Opinion

Has anyone seen the prime minister
Has anyone seen the prime minister

April 30, 2014

Michael Halkitis is a likeable politician. He's a smart man. He had the good sense yesterday to confirm to The Nassau Guardian that value-added tax (VAT) will not be introduced in The Bahamas on July 1 - the government's previously proposed implementation date...

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A country with no plan, pt. 3

April 30, 2014

I cannot, with any degree of honesty, call myself a supporter of Robert Mugabe, but there is one quote attributed to him from a recent interview with BBC World News which resonates within me. And though I find his style of leadership questionable, I cannot deny that I am in full agreement with his thinking when he declared to his people that "...never, never again shall we make the mistake of allowing our resources - natural resources - to be owned by foreigners. Never."
I am of the opinion that foreign direct investment (FDI) should never include the giveaway or sale of natural resources, be it acres of land or miles of beaches and waterfront. A sovereign country should always be able to negotiate terms of investment from a position of strength, upholding its sovereignty, such that the very land it is presiding over remains in the ownership of the citizens, guarded on their behalf by their government.
The injection of capital in the form of FDI, in the way we have welcomed it, may serve well as a last resort to boost economic activity, but as a long-term growth model it is worrisome. We have come to think of FDI as the great deliverer, but this neglects to consider the necessity of direct domestic investment and moves the prospect of property ownership further beyond the reach of the common man. A modified approach to FDI where domestic investment is the lead part of FDI should be the norm, particularly in a small country.
This norm and modified approach to FDI should also limit the percentage of ownership of foreign investors in domestic investment partnerships to a capped amount of 49 percent with the remaining 51 percent held by the citizens of the host country as private shareholders, and not held in trust with a government where it does nothing to create new wealth and continuing prosperity for the people.
As is the case at present, a government could choose to have as much FDI as it likes with many capital injections and it will give the perception that the economy is robust, but the real story lies in the domestic sector and with domestic investment. If you want to know how well the economy is doing, ask first how large the domestic investment sector is.
How vibrant is it? How much is it growing? What is it comprised of? What percentage of small businesses in the domestic sector account for overall economic activity? What is the ratio of domestic investment opportunities to FDI opportunities? What percentage of the labor force is employed in the small business/domestic sector as opposed to being laborers in a byproduct of FDI?
And, finally, to get a better idea of long term growth potential, you should also ask how many businesses in the domestic sector really do innovate and are not merely international franchises, resellers or reproducers. You should then seek to bring partners who facilitate the development needs of the domestic sector, not the other way around.
Small business and real growth
The reason small business is the 'lifeblood of the economy' is because it relies on innovation, but a search through the local yellow pages and the news dailies is disheartening in this regard. A primarily copycat economy exists in our nation when there is great potential for invention. With the existing imitator blueprint, sustainable growth will be hard to come by. There cannot be sustainable growth until the people prepare themselves to have ownership of original ideas, instead of just employment in duplicates, and until they are creating and innovating as opposed to replicating.
Our country's net exports in services yield a surplus. Our net exports in goods yield a deficit. We have more services than products to offer the world. Certainly services are an important part of an economy. But what about the other part?
We go to work every day, but what are we producing? A tourist has a great vacation. An offshore investor makes more money. But in this environment how does our daily labor make our lives better? Really, how productive are we in these industries? And how do we quench our thirst for expensive imports when we do little to innovate?
At the end of the day, we still lack infrastructure; we have very little along the lines of finished manufacturing and agriculture, and FDIs leave the same way they came. If these business ventures were more than FDIs, if they were joint ventures with all the consumers in the national economy, we might have more to show for them.
Some argue that we can't be a producing economy in the traditional sense, that our services will always be greater than our goods, but we have many natural resources and we have them in abundance. If our people were trained throughout life to be innovative and not reliant we could have a stronger and burgeoning domestic business sector and a more resilient economy with more to trade than just 'heads in beds' and stock portfolios which consist of assets we can't even purchase.
As it stands, we are too heavily reliant on people wanting to visit us and on them spending more money here, constantly trying to find ways for them to empty their pockets when our productivity could be speaking for itself in a number of other ways.
There are very many local businesses that provide necessary products and services. Of course we will always need groceries and healthcare and other such necessities, but we have to think beyond the necessary. How do we make the necessary better, more effective and more efficient? That is innovation.
If you sell something already, perhaps you can learn how to make your own version of it or make it better. Keep your business idea as simple as possible and in this manner make it more achievable. Let it grow organically and tend carefully to it as it grows; don't sit and wait for handouts from visitors. Initiate. Innovate.
A laissez-faire society hinders progress
Inviting tourists to the country and then hoping they will buy something expensive or a lot of something not too expensive is like drawing straws for a prize. It sounds great in theory - a relatively easy win. But what happens when we all get bored with that game? What is our backup when tourists and investors don't come our way any longer, or when they don't spend any more, or when our people no longer want to be only servants in any industry?
We are a people who hasten to fall back on "God will provide". Perhaps for us the spirit of innovation is not instinctive, and maybe that's why we go nowhere faster. Our motivation to assert ourselves and produce great things like we've never done before is pre-disabled.
It's all well and good to dress up every day and prance around preaching prosperity to others, saying a higher power will provide, but what are we doing to help that power along?
If you were the highest level executive, would you provide to a well-dressed, able-bodied beggar who plainly does not help himself? Probably not, because that would be productive for neither one of you.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a measure of what we produce, how industrious we are, but the deceitful thing about GDP is that it includes output by foreign firms who repatriate their earnings to their own or other countries. So, when we calculate GDP per capita, what are we truly measuring?
Because of foreign investment and foreign banking, we've had the highest GDP per capita in the region for decades and, because of tourism, we've had adequate foreign currency reserves to support our fixed dollar value, yet our people are still poor. That GDP per capita and those foreign currency reserves suggest that we are either over-producing, which is clear we are not, or that this kind of great wealth is spread amongst everyone, which is clear it is not, or that it is held by a small few, which is most likely. And the few holding this wealth will use it to modernize their lifestyles and possessions, because who knows when they'll get to hold it again. Consequently, is economic growth through foreign direct investment, foreign banking and tourism really just an illusion in an otherwise non-producing society?
o Nicole Burrows is an academically trained economist and a self-trained writer. She writes primarily on the economy and society, and her interests include economic growth and development and contemporary women's issues: nicole.burrows@outlook.com.

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New York consul general attends pastoral anniversary service

April 30, 2014

Forrester J. Carroll, Bahamas consul general to New York, attended the 25th pastoral anniversary service for Bahamian-born Rev. Dr. Jeffrey A. Ingraham, at Calvary Baptist Church in Norwalk, Connecticut, on Sunday, April 27, 2014...

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Violence against women and the responsibility of the state pt. 2

April 30, 2014

CARICOM countries have ratified both the 1979 U.N. Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and the 1994 Inter-American Convention of the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women.
Both conventions recognize that violence against women constitutes a violation of human rights and is a form of gender-based discrimination. Both conventions utilize the definition of gender-based violence as set forth in the U.N.'s Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (DEVAW).
Further, The Bahamas is a signatory to the Caribbean Community's (CARICOM) 2003 gender mainstreaming strategies. This platform of action concerns the process of developing policies and programs that are gender sensitive and equitable and lead towards gender equality and the positive transformation of gender relations.
It refers categorically to "the right of all to live free of violence and the fear of violence, in particular, the right of women and girls to be free of gender-based violence, especially sexual violence", outlined in the Plan of Action to 2005: Framework for Mainstreaming Gender into key CARICOM Programmmes.
In addition, the following international agreements make specific reference to violence against women: Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1990, the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action on Human Rights of 1993 and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on Women of 1995.
The state has primary responsibility for the prevention and elimination of gender-based violence in such areas as legislation, the criminal justice sector, economic and social policies, health and social services, school curriculum, public education and awareness.
It has the capacity and mechanisms to coordinate all sectors of society such as schools, local communities, health and social welfare agencies, the media, churches, corporations and international agencies in addressing successfully the issue.
There has, however, to be a political will on the part of the government that is focused, strategic and committed to the goal of prevention and elimination of violence against women.
No doubt, such a political will has to crystallize around the sustained action of a women's movement that not only has a clear understanding of the causes of violence against women and girls but also a clarity in regard to its own power to demand that the state exercise its political will in this regard.
In the In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary General of 2006, a human rights-based analysis of the causes of violence against women and girls is stated as follows:
"The central premise of the analysis is that the specific causes of such violence and the factors that increase the risk of its occurrence are grounded in the broader context of systemic gender-based discrimination against women and other forms of subordination.
"Such violence is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between women and men reflected in both public and private life.
"Historically, gender roles -- the socially constructed roles of women and men -- have been ordered hierarchically, with men exercising power and control over women.
"Male dominance and female subordination have both ideological and material bases. Patriarchy has been entrenched in social and cultural norms, institutionalized in the law and political structure and embedded in local and global economies. It has also been ingrained in formal ideologies and in public discourse.
"Patriarchy restricts women's choices but does not render women powerless, as evidenced by the existence of women's movements and successful claims by women for their rights."
I draw to the attention of the members of the House of Assembly to the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) on violence against women. The IPU is the international organization of parliaments established in 1889.
It supports the work of the United Nations and cooperates with regional inter-parliamentary organizations and non-governmental organizations.
In 2008 at an international conference, A Parliamentary Response to Violence Against Women, held in Geneva, the IPU identified key elements and strategies for the prevention of violence against women. One of the six priorities for parliamentarians to consider is as follows:
"Parliamentarians must build their parliaments' capacities to take action to put an end to violence against women. They should look at what parliamentary mechanisms can be developed to support work on violence against women. The establishment of a specific parliamentary committee on violence against women could be an option."
I strongly urge that a parliamentary committee be convened for the specific purpose of addressing the issue of prevention and elimination of violence against women.
In light of remarks made by Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller that he used to beat an ex-girlfriend, this committee's first task might be to build its capacity through a profound understanding and education of the causes of violence against women.
There are many resources available in the wider community to facilitate such understanding. Further, the IPU report itself lays out a systematic plan of action for the work of a parliamentary committee in preventing and eliminating violence against women.
Finally, I refer us to the World Health Organization report entitled Violence Prevention: The Evidence (2010) that states as follows:
"Despite the fact that violence has always been present, the world does not have to accept it as an inevitable part of the human condition...Violence can be prevented. This is not an article of faith, but a statement based on evidence."
o Marion Bethel is a poet, short story writer, essayist and attorney.

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Governance in a Bahamian Renaissance

April 29, 2014

The Renaissance era, which is believed to have commenced in Italy before spreading to other parts of Europe between the 14th and 17th century, contributed to the development of intellectual life, social and political philosophies and art. It can be argued that The Bahamas is witnessing a form of renaissance with the emergence of activism and advocacy that has not been seen since the quiet revolution.
The number of civic and civil rights groups that have been formed in recent times is a testament to the renewed level of engagement of Bahamians on national matters. It is anticipated that such engagement will remain constant regardless of the times and which party governs the nation.
When considered alongside the increased quality of intellectual debate in our country of late, one can only conclude that a new day has come in our Commonwealth. In the midst of this phenomenon, the government has a duty to administer the affairs of our country and above all to govern.
The age of accountability and advocacy
The following extract from an article entitled "A call to national conscience", published in The Nassau Guardian on May 3, 2012, foreshadowed the current environment and is instructive in understanding the times that we live in: "Political leaders and aspiring candidates, on the other hand, should be reminded that post this general election, the electorate will hold them accountable like never before in the history of The Bahamas. Suffice it to say that with a more educated and informed electorate, the era of empty promises and lies is behind us".
The ultimate beneficiaries of this renewed hunger for transparency and responsibility in governance are the people of The Bahamas. However, the government stands to gain extensively from the courage of the populace to voice their concerns and views without fear of intimidation or retaliation. This is indeed the beauty of the democracy we practice and the freedoms that we enjoy. Indeed the age of accountability is no longer in our future, it is upon us.
The need for tolerance and respect in debates
While the increased quality of our intellectual debate is welcomed, it is sometimes painful to listen to and observe the quality of discourse on the national scene. This is indeed more disturbing when the discussion relates to matters of national importance for present and future generations. What becomes quickly apparent in these instances is that the opposing sides are not listening to each other. Hence, rather than comprehend the words or comments of the other party, individuals typically "tune them out" and focus on the next statement they have to utter, leading to a prolonged and unnecessary conversation.
Confucius, who is regarded as China's most famous teacher, philosopher and political theorist, said it best when he stated that "real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance". In the Bahamian context, it is important that we uphold the moral value of mutual respect that has brought us this far as a country. It is disappointing to witness from time to time, our diminished level of tolerance for one another, especially when an individual holds a view contrary to ours. This writer submits that the level of intolerance within our Commonwealth is a major contributor to the high crime rate in our nation.
The treasure of occasional silence
The wise King Solomon in the Book of Proverbs offered these insightful words: "Even a fool when he shuts his mouth is considered wise." It has also been suggested and coded in an adage that individuals that resort to derogatory remarks and personal attacks often do so to conceal the limitation of their vocabulary and deficient oratory skills.
We as a people should be able to have intelligent conversations even though we may not agree. This is even more important because no one individual or group has the monopoly on knowledge. Put in another way, no one knows everything and multiple heads are often better than one. After all, we are all unique and oftentimes different in our views, philosophies and persuasions. The fact that an individual disagrees with our perspective does not make him/her our enemy and definitely does not give us license to insult such a person or resort to innuendo.
Consultation and governance
It is important for governments to maintain the proverbial finger on the pulse of the populace to ensure that the needs of the people are understood and addressed to the best of their ability. This is in no way straightforward or easy for any government to do, for the simple reason that the electorate can be selective about when they want their views to be heard and when they expect the government to make decisions no matter how hard or controversial they might be.
In striking the right balance, the government must ensure that the ultimate decisions made are in the best interest of the majority. It must be noted that all persons or special interest groups will not always be pleased by the decisions made by the government. In this sense, while the government should be mindful of the views of various stakeholders, such views must not hinder the government from moving forward and implementing its agenda as documented during the election campaign.
The following popular quote is worthy of reference in this regard: "The best decision one can make is the right decision, the second best decision is the wrong one and the worst decision that can be made is no decision at all." History will judge which category governing parties should fit into. Unfortunately, the window of opportunity is very limited and human nature often reveals impatience at the polls when it's all said and done based upon the decisions and/or indecisions taken by the government of the day. This has certainly been the trend in Bahamian politics for the last three election cycles.
Conclusion
The challenges confronting the current administration are vast. The government must confront our fiscal crisis which previous and successive administrations have put us in (albeit we have played a major role via our actions or lack of action). The government must implement the long overdue tax reform without delay, complete our accession to the World Trade Organization, oversee an amendment of the constitution to ensure gender equality, address the current crime situation, actively and responsibly pursue universal healthcare and return our economy to a more healthy state, just to mention a few.
It is often said that while the best time to plant a tree may be 30 years ago, the next best time to plant such a tree is now. In essence, we have a duty to work with the government to address the aforesaid matters with the urgency of now. The government must stay focused on the tasks at hand and channel its resources towards the accomplishment of its goals. Whereas the political process which entails elections produces our leaders and the government of the day, the government is charged and entrusted with the responsibility of governance upon assumption of office.
Hence, the government ought to listen to the concerns of the people, incorporate their views, where appropriate, into its plans, but in the final analysis the government must act based on the mandate of the people and govern accordingly. In doing so, the only prerequisite is that all that it is done is for betterment of our Bahamaland.

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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In an unequal world, we need inclusive growth

April 25, 2014

For a very long time, the rich have known to some extent how the poor around the world live.
What's new in today's world is that the best-kept secret from the poor, namely, how the rich live, is now out. Through the village television, the Internet and hand-held instruments, which a rapidly increasing number of the poor possess, the lifestyles of the rich and the middle class are transmitted in full color to their homes every day.
Last year, when I traveled with President Evo Morales to a Bolivian village 14,000 feet above sea level, villagers snapped pictures on their smart phones of our arrival. In Uttar Pradesh, the state in India with the highest number of poor people, I found Indians watching Korean soap operas on their smart phones.
We live in an unequal world. But while the rich world may be blind to the suffering of the poor, the poor throughout the world are very much aware of how the rich live. And they have shown they are willing to take action.
Inequalities hurt everyone. Women's low economic participation creates income losses of 27 percent in the Middle East and North Africa. Inclusive growth, in contrast, builds a stronger, more robust social contract between people and their government - and builds stronger economies. If we raised women's employment to the levels of men, for instance, average income would rise by 19 percent in South Asia and 14 percent in Latin America.
People in extreme poverty live on less than a $1.25 a day - less than the coins that many of us empty from our pockets each night. And yet more than a billion people in middle-income and poor countries today survive on less than that.
We know that the fundamental problems of the world today affect not millions, but billions of us. Nearly two billion people lack access to energy. An estimated 2.5 billion people lack access to basic financial services. And all of us - all seven billion of us - face an impending disaster from climate change if we do not act today with a plan equal to the challenge.
The world's development needs, of course, far outstrip the World Bank Group's ability to address them. But we can do much, much more. In order to meet the increased demand that we are expecting as we get better at delivering knowledge and solutions to our clients, we're strengthening our financial capability to scale up our revenue and stretch our capital.
We've recently taken steps to nearly double our annual lending to middle-income countries from $15 billion to as much as $28 billion a year. This means that the World Bank's lending capacity - or the amount of loans we can carry on our balance sheet -- will increase by $100 billion in the next decade, to roughly $300 billion. This is in addition to the largest replenishment in history of IDA, our fund for the poorest countries, with nearly $52 billion in grants and concessional loans.
At the same time, we are also increasing our direct support to the private sector. MIGA, the World Bank Group's political risk insurance agency, is planning to increase its new guarantees by nearly 50 percent over the next four years. IFC, our private sector arm, expects it will nearly double its portfolio over the next decade to $90 billion. In 10 years, we believe IFC's annual new commitments will increase to $26 billion.
Taken as a whole, the World Bank Group's annual commitment, which today is around $45 to $50 billion, is expected to grow to more than $70 billion in the coming years. This increased financial firepower represents unprecedented growth for the World Bank Group. We are now in a position to mobilize and leverage, in total, hundreds of billions of dollars annually in the years ahead.
We need to find more effective ways to work with key partners and stakeholders, including those in civil society and the private sector. We need partnerships, strong global institutions, a vibrant private sector and committed political leaders.
Most important of all, we need to unite people around the world in a global movement to end poverty. All parts of our global society must unite to translate the vision of a more just, sustainable economy into the resolute action that will be our legacy to the future.
The world is watching.
o Jim Yong Kim is the president of the World Bank Group.

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Christie 2.0: The bumbling, fumbling, tumbling prime minister

April 24, 2014

A new version of a service is generally an improvement such as Windows 9 as an update to Windows 8.
Alas, Perry Christie 2.0 is retrograde, decidedly not an improvement on his first disastrous term in office with the chronically late prime minister still keeping audiences waiting. There is also much that is worse.
The central flaw of Christie 1.0 carried over to his second non-consecutive term is that he is incapable of competent governance. No matter how many terms he is afforded he will prove endlessly incapable. He more presides than governs. He is the presider-in-chief.
Christie has always been better at public relations than public administration, though he is much less adept at the former than he realizes, with voters usually seeing through his bluster and blah, blah, blah.
Christie seems to think that talk and constant motion are the same as action. He jets here and there speechifying, even bragging about being filled with energy. The problem is that the energy seems of little purpose, resulting in little that is tangible.
Soon to be two years in office there is no National Health Insurance. The national investment in education has not been doubled. The mortgage relief program is a bust. The promise to regain a majority stake in BTC ended in a charade.
The list of failures is as long as is Christie's endless excuses for his incompetence. Then there's the constitutional referendum on equality for women. The PLP promised that it would hold such a referendum in its last term. Typically, nothing happened.
So Christie 2.0 made the same promise again. One might have thought that the first referendum of the current administration would be that of ensuring constitutional equality for women. How silly of Bahamians to think so.

Prioritized
With a few numbers men seemingly more important to Christie than Bahamian women, he prioritized the demands of the former over the needs and justice for the latter, even after finally bemoaning the current state of affairs.
Christie and the PLP held an opinion poll ending in defeat and costing a pile of money. The government seems set to ignore the poll after having promised to abide by its results.
As for the referendum on gender equality it has now been delayed three times in less than two years, a telling example of how Christie 2.0 is worse than the first version.
With the third postponement of this referendum and no new date set, the prime minister, afraid to chastise Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller for his brutish comments about beating a woman, clearly does not see gender equality as a priority, which makes for bad policy and politics.
There are indicators that many independent female voters and an increasing number of moderate Republican women in the U.S. turned off by the misogyny of the GOP may back Hillary Clinton if she runs for president.
There may be a parallel in The Bahamas, with independent women voters, women who voted for the DNA and even some PLP women backing the FNM at the next election especially if Loretta Butler-Turner becomes party leader.
Like Clinton, Butler-Turner is demonstrating cross-party appeal and is extremely popular with younger voters and independent voters generally. Moreover the Long Island MP has the potential to lead the FNM to a significant victory as a face of change for which voters seem hungry.
For his part, Christie has turned delay into an art form with the gender equality referendum, the delay on introducing VAT, the delays in refurnishing and building new courts, the delay of the oil drilling referendum, the delays in building new houses, as but a few examples of his dithering and dawdling.
The presider-in-chief is more comfortable at speech-making and ceremony than making decisions and the hard work of governance: Let's delay that decision again, I have an event to attend, a speech to make and some glad-handing.
Either Christie is often out of the loop or pretends so in order to avoid responsibility. He claims that he didn't know about a speech to be made by the national security minister ahead of the gambling referendum.
He claims that he didn't know about certain actions of his tourism minister relative of regularizing web shops. What else doesn't he know?

Galaxies
As with 1.0, Christie 2.0's rhetoric and his actions are typically galaxies apart. At a Caribbean conference last month the prime minister spoke on the topic "Toward a Corruption-Free Caribbean: Ethics, Values, Trust and Morality". One may have thought the speech was a parody given Christie's solemn ending: "Let us thereby constantly remind ourselves of a simple but immutable truth: that now, as always, personal example is still the most powerful and credible influence upon others and the most persuasive of teachers."
Oftentimes Christie's breathtaking cant makes Pinocchio seem like a paragon of probity. Here are a few personal examples from the prime minister.
As leader of the opposition Christie was "handsomely rewarded" as a consultant for an oil exploration company, a spectacular conflict of interest which would have driven other leaders out of contention and out of office.
In office, his government quickly postponed a referendum on oil drilling, with the announcement, quite oddly, being announced by the environment minister and not from the Cabinet Office or Office of the Prime Minister.
As an aside, the PLP's record on referendums is another example of how Christie 2.0 is worse than 1.0: A failed costly opinion poll the results of which the government is likely to ignore; a gender equality referendum postponed three times; and a postponed referendum on oil drilling also unlikely to be held.
Despite Christie's promises we still do not know how much money Mohammed Harajchi and Peter Nygard have given the PLP.
Recall the lack of transparency and accountability of the prime minister in refusing to share a report by foreign consultants on the numbers trade, a report by some strange alchemy that withered into a mere letter.
During the last election Christie spoke of "big ideas". Instead he has offered big talk and provided scant results.
One big idea would be the development of a national lottery, the proceeds from which would significantly help with economic growth amidst persistent youth unemployment, growing inequality and a faltering middle class alongside other structural social and economic challenges.

Lottery
Moreover, with Christie urging that the government is desperately in need of revenue, one would have thought that he would set up a lottery system ensuring that the Public Treasury retain the bulk of the proceeds.
Christie and the PLP have fulfilled none of their big promises such as NHI, nor do they have any big ideas to move the country forward.
So we are left with a bumbling, fumbling, tumbling prime minister who now seems intent in going for Perry Christie 3.0. Those in the PLP who believed or believe that Christie was or will step aside will likely be deeply disappointed.
As there is no one in his party who can likely successfully challenge him, he seems set to lead the PLP into the next election. The PLP is stuck with Christie, whose continued presence means an inexorable decline for the party.
The next election is likely the FNM's to win. This is only a likelihood. The PLP may be poor at governance, but they are hungry to remain in power and they are adept at waging electoral battle. They will have bundles of cash at their disposal.
To win, the FNM must make some critical steps. It must decide who the best person is to lead the party as leader of the opposition and who can attract financial support, quality candidates and broad campaign support.
The party must wage a more effective opposition inside and outside of Parliament. The party also needs a clear message and national agenda.
With the PLP set to hold a convention later this year, the FNM will need to set a date and determine the leadership question, which will help to determine its effectiveness in opposition and its long-term vision.
In order to provide meaningful change for a country desperate for better leadership, the FNM will need to make some critical internal changes fairly soon. 2017 is not that far away.
o frontporchguardian@gmail.com, www.bahamapundit.com.

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A country with no plan, pt. 2

April 23, 2014

Included in our country's original development plan should have been practical ideas for the dispersion of the growing population into our constituent islands, and that is where foreign direct investment ought to have entered the development conversation and equation. Because, as social scientists have reinforced time and again, living like sardines in a can morphs very rapidly into a bombardment of social ills.
Included in the original plan should not have been tourism, which is not sustainable in its current or previous forms for long-term and diversified growth, given its near absolute reliance on external investment and external decision-making. The same applies to banking, particularly offshore private banks, but also overseas commercial franchise banks, whose ownership similarly originates outside of The Bahamas. But, we keep suffering the consequences of these old decisions and plans, because we keep clinging to something hoping it will continue to be what it can't.
The idea to build an anchor project on every island was not a brilliant one, because anchor projects foster the same extreme dependence on outside investors. What happens when those investors - who could end up as the second largest employer in the land - withdraw, as they often and are well within their rights to do? And, since nothing lasts forever, what is the plan for when Atlantis folds or fails and 350 thousand people are confined to one island to battle for 10,000 jobs?
Implanted resort properties as a business model for national and economic development are not sustainable. What is sustainable is foreign direct investment in the form of joint partnerships only, primarily or solely in infrastructural development, and this should have been the plan from day one. As it was not decided then, perhaps it can be decided now: no more resorts, only infrastructural joint partnerships with direct domestic investment as a main feature, resulting in equal advantage to Bahamians, to literally build our country. The premise: If John Smith's and Jane Rolle's hard-earned money goes straight from their pockets into building a roadway, they are both more likely to have pride in it and take care of it.
We need foreign expertise most of all to build our infrastructure: roads that are sound; basic, reliable utilities, including clean water, renewable power and new communications technology; and ground, water and air transportation and ports on every habitable island, starting with the largest of them.
Above all, we need these things to be attained using methods that don't include the Bahamian government borrowing money to fully finance entire projects, leaving the Bahamian people with unlimited, everlasting debt and zero financial interest in their own country. Enter bona fide joint partners.
Renewed thinking
Where we find ourselves today begs the question: "What more did we expect to happen, after putting all our eggs into this one, tattered old basket?" Did no one before now, presumably, have the foresight to envision that a diversified economy built on actual, measurable innovation and creative enterprise would move our country further along the path of development and in a more sustainable way?
Entertainment and sports/recreation notwithstanding, where is the innovative talent and creativity in tourism and banking? You can only do so much with natural resources before they become threatened, and you can only offer financial instruments proven reliable in other markets. To survive the developmental long haul and to remain on a growth track with a standard that is constantly elevated, ingenuity is vital. Have we done our people a grave disservice by disallowing - even discouraging - them to think innovatively and creatively for four decades, stifling their dreams before they take root or flight?
We have sold our sun, sand and sea year, after year, and this is the reason: we are a nation for sale. And we keep leaning on it as our staple, because, as some media and political pundits and industry warriors have expressed, it is our 'bread and butter'. Well, enough already. Who is going to have the wisdom plus the vision to see beyond the illusion that tourism is 'the goose that laid the golden egg', or the other illusion that the banking industry won't continue to be subject to the pressures of international markets and influences?
They are not irrelevant, but we are fighting to keep these two main industries afloat when they are what drag us down lower and lower, because of the chokehold we have on them, which we should have relinquished over time, while creating new industries with the same tenacity.
Restore pride and hope
When your people, since the 1980s, have been taught to keep The Bahamas clean (for tourists) and now the place is filthier than ever, what do you think is going to happen to tourism? Which tourists are we hoping will pay exorbitant travel costs to get here, followed by costly hotel rates, to see what? Garbage? We don't want to see it; why should they? How dump-like do we have to become for it to register as filth?
I suppose a big part of this mental block lies in the fact that our people have lost Bahamian pride. It's not difficult to imagine. They have little or no pride in themselves, because they have nothing to look forward to; why should they, when they can't do or be anything much in their own country, because their country is not encouraging them to develop creative and innovative talents for good, or giving them the conduits necessary to utilize those talents to their greatest potential even beyond the borders of their country?
Economic welfare is and will forever be tied to social welfare, which means as long as we have little or nothing to look forward to in terms of economic gain, communities will degenerate and people will fine-tune their criminality to get what and where they want, in life.
Our economic and social health and well-being won't improve if we are still dosing ourselves with expired medicines and methods to cure our modern condition. And the longer we wait to transform our nation in a monumental way, to take the gargantuan leap of faith - or whatever you need to call it to make it feel right - the poorer and more criminalized the nation will become.
o Nicole Burrows is an academically trained economist and a self-trained writer. She writes primarily on the economy and society, and her interests include economic growth and development and contemporary women's issues: nicole.burrows@outlook.com

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When insensitivity masquerades as wit
When insensitivity masquerades as wit

April 22, 2014

Dr. Hubert Minnis celebrated his 60th birthday on Wednesday at Gambier Primary with students. It made a nice photo op to see the leader of the opposition and Free National Movement (FNM) interacting with the children of his constituency...

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The Fiscal Reform Series: A model VAT implementation

April 22, 2014

In the midst of the continuing debate on fiscal reform in The Bahamas, we must keep our eyes on the prize (and the price) and not forget the ultimate goal of embarking on this important venture.
The fundamental purpose of the fiscal reform exercise is to reduce the government's recurrent deficit, curb and control expenditure, improve the efficiency and effectiveness of tax administration and restore our debt-to-GDP ratio to a more healthy position while ensuring that the country experiences economic growth and development.
It must be reiterated that if it decides to, The Bahamas will not be the first jurisdiction on the globe to implement Value Added Tax (VAT) and will probably not be the last to do so. There has been considerable discourse on the experiences of other nations that have implemented VAT, with Barbados being referenced from time to time, although the opinions on its level of success have been diverse.
It is noteworthy that Singapore and New Zealand have been touted as success stories in the introduction of VAT. This week, we conclude this series with a look at what model VAT implementation would entail and whether it is possible in the Bahamian context.
Fiscal reform and the tax component
In the case of The Bahamas, there has been a consistent call for the better administration of existing taxes and improvement of compliance with the same. Additionally, stakeholders including the private sector have called for better management of government expenditure with specific recommendations for target reduction in public spending.
The importance of economic growth in the overall equation has also been highlighted during public discourse. The vital message from opponents and commentators on VAT has been the need to focus more on a comprehensive fiscal reform program than on tax reforms aimed at increasing government revenue.
There is no doubt and we all agree at this point that reforms are mandatory and urgent action is required. The interesting point in this debate is that the aforementioned points are all elements of the government's fiscal consolidation plan. This suggests that both sides appear to be on the same page in relation to the approaches to be taken to address the country's fiscal imbalance.
However, the bones of contention seem to be the order in which the plan is implemented, the ability of the government to execute the plan and the selection of new taxes and measures to enhance government revenue.
The ideal VAT implementation
The general consensus among consumption tax experts is that this form of taxation works best when it has the broadest base possible and a single or common rate for all supplies. Ideally, the need for tax reform will not only be echoed in words by relevant stakeholders but also supported by their actions.
While skepticism over government initiatives aimed at raising revenue is to be expected, there will be general buy-in among the entire populace based on the financial circumstances of the country. For its part the government would also have done a decent job in explaining the reasons for the necessary reforms and the consultation as well as the education processes would be comprehensive including all stakeholders while providing ample time for feedback and rollout of the tax.
The reality however is that this is often not as easy as it seems due to the normal reaction of the private sector and the entire public to the imposition of taxes in general and the implementation of new taxes in particular. When considered in addition to the politicization of tax reforms and the fear of political backlash by the government of the day, this issue becomes even more complicated.
The Singapore experience and The Bahamas' reality
The experiences of several countries that have implemented VAT or a similar consumption tax show that it is an efficient and effective form of taxation from the government perspective. The often referenced inbuilt compliance/self-policing feature of VAT, stability as a source of revenue and lesser susceptibility to economic cycles continue to be the main reasons for its success rate.
Like The Bahamas, discussions on tax reform in general and the goods and services tax (GST), which is identical to VAT, had been taking place prior to the implementation of the GST on April 1, 1994.
Singapore had issued a White Paper in February 1993 although their government had a draft bill by 1991. The introduction of GST in Singapore was accompanied by a reduction in other taxes including corporate and personal income taxes, among others.
The adjustment of taxes and tax rates as well as grants continued in the years after GST was introduced. It is important at this juncture to state that Singapore enjoyed fiscal surpluses as a percentage of GDP in the year prior to, and the year following the introduction of GST.
Under Singapore's GST system, only exports are zero-rated while certain financial services as well as the sale and lease of residential properties are exempt. In essence, Singapore was able to maintain a very broad base for the GST.
The introductory registration threshold under Singapore's GST was SGD 1,000,000 (approximately USD 800,000) and the standard rate was 3% with a commitment not to increase the same within the first five years. It should be noted that Singapore projected that its revenue would be negatively impacted during the transitional period with a return to revenue neutrality subsequently.
In comparison to The Bahamas, Singapore was enjoying economic growth and budget surpluses and was therefore in a much better financial condition when the GST was introduced. Hence, The Bahamas, stuck between a rock and a hard place, cannot afford a transitional period of revenue negativity for the government.
Additionally, the high registration threshold and low GST rate were possible due to the existence of a myriad of other taxes which were reduced to accommodate the new tax in Singapore. Unfortunately, our precarious financial condition and the composition of our economy do not allow for a similar approach. Finally, unlike The Bahamas, one single political party - the People's Action Party has dominated Singapore's politics since independence in 1965 gaining significant standing over this period.
The impact on standard and cost of living
Any discussion on VAT will likely include reference to its regressive nature and the corresponding effect on the purchasing power of the populace, in particular the middle and lower classes in a society.
While the government has indicated that certain items (including bread-basket items and other essential services) will be exempted either in their entirety or subject to an established threshold, the concerns remain among consumers. Representatives of the government, by their own admission, recognize that their efforts to boost the level of public awareness and the education of individual consumers have not been stellar.
It remains very important that any revisions to initial proposals be circulated well in advance of the implementation date and a more effective education program be launched and properly executed.
In December 2013, the Financial Secretary indicated that the government will expand social safety net programs by $30 million in the first year that VAT is introduced to provide transitional relief to those that would be unfairly impacted by the new tax. The expansion, according to the government, would last for the first three to five years following the implementation of VAT.
While the adequacy of the increased allocation to welfare programs is subject to scrutiny, this compensatory measure, which is aimed at mitigating the impact of VAT on the poor, differs from the approach taken by countries such as New Zealand, Australia and Canada due to the existence of other forms of taxation.
In the case of New Zealand, targeted family support income tax credits and welfare benefits via the Guaranteed Minimum Family Income (GMFI) were pivotal in presenting the case for the implementation of consumption tax due to the reduced impact on families with low incomes.
Upsides of VAT?
The obvious expected boost in government revenue, projected reduction in our national debt and recurrent deficit as well as maintenance of our sovereign rating as a result of the introduction of VAT have been reiterated by various commentators. While these benefits are necessities, are there any other additional or potential advantages that could accrue to The Bahamas and Bahamians as a result of VAT?
Will the effective nature of VAT be considered as a part of a bigger reform of existing taxes with a view to replacing the less efficient multiple taxes in existence? Will the introduction of VAT increase the overall tax compliance rate for The Bahamas?
Will the equitable aspect of VAT lead to a redistribution of resources within the Bahamian economy in the long term? What impact will VAT have on the ease of doing business in The Bahamas in the long run? With the successful implementation of the government's fiscal consolidation plan, can we expect a reduction of other taxes and duties in the long run?
The government will do well to address these questions as part of the education process. Singapore's GST system was modeled after that of New Zealand in relation to the broad base and single rate. Hence, the proposed discussion between stakeholders in The Bahamas and New Zealand should be instructive and enlightening.
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 numbers game: PLP repeating Bahamas Airways tragedy

April 17, 2014

It would be a national tragedy, an astounding lost opportunity, if the PLP legalized a private lottery further enriching a few, instead of a public lottery benefitting the mass of Bahamians, sadly reminiscent of The Bahamas Airways tragedy of the late 1960s.
How in good conscience can a Bahamian government legalize a lottery system in which millions are endlessly transferred from poorer and struggling middle-class Bahamians into the already overflowing coffers of the very wealthy?
Such a decision would be a moral disgrace and fiscally irresponsible, a triumph of vulgar and unbridled greed.
We have been here before. There are historic echoes of a pernicious pattern of betrayal by the PLP, betrayals which have retarded national development from the inception of majority rule, including the malicious destruction of Jumbey Village.
Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez noted that web shop operators previously indicated that the annual gross bettings were $400 million with a profit of around $100 million.
Still, the real numbers are unknown to the public. Curiously, estimates by the Christie administration have been rather inconsistent, at times seemingly low-balled. Neither the numbers bosses nor the government have been forthcoming on the money involved in the trade. One may only guess why.
In the lead-up to last year's gambling referendum Christie promised that he would abide by the will of the people. Certain numbers barons promised they would close shop following a no vote. Christie's word was no better than those of the numbers men.
Flip-flop
Within that year he performed his greatest flip-flop ever in the numbers game, quite a feat considering his dazzling flip-flopping in the referendum debacle.
In yet another infamous performance art piece Christie said that he might be forced to regularize the numbers trade because the country was in dire need of funds that might be derived from the business.
Watch the sleight of argument similar to a three-card monte trick in which the trickster attempts to distract the mark in order for the confidence game to succeed.
Here's the game: Of the mega millions involved in the numbers trade, the numbers bosses seem set to legally grab the lion's share of the money with the government deriving considerably less in taxes.
Christie is attempting to make a fiscally responsible argument for a lottery, but seems set to act in a fiscally irresponsible manner.
Yet again, the PLP seems set to advance the narrow and greedy interests of a few, well ahead of the needs of the majority. It is a well-entrenched pattern.
In 1968 a newly minted PLP government led by Sir Lynden Pindling was offered a near unimaginable opportunity for the new majority rule government.
The inspiration was to turn Bahamas Airways, our fledgling national airline, into a significant international carrier flying routes throughout the U.S., including New York City and parts of Latin America.
Sir Arthur Foulkes was minister of communications, which included responsibility for civil aviation.
An agreement was negotiated in which Bahamas Airways was to be a part of a consortium partnering with the Swire Group, the Bank of Hong Kong and Cathay Pacific airline. Cathay Pacific is today "the world's third largest airline, measured in terms of market capitalization" and "the world's largest international cargo airline".
To understand the double-dealing to come, it is important to remember that it was Sir Lynden who invited the Swire Group to The Bahamas.
For a small archipelagic colony with enormous developmental challenges and nearing independence, such a consortium could prove lucrative and pivotal as The Bahamas needed considerably more airlift to boost the tourism sector as a platform for national development.
Cathay Pacific was to provide managerial and technical expertise. There were dazzling plans for in-flight service showcasing the culture and beauty of The Bahamas, from the uniforms of stewardesses to interior cabin design to meals.
New jets were acquired and on the ground at New Providence ready to fly to cities in the U.S.
Destroyed
Then the greed and the double-dealing of Sir Lynden dashed hopes and destroyed one of the brightest possibilities ever for Bahamas tourism and air services. It remains a national tragedy of the highest order, something Perry Christie seems set to repeat with eyes wide shut.
Warren Levarity subsequently became minister of communications. Without his knowledge or consent the Air Transport Licensing Authority, under the chairmanship of Bruce Brennen, issued certain routes to the Premier's chum Everette Bannister and his proposed Bahamas World Airways, routes already granted exclusively to The Bahamas Airways consortium.
Undoubtedly Brennen granted the routes to Bannister and what many scoffingly referred to as his "paper airline" on Sir Lynden's instructions.
In a spectacular breach of faith Sir Lynden deceived his own colleagues, international investors and the Bahamian people. Subsequently, many international investors became wary of The Bahamas and Sir Lynden's government.
The Swire Group asked Sir Lynden to honor the prior deal and revoke the routes given to Bannister or assume responsibility for Bahamas Airways. After his refusal, the group pulled out, the airplanes left, and Bahamian stewardesses were stranded in New York. Bahamas Airways was effectively destroyed overnight.
Playing the pseudo-nationalism card for which the PLP is infamous, Sir Lynden thumped that the consortium was "never a part of us".
The cant and the deceit: It was Sir Lynden who originally brought the group to The Bahamas. It was he who reneged on a deal that his government had agreed to. He was shifting attention from his double-cross and double-dealing.
Bannister's airline was a flop, a promotional trip to Frankfurt its first and last, with rumors that the company never paid for the fuel for the flight.
What are the opportunity costs of The Bahamas Airways tragedy? They are enormous, reverberating over the decades.
We would have had an airline outstripping the likes of Air Jamaica and likely now boasting one of the best airlines in the region, with Bahamians as shareholders in a leading international carrier.
Spinoffs
The economic spinoffs would have been breathtaking. A thriving airline and employment for perhaps thousands of Bahamians at every level, generally free of political interference and the gross incompetence and corruption that has often characterized Bahamasair.
From marketing to a range of auxiliary services, numerous small to medium-sized Bahamian businesses employing many would have developed.
We likely would have avoided the drain of approximately half a billion dollars from the treasury to keep Bahamasair operational. Imagine what could have been done in terms of national development with half a billion dollars and counting!
At a luncheon in Hong Kong in 2010, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham met the head of Cathay Pacific who noted that a number of older senior officials at the airline remembered the Pindling government's betrayal of the arrangement. It seemed clear that they would never consider any proposal to return to The Bahamas.
Sir Lynden traded a better and more secure future for The Bahamas for greed and narrow interests. In today's numbers game Christie and the PLP are demonstrating the same pernicious pattern.
Forty years after independence and following the Great Recession our great challenges include those of violent crime, persistent youth unemployment, growing inequality and a faltering middle class alongside other structural social and economic challenges.
We need urgently to find a way to expand entrepreneurship and jobs, providing more poor Bahamians with a ladder into the middle class, while stabilizing a middle class besieged on numerous fronts.
A national lottery is not a panacea. Still, funds from such a public enterprise may play a significant role in helping to address our challenges.
If Perry Christie and today's PLP sell us out to the numbers men in the interest of greedy and narrow self-interest we will pay a heavy price. Worse, generations to come will pay an even heavier price.
How can a party which purports to care so much about the poor and Bahamians in general be so callous, indifferent and smug, especially in light of its prior betrayal with Bahamas Airways?
Sadly, it must be a part of their political DNA, just like the old guard and oligarchy they once loathed, a prime example of the overlords in George Orwell's "Animal Farm", the pigs who began to resemble the men they once struggled against so mightily.
o frontporchguardian@gmail.com, www.bahamapundit.com.

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The PLP's chance at telecommunications liberalization
The PLP's chance at telecommunications liberalization

April 16, 2014

With the ending of the cellular monopoly of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration has the task of leading the process of introducing another competitor to the marketplace. This version of telecommunications liberalization was set in motion by the last Free National Movement (FNM)...

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A country with no plan, pt. 1

April 16, 2014

Of late, when I hear any of our political leaders speak about the need for a national development or economic plan I am baffled.
The prime minister and his deputy, along with the minister of the environment and a number of others in Parliament, have spoken of this on recent occasions and it is instantly disconcerting. If it were intended to display intelligence or passion, it missed the mark on both counts, and it is really not something that any member of a governing party should ever utter.
We have been a sovereign nation for almost 41 years. I know that there are all sorts of growing pains attached to that sovereignty, and, really, we are just an infant country. But, some issues, in particular, keep us stuck in our infancy: the lack of a national and/or economic development plan is the most significant of them.
Why, after all this time has passed since our autonomy are we just now saying that we need national and economic plans for development? As the country's leaders, how is it that you're only now asking for these plans, which should have been the crux of your existence and previous governance? Moreover, how do you win an entire government without having had such plans, be it the most recent win in 2012, or the very first win in 1967? What government can govern at all - never mind effectively - without first having a comprehensive plan to govern? As it appears, have we really been on autopilot for all these decades?
As a ruling government, the fact that you have no such plans, by your own admission or public comments, does nothing to inspire confidence amongst the citizenry. What are the 300,000 or more of us - less the ones sitting in Parliament apparently unaware of how significant an issue this is - supposed to think about where it is you intend to take this country and how you intend to do it?
A guest on a local radio show recently suggested that such development plans have not existed prior to now, yet there exists an Economic Development Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister? How is that even possible? What is it that they do there year after year? I am certain I know the answer - maintain the status quo. We are a status quo-maintaining society, and it shows from the top down.
Our direction
Going forward, in the best interests of the country, every man or woman who offers himself or herself as a servant of the people, for elected or appointed public office, should be required to submit a serious analysis of economy and government, in support of an overall plan of how to (sustainably) grow our nation. In the absence of this, and without demonstrating coherent and sustained thought on the question of growth, for what reason will I give you my vote?
With the exception of none, all of the issues we have as a country point to: 1) our (obvious) lack of direction; and, 2) the fact that so much has changed in our economy and society in four decades, yet so much is unchanged with respect to laws and regulations, structures, people and processes that govern their enforcement.
Is it at all realistic to expect to move forward when the framework of your country is so rusty and fragile that you can't build anything new on it without predicting that it will collapse?
The current government while in opposition campaigned on a Bahamas for Bahamians first. But here's something to think on: The Bahamas was never for Bahamians. It was a vacation home; a paradise for visitors. And out of that grew a tourism industry, which I suppose seemed the easiest thing to follow through with at the time. But we are surely paying for that easy decision now. To create a Bahamas for Bahamians would have required much more effort than simply leaning on tourism.
That said, the benefits of open trade and foreign direct investment are well known, but we should have developed, be developing, from the inside out, not the outside in. As long as we aren't, we will always be either stagnant or backward moving because there is no real value being added to human capital and productivity. Employers and employees have hit a ceiling of achievement and most will stop there. Additionally, they have no vested interest in what they achieve internally, but will continually look to the outside for the answers and the reward.
Had we developed instead from the inside out, meeting and securing our primary needs first and steadily growing and expanding real industry, something like value-added tax, or the (threat of) implementation of any method of taxation, would be a far less likely bone of contention, as the desperate scramble for revenue would have been avoided, de facto.
External input into our economy, by way of tourism, foreign banking and other foreign direct investment should never occur without attached domestic investment opportunities for the people these investments are meant to benefit. And if we are to assume those people are the citizens of our country, then why is it that they are the very people who repeatedly end up with the minimum wage or no benefit?
Give the people whose country it is the opportunities to directly invest in the development of their own country, in whatever small portions they can afford. And then watch them care more for themselves, their people, their environment and their future.
o Nicole Burrows is an academically trained economist and a self-trained writer: nicole.burrows@outlook.com.

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The essential reform

April 15, 2014

The next installment of the fiscal reform series that evaluates the successful implementation of value-added tax (VAT) by Singapore and New Zealand with a view to ascertaining if and what lessons The Bahamas can learn from their experiences as we voyage into unchartered territory had been drafted for subsequent publication.
However, in the midst of this debate, we must pause to recognize Holy Week - a week that is observed by Christians the world over in commemoration of the travails and ultimate triumph of Jesus Christ.
This week we shift focus to examine not the much debated fiscal reform or the popular topic of tax reform; rather we consider a different kind of reform. This reform is an essential reform that will probably not attract the level of public discourse or press time that political and economic issues attract within our country.
The triumphant entry
The four gospels of the New Testament of the Bible record the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on a colt. The entrance into Jerusalem was preceded by specific order from Jesus to two of his disciples to go into the city and bring him a colt that was bound and had never been ridden before. The choice of animal is also symbolic in that the donkey is perceived in Eastern tradition as an animal of peace as opposed to a horse, that is often associated with war. It is no surprise therefore that the Prince of Peace would choose a colt (or a donkey) as his vessel of transportation.
The inexperienced vessel that was the colt was chosen for an assignment that it appeared not to have any qualifications for and was perhaps not trained to embark upon. This is more puzzling when one considers the magnitude of the assignment and stature of the rider.
Several messages abound in this aspect of the story but the hope it provides to the Bahamian youth in this dispensation is apparent. The next generation of Bahamians should continue their strive for excellence and maintain their hunger for knowledge; however, we must remember that greatness is in us and we must be ready to answer the call to serve.
The response Jesus recommended to his disciples if they were questioned is ever so relevant to the young people of our country: the Lord needs you. The recently celebrated Palm Sunday also offers the hope of freedom from bondage as the colt that was hitherto bound was released to be a part of history.
Challenging the status quo
The pageantry and celebration that accompanied Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem were eloquently described in the gospels. From the cloaks that were laid on the colt and the ground upon which He rode to the palm branches which symbolize victory, triumph and peace, our imaginations may never do justice to the re-enactment of the scenery in our minds.
In spite of the glamour of his advent into Jerusalem, the Bible records the clearing of the temple courts of those buying and selling there. This act was aimed at bringing order to the temple and reiterating the purpose the temple ought to serve.
Bahamian leaders and aspiring leaders, having been lauded by the populace and ushered into positions of power, must never be afraid to do that which is right, although some of their decisions may prove to be unpopular. Leadership must not be reduced to a popularity contest and it is high time that our leaders address matters based on convictions and more importantly doing the right things even at the risk of offending supporters.
The voyage of purpose
The agony of the cross was felt prior to Calvary at Gethsemane as the Messiah sought to avoid the cross only to yield to the will of His Father. It is interesting to note that in His moment of despair and hour of sorrow, he could not rely on his disciples to hold Him up in prayer.
Leaders must be prepared to stand alone in their darkest hour and face their biggest trials on their own in a lonely place. We the people must follow the biblical instruction to pray for our leaders and those that govern us for the prosperity of our country.
The inherent dichotomy of human nature is pronounced in the crucifixion story with the change in proclamations by the people. It is interesting to note that within just a few days, the chants of Hosanna would change to the shouts of "Crucify Him". In essence, those who had hailed Jesus as a hero would soon reject and abandon Him; some even demanding His execution over that of a serious criminal.
The betrayal of Judas and the denial by Peter are testaments to some of the struggles of leadership and relationships. The journey from judgement hall to judgement hall may have been prevented if Jesus' commitment to and faith in His assignment was not unflinching. These experiences paled in comparison to the punishment inflicted upon the Son of God and we should expect no less if we profess to be Christians as no servant is greater than his/her master.
As we transition from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, the hope of resurrection must come alive within our Bahamaland, from Inagua in the south to Bimini in the north. In spite of the current challenges that confront us, hope ought to rise again in our hearts during this season that this too shall pass, the sun will shine again and roses will bloom again in this land.
The model reform
While various studies on tax reform in The Bahamas have been and are being conducted, this writer also recommends another study - the detailed study of the life of Jesus by leaders, aspiring leaders and the entire populace. All accounts confirm the reformist that He represented in the challenging of established doctrines and the status quo.
The pain and suffering that He bore were direct results of an unwavering commitment to His assignment. It is indeed a paradox that He was born to die; He fulfilled purpose by being tortured and subsequently going to Calvary to die a gruesome death. As followers of Christ commemorate His resurrection this week, in our personal lives we must rest assured that any perceived suffering of the present is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in us.
We need not look far to find individuals to which the clarion call is being made. For indeed the clarion call for the essential reform is being made to one and all.
The charge is made to this generation to be vessels in bringing about much needed reform to the social, cultural, religious and economic landscape of our commonwealth. In the words of the late Nelson Mandela, "...sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great, you (we) can be that great generation".
However, how can we change our communities and our nation if we do not begin by reforming ourselves and changing our thinking for the better? How can we say we love God when we do not love our brother, sister or neighbor, who we can see? The Bahamas will be a better place and will experience much prosperity if we are able to successfully implement this model reform. Happy Holy Week
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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Putting the cart before the horse
Putting the cart before the horse

April 14, 2014

Consultation was a hallmark of Perry Christie's early leadership. During his first term as prime minister, he was actually criticized for consulting too much and not being sufficiently decisive...

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The ideal governor general - part 1

April 14, 2014

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."
- John Quincy Adams
The Bahamas Constitution clearly defines our Parliament as comprised of "Her Majesty (who is represented by the governor general), a Senate and a House of Assembly". Senators are appointed by a formula that is specifically provided for in the Constitution. Members of the House of Assembly are elected by polling the most votes in their constituencies, normally for a five-year term in office.
Although we are often inundated by the activities and pronouncements of Senators and members of Parliament, the significance or role of the governor general in the context of our governance is really not widely understood.
Therefore, this week, we would like to Consider this... what is the role of the governor general and what qualities should we expect to find in the holder of that high office?
The historical development
The term "governor general" originated in those British colonies that obtained their political independence from Great Britain. Before World War I, the title was used only in federated colonies in which each of the previously constituent colonies already had a governor, namely Canada, Australia, and the Union of South Africa.
Since the 1950s, the title of governor general has been vested in representatives of the sovereign in independent commonwealth countries. In these cases, the former office of colonial governor transitioned to become the office of the governor general upon independence, becoming an entirely independent constitutional representative of the monarch rather than a symbol of previous colonial rule. In those countries, the governor general acts as the monarch's representative, performing the ceremonial and constitutional functions of a head of state.
What our Constitution says
Although The Bahamas has had a governor appointed by the Crown since Captain Woodes Rogers took the post in the early 1700s, chapter four of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas provides for the establishment of the Office of the Governor General. In the very first provision of that chapter, Article 32 of our Constitution states that: "There shall be a Governor General of The Bahamas who shall be appointed by Her Majesty and shall hold office during Her Majesty's pleasure and who shall be Her Majesty's representative in The Bahamas."
The Queen or sovereign is the head of state of The Bahamas. The governor general represents the sovereign, and most of the powers and authority of the sovereign have been delegated to the governor general.
Although the role is mostly symbolic and ceremonial, as a constitutionally-defined part of Parliament, the governor general alone is constitutionally mandated to summon Parliament. Beyond that, the other conventional parliamentary duties performed by the governor general in the sovereign's absence include reading the speech from the throne and others as listed in our Constitution, including:
o Appointing Supreme and Appeal Court judges on the advice of the Cabinet.
o Summoning, closing and dissolving Parliament, on the advice of the prime minister.
o Inviting the leader of the political party with the most support in the House of Assembly to form the government. That party's leader becomes prime minister.
o Inviting the leader of the political party with the second highest support in the House of Assembly to become the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.
o Signing legislation in order to bring it into force.
o In times of emergency or special circumstances, exercising the special personal authority of the governor general to appoint or dismiss a prime minister or dissolve Parliament, although this authority is rarely used.
o Receiving and dispatching ambassadors.
The ideal qualities of a governor general
The governor general is usually a person with a distinguished record of public service, often a retired politician, although some countries have also appointed prominent judges, military commanders, academics, philanthropists, or figures from the news media to the office.
So what qualities then should Bahamians expect their governors general to exemplify? First and foremost, it is fundamental that the person who holds that office be a nationally unifying force, an individual who does not represent any single constituency or interest group. Given the profound partisan divisions that presently permeate so many facets of Bahamian life, the governor general must not possess a politically polarizing or partisan persona, or a propensity to alienate large numbers of our citizens.
Secondly, it is only fitting that, given our relative youth as a nation, we should choose our governor general from among those individuals who have attained the status of "father of the nation" or "hero of the revolution". These individuals, besides possessing a unique historical perspective on our nation, should also have what is arguably the most extensive experience of The Bahamas and its pre- and post-colonial history. This wealth of information, virtually impossible to pass on to anyone, equips such individuals with the depth and breadth of knowledge necessary to deal with any eventuality that may present itself to a governor general.
The ideal candidate for governor general should be a nationalist, whose credentials are unquestionable and unassailable. The ideal governor general should have an innate sense of Bahamian history and culture, someone who is informed on a wide range of issues that face the nation and who can articulate the aspirations and hopes of a people without reference to political bias.
The ideal governor general should reflect the fiscal realities of our time. Particularly in this time of our national development, those who hold this office should be guided by fiscal austerity and not prone to a lavish or ostentatious display in the execution of the office. The ideal governor general should be abstemious in dispensing his office and eschew overly excessive public expenditure.
Most importantly, we should reverse the recent perverse practice of prime ministers replacing governors general simply because of changes in government. This practice, started in the early 1990s with the election of Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and adopted by Prime Minister Perry Christie, fosters the popular perspective that a governor general should be changed each time that we change governments.
Apart from the unnecessary fiscal drain that this practice places on the public purse with the pension and other benefits afforded former governors general, it offends the principle that a governor general should rise above partisan politics. This practice also inculcates in the public psyche the erroneous ethos that the person serving in that office should mirror the political party that is in office. This fallacy must not only be resisted; it must be rectified. Lest we forget, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who is the Head of State of Great Britain, has served in that capacity since 1953, 61 years in total, and during her reign has presided over 14 prime ministers from diverse parties.
Conclusion
Next week, we will examine the rationale used for choosing those persons who have served as Bahamian governors general since our independence in 1973 and the tenure of governors general in the major English-speaking Caribbean countries in order to better formulate a portrait of the kind of individual who can not only fulfill their duties well, but also with the kind of Bahamian flair, elegance and aplomb that does our 21st Century nation proud.
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 choices of the powerful affect the weak

April 12, 2014

There are so many things that make the world a troubled place today, without any real solutions on the horizon.
Were we as human beings living on a planet that was flat, maybe we would be able to see more solutions. Unfortunately, the earth is round and we have to deal with many hidden deceptions. Meanwhile, powerful nations are making choices that are affecting weaker nations.
Haiti is still being occupied by United Nations military forces and that is alright with the western world. Now Russia is annexing some parts of Ukraine, but Russia's military actions are not accepted by western countries. The U.S. and its European allies are complaining about Russian expansionism.
Haitians are the only black people who were able to free themselves from slavery and create their own sovereign country, but it seems as though there are forces still trying to recolonize the Haitian people with the help of the United Nations.
And while the UN forces keep on occupying Haiti, some black academics and their leftist-leaning political comrades keep on talking nonsense about reparations for the slavery of African people in the diaspora.
If these black academics and their left wing sympathizers care so much about the black people's struggle, why can they not influence the UN to withdraw its troops from Haiti and allow the Haitian people to decide their own political future?
It has been claimed that some UN peace keeping forces brought a strain of cholera to Haiti that infected and killed many Haitian citizens and the UN has refused to pay the families of the victims as compensation for their loss. Lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. courts.
If the reparations movement activists care so much about the betterment of black people, they should challenge the UN and demand some kind of financial compensation for Haitian cholera victims. Unfortunately, it seems as though they are trying to put the cart in front of the mule, as they keep on making useless noises about reparations.
It seems as though, due to the fact that Haiti is the only black country that was not created by colonialists, the former colonizers are trying to rewrite Haitian history with this new period of UN occupation. And with this new brand of global politics affecting the sovereignty of third world countries, there is a possibility that the UN occupying forces will be on Haitian soil for a very long time, as long as those powerful influential western countries believe that their interests are at stake in Haiti.
Now that Russia is flexing its military muscles and annexing parts of Ukraine as a means of protecting its geopolitical interests and dominant control, the western countries cannot deny that their present role in the occupation of Haiti is also based on geopolitical control and domination. After France, the U.S. and Canada played a role in deposing Jean-Bertrand Aristide and putting him on a plane to Africa, without his consent.
It has been scientifically proven that the world is not flat, and we as human beings have to live our lives making choices based on good and evil. The choices we make sometimes can be deceptive.
History has proven that we make choices based on our environment. The choices we make sometimes affect other human beings, particularly when it is all about looking after our own interest withouts regard for those who do not share our political and moral values.
And being that our choices are made based on good and evil, we will never be able to unite and live in unity.
For example, religious scholars believe that God created the world and gave human beings these two choices: good and evil. However, the thing those religious scholars neglect to explain is: Why did God allow human beings to make choices, if he wanted a peaceful and loving world?
On the other hand, most scientists believe that social conditions and geographical location created the behavioral habits of human beings, especially when survival of the fittest became the imperative.
Now, it seems as though human survival has become a global dilemma, as superpowers move dangerous weapons to strategic locations, guided by modern technology, to capitalize on the resources that are essential to their enrichment and retention of power.
Presently, Russia has risen again after the fall of the Soviet Union. The new Russian leadership is annexing parts of Ukraine and absorbing them into modern Russia; and for some of us living in the west, it is political shock. However, we must always remember the world is not flat and human beings keep on making choices based on good and evil for their survival. So as Russia is grabbing a big chunk of Ukraine, the UN peacekeeping forces are still occupying Haiti.
o Hudson George has a BA in Social Science from York University, Toronto, Canada. He has been writing since his early teenage years and now contributes letters and articles to a number of Caribbean newspapers.

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The Critical Care Block and the ongoing game of excuses
The Critical Care Block and the ongoing game of excuses

April 11, 2014

If a government is repeatedly unable to meet important deadlines, the least it can do is maintain a consistent message about why...

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