The FNM convention: Before, now and after

July 27, 2016

Today the FNM begins its convention - the one that will decide who will lead it into the next general election.
High drama preceded this event and there may be more high drama during it. The leadership race has been fierce and, at times, nasty. Moreover, it has even been imaginative at times.
According to creative political fabricators, this writer is on his way back to politics, will be the FNM's next candidate for Lucaya and was to enter the former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's name into nomination for leader of the FNM at this convention. Between pursuing all my business travel and dealings and working on several book projects, my family and I have had quite a chuckle about how busy I have managed to be politically, according to these fiction writers. We in The Bahamas can surely start a new industry in writing tall tales.
Anyways, it might well be true that the FNM has had a contentious and often times unflattering fight for leadership moving toward its convention. It may well be that it will have a rambunctious time during the convention. However, it can ill afford being deeply divided following the convention. With Dr. Hubert Minnis or Loretta Butler-Turner as leader, the next election will be no cake walk. With either as leader and a continuing rift between them and/or their supporters, they surely will not win. Hubert Ingraham was right about this. Voters will punish the party for daring to come to them asking for support when they cannot support each other.
Unity following the convention will be a mission in and of itself. The wounds of the fight for leadership are deep and gaping. Too many negative things have been said in public and behind the scenes. It is not constructive criticism about anyone's ability or performance that is an issue, for criticism in politics and public life is par for the course. It is personal insults to people's dignity; the threatening to politically disembowel opponents; even the cussing of adversaries for their support of others. Such nonsense has been hurtful to many people and will not go away by singing "Kumbaya" on Friday night.
Unity must be an acknowledgement of offenses, request for forgiveness, repentance from wrong-doing, agreement on the common vision and a commitment to work together doggedly to achieve the mission. Of course, there will have to be discussions with the public, for it will want to know how the FNM factions got over their distrust, concerns and failed confidence. This will be no easy task but honest people can achieve things often impossible for the crafty.
Intending no disrespect to Butler-Turner, I believe that Minnis will emerge leader of the FNM following the convention elections on Friday. It seems that he has done the work, good or bad, necessary to hold his post. I could be wrong, but this is my view. If I am right, Butler-Turner will have nothing of which to be ashamed; in fact she ought to be proud. She has come as close as any woman in the history of The Bahamas to earn the top post in the FNM party and in our land. In democracies you offer and people decide. Sometimes their decision is less about you than it is about them, the times and tactics of others. I do not presume to tell her what to do should she not succeed, saving this, "To thine own self be true."
As for the good doctor, if he succeeds and remains as he was before he went into the convention his leadership will continue to be weak and in doubt. Victory in convention may confirm preference of delegates but will not be proof of ability. There remain deep concerns that the PLP's support of Minnis (as was seen by Leslie Miller and others, whose perplexing praise of him on numerous occasions was strange to say the least) is entirely about its view that Minnis gives them the best chance of succeeding in the next election, even in the face of the many failures that they have had in government to date.
Furthermore, there remain deep concern that Minnis' poor judgement (evidenced by a number of appointments, recruitments, choice of counsellors and budget performance, among other things) may not prevent him from winning the next election, but may prevent him from succeeding in government. His insecurity might not prevent him from convincing voters to choose him but will certainly cause his colleagues in government to have a difficult time cooperating with him. His inarticulate and uncharismatic ways may not prevent him from garnering a crowd of party faithful for rallies preceding an election victory but will cause Bahamians, at large, to be terribly concerned about his representation of them at home and abroad.
Win or lose, Minnis has glaring deficits and if he does not correct them victory during the next election will be difficult; and governing following the election, if he wins, will be even more so. He can surround himself with as many sycophants as he wishes and as many ego-boosters as he pleases. None of it will hide the fact that The Bahamas needs a true and capable leader. Our nation needs a thinker, communicator, unifier and diplomat who is comfortable in his own skin, has a sense of his own self, has a core that is anchored and problem-solving skills equal to the challenges of our time. It does not need the pre-convention Hubert Minnis. It needs a version of himself that is far better. It will not be long before we find out which will emerge. Should Butler-Turner emerge leader, she too will have to be that which The Bahamas needs. Again, we shall soon find out and the FNM and our nation will be the better or worse off for it.

o Zhivargo Laing is a Bahamian economic consultant and former Cabinet minister who represented the Marco City constituency in the House of Assembly.

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A better way to protect the world from the next pandemic

July 27, 2016

The growing concern over the Zika virus highlights a frightening reality. The world remains ill-prepared for a fast-moving virus. Over the past decade, Ebola, avian flu, swine flu and other pandemics have shown how vulnerable the world can be when major outbreaks start in a developing country with a weak health system.
But too little investment in pandemic preparedness at the local, national and global levels leave all of us, no matter where we live, vulnerable to the spread of a deadly pandemic. Pandemics are a global security threat, and they demand a truly global response.
This, in fact, is about to happen. The world will now be able to automatically send money, medical teams and lifesaving supplies to any of the 77 poorest countries to prevent a major outbreak from spreading and escalating. The newly created Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility will leverage money from wealthy countries, capital markets and the reinsurance industry, and use those funds if needed to mount a rapid early response to shut down an outbreak with pandemic potential - and at a fraction of the cost of delayed action.
This facility, which will be up and running later this year, will disburse money quickly through two routes.
First, it will open up an entirely new insurance market: pandemic risk insurance. Low income countries will be covered against certain types of viruses expected to cause the majority of severe outbreaks, including Ebola. Once an outbreak meets predetermined criteria based on size, severity and speed, money will flow to the afflicted countries and international responders.
Much like with other types of insurance, a small amount of money paid up front will provide countries with a much larger amount of support when it's most needed.
Second, in the event of emerging or more unpredictable types of outbreaks for which extensive data is not yet available, such as Zika, the facility can use cash to trigger a faster response. Either way, this means we no longer will rely on inevitably sluggish - and lethally unpredictable - political deliberations or pass-the-hat fundraising appeals, which usually come too little, too late.
If this facility had existed in 2014 during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, we could have mobilized $100 million as early as July that year to accelerate the response. Instead, that level of funding did not begin to flow until three months later - during which Ebola cases increased tenfold - and eventually cost $10 billion and counting to U.S. and other taxpayers for emergency response, recovery efforts and economic losses to the affected countries.
In addition to filling a critical financing gap, the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility will serve as a cornerstone in building a better global system to reduce future pandemic risks.
The facility will complement the World Health Organization's new enhanced early response efforts. It will require countries to develop strong response plans, and in so doing we hope it will also encourage greater global and national investments in preparedness - including in more resilient national health systems and regional surveillance and detection networks. It will move us away from the much more costly and inefficient crisis-to-crisis management of pandemics toward a smarter, faster, better-coordinated and more effective response when needed.
There is a high probability that the world will experience a severe outbreak in the next 10 to 15 years. Recent economic analysis suggests that the annualized global cost of a moderately severe to severe pandemic is roughly $570 billion, or 0.7 percent of global income - with overall cost estimates of a single large pandemic as high as five percent of global gross domestic product, or $4 trillion.
The world has well-developed global systems to respond quickly to other security risks, ranging from disasters to economic contagion. Yet pandemics - the ultimate contagion - have been one of the greatest unmanaged and uninsured global risks in the world. Until now.
We can't change the speed of a hurricane or the magnitude of an earthquake, but we can change the trajectory of an outbreak. By having a global system at the ready to get money to the right place at the right time, we have the potential to save thousands - even millions - of lives and protect the global economy from trillions of dollars in losses.

o Jim Yong Kim is the president of the World Bank Group. This article was originally published in The Washington Post on July 1, 2016.

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There can be no real change without challenge

July 26, 2016

Change is inevitable. Change is constant". This quote, which is attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, the first Earl of Beaconsfield and former British prime minister, is often separated into two quotes to highlight the certainty and continuous nature of change within the human race. The laws of nature prove this to be true in relation to the metamorphosis of plants and creatures alike, with a living demonstration in the advent and departure of seasons.
Last week, we commemorated the significant event in our history that transpired on what we call Black Tuesday, the essence of which was the clamor for change by the people of this family of islands five decades ago. The desire for change was matched by deliberate action by ordinary people who took a stand to alter the course of Bahamian history.
This piece looks at the notion of change, the perception of the populace, the reality that it brings and reactions to real change in our country.

The scrutiny of change
There is a perception that the current administration may very well be the most scrutinized government in the history of The Bahamas. This is not unconnected to the fact that the electorate has taken a more keen interest in the governance of the country and the decisions made by our political leaders. It therefore appears that the government is always operating under a microscope with every move subject to debate and/or criticism.
In reality, what is emerging before our very eyes is the maturity of our democracy and the enlightening of our people which is reminiscent of The Renaissance. These are indeed the actions of a populace seeking more transparency, openness and accountability from their leaders.
While this is a new paradigm in the governance of our country, it is also the new norm, and political leaders must acclimatize to this environment in order to survive. This only confirms some aspects of an article entitled "A call to national conscience," published in The Nassau Guardian about three years ago on May 3, 2012.
An excerpt from that article reads: "Political leaders and aspiring candidates on the other hand should be reminded that post this (2012) election, the electorate will hold them accountable like never before in the history of The Bahamas."

A government of change
There seems to be widespread consensus that change is inevitable and bound to occur whether we accept or resist it. The power of change is so profound that it is invoked in every election across the globe as individuals promote themselves either directly or indirectly as agents of change to woo voters. They believe that offering an alternative which deviates from the existing framework provides them with a better chance of success at the polls. While some politicians never follow through on their promises during the campaign trail, others deliver on all or some of them.
The current administration has done some heavy lifting since being voted into office almost three years ago and should be commended for its courage as well as efforts in this regard. The change to the tax system, gaming law reform, immigration reform, investment in the agricultural sector, initiatives promoting our tourism products and efforts to stimulate the economy as a whole readily come to mind.
By the same token, there have been some less-than-stellar moments in the implementation of some of these initiatives which cannot be overlooked. Any criticism, whether constructive or not, should not serve as discouragement or cause for confrontation; rather it should be used to produce an improved product or service in the future. The government should note that if it expects to bring about real change, it must be prepared to be challenged continuously by the people that will be impacted by this change.

The change desired by the people
The people of The Bahamas carry in our bellies the flame that pushes us to be better today than we were yesterday. While some do not display this inner strength and have settled for a life of mediocrity due to complacency, many still believe in the promise that The Bahamas holds if we work together towards a common loftier goal.
We still hold out hope knowing that in the words of President Obama, "change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change we seek".
The voices of the Bahamian people are heard on myriad issues impacting our country including crime, more opportunities, greater involvement of the youth in nation building and the economy as a whole. What we seem to forget, however, is that the struggle for a better Bahamas commenced several decades ago and it was only through persistence, perseverance, hard work, sacrifice and unity that our predecessors were able to achieve much.
The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best when he stated, "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle."

As the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) prepares to celebrate its third anniversary in government, it would be unfair to state that the current administration has done nothing worthy of commendation. It would also be disingenuous to suggest that there have not been some moments of disappointment and certain mishaps along the way.
The government must not only be happy to take the praise for its accomplishments, members of government must also be willing to accept responsibility for actions or inactions that their employers - the people - have deemed not to be in their best interest. Whether our political leaders deem any criticism as fair or not, warranted or unwarranted, they ought to learn from it and move on.
History will be the judge of every administration that has governed this great country; the works of our political leaders and elected officials will be weighed in the balance either while their footprints are still visible in the sands of time or when they have long faded away.
In the interim, the Bahamian people will continue to assess and examine the performance of those that lead them. In doing so, we will challenge any change to determine whether it is positive or negative.
We know that changing the status quo is no easy task but we are committed to real change and are prepared to challenge whatever stands in its way for the sake of the progress of our land.
We know that, as Robert Kennedy indicated, "Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies."
The people are watching to see the individuals who are the enemies of positive change in and progress for our Bahamaland.
o First published May 5, 2015.
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 long and winding bridge... to the future

July 25, 2016

"What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Last week Prime Minister Perry Christie announced that he will lead the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) into the next election for two reasons: because some of the young members of his government want him to stay, and because his remaining in office will be a stabilizing force for the PLP.
Several persons took grave exception to Christie's pronouncements. Therefore, this week, we would like to Consider this... Are the stated reasons sufficiently compelling for Christie to lead the PLP into the next general election and are they believable?

What did Christie actually say?
During the radio show "Ed Fields Live" last Monday, the prime minister said that he seeks to continue leading the PLP into the next general election because, in his words, "I have enough young people who are a part of my government who have asked me to stay on." He continued, "My leadership provides stability on my side. You see what instability means when you look at the [official] opposition, and I daresay that this could happen when I demit office as well."

The expectation of change
Before the general election in 2012, Christie created the expectation that, if elected, he would consider stepping down as party leader mid-term and would name a successor. He subsequently said that his intention to step down mid-term was "misconstrued" and that he intended to serve out the full term if elected.
In January 2015, he declared that it would take "a compelling, tangible reason for him to lead the party into the next general election". Then, in September 2015, Christie reneged on his pledge to demit office at the end of this term and declared that it was his intention "to go into the PLP convention [slated for November last year] as leader and to emerge as leader". This clearly means that he intends to serve again as prime minister for another term. Anyone who doubted that was disabused by Christie's recent assertions on "Ed Fields Live".

The bridge to the future
In 1997 when Christie was first elected leader of the PLP, he characterized himself as "the bridge to the future". Fifteen years later, during the 2012 general election campaign, he reinforced the notion that he was preparing for succession by nominating young, new candidates who would be able to succeed him.
That bridge, however, has become somewhat unstable and in some cases has splintered. Since Christie became prime minister, the PLP has lost some of those "young, bright minds" who were profiled during the elections as critical to the leadership transitional process. Two of his young ministers (Ryan Pinder and Damian Gomez) resigned, and three other fresh PLP members of Parliament (Gregory Moss, Renward Wells and Dr. Andre Rollins) left the party, the former to form his own party and the latter two to join the Official Opposition Free National Movement (FNM). Some observers can reasonably surmise that the bridge to the future has demonstrated signs of deteriorating disintegration.
A majority of those who left either the government or the PLP in Parliament have pointed to problems with the party leadership as one reason for their departure.
Enough persons have asked me to stay
During the "Ed Fields Live" interview, the prime minister noted that "enough young people who are in my government have asked me to stay on". The important question is just who are those young people who are asking him to stay? Is it a majority of persons, or are they few in number? On Friday, the speaker of the House of Assembly categorically contradicted this by confirming that he was not one of those persons who asked the prime minister to stay on.
None of the young, first-time members of Parliament have come forward; so it begs the important question of precisely who are these young persons who have asked the prime minister to stay?
It is generally felt in the public domain that some of those who desire the prime minister to stay do so primarily for selfish reasons. They either want to ensure that they preserve their "privileged" positions or they resolutely rely on the PM's succor to sustain their status. Some have never earned as much as they now do and others certainly will not receive the obsequious obeisance that they enjoy from adorning themselves with the title of "honorable".

The question of stability
The prime minister suggested that if he were not to lead the party into the next election, and demitted office instead, the PLP could become unstable in a similar manner that has occurred with the FNM.
Very few Bahamians, except die-hard sycophants, accept that view. In fact, given his performance and approval rating with the electorate, there is serious concern that Christie has become a drag on the PLP for the next elections.
In response to the question of stability, it should be remembered that the PLP has undergone enormous challenges in the past and, on each and every occasion, has not become unstable.
The PLP reached one of its lowest ebbs after the Commission of Inquiry to investigate drug trafficking in the 1980s, which greatly contributed to the PLP's defeat at the polls in 1992. Even in the face of such defeat, the party did not become unstable.
Christie's assertion about his departure and the ensuing instability that could result therefrom is uninformed by the historical record and unsupported by today's political realities and perceptions.
In fact, the corollary is more accurate. There is a considerable body of opinion that the PLP's chances of securing the government in 2017 will greatly increase with new leadership, precisely because the Bahamian electorate is exhausted with the current leadership. Recent polling data, the details of which we will not disclose, supports this position.

Tired of business as usual
Bahamians are as weary of the same old politicians, many of whom do not possess any workable solutions to the enormous challenges we face, with no vision of where to lead us, as they are of empty political promises upon which they fail to deliver.
People are tired of the level of disconnection of our leaders from the electorate. This is borne out in the various attempts by disaffected, disgruntled and disappointed groupings who are groping to find people who can lead The Bahamas further into the 21st century. Just last week, we witnessed the formation of another political interest group that complained about the deplorable political state in which we find ourselves and expressed the possibility of forming yet another political party. Very many Bahamians are exhausted with political business as usual.

It's all about the team
If the PLP is going to win the next election, it will have to build a team of persons who can inspire and convince Bahamians that they have the vision, foresight and ideas to address the seemingly insoluble challenges that they encounter in their daily lives. The PLP will have to deliberately focus on the strength of the team, which transcends the importance of the leader.
Gone are the days of the maximum leader who is expected to have all the answers to our problems. Gone are the days when political parties can look to the leader alone to provide stability for the ship of state. Increasingly, it is more about the team, as opposed to the leader of the team.

If the PLP wins the next general election, then a successor to the party's leader must be identified as early as possible, and orderly transitional arrangements must be implemented. If the PLP is unsuccessful, the party must immediately hold a leadership convention, as it did in April 1997, to select a new leader, one who will be able to rebuild and prepare the party for the rest of the very challenging, yet promising, 21st century.
In either case, Christie's long and winding bridge to the future is leading to its final destination.

o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and 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 view from Europe: Millennials turning away from cruises and casinos

July 22, 2016

Although the definition is quite loose, the expression millennial is usually used to mean those who were born between 1980 and the mid-2000s.
In many parts of the Western Hemisphere this group now proportionately makes up the largest generation, accounting for instance in the U.S. for around one third of the country's spending power, far exceeding the other much sought after visitor category, the now aging baby boomers.
For the Caribbean, millennials are a crucial must-reach tourist segment if the industry is to have a sustainable economic future. As a consequence, many tourist boards and properties have been adapting their marketing to reflect more closely the lifestyle and aspirations of this valuable group.
Typically, millennials are proportionately better educated than previous generations, have grown up with the Internet, are value for money conscious and, when it comes to vacations, are higher spending and, most importantly, are seeking the authentic and genuine.
While destinations, hotels and attractions are beginning to adapt to provide what this market segment is seeking, it is a development that is giving sleepless nights to two separate but sometimes linked parts of the industry, which up to now have been taken as a given: cruising and casinos.
According to the gambling and casino industry trade press, millennials do not gamble much, do not visit casinos, despite what the glossy industry adverts purport to show, and more generally are looking for a different kind of experience.
What such publications make clear is that hotels in the Caribbean and elsewhere that make casinos a central part of the tourism product, or regard them as a key revenue source, will have to review what they are offering and try to determine how they might in future better relate to the changed enthusiasms of the higher spending millennial part of the tourist spectrum.
Industry studies suggest that what millennials are looking for is a fuller experience than a casino can offer and immersion of the kind available in video games, according to an article in the online publication the Motley Fool, by Jeff Hwang, an investor in gaming, and games inventor, who described in detail why millennials don't gamble.
Hwang made a number of interesting points. Millennials, he wrote, find the current slot machine product uninteresting; they want to be engaged and empowered; they require a degree of control over outcomes; they prefer nightclubs to casino gambling; and are more interested in online gaming, poker and daily fantasy sports. He also says that millennials are seeking skill-based games, want experiences, need to be social and demand fairness.
In response, the gaming industry has been trying to lure millennials to gamble through online gambling and games. However, they have failed to match this when it comes to the ways casinos present themselves or the financial return those using them receive there. Statistics from the U.S. gaming industry confirm this and note that there has been a consistent decline in gambling by millennials.
One indication is Las Vegas, where in the 1990s 58 percent resort revenues came from gambling, but by 2015 this figure had fallen to around 37 percent, with visitors now regarding the city as being as much an opportunity for nightlife, shopping and entertainment.
For millennials, surveys show that the issue of not visiting casinos is social. They describe in surveys the facilities as being unattractive, empty and devoid of genuine social interaction.
All of which will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever stayed in a Caribbean resort with a large casino in which, even at five in the morning, individuals are giving their money away in a darkened neon-lit facility, unrelated to the sunrise or the natural beauty or sociability of the real Caribbean existing just hundreds of meters away.
The cruise industry has also recognized that it faces a similar problem when it comes to millennials.
Despite the appearance of having a much older demographic, the average age of travellers vacationing on cruise ships in 2014 in fact was 49, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. Despite this all of the cruise lines recognize they are facing a generational challenge.
Like the gaming industry they worry how to change their image and the product so that, in their case, seaborne vacations have a broader appeal, particularly to the higher spending younger visitors that many Caribbean destinations have been successful in attracting.
Cruise industry analysts make the case that, if it cannot change its demographic and offering, it will soon begin to struggle to ensure the profitability of the hugely expensive new ships costing billions of dollars that it is building.
In response, some of the leading cruise lines have recognized that as the post Second World War baby boomer generation fades from view, they must attract a younger group of travellers, particularly millennials and families. They are aware that to do so they will have to offer experience, authenticity and connectivity, reconceptualize on-board facilities, entertainment, the nature of shore excursions, and in some cases the whole concept of a cruise.
In this latter respect what is emerging are new types of millennial targeted cruises in which the on-board experience is as important as where is being visited.
Carnival Cruise Line's Fathom brand and the kind of lifestyle cruise offered by Summit at Sea provide two very different indications of where a part of the cruise market is headed.
Fathom is a one-ship line that "encourages volunteerism and social support". It has begun cruising to Cuba and the Dominican Republic offering, in the case of Cuba, artistic, educational and other activities such as visits to organic farms, visits with Cuban artists and authors and walking tours. It also has "on-board experiences", including discussions about history, culture, food and entertainment, as well as making available Cuban literature and Cuban films. Unlike most other cruises it does not have a casino.
Even more targeted is a concept developed by Summit at Sea, which has been operating since 2011 out of Miami. According to an online blog, it is invite only, and mixes 25-40-year-old entrepreneurs, artists, musicians and people involved in interesting projects: in fact, the type of individuals that most Caribbean investment agencies would like to reach.
This should all be food for thought for the region's tourist boards, hoteliers as well as governments and the industry more generally. The tourism market is undergoing generational change and, while the typical casino or cruise ship customer is not going to alter suddenly, millennials and their thinking will require new forms of response if the Caribbean is to retain this segment of higher spending visitor.

o David Jessop is a consultant to the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at david.jessop@caribbean-council.org. Previous columns can be found at www.caribbean-council.org.

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U.S. Congress reconsiders strategic importance of partnership with the Caribbean

July 22, 2016

On July 14, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere held a hearing on the "Strategic Importance of Building a Stronger U.S.-Caribbean Partnership". On June 13, 2016, the House of Representatives passed HR 4939 (the United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016) by a vote of 386 to six.
HR 4939 requires the secretary of state, in coordination with the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Aid, to submit a multi-year strategy for U.S. engagement with the Caribbean region to Congress no later than 180 days after enactment. This strategy would in part focus on improving citizen security, reducing trafficking of illicit drugs, strengthening the rule of law and promoting greater economic development. Although the Senate has not yet acted, there is significant bipartisan interest in a similar bill in the Senate.
While the bill is short of substance and, like the 1983 Caribbean Basin Initiative of the Reagan administration, is motivated largely by U.S. national security interests in the region and the way in which Venezuela, China and Cuba have filled the void in the region, nevertheless it presents the first opportunity since the mid-1980s for the region to engage the U.S. executive and legislative branches.
The hearing focused on the void in the region as a result of the collapse of Venezuela and the limitations of PetroCaribe, the Venezuelan initiative in 2005 to provide high-subsidized oil to the Caribbean. The hearing emphasized the need to relieve the region from its dependence on imported energy and shift to alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind, and thermal, and promote and enhance the Obama administration's Caribbean Energy Security Initiative to facilitate a cleaner, more energy secure future consistent with the Paris climate change accords.
The hearing underscored the fact that the preferences in the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act, revised in 1990, are limited to trade in goods, while current trade in the region is in services. Hence, any new trade arrangement should strengthen trade in services between the U.S. and the Caribbean, including in health, education and business. In addition, the testimony focused on the need to rectify the fact that the small size of Caribbean jurisdictions does not enable them to take advantage of financing and feasibility studies by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
The hearing discussed the problem of withdrawal by U.S. banks of correspondent relationships with Caribbean indigenous banks and the fact that such withdrawals harm U.S.-Caribbean cooperation by cutting Caribbean people from U.S. banking and producing a void that makes the Caribbean vulnerable to interests inimical to the U.S.
On travel and tourism, testimony called for a strategic look at increasing U.S. immigration pre-clearance presence through a hub and spoke system to provide enhanced security. Another suggestion was to provide technical assistance, such as in the area of increased training for the development of a shared watch-list for travelers into and within the region.
Clearly, the House passage of HR 4939 and the hearing as well as the U.S. national elections present a rare opportunity for the region. CARICOM, national governments, the Caribbean Diaspora, and other interested groups in both the region and the U.S. should network, strategize, and collaborate with members of the U.S. government to pass a similar and hopefully more substantial bill in the Senate.
One element the Caribbean can request is bilateral tourism agreements, whereby the U.S. agrees to collaborate with Caribbean countries in developing tourism joint ventures, tourism promotion and marketing and technical assistance.
Just as important, the Caribbean should try to engage with U.S. states. Many long-term tourists from Asia and Northern Europe like to combine trips to Florida and the eastern U.S. with the Caribbean. By having tourism agreements with states, those states and the Caribbean, working with the private sector, can develop and market joint tourism agreements in areas such as plantocracy, music, visual arts, food and other culture.
Such collaboration will benefit the states as much as the Caribbean. The Caribbean and U.S. states can collaborate on educational and healthcare exchanges, the way that Cuba and CARICOM countries have done.

o Bruce Zagaris is a partner with the Washington, D.C., law firm of Berliner Corcoran & Rowe LLP. A former lecturer at the University of the West Indies Law Faculty, he testified in Congress on the Caribbean Basin Initiative, and his practice has focused on Caribbean financial services and investment. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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While country sinks, delusional emperor Christie fiddles

July 20, 2016

Tens of thousands of Bahamians are suffering because of a lack of jobs, adequate healthcare and hope. Thousands are without electricity. Many are struggling to buy food. The residents of New Providence are terrified about crime.
Throughout New Providence, Bahamians are being robbed with abandon, unable to easily replace items because they lack the financial means to so do. Many are terrified that robberies may turn deadly. And the killings continue to mount.
The country has been stalled in recession. The economy is not growing. It is moving backward as other countries in the region are growing. The GDP has declined. We are at risk of a downgrade to junk bond status.
Even as Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe joked in an interview that the competition should be worrying about what he's doing, tourism is stalled as Cuba, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic announce ambitious plans.
The Bahamas is falling behind in tourism. Many in the region are beginning to laugh at us. The collapse of and inability to open the shuttered Baha Mar continues to devastate our economy and our international reputation. The collapse is mostly the fault of the PLP.
We are now at the mercy of certain geopolitical forces to get the megaresort opened and will likely pay a heavy price for its opening. Meanwhile some Ministry of Tourism officials overseas have not been paid for a period of time and some offices are past due on their rent.
There is an overwhelming sense of malaise in the country, except among the PLP grandees and the beneficiaries of PLP rule who have done exceedingly well while tens of thousands of Bahamians are suffering, unable to make ends meet, despairing how to pay monthly bills, frightened of what comes next.
There is a prevailing and deepening sense of gloom and doom, with many depressed by their own prospects and the state of the country. The state of the real estate and construction industries exemplify the country's economic downturn.
We are in one of the worst periods since independence. The symptoms of social decay are everywhere. Many parents are telling their children abroad at college and university not to return.

The majority of Bahamians appear to have lost hope and believe that the country may be in an inexorable decline. There is little to no belief that the current leadership of the government or the opposition are capable of offering hope and reversing the decline.
Quite a number of professionals are looking at exit strategies, with a number having already left for the United States or Canada. A number of Bahamians are purchasing second homes overseas in case they need to leave the country.
Others have or are considering moving their money out of the country. The talk of a possible currency devaluation in the future is gaining momentum. The middle class, the glue that holds many societies together, is under enormous pressure. The center of the country is in decline, fracturing. It may not hold.
Meanwhile, in a bubble of obliviousness and delusion, Emperor Perry Christie, the country's worst prime minister ever, struts around as if he is the best thing that has ever happened to the country.
Were he not prime minister, his audience would be seized with laughter at his ridiculousness and overly dramatic, stylized and vaudeville-like performances.
The emperor is ferried here and there and hither and thither in his motorcade with an outrider announcing his power and prestige. He keeps foreign investors, diplomats and guests waiting for his arrival as if he is the Grand Poobah.
His behavior is boorish, rude, arrogant and unbecoming of our head of government. He is ill-mannered and disrespectful. But he doesn't seem to care. It's a sort of power move: "I'm better and more important than you, so wait for me."
There are reports that he has even left Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling waiting. If so, this is contemptuous of her position as head of state. Christie famously has little regard for Dame Marguerite.
But for political survival he caused her appointment as governor general. Whatever his personal animus toward the current governor general, he is obliged to show respect to the office.

But so drunk with power and position is Christie that he dismisses the civilities and conventions which come with his office. His lateness is not just a bad habit. Even when aides have pressed him that someone is waiting, he takes his own sweet time. This is the attitude of a conceited emperor who loves being adored and waited on.
But the most obscene part of Christie's reign is his demonstration of contempt for the suffering of his fellow Bahamians. His so-called touch with the common man and supposed empathy is one big show, mere playacting, a political game, just as it is for Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis, a man of considerable wealth.
Christie left his Centreville constituency to deteriorate, doing little to improve the conditions of the area. He will give handouts, and talk about compassion for the poor, while leaving the residents of his constituency in dire shape.
His empty, shallow, insidious, ridiculous, nonsensical, blathering, meandering rhetoric is now such a joke that even young kids mock him. Thousands change the channel when he speaks.
He has become hugely unpopular though he believes that he is still the proverbial "cat's meow". His level of delusion has reached such heights that his rhetoric and actions now seem incoherent, bordering on unstable.
With the country in such dire state, a potentially unhinged and clearly delusional prime minister is a danger as we are seeing with his disastrous response to the Baha Mar crisis and to Moody's warning of a potential downgrade, both crises largely of Christie's making and spectacular incompetence.
Meanwhile, the unscrupulousness of certain PLPs is vulgar and nauseating. While many Bahamians are struggling to put food on the table, some are gorging themselves through contracts and extravagant deals.
Depressingly, such is that the state of the PLP, that Christie likely cannot be beaten in a leadership contest. As depressing, Christie could very well beat a Hubert Minnis-led FNM and a divided opposition, returning to office for another five years.
We face the miserable and sad prospect of being led for another five years by a boorish, delusional, incompetent emperor who cares more about himself and satisfying his court and cronies than he does for the least among us, whose suffering has gotten worse on his watch.

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

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What's wrong with our economy

July 20, 2016

I was speaking to a business associate in The Bahamas the other day. In exasperation the associate said, "I am in the same business I have been in for years but things seem like such a grind all of a sudden. What is happening?"
I asked the person, "If I took $500,000 a year from your business how would that affect it?" The reply was, "That would affect it a lot!" I then noted that the government of The Bahamas has begun to extract in excess of $500 million additionally from the productive sector of the economy of The Bahamas through new taxes, value-added tax (VAT) in particular, and fees. That is no small amount, I proffered, and further noted that this extraction is coming at a time when The Bahamian economy is already limping. This raises the age-old question: Does tax policy impact economic growth? More particular to our circumstances, has the Christie administration's new and increased taxation slowed the Bahamian economy?
According to a paper published by William McBride entitled "What is the Evidence on Taxes and Growth?" prepared for the Tax Foundation, a U.S.-based Tax Policy Think Tank, the empirical evidence is clear for the negative effect of taxes on economic growth. McBride wrote, "So what does the academic literature say about the empirical relationship between taxes and economic growth? While there are a variety of methods and data sources, the results consistently point to significant negative effects of taxes on economic growth even after controlling for various other factors such as government spending, business cycle conditions, and monetary policy. In this review of the literature, I find 26 such studies going back to 1983, and all but three of those studies, and every study in the last 15 years, find a negative effect of taxes on growth. Of those studies that distinguish between types of taxes, corporate income taxes are found to be most harmful, followed by personal income taxes, consumption taxes and property taxes."
In The Bahamas corporate taxes are virtually non-existent, though an argument can be made that our business license tax comes close. We have no real personal income tax, though national insurance deductions come close to being a benefits-based payroll tax. We are huge on consumption taxes, namely customs duties and the newly implemented VAT. The average customs duty rate in The Bahamas has been in decline since 1992, going from some 45 percent to about 25 percent in 2012. It was the pride and joy of ministers of finance to come to the Parliament on budget day to announce "no new taxes and no increases in taxes" to tumultuous table pounding of supportive MPs during that glorious period. Over that time, the Bahamian economy grew by an average of about three percent. The 7.5 percent VAT was implemented in January 2015 and since that time the economy has seen two years of economic contraction.
Most businesspeople and consumers believe that the VAT put a tremendous squeeze on them, both through the direct payment of it on the goods and services they purchase as well as the add-on hike in prices that businesses did in the wake of the VAT. Many businesses swear that sharp revenue declines followed the implementation of VAT. Does this mean that VAT caused such a decline? Not necessarily, a more academic study would need to be done to determine this. It does, however, raise serious questions about whether it might be so. I believe a case can be made for the tax's negative impact of our economic performance over the last two years.
Someone might rightly point out that we have had periods of significant contraction during 1992 and 2014 prior to the implementation of VAT. However, those periods included the periods following September 11, 2001 when the terrorists attacked the U.S., and 2008 following the great housing collapse in the U.S. Besides these periods, The Bahamas pretty much enjoyed positive growth of its economy.
A government cannot make the economy grow by its actions alone. However, it can by its action alone slow or halt that growth. Bad business, investment and tax policies can stagnate innovation, capital investment and personal income, all of which are necessary for economic growth. There is anecdotal evidence for this in the experience we have lived over the last four years. For this reason, we must be careful what we allow over the next five years and more. We need to be sure that the government we elect or the leaders we elect understand and are committed to pro-growth taxing and spending policies. No leader who loves the poor and cares for the average will be mediocre at encouraging robust economic growth in The Bahamas. Such leaders must have concrete, thoughtful and executable policies and programs geared towards firing the engines of this economy so that employment, profits and prosperity increase. Governments impact the economy and the economy impacts our quality of life. Get the right government and we improve our prospects for economic growth. Get the wrong one and misery abounds. The choice is ours.

o Zhivargo Laing is a Bahamian economic consultant and former Cabinet minister who represented the Marco City constituency in the House of Assembly.

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Why things must and will change

July 19, 2016

The impediments to the changes that many within our nation seek so desperately were explored last week in the first part of this two part series. This piece moves past the obstacles that threaten to hold back a nation at a crossroads in its history and confronted by an evolving economic, social, political and moral landscape.
Unraveling before our eyes is a new paradigm that has been created without our endorsement but is certain to leave us behind if we do not evolve to meet the challenges we face. The Bahamas we live in today is different from that which our ancestors left behind and our actions or inactions today will determine what future generations will have to grapple with. In this article, we consider the realities which demand that things must and will change.

Economic model
Our economic model has come under significant scrutiny in the aftermath of the Great Recession and more recently as the Baha Mar saga unfolded. There is no doubt that foreign direct investments play and will continue to play a major role in The Bahamas' economy. Our economic fortune in future will be impacted by our ability to attract and retain foreign investments going forward. However, it is apparent that our focus on FDIs has come at the expense of local investments and entrepreneurship by our own people.
We have not done a stellar job at promoting local businesses to the point that they are able to export their products and services to other jurisdictions. Our policies have done little to assist prospective and upcoming entrepreneurs to start and maintain successful businesses.
The exchange control regime, operational efficiency of government departments, regulatory regimes, and tax regime all contribute to The Bahamas' ranking in relation to the ease of doing business. The discussion of diversification of our economy has been going on for decades with little movement and negligible actions to make this a reality. We are faced with an unemployment rate in double digits and it has been suggested that we may not see single digit employment numbers in the foreseeable future. Is there any wonder why things must change?

It is often said that tourism is the bread and butter of our economy. As the largest contributor to our gross domestic product (GDP), it is no news that it provides a significant number of direct and indirect jobs for Bahamians. The potential impact of the crime level in our nation on the goose that lays the golden egg cannot be overemphasized. It is also clear that our service levels must improve and more activities are required to keep our country competitive on the global market.
The normalizing of relations between the United States and Cuba has been touted as an opportunity for the Caribbean region and The Bahamas. However, we will be burying our heads in the proverbial sand by assuming that the opening up of Cuba will not have a major impact on our tourism product in future.
Cuba is renowned for its rich culture and boasts of a well-educated populace as well as qualified medical personnel; in fact, it is no secret that many Bahamians visit Cuba to get medical attention and we also recruit individuals from their medical industry. When this is considered against the cost of living and the mystique it provides for potential tourists, it is obvious that we need to change the way we promote and sell The Bahamas if we are to survive and thrive.

Financial services
Under the guise of global transparency and proper regulation, multilateral agencies and powerful group of nations have implemented policies that have had adverse effects on our financial services industry. While we boast of one of the most well-regulated and compliant regulatory systems in the world, we have also witnessed significant shrinking of this vital sector, which is the second largest contributor to our GDP. The middle class of our country has taken a major hit as a result and we are confronted with the reality of a model that is no longer effective.
The time to think outside the box has been upon us for quite some time but we have struggled to come up with new strategies due to a reluctance to challenge the status quo. As the world moves toward the implementation of the automatic exchange of information, we are running out of time to revisit our policies on immigration, professional industries and employment. A quote attributed to R. Buckminster Fuller is instructive as we seek to navigate the new global environment for financial services: "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete".

The crime factor
Crime and the fear of crime in our Bahamaland is simply at an unacceptable level. This writer is concerned that our people are becoming numb to the news of serious crimes and we are unconsciously accepting these crimes as normal occurrences. Our brothers and sisters are being reduced to numbers and statistics on a daily basis. It has been reported that the sharing of gruesome pictures of murder victims on social media has become the norm.
The quote on insanity attributed to Albert Einstein makes more sense now than ever before as we consider the strategies being employed to stem the trend of violence on our streets. While we salute members of our Royal Bahamas Police Force for their hard work, it is high time that we realized that desperate times call for desperate measures. Proposals for changes in legislation, constitutional amendments, curfews and CCTVs must be seriously considered to address this menace to our society.

Bahamian politics
The last three general elections have been pretty much a revolving door as the Bahamian electorate has given the incumbent political party its walking papers. The pattern of the elections suggests that we have voted against a government as opposed to voting for a political party based on our belief that they will do better. In essence, Bahamians have for the most part chosen what we deem to be the lesser of two evils.
While the base of the political parties have been known for their blind loyalty and can be relied upon to deliver their votes regardless of their party's performance, the independents and swing voters have generally determined the outcome. This trend will continue; however, the new landscape is changing rapidly with the erosion of the core party supporters and the emergence of card (or non-card) carrying members who are not easily swayed by empty rhetoric and political patronage.
More importantly, the composition of the new electorate does not match the demographic of the electorate or "king/queen makers" in the typical political party in The Bahamas. This disconnect means that individuals elected by the establishment within a party should have no comfort or guarantee of success in general elections.

Change will come
The Bahamas is being forced to evolve and we are constrained to change the way we do things not by choice but out of necessity; it is a fact that we can either bend in recognition of the paradigm shift or break by fighting against the wind of change. It is obvious that change within our commonwealth will not come easily and without a fight. The preservers of the status quo who currently benefit significantly from the existing ineffective system will fight to ensure things remain the same at the expense of the masses. However, those that seek positive change in our beloved country must be guided by the following words of Dan Millman: "The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new".
There has been much talk in recent weeks about the leadership of political parties. This is not unique to The Bahamas and is necessary for our political maturity as a people. Our democracy can only be deepened when individuals respectfully challenge the powers that be and pursue higher office provided that we do not let such healthy competition deteriorate to our detriment as a nation. The candidates must be clear in stating what they will change as they address a people who are calling not necessarily for changes to individuals but rather demanding fundamental changes to the way things are currently being done.
As the clock ticks towards imminent changes in our country, words attributed to Charles Darwin from his "Origin of Species" echo through time. "It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself". This can be easily applied to the Bahamian context; the changing physical, economic, social, political and moral environment will make obsolete and irrelevant those individuals that refuse to see the signs of the times or ignore the sounds of the wind of change.
o First published September 22, 2015.

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 foreign affairs advisory

July 18, 2016

"The first duty of any government is to protect its citizens from harm, at home and abroad - no matter who they are, or where they are."
- Graham Peebles

In the wake of successive shootings of African-American males by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the resulting civil unrest following those incidents, The Bahamas Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration issued a travel advisory on July 7, 2016 for Bahamians traveling to the United States. In the wake of the advisory, many persons have vociferously voiced their disdain for the ministry issuing such an advisory.
This week we would like to Consider this... Did the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration overreact by issuing this advisory?

What did the advisory say?
Let's begin by reprinting verbatim what The Bahamas Ministry of Foreign Affairs advisory said.
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken a note of the recent tensions in some American cities over shootings of young black males by policemen.
"We wish to advise all Bahamians traveling to the U.S. but especially to the affected cities to exercise appropriate caution generally. In particular, young males are asked to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police. Do not be confrontational and cooperate.
"If there is any issue please allow consular offices for The Bahamas to deal with the issues. Do not get involved in political or other demonstrations under any circumstances and avoid crowds.
"The Bahamas has consular offices in Miami, New York, Washington, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago and Houston.
"Their addresses are on the Foreign Ministry's website at www.mofa.gov.bs.
"At the commencement of the independence holiday weekend, many Bahamians will no doubt use the opportunity to travel, in particular to destinations in the United States. While it is prudent for travelers to conduct themselves in an orderly manner at all times, in light of recent episodes of involving police officers and young black men in the United States, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration wishes to advise the Bahamian public to exercise due care and attention especially when traveling to particular cities in the United States.
"Pay attention to the public notices and news announcements in the city that you are visiting.
"Be safe, enjoy the holiday weekend and be sensible."

What was the reaction here?
Hubert Chipman, the FNM member of Parliament for St. Anne's and shadow minister of foreign affairs, on behalf of the Official Opposition, was one of the first politicians to publicly respond to the advisory. He supported the minister's advisory, observing that, "If Mitchell is wrong, I would be the first one to jump all over him. I don't see where he did anything wrong in this instance. I cannot see why people are making a big deal of this."
Brent Symonette, former FNM member of Parliament and deputy prime minister responded to the advisory by characterizing it as "a bad idea". He stated, "In my personal opinion, no, it wasn't a good idea. I don't think we need to get into this kind of statement."
Several op-ed contributions cautioned about the inadvisability of the advisory. The Guardian editorial on July 14, 2016 opined that "as a small country, it is better to think strategically before we engage our major partner. We depend on the U. S. for security and trade. That release by Fred Mitchell and his ministry was unnecessary".
A fellow columnist in that same newspaper suggested that our foreign minister went off "half-cocked" and characterized the advisory as "an asinine travel statement".

We were not alone
It is interesting to note that two Middle East countries issued warnings to their citizens traveling in the United States to be careful around protests over police shootings.
A "special alert" issued by the United Arab Emirates Embassy to Washington on Saturday, July 9, 2016 urged its citizens to stay away from demonstrations in U.S. cities. State news agency WAM said the warning followed a protest by supporters of the Black Lives Matter Movement in Washington on Friday.
In addition, the island Kingdom of Bahrain issued its own advisory on Twitter, telling nationals to be "cautious of protests or crowded areas".
It should also be noted that the U.S. State Department routinely issues travel advisories for Americans traveling abroad. On Tuesday past, the State Department issued an advisory to Americans traveling to The Bahamas. Several weeks earlier, Canada issued a similar advisory to its citizens traveling to The Bahamas. Both the United States and Canadian advisories were issued as a result of the increase of crime in The Bahamas.

Did the minister overreact?
So the important question is: Did our foreign minister overreact in this instance? We do not believe that he did.
In the first case, the timing of the advisory was important. It was issued to Bahamians who would likely be traveling to the United States over the long independence weekend and to Bahamians residing in or traveling to the United States who may be planning their summer holidays.
Secondly, the advisory was issued in response to the recent tension that was heightened by the shootings of young black males by policemen. Thirdly, it cautioned Bahamians "to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police" and to refrain from confrontational exchanges with law enforcement authorities and to be cooperative.
Fourth, the advisory encouraged Bahamians, if they are involved with the authorities in any unsavory exchanges, to contact Bahamian consular offices to deal with the issues.
Fifth, the advisory cautioned Bahamians not to get involved in political or other demonstrations under any circumstances and to avoid crowds.
Finally, the advisory encouraged Bahamians to "pay attention to public notices and new announcements" in cities that Bahamians were visiting.
We see absolutely nothing wrong with these exhortations. In fact, had the ministry not issued the advisory, and an adverse confrontation erupted, the ministry could have exposed itself to charges of being derelict in its responsibility to advise Bahamians of the appropriate behavior in precarious and perilous circumstances.

Government's primary responsibility
It is important to remember that the first responsibility of any government is to protect its citizens from harm, both at home and abroad. That was arguably the motivation behind the advisories issued to citizens of both the United Arab Emirates Embassy to Washington and the Kingdom of Bahrain.
That is precisely the same motivation of the U. S. State Department and the Canadian government regarding the advisories that those countries regularly issue to their citizens who travel abroad.
The Bahamas government has no less an important responsibility to caution its citizens who travel abroad. To abdicate that responsibility is tantamount to a dereliction of its primary duty to its citizens, for which it could be roundly and justifiably criticized.

So, while we agree that in formulating our foreign policy we should think strategically before we engage our major partners, even those upon whom we depend for trade and security, we should equally appreciate that it is in our national interest to take every step, first and foremost, to protect our citizens from harm, both at home and abroad - no matter who they are, or where they are.

o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and 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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Political choice: The best and the brightest

July 15, 2016

In recent Caribbean political thinking, the idea of having highly qualified leaders who are intellectually curious and creative is being discussed in many circles. This is in response to current politics, which seems to place emphasis on support, popularity and gaming the status quo, rather than advancing new ideas, and dealing with the issues with intellectual competence and innovativeness making politics more transformational in the process.
This means selecting the best and the brightest to manage the political system with vision and objectives, using strategies that produce results for the citizenry, and the country. Not an unenlightened entrenched political class that sees the state as its private business and real estate.
A recent editorial in The Nassau Guardian captioned "Intellectually curious and creative" deals with this issue regarding the responsibility of parties to select candidates who can provide executive leadership, and are intellectually curious and creative. The editorial explains that curiosity includes a familiarity with history, knowledge of the parliamentary system, an interest in public policy and being able to offer new ideas, and think issues through. It adds that if the competent ones are unwilling to be involved, they give their places up to those who are not.
I think these are fascinating and relevant ideas which could give politics as we know it a new birth. But it all begins with the choice of candidates by political parties. Caribbean political parties throughout the post-independence period have not selected the quality of candidates, with a few exceptions, who could be classed as the best and the brightest in terms of generating really new and transformational ideas that could put the various countries on a sustainable developmental footing.
We aped the political structures that colonized us, and failed to use our intellect to research and develop new institutions relevant to our newly acquired status and the needs of our people. We later adopted other foreign ideologies, particularly socialism because it was fashionable, without analysing the socio-economic consequences to our countries.
We always look abroad to see what others are doing and then ape them. For example, we speak of the development model of Singapore, Scandinavia, and earlier on, tried to utilize the economic strategy of industrialization by invitation, which of course did not deliver. We tried the mixed economy, which ended up with government dominance, and private sector suspicions and mistrust.
At no point have we seriously sought to discover which political and economic philosophy we could collectively create, through independent, creative thinking based on our unique conditions and future requirements. Our economic organizations follow external prescriptions, and innovation is complicated by being operationally connected to these outside entities.
We also lack confidence in the capacity of our own people to deliver quality performance. And this goes back to the political choices we make, which are supposed to deliver for the country. The candidates we choose accept, not challenge. Are not really knowledgeable about the nuances of politics and, because of a stubborn political culture, still see the former colonizers as having the right answers and approaches. This stifles our own ability to think for ourselves, and challenge the validity of other ideas.
The editorial in The Nassau Guardian is therefore most instructive. Candidates for political office should be able to provide leadership, and be intellectually aware. The study of history, political science and public policy, will enrich the intellectual and innovative skills of candidates, enabling them to formulate new ideas, and think them through logically. This contributes to new paradigms being developed for the social good. But those with know how must engage the system, if not others not so endowed will, to the detriment of society.
Political parties must then choose their candidates intelligently, noting the qualities above. In addition, candidates should have an ethical character, be open-minded, tolerant of differences, see the merits in ideas posed by others, and have a sense of patriotism. The best and the brightest will ensure these values permeate the political system, to create a just, fair and decent society.

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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Hubert Minnis will undermine Bahamian democracy

July 13, 2016

Watching David Cameron demit office as prime minister of Great Britain yesterday was a reminder of how character is manifested throughout the public life of an individual.
How one acts and performs as leader of the opposition typically suggests how one will act and perform as prime minister. Power magnifies one's character for good or ill.
Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis has proven to be highly undemocratic, woefully incompetent, extraordinarily inarticulate, an uninspiring and non-transparent politician, prone to victimizing his opponents and incapable of thinking on his feet.
Minnis is anti-intellectual, disingenuous in his statements about rooting out corruption and terribly disorganized. He will demonstrate this magnitude of deficits as head of government. There is a political crudeness he has exemplified.
U.S. President Barack Obama famously spends hours every night and often into the early morning reading dense background briefs and redrafting speeches.
He knows that a successful head of government must consume an enormous amount of complex material on matters ranging from economic and social policy to foreign affairs. As opposition leader Minnis is famously known for his incapacity to thoroughly read and understand material he is given.
The briefing material will be more voluminous for a prime minister. If he can't handle such material now, he will be a disaster as first among equals. He would quickly lose the confidence of the Cabinet.
Obama has used speeches and unscripted remarks to communicate policy and ideas, to conduct public diplomacy in foreign affairs, to help heal his country and to inspire confidence in times of crisis, and to inspire the American people in pursuit of individual and collective dreams.
Minnis would prove dispiriting and hopeless in touching the Bahamian people through his speeches. He is today one of the worst speakers in Parliament. His communication skills are abysmal.
Were his profession that of a mime or we were in the age of silent films he would be fine. But we are in a different age and the communication skills of a prime minister are essential. It is painful to listen to his mangling of thoughts and ideas that he clearly does not understand.
The country needs a leader who can represent us around the world. We can and must do much better than Minnis.
As opposition leader, Cameron was gregarious, open-minded, approachable and generally considered an easy personality to deal with. He was a modernizer. His premiership showcased these attributes.
His final comments during prime minister's question time, and remarks outside 10 Downing Street before leaving for Buckingham Palace to tender his resignation, showcased his grace and charm, the character he demonstrated before becoming prime minister.
He did not give in to self-pity or churlishness or play the victim as does Minnis on a regular basis, constantly playing for sympathy because he lacks the essential characteristics of a leader.
Minnis showcases the politics of negativity. Because he has few positive attributes as a politician, he has to elicit sympathy and then attack challengers to distract from his surplus of deficits. He does not inspire others about himself. He attacks others in order to better hide his negatives.
Cameron's masterful remarks in the Commons were good-humored and articulate. He was quick on his feet and charismatic. He demonstrated competence.
Those of Minnis' supporters who argue that these qualities are not essential in a prime minister are making excuses for his vast deficits. These qualities of communication skills and competence are exactly what make for successful leaders.
Cameron outlined in his parting statements what he considered major accomplishments. But most of his remarks were those of gratitude: for the privilege of serving as prime minister; for those with whom he served, including in the civil service; and for the service of the many people in Britain engaged in volunteerism and community service.
While there is debate over Cameron's policy legacy, he exemplified a spirit of tolerance and mostly eschewed unnecessary harshness in political life, though he could be vigorous in political battles including stinging barbs and zingers during political debate.

His courage in pushing for same-sex marriage showed him as modernizer intent on capturing the center of British politics. His "life chances" agenda suggested a different kind of Tory.
Hubert Minnis has no vision or defining agenda for The Bahamas or for the FNM. He simply wants power. He has no ability to capture the public imagination, especially that of young people.
Rather than inspire and attract a new generation to the FNM, he has hollowed out the party, decimating its legacy and future. The FNM is dying.
Those dinosaurs giddy about Minnis' leadership because of what they can get are living in a dream world and a party most Bahamians now consider a mere shell of its former self.
Today's FNM is solely a vehicle for the ambition of Minnis and those intent on riding his gravy train to power. Minnis and his court have used all manner of undemocratic means and craft to hold on to power.
The recent fight over the delegate list in Ft. Charlotte is but one example of how they have played fast-and-loose in undermining the democratic process in constituency associations.
That the matter had to be taken to court demonstrates the games being played by the Minnis camp. The same game is being played in other associations. There are questions about a proper list of delegates.
The suspension of the campaign by the nominee for Bain and Grant's Town is another troubling sign about the state of the FNM and of Minnis' disastrous leadership.
The only way Minnis survives is through undermining democracy in the FNM and through using certain means to incentivize delegates to support him, including promises for posts galore and other incentives.
Were a vote held for party leader among the FNM membership in general, Minnis would likely lose quite badly. Instead, he is being artificially propped up through dark means. There are reports of bullying and intimidation by some Minnis supporters.

Minnis has spoken about transparency, accountability and democracy. His actions have been dramatically inimical to these values. It isn't that he's being hypocritical. Instead he has shown bold-face disingenuousness. He is not a democrat and would abuse power if not checked.
History has shown that one of the worst combinations in a leader is a dangerous mixture of insecurity and incompetence, traits Minnis demonstrates in spades. Such a combination usually produces tyrannical and highly autocratic leaders.
Were he to become prime minister his autocratic and vindictive traits would likely be reminiscent of the worst days of the PLP. Power would allow him to vent his excesses.
As he has done as opposition leader, Minnis, as head of government, would severely undermine our democracy, using the instruments of the state and the power of his office to undermine our constitution and democratic traditions, as he has undermined the same in the FNM.
Do not be distracted or listen to what Minnis says, watch what he has done and what he does!
At the rally announcing his re-election bid, Minnis was in the warm embrace of Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller. The PLP supports Minnis because of its intimate dealings with him and because he is its best chance for re-election.
FNM Tall Pines nominee Don Saunders was undermined by Minnis appearing with Miller. Why did Minnis appear in such grand fashion with a man with a less than stellar reputation and who joked about viciously battering women?
When Miller made such a claim, Minnis did not challenge him. Why is Minnis so comfortable in the company of a self-proclaimed batterer? Does Minnis believe that beating up women is a joke or acceptable? Why did he remain quiet?
By remaining quiet he raised troubling questions, suggesting that he too is a misogynist, who sees women in a certain light. This troubling silence and his flip-flop on the equality referendum suggest that he will not be a strong advocate of women's rights.
Hubert Minnis may appear to some as a benign, somewhat amiable figure. This is mere appearance and artifice. Lurking in his shadows is a man who has clearly demonstrated that he is prepared to abuse power and undermine democracy in order to satiate his lust for power.

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

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'Shall we stop this bleeding'

July 13, 2016

"Lincoln", a dramatic film directed by Stephen Spielberg and released in 2012, is a wonderful cinematic piece of work portraying the presidency of Abraham Lincoln during the U.S. Civil War. In one of the scenes in the movie, Abraham Lincoln says these words, "Can we choose to be born? Are we fitted to the times we are born into? We begin with equality; it's the origin isn't it? That's justice. See we've shown that a people can endure awful sacrifices and yet cohere. Shall we stop this bleeding?" The words on their own are powerful but heard in the bosom of the movie's creative setting, they are transcendent.
We live in trying times. The hour calls for extraordinary virtues - love, peace, reasoning, courage and strength. We need legendary leadership that is able to speak to our better selves and lead us to a higher awakening. At the core of nationhood is "coherence" or "unity". Corporate bond is the very essence of nationhood. In this hour, we need leaders who can protect, preserve and perhaps even re-establish our corporate bond.
Subtly and perhaps not so subtly, there are those who seem to be creeping into our body politic, again, some of the schisms employed in the past to disunite us. Under the old guard PLP, it was not uncommon just before the general election to have ZNS, the nation's only radio and TV station at the time, play the mini-series "Roots". Why? To remind us that once we were dominated by a white minority and that if we did not want it to happen again, we should vote PLP. Did it work? I don't know, but the mistrust of white people, white Bahamians, was egged on and the PLP spent many years in power. But as a people, I fear we lost some precious time and opportunity to be a better than we are.
Fast forward to 2016 and now we hear people who have the ear of the media talking about white oligarchies seeking to influence political outcomes through their money or the attendance of white personalities at political council meetings or who is for the poor man versus the rich man or Over-the-Hill versus Bay Street. Racism and classism are rearing their ugly heads as factors to be considered in our political dynamics. To be sure, they have always been part of the undertones of our election. What appears new is that what once was a political calling card of the PLP now seems to be a tool being adopted by some factions of the FNM. If we allow this to happen we threaten to start a bloodletting, virtual or real, that won't easily be stopped. Across the globe, racism and classism are re-emerging as overt, not covert, influences in the political dynamics of nations and the results are not good. It is a setback.
We should not endorse that playbook and we should resist it. We must vote against the group that employs it. Exploit race or class to seek to win this election and we should vote against you and encourage all we can to do so. The 21st century Bahamas must endure diversity in person, creed, color, gender and political persuasion, among other things. A progressive Bahamas must place unity of citizenry at the core of its social fabric and its leaders must be irrevocably committed to its promotion. If diversity offended God He would not have created it.
A disunited country is abundantly more likely to fail than a united one. The only thing that trumps unity as a boost to national success is integrity. Disunited nations seldom win and corrupt nations even less so. Unity matters. This is the reason the FNM must be so concerned about what is happening in its ranks right now and what is likely to be the case after its upcoming convention. Both Dr. Hubert Minnis, the present leader, and Loretta Butler-Turner, the contender for leadership, are calling for unity. Many of their supporters and others are hoping for it following the convention. But unity is more than a word. It is the reality of a commitment to work together toward a common cause despite differences, in fact, sometimes through the benefits of differences. If leaders cannot keep their more monolithic political parties united, how are they expected to keep the more diverse nation together?
The leadership of the FNM therefore has an extraordinary opportunity to show that they are up to the challenge of this difficult hour. This is more than a run to take the helm of a party; this is a run to capture the hearts of a people. Fail at this and we all lose. Succeed and perhaps a new day dawns in our land. Whatever you do, please, stop this bleeding while you can.

o Zhivargo Laing is a Bahamian economic consultant and former Cabinet minister who represented the Marco City constituency in the House of Assembly.

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Bob Marley's 'Babylon System' and Bahamian independence

July 12, 2016

This past weekend our nation celebrated 43 years since attaining political independence from Great Britain. As we come to expect annually, thousands of Bahamians participated in the festivities and activities organized by governmental bodies while private citizens arranged their own private functions celebrating the occasion.
The road to Independence Day is well documented in our history books and in the sands of time. We must continue to acknowledge the sacrifices made by those who have gone before, for indeed the liberties we enjoy in The Bahamas today are the result of their blood, sweat and tears. Despite this realization, there are many Bahamians of a new generation, several born within the last six decades, who question whether we are really free and truly independent.
Reflections on this notion of independence led this writer to the late Robert Nesta Marley (also known as Bob Marley), who sang the song titled "Babylon System". In the song, Marley speaks for those who he believed to be the disenfranchised in society and the need to challenge the status quo; a system that seeks to keep the masses in bondage mentally, socially and economically. The Babylon System as described by Marley and other commentators, functions to benefit a small minority while the majority suffers. It primarily represents a flawed and oppressive system of non-traditional slavery that takes on a disguised form. Although slavery has been abolished the world over, its reincarnation is shown in the impoverishing of people under a system that promotes social welfare over economic empowerment and financial independence.
Trodding on the winepress
The first verse of Babylon System highlights the inequities that exist and abound while the powers that be create a mirage and pontificate the existence of equal opportunity. In response to the tyranny of the modern day slave masters Marley eloquently declares "we refuse to be what you want us to be, we are what we are and that's the way it's going to be. You can't educate us about equal opportunity, talking 'bout freedom and liberty". In his charge, Marley announces to the powers that be that there is a group of people who have finally had their fill of the system of bondage that seeks to disenfranchise them. In this scenario, the people have determined what their definition of freedom is and not what is being spoon-fed by the keepers of a deficient system.
In the chorus of the song, Marley acknowledges that this group of people has been "trodding on the winepress much too long" and encourages a rebellion. This description is better understood when considered closely in the context of words contained therein. A winepress is an object used to extract juice from grapes and the phrase "trodding on the winepress" references the fact that something has been done a particular way, the same way for too long. In essence, Marley's song expresses the sentiment that the people have been giving too much but receiving less or nothing in return; hence the time has come to rebel.

The true essence of the narrative
Lest anyone erroneously suggests that Marley or by extension this writer is encouraging violence or an uprising against those in authority, it should be made clear that this is not an incitement of unruly behavior by anyone. In fact, the reverse is true; the call is one of civility and respect for others in challenging the status quo, a confrontation of a primitive mindset that has been indoctrinated in our people. The song urges a challenge to a thought process that perpetuates a society where citizens are borrowers and not lenders in their own society, the tail and not the head - laborers for the most part and not owners.
We continue to witness the economic oppression of our people and now with our current fiscal woes, it is not unforeseeable to see that the economic slavery we face on a micro level evolve into economic slavery at the macro level, creating a perfect economic storm. The reality is, the more you keep the people dependent within a system, the greater the likelihood that the system will have to pay to keep the people. This is why the system must be challenged to bring about a change; otherwise, we will continue to witness the widening of the gap between the haves and the haves not. Marley calls for a people who will seek to rule their own destiny and tear down the walls and barriers that prevent a people from being truly free and independent.

Babylon system a vampire
The description of the Babylon System as a "vampire" is telling, as it likens the system unto the predatory ways of a vampire who sucks the blood of a human being. The vampire takes advantage of people. In this regard, Marley asserts that the system sucks the life out of people who are suffering. In today's society, we are witnessing the unveiling of a false economy revealed by the onslaught of the Great Recession. Thousands of Bahamians who held "good paying" jobs in the tourism and financial services industries have lost their jobs for multiple reasons. Consequently, many Bahamians have lost their homes and other possessions with the accompanying decision of having to take their children out of private school while others are simply unable to afford higher education or have lost their businesses.
The Great Recession magnified the reality in The Bahamas that the major industries of our economy are not owned by Bahamians; hence we are subject to the dictates or goodwill of foreign interests. One can describe the reality as an economic colonization that has been systematically entrenched by successive government administrations who have failed to truly create an independent society for the benefit of our people.

Deceiving our people
In the second verse of his song reads: "The Babylon System is a vampire, sucking the blood of the sufferer... building church and university, deceiving our children continually... graduating thieves and murderers, sucking the blood of the sufferer."
Marley draws attention to the institutions in society that have failed to bring about a desired result in the best interest of the masses. He suggests that the powers that be are deceiving the masses by the very presence of the institutions as we witness a rise in criminality in our societies. As such, we are not producing citizens to build up and improve society; rather we are grooming predators like thieves and murderers at all levels of society to be a menace. While this may seem exaggerated, there are indeed many truths to this within our society.

Tell the truth
The critique in the Babylon System concludes by encouraging the powers that be to "tell the children the truth". That is, let the people know that the policies that are in place will not bring about the desired freedom and independence that the masses seek. Tell the truth, that the system benefits a small few and that to make the necessary changes will impact their bottom lines so to speak.
Tell the truth, that true education of the masses threatens the power structure and sustenance of the elite wealth and political classes. Tell the truth that expansion of the wealth among the masses threatens the greed and power of the elite wealthy and political classes. Tell the truth that economic independence under the current status quo is an intentional illusion that sounds good wrapped up in nice quotes and slogans but in reality scares the keepers of the status quo.
A Jewish analogy
Biblical scholars will note that the Jews, who were led into Babylonian captivity and remained there for 70 years emerged from exile to rebuild the ruins Ezra the priest taught the people the word of God, Nehemiah - a cupbearer in the king's palace led the delegation to rebuild the wall and Zerubbabel, governor of Judah presided over the rebuilding of Solomon's temple. And it was proclaimed, that the glory of the latter house, referring to the temple would be greater than the former. Even though, there was opposition to these movements by persons who wanted to maintain the status quo, progress was made and victory was the result of these parties working together.
The Bahamian people ought to consider whether the current system remains effective in leading us upward and onwards together towards a common loftier goal. We must decide to peacefully challenge a system that is losing its relevance in the 21st century. It is time to demand the change that we want and fight for a new order. We must reject the status quo, pursue, conquer and takeover in the name of the masses. The second version of the Quiet Revolution must be just as peaceful and cordial with an understanding that we need not fight with our fists but with our intellect and pure conscience. In the final analysis, we must respect the Babylon System as oppressive as it may be until we are able to declare that Babylon has fallen!

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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Systemic failure

July 08, 2016

On the eve of yet another independence celebration what can we say about the country?
According to our illustrious leaders, we are living long and prospering. Yet every third young man is a criminal, made by the police, we have the highest incidence of sexual violence in the region, and the highest? For murder, and the GDP per debt stands at 76 percent. We are in a wasp nest, but most people aren't even bothered by the stings.
In "Dead Aid" Dambisa Moyo illustrates how corrupted governments destroy their countries by taking the money provided by aid agencies before it can reach its destinations. As we move into another year of relative sovereignty, our leaders seem to have an idea that they can continue to allow the rape and pillage of the public purse and nothing undue will happen. They will be able to talk their way out of any international down rating because they claim they have visions.
Their plans are built on a nation with a population that is descending into the E average, which according to some schools is really quite good. Our country is running into some serious obstacles that are being put in place by the same leaders who claim they can prevent international agencies, which have been warning of the problems of continuing on this highway to hell for years, from downgrading the country. Successive governments have denied this. In the meantime, we are creating a national development plan that is slated to solve all the problems of the commonwealth that has lost its footing and because it is not moving forward is actually regressing. Will the plan come before the country has been completely down-rated to junk bond status much like Puerto Rico? We now beat them with our murder and rape rate.
Like Moyo's work, "Purple Hibiscus" by Adichie shows how the violence of a leader of the country can really destroy much more than just an image. We seem to have copied so well these disastrous role models of leaders who promote xenophobia and violence against women while also encouraging theft, dishonesty and dysfunction through corruption. It is sad, that such a wonderful country can be so utterly torn apart by so few role models of what is really cancerous toxic behavior and culture. Moyo's work demonstrates the economic demise of nations that are reliant on international assistance for development and Adichie's shows the inner workings of the wonderful paternalistic leaders. At the same time, Achebe's "A Man of the People" and Naipaul's "The Mimic Men" capture well the very rot that we seem to be inhabiting where nothing can work because no one is interested in national progress, only in personal benefit.
We can say that the country is systemically xenophobic and misogynistic, not to mention homophobic and clannish, which the extremely expensive referendum that re-entrenched the status quo showed clearly. What is also being revealed is how utterly bankrupt the system is and that government authority has been given to the Christian Council. We are hitting the bottom so hard and yet we seem to take delight in our own failure. As Moody's threatens to downgrade The Bahamas yet again, government is thumbing its nose at them in public. Do they really consider that they can slay the lion that holds such power? Perhaps we need to examine the way we run our systems and start plucking out some of the seriously incompetent players; however, we seem happy to continue to employ them. How many thieves actually get fired?

If the level of incompetence and ignorance is any indication, they are probably playing the wait and see game. Of late, it is clear that most of the government agencies are failing and failing epically. Bahamasair, that people glibly blame for everything bad, is a nightmare. It loses money because of the horrible service and the failure to deliver at all levels. But when we give jobs to people who cannot do them, perhaps this is the result.
The other day, while waiting in a short queue there were six agents on the check-in desks, while more recently, facing a long queue, there were two agents; one left, and the other was not worth her weight in dust. After standing there for about 40 minutes, I was told that I had missed my flight and that the next flight was at 5 p.m. I was sent to another queue and made to wait again, which took another 20 minutes. Once I got to the purchasing counter, I explained the situation and was told, what I had already known, that there was only one flight to that destination that day and not another until the end of the week. The agent phoned over to the other agent and asked what she had told me. She had apparently misunderstood, but had not double-checked the system. So, the entire time I had spent at the airport the plane was still on the ground, but I missed it because of national incompetence and epic mismanagement. Of course, this is not new to our small country where millions of dollars can disappear into someone's bank account and no one notice anything even when there are meant to be systems in place to monitor and prevent such glitches. Much like Moyo's book, the system has failed.
But of course, no one talks about the D into E average that means that they really can't monitor anything other than the soap operas on TV. Though, they do know how to lie their way out of every tight situation and create elaborate tales of death and devastation that could bring the world to its knees only to save themselves. The D/E average has allowed the country to destroy the nation and the nation to destroy the country. And yet we wonder why there are so many people killing.
As government spends millions to keep its few trusted potcakes in key positions to destabilize the country, it destroys further the fabric of a more or less functional place. When every office is filled with dysfunctional workers who cannot read beyond a sixth-grade level, do we really expect the country to thrive?
Today the electricity may stay on because the newly sold to more foreign direct investors who know better than their Bahamian colleagues what to do with every aspect of The Bahamas, even though they cannot come up with a plan that shows any preparation for what lies ahead, we know that government has once again sold to the worst bidder. (It went off twice). Baha Mar was not the exception, but the rule, and everyday they tell their supporters that things are getting better, yet still Moody's stands with its red pen poised to strike us down yet another rung. Bahamasair buys new planes but has daily four-hour delays, and cannot hire adequately competent people to know the difference between Abaco and Inagua, 'but do chal, don't criticize them, they doin' their best! An' they might spite you'. Why do we continue to promote ignorant incompetence?

What works?
If there are places that do work, there are so many rats in them who are diligently working to undermine the people who are doing their best to ensure some degree of functionality. They are stealing from Peter and Paul while we watch. The country is failing.
Everyone wants to privatize, but each time these boys do that they put in some E average person and the system gets worse. Who would not check a passenger's name in the system before providing erroneous information? Yet the company, held together by rubber bands that are stretched and stressed to the limit, will not fire the same people who cannot work because he or she cannot even speak English in a manner that is understandable to anyone over 16 years of age, or cannot stop snorting like pigs while trying not to look the customer in the eye. Then we talk about being the best little destination in the world! How can we become anything other than bottom of the barrel when we do not train people to serve customers with respect? Our national superiority and contempt for work is leading us into some seriously bad company.
The nation is failing, the state is holding its funeral announcement in its hand, but does not know how it will pay for the burial and the leaders sing the state's praises. The more we progress the worse the stealing gets. No one will ever allow a system to change when they are benefiting from its dysfunction.
Road Traffic is the best example of systemic dysfunction that has willingly failed and refuses to fix itself because there are far too many people benefitting from the failure. Akin to the Baha Mar disaster, Road Traffic shows the lack of care put into anything public. Government says there will be jobs, but then it lays all the jobs in the hands of foreign direct owners who can leave, as they have done, or set up the country to fail as they wish. Given the national ignorance shrouded in arrogance and incompetence covered over by superiority, there is little wonder that all foreign companies import most of their key workers. They may employ some Bahamian staff, but workers that are needed to be well trained and able to function on their own tend to be brought in. How does this create employment for Bahamians?
So, why would Bahamians who go off to study wish to return? They understand too well that they will not be given jobs that are fitting their qualifications and if they are, they will be frustrated out of their heads by people who cannot get the job done and who frustrate the entire system. Most of the time, these are political appointments.
Do many of us think about the direction the country is heading in? Do we understand the consequences of yet another downgrade? Do we care that some Bahamasair employees are too incompetent to do their jobs and so the company loses money hand over fist? Do we care that millions of dollars annually are lost to theft? Do we care that the same person who got sent home for stealing left with a perfect record? The government will always say that the country is in good fiscal shape. They have no choice.
The damnation of this postcolonial state where people cannot work, and the lack of planning and vision means that we continue to use Bunker C fuel that destroys the very environment we depend on for our livelihood to power the islands, but the system is so old that it cannot be maintained and the private concern that has been bought in to save us from hell and damnation is condemning us to a different and more complete hell. When people cannot read and comprehend, and we expect them to drive an economy, it is little wonder we are faced with the disaster we are currently living where I am going to shoot you for walking on my shoes or run into the back of your car for not moving fast enough, or pass a line of traffic stopped at the red light from behind, run the right light and not get stopped by the police standing there. Bahamasair and BEC are only symptoms of complete national implosion powered kindly by visionless leadership and bad, illiterate workers. It will not be business as usual. And we say Happy Independence Day?

o Ian Bethell-Bennett is a professor at The College of The Bahamas.

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Incivility and social decay

July 07, 2016

Our social fabric is torn asunder. Many basic norms and mores have atrophied. Many of us act in public spaces as self-absorbed individuals, with little to no consideration for others who share the same space. The loss of civility in many areas of national life is symptomatic of broader social decay.
A friend recounts driving into a shopping plaza where the entrance was clearly marked with the "in" sign and the exit marked "out". As he was entering the plaza, another man was trying to drive out through the entrance. Even though the latter man was in the wrong he became belligerent with the man who was acting in the appropriate manner.
This sort of story is writ-large throughout the country. Many of us become belligerent when it is pointed out how our poor manners and uncivil behavior inconvenience others. We feel we have a right to act improperly and to do exactly as we please regardless of whether we are inconveniencing others.
This sort of thinking and acting is growing, manifesting itself on our roads, at work and in many public spaces.
Once upon a time, not that long ago, we felt comfortable suggesting to someone that he or she may be inconveniencing others. But today we are more reluctant because we know that we risk a verbal or physical confrontation.
On the check-out line at a grocery store in Cable Beach, a friend was asked by another customer if the latter could jump ahead of the line because this individual was in a rush. The friend said no because he was also in a rush.
The man who wanted to jump ahead became rude, loudly complaining how selfish and inconsiderate are some people, blithely unaware that he was exemplifying the very behavior of which he was complaining.
The loss of self-awareness about boorish and poor behavior in public is a symptom of social decay. Many have not been socialized to understand how to be civil and considerate in public spaces such as in movie theaters, beaches, restaurants and offices.
Inconsideration and incivility in small things tend to grow into bigger things for individuals. What else can I get away with? And the mentality becomes: If you offend me I have the right to use violent words or actions to slap you down.
When more and more individuals feel this way it becomes a new negative norm. Young people who watch this type of behavior by family members and adults quickly learn that such antisocial behavior may be justifiable.
The result is that many young people believe it right and necessary to take weapons to school and to plot retaliation against others who they believe have disrespected them or a family member. We have seen the violent and deadly conclusion of such a mindset.
This writer witnessed a police officer walking a primary school boy, presumably his son, from the school to his car. The officer was loudly cussing out a motorist for driving incorrectly.
But here's the catch. The motorist was driving properly. It was the policeman who was jaywalking in the school zone, despite there being a pedestrian crossing walk a mere few feet away.
The officer, sworn to uphold the law, was teaching his son it is okay to break the rules. And if you break the rules and inconvenience others in the process, it's okay to cuss them out. Such is the magnitude of social decay when we are unable or unwilling to appreciate and apologize for inconsiderate or improper public behavior.
Many see it as a weakness or loss of respect when they are urged apologize for certain public behavior. This brute mentality of not admitting fault or error makes our life in common harsher and less humane. It desensitizes us. It makes us more prone to become even harsher.
Small things matter and represent broader mindsets. Notice how in grocery stores in the U.S. how rare it is for someone to leave their cart or trolley at the check-out counter once their groceries have been rung up? Notice how considerably more often this happens in a grocery store at home.
The mentality of the latter behavior is: Somebody else should move it. Of course, if someone had just done this to the individual leaving their trolley inconveniencing the person behind them, the former would huff and puff as to the rudeness of others.
Many of us drive fast through pedestrian crossing walks. Many park in zones clearly marked "no parking". Others cavalierly park in handicapped spots.
These signs are meant for others and certainly not for the self-absorbed, inconsiderate, entitled ones who feel little to no need to observe basic courtesies and the law. But these are usually the very ones who become annoyed or enraged when they are similarly inconvenience.
Observing courtesies, being considerate and observing laws and rules are about personal ethical behavior. But they are also the duty and responsibility of good citizens. Such proper behavior increases social trust and makes for a more humane and civil society.
It may be a somewhat extraordinary example but only the crudest person would urinate or defecate in an open public space. Yet many of us are prepared to loudly use the crudest language in public, to blare our car radios to the annoyance of others or to roar motorcycles on public highways as if they were one big racecourse.
Civility is precisely about respecting and helping to protect the rights and needs of others with whom we share public spaces and a common good. The increase in coarse and inconsiderate public behavior reflects a society with some of its civilizing foundations rotting.

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

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Moody's likely downgrade not the real story

July 06, 2016

Alarm over Moody's downgrade threat is focusing on the smoke rather than the fire. The international credit ratings agency is only pointing out what tens of thousands of unemployed, underemployed and frustrated Bahamian workers and entrepreneurs in this country already know. And that is that the Bahamian economy stinks to the high heavens. Our economy is sucking fumes and there is no fuel in sight. Under these circumstances who could honestly be surprised at Moody's mood (pun absolutely intended)?
Moody's contradicts the Christie administration's boast about its fiscal progress, economic optimism and financial prowess to date. The agency is essentially saying that all the talk and gesturing about an economic and fiscal turnaround is "much ado about nothing". It echoes sentiments by this writer that talk of cutting the deficit by more than $300 million was a "false sense of achievement" and that the real issue confronting this country is its floundering economy.
The Bahamian economy is not receiving a high enough level of capital injection to generate jobs at the clip necessary to impact the double-digit unemployment plaguing it. It lacks innovation to spark new enterprise that can add to job creation and income growth. Its level of productivity is low by competitive standards and therefore produces a lacklustre appeal to the truly dynamic investor. Its service standards are mediocre making its high cost a double threat to its international competitiveness. Add to these the fact that the government, in its wisdom, choose to extract from the productive economy more than $500 million in new taxes (VAT) annually, while at the same time entrepreneurs faced rising cost of inputs which they sought to pass on to struggling Bahamian consumers through higher prices. The perfect storm!
Any international credit ratings agency worth its weight in salt would see the danger of this economic situation and have doubts about the future prospects of that economy, at least in the short and medium term. All of the Christie administration's projections, under these circumstances, would be held suspect. The government's projections about balancing the budget, halting the growth rate of debt-to-GDP and improving the financial position of the country seem like mere hocus-pocus by an amateur magician - "voodoo economics", if you will.
We better wake up! Our economic failings are real. When I first started writing these weekly articles, I stressed the great need for robust economic growth. Nothing has changed. The Bahamas is on the precipice of falling back so far that catching up will take nothing short of a miracle, as poverty entrenches itself in our system. A whole generation of Bahamians is now living in an extended period of limited opportunity and faded prosperity. Their hearts grow wary and they are looking outside the country for better. Those who are looking inside the country are developing a new ethic and divergent values? The consequence of the choices of both groups of Bahamians will deflate the promise of a better future and produce a troubling social dynamic for the present.
Moody's threat to downgrade us to just above or at junk status means precious little, given that the effects of a poor economic environment are already having a real impact on the people of this nation. The suffering is real. All Moody's downgrade would do is make it more expensive for the government to borrow more money to do what it is now doing, spending lots of money without any discernible positive impact on the social and economic fortunes of the country. The government said it is making progress economically and financially; Moody's is saying otherwise. If the government does not want to listen to Moody's it could ask the people of The Bahamas and it will get as clear an answer as it would need. Things are extraordinarily bad.
There is a saying that goes, "Where you stand often depends on where you sit." Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance Michael Halkitis said that the government is not worried about Moody's downgrade threat. He said that this is just "one of those things". He further noted that the government knows what to do to satisfy Moody's and that they are already at the point where they have "stabilized" things.
My word! Had this downgrade come under the FNM this would have been an apocalyptic event. In fact, when it did happen and this writer was minister of state in the Ministry of Finance, the PLP in opposition fumed, criticized and belittled the government, treating it as nothing short of the utter failing of the FNM administration and the end of the world. Thank goodness that now it's just "one of those things".
Halkitis is right to be unperturbed about Moody's threat to downgrade our credit rating, because that threat (or the downgrade itself) is far from the real issue. The real problem is that the economy of The Bahamas is under water and the government has for the last four years failed miserably in rescuing it; in fact, it has been seen from time to time pouring water into the vessel. One thing is certain, the group that does not have a great plan to produce a robust economy should not get any of our votes in the upcoming general election. The reality is that stark. The hopes, dreams and aspirations of our children and their parents must be funded and only a surging economy will do that. Voting for any group that cannot deliver on this is simply foolish. For my part, I will be sure to let you know what I hear and see. Stay tuned.

o Zhivargo Laing is a Bahamian economic consultant and former Cabinet minister who represented the Marco City constituency in the House of Assembly.

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