Opinion

Sociopolitical reflections of an octogenarian Bahamian native son, pt. 2

March 01, 2014

The Village comprised of an area called the Big Yard, Museum and Art Gallery, the movie room, homestead, culture gardens, historic and documents center, arts and crafts commercial center and the theater for the performing arts with a seating capacity of 400. As the minister of finance, Carlton Francis assisted the project greatly. The first Jumbey Festival was held at Jumbey Village on Blue Hill Road in 1971 and the last one was held in 1973.
In 1973, Livingstone Coakley, then minister of education, instructed me to broaden the scope of the community development program and prepare a Cabinet paper for the approval of the same. We submitted the paper in November 1973. The introduction of the paper was as follows: By previous memoranda Cabinet has been kept informed of the progress of community development program which also incorporates the cultural and recreational program for the development of the youth of this commonwealth. The government must in keeping with its policy recognize that community development must play a vital role in the development of this nation specifically mentioned in the white paper. This program was designed to promote social and cultural stability especially among the young people of the nation and we celebrated when we received the news that the youth development program was adopted by Cabinet. I was utterly shocked when I discovered a few days before the budget was tabled that the approved program was not in the budget. I demonstrated on the floor of Parliament and was spitefully fired by the prime minister.
The context of the times
The year 1974 was a rough one for The Bahamas. The decision to become independent in 1973 led to a rise in unemployment and we became somewhat paralyzed as a nation. The rift among government members and backbenchers over the takeover of the casinos by government, the resignation of Carlton Francis and the dismissal of the parliamentary secretary for community development did great damage to the Progressive Liberal Party and the government.
As a result of social and economic problems looming there was unrest in the country. I decided to take a stand and planned a march on Parliament to awaken the government. We organized a march for May 29, 1974 and at the same time I tabled a resolution in Parliament requesting a select committee to consider the social, cultural and economic plight of the Bahamian people. At 9 a.m. hundreds gathered at Jumbey Village with placards and marched from over the hill, arriving at the House of Assembly at 10 a.m. singing songs of comfort. I moved the resolution on the floor of the House of Assembly calling for a select committee to consider the social, cultural and economic plight of the Bahamian people with powers to send for persons and papers and with leave to sit during the recess, and it was unanimously adopted by parliamentarians. The select committee completed an interim report on the economic problems which loomed in the face of the Bahamian people and the report was laid on the table of the House of Assembly on September 4, 1974.
Shortly after the report was tabled, I was informed by the prime minister that the report would be deferred by ministers back to the committee. After the meeting with the prime minister, I was shocked to learn that the figures provided to the committee by the Department of Statistics were changed after the report was tabled. The committee came to conclusions and made recommendations on the following programs:
1. Touristic facilities.
2. Agriculture and fisheries.
3. Light industries.
4. Entertainment industry.
5. Youth development schemes.
Members of the committee came to the conclusion that the plan of action that had great promise for the people was sabotaged by members of the government.
Today, this country is going through a major crisis and is on the border of anarchy. Many are wondering how we arrived at this critical stage. I am compelled to reflect on the revolution of January 1967 when we danced and celebrated our newfound freedom and I also remember how we soon forgot our responsibilities to those who elected us. I have vivid memories of our commitment to true freedom. Then we had the available resources and the attitude of the people to accomplish anything we desired of them.
I would like to thank Sir Stafford Sands for his vision and commitment to our Bahamas. He must be given credit for his efforts in laying the ground work in 1966 for a massive urban development program. It was during this period that he commissioned a study that was prepared for the government of The Bahamas by the Institute of Urban Environment and the Division of Urban Planning of the School of Architecture of Columbia University in New York City. This study began in 1966 and was completed during the PLP government's first term in 1967. The study recommended sweeping social development action in Over-the- Hill areas in New Providence. It should be noted that every serving member of the House of Assembly during that term was issued a copy of that document. I am convinced that this plan had the key to most of today's problems and would have transformed over the hill. What a tragedy.
Today's situation
Urban Renewal 2.0, as we know it today, is a work in progress. I am of the view that the fundamental problem is that it is not structured correctly; for instance, the use of members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the overlapping of social services and urban development. Urban development is a highly technical field requiring qualified, well-trained people to develop the whole man or woman. Social services, on the other hand, is catering to the poor and the underprivileged who are in dire need of social help like food, shelter and immediate assistance during mishaps like fires, hurricanes, flooding and other disasters. If the urban development is to be successful there has to be a separation among social services, urban development and interventions of the police force. The involvement of police should focus more on community policing exclusively, which deals with the symptoms of crime rather than the rehabilitation of criminals. We cannot afford to have our officers in khaki uniforms talking about social issues as a primary focus. It gives the wrong impression and sends the wrong message. Their role is defined as police officers in our country and they should be focusing on their mandate to protect and serve the individuals and the community. Additionally, urban development encompasses creating sustainable and meaningful development programs to be executed throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. There are well-written, documented community development programs in the ministry from as far back as 1971 that can assist in bringing about the desired changes today. These programs are as relevant today as much as they were when they were written more than 40 years ago.
On February 8, 1976, I resigned from the Progressive Liberal Party. In my closing statement I said: "Over the years I served you to the best of my ability, because I fought for the principles and ideals for which I was elected and because I took the case of your social and economic plight to the halls of Parliament. I was maligned, victimized and most recently detained in a small, unhealthy cell for 12 hours without explanation. I have come to the conclusion that there is no freedom in the Progressive Liberal Party."
In spite of the sacrifices made by the Bahamian people to construct Jumbey Village it meant nothing to the decision makers in 1987. I passed Jumbey Village one Friday evening in July 1987 and when I returned on Saturday morning it was flattened. Later, I was informed that they had to use explosives to blow away the theater. Can you imagine how traumatized I was to learn that our government had granted permission to blow up its nation's cultural heritage? Words cannot express my sadness, anguish and the disappointment that I experienced concerning the destruction of Jumbey Village.
Today, we have become victims of a patronage system which destroys our ability to grow and excel. The social and economic conditions are indeed explosive and our leaders seem to be unable to meet the challenge. If we are to solve these problems, we have to search where we went wrong and admit it. It cannot be business as usual. We, the masters of the Quiet Revolution made mistakes somewhere along the lines and it is my humble belief that we all know what went wrong and who is responsible. We all must confess our transgressions and ask God for forgiveness. Our political leaders should take the lead. I have taken the high road in these matters. Although I have reasons to be bitter, I am not and neither should you be. We must rid ourselves of this cult atmosphere prevailing in the country and unite in a serious mission to build the nation.
In conclusion, it would be safe to say that the template to correct and fix most if not all of the social and economic problems was created many years ago, and well exemplified by the creation of Jumbey Village.
It is also safe to say that self-help and community involvement are not foreign concepts even if they now appear to be almost unknown to many Bahamians. But as in the past, committed and enlightened leadership is required to lift us out of the cesspit of social degradation in which we now find ourselves.
Urban Renewal as envisioned four decades ago involves the youth of the country and creates economic opportunities for the people and a deep sense of self-empowerment which can be successfully transmitted up and down the line across varying age levels.
Despite the decided reality of our political and philosophical differences, the bottom line is if we are to succeed as a caring nation, we must put aside some of the ever-present acrimony that certainly creates more harm than good. It would behoove us to rally our cooperative efforts behind those who are clearly committed to the overall improvement of our people as individuals and as communities.
If the government cannot accept advice, even in the face of the murderous scourge engulfing the country, then we are doomed. However, I am hopeful that the era of spiteful recriminations and tribal behavior is behind us and we can come together, government and opposition, church and civil society, for the common good. I am also hopeful that the promise of 1967 will finally be realized, where the good of the people trumps all other interests.
o Edmund Moxey is a former member of Parliament.

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Sociopolitical reflections of an octogenarian Bahamian native son, pt. 1

February 28, 2014

On December 2, 2013, I celebrated my 80th birthday with much gratitude. Having reached such an important milestone, I paused to reflect on my youthful days when I became a part of an organization dedicated to the struggle for social justice.
Today, my soul mourns the social, economic and political state of the nation and I must conclude that we have travelled from slavery to slavery. We have to agree that something is drastically wrong in our nation and we must unite to seek an effective remedy.
My struggle on the battlefield was rough and sometimes disappointing. However, I remained steadfast and focused in my resolve to preserve democracy. Recently, I was shocked and disappointed in the minister of tourism regarding his revelation of the intention to establish a gaming mecca in The Bahamas. Our forefathers must be in misery as they turn over in their graves. My, my, what a serious departure from our heritage culture and the things we fought for not so long ago. Questions about who should get the next casino license and the establishment of a gambling economy should be cause for serious reflection by all Bahamians.
I vividly recall that in March, 1972 I was informed that Cabinet was to develop a green paper on independence. A green paper is a working document that is sent to Parliament for further development of a final document called a white paper. I was elated because this meant that we were continuing to uphold the primary underpinnings upon which our election rested. My joy quickly vanished when I found out that the venue for the national conference was to be the casino theater on Paradise Island.
I immediately sought an audience with the prime minister to find out what was the reasoning behind his decision to discuss and develop independence for a nation in a casino theater. The prime minister confirmed that the casino was the intended venue and bluntly told me that if I had a better location to suggest he would accept that location. I accepted the challenge and within days identified Harold Road Auditorium (A.F. Adderley School gym) located over the hill. The prime minister accepted the Over-the-Hill location and fortunately the conference was opened on April 15, 1972.
This conference was indeed symbolic because we created a mock parliament setting up the auditorium like the House of Assembly. We borrowed the paraphernalia from the House, including the mace, and constructed a replica of the House over the hill.
It was a national event and it seemed like everybody attended. In attendance were social and cultural organizations, a delegation from every Family Island, unionists, taxi drivers and persons from all walks of life. It was a historic event and we were able to openly discuss and share our views on what we thought an independent Bahamas should be. The official opposition members refused to attend the meeting because they felt as if we should not have created a mock Parliament over the hill and while they believed in independence they did not believe that we were ready for it in 1973.
The opening of the mock Parliament took the form of the official opening of Parliament held in Parliament Square today. During the meeting we were able to develop the green paper and place the completed draft of the proposed format on the prime minister's desk. It was sent to Parliament in the fall of 1972 and a date was set in January 1973 for independence on July 10, 1973.

Transitioning
and gambling
On December 12, 1973, there was a serious rift within the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the government over casino operations and ownership in The Bahamas. I recall the nasty confrontation between former Minister of Development the late Carlton Francis and the former Minister of Finance A.D. Hanna. It was truly a rude awakening for those present. The confrontation came about because of the critical position taken against the United Bahamian Party in 1967 by the PLP. As a matter of fact, the PLP waged a vicious campaign against casino gambling and the mafia bosses during the 1967 campaign which led to majority rule. It was unthinkable to many of us that the government would want to form a partnership with the mafia group that we campaigned so vehemently against after winning the government. We must not forget the remarks made by Francis that day on the floor of Parliament in connection with the government's plan to take over the casinos in The Bahamas. Francis, who was also perceived to be speaking on behalf of the Baptist Convention, stated the following, "I am making it clear that as far as I am concerned this is a conscience matter. This resolution raises a fundamental question for me. I am making a clear divergence between my principles and political considerations. Leaving conscience aside, I would like to raise the point that we are a young nation. We have not yet found a national identity. I feel that the white paper (on independence) and the speech from the throne put before us certain ideals and qualities that I would like to see in a young and growing nation. Gambling is a cancer eating away at the qualities that help to make people what they are. I believe there are alternatives, but no one will find these alternatives as long as they can find the easy way out. I do not believe that gambling is good for the country."
Francis was forced to resign as minister of development and it is my opinion that his reaction was brought about by the behavior of Hanna. Further, I found it difficult to understand why the prime minister seemed eager to let his most able minister go and demonstrated no compassion or sympathy for him. Francis' removal from the Cabinet table created a void that was difficult to fill.
Some 41 years ago, our government seemed hellbent on lying in bed with casino operators and today nothing has changed. The mission of the Quiet Revolution has been betrayed.
On January 26, 1974, I made the following statement at the First Annual Conference of the Coconut Grove constituency, "The introduction in this country of an economy based on organized gambling will surely destroy our cultural heritage."
Today, 40 years later, I stand by that statement and call upon the nation to take a stand. We do not need any more casinos in The Bahamas. I humbly beg the government to reconsider its present position. We all know that there are alternatives, but we refuse to explore them. We must act now and we must be creative.

Community development
I was first elected to Parliament on Tuesday, January 10, 1967 to represent the Coconut Grove constituency. I soon found out that the Progressive Liberal Party government inherited a system of oppression and had no intention of changing it. I called my constituents together and we decided to seek help to embark on a social, cultural and economic development program. The program was a success and to our credit the constituents of Coconut Grove gained a community center, Jumbey Festival, and Jumbey Village on Blue Hill Road. I recall our first classical and folklore concert on March 9, 1969 at the Government High School Auditorium. The Rt. Hon. L.O. Pindling attended the concert and expressed surprise and shock at the talents displayed by our young people from the Coconut Grove constituency.
Shortly after this concert, the prime minister invited me to his residence for a talk and congratulated me for the work that I was doing in the community and invited me to become a parliamentary secretary in his office with responsibilities for community development known these days as Urban Renewal. I accepted the post and received my instrument of appointment in December 1970.
I arrived at the prime minister's office in January 1971 to receive instructions and was shown a nine by 12 office in the Cabinet building very near the prime minister's office and instructed to set up the community development program from there. I expressed some concern about the space I was offered and was informed that it was the only space available. I sought some assistance from Carlton Francis, minister of finance, and with his help I was able to set up satisfactory machinery on the second floor of the Spotless Cleaners Building on Madeira Street.
I was eager to get started and immediately contacted the community development unit of the United Nations requesting assistance in the development of a community development program. An officer from the United Nations was dispatched to Nassau to assist us and we developed a program for The Bahamas. On September 15, 1971, I wrote to the prime minister expressing my frustration and disappointment in the government's attitude towards social problems in the country. The following is an excerpt from that letter, "Our educational system is nearly up to par at present, however, we must remember that we took this country over just four short years ago and all who voted for us at that time are now in the cold and in need of social development machinery. Immediate steps should be taken: To improve and build the minds of the masses in Over-the-Hill areas like Grants Town, Bain Town, the Five Pound Lot etc. and to develop a program that will allow our people to further participate in the economy of the country. Then and only then will we be able to say that we represent all our brothers and sisters."
In October 1971, I presented that community development program to the Progressive Liberal Party's convention and it was unanimously adopted by the convention.
The Coconut Grove Community Centre was an ambitious venture but the residents of the Coconut Grove constituency and their member of Parliament rose to the task undauntedly. The community library and clinic,
preschool, cultural workshops and a small theater were a part of a self-help project. This was the first time that a member of Parliament had personally done something so significant in his constituency. The first fundraiser, a telethon, was held on Sunday, June 15, 1969. We received pledges of donations in the sum of $10,000 and donations of labor and material. In October 1972, we delivered to the government of The Bahamas two complete units, namely the community clinic and
library, which are still in operation today. Both units, which are located on Acklins Street, were fully equipped and professionally staffed, putting in operation the first of its kind over the hill. It may be interesting to note that the clinic served women and infants from as far away as Gladstone and Carmichael Roads. The pre-school unit was completed at a later date and that too is still in operation today.
Cabinet initially agreed to provide funds for the completion of the center, the cultural workshops and small theater with a seating capacity of 200, but later we were denied by the powers that be. God knows I tried. The theater on Acklins Street was to be a training ground for artists, an opportunity for them to sharpen their skills and talents before they performed at Jumbey Village Theatre, which was likened to Carnegie Hall.
Every year we constructed a site for the four-day street festival on Coconut Grove Avenue called the Jumbey Festival, which brought thousands of persons in to the Coconut Grove community to experience indigenous Bahamian culture and way of life. The site included a replica of a typical Bahamian village. It was a strenuous task having to build and take down the site every year and I recognized that eventually we had to develop a permanent site.
In 1970 I had a vision for a cultural center, Jumbey Village. I knew that through self-reliance and self-help, we could produce life from a former dumpsite on Big Pond to create and construct a beautiful heritage village. In 1970 our Jumbey Festival on Coconut Grove Avenue provided the financing to begin land clearing at Big Pond. I was able to get the entire community involved. The proposed Jumbey Village was a three-prong mission: social, cultural and economic. Donations came in the form of monies, trees, trucks and delivery drivers, to name a few items.
The Coconut Grove Women's Charity Club, Junior Jaycees, Southern Youth Corporation, College UNICOMM, churches and the nation's schools, private and public, all played a major role in the development of the Village, as it was called.
The junior and secondary schools had a function and the proceeds were donated and the teachers donated a half day's pay towards the Bahamian people's Jumbey Village. Dame Doris Johnson, then minister of transport, and Livingstone Coakley, then minister of works, provided assistance in materials and equipment.
o Edmund Moxey is a former member of Parliament. The second and final part of this piece will be published in tomorrow's newspaper.

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The dangers of the web shop status quo

February 28, 2014

A year has passed since the web shop referendum. The people voted against legalizing web shops and a national lottery...

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Legislators and the payment of taxes

February 27, 2014

The government is holding to its July 1 deadline to implement a value-added tax (VAT). The business community is against it...

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God's faithful recognized

February 27, 2014

Twelve people will be recognized for the work they have done for the Lord during Prophetic Evangelism Network's annual conference.
Apostle Christopher Russell, Elder Anna Russell, Reverend Esther Thompson, Pastor Jason Russell, Minister Sophette Russell, Irene Dawkins, Rozella Brown, Troy Clarke, Deaconess Edris Rolle, Bishop Stanley Pinder, Elder Minalee Hanchell, and Pastor Bruce Farrington will be honored during the church's conference, an event at which they hope to create an atmosphere where people of all denominations will be able to come together to hear and heed God's word.
"It is expected to be a time of apostolic instructions, prophetic impartation, release, refreshing, deliverance and an elevation of the people of God in attendance to another level in God, based on what God is saying for this time and season," said Minister Kay Johnson, founder and president of Prophetic Evangelism Network.
Johnson, along with Apostle Brenda Pratt, pastor of Global Worship Centre in New Providence; Pastor Larry Weathers, pastor of Revolution Mark Church, San Diego, California; Apostle Christopher Russell, senior pastor at Christian Tabernacle Church, New Providence, and Prophet Michael Carter, pastor of Celebration Church, Kingston, Jamaica will speak during the conference which began on Wednesday and concludes on Saturday, March 1. The services are at the sanctuary of the Latter Glory Kingdom Embassy located on East Street north (on the left, just before Big One Shoe Store). It is being held under the theme "Truth, Dominion and a Season of Recovery, with evening services at 7:30 p.m., midday encounters from 12 noon to 2 p.m. and a Saturday morning encounter at 7 a.m.
The conference will conclude with a black and white banquet on March 1 at which time the honorees will be recognized.
Apostle Christopher Russell
Raised by his grandparents, the late Victor and Araina Russell who taught him the principals of living and the importance of obedience to God, Russell, a former Royal Bahamas Defence Force marine who has a degree in theology from Christian Life College, is described as a devoted soldier for Jesus Christ who has proven to be an invaluable asset in his leadership role as God's under-shepherd.
"He is sensitive and obedient to the voice of God, his commander-in-chief and is known to seek direction through fasting and praying before he attempts to fulfill the task of his master," said Pastor Johnson.
Russell has held several positions in the church before being called to lead as pastor of The Christian Tabernacle Church.

Elder Anna Russell
His wife, Elder Anna Russell will also be honored for recognizing the fact that God called her to preach the Gospel, and that she did it.
"From a young child [Anna] always had an urge to be in the house of God not knowing that the hands of the Lord were upon her, she pursued God although unaware of the call," said Pastor Johnson. "Elder Anna believes as the Father had sent Christ unto the world, that Christ has now sent her. She believes that God has called her to preach the gospel to the meek, to the bind the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to open the prison to those that are bound, and to bring total deliverance to his people."
Russell who holds an associate degree in theology believes in putting God first.

Reverend Esther Thompson

Reverend Esther Lee Dawkins
Thompson was raised by her parents, the late Bishop Norris Dawkins and Irene Gertrude Dawkins, who taught her the principles of living and the importance of being obedient to God, and as such, she is sensitive and obedient to the voice of God.
"She is known to seek direction through fasting and praying before she attempts to fulfill the task of her master," said Johnson. "She is a vessel of honor that truly loves the Lord and has a great passion for the justice of those who cannot defend themselves."
Thompson who has an associate degree in Christian Education and Theology has held many positions in the church. She currently serves as one of the associate pastors of the Voice of Deliverance Disciple Centre.

Pastor Jason and Minister Sophette Russell
Pastor Jason and Minister Sophette Russell are being honored for their many years of involvement in community development in Old Bight, Cat Island. They founded Tabernacle of God Outreach International Ministry.

Irene Dawkins
"Irene Dawkins, a straw vendor by profession is known to be a lady who really loves the Lord and serves faithfully at the Greater Bethel Cathedral. In addition, she held the position of vice-president of the 'Unity Fellowship Prayer Band' the official prayer group of the Bay Street Straw Market," said Johnson.
She described Dawkins as a woman who has been a mother to many people that she did not give birth to.

Apostle Rozella Brown
Apostle Rozella Brown, the pastor and founder of Tabernacle of Deliverance Outreach Ministries Inc. in Ocala, Florida, will also be recognized during the conference. She believes that as a pastor she is a servant first with a mission to release believers to the work of the ministry and to not only lead by example in both preaching and teaching, but to also challenge and equip believers to fulfill the great commission.
Brown said she has no greater joy than ministering as the Spirit leads and in seeing believers grow spiritually empowered to stand for God.

Troy Clarke
Troy Clarke is presently pursuing an advanced Degree in Biblical Studies and Theology from Beacon. He has completed Levels 1-3 of the Myles Munroe Leadership Mentoring Program.
He is the president/CEO of the Destiny Group of Companies providing professional services in training, personal development and consultancy and is the founding president of the National L.E.A.D. Institute, a community correctional organization in The Bahamas. Based on the best practices he adopted through education and experience, Clarke's mission is to establish the National L.E.A.D. Institute with innovative programs that integrate local approaches to similarly structured, successful programs throughout the United States and Canada. To this end he established the Eagles Academy, an alternative to school for at-risk males and juvenile offenders.
Clarke believes that all men fall, but the great ones get back up; and that you do not drown by falling into the water, but that you drown by staying there. He also strongly believes that it takes a community to raise a man.

Deaconess Edris Rolle
In every generation, God raises up extraordinary people who understand the value of hard work, and they never hesitate to express gratitude along the way -- Edris Rolle is said to be such a person.
The daughter of Elder Clarence and Elva Ellis of Bailey Town, Bimini, she accepted the Lord as her personal savior at an early age and became a member of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church where she held various offices over the years. She currently serves at the church's secretary and leader of the church praise team.

Elder Minalee Hanchell
Described as a true servant of God, Elder Minalee Hanchell has participated in numerous mission trips throughout The Bahamas and around the world. The executive director of Great Commission Ministries International, which focuses on the needs of the poor and homeless, Hanchell has ministered in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the United States.
She also serves as the director of "Save the Children" club and as the director of the Miss Gospel Bahamas Pageant. She is a board member of "Hands for Hunger" and a member of the Bahamas Feeding Network and the Bahamas Committee for Families.

Pastor Bruce Farrington
From the moment Pastor Bruce Farrington received his call to the ministry of God, it is said he became a dedicated soldier, preaching and teaching the gospel of Christ.
He joined with his uncle, Cecil Leadon who brought the Pentecostal faith to Andros in 1955, and was appointed assistant pastor of the Little Power House, a position he held for 42 years before he decided the people needed somewhere bigger and better to continue their weekly fellowship. He spearheaded the building of the Greater Power House Church, which was completed in 1978.
Due to the fact that Pastor Leadon was up in age, Farrington took on the job of the daily administration of the church. He believes in the saying that if he could help somebody as he travels along, that he knows his living would not be in vain.

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As Christians, Jesus expects us to bear up under the most extreme hurts

February 27, 2014

You have heard that it was said, 'eye for eye, and tooth for tooth'. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also...

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Two ideas of politics

February 26, 2014

Historically, societies have struggled with the idea of what constitutes good governance and have devised different strategies to create order among their people. Even the Arawaks had their system of governance with chiefs, and in other societies the medicine men gave advice on what strategies should be followed and how. The Inca and Aztec civilizations also had sophisticated systems of governance, despite what other civilizations thought of them.
But, as we know, these were impacted on not so nicely by those who came from the outside. And the politics of how much government is necessary was reflected in these situations, and still continues.
This idea of what politics or governance should be about is shown in the writings of two political thinkers, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. And this has influenced governance up to the present. Hobbes wrote about what he termed the social contract, which he used to conclude that citizens ought to submit to the authority of an absolute ruler with unlimited power. He felt that for stability to be had, people should refrain from any activity that might undermine the political system. For example, they should not dispute the extent of the power of the absolute ruler, and should not rebel.
Many political writers feel that, because Hobbes lived in a period of social challenges, this was the reason why he saw law and order as being at the heart of politics. And they also see this as providing a basis for authoritarian and dictatorial systems, where the word of the political leader is absolute.
Political leaders in our modern context do not seem to realize that Hobbes stated these views because of the disorderly politics of his day. And some Caribbean historians note that the system of colonial rule in the Caribbean had clear features of Hobbes' politics. But another reason for the position on politics Hobbes took had to do with his concept of a state of nature in which humans lived their lives.
This alleged state of nature, is a condition without government where each person decides how he should act and is judge, jury and executioner when disputes arose. This is why Hobbes advocated absolute power for the ruler to enforce decisions to ensure security and a civilized life. But Hobbes does say this absolute authority is mutually recognized, because people come together to form an agreement to obey a common authority since they were incapable of protecting themselves on their own. This also involved a transfer of rights to this absolute authority in return for protection.
But Hobbes seems to contradict himself when he says that political legitimacy does not depend on how a government comes to power, but whether it can effectively protect those who agreed to obey it. He does say that the people are free to disobey some of the government's policies, but does not seem to appreciate that excessive power can corrupt individuals and cause them to become a law unto themselves and not act in the public good.
So here we seem to have the idea of government by dictatorship and the powerful. And many political leaders have taken their cue from this and used it as a political strategy to govern. This also suggests government by an elite, although the sovereign authority is mutually recognized and agreed to.
The other view of political governance advocated by John Locke states that men are free and equal by nature and that people have rights such as the right to life, liberty and property, independent of the laws of society. Locke further notes that legitimate political government comes from a social contract where people transfer some of their rights to the government to ensure the stable, comfortable enjoyment of their lives, liberty and property. And he adds that, since government exists because of the consent of the people, to promote the public good any government that fails in its responsibilities can be replaced with a new one. Locke also defends the idea of majority rule.
In general, Locke supports private property, minimal government and distrusted the use of power, but notes that factions should not be tolerated if their numbers grow to such an extent that they pose a threat to the state. And for him, government is a tool that depends on the consent of the people, and that the state is commissioned by the people to serve their interests.
Locke seems to present a more democratic and consensual view of politics. Government results from the consent of the people. It is not absolute, and its power is not absolute either. In Locke's view of politics, government is an instrument of the people to institute their wishes. It is not separated and apart from the people. Here we have a view of politics which puts the sovereignty of the people in the forefront.
Government is not above or on top of people, but is there to execute their will. People put a government in place to protect them and promote the good of everyone. And if it fails in this, it loses support and can be replaced. This is direct democracy, with the full weight and expression of people power.
But it so happens that politics in the Caribbean seems to be based on a form of deception. Although some political aspirants go to the people and ask for their support, the agreement is not reciprocal. What really happens is that, after voting for a political party, what the people appear to have really voted for is to put a certain number of people in jobs, which many could not get elsewhere because they lack the proper and relevant credentials, exposure and experience. The lives of many voters remain the same and what results from political activity is a form of tribal warfare, with the victory of one over the other accompanied by continued skirmishes until the next time around.
There is no concept of looking after the general will of the people, or of a social contract to which government and the people subscribe. Rather, Caribbean politics is legalistic, bureaucratic, and somewhat static and repetitive. It appears incapable of making the kind of radical changes that would transform the lives of constituents.
The authoritarianism of Hobbes' view seems to predominate over the real and direct democracy advocated by Locke. Political institutions in the Caribbean seem to pass legislation that has neither meaning nor purpose to the majority of Caribbean people. Our political systems reap from the people in the form of more taxes, rather than sow genuine development initiatives that enables them to use their energy and initiative to live a decent rewarding existence.
Good, caring politics does not allow poverty, unemployment and crime to be a constant feature of political life. This happens because Caribbean political systems do not provide people with a genuine vision of how things could be, with their help. And this is why we have societies where development initiatives, when manifested, are lopsided and appear not to have the desired impact on the circumstances of the majority.
Perhaps the Caribbean political directorate needs to study some of the political ideas of the ancient philosophers and gain some wisdom from them. To their surprise, they might find that what they are now struggling with was dealt with in antiquity. And people like Plato, Locke, and Rousseau would be a healthy place from which to begin the quest for a more ethical politics and a more authentic people-oriented development strategy, which could emerge; which is sustainable. But they would have to trust the people first. They will then understand that sometimes in order to move forward, you have to look back with new eyes and an open mind.

o Oliver Mills is a former lecturer in education at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus. He holds an M.Ed degree from Dalhousie University in Canada, an MA from the University of London and a post-graduate diploma in HRM and training, University of Leicester. He is a past permanent secretary in education with the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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Publicizing the disbarment of lawyers

February 26, 2014

Lawyers occupy positions of trust. They are supposed to be our representatives and advocates. They at times handle our money...

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Retired police to sue for more than 100m

February 25, 2014

HUNDREDS of retired police officers are taking legal action against the government and the head of the Royal Bahamas Police Force concerning more than $100m in gratuities owed to them...

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The opposition should embrace a leadership fight

February 25, 2014

When political parties lose elections the spotlight is always on the leader. In the case of the Free National Movement (FNM) after the 2012 general election Hubert Ingraham, the leader at the time, resigned...

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The fiscal reform series: Consumption and proposed taxes

February 25, 2014

Fiscal reform and revisions to our taxation system are arguably the hottest topics in The Bahamas at the moment. The commentators on this very important issue have been diverse based on their expertise, professional background, political affiliations and objectives. While the variety of inputs has enriched the general discourse and invigorated the national debate among the populace, it has also contributed to the level of misinformation and frenzy on an issue that is so critical to the future of our country.
In the aftermath of the release of the government's white paper and draft legislation on tax reform, the discussion on the proposed value-added tax (VAT) has intensified with various stakeholders and groups expressing their views on the actions that should be taken to correct our financial imbalance. The suggestions have been generally constructive and have included proposals on the revenue and expenditure side. In this piece of the series, we briefly consider the role of consumption in the tax debate.

Decisions on government expenditure
There appears to be a general consensus that we arrived in this critical financial state due to practices by successive governments that were not always prudent over the years. In simple terms, we perpetuated the habit of spending more than we were earning. The imbalance created by this pattern has not been confined to The Bahamas and continues to impact countries across the globe as political leaders grapple with making the tough, albeit right, decisions for fear of backlash from the electorate at election time.
While it seems quite easy to suggest drastic cuts in government spending, it is not as straightforward when considered against the backdrop of the role of public expenditure in spurring economic growth. In the Bahamian context, the revelation that about 70 percent of salaries of public servants are deducted to pay for various goods and services - that is, to service consumer loans - adds to the complexity of this matter. This also highlights the impact that an irrational and/or ill-timed reduction of staff within the public service would have on our economy. The importance of caution in this instance does not eliminate the need for more efficiency and productivity within the public service.

The link to private consumption
Over the years, a number of local economists and financial analysts have decried the lack of a culture of savings and investment by Bahamians. It has been reported that about 95 percent of Bahamian dollar personal savings accounts have a balance of less than $10,000. Of particular note is the fact that statistics suggest that the average balance is less than $1,000. When considered in conjunction with the percentage of salaries earmarked for financing consumer loans as highlighted above, the overall picture raises serious concerns.
While we do not have the corresponding figure for the entire Bahamian workforce to include the private sector, the government remains the number one employer in The Bahamas and it is apparent that a debt crisis spurred by consuming more than we earn may not be farfetched.
The importance of consumption within any economy cannot be emphasized enough primarily due to the correlation between consumer spending, economic activity, business turnover, employment and economic growth. However, when consumer spending takes place on a large scale by individuals without the requisite financial wherewithal and is financed by loans obtained by persons who do not have the capacity to pay, the consequences can be devastating in the long run. The establishment of a credit bureau and prudent lending practices should assist in addressing this issue. However, the culture of spending more than we earn or can afford is not sustainable and will require a paradigm shift.

Taxes and discretionary income
One of the main points that have been raised in the tax reform debate has been the regressive nature of our existing tax system and the proposed VAT. There has been considerable debate on the need for a tax system that takes into consideration the earnings and purchasing power of persons in the allocation of the tax burden. The discourse has featured consistent reference to disposable and discretionary income of the populace. It is noteworthy to state that while disposable income generally refers to income after taxes, discretionary income is the amount of the disposable income left after deduction of other expenses such as utility bills and further expenses necessary to maintain a certain standard of living.
The opponents of VAT have cited income tax and payroll tax as viable alternatives while rightly stating that there is hardly any country with a consumption or sales tax system that does not also have a form of progressive tax such as income tax. Payroll taxes are levied on the payroll of employers and are paid either from employees' wages or employers' funds based on the wages paid. It has been stated that the existing infrastructure for the remittance of national insurance payments and business license fees provide for the easy implementation of an income or payroll tax system.
The counterargument on the inappropriate nature of income tax focuses on the fact that it discourages hard work, investments and individual progression. It has also been postulated that income tax in the current environment of sluggish economic growth and high unemployment will not broaden the tax base enough to generate the amount of revenue required to address our financial situation. This is not unconnected to the inability of income tax to capture some residents of The Bahamas as well as individuals outside of the organized formal economy who consume both goods and services within this nation.

Few questions to consider
There is no doubt that VAT in its strict sense is a regressive form of taxation, albeit as proposed it is expected to be more progressive than some of the existing taxes we have. Vital questions abound in this tax debate. In light of the demands on government, how much more can we tax our people? How much mandatory non-discretionary tax can Bahamians afford to pay since we have to raise additional revenue? VAT is a consumption tax which is paid by the final consumer; hence, the discretionary element of the VAT gives the taxpayer some control as to when (in terms of goods and services procured) and how much tax they pay (based on their level of consumption). Could this be useful in addressing our macro- and micro-debt crisis without hurting the economy? With the current rate of unemployment and underemployment, can the average worker afford more compulsory deductions from their wages? If businesses are taxed some more in the form of corporate tax, how do we expect them to create more jobs? Would we rather tax natural and corporate entities rather than consumption?

Politics and the tax debate
As can be expected in all debates with consequences for the country, politics continues to play a major role in the fiscal and tax reform discourse. Politicians must remember, however, that good politics is about serving the public in the national interest. It is no doubt convenient to postpone tough decisions and it is fair to say that we are in this predicament because successive administrations have been guilty of deferring the issue of tax reform arguably due to the potential backlash at the polls as well as appeasing foreign investors and the wealthy.
The Bahamas is bigger than any one individual, interest group or political party. There is too much at stake for us to base decisions of national importance on the potential outcome of the next general election; our focus should be on the next generation and the preservation of our commonwealth. The government has an obligation to make what it deems to be the right decisions based on the facts available considering feedback received from various stakeholders. Subsequently, it will be left to future generations to judge this administration for positions taken and/or decisions deferred.
We must continue to hold successive administrations to a high standard and level of accountability as it relates to the prudent management of our economy and the exercise of fiscal discipline from year to year. However, we must not forget the fact that a major overhaul of our tax system is inevitable and required for the sustenance of our freedom and national development.

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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What are people thinking

February 24, 2014

"Public opinion is the thermometer a monarch should constantly consult."
- Napoleon Bonaparte

Earlier this month, we wrote about the developments related to web shops in The Bahamas one year after the ill-fated referendum on the regulation and taxation of web shop gaming and the establishment of a national lottery. For much of this month, there seems to have been a softening of the opposition in certain quarters and outright support from some parts of the community that heretofore were silent on the issue. In addition, following several articles that appeared in the media about the effectiveness of the official opposition, we thought it would be instructive to take the pulse of the nation on this topical issue as well as one other.
Therefore, this week, we would like to Consider This... what are people thinking now about the important issue of the regulation of web shops and how do they generally feel about certain members of the official opposition?

Referendum results
We previously reported that on January 28, 2013, the referendum results were neither conclusive nor persuasive. The voter turnout of just 48 percent of the 2012 registered voters was extremely low compared to the 156,000 votes cast in the 2012 general election, which represented an impressive 91 percent turnout of the 172,128 registered voters.
In the referendum, 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. We concluded that the low voter referendum turnout compared to that of the 2012 general election demonstrated that it would be erroneous to conclude that a majority of Bahamians are opposed to regularizing web shops.
In an earlier article, we proffered several reasons for the outcome of the referendum which we will not repeat here.

The January poll results
Also in the aforementioned article, we reported on the results of a scientific poll of 575 individuals that was conducted in January, noting that the number of persons who supported the regulation and taxation of web shops was 55 percent of those polled while 40 percent of the respondents opposed the prospect.
In light of that poll's results, we maintain that the referendum outcome in 2013 did not accurately represent the genuine national sentiment on this issue, particularly in light of the extremely low voter turnout.

The February poll results
M'wale Rahming, president of Public Domain, a Bahamian research company, recently conducted another scientific poll, this time of 606 persons, about local sentiments regarding the web shops and the results of this most current poll were even more instructive than the poll that was conducted last month.
In this later poll, persons were asked two questions: "1. If the government of The Bahamas announced that they were tabling legislation to regularize and tax web shop gaming as of March 1, would you support or oppose this decision?"
The results of the February poll indicated that 68 percent of the respondents supported the regularization and taxation of web shops while 24 percent were opposed to doing so. The results represent a 13 percent increase in support for the regularization and taxation of web shops over the January polling results. Instructive indeed!
The second question posed by Public Domain was: "If the government of The Bahamas announced that as of March 1 they would begin arresting and prosecuting anyone involved in web shop gaming, would you support or oppose this decision?"
The results of the poll indicated that 57 percent of the respondents opposed such action by the authorities while 35 percent supported doing so.

Results on the opposition's favorability ratings
We also asked Public Domain to poll the favorability ratings of members of the opposition, something that would probably be similar to what is known in the United States as a politician's all-important approval rating. Again, the poll was conducted on a statistically valid basis from 606 respondents. The opposition members who were selected to be polled represented a cross section of politicians. The following is a recap of the poll results:

The two persons who stood out in this exercise were Loretta Butler-Turner and Branville McCartney. It is interesting that, of all the FNM members who were selected for this exercise, she enjoyed the highest favorability rating; considerably higher than Hubert Ingraham, who also marginally outpaced the favorability rating for Dr. Hubert Minnis, the current leader of the official opposition. This is especially enlightening because she is a relative newcomer to Bahamian politics, although her antecedents are not.
In addition, notwithstanding his relatively low favorability rating of 35 percent, compared to his colleagues, John Bostwick, a virtual newcomer to Bahamian politics, has performed impressively, especially because he has a relatively low unfavorability rating which very closely compares with that of Loretta Butler-Turner. It can be suggested that the large number of persons who responded (for Bostwick) that "they did not know" is a function of his fairly recent entry into the political fray.
But it was Branville McCartney, leader of the Democratic National Alliance, who scored the highest favorability rating of all members of any of the opposition parties. It is also interesting that he enjoys the lowest unfavorability rating of all his competitors in opposition who were polled. Perhaps, based on the public's feedback, he should not be so quickly discounted by others in the political mainstream. And more importantly, he should conduct his own poll to help him to understand what accounts for his overwhelmingly impressive polling in this lot.
In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that Public Domain performed a similar exercise for the Progressive Liberal Party but could not release the results of that poll because it has been retained to poll members of the PLP by another client and the release of those results would constitute a breach of confidentiality.

Conclusion
Regarding the results relative to the web shops, we repeat 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 regularizing this activity which tremendously and positively impacts our economy by way of employment, business financing and other spinoff benefits that are not currently factored into the nation's gross domestic product.
Regarding the results relative to the favorability ratings of members in opposition to the government, it is apparent that challenges for the leadership of the FNM are in the cards. It is also very evident that Branville McCartney should be energized by his performance in this polling and, perhaps, begin an even more vigorous challenge to what has, up to now, been a firmly entrenched two-party system.

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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PM's VAT consultant should be dismissed

February 24, 2014

The government has pledged to implement a value-added tax (VAT) on July 1. The 15 percent VAT is intended to expand the tax base in The Bahamas and bring more money in...

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The Caribbean church coming out of the closet on homosexuality

February 21, 2014

Valued theologian-therapist Dr. Lazarus Castang's response to my article is a treasure (The unbridgeable moral divide between the Caribbean church and homosexuals). It represents a clarity that is both concise and thorough. I see a rare pastoral willingness to jump out of the closet of internal church talk into the burning bush of public discourse.
This attitude elaborates a thoughtful view of subjecting the chaos of human sexuality under the ideal of faith. By uncovering a powerful vernacular located within a broad and deep knowledge of the Caribbean Christian tradition, Castang does not assume his faith. He chooses to wrestle with the morality of homosexuality so that we can see an ancient truth through new lens. Four concerns rivet my attention.
First, Castang stays clear of religious polemics. Although he conveys that the Caribbean church is morally committed to a heterosexual norm, he demonstrates that the distinction between law and religious practice is not sufficient to encourage a humane culture within the Caribbean. I couldn't agree more. My judgment is that the insistence on the truth of doctrine going up against the majesty of individual choice and civil obligations will not automatically produce ethical restraint within a culture that resists an exclusive morality.
Second, his critique that I left uninvestigated the impact that homosexuals have had on the Caribbean state and church is fair. I could have more fully explored how the openness of homosexual lifestyle has invaded our rigid morality about the role and function of human sexuality, while expanding our culture to live with diversity through an anthropology of wholeness. Further, I could have underscored the possibility of advocacy for a more inclusive democratic civilization that homosexuality has evoked. These effects deserve finer articulation.
Third, he opines that homosexuals must be prepared to bear the moral burden of Caribbean culture that frowns on their sexual practices. This keen observation, however, does not erase the manifestations of mental, spiritual and psychological anguish the church inflicts on homosexuals in its sincere efforts to condemn the sin and affirm the sinner. The church's uncompromising moral stance has far-reaching consequences. It shapes and informs wider communal behavior toward homosexuals, which often breeds callous practices, all of which fall outside a Christian love ethic that screams for justice.
Therefore, the church cannot merely acknowledge this problem with deliberate speed. If it is going to pragmatically merge its spiritual intelligence with this social dilemma, a transformative attitude towards homosexuals within Caribbean societies should produce a more genuine Christian disposition as well as a more just society.
Fourth, Castang is fully aware of the focus to make sexual choices in our pluralistic society realizable but affirms that the Caribbean church must act in accordance with the discernible heterosexual order of creation that Genesis explains, even though our fallen nature has put us at odds with the ideal of human sexuality.
My question to Castang is this: What do we do with this moral schism that is too wide for any bridge? If this is the case, then the church would have to abandon its efforts to employ the power of God to deliver people from sexual behaviors that it condemns.
I understand that the Caribbean's conservative morality is on display in a churning progressive political culture, and that clashes around issues of personal liberty and equality will occur. Yet, I believe that the Caribbean church should construct an ethical bridge where private virtue and public conscience form the matrix for doing good, bearing witness to the truth, and eliminating stereotyping in order to preserve the common good.
If not, the church will find itself trapped in an irony where the qualms of social conscience arise in the most intimate of human relations but the principles of Christian love become ineffective to these challenges.
If any movement is to be made in this moral standoff, either the church admits defeat or takes some risks. These risks should both affirm the gospel of Jesus Christ and respect the efficacy of a diverse society and, consequently, the humanity of homosexuals.
It strengthens Christian beliefs in the Caribbean to know that a pastoral voice could leverage the tensions between faith and feelings with sensitivity.
Castang offers conscientious citizens enough room to breathe, albeit without a sigh of relief. As an act of redemptive love, this may be a time to combat every injustice that paralyzes human life from within the sacred space of the church.
Even if his voice does not reform society, Castang's view can become an agency of the Kingdom of God for preserving one's integrity. An honest enthusiasm for resolving these tensions is superior to a disconnected existence. Still, the tragic limitations or sublime beauty of sexual tolerance in the Caribbean is dismantling.

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. Newton works extensively in West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, and is a graduate of Oakwood College, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. He has published several books on personal development and written many articles on economics, leadership, political, social, and faith-based issues. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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Christie's and Minnis' deficit of leadership

February 20, 2014

With the country beset by lingering challenges and crises on various fronts we are faced with the least capable combination of leaders atop the major political parties since independence.
The country is caught between the chronic incompetence and indecisiveness of Prime Minister Perry Christie and the deep-seated ineptness of Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis.
In this time of crisis one of the broader challenges is a deficit of leadership: A government failing to deliver on core promises of reducing violent crime, and significant job creation and a litany of other promises, juxtaposed with an opposition stymied in confronting a failed government because of a leader woefully lacking in the political, policy and public communications skills necessary to check an out-of-control administration.
The deficit of leadership and the surplus of ineptness were on dramatic display at the House of Assembly last week with the presentation of the 2013/2014 mid-year budget communication by the prime minister.
During his presentation he concocted one of the more confusing and bizarre statements of his approximately 40 years in public life. As reported in The Tribune last Thursday, he declared of a meeting he attended: "'... I am the minister of finance and I am the prime minister, the minister of finance is not in this meeting, you [sic] are talking to the prime minister.
"'The minister of finance wants to go ahead with VAT as indicated, all of the mechanisms are in place for VAT to move forward, that is the minister of finance, but you are talking to the prime minister and the prime minister will hear you and the prime minister has not joined with the minister of finance.'"
Christie's statement portrayed a leader paralysed by indecision in a labyrinth of confusion attempting to avoid responsibility through what he obviously thought was clever indirection.
Christie has become a laughingstock, yet he doesn't realize the extent to which he is no longer taken seriously.

Opportunity
Speaking to the media following Christie's statement Minnis had a golden opportunity to respond quickly and to roast the prime minister, but Minnis is neither adroit nor agile in political combat.
Instead, inexplicably, out of left field, he criticized the government's radiation detection program, an important matter, but not one central to the matter at hand. It was as if he had slept through Christie's communication, another missed opportunity by the opposition leader who, using a well-known adage, never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
Had Christie made such a statement in the British House of Commons he would have been laughed out of the chamber and quickly roasted by the opposition leader. He would have been severely criticized in the press and the political cartoonists would have had a field day with him. Alas!
The introduction of VAT is one of the potentially more complex, divisive and consequential economic developments since internal self-government.
VAT involves a fundamental shift - psychological, cultural, administrative and otherwise - in how we are taxed and how government is financed, especially for a country more used to indirect taxation as well as laxity in paying a range of taxes, often with little or no penalties for non-payment.
The Christie administration's handling of the issue has been a monumental disaster. Christie's statement made matters even worse. In making a final decision on VAT he is in a classic bind of dammed if he does and dammed if he doesn't, much of which has been of his own making.
What has mostly saved Christie is the startling ineptness of Minnis. He is the PLP's not-so-secret weapon to win re-election.
In politics one needs to be feared by one's opponents and enemies, as well as by opportunistic flatterers, remembering always that the opportunists will always have a for rent or lease or sale sign on their politics and conscience.
Sir Lynden Pindling feared Hubert Ingraham. Ingraham and Christie enjoy a healthy respect for each other's political strengths. Christie and the PLP fear FNM Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner. But they do not fear Minnis, and for good reason.

Ludicrous
Minnis recently made a statement that near rivals the ludicrous aforementioned statement Christie made during the mid-year communication.
As reported in The Tribune: "'If the government does not know how to do their job,' he said, 'I'm not going to let The Bahamas sink because of them. You're going to see us bring numerous bills and run the government from the opposition. If the ss PLP wants [sic] to sink, then the ss Bahamas won't go down with it. The FNM will ensure the ss Bahamas has a life vest on and will float while the ss PLP sinks.'"
Are we in high school? Run the government from the opposition? Minnis is barely able to run the opposition.
In another deer in the headlights moment for him, in which he didn't seem to initially appreciate his error, Minnis was lampooned for failing to give prior notice on a bill he wanted to introduce.
Any casual observer of the House understands the need to give such notice. Into his second term in the House, having served in the Cabinet, now nearly two years as opposition leader, Minnis didn't understand a basic parliamentary procedure that even a newly minted MP appreciates. Imagine what a disaster he would prove in attempting to run a Cabinet meeting.
If Minnis is this incompetent as leader of the opposition, imagine him in the extraordinarily more demanding and difficult job of prime minister. He would prove a disaster.
Worryingly, Minnis increasingly seems incapable of taking advice, becoming more autocratic and less tolerant of those who disagree with him. It is as if the office he holds and the one that he covets have gone to his head.
Reportedly, as a part of the PLP's opposition research, the party is collecting Minnis' endless gaffes and poorly crafted statements. Recall his statements on VAT and crime which were amateurish, riddled with errors of thinking and language, reflective of a stunning lack of policy judgment.
Minnis is frighteningly inarticulate. He would be demolished in a leadership debate with Christie. Minnis is not simply gaffe-prone. His pattern of endless and amateurish mistakes demonstrates that he simply lacks even the most basic political and parliamentary knowledge.
No wonder Christie opined that Minnis is unqualified to be prime minister - harsh criticism, especially considering the source.

Failed
Minnis often fails to defend the FNM's extraordinary record. Much of the PLP's new crime plan after the carnage in Fox Hill was taken from a previous FNM plan, much of which the PLP failed to continue or implement. Minnis called the plan, lame and vacuous.
Either Minnis did not read the new plan or he failed to understand its contents, neither scenario of which redounds to his credibility.
He should have criticized the government for failing to advance plans by the Ingraham administration.
Minnis seems deluded that he can just run out the clock and that dissatisfaction with the PLP and Christie will redound to his favor. He is sadly misguided.
If Minnis remains as FNM leader, Christie may feel confident that he can win re-election.
Christie's scenario may be based on the PLP base remaining with the party "come hell or high water", with the DNA garnering a significant number of votes because of overwhelming dissatisfaction by FNMs and others with the incapable and politically unappealing Minnis.
Yet despite its current leadership deficit, the FNM potentially enjoys better prospects than the PLP.
The PLP is stuck with Christie until he decides to leave, which may be no time soon. The possible successors to Christie have outsized weaknesses and vulnerabilities and limited public appeal beyond the PLP's base.
With possible leadership candidates like Dr. Duane Sands and Loretta Butler-Turner, the FNM can fix its leadership problem more readily than the PLP.
The PLP is widely loathed in the country and voters are hungry for a credible alternative. With its largely still untold history, its extraordinary record in government and possible appeal, the FNM may be poised for renewal and re-emergence as a more vital force.
But first the party must find a leader who can unite the party and appeal to a broad cross-section of voters weary of the PLP and desperate for a new direction, including many who voted DNA last time, but who now believe that they helped the PLP to win.
If the FNM wants to lose again, it will retain Minnis. If it wants to win again, it must find a new leader this very year.

ofrontporchguardian@gmail.com, www.bahamapundit.com.

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Referenda success and the fight between the parties

February 19, 2014

Chairman of the Constitutional Commission Sean McWeeney said recently 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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Where does the road we trod lead us

February 19, 2014

The Bahamas for many years prided itself in its people in recognition of the fact that the people of this great nation are the greatest and most valuable asset this country possesses. It remains unfathomable and simply remarkable that this nation of islands has become the jewel of the West Indies relying on the blessings of sun, sand and sea, which are by no means unique to us. Our national anthem highlights the glory of the rising sun on our archipelago with a promise of hope for a small island nation called The Bahamas.
The level of prosperity we enjoy in The Bahamas cannot be dissociated from the indomitable spirit of our people and our tendency to hold fast to the morals and norms that were passed down from our ancestors. In simple words, we had a reputation for being a peaceable, respectful and embracing people. However, recent occurrences and the perceived level of decadence within our society have left many puzzled as to how we got to the point that we have arrived at today. Why are we experiencing such a high rate of criminal activity, disrespect for one another and, in some cases, outright hatred for one another? What is contributing to the high rate of teenage pregnancy, high school drop-outs and the apparent deterioration of the family structure? Why are so many persons, especially our young people, displaying a constant disrespect for persons in authority or those who are charged with maintaining the rule of law?
The answers are not straightforward but complex, as the problems have been created by myriad factors produced by a cross section of participants within the Bahamian society; yes, we got here because of all of us. It is for this same reason that no easy solutions are readily available to the many challenges that so vehemently confront us on a daily basis and we must retrace our footsteps.

The reasons for
the decline
Many have weighed in on what they believe to be the reasons for the deterioration in our society and the cause of the changing norms. Those who are believers in God have attributed the social ills to what they believe to be a lack of the fear for God and his commandments. A vast amount of Christians and members of the clergy are of the view that the Bahamian people have forgotten God, and a simple return to his care and commands would prompt a healing of our Bahamaland.
A school of thought holds the firm belief that a more practical and logical approach should be taken when diagnosing the cause of this national menace. Some commentators have opined that children are having children; others say it is due to the absence of fathers in the homes, others argue that an inadequate or broken educational system is the cause and we have failed to adequately educate our children; while others maintain that the problem lies in the fact that this generation of Bahamians is poorly socialized. It has also been suggested that the government is to blame because its policies over the years have been structured and executed in a manner that is set up to promote the failure of successive generations of Bahamians. However, there also exists a premise that the current state of affairs is as a result of the drug era in Bahamian history.

The diagnosis of
color blindness
The details of the diagnosis of our national issues will often differ depending on the individual or stakeholder to whom the questions are posed. In each case, it is often not unexpected that references will be quoted and some facts used to support the notion put forward. However, can it truly be said that these are the causes of the deterioration within our society? The argument that the church put forth seems to be gaining little traction with the apparent decrease in church attendance and dwindling contributions to the work of religious establishments. It can therefore be argued that there is sufficient collaborative evidence to highlight a correlation between deviation from the things of God and the moral decadence within our communities.
The other suggested causes are however dwarfed by a social ill taking root in our country. How can a society divided against itself begin to heal when we continue to allow so many forces to drive a deeper and continuous wedge between us? This new evil has given birth to political tribalism in the place of political allegiance resulting in a form of color blindness within our citizenry with the exclusive colors red and yellow (and most recently green). The new generation of Bahamians appreciate the value of our democracy and the intrigue of party politics albeit the latter takes a back stage to the national interest. For indeed we know that a house divided against itself cannot stand. While we are all entitled to our respective choices and opinions, no allegiance should compromise our integrity or ability to make sound righteous and just decisions or our ability to put service to mankind and country above our selfish exploits and desires.

Prescription of
social norms
The disturbing deviation from our historical social norms and moral values which helped to provide the necessary self-control and dignity required for the common good of our society has contributed tremendously to the predicament we face today. The culprits are numerous and spread across the Bahamian society starting with the parents who fail to instill discipline in their children at the earliest opportunity, to the increase in physical or emotional absence of fathers either in the home or in the lives of their children. In addition, the erring of various arms of society including parents, teachers, the church and/or the community to teach family life values and principles to the next generation of Bahamians continues to play a contributing factor.
In the end, we are experiencing changing norms within our society. This change fueled by political manipulation is arguably contributing to the social degradation that we are experiencing today. The new generation of Bahamians will not be swayed by political slogans or maneuvers aimed at self-preservation but will focus on nation building against all odds. We know that it is incumbent upon us to reverse the current social trend positively in favor of subsequent generations of Bahamians. We will march on until the road we trod and the path we take is one of national service and leads unto our God. For we know that the failure of Bahamians tomorrow will be upon the heads of those of us who exist today. Therefore, we must take an introspective look at ourselves and ensure that we are doing all that we can to make The Bahamas a better place. The change begins within us.

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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Reducing inequality will boost economic growth

February 18, 2014

At first glance, it would seem this year's Davos summit will be off to an auspicious start, with news that the global economy is recovering faster than anticipated.Yet a closer look at the global situation reveals a potentially dangerous gap between profits and people.Corporate profits are up and global equity markets are looking forward to another year of plenty, while at the same time unemployment and household incomes stand still.The ILO's Global Employment Trends 2014 shows clearly that the modest economic recovery has not translated into an improvement in the labor market in most countries.Businesses have been sitting on cash or buying back their own stocks, rather than investing in productive capacity and job creation. In part, this is a result of continued weakness in aggregate demand, both at national and global levels. It is compounded by uncertainty about where new sources of demand will come from and uncertainty about public policies, for example on financial sector reform.The increased flow of profits and liquidity into asset markets rather than the real economy not only increases the risk of stock and housing price bubbles, but also damages long-term employment prospects.In developing countries, informal employment remains widespread, and the pace of improvements in job quality is slowing down. That means fewer people are moving out of working poverty.Add to that the fact that in most countries, workers have been getting a smaller share of national income and of gains in productivity, while more of the income is going into profit, and we have a major problem.Inequality is reflected in the depressed incomes of most households and therefore constrains consumption growth, which in turn reduces economic growth. It also causes public frustration, raising the risk of instability - the current unrest in many countries is fuelled by perceptions of unfairness.U.S. President Barrack Obama recognized this when he recently called inequality "the defining challenge of our time".Boosting demand for goods and services would go a long way towards creating the incentive required for companies to expand and create jobs. And that entails moving away from the aggressive fiscal consolidation pursued in many countries. It also means addressing the declining share of economic growth going to workers, stagnant wages and high unemployment that have kept household spending down.Increased wages lead to increased demand, so a key part of the solution is to set appropriate minimum wages and to have policies that reinforce the links between productivity and wages. Indeed, President Obama has called for raising the minimum wage and a similar proposal is hotly debated in Britain, while the new German government has agreed to create a national minimum wage for the first time.We need to focus on the productive economy, and make a firm commitment to investing in people, skills and jobs, and reducing economic disparity.If we fail to act, if we fail to tackle the youth jobs crisis, long-term unemployment, high drop-out rates and other pressing labor market issues, we will be destroying hopes for sustainable growth - and sowing the seeds of further, and perhaps deeper social unrest.o Guy Ryder is director-general of the U.N.'s International Labour Organization (ILO). Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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