GDP ratio and level of growth of the same. This was in the aftermath of the agency's conclusion that we had weathered the financial crisis better than our regional peers. It was further noted that this country's economic growth rate has a direct correlation with the recovery of the United States.
The government was encouraged by the IMF to implement a combination of spending and revenue reforms in order to get its fiscal house in order. Additional recommendations also entail debt management, review of the subsidy program and going beyond the implementation of VAT to the introduction of corporate income tax as well. This was following comments that The Bahamas has to double economic growth over the next five years in order to reduce the unemployment rate by 50 percent.
Moody's
Moody's had highlighted the fact that The Bahamas was faring much better than its regional counterparts with specific reference to the slight growth and the attraction of investments to our shores. Following the release of the government's 2013/14 budget, an analyst from Moody's was quoted as saying that the budget "hit a lot of the right notes" and should ensure that the country's debt is brought under control.
In essence, Moody's commended the government's effort to control The Bahamas' public finances and address the fiscal crisis confronting our nation. Noting that the government's agenda and time frame to correct the structural deficit is ambitious, Moody's acknowledged the effort to enhance revenue and prevent further worsening of the country's financial position.
In a subsequent report, the rating agency noted the importance of an overall fiscal strategy which includes prudence by the government on the expenditure side. In the same token, Moody's acknowledged the difficulty associated with drastic reduction in public spending due to the impact on employment and social welfare programs. Moody's, while recognizing the importance of broadening our revenue base, also outlined the challenges associated with the implementation of value-added tax (VAT) in The Bahamas.
Standard & Poor's
Over one year ago, S&P raised its short-term foreign currency rating on The Bahamas from A-3 to A-2 due to a change in criteria, but was quick to state that the change was not a reflection of our short-term creditworthiness. The Bahamas' BBB long-term issuer rating was confirmed at that time as well with the cautionary note that our rating may come under pressure if this nation's fiscal deterioration persists and the economic base erodes more severely.
S&P opined that the ratings could be raised if the government takes a more proactive policy response to reduce debt or if economic prospects strengthen to improve the country's external balance sheet. More recently, S&P suggested that The Bahamas' credit rating may be downgraded within the next nine months if the government does not follow through on VAT implementation or an alternative reform of its revenue structure in the 2014/15 budget. This assertion was further reiterated in stronger terms with the statement that The Bahamas rating may be downgraded to the "junk" territory if important reforms are not undertaken by the government. S&P avoided endorsing VAT exclusively as the panacea for our fiscal issues but it was clear that the rating agency expects a significant overhaul of our tax system if The Bahamas is to maintain its rating.
New revelations?
The limitation imposed by space does not permit an in-depth analysis of the various utterances made in relation to The Bahamas and the Bahamian economy by the various international agencies and international rating agencies in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. However, a quick look at the synopsis above will show that the themes are similar.
The fundamental question is whether we are being apprised of any new information which we were unaware of until the proclamations. While the comments made by these agencies highlight the urgency of rectifying the financial situation we find ourselves in as a people, they cannot be classified as revelations and/or recommendations that should drastically change the strategies that have been proposed by Bahamian economists, financial experts and commentators over the years. More importantly, they are generally not at odds with the proposals put forward by our policymakers. The fiscal consolidation plan, control of government expenditure, review of benefits received from subsidies and concessions, tax reform and revenue enhancement measures proposed by the government mirror for the most part the recommendations summarized above.
Moving forward
We welcome the thoughts, recommendations and assistance of international experts aimed at helping us build a better country. It is important, however, that the comments do not send mixed signals or create unnecessary anxiety. Additionally, international agencies should continuously acknowledge the prudent efforts of governments and corrective actions being implemented. More focus should be placed on constructive dialogue over the proliferation of hysteria in the local and international press.
The discourse on the role of international rating agencies and the part they played in the lead-up to the recent financial crisis has been blamed on the more rigorous and proactive approach they now take with respect to the assignment of ratings. However, international rating agencies must also be mindful of the level of reliance that investors and lenders place on their reports
and findings. In this vein, the principle of proportionality must be applied. A review of the efforts being undertaken by the government will show that their recommendations have been considered and the feasible ones are being implemented.
Moreover, The Bahamas must seek to develop its own body of economic advisors, researchers, academics and commentators who are more in tune with the local and regional landscape, whose findings would either support or rebut in part or whole the writings of the various international bodies. The formal or informal development and emergence of this group of individuals/professionals will bode well for economic and political development in The Bahamas rather than relying solely upon all economic challenges being solved by the various arms of government.
In the final analysis, the government is accountable to the people and must implement policies that are in their best interest. Political leaders are servants of the people and serve at their pleasure; consequently, they must face consequences of the decisions they make on their behalf.

o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to a.s.komolafe510@gmail.com.

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The web shops: One year later

February 03, 2014

I want people to understand, gambling is not a bad thing if you do it within the framework of what it's meant to be, which is fun and entertaining. - Michael Jordan
One year ago, Bahamians went to the polls to vote in a referendum in which they were asked to state whether they agreed to one, the regulation and taxation of web shop gaming, and two, the establishment of a national lottery. This week, we would like to Consider This... how do Bahamians feel about the first question one year later?
The referendum results
On January 28, 2013 the referendum results were:
The referendum voter turnout of 48 percent of the 2012 registered voters was extremely low compared to the 156,000 votes cast in the 2012 general election, which represented a 91 percent turnout of the 172,128 registered voters.
What conclusions can be made from the referendum vote?
With respect to question one on the referendum ballot, notwithstanding the results of the referendum, we believe that it would be erroneous to conclude that a majority of Bahamians are opposed to regularizing web shops. The fact is that, although a majority of Bahamians voted against such regularization in last year's referendum, the outcome is neither persuasive nor conclusive. We also maintain that the referendum results do not represent the true national sentiment on this issue, particularly in light of the low voter turnout.
The total number of votes cast against the regularization of web shops was 51,146 or 62 percent of the votes cast versus 31,657, or 38 percent of the votes, cast in favor of regularization. The low voter referendum turnout compared to the turnout for the 2012 general election leads one to believe that it would be erroneous to conclude that a majority of Bahamians are opposed to legalizing web shops.
There were several reasons for the outcome of the referendum.
First, we believe that many voters did not clearly understand what they were being asked to vote on. After the referendum, voters indicated that they were confused on the issues.
Secondly, the involvement and vehement anti-web shop campaign by the Christian Council did not aid in the education process.
Thirdly, some persons indicated that they believed that the government should have been more engaged in the process and should have more clearly indicated the benefits of voting yes. In the absence of the government education on the issues, which was exacerbated by its assertion of "not having a horse in the race", voters were detracted from active participation in the referendum exercise. This was borne out in the low voter turnout.
Other voters felt that a yes vote meant that only a limited number of web shops would be allowed to operate and that this was inherently discriminatory because anyone wishing to operate a web shop and satisfying the prescribed rules should be allowed to do so. Many voters did not think that this would be permitted. Still others were disturbed that the issue of allowing Bahamians to gamble in casinos was not placed on the ballot and therefore either voted no or did not vote at all.
Finally, once the official opposition took a position to oppose the referendum questions, this further confused the issues. The referendum became a one-sided partisan issue with the PLP remaining disengaged while the FNM actively opposed the endeavor, which was a 360-degree reversal of its earlier support for regulating the web shops since the Ingraham administration had drafted regulations for web shop operations before it was turned out of office in May 2012.
What has changed?
In a scientific poll of 575 individuals that was conducted last month, respondents were asked: Do you support or oppose the legalization of web shops? The result of that scientific poll was extremely enlightening. According to that poll, the percentage of persons who supported the legalization and regulation of web shops was 55 percent while 40 percent of the respondents opposed the prospect.
In light of the poll results, we maintain that the referendum results in 2013 did not accurately represent the genuine national sentiment on this issue, particularly in light of the extremely low voter turnout.
The moral imperative
In the aforementioned scientific poll last month, Bahamians overwhelmingly (83 percent) indicated that the government needs to increase its revenues, although they are uncertain that value-added tax is the best means for doing so.
During the run-up to the referendum, the government indicated that $20 million to $30 million would be raised by regulating and taxing the web shops. The $20 million to $30 million annual tax windfall that would have resulted from a yes vote would have significantly strengthened the public coffers. The significantly slim no-vote "majority" of just over 50,000 souls has deprived the population of 350,000 of that substantial revenue injection.
In light of the proliferation of web shops and their substantial income, which has been estimated to be as much as $400 million, it is essential for the government to bring this activity out of the shadows into the light, especially since the web shop operators, their employees and participants are unable to bank their earnings from this sector. This is the point that was recently made by the governor of the Central Bank: If they are going to be allowed to exist, then they should be regulated.
Many Bahamians believe that the position of some members of the Christian Council on this issue is disingenuous and duplicitous at best and hypocritical at worst. As many persons have observed, Christian pastors frequently request web shop operators to fund their churches and church-sponsored activities. Most churches in The Bahamas benefit from collections and tithes of persons who own, work and participate in web shops. In fact, we have never heard of any pastors refusing to accept the offerings of their members whose funds are garnered from the proceeds of web shop employment or winnings.
To add insult to injury, the same pastors who oppose web shops have not taken the same myopic view of their parishioners who work in the casinos in The Bahamas. However, they vehemently oppose the operators and workers in web shops. This is the height of hypocrisy.
Conclusion
Armed with the recent polling data, and cognizant of the pervasive presence and national reach of web shops, we hope that the government will do the right thing by regularizing, regulating and taxing the web shops so that this significant economic activity can be brought into the real economy with the consequential substantial benefits that will inevitably inure to the country by so doing.
We believe that the time is long overdue for the government to demonstrate bold, decisive leadership in this regard and to finally do the right thing by legalizing this activity.

o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com.

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Challenging the status quo on crime in the Caribbean

February 01, 2014

2014 began with crime rates soaring ridiculously high in the Caribbean. Reports have indicated that in the first seven days of this year, the southern twin republic of Trinidad and Tobago reported 19 homicides and counting.
A recent article from Caribbean Journal asked the question, "Can Jamaica control its crime problem?" while the January 8 issue of Caribbean News Now reports that based on a Florida maritime lawyer's opinion the "Bahamas is one gunshot away from cruise lines exit".
In this very issue, fellow Caribbean News Now commentary writer Phillip Edward Alexander, in his article captioned "My plan for fixing crime in Trinidad and Tobago", outlined very practical enforcement steps to curbing, containing and dealing with criminals on a per demographic basis. This reactive template I agree is necessary and must be rolled out if any meaningful results can be realized, starting as he suggests, with the purging of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service of its "rogue" officers.
Even if I do applaud Alexander for his plan and his determination to have it submitted to the minister of national security of T&T, I again want to give the clarion call for a deeper and more serious proactive psychosocial approach to crime reduction and prevention in the Caribbean, an approach that looks at and treats the root causes.
And so on the enforcement front, I could not agree more with Alexander. However, after we may have flushed out the police service and in turn flushed out the criminal elements in their respective communities, if we do not put real social concepts and strategies in place to deal with the personal, family and community dysfunctions at the root, it's only a matter of time before crime and criminals are full grown again and like a volcano begin to spew its deadly lava down on the same communities.
Let me confidently step out and say to the governments of the Caribbean that unless you get out of your comfort zone and professional day-to-day routines and invest in the social empowerment of your people, especially your youth, you are fighting a losing and recurring battle with crime.
As a crime reduction specialist who has worked in Canada, England, Africa, the U.S.A. and the Caribbean, I can honestly say that not too many administrators that I have met are willing to forge an unprecedented path to change. Traditional outdated methods and theories that are not even relevant to this post-modern millennial generation are conveniently and effortlessly engaged and re-engaged, yet with miraculous change expected.
Nobody wants to "rock the boat". No one will challenge the status quo. It's a "just business as usual" attitude in the offices and departments of people who were hired to make a difference on their nation and help to preserve the future, the youth.
You see, my friends, in an "enforcement approach" to crime the status quo demands that criminals are processed through the judicial system and made to stand the consequences of their offense.
Although this approach exemplifies justice at its core and can sometimes cause individuals to think about changing their behavior, the motivation for that change may only be the severity or dislike of the punishment. It does not ensure that the offender has learned any new skill which will help him/her to deal with the circumstances that led to the offense. In this model, recidivism is very likely as soon as the fear or memory of the punishment has faded and the circumstances that motivated the offense in the first place reoccur.
On the contrary, to make serious impact on crime in the Caribbean, or anywhere else for that matter, does not call for an all therapeutic approach either. It would take a good balance between enforcement which is reactive and social rehabilitation which is proactive to engage sustainable crime reduction and prevention.
So Alexander's plan to use enforcement to uproot the criminal elements at a community level is well warranted. However, if during enforcement and institutionalizing, social rehabilitative strategies aimed at addressing the root causes of their social dysfunctions can be engaged, the outcome can be nothing but favorable.
With the criminal elements now contained and treated, the proactive prevention work can begin in these communities engaging children, youth and adults in strategies that will help them deal with issues like disrespectful confrontations, domestic violence, abuse, revenge, impulse control, unemployment and all the factors feeding criminal behavior.
But to successfully accomplish this will take administrators and decision makers who are willing to challenge the status quo while getting out of the comfort zone of traditions, regular routines and eight-to-four operations.
That is when we will realize a sustainable drop in the crime rates on the beautiful island gems of the Caribbean thus reclaiming the names of the once coveted peaceful islands of the Caribbean we were all known to be.
If you are really serious about crime-reduction strategies and programs for your homeland, visit us at www.motiv-8.org or email us at info@motiv-8.org. You won't regret it!

o Neals J. Chitan is the Grenadian-born president of Motiv-8 For Change International - a Toronto-based High Impact Social Skill Agency that is specially dedicated to the social empowerment of individuals, families and communities. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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A string of good news from Haiti

January 29, 2014

The year 2014 is at its dawn; and already a string of good news is visiting with the Republic of Haiti, so often the venue of bad news. One of its native sons, Dany Laferriere, albeit now a citizen of Canada has been admitted as an immortal member of the august chamber of the French Academy. The World Bank is predicting that Haiti along with Guyana are the only countries in the Caribbean poised to reach a growth index of more than four percent.
The United States has taken the position to clear Haiti from a secret embargo that prevented travel agent consolidators from selling to travel agent retailers the country's sun, surf and sand. The president of Haiti, Michel Martelly, following a hemispheric survey, has been found the most popular leader of the Western Hemisphere, sharing that title with the president of Ecuador, the most recent recipient of that award. And last but not least, after some 150 years of diplomatic relations with the Vatican, Pope Francis I has named a new Haitian cardinal. His eminence Chibly Langlois is a papal candidate upon a vacancy at the conclave.
Last year at this time, I called upon St. Michael and St. Laurent to come to the rescue of Haiti because the string of bad news at the beginning of the year was strong enough to rock the boat and cause Haiti to sink into the abyss. I guess they did: 2014 is filled with pleasant surprises for Haiti. The politicians who took pleasure in destroying each other a la French model are sitting at the same table under the leadership of the newly appointed cardinal to discuss the business of the city instead of debating their own personal and vain ambitions.
The rainy season that usually starts in April is showing signs that it might come early, allowing the crops so thirsty for water to come to full maturity.
Albeit a native son, I have lived long enough abroad to look at Haiti with the eyes of a foreigner. I take delight in admiring the dignity of the women, the generosity of the men and the resilience of the children. Rich and poor, the women of Haiti display a sense of dignified elegance that causes one to question whether they were molded by the same parent. The street vendor dressed in a designer outfit recycled from the United States has a regal bearing that calls for a snapshot.
The men of Haiti, similar to the Hassidic Jews, have a special devotion to their women, worshiped as a deity; the women of Haiti refuse to believe they may have some of the most generous black males who willingly go the extra mile to satisfy their real and venal needs.
The children, albeit innocent, have the edge of living in a difficult country where the institutions and the infrastructure are quite inhospitable to its citizens. The young child in the rural area must walk a long distance to reach a school where the conditions for learning are not up to par. Yet the business of schooling is a growth industry in the country. Port au Prince or Cape Haitian, the largest cities of Haiti, are almost dead once school is not open. With almost all the children of Haiti going to school, the future cannot be but better.
Haiti needs the prayers of all its friends to remain in the glow of good luck. 2014 is an electoral year. With its culture of winner take all, and politics the fast way to wealth creation, dark days might be ahead for Haiti. May St. Laurent, the saint that is more effective than voodoo practice, protect Haiti. In the meantime, with the glacial wind visiting the Northeast of the United States, watching the Jazz Festival of Port au Prince in a clear and perfect night that looks more summer than winter, while the citizens of New York characterize their weather as "terrible", it is good to be in Haiti. Hoping the loas and St. Laurent will keep Haiti on the good side of lady luck so the string of good news will last all through the year.

o Jean H. Charles LLB, MSW, JD is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.com and followed for past essays at caribbeannewsnow/haiti. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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BTC deal: So said, so done

January 28, 2014

The announcement that we had all been waiting for came last week following months of negotiation between the government and representatives of Cable & Wireless (C&W) regarding the renegotiation of the contract to sell BTC to C&W. There have been different reactions by stakeholders and Bahamians as a whole in the aftermath of the press conference announcing the details of the agreement between both parties. Comments and reports that followed the disclosure of the deal have been mixed with the expected fanfare, political rhetoric, criticisms and praise.
Against this backdrop, it is important that we take a step back and look at the facts that are before us as expressed in the communications by C&W and the government with a view to answering the following questions: Did we strike a good deal? Has anything changed? Are we better off? Does the new deal constitute a bargain and consequently a victory for the Bahamian people?
Historical perspective
A fair consideration of the recent BTC deal must include a look at how we got here. In summary, there seems to be a consensus across political divides that the deal to sell the majority of shares in BTC to C&W was flawed in that we did not get adequate compensation based on the value of BTC at the time. Additionally, the level of transparency of the negotiation process and ultimate selection of C&W following initial bids by several potential buyers leaves much to be desired. The perpetual nature of government does not eliminate the fact that the deal to sell BTC to C&W was signed, sealed and delivered by the previous FNM-led government.
A promise to be kept
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) opposed the sale of BTC to C&W based on the proposed terms and committed to taking back majority ownership of BTC in favor of the Bahamian people prior to the last general election. Prime Minister Christie had vowed to pursue all lawful means available to ensure that the deal did not stand in the form agreed to by the previous administration. It is difficult to say how many individuals voted for the PLP because of this campaign promise albeit this provided hope to the electorate that certain parts of the deal will be reversed if the PLP was successful at the polls. At a minimum, the general expectation was that majority interest in BTC will be returned in favor of the Bahamian people. This is in spite of the fact that the promise was made at a time when The Bahamas like other nations was just emerging from the Great Recession.
The reality in negotiation
Upon assuming office, the PLP-led government set the wheels in motion to fulfil its promise to the Bahamian people by the appointment of a committee to commence negotiations with C&W in this regard; this was in spite of the warning from the former prime minister that the agreement was irreversible. The months of negotiation were filled with much speculation and suspense with any hope of reclaiming majority stake in BTC seeming to wane by the day.
The reasons why C&W would be reluctant to give up majority ownership were apparent for all to see and it was always an uphill battle for the government in its quest to fulfill its vow. C&W had a cash cow in BTC and it was in its best interest to maintain majority shareholding in order to maintain control over the Board and management to protect its investment as well as ensure that BTC's financial results were consolidated into its accounts.
On the government's part, the choices were limited. In the first instance, the government inherited a fiscal crisis with high recurrent deficit and record debt-to-GDP ratio. Hence, in using legal means in its pursuit to regain control without employing radical tactics, C&W must agree to give up the requisite shares to the government. Alternatively, C&W must agree to sell the shares required by the government to obtain majority stake and the government must be willing and able to pay the price. This dilemma could very well explain what appeared to be the impasses that were faced during the negotiation.
National versus political interest
One of the biggest challenges that government leaders face is the conflict between serving the national interest and political self-preservation. Unfortunately, not all political leaders put the interest of the people over theirs with a myopic focus on the next election instead of the next generation. The aforesaid challenge would have emerged during the negotiation process. The government had to make choices ranging from whether to put the nation's finances further in the red by spending money we could not afford to purchase the BTC shares needed to obtain majority stake. Other considerations included an extension of BTC's monopoly period and deadline for liberalization of the telecommunication's industry.
All of the options available to the government were obviously not in the best interest of Bahamians. Regardless of one's political affiliation, we could all agree that the government was right in not spending the taxpayers' funds on BTC shares and further exacerbate our fiscal position. As reported in one of our local dailies, analyst Robert Grindle noted that the current market value of the 2% of BTC shares sought by the government is $25 million. With the market about to be liberalized and competition about to set in, would this have been a prudent action? Certainly not. It would also have been a bad idea to delay competition and deny the Bahamian people the opportunity to choose better service and potentially pay lower prices as a result of liberalization in the near future.
The final deal
The press release by both the government and C&W confirmed that the majority economic interest in BTC had been returned to the Bahamian people; the government retains its 49% of BTC shares, C&W now owns 49% of BTC shares and the remainder of approximately 2% of BTC shares designated as non-voting shares have been transferred to a foundation of which the Bahamian people are the beneficiaries.
Certain facts are clear. The BTC deal transferred majority economic interest and not majority voting power to the Bahamian people or management to the government. C&W retains board and management control in relation to BTC. BTC's total shareholding has been reduced from 51% to 49%. In relation to voting shares, C&W owns a marginally larger number of shares than the government due to the specific number of shares transferred to the Foundation. It is an established fact and history has shown that governments are not the best at managing businesses. Hence, C&W's board and management control should be welcomed. Companies are in business to make profits and will typically adjust their expenditure including charitable donations based on their financial circumstances.
It should also be noted that the government's stake is strengthened by the appointment of a senior policy advisor in the office of the Chairman at BTC. Further, the government will be responsible for the appointment of all the members of the foundation council which is the governing body of the foundation.
Moreover, the proceeds transferred to the foundation will be used to fund social programs including sports, culture and crime fighting - funds that are a welcomed addition to resources that are supplied from the government's consolidated fund. In this sense, the foundation funds will not be exported out of the country in the form of profits resulting to C&W. Finally, BTC has announced that it will not cease its philanthropic efforts within the Bahamian society and that funds directed toward the same are separate and apart from the foundation.
Conclusion of the matter
In the final analysis, there is so much that can be said about how we found ourselves in this predicament in the first place, the quality of the initial deal and length of the recently concluded discussions. In the meantime, it is time for us all to move on. Are we better off than we were when the initial sale took place? Indeed we are and there is no doubt about this based on the facts outlined above; it would be disingenuous to suggest otherwise. We have witnessed a unique and modern form of public private partnership through the negotiation efforts by the government to the ultimate benefit of the Bahamian people. More importantly, we are also better off because the end of BTC's monopoly draws nigh and the liberalization of the telecommunications sector is at hand.

o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to a.s.komolafe510@gmail.com.

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The march to Majority Rule, pt. 4

January 27, 2014

"For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die." - Senator Edward M. Kennedy
As we noted in the first three parts of this series, the march to Majority Rule in The Bahamas can be characterized by two words: Sustained struggle.
Earlier this month, we celebrated the first public holiday to commemorate the day that Majority Rule came to The Bahamas on January 10, 1967. It was a life-changing event that catapulted the lives of many thousands to unimaginable heights. We began the march to Majority Rule with the discovery of these islands by the Europeans in 1492 and the subsequent accelerated population growth, aided as much by the American Loyalists who sought sanctuary here following the American Revolution, as by the trans-Atlantic slave trade which engendered numerous attempts by those slaves for freedom from their masters.
We also reviewed how the Burma Road Riot, Bahamians who were "on the Contract" and participants in the General Strike helped to create the framework for the attainment of Majority Rule.
In the final installment of this series, we will continue to Consider This... what were some of the major final milestones that contributed to the centuries-long march to Majority Rule?
The Women's Suffrage Movement
The 1950s was a decade of tremendous activism by Bahamian women who were deprived of many of the benefits of citizenship. Women could not vote, could not be elected to Parliament, and could not serve on juries, on public boards, as justices of the peace or in many of the established institutions in the colony. Much has been documented about the women who led the Women's Suffrage Movement, and the leading "Suffragettes" included Mary Ingraham, Eugenia Lockhart, Georgiana Symonette, Mabel Walker and Althea Mortimer. The Suffragettes petitioned Parliament for the right to vote and were largely supported in their efforts by the Progressive Liberal Party.
Through Doris Johnson, the Suffragettes asked permission to address members of the House of Assembly in 1959, which was refused. However, Magistrate Maxwell Thompson allowed them to use the Magistrate's Court for their presentation. The Suffragettes' activism also included a petition to the governor of the colony to change the law for universal suffrage, which, having failed, resulted in them (along with Henry Taylor, then chairman of the PLP) travelling to London to seek assistance from the British government.
The movement sent another petition to the government of the Bahama Islands in 1960 which was also rejected. The PLP took up the cause and held rallies in Nassau and the Out Islands. Following a relentless, focused and sustained struggle, on February 23, 1961 Parliament passed a bill, which came into effect on June 30, 1962, to allow women to vote and to serve in Parliament. Registration of women immediately followed and on Monday, November 27, 1962, women voted in The Bahamas for the first time. That election marked a tectonic shift in the body politic.
The general election of 1962
The general elections of 1962 were historic because it was the first general election in which women voted, the first time that the property and company votes were not allowed to vote and an election in which the PLP actually polled a majority of votes cast although it won significantly fewer seats than the incumbent United Bahamian Party (UBP). In that election, the PLP polled 32,261 votes or approximately 44 percent, winning only eight seats, compared to the UBP which polled 26,500 votes or 36 percent, but winning 18 seats. The Labour Party polled 3,049 votes which represented four percent, winning only one seat.
Several reasons were given for the PLP's defeat, notwithstanding its decisive plurality. Clearly there was considerable gerrymandering of seats, allocating a larger number to the Out Islands where it was much easier for the governing party to influence voting behavior by economic threats and political intimidation. In addition, many voters were still out of the colony "on the contract" and, finally, there was a level of trepidation and concern about the ability of black government to govern and maintain the level of political and economic stability to which the colony had become accustomed. The victory by the UBP resulted in deep-seated racial polarization for the next five years.
Black Tuesday
The next five years would witness considerably greater political activism in anticipation of the general elections in 1967. The PLP organized and orchestrated its activities with pin-point precision to maximize its political agenda. On February 4, 1965, during the debate on the report of the Constituencies Commission to which the PLP objected, Milo Butler and Arthur D. Hanna, both PLP members of the House of Assembly, were named and ejected from the House when they refused to take their seats after having exhausted their 15 minute time limit.
Several months later, on April 27, 1965, Lynden Pindling, then leader of the opposition, stated that Premier Symonette and his government appeared to be intransigent on the issue of boundary changes and, given the gerrymandering experience of the 1962 general elections, determined that more radical recourse was required.

Regarding the government's intransigence, Pindling stated that he could have "no part in it" and picking up the mace (the symbol of the authority of the House), said that "the mace is supposed to belong to the people of the country and the people are outside". He then threw the mace through the second-floor window to the people below. Milo Butler followed Pindling's lead by tossing the hour glass, which was used to time speeches, out of the window.
That event, which came to be known as Black Tuesday, stirred the emotions of the people, so much so that the police had to be called to quell the fervor that had been excited by Pindling who left the House to join the people outside.
Over the next two years, the PLP accelerated its political activity including the appeal to the United Nations Committee on colonialism, a boycott of the House of Assembly and the enlistment of support from noted American freedom fighters and celebrities, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. The PLP also galvanized the support of the unions, churches, and lodges. The stage was set for the general elections of 1967.
General election of 1967
In addition to the domestic political activism that preceded the elections of 1967, the PLP was successful in exploiting the specter of corruption and conflicts of interest by the UBP government which arose out of several Wall St. Journal articles late in 1966 which alleged the involvement of underworld figures in the casinos in Freeport. Lynden Pindling and Paul Adderley called for a Royal Commission to investigate these allegations and Sir Roland Symonette, the premier, responded by calling a snap general election for January 10, 1967, over 10 months before an election was due.
When the votes were counted, there was a tie: 18 seats for the incumbent UBP and 18 for the PLP with two additional seats: one for an independent, Alvin Braynen, and one for the Labour Party's Randol Fawkes. The stage was set for both parties to invite the two individuals to break the tie. Randol Fawkes, who was more closely aligned with the PLP, threw his support behind the PLP. The story is told that Mr. Braynen had wanted to be the speaker of the House of Assembly but was snubbed by the UBP in 1962, just five years earlier. So when Pindling called Braynen to offer him the speakership, Pindling began the conversation with "Hello, Mr. Speaker," to which Braynen responded: "Hello, Mr. Premier". And the rest is history. The PLP, now with 20 seats in its voting block, formed the first majority rule government, with Pindling as the nation's premier, going on to be prime minister for the next 25 years. Fawkes became the minister of labour and Braynen served his remaining years in Parliament as speaker of the House of Assembly.
Conclusion
The long march to Majority Rule in The Bahamas was a sustained struggle that started with Pompey and culminated with Pindling. Six years later, the Colony of the Bahama Islands joined the community of nations and became the independent Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The sustained struggle that marked the way to a majority-ruled, independent nation still continues as Bahamians now engage in a journey towards the economic empowerment and freedom that Pindling identified as the final struggle in the centuries-long voyage from enslavement to full freedom for generations to come.

o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com.

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Provisional and temporizing solutions not the answer to Caribbean problems

January 25, 2014

The extent of the damage and human suffering on the island of St Vincent caused by unprecedented rainfall and flooding over the Christmas holiday period is much greater than originally estimated. When the full assessment is done, it appears that costs will amount to between 15 and 17 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
In any country in the world, losses totalling between 15 and 17 percent of GDP is a grave blow, but for small islands, which lack the productive capacity and resilience to bounce back, the effect is even more severe.
The seriousness of the damage and the real likelihood that such disasters will reoccur with greater frequency and intensity strongly points to the necessity of two actions. Individual Caribbean countries and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries as a whole should establish disaster funds from which affected territories can draw for immediate rehabilitation of infrastructure and restoration of homes for the poorest, and every Caribbean country should push for the expansion of the size of resources for entities such as the Commonwealth Disaster Management Agency (CDMA) and the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) run by the World Bank.
In the case of CCRIF, the latest public figures show that it has a claims-paying capacity of US$132.5 million. This is a small sum in relation to the damage on St. Vincent and the Grenadines alone. When St. Lucia and Dominica - two islands that were also affected by the Christmas holidays flooding - are added to the equation, the available insurance money available to affected countries becomes even smaller.
In his budget statement to the St. Vincent and the Grenadines parliament, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves provided a graphic picture of the disaster on St. Vincent. He said over 11,000 persons or over 10 percent of the population were directly affected, and by December 31 over 50,000 persons or roughly 50 percent of the population were still adversely affected by extensive disruption of water supplies. He also explained the extensive and "huge" damage to physical infrastructure including 14 bridges destroyed; 14 bridges severely damaged; several miles of secondary roads and feeder roads ravaged; forests substantially denuded; and 662 houses damaged or destroyed. The prime minister put the aggregate cost at over US$120 million.
Prime Minister Gonsalves also stated that an international donors' conference is being proposed to be held within the next three months to receive pledges for the rehabilitation and recovery processes in the three affected countries. Additionally, governments will apply to international agencies for loans to start rebuilding programs. But, it will be months before loan applications can be made in conformity with the requirements of the agencies so that they can be appraised and approved for disbursement. In the meantime, the three islands are forced to cope as best they can.
In this connection, Prime Minister Gonsalves has shown creativity and imagination in mobilizing between US$13.4 million and US$19.0 million in new monies, of which he told his country's parliament he has already assembled US$11 million.
Significant in all this is that St. Vincent and the Grenadines has sophisticated disaster management machinery, namely a National Emergency Council, of which there are 44 members chaired by the prime minister; a National Emergency Executive Committee, with 10-sub-committees; and over 40 district disaster management committees. The country is to be congratulated for this machinery which, in part, must have contributed to ensuring that, in the aftermath of the disaster, as the prime minister put it "the immediate humanitarian/relief challenge did not metamorphose into a humanitarian disaster".
But, in the final analysis, the effects of climate change are now defying prediction and preparedness. At the same time as there was exceptional rainfall and flooding in the islands of St. Vincent, St. Lucia and Dominica, there was a massive ice-storm in Canada that left 250,000 homes without electricity and heating in temperatures at minus 20 and below; Britain was battered by storms that affected over 150,000 homes; and there was snow in Cairo. It is now reasonable to assume that disasters will come suddenly and devastatingly. Therefore, preparation now calls for the unexpected.
Unlike Britain and Canada, disasters in small islands are comprehensive in their effects on people and economies. And, unlike places like Britain and Canada, small islands do not have the capacity and resources to "bounce back" - to restore infrastructure swiftly and to recover from economic losses.
That is why small countries need access to funds that are immediate. The bulk of such funds ought to be grants or loans on the softest terms. This is also why, as soon as their economies are capable of it, Caribbean countries should collectively design their own disaster fund in addition to the existing Commonwealth and World Bank disaster insurance schemes.
Prime Minister Gonsalves painted in stirring terms a haunting picture of the disaster in his country and its consequences. He said: "In five hours of rainfall, floods, and landslides, hundreds of families have been reduced from vulnerability to indigence and from poverty to a 'dirt poor' condition. Large numbers of people have been suffering harsh conditions as a consequence of the natural disaster, although the humanitarian response has eased some of the pain and hardship. The journey to recovery would be long and difficult. Psychological anguish or trauma is evident among the suffering and vulnerable people".
The prime minister's statements were all contained in a Budget presentation to his country's parliament, as he warned that, in light of circumstances, he would introduce a further Budget in a matter of weeks as needs and resources becomes clear. In an intriguing description, he said the Budget was "interim" in nature, but this did not mean that it was "provisional or temporizing" in fact or law.
Five hours are all that it took to wreak havoc on St Vincent. The prime minister is right to look beyond the "provisional" and "temporizing" to strengthening his country's socio-economic base for recovery and reconstruction. Others in the region should do so too.

o Sir Ronald Sanders is a Consultant and Senior Research Fellow at London University and a member of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group appointed to recommend ways to reform the Commonwealth. Responses to: www.sirronaldsanders.com

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A reset of the Quiet Revolution: Towards a new path

January 22, 2014

We have just marked (and for some, celebrated) the first national Majority Rule Day. Due to the lackluster treatment of the holiday, the significance of the journey to 1967 and the bravery of the faces of the Quiet Revolution must be understood and shared so as to gain a national understanding of why we should pause and reflect on that path in our nation's struggle.
Much can be said about the successes and failures of our nation in the post-Majority Rule era. There is no denying that we have made tremendous progress. Since then, the majority has maintained control and has dominated the national political landscape.
This is a singular success of 1967. However, for many, 1967 was (correctly) more than just about the darts and arrows of party politics, or about Pindling for that matter. It marked the culmination of a revolution. Like most revolutions which generally focus on the overhaul of a system or the removal of dictatorial regimes or practices, the Quiet Revolution was grounded in a movement towards the upliftment of a people; of the institutionalization of equal rights and the charting of a national course for the collective advancement of a people, without boundaries, borders, fear or favor.
The truth too is that 1967 was not a struggle to attain black-power-like dominance. This may be startling in light of the fact that there was a prevalent culture of class and race inequality.
The Bay Street oligarchy -- the minority -- was the reservoir of both economic and political power. They "ran things" and in so doing they held the keys to the future of the majority. However, one glaring and compelling evidence of the cross-race movement that gripped the march to 1967 is the fact that the founders of the Progressive Liberal Party -- Henry Taylor, William Cartwright and Cyril Stevenson -- were not men of the negro race (arguably they were mulattoes). However, given the class-race culture in the islands at that time they would have enjoyed a pass to enter the socio-economic sub-middle-class.
Understanding 1967 and the magic of the revolution perhaps requires us to be in the bodies and minds of the Exumians and their heroic leader, Pompey. It is to be on the Burma Road revolt at the height of the fight for social justice. It is to join the marches with the suffragists. It is to stand with Clifford Darling and the taxi union in their push for fair standards and practices. It is to hear the voice of Milo Butler as he bellowed out the unfair and discriminatory treatment of working Bahamians. It perhaps is also to stand with Etienne Dupuch and Gerald Cash in their fight in the legislature for the passage of an anti-discrimination resolution. And it requires us to think of what led young minds like Lynden Pindling, Arthur Hanna, Orville Turnquest, Paul Adderley, Arthur Foulkes, Spurgeon Bethell, Oscar Johnson and Warren Levarity, and many others, to organize and join the "people's struggle" to take on a system that held political power for decades by standing as candidates in the 1962 general election.
The fight of the "majority" was not simply a mission for the further "emancipation" of the former slaves. It was a movement deeply embedded in the spirit of the uniqueness, talent, industriousness and sheer discipline of our history, culture and people. Its central focus was the "final" liberation of the Bahamian soul.
The truth therefore is that 1967 and the ushering in of the first black Bahamian government was a victory for the creation of a more fair and just society. The myth that must be dispelled is the simplistic notion that the revolution was for the majority, being limited to the blacks.
The revolution was larger than that. It did not have a singular or non-representational agenda or concentration. It was a fight to usher in a sacred sanctity for the natural evolution of the Bahamian spirit. Its embodiment of a communal vision was expressed in the early days of the Citizens Committee which recognized that those blessed to live on these shores were not ordinary but were destined to be a great people, no matter one's color, creed, religious and political persuasions, abilities and gender.
Simply put, it was a broad social "movement" that saw its constituents as all Bahamians, blacks and whites. It was not discriminatory (whether direct or reverse), but rather progressive and inclusive. It was not class or race conscious. It was liberal and forward thinking.
In today's analysis of the events that lead to 1967, we must broaden our appreciation for its purpose and value to the development of The Bahamas. It freed a once dormant spirit and it ushered in a push towards a new socio-economic platform that saw the advancement of many Bahamians of the post-1967 generation. It is therefore undeniable that it has its singularly success in the many thousands of faces of Bahamians who advanced far beyond the boundaries of poverty.
The revolution was also transformative, yet in some areas of national life, we have lost our way. We appear (now) to place less emphasis on ensuring the creation of a nation that trends towards common goals and aspirations. We sometimes give the "air" of being a people without direction and focus, and with little national priorities. In areas of our national lives mediocrity is the order of the day. We are devoid of the old values that cemented our "village". There is an absence of a "collective" national vision. The nation appears to be stagnant and there is a growing sense of hopelessness. Our national leadership seem to enjoy a deficiency of nationalism and we appear to be lost, lacking an agenda towards the further modernization of this nation state. We have lost our progressive edge.
We need to press the reset button to recreate that sense of national purpose, unity and singular call to arms. Our nation's detour of that purist path must cease and we must restore that once compelling national psyche housed within us.
We must also abandon that elitist attitude that we have achieved all that abounds. We must embrace a new political dispensation that restores us to the paths trod by the revolution. This begs for a recognition that the revolution's message is relevant and necessary in today's "modern" Bahamas.
It appeals for a national recommitment to the core and sacred principles of that glorious era so that the new and growing "minority" can be freed from the chains that enslave them. These are the "new" chains of institutionalized poverty, rampant social dislocation and disorder, a glass ceiling that deprives them of social promotion, a system that appears to be ignorant of their plight, struggles and way of life and a society which is shrinking in intellectualism and dynamism.
There is no denying the reality that the tenets of the 1967 revolution can find much space in the modern Bahamas. We have not outgrown her core principles. We should still cry out for bold and progressive leadership which is glued to the idealism of social justice, equality and economic liberation.
We must fill the vacuum for an agenda and plan that is holistic and nationalistic and that has at its core the creation of a society grounded on the foundational pillars of shared prosperity and community. That sense of community though is not restricted to an egotistical definition of national heritage and identity. It is an all-embracing journey that ties together the virtues of productivity, industry, integrity, knowledge, love and peace transcending a narrow interpretation of who is Bahamian.
The modern revolution must find root in the development of a cosmopolitan society that has no boundaries, no barricades, no social or economic discrimination or segregation, and no lofty height that could not be attained by the hard work, sustained commitment and discipline of the masses. It must be a pedestal for the souls of the liberators of the 1967 revolution.
Our work is not yet complete. We must find our voices and courage to stand firm to secure the dreams of the future generations of Bahamians. Our country must be restored to that nobler path of prosperity, peace and love.

o Raynard Rigby is an attorney-at-law and former chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party.

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The march to Majority Rule, Part III

January 20, 2014

History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future. - Robert Penn Warren
As we noted in parts I and II of this series, the march to Majority Rule in The Bahamas can be characterized by two words: sustained struggle.
On January 10, we quietly celebrated the first public holiday to commemorate the day that Majority Rule came to The Bahamas in 1967. It was a life-changing event that catapulted the lives of many thousands to unimaginable heights. Last week we reviewed three important milestones in the march to Majority Rule that helped to create the framework for the attainment of that achievement: the by-election of 1938, the Burma Road Riot of 1942, and the Contract beginning in 1943. This week and in the final week in January, we will continue to Consider This...what were some of the major milestones that contributed to the centuries-long march to Majority Rule?
The 1950s were decisively transformative on the march to Majority Rule. It was a decade that witnessed the formation of the PLP in 1953, the 1956 Resolution on Racial Discrimination in the House of Assembly and the 1958 General Strike.
The formation of the PLP
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) was established in 1953, following an attempt by the Citizens' Committee to actively address some of the rampant discriminatory practices by the white Nassau elite. The Citizens' Committee, formed in December 1950 initially protested the government's refusal to let Bahamians view three films: "No Way Out" (starring Bahamian actor Sidney Poitier), "Lost Boundaries" and "Pinky" all of which addressed societal injustices. Many of the members of the Citizens' Committee, which was led by Maxwell Thompson, Cleveland Eneas, and A. E. Hutchinson and whose members included Jackson Burnside, Randol Fawkes, Gerald Cash, Kendal Isaacs, Marcus Bethel and other prominent personalities, suffered brutal discrimination and many of its members were deprived of the ability to earn a living by the Bay Street oligarchy as a result of their social activism.
In October, 1953 the PLP was formed by Henry Taylor (who would become the third Bahamian governor general in an Independent Bahamas from June 26, 1988 to January 1, 1992), William Cartwright and Cyril Stevenson with a platform that responded to the challenge by Rev. H. H. Brown that: "The Progressive Liberal Party hopes to show that your big man and your little man, your black, brown and white man of all classes, creed and religions in this country can combine and work together in supplying sound and successful political leadership which has been lacking in The Bahamas."
The PLP made bold progressive promises for a more equitable social structure including equal opportunities for all Bahamians, better education, universal suffrage, stronger immigration policies, lower-cost housing and the development of agriculture and the Out Islands.
In the early days of the PLP, its members were subjected to abject ostracism and victimization by the white elite, including the loss of jobs and bank credit, as well as canceled contracts. In 1955, Lynden Pindling and Milo Butler emerged as the leaders of the party, appealing to the black masses to mobilize in advance of the general elections of 1956. The party also attracted Randol Fawkes, the founder of the Bahamas Federation of Labour in May 1955.
The general election of May 1956 was the first to be fought by an organized political party. The PLP won six seats in the House of Assembly, four in Nassau and two in Andros. That election significantly accelerated the march to Majority Rule. In March 1958 the white oligarchy formed themselves into the second organized political unit, the United Bahamian Party (UBP). The UBP would later disband and its members would join forces with the Free National Movement (FNM) in 1972.
The 1956 Resolution on Racial Discrimination in the House of Assembly
In the wake of rampant racial discrimination that prevented access for black people to hotels, movie theatres, restaurants, and other public places, H. M. Taylor, the chairman of the PLP, whose platform vowed to eliminate racial discrimination in the colony, tabled a number of questions to the leader of the government.
Moved by this and in light of his own disgust with racially motivated practices, in January 1956, Etienne Dupuch, the editor of the Nassau Tribune and a member of the House of Assembly for the eastern district, tabled an Anti-Discrimination Resolution in the House of Assembly. During his passionately eloquent speech on the resolution, the speaker of the House of Assembly ordered Dupuch to take his seat, threatening, if he refused to do so, that he would be removed from the chamber by the police. Dupuch responded: "You may call the whole Police Force, you may call the whole British Army...I will go to [jail] tonight, but I refuse to sit down, and I am ready to resign and go back to the people." The speaker abruptly suspended the House proceedings.
Although the resolution was supported by H. M. Taylor, Bert Cambridge, Eugene Dupuch, C.R. Walker, Marcus Bethel, and Gerald Cash, it was referred to a select committee, effectively killing it. However, the following day, most of the Nassau hotels informed the public that they would open their doors to all, regardless of their race.
The 1958 General Strike
The General Strike began in January 1958 after several months of tension that arose because of the government's plans to allow hotels and tour buses that were owned by the established white tour operators to provide transport for visitors to and from the airport, at the expense of predominantly black taxi drivers who made a large portion of their living transporting tourists between the new Windsor Field (Nassau International) Airport and downtown hotels. To allow the hotels and tour companies to supplant the taxi drivers would severely curtail the ability of black taxi drivers to earn a decent living.
The government learned that the taxi drivers would vehemently protest this arrangement when they blockaded the new airport on the day it opened. On that day, nearly 200 union taxi drivers stopped all business at the airport for 36 hours, showing their determination to protest the government's plans. Negotiations on 20 points ensued between the union, represented by Lynden Pindling and Clifford Darling, the union's president, and the government for the following eight weeks, but broke off after they could not agree on one final point.
On January 11, 1958 the taxi union voted for a general strike and the next day the General Strike commenced with the cessation of work at hotels, which was supported by hotel and construction workers, garbage collectors, bakers, airport porters and employees of the electricity corporation. The strike lasted until January 31 and prompted a visit to the colony by the secretary of state for the colonies who recommended constitutional and political and electoral reforms which were incorporated into the General Election Act of 1959. Following the General Strike, male suffrage was introduced for all males over 21 years of age and the company vote was abolished.
Undoubtedly, the General Strike accentuated the ability of effective reform that could be achieved by the peaceful mobilization of the black majority.
Conclusion
Next week, we will review the decade of the 1960s and discuss how the Women's Suffrage Movement, the 1962 general elections and Black Tuesday culminated in the eventual attainment of Majority Rule with the general elections of 1967.

o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com.

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The harsh effects of being less well-off

January 18, 2014

Throughout the Caribbean, people feel less well off. The only people who may be exceptions to this general sentiment are those in Guyana whose per capita income (now US$3,410) has increased in recent years. But even in Guyana, the per capita income level is so low -- higher only than Haiti (US$760) in the Caribbean community -- that any perception among the majority of doing better is marginal.
Unemployment has risen in several countries affecting families across the board. They either have less collective income or those fortunate enough to be employed have to contribute to the survival of those without jobs.
Disposable incomes for all have declined as higher costs for utilities and higher income and value added taxes devour increasingly larger portions of wages and salaries.
Again with the exception of a small number of countries, the decline in real family incomes has adversely affected the construction industry with a decelerating effect on economies. The construction of individual homes or housing schemes is a provider of jobs and has a multiplier effect on economies stimulating economic growth.
Because of tight constraints to make ends meet, families are less willing to take on mortgages that they might be unable to repay. In any event, banks and other financial institutions are themselves reluctant to lend for anything but projects that have the most secure collateral. Many of them are already holding mortgages and loans that are in default of payment by their customers. They are finding difficulty to recover their money even if they repossess properties.
Businesses, faced with contracting domestic markets in several Caribbean countries, have also been wary of investing in expanding existing businesses or creating new ones. Hence, they too are making no contribution to industries such as construction, and they are treading lightly in incurring additional debt and in taking on more employees.
A serious consequence of all this is a shrinking middle-class in many Caribbean countries and an enlarging poor and near-poor. A grave consequence is the increase in violent crime by some who are most deprived - probably linked to drug trafficking and addiction. In the past, Caribbean countries have been most concerned about the negative impact of such violent crime on foreign investors, but the problem has escalated to distress local communities. A big growth industry in the Caribbean is security services and it will grow even more in the adversity of the present economic circumstances.
Yet while Caribbean countries individually are in this grip of economic and social hardship to one extent or another, collectively the region is rich in real terms, both in natural and human resources. If the resources of the Caribbean community were harnessed for the benefit of the region as a whole, a halt could be brought to the current decline and a process of steady improvement could begin. There is, however, a reluctance to do so. Instead there is a resolute insistence by governments to deal with the problems in a national context only - a major component in most cases is beseeching and borrowing.
Well-minded advocates for "national solutions" even suggest that to look at regional options is "time wasting" and "distracting". But, those who advance this argument have not explained how the majority of small Caribbean economies would overcome their physical smallness; the smallness of their domestic economies; the severe restraints on raising money on the international capital market to build much needed infrastructure; and their individual lack of capacity to bargain in the international community for better terms of trade, credit, and investment. Even Guyana, Belize, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, with their bigger size and greater natural resources, cannot by themselves overcome these obstacles.
To overcome them, resources need to be combined for a common good; production needs to be integrated to make best use of resources - human and natural; sovereignty needs to be pooled both to bargain more effectively and to become attractive to investors and to international lenders.
It seems that many governments of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are not ready to collaborate to make themselves more competitive in production; more attractive for investment; and more worthy for credit. Therefore, perhaps the time has come for a smaller coalition of willing countries to embark on such a course separate and apart from the rest of CARICOM countries. In doing so, none of them would be required to give up their nationhood or national control of their borders; their culture; their legislatures; their taxes or their local environment.
Not all decisional areas raise issues of the same political prominence in every country. It is possible to separate out some on which action might move ahead by countries that are willing to participate. In other words, a coalition of the willing could establish a more customized approach, based on interests and capacities. Such an initiative, while bringing benefits to the participating states would help to re-build confidence among the Caribbean people through the demonstration that regional integration makes good sense.
Among the collaborative enterprises that the "willing" could consider are specific areas of investment in one or more country to which the participating states could stand as joint borrower, joint owner and joint beneficiary. These could focus on energy, value-added manufacturing, food production and tourism.
Individual Caribbean countries may not be considered acceptable risks for loans and investment, particularly in today's market, but a combination of them would be an attractive proposition. Not many areas of the world offer the backing of a wide range of commodities and services that the Caribbean has: bauxite, manganese, asphalt, oil, gas, sugar, rice, nutmeg, coffee, cocoa, a variety of fruits, flowers, animal, poultry, fish, forestry, gold, diamonds, tourism, financial services, and the potential for geo-thermal and solar energy.
Each country has resources but, by themselves, except for oil, gas and gold, they are not sufficient to attract major investment or to provide access to capital on the international market. And even in oil, gas and gold, capital investments are less attractive when the risk is being taken in one country alone and where only one government is the borrower or acts as guarantor.
Of course, governments must devise national solutions to all their problems, not only the economic ones. This calls for innovative ideas; for practical plans and creative management; and for implementation capacity. But, Caribbean governments are fortunate in having a further string to their bow - regional collaboration. Both paths should be pursued simultaneously.
There is nothing to lose, and there would be a good shot at curing some of the ills that now befall each country without exception.

Sir Ronald Sanders is a consultant and senior research fellow at London University and a member of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group appointed to recommend ways to reform the Commonwealth. Responses to: www.sirronaldsanders.com

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Saving the Caribbean

January 17, 2014

I have cultivated tough hope for CARICOM to reach its majestic ideal. Today, this promise is more likely to be fulfilled two generations in the future. Wreckage of spirit is creating an economic and social catastrophe -- unprecedented and unseen. We are bypassing resurrection for decay. The magnitude of our malady is overwhelming. Without an alternative vision, we drown in doom.
January is still with us and already feelings of newness are replaced with horrific stories of crime. We can never gain in police interventions what we've lost in moral values. Twenty fourteen is beginning to dish out collective punishment for supporting politicians who ignore our best talent for lackluster recruits from foreign lands.
Mismanagement and missed opportunities have weakened our ability to take advantage of international trends to make the Caribbean the best place in the world to do business. I think we have subconsciously accepted, little, less and least by avoiding innovative exploration of inside-out solutions to regional development.
For all this, we pause to ask ourselves how to open doors to restricted resources? How do we escape deprivation of choices for a better future? I am thinking about thousands of young people and elderly folks who are hungry and destitute. I am thinking about the dwindling middle class and the wealthy few whose disconnection is stirring wishes for brighter days. I am thinking about small minded leaders who use half of the country to maintain power and leave the other half outside national productivity.
Prudence sees this challenge as a mindscape of unnatural disasters that can ease our troubling. The dance for free and cheap things continues.
Yet am I deeply concerned that healing voices, most sincerely, continue to plant seeds that help our young people never give up on new possibilities for human empowerment and regional advancement - personal, ethical and collaborative. As I travel and listen to so many who are fearful, incarcerated and humiliated, and come face-to-face with mental oppression that dehumanizes our region, caring turns into a radical search for pragmatic solutions.
These solutions must resist self-rejection and neat notions of inferiority -- notions that we have mindlessly enshrined as edifying thinking.
I agree the Caribbean colonial struggles are both harming and charming us. They should also alarm us to brutal global forces. These forces no longer permit us to piss in each other's faces and survive -- without bringing untold torments at our doorsteps.
In the midst of this heartless misery, we feel validated only when "foreign experts" are paid millions to import strategies that were never intended for our victory. Oh, how we justify this imprisonment with delusions of mainstreaming our ambitions. Monkey doesn't have to do what monkey sees. Try not to fool me with eloquence: "My nose knows what it knows."
To free the Caribbean from these negative mental traditions transmuted to us -- and summed up as foreign is superior and excellence is imported -- we have to unleash speed and energy. Speed to open up ourselves to the Caribbean's glory and potential, and energy to establish environmental approval of local ability.
When shall we learn to accept that Caribbean wealth -- concrete and intangible -- does not belong to everyone else across the world, other than island people?
When shall we understand that competence, daring and conscious leadership constitute sources of economic and social prosperity for everyone? Not empty prestige for a few.
These broad concerns have been seducing my intense attention. They are stirring passions for a liberating democratic vision and an inclusive thriving economy. But this vision must be sustained by moral courage and infinite integrity. If such courage and integrity reminds us of our shortsightedness and engages our enormous capacities, the common good will flourish.
I believe that regional self-esteem is partly the answer. Perhaps we are too satisfied with selecting, electing and erecting toxic leadership. Perhaps we praise dysfunctional actions that covertly and overtly discard and discredit us. Maybe we have fully accepted the myth that poverty is okay because we are okay.
I relish reparations for undermining ordinary island talent every day and every night. Who will pay for this magnificent insanity that screams for self-confidence?
We need a magnetic dignity that gives our young people economic and ethical support to achieve greatness. Our religious spaces, homes and communities ought to sustain self-worth. Behaviors that make mincemeat of our people's aspirations and force Caribbean talent to live in foreign places must go. We have to stop squeezing out the lifeblood of indigenous creativity. It can penetrate the world and be effective at home.
What does this tradition of putting down ourselves signify in 2014 and beyond for 'Caribbeaners'? Solving this could generate powerful dividends.
The remedy cannot be more education -- experiential and academic -- that reinforces these callous arrangements. We need favorable response from each other to stimulate Caribbean intelligence and social action. Our self-value and interpersonal successes cannot be separated from models of support and nurture. These models should socialize us in attitude and values suited for self-love, change, and regional progress.
We can discover unknown vacancies when we don't expect what we already know. True. Uncertainties cannot be erased. Yes. We have a long walk to economic freedom, acceptance, and spiritual maturity. This journey requires enlightened followership, actionable leadership, and clarity of purpose.

o Dr Isaac Newton is an international leadership and change management consultant and political adviser who specializes in government and business relations, and sustainable development projects.

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Defining a solution to crime

January 17, 2014

The annual crime statistics were released on Wednesday by Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade, who revealed that while overall crime is down eight percent, murders and sex crimes are on the rise...

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Minnis: Govt is blocking bid to table hanging bill
Minnis: Govt is blocking bid to table hanging bill

January 16, 2014

FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis claims that the government is attempting to block the opposition's efforts to table a bill drafted by the party, that if passed would give the Court of Appeal the sole power of sentencing murderers to hang...

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Christie's and Davis' troubling statements on crime

January 16, 2014

With public confidence in the Christie administration's responses to crime and its causes low and ebbing, especially after the carnage in Fox Hill several fresh weeks ago, the two most senior men in government seem stuck in a quicksand and quandary of denial and delusion.
Soon after Prime Minister Perry Christie publicly undermined Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade, Deputy Prime Minister Philip "Brave" Davis dismissively underplayed the severity of crime. This week Christie made other comments which leave many wondering where the prime minister's mind is on crime.
Quicksand is "a place or situation into which entry can be swift and sudden but from which extrication can be difficult or impossible". Having breezily touted that it had many of the answers to crime, the PLP is now caught in the quicksand of overpromising, with the party sinking under the weight of its pandering and unfulfilled promises.
Christie's address at the opening of the 2014 Bahamas Business Outlook again demonstrated his colossal failure "as prime minister", including his abysmal failure to lead on the crime front.
As the country wrestles with economic and national insecurity we are faced with a crisis of leadership at the heart of government. Christie does not have the capacity to lead, yet there is more than three years left in a floundering and mostly failed government.
With domestic and international attendees seeking guidance from the head of government, Christie went off-script, was rambling and unfocused, at times unintelligible. As usual he talked big in terms of his government's plans. Such talk so often results in little to no action.
In another bout of self-adulation and self-congratulation, Christie patted himself on the back for being such a hard worker, the sort of praise best left to others, especially in light of how arguably most Bahamians actually view his prime ministership.

In denial
The haunting concern for many is that the prime minister seems to be in denial about his failures, unable to address them, while deluding himself on what a good job he's doing
Christie's penchant for endless gab is legendary. Now he increasingly seems not to think before he speaks, making reckless statements sometimes bordering on the bizarre. Christie's rhetoric is alarming and deeply troubling.
The Tribune reported: "Prime Minister Perry Christie expressed concern over his own personal safety as he expanded on the government's toughened stance against violent crime in the country, specifically in his own constituency."
Christie was possibly trying to demonstrate empathy with a public deeply anxious about crime. If so, his statement had the opposite effect. He made matters even worse in terms of public confidence.
In what should have been a major headline, The Bahamas prime minister announced to domestic and international audiences that he feels unsafe, despite the fact that he enjoys 24-hour police protection including quite often outriders accompanying him around New Providence.
This was yet another slap at the Royal Bahamas Police Force, a reckless statement by a prime minister whose judgment is seriously in question. He used the megaphone of his office to inform potential investors, foreign governments, the international media, cruise lines and other tourism stakeholders that he personally feels unsafe.
Perhaps Christie's statement was not a headline because many journalists, who may have thought this was just Christie being Christie, often do not take his comments seriously.
Because many foreign observers may not know better, is there no one who can rein in a prime minister whose out-of-control rhetoric risks doing great harm to the country?
The Tribune also reported: "'There is something', he (Christie) said, 'that is supposed to happen as a country automatically as a response, a team of people go in and talk. Those are the things happening now that I'm not going to apologize for it. I'm raising hell for it, and talking strongly about it, what must be in place. I want you to know this. I don't care what the position is'."
What is he blustering about? What exactly does he want us to know - that he's actually not telling us? If he is referring to sensitive internal matters he should exercise better judgment and remain quiet. Instead he left his audience totally baffled.
Referring to a survey he indicated his administration would take in response to crime, Christie was reported to have said at the forum:
"Go to every house in every constituency, begin with mine and I'm not talking about no random survey. Every house, tell me who's blind, who's deaf, who's dumb, who's not working, who's smartest in class. I am not going to allow the country to compromise on this."

Big idea
This is classic Christie, a so-called "big idea" that is easier to announce than to fully realize. A survey of the kind that the prime minister indicated would be quite an undertaking. Think, for example, of the massive undertaking that is the decennial census.
What is the purpose and scope of the proposed survey? Exactly what sort of data is being collected? How are the questions being designed? The retrieval of the data is another huge undertaking in terms of a public education program, training those doing the collection, getting people to respond to certain questions and a host of other issues.
Does the government really intend to survey every household? If so, why? And exactly why is Christie's household to be interviewed?
From Christie's list of matters the survey may ask, it is clear, that like the initial announcement of a Bahamian Mardi Gras, that little has been thought through, as is often the case with the grand pronouncements he makes.
A statement by DPM Davis on crime being overplayed was another troubling example of how out of touch are certain senior members of this administration.
Last Wednesday, The Guardian's Royston Jones Jr. reported: "Despite being robbed at gunpoint in his home last month, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis said The Bahamas is not 'as dangerous as it is made out to be'.
"Davis was responding to a question from The Nassau Guardian about the security upgrades at his West Ridge home following a December 8 armed robbery."
Davis was quoted: "We do have pockets of young men who have lost their way and are wreaking havoc, but I think it is all confined within what I call groupings."
The reporter did not fail to note the discrepancy between Davis' recent statement and one made just some months ago. As reported: "His (Davis') claim that The Bahamas is not as dangerous as it is made out to be came months after he declared that 'no one is safe from crime' in The Bahamas.
"Davis made that statement after one of his police aides was shot in eastern New Providence..."

Fertilizer
For the man who promoted the very public and gratuitous display of crime statistics at various roundabouts in order to score political gain to say that crime is overplayed is more than garden-variety hypocrisy. His statement is an orchard of hypocrisy fuelled by noxious fertilizer.
As for those pockets of young men who have lost their way and are wreaking havoc, supposedly "confined" to certain "groupings", they regularly leave their confines in order to rob, maim, rape and assault residents throughout New Providence, including invading and robbing the home of the acting prime minister.
The Tribune reported on what was stolen from the DPM's home, including "jewellery worth $93,000, a jewellery box worth $200, Baraka gold jewellery worth $700, an opal top wallet worth $450, a Royal Bank credit card ... " and $2,953 from Davis' wife.
Bahamians are relieved that the incident was not even more serious. How is one robbed of jewellery and cash worth approximately $100,000 and then suggest that crime is overplayed? Perhaps those of us who have been victims of crime are simply not as "brave" as the DPM.
Guardian Business Editor Allison Lowe reported on the concerns of "Jim Walker, partner at Walker and O'Neil, a Miami law firm" who represents "clients injured or assaulted on cruise ships around the world."
Guardian Business reported: "Walker called the recent armed robbery of then-acting prime minister, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis in his home, a 'real wake-up call' which would not have gone unnoticed by cruise lines.
"'It fascinates me that the acting prime minister was robbed at gunpoint - it's unbelievable to me. It's deeply disturbing because you'd assume you would take far better protection of your honorable leaders than some teenagers coming on shore with flip flops, so what does that say?' said Walker."
What does this say indeed about the mindset, incoherence and incompetence of this administration on matters of law and order?

o frontporchguardian@gmail.com
www.bahamapundit.com.

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