Opinion

U.S.-Cuba relations after President Obama's speech

December 19, 2014

On Wednesday, December 17, U.S.-Cuba relations were shaken down to their core due to two recent events.
First there was a prisoner swap between Washington and Havana, which saw the release of U.S. citizen Alan Gross, detained in Cuba, and three Cubans detained in the U.S. Secondly, President Barack Obama gave a speech at noon which charted a new roadmap for U.S.-Cuba relations.
Nevertheless, as is the nature of Washington-Havana relations over the past decades, how much of this is hyperbole and how many objectives ultimately materialize remains to be seen.
Alan Gross spent nearly five years as he was accused by the Cuban government of being a U.S. spy while he was working in Cuba for USAID. Similarly, the three Cubans are part of the "Cuban 5," an alleged spy network set up by the Cuban government in the U.S. The five were arrested in 1998 and convicted in 2001, two were released years later but three remained in prison.
It's not the objective of this article to discuss whether either Gross or the Cubans were actually involved in any kind of espionage activities. Unsurprisingly, both Havana and Washington argue that their citizens were wrongfully arrested.
The deal comes as a shock to everyone, as it was generally believed that neither government would release their respective prisoners anywhere in the near future.

Obama's Speech
Shortly after the announcement of the Gross-Cuban 5 deal was made public, President Obama gave a brief but historic speech in which he outlined his vision for the future of U.S.-Cuba relations.
The key word is that he seeks to "normalize" relations between the two governments.
The State Department has released a fact sheet of the speech's key points, and we will briefly discuss a few important issues:
1. President Obama plans to participate in the 2015 Summit of the Americas, which will take place in Panama.
Historically, Washington has opposed Cuban participation in this summit. Case in point, the 2012 Summit in Colombia was generally an embarrassment for the host nation as the Colombian leadership had to "uninvite" Cuba in order to accommodate to Washington, which did not want a Cuban delegation present.
Meanwhile, throughout his speech, President Obama did not directly address the participation of the Cuban government in Panama, but rather said that, "Cuban civil society must be allowed to participate...consistent with the region's commitments under the Inter-American Democratic Charter."
In other words, Washington could still potentially block a Cuban official delegation from going to Panama.
2. President Obama managed to ease travel and trade restrictions to Cuba in 2011, however, only the U.S. Congress can terminate the embargo.
The fact to keep in mind is that after the recent mid-term elections, both chambers will now be controlled by the Republican Party. With conservatives like Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) among the Republican ranks, it is doubtful that this will happen. President Obama's speech successfully placed pressure on the U.S. legislative body post-2015 to act on the future of U.S.-Cuba relations.
3. Given the promises made by President Obama, which include that "licensed U.S. travelers to Cuba will be authorized to import $400 worth of goods from Cuba," one must now ask, what will be the Cuban government's next move?
Almost parallel to Obama's speech, President Raul Castro also took to the airwaves to address his nation. First and foremost he praised the release of the Cuban 5 prisoners and he congratulated President Obama's decision to agree to the swap.
He also "proposed" to the U.S. to adopt initiatives to improve relations in the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations. Nevertheless, Castro mentioned that in spite of the prison swap and renewed diplomatic ties, "the problem has not been solved". The Cuban leader was referring to the embargo, which Castro said hurts Cuba's economy and population.
While President Castro's speech is similarly important, as it is not often that a Cuban leader praises a U.S. president, it remains to be seen if Havana will carry any new initiatives in the near future to keep the momentum going forward.
Relations between Cuba and the U.S. have been at a standstill for years and it seems that whenever there is a positive development, some kind of crisis occurs -- case in point, the 2011 lifting of some restrictions was followed by the 2013 incident in which Cuba shipped weapons to North Korea.
For those who want to see U.S.-Cuba relations improve, hopefully 2015 will be a year of positive breakthroughs between the two neighbors.
o W. Alejandro Sanchez is a senior research fellow for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, an independent, non-profit, non-partisan research and information organization. This article was published with permission from Caribbean News Now.

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The World Trade Organization and The Bahamas

December 17, 2014

The minister responsible for financial services and trade, Ryan Pinder, resigned his post as minister to take up a private post. This leaves his ministry without a minister. In addition, just prior to his resignation, the director of his ministry, was selected to head up the secretariat charged with producing a national development plan for The Bahamas. Without a doubt, international trade and integration for The Bahamas has been put under a very serious test: with or without the understanding that the Ministry of Finance also has carriage for trade matters.
Over the last 15 years, The Bahamas has been making greater steps towards becoming a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). This is an important step in the development for any country that wishes to become a member of this grouping. So far, The Bahamas is among a particularly awkward group of countries that are currently not members: Iran and Iraq are some other notable countries, with Russia officially joining in 2012.
Just for background information, the WTO has been around since the end of the Second World War. It was formerly called the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), before the conclusion of the 1996 Uruguay Round of world trade talks which then established a universal name for the grouping and tighter rules on goods and services. Before 1996 it was promoted as a post-war economic integration mechanism for European and North American countries and since then, it has been promoted even more so, but with more countries included along with their contentions and complexities.
The WTO is currently in the middle of a seemingly endless round of trade talks, which started in Doha, Qatar, in 2002. Having a round of talks in the Middle East, post 9-11 attacks and the US Middle Eastern invasion, was supposed to be the olive branch extended to the Middle Eastern world by Western powers (well, let's just say by the USA) as a way to show them "peace through trade". Sort of like the US's Iraq invasion strategy of bombs and bread, with trade added to it.
More importantly, however, the idea that the WTO is a complex organization is true to a great extent. Its rules-based arrangements are designed purposefully to be intrusive on sovereign authority and sovereign economic policy making.
This international rules-based mechanism makes the interconnection and coordination of multinational protocols and standards, based on traditions and customs, as well as sovereign protection on industries deemed as sacred, difficult when this system has to cater to the needs, the flexibilities and sometimes inflexibility of its members.
The position The Bahamas finds itself in at this stage by not being a member, can be good or bad, depending on the premium placed on the economic position of The Bahamas and what Bahamians feel are their best interests for the future.
For one, not being a member makes you a pariah. Even though The Bahamas is a member of a lot of other international bodies and agreements and has a good political and economic track record, not being a member of this standard bearing group looks a little dubious. Along with being a pariah, doing business with international firms that expect a transparent system for them to invest becomes problematic if national standards aren't, at least, at baseline international standards and compliance benchmarks.
The second thing is the need for The Bahamas to undergo taxation reform. Tax reform has never just been a trivial matter in any country, let alone for a country that has no forms of taxation other than from import tariffs and public service charges and some minor, real property taxes -- with the latter not taken very seriously. But, the matter of proper taxation is critical to being successful at world trade level and, at the same time, protecting domestic interests.
One thing is clear with WTO economic principles: Reducing tariffs on import competing products is at the essential core of the WTO. In fact, two foremost policies are: 1. The non-discrimination between goods and services and 2. The reciprocity of trade openness between countries, either by direct tariff cuts or through modality approach -- that being phased in over a period of time.
For a country like The Bahamas, which is heavily dependent on tariffs/customs duties for government revenue, it is clear that once the phasing in of WTO standards and honoring commitments to other members on reducing customs duties on certain items takes place, there will be a need to find other sources of revenue; thus the country is poised to implement value-added tax by January 1, 2015.
Everything from tax reform, to increasing the transparency in public and private investments, even to proper record keeping, speaks to a larger issue of broader public sector reform and also to the cultural way we tend to do business. Not only broader private and public sector reform, but having the capacity to commit to contracts and agreements over the time period in which you said you were going to do exactly that.
Cutting this point short: The entire way we do business has to change. A colleague of mine from Trinidad, who worked in The Bahamas for a short time, stated to a group he was presenting to: "Do you remember when your mother used to bake that sweet bread every Sunday? (Yea!) And the neighbor used to fix her door or cabinets for her in exchange for that baked bread? (Yea!) Well, those days are long gone! (Oooooohhhh!!!)".
The changes needed in the way we do business do not have to be drastic or overnight. It can be done bit by bit to suit our needs or, actually -- "gasp!" -- structurally planned! Questions about what institutions -- public or private -- should change first, and how we change things without causing public insurrection, is where the discussions on WTO accession should be. But it isn't.
The reason why the discussions aren't where they ought to be is because the broader public, on average, tend to become frustrated when we speak about large macro-economic and macro-financial jargon and concepts. It's like, for example, an accountant trying to understand quantum physics. They would be no better off than a person who has the reading capability of a second year college student -- or perhaps even a first year college student.
The other reason why the discussion isn't where it ought to be -- and that being on the institutional and the economic way we do business -- is because no one has been able to break down the large concepts and ideas into bite sized nuggets for citizens to digest.
For the most part in The Bahamas, the public discussion comes in after the fact. In fact, not only does public discussion come in after the fact, it sometimes isn't very fruitful to the issue at all. The reason being that the persons explaining the issues become frustrated at times at the lack of, seemingly, intellectual depth by the broader public on the matter (like the average Joe understands stochastic measurements and the difference between the HO model and the Laffer curve).
In addition, the broader public becomes angry at the persons making these decisions and making them without their input and apparently always in secret -- a very open secret I may add. So, the cycle of confusion and obfuscation continues.
All of this uncovers another problem (well, not really another problem uncovered, because anyone who has ever done anything in The Bahamas understands this by now) and that is the lack of information readily available for the general public to digest. Not just transparency in the public sector, or private sector for that matter, but the transparency specifically for the broader public.
My sentiment is that: 'You can't blow my mind if I don't understand what it is you are blowing my mind with.' This goes a very long way in justifying the education of the public on the importance, for them, of what trade agreements and, in particular, what the WTO means.
The issue of knowing what to expect is critical to putting in place the safety mechanisms in order to protect the state revenue and the public interest with regard to consumer protection, commercial protectionism and cultural influx.
What should happen with labour and unions? What should happen with tax reform and state revenue? What would happen when legal immigration and immigration become larger problems? What would happen to sovereign rights? What should happen to infant industries? What should happen when the inflow of capital becomes too much or too little? What should happen to import competing companies? What should happen with regard to exports and export support? What should happen to the lives that depend on the decisions made on all of these?
There's no cookie-cutter solution for these problems. This WTO accession approach simply needs a touch of policy flexibility, imagination and creativity, put into realistic institutions that don't harm the domestic economy or damage global competitors and the clout they carry.
The proper discussions need to take place. Not discussions on what people have done after the fact. But, rather, what should we do and why it affects you. There is no easier other way!

o Youri Kemp is president and CEO of Kemp Global, a management consultancy firm based in The Bahamas. This article was published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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A common loftier goal

December 16, 2014

o First published March 22, 2012
The words of our national anthem written by the late Timothy Gibson urge us as Bahamians to march together to a common loftier goal. The importance of a common purpose to nation building is further highlighted in the words of our national pledge which states, "I pledge my allegiance to the flag and to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas for which it stands one people united in love and service." However, taking a look at the current state of our polity and recent events that have occurred in our country, it leaves one to wonder whether the Bahamian people have a united front to serve our country toward a common loftier goal.
A lot has been said about the recent documentary entitled "Caribbean Crime Wave", produced by Australian reporter Mark Lazaredes, which seeks to highlight the crime problem that is spiralling out of control in The Bahamas. The aforesaid documentary seems to create the impression that we are a nation under siege. Many Bahamians who viewed the documentary were incensed that our beloved nation was portrayed and characterized in such a manner for the entire world to see. In a country that is heavily dependent upon the tourism and financial services industries, it is an understatement to say that the documentary represents unsolicited bad publicity for The Bahamas in the midst of an already challenging economy.
While it is undeniable that crime and the fear of crime have taken hold of our nation, it does not seem to justify the characterization of The Bahamas as a nation under siege. The everyday Bahamian citizen and residents as well as the millions of tourists who grace our shores annually are still able to enjoy to a great extent the freedom of movement and enjoyment in peace and harmony. Unfortunately, we are experiencing a record number of murders, break-ins, robberies and crimes against persons. It also seems fair to state that the government could address the issue of crime in a more significant manner and should have taken a more rigorous approach toward crime.
What are we doing to address the problem?
The Bahamas seems to have become a nation that has traded its moral and spiritual values for materialism, power, vanity and self-promotion. The reality is that sectors of our society and stakeholders such as parents, the church, the community, civic organizations and the government are failing us daily by not making a concerted effort to address our moral and social issues and find plausible solutions. More detrimental to the Bahamian society is the fact that our politics over the years has done very little to unite us as a people, but rather continues to encourage a "divide and rule" mentality among our people. It was reported that there have been attacks against supporters of both major political parties. However, it is noteworthy and encouraging to state that the leaders of the Free National Movement (FNM) and Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) have openly condemned this unruly behavior and urged their supporters to act in a civil manner.
How did we find ourselves at this point? We have always prided ourselves on being a nation that has a long history of stable democracy and civil governance. The recent behavior of our politicians leaves little to be desired by those of us who stand by on the sidelines and witness the continuous mudslinging and personal attacks to the gratification of political crowds who in many cases have been blinded beyond party lines. It must always be remembered that regardless of our political persuasion, ideology or affiliation, we are first and foremost Bahamians. The inability of our leaders to address issues that are plaguing our nation sets a poor example for the citizenry of our country. It presents the "don't do what I do, but do what I say" philosophy that so many parents raise their children by. How can a politician expect to be taken seriously as an advocate of conflict resolution when he/she is supposedly guilty of the same offense? The same question can be directed toward parents and leaders of the aforementioned sectors of society who seem in some cases to lead a double standard life. It must be emphasized that children and people in general follow the actions of those who preside over them rather than listen to their words or rhetoric. It is imperative that we set the right example for those that we lead.

Paradigm shift needed
It is difficult for our nation to arrive at non-partisan solutions to the myriad of issues that plague our nation without a paradigm shift by our political leaders. The conception seems to be that crime starts and stops with murder, hence the cry for the death penalty each time one of our fellow citizens falls victim to murder. It appears that the documentary among other things focused upon the fact that The Bahamas because of its judicial ties to the United Kingdom has been prohibited from enforcing the death penalty. However, can it really be said that the death penalty will solve our problems? It appears that our problems are far greater than imposing the ultimate punishment for what is considered arguably the most unacceptable crime - that is, murder.
It must be emphasized that crime includes all forms of illegal activity. Therefore, if we take an introspective look at ourselves, we will find that the first step to addressing the criminal element in this country is to adjust ourselves accordingly. The saying that "we must become the change that we seek" is true now more than ever. We must refrain from nurturing a culture of lawlessness in our society that continues to erode the moral and spiritual fabric of our nation.
Political, civic, business and religious leaders must regain their focus and although not prohibited from following or supporting the political party of their choice, they must ensure that they demonstrate that their first allegiance is to our common loftier goal. The Bahamas must come first at all times and above all individual ambitions. This common loftier goal comes with the mentality of being our brothers' keepers and truly building our nation until the road we trod leads unto our God. It is only then will we be able to move foward, upward, onward, together and our Bahamaland can truly march on.

o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed at arinthia.komolafe@komolafelaw.com.

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Economic empowerment -- part 2

December 15, 2014

"It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us."
- William J. Clinton
Last week in part one of this series, we suggested that one of the greatest challenges facing The Bahamas in the 21st century will be the economic empowerment of our citizens.
We discussed methods by which we can seriously encourage economic empowerment in the years ahead and proposed several definitive actions that can be taken to accomplish this objective. Those methods included demonstrating greater confidence in ourselves as we transition from political to economic empowerment.
We also suggested that a concentrated effort should include Government's effective and efficient use of Crown Land as a viable tool of economic empowerment. Finally we suggested that we should look beyond the previous paradigms of expatriate "plantation plutocracy", eradicating the archaic models that have shackled us for too long, and become owners of those industries that will transport us to a more secure future.
This week, we would like continue this discussion and invite our readers to Consider this... what are the key success factors for economic empowerment?
A culture of entrepreneurship
For many years, the political directorate has placed great emphasis on job creation. While this is an important component of upward mobility and wealth enhancement, it is only one track on which we should focus our efforts. Jobs are important, but equally important is business ownership, another term for economic empowerment.
If Bahamians are going to participate in a greater share of the economic pie, a more determined, deliberate focus must be placed on developing a culture of entrepreneurship from the very early days of our education system in order to foster an appreciation for the role that this activity can play as our young people plan their futures.
It is important to place as high a priority on business ownership or entrepreneurship as we do on obtaining a job.

Revisiting and expanding the Bahamianization policy
In the early days of the Pindling administration, tremendous emphasis was placed on the importance of Bahamianization -- a policy which accentuated the need for businesses to hire Bahamians in jobs where they were qualified to work in lieu of foreigners who previously held those positions.
The Bahamianization policy also required businesses to provide the Department of Immigration with manpower projections or a detailed plan of action to ensure that those businesses trained Bahamians to assume positions that were then held by foreigners within reasonably specified time periods.
The Immigration Department closely monitored the progress of those businesses and how well their projections were realized. Businesses understood that if their manpower projections were not achieved within reasonable time frames, work permits would not be renewed for their foreign employees.
The policy worked and successfully contributed to advancement of Bahamians in the accounting, architectural, engineering, legal, banking, medical and other professions.
Today, the Pindling-instituted Bahamianization policy has become obscured by "excuses" of globalization, resulting in Bahamians being frequently displaced by foreigners where the former are qualified to hold such positions.
We submit that the time has come for the Government to revisit and even expand the Bahamianization policy relative to ownership of our economy. While we fully appreciate the importance of foreign direct investment as a tool for economic development, there is an equally pressing need to apply that policy to entrepreneurial activity.
We maintain that, like other developed countries, the Government should become more proactive in encouraging foreign investors to include greater participation of Bahamians in their investments in The Bahamas. This can be accomplished in several ways.
First, foreign investors should be encouraged to offer shares in their enterprises to the public, by way of public share offerings in our local capital markets.
Secondly, Government should encourage foreign investors to set aside a percentage of their intended investment to include Bahamians who have the expertise, interest and financial capacity. Without compelling such investors to include Bahamians in their Bahamian investments, investors should be advised that their investment proposals will be more favorably considered if they have found qualified Bahamians to participate in their investments.
Third, in the case of businesses that are presently here, the Government can use its moral suasion to encourage such businesses to offer Bahamians a way to participate in a private offering of their shares.
We believe that many foreign investors would see the wisdom of this and would embrace such a policy if it were properly presented to them.

Business planning
In the case of Bahamian entrepreneurs, the importance of business planning cannot be overstated. Too many start a business without the benefit of a business plan, which is a vital tool that will significantly increase the enterprises chances of success. The absence of such a business plan represents a built-in blueprint for that enterprises failure.

The role of mentorships and directorships
Bahamian businessmen must recognize the importance of mentorship as a critical success factor in their enterprises. Many entrepreneurs with excellent business ideas often fail because they do not investigate or obtain assistance from mentors who could help them to avoid some of the basic pitfalls that many start-ups experience.
In this regard, some Bahamians believe that the only important ingredients for business success include a well-considered business plan and adequate capital. Too often they neglect to appoint a board of directors to guide the business through the challenges that most start-ups invariably face. An astute board can enhance their success rate if adequate consideration is given to such important variables as market share, human resources, marketing, budgeting, cost controls, and financial accounting and reporting. Just some of the concerns that are often overlooked in starting and running a business.
Wisely chosen mentors and board members can also assist the entrepreneur in establishing best business and corporate governance practices which will enhance the enterprises chances of success.
Overcoming bureaucratic red tape
Many entrepreneurs complain about the excessive amount of bureaucratic red tape that they encounter in starting a business. It is vitally important to successfully reduce or minimize the level of frustration encountered in this area. Many feasible enterprises are still-born because this impediment cannot be adequately overcome. The role of the appropriate business advisor, mentor, or consultant can be very helpful in successfully navigating the treacherous waters of Government bureaucracy and red tape.

Business incubators
As the College of the Bahamas continues its march to University status, this institution can play the vital role of a business incubator which will offer assistance to start-up businesses that seek their help by creating a "one-stop shop" for entrepreneurial support.
Although most incubators offer their clients office space and shared administrative services, the heart of a true business incubation program is the services it provides to startup companies.
Business incubation is a means of meeting a variety of economic and socio-economic policy needs, including new business creation, fostering an entrepreneurial climate, technology commercialization, economic diversification, and business creation and retention.
The amount of time a company spends in an incubation program can vary widely depending on a number of factors, including the type of business and the entrepreneur's level of business expertise. Business incubation is a powerful tool for economic empowerment.
Access to capital
Unquestionably the greatest and most timeless challenge which entrepreneurs encounter is accessing capital to take their business ideas to fruition. God willing, this will be addressed in detail in a future column in the New Year.
Conclusion
The benefits of economic empowerment, especially through entrepreneurship, will be felt throughout our society. Besides the obvious financial advantages, widespread Bahamian entrepreneurship will uplift our fellow countrymen and fill them with a pride of accomplishment in their own endeavors, as well as those of others.
It will inspire not only this generation of entrepreneurs but also those who will come after, to strike out in ways not yet imagined which will make The Bahamas a shining example of what can happen when a nation is motivated by the hard work and creativity of others. And that kind of Bahamian economic empowerment will always be, as Bill Clinton says, "morally right and good economics".
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 BNCC: the courage of common sense

December 13, 2014

The Bahamas National Citizens Coalition (BNCC) published in one of the local dailies a 25-year development plan for The Bahamas. This plan was published, almost simultaneously, with the national development plan launched by the government of The Bahamas a few weeks back.
As I discussed at length in a previous article "A National Development Plan: What should be expected?", I tried to make the case of the importance of long term planning for The Bahamas, and highlighted some of the merits and challenges the planning committee may face in addition to addressing some of the bottlenecks that may occur. I wish to afford the BNCC the same level of respect that their courage to publish their views on planning deserves.
Through speaking to one of the progenitors of the BNCC's plan, I was assured that a fair amount of research went into their statement and that one can conclude that it was not prepared in a peloton.
A statement of intentions is more in line with what was published, to be quite frank. One can't really fathom how lengthy the back notes, white papers, green papers, policy notes, analysis and impact assessments went in to their published product. But we should take the team at their word that work was done.
Without rehashing what was written earlier with regard to the plan launched by the government of The Bahamas, I wish to give a little more context into the thinking behind the BNCC in an attempt to grasp the spirit of what was produced and why it seemed so important to bring it to the public at this particular point and time.
The tenor of the BNCC's plan was harmonized around one particular theme: the Stafford Sands Economic model of tourism (that of the Promotion of Tourism Act, 1965) and financial services (in the Bank and Trust Regulations Act, 1964), and the schemes born out of it these, has retarded growth in the BNCC's estimation.
I would like to add that the reliance on the Holy Grail of economic models in The Bahamas, the Sir Stafford Sands model, has in fact served its usefulness, and perhaps is retarding growth if more than a healthy share of people fail to see any way past it.
There was an interesting report given at the Bahamas Economic Outlook 2011 by Dr. Olivia Saunders from the College of the Bahamas. At this forum, she had challenged the understanding of the Sir Stafford Sands model for economic development in The Bahamas.
She had asserted that it really should not be credited to him to any great extent. She further claims that the Sir Stafford Sands model is based solely on economic activity that was already present in The Bahamas from the 19th Century. I could not have agreed more. In fact, I think the insipid repetition of the "model" is not only mystifying, but also borders on cult-like rabidity.
Just to add some clarity on what the Sir Stafford Sands model is, it is a model for economic development for The Bahamas, using the pillars of financial services and tourism as the primary base for economic activity.
Without fear of sounding as if I am bashing the efforts of a deceased former Cabinet minister, the ballyhoo over the "economic model" of Sir Stafford is overplayed to a great extent. The brilliance of Sir Stafford relied not in some grand mental faculty that was overlooked by mere mortals, but in fact the genius of it rested in basic common sense.
Tourists have been coming to The Bahamas from the 1700s. In fact, The Bahamas, as with colonies like Jamaica, Barbados, the Caymans and Bermuda, were all vacation hideaways for the rich and the famous of Britain, a tradition which extended to wealthy American and Canadian elites.
We had what every other Caribbean country had - sun, sand and sea, with a more than amenable government structure that was kind to European visitors and controlled the masses as if they were cattle.
We also inherited our financial services model from the British. In fact, most, if not all of the former and current British colonies have large offshore banking sectors. This was not something Sir Stafford created, but facilitated because it was already happening.
The Banking Act of 1964 was repealed in 2000 due to OECD anti-money laundering strictures and replaced with another, which directly means that at least half of the Sands model was either quashed or neutered; and the Tourism Act '64 had minor changes to include taxation provisions in 1970, etc, etc. but too has been rendered antiquated and under constant threat from crime, other rival destinations in the region and the threat of the opening up of Cuba.
All of this indicates that the obsession with a Sir Stafford Sands model that never really was, is now proving injurious to the growth and development of The Bahamas, as it chokes out anyone and anything that merely mentions ideas challenging its genesis, usefulness then and now and practicality on any level.
This makes calls for things to be new, like the BNCC has provided for us, a breath of fresh air, even though some of the ideas, concepts and features should be fleshed out in detail.
For example, we all can agree that a Sovereign Wealth Fund for The Bahamas is perfect common sense. There is no empirical reason why we can't and shouldn't have one, with the capitalization of such an institution taken into consideration.
More importantly, the opening up of our natural resources to Bahamians, which shifts away from the current practice of open secrets concerning its viability, the persons currently engaged in mining our natural resources and seeking to mine our natural assets, also makes perfect common sense.
It has been noted that Caribbean countries that use their natural resources for their benefit can and in fact are able to control economic cycle dynamics for the better, and hence control the growth of their respective economies.
Some of the other portions of the BNCC's statement are also ideals we should strive for and finds ways and means to achieving: from the elimination of the pre-requisite of grossly unneeded concessions for foreign direct investment; public service transformation to a model that is more accountable and efficient; and the goal of creating 1,500 new millionaires over the first five years.
A lot of the BNCC's plan hinges on the exploitation of natural resources as a key pillar of economic development, but a lot of it hinges on the participation and the willingness of citizens to see the fundamental core of some of our problems and seek new and meaningful ways of correcting them.
While the BNCC's statement is not clear on the "how much", the "where do we start" and "the mechanics of getting all of this done", common sense is what many of their proposals are, even before we begin to discuss the realistic mechanics of some of their proposals.

o Youri Kemp is president and CEO of Kemp Global, a management consultancy firm based in The Bahamas. This article was published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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The need for immigration reform in the United States

December 10, 2014

When United States President Barack Obama first got elected he said that one of his top priority items would be immigration reform. The millions of people who have paid fees to be processed so they can obtain their permanent residence or citizenship, and those people who have been living for years in the United States without any documentation, were delighted to hear this announcement.
Immigration proposal
The first approach that the president recommended was a comprehensive immigration package, which would have reformed the immigration department, increase border patrols, reduce the backlogs, speed up the trials of people pending deportation hearings, process applicants' permanent residencies and citizenship applications, and grant amnesty through the Dream Act to children and parents who have been living in this country for years so as to give them a pathway to citizenship and a fresh start. This was providing that the children were in school or had graduated from school and had not committed certain crimes in the United States that would disqualify them from these benefits.
This initiative was opposed by most Republicans and many of them did everything in their capacity to block these reform measures. Some of them threatened to impeach the president if he signed the executive order, bring a case against him in the US Supreme Court for abusing his executive authority or defund allocations for the Department of Homeland Security to stop the processing of eligible candidates.
About a year ago the Democrat-controlled Senate tabled the Comprehensive Immigration Bill and it passed that chamber. This bill was never brought to the floor of the House of Representatives, which is currently under the control of the Republicans. By the end of this year, this Bill passed by the Democrats will become insignificant because the Republicans will now control the Senate and the House of Representatives and they are against any type of reform.
They keep saying that they are in favor of comprehensive immigration reform but have yet to table a Bill in the House of Representatives. The aim is to convince the American people that they mean to do what they are saying they are going to do. In 2012, the president of the United States signed an executive order titled Deferred Action to stop the deportation of children 16 years old and younger who have been living in the United States without documentation before 2007. Under this plan, these children are not deported from the United States and will be eligible to receive their social security cards, employment authorization cards, state identification cards, drivers' licenses, financial aid, travel documents and other benefits. Pew Research estimates that about 1.7 million people may be eligible for this benefit. Since the program started it is estimated that about 581,000 children have already benefitted from this plan and 24,000 applicants were denied.
Second deferred action by the president
In November 2014, Obama announced a second Deferred Action Plan because he said the Republicans have failed to act on immigration reform when it was needed urgently. Under this new plan, people 31 years of age and under, who entered the United States before the year 2010 and have lived there for five or more, will be eligible for the same benefits as the people under the previous Deferred Action Plan. Pew Research estimates that this will increase the eligible people by another 330,000.
As with the first Deferred Action Plan, the members of the Republican Party are angry with the president. Again there are calls for impeachment, court action against him and the cutting off of funding to the Department of Homeland Security. Examining this second plan shows that these are the people who will benefit from it:
1. Undocumented immigrants who were born on or before June 15, 1981 and have been living in the United States consistently since January 1, 2010. Under the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), these migrants will be allowed employment authorization for three years and will be allowed temporary travel documents.
2. Undocumented persons who gave birth to a child or children in the United States on or before November 20, 2014, and have been living in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010. They will be given a temporary reprieve under this order that will allow them to get a work permit and travel documents. If they have a child who is a permanent resident, then they will also be eligible under the president's latest waiver.
3. If you are the undocumented son or daughter of a US citizen or the spouse or sons or daughters of lawful permanent residents who have resided unlawfully in the United States for at least 180 days, you will also be eligible for a visa to get a temporary reprieve (TR) under this executive action.
4. Foreign investors, researchers, and skilled foreign workers will also benefit from the president's order. According to the USCIS, parole on a case-by-case basis will be granted to eligible investors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises who may not yet qualify for a national interest waiver but who have been awarded substantial U.S. investor financing or otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting edge research.
Work authorizations will be granted to the spouses of certain H-1B visa holders who are on the path to lawful permanent residency or green card holder status. No other undocumented immigrants will be able to benefit at this time unless they have a relative to petition for them or they get married to a United States citizen or permanent resident. Many people wanted the president to go further and grant all these people full permanent residency status. Yet, some people believe that this is better than nothing at all.
Possible outcomes
Will the Republican Party challenge the president of the United States over these actions that he took recently? I am of the opinion that the Republicans may challenge the president but will fail in all their efforts to stop this initiative due to the following reasons:
1. Past presidents have always used executive orders to initiate immigration policy and this has become a precedent in American administrative law.
2. The Republican Party has brought legal action against the president for other immigration policies in the past but they lost the case in the U.S. Supreme Court. The state of Arizona attempted to pass immigration laws some years ago and the Supreme Court voided their laws. Cases ruled on by the Supreme Court fall under the term judicial review and they are laws of the land.
3. Government shutdown is one of the things the Republican Party is also talking about but they did it twice before and the American people retaliated by voting them out of power. Many of the Republican leaders are warning their fellow Republicans not to ever do that again. The presidential elections, congressional and other elections will be coming up in 2016 and the Republicans want to gain more power then.
4. Impeachment has been mentioned from the time this president came to office. Especially, after he passed the first Deferred Action. The Republicans can frame the articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives for "excessive use of power" or "abuse of executive authority" because they have the votes. However, they will have to go to the US Senate to remove the president from office after they impeach him and they do not have a two-thirds majority of votes in the Senate.
There are some members of the Republican Party who will be more than willing to impeach this president just to embarrass him or smear his record. This current Congress has only two more weeks of work left and they are getting ready to go home for their Christmas vacation. They have some important monetary matters to take care of before they leave the capital. Otherwise, the president can use his executive authority to get the federal marshals to let them remain in Washington DC and take care of the people's business before they go home on their Christmas vacation.
Conclusion
It is estimated that the people who are eligible for these benefits will not be able to file their papers until February of next year when the forms and fees are made available. I strongly advise them to start saving their money and stay out of trouble with the law until then. All persons who file any immigration document must be fingerprinted and have their pictures taken. If any adverse information is detected during the processing, it can make that person ineligible for these benefits under the Deferred Action Plan (DAP). Let us wait and see if the new Republican Congress will pass any immigration reform legislation when they come to Washington DC next year.
o Belize native Wellington Ramos is an adjunct professor of history and political science. This article is published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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FNM leader, officer & supporters worship at St. Joseph's Church

December 09, 2014

Free National Movement Party Leader the Hon. Dr. Hubert A. Minnis and Mrs. Minnis led a large group of FNM Officers and supporters to worship during the 10:30 a.m. service held at St. Joseph's Catholic Church...

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Crime and the Bahamian society

December 09, 2014

The spate of crime in general and violent crime in particular in our country has been driven to a point where some of us have come to accept this ill as normality. As we see and hear about our fellow Bahamians being killed as trees being felled from one week to another, there is an increasing likelihood that our people are becoming numb to the phenomenon.
As people who have their naval strings buried all across our archipelago of islands and for those who have made The Bahamas their home, our love for this country must overcome the fear of crime that is gripping our nation by the day. The objective of this writing is not to highlight the obvious, exaggerate the seriousness of this menace or downplay the implications for our society, rather it is a clarion call for camaraderie and a return to the old landmarks to combat an evil that threatens our freedom and future.
Politics and the debate on crime
There is no doubt that the government has the ultimate responsibility for national security and for addressing any threat to the peace and tranquillity that the citizenry expects. Over the years, crime has become a football for politicians seeking election or re-election across the globe with promises of solutions that have not been tested and that may or may not work. In some cases, politicos have used the tragedy of families to secure victory at the polls while using the number of precious human lives lost in election campaigns.
In the case of The Bahamas, we have seen political parties engage in similar practices knowing full well that crime knows no colors, religion, social background, race, gender or political affiliation. Political leaders have been known to postulate remedies which are sometimes unrealistic and by no means a panacea for the scourge of crime in our commonwealth. They point in all directions but theirs and while they insist that they are not politicizing crime, their comments wrap them up in a lie as they seek political brownie points. This must stop in the interest of our beloved country and utterances that do not include solutions should be discouraged. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, politicians and other stakeholders should "speak only if it improves upon the silence".
R-E-S-P-E-C-T
The statistics show that the majority of the violent crimes being committed in our country are being carried out by young adults. This has led many to suggest that the perpetrators of crime in this group have less regard for human life than their predecessors and infer that they got to this point on their own. A consistent description of the attitude of young people engaging in this destructive behavior has been a lack of respect.
This writer submits that they have had and continue to have a lot of help from the generations that raised them. They have been groomed in a culture that does not promote leading by example; a society whose mantra is "do as I say but not as I do". They have watched the constant contradiction between the words of their forerunners and what these persons have done.
The confusion created by this paradox is further complicated by the difference in standards they are held to and that which measures the promulgators of the standard. While their actions can never be justified and should be punished, it is important to understand the origin of their misbehavior if we are to stem this problem. Respect for life, other people's belongings, privacy and country flows from a foundation of discipline and self-control, which are only effectively taught by one's actions. This is indeed a lesson for this generation; we must respect ourselves and have mutual respect for one another regardless of age or gender. Regard for laws, regulations and authority flows from an upbringing that teaches and demonstrates genuine respect.
Collaboration in a vital fight
It is interesting and sometimes disappointing to listen to the members of various arms of government, civic society and other stakeholders throw one another under the proverbial bus when it comes to the issue of crime. Rather than coming around the table to offer suggestions and workable solutions away from the public, the practice has been one that has promoted public relations and easy publicity, thereby creating more hysteria and fear among the populace.
We salute our sons and daughters of the armed forces that sacrifice so much and risk their lives daily to protect us and ensure that we maintain our liberty. The role of the judiciary in the fight against crime is an important one that ensures that not only is the rule of law upheld, but innocent individuals do not lose their freedom and the law is correctly interpreted. The lawmakers must remain sensitive to the plight of the people and pass laws that promote the interest of the majority. Nevertheless, the executive, legislature, judiciary in collaboration with the armed forces must all work together using trends and data available to them to develop appropriate responses to the crime problem.
A community effort
The Royal Bahamas Police Force relies on the help of the public to solve crimes and apprehend criminals on a daily basis. This is because criminal activities cannot flourish in a society in which the people's loyalty is to our beloved country and there is no hiding place for persons that commit crime. While it has become common for us to emphasize the importance of tips from the public, the crime figures show that certain individuals are still fulfilling their civic duty in the fight against crime.
Until we all genuinely abhor crime and become intolerant of the damage it is doing to our way of life, the miscreants in our midst will continue to have a safe harbor within our communities. After all, the offenders have immediate and nuclear families, accommodation and acquaintances that are either aware of their lifestyles or have suspicions in this regard. The question is: when are we going to draw the line, put our plates down and refuse to tolerate this any longer? Do we care about The Bahamas enough to turn in our sons, daughters, cousins, nieces and nephews that live a life of crime? Is the future of our country important enough to us to make us take a stand against purchasing stolen items? We must choose this day where our allegiance lies; to country or self?
Overcoming the challenge
We all know that crime is the end product of a number of actions or inactions by individuals within a society and so the solution cannot rest solely with law enforcement professionals. We must rededicate ourselves to promoting discipline in the home and our communities. Anti-social behavior should not be overlooked or condoned and must be given the utmost attention by parents, guardians, teachers and law enforcement agencies.
The government should work with civic organizations and the private sector to provide greater access to education by our people. Corruption and the abuse of power should not only be frowned upon but also seen to be outlawed to send the right message to the next generation.
The correlation between unemployment and the level of criminal activity is well documented, albeit there are a few among us that do not appreciate the dignity of labor. The government must continue to create an environment that fosters economic growth and the success of businesses and entrepreneurship to create employment for our people. The famous quote that an idle mind is the devil's workshop is instructive in this regard.
Finally, the laws on our books should be enforced without prejudice or favoritism. We must ensure that The Bahamas is not seen as an Animal Farm in which some animals are more equal than others; we are all God's children and must be treated fairly and equally before the law. If we are really serious and truly committed to overcoming the crime challenge, we should start by doing our part rather than wait on our neighbor or the government. In spite of the sorrow and despair emanating from the harm and bloodshed on our streets, we must not forget that we are a resilient people - we are Bahamians and we are more than able to win the war on crime.

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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Economic empowerment - part 1

December 08, 2014

"For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die."
- Edward M. Kennedy
One of the greatest challenges facing The Bahamas in the 21st century continues be the economic empowerment of our citizens. Therefore, this week, we would like to Consider This... has the time now come for us to take economic empowerment more seriously?
Believing in Bahamians
In the years ahead, we must demonstrate greater confidence in ourselves. For too long, we have developed a crisis of confidence in our own ability to address our national concerns.
Instead, we have demonstrated a passionate love affair for things foreign, often to the exclusion of an appreciation for Bahamian talent and expertise. This has been frequently demonstrated by politicians from all sides of the political divide, often resulting in the engagement of and priorities given to foreign consultants and investors where the same talent and intellectual acumen resides locally.
A classic example of this is the recent engagement of foreign consultants to advise the government on the cost of the national health insurance program when there are adequate and qualified local professionals who can accomplish the same task. Another example was recently observed in the public debate on value-added tax, where Bahamians proffered the same recommendations of the tax consultants from New Zealand and elsewhere.
It was only after those consultants presented their recommendations that the government finally accepted many of the same recommendations as those offered by Bahamians months earlier.
Hopefully, as we progress, the political directorate and the Bahamian public will more fully appreciate that there are qualified Bahamians who are in some instances better educated than the same foreigners who often provide their findings based on interviews that they conduct with Bahamian professionals.
From political to economic empowerment
Political empowerment is only one half of the equation for total participation by our citizens in the Bahamian economy. The other half of the equation is economic empowerment which has eluded too many for decades. While some persons have been able to create personal wealth for themselves, there are many factors that militate against promoting a cadre of entrepreneurs who would wish to realize their dreams of business ownership.
Our banking system and access to working capital, and political red tape and government bureaucracy have greatly contributed to the frustration experienced by many would-be entrepreneurs. A concerted assessment must be made regarding the barriers to entry for Bahamian entrepreneurs and methods should be found to remove those barriers.
Crown land
The government of the Bahamas has many tools in its arsenal with which to affect public policy and economic emancipation. One of the most powerful and significant, especially in this 21st century, is Crown Land. There are millions of acres of land owned by the Crown and the use and the role that Crown Land will undoubtedly play in the next and most definitive phase of economic empowerment of Bahamians will be pivotal to the long-term sustainability of The Bahamas for Bahamians.
Because the ownership of land is essential to the creation of wealth, we must enable Bahamians to make better use of commonage land or generation property, the title to which is often not adequately documented, as well as Crown Land to empower Bahamians to use these assets to raise capital in order to start businesses. Successive governments have "gifted" Crown Land to foreign investors.
We should be prepared to do the same for Bahamians who have viable business plans but lack the necessary capital to realize their dreams of business ownership, without which economic empowerment will remain a distant dream.
It would be a travesty for any Bahamian government to use Crown Land wantonly because it is one of our most vital natural resources, and must be so recognized and deployed in a manner that will benefit the greatest number of our citizens for the long-term.
Crown Land is a sacred trust that is held for future generations of Bahamians and its efficient and effective administration is elemental to economic empowerment for Bahamians yet unborn. Therefore, unless candidates or political parties seeking electoral support can clearly articulate, define and defend their plans for this national treasure, neither that individual nor his political party should obtain support at the polls. Legacy
Properly formulated and adeptly executed, Prime Minister Christie's legacy could entail an administration whose primary objective is one of Bahamian economic empowerment. It is now time for the establishment of an economic culture that is inclusive and beneficial to all who call The Bahamas home and who wish to build our nation for generations yet unborn.
Conclusion
The long march to Majority Rule in The Bahamas was a sustained struggle that started with Pompey and culminated with Pindling. In 1973, the Colony of the Bahama Islands joined the community of nations and became the independent Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
The sustained struggle that marked the way to a majority-ruled, independent nation still continues, as Bahamians now engage in a journey towards the economic empowerment and freedom that Pindling identified as the final struggle in the centuries-long voyage from enslavement to full freedom for generations to come.
As we seek to fulfill the final phase of emancipation and become economically empowered, realizing at long last the dreams of those enslaved ancestors to truly become free and independent men and women, responsible and accountable for our own destinies, and limited only by our own imagination, we must demand from those who desire to sit in seats of power, the freedom to develop new and previously uncharted areas of the economy.
We must look beyond the previous paradigms of expatriate "plantation plutocracy", eradicating the archaic models that have shackled us for too long, and become owners of those industries that will transport us to a more secure future.
And ultimately, we must look to the land, the very thing that drew those early settlers and our enslaved ancestors to these islands, and, just as they regarded it as their pathway to a stable life for their families, we must consider the use of our Crown Land as one of the foundations of the economically empowered and emancipated future it is now time for us to create.
Finally and fully, we must take possession of those elements that originally enslaved us and transform them into the instruments of our economic emancipation. This is the only way that we will ensure that, as the late Senator Kennedy suggested: "the dream shall never die."
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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Dinner in White in Haiti

December 06, 2014

Haiti is one of the least forums on earth I would expect an extravagant success of the Dinner in White phenomenon. With the majority of its population living in extreme poverty, I would imagine that this movement that spans across the globe would not find a home in Haiti. Yet the Haiti nation is filled with splendor mixed with squalor. The Dinner in White on Saturday, November 15, at Le Montcel near the bucolic village of Furcy was an event that any society page would love to stamp in their magazine.
I was invited by Wellcom, the public relations firm run by the three most hospitable ladies that I know -- Milena Sandler, Stephanie Armand, and Coralie Dehien. I arrived early at the departure point, the Karibe hotel in Petionville. The buzz was already in the air, gentlemen and genteel ladies in white attire were showing their wear and who could outdo the other in elegance and in chivalry.
The Diner en Blanc as it is called in French is the godchild of a French expatriate by the name of Francois Pasquier, who on his return to France found himself without friends. To reconnect with his old acquaintances, he organized a dinner and asked the few friends he could find to get together at a specific place, bringing their own plates and their own food and wearing white attire so he or she would be recognized by each other.
The next dinner was so successful that it boomeranged first to Canada and then to the rest of the world. It is a nonprofit event, with the mission to have a good time with friends and family in a setting that is enchanting and secret up to the last minute.
There were some 800 guests to the dinner in Haiti at its second edition, with some of the guests travelling from the United States, Canada and Martinique to attend to the party. It takes ingenuity, strategic planning and enthusiastic leadership to organize this gargantuan event, with some 38 buses trailing in a mountain setting, with no one aware of the exact place for the dinner.
Yet everything went up to perfection, the band, the men setting the table and the chairs, the women, having prepared the food, laying it on the table with the best dinner plates, glasses, and tableware they could fetch from home. It was like in a fairy story, with each table and each family trying to win the prize of the most decorative setting.
The ritual of the dinner includes sending off a white balloon into the air, fireworks and dancing, with the event ending around 10 pm trailing back to the city where life will once again resume its normal and ordinary course.
The Diner en Blanc concept could have taken a page from the recent book by Valentino Garavani: "At the Emperor's table", where Mr Garavani lamented in a recent article produced by the New York Times that: "Once upon a time it was usual to give beautiful dinners, in the 1980s, the 1990s, but now it is all seen as less important. It is unfortunate. A beautiful, interesting table is an expression of a joy and respect for your guests, or just yourself. Even when I eat alone, I always have the table set in an amusing way."
The Haiti Diner en Blanc is the brainchild of a Canadian-Haitian lady, Ingrid Enriquez Donissaint, who set foot in Haiti only three years ago for the first time. She connected with Johanne Buteau, whose husband runs some of the best hotels in the city, including Kinam I and Kinam II, as well as the magnificent and renovated Karibe. I have always expressed to Richard my admiration for his budding faith in Haiti as he re-invests every dime gained from his hospitality brand back into the island.
Yet, I left the party wanting. I wish the event was for a cause, such as bringing back courtesy, chivalry and protocol into Haiti. Since the advent of the democratic revolution in 1987, from the coming of the dictatorial regime in 1957, Haiti went down in terms of standard of elegance, noblesse oblige and plain politeness.
The gallant ladies who organize the event could and should create a mechanism to invest through seminars, contests and other ways to teach the good manners that were the fabric of Haiti old school.
The Diner en Blanc organization should organize a model program with seminars and domestic manners for the young ladies of say the Marie Jeanne Lyceum that provide such an excellent classical education for the young ladies from the working class.
Haiti, always in a pioneering spirit, could even serve as a model for the dozen worldly venues that entertain the Dinner en Blanc International. In a world where the rich as well as the poor are influenced by the long hand of the American television machine propagating the subculture of bad manners and inelegance. Dinner en Blanc is a school of thought that needs bold leadership to assert itself as a trend to emulate in rich as well as in poor countries as well as in rich as well as in poor homes.
The public relations firm that organizes the invitations for the press could also arrange for each media organization to seat and break bread with one of the family at the Diner en Blanc. As such, preparing a special dinner for the press would not be necessary. In addition, they would have more stories to ruminate from.
In the end a big hug for the organizers, having the party at Le Village exemplifies the slogan of the ranch which is Haiti of tomorrow. I have seen the Haiti of tomorrow. May it extend to the whole country! May it not be a fairy event for just one night! May food in quantity and good manners in profusion be the staple lifestyle of most in a country so rich and so beautiful, yet so sad and as poor as it is trying to find its rightful place in this world!

Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.com and followed for past essays at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti.

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The post of Commonwealth secretary general

December 05, 2014

During the week of November 23, articles by three columnists, David Jessop, Rickey Singh, and Kayode Soyinka have appeared in various sections of the Caribbean media on the subject of the region's bid to secure the post of Commonwealth secretary general when the matter is decided by CHOGM next year.
All three columnists have eschewed the fundamental principles of their high calling. For, rather than giving an objective analysis of the comparative merits of the three regional candidates vying for the honor to represent CARICOM against other potential competitors from the wider Commonwealth, they have chosen instead to launch simultaneous unwarranted attacks on one candidate alone, Patricia Scotland QC, a national of my country Dominica. And they have done so without any attempt to check the facts, or to seek comment from the nominating government or, I am assured, from the candidate herself.
As a Dominican national and a Caribbean citizen who has lived and worked throughout the region, I know that our leaders and our people have a strong sense of fair play. I am sure that they will be as appalled and disappointed as I am at these unfortunate attempts to sully the good name of one of Dominica's most distinguished daughters, and a formidable champion of Caribbean causes in the Diaspora.
In the circumstances I feel it my duty, as someone who has direct knowledge of Patricia Scotland's exemplary personal and professional attributes, her unquestionable integrity and her significant contribution to the Caribbean, to set the record straight.
The half-truths, bias and innuendo in the columns centre around three main themes: That Patricia Scotland is not really Dominican or Caribbean, but a British candidate being run by the Foreign Office by stealth, using Dominica as a willing proxy; that her public service in Britain ipso facto implies disloyalty to the Caribbean, and moreover that she has delivered nothing for our region.
Let me reply with fact:

Patricia Scotland is Dominica's nominee
Patricia Scotland is Dominican by birth, Antiguan by descent through her father and British by operation of the law. She holds citizenship only of those countries to which she is constitutionally entitled by birthright. Anyone who has met or worked with Patricia Scotland knows that she is passionately Caribbean by disposition and by commitment, and that she has been a constant presence in Dominica and the wider region for her entire professional life.
The speculation that Patricia Scotland is the nominee of Britain for the post is patently false. I speak from a position of knowledge when I say that it is Dominica, and Dominica alone that has put forward her candidature. As a member state of the Commonwealth my country has the sovereign right to nominate a Dominican national for the post of secretary general and I am immensely proud of the outstanding calibre and personal integrity of the nominee the government of Dominica has chosen.
Admittedly, another country was keen to nominate her also, but that country most certainly was not Britain, with whom the government of Dominica has had absolutely no discussions on the matter. Rather it was, ironically enough, Antigua and Barbuda, whose former Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer fully embraced Patricia Scotland as a daughter of the soil, and committed his government's enthusiastic support.
Those are the facts. To state or even imply that Dominica is being manipulated or coerced by any third state is an affront to my government and by implication, to the entire region.

Public service in Britain: an asset, not a liability
It is true that Patricia Scotland emigrated to Britain with her parents at an early age, as have thousands of other Caribbean citizens. But it is also true that like other prominent members of the Caribbean Diaspora in the UK she has retained strong and active ties to our region and immense pride in her Caribbean heritage. She has given freely of her exceptional talent both to the region of her birth and to the society in which she grew up. There is tangible proof of this, if your columnist would take time to enquire.
In the Caribbean we celebrate the significant achievements of the members of our Diaspora; we do not tear them down. As a Dominican I am immensely proud, as all Caribbean patriots should be, that a young woman from the village of St Joseph, Dominica, made it to the top in a far-off land as the only black person and the only woman ever to hold the post of attorney general in the United Kingdom. Yes, she served in the Cabinet of a Labour administration, and yes she sits in the House of Lords. But what is relevant here is whether or not, having reached the inside of the British Establishment purely on the basis of her ability and expertise, she used her unique position to advocate for policies supportive of the region of her birth and her experience of both worlds to build bridges towards greater UK-Caribbean understanding.
We in the Caribbean know she has done and continues to do so in abundance. One of the three columnists, Mr. Jessop, also knows this from direct experience and from his numerous consultations with Patricia Scotland on Caribbean issues over the past three decades.
It is misleading in the extreme to imply that Patricia Scotland is regarded, by regional political and academic figures not identified, as "tainted" by her supposed Britishness and as forfeiting Caribbean trust in supporting Britain's decision to invade Iraq.
On the first point, I believe that we in the Caribbean have long cast off this jaundiced anti-colonial paranoia and has readily sought to tap the skills and expertise of our overseas nationals, in whatever capacity they are qualified to serve.
The second argument is desperately hollow. It is known full well that in 2003 Patricia Scotland was neither attorney general nor a member of the Cabinet that decided the matter of intervention in Iraq nor of the House of Commons, which voted on it. It is also known that the Caribbean itself was divided on the issue, and several CARICOM states declined to denounce the action.

Patricia Scotland's record in the Caribbean
It is clear that Soyinka has no direct knowledge of the candidate or her work in the Caribbean, and he can therefore be excused for jumping to the conclusion that she has served all her working life in Britain, and consequently has done nothing for the Caribbean. The same cannot however be said for Singh or Jessop who have covered the Caribbean extensively for decades.
In that capacity they should be aware, or could easily have discovered that in 1978 Patricia Scotland was called to the Bar in Antigua and Barbuda and in Dominica and enjoyed a 20-year career in private practice before entering the political arena in Britain. During that time she worked extensively with Caribbean governments advising on governance, constitutional and family law issues, and advocating on behalf of the disadvantaged and vulnerable sectors of society. Her work on behalf of the youth and in support of efforts to end domestic violence is well known.
It would be invidious of me to itemize her concrete contributions to individual countries in the region. They themselves are aware of the details. Suffice it for me to mention the model Family Court system that she designed for Trinidad and Tobago, which continues to be cited as an international best practice. Indeed it was in recognition of her stellar legal career and her extensive and longstanding contribution to the Caribbean that she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of the West Indies in 2008.
As regards her subsequent political career in Britain, it is most perplexing that Jessop failed to acknowledge Patricia Scotland's significant work as chairman of the Government's Advisory Group on the Caribbean, out of which was born a new strategic partnership to strengthen UK/Caribbean relations for mutual benefit. A central part of the enhanced dialogue was the UK-Caribbean Forum, initiated in 1998 on the basis of the Advisory Group's recommendation, which Patricia Scotland shaped and developed when she became Minister for the Caribbean in 1999. Jessop's Caribbean Council was given pride of place at the forum.
I have taken pains to set the record straight because I cannot stand idly by and allow the character and motivations of an exemplary Dominican to be so blatantly misrepresented.
The choice of the next Commonwealth secretary general at this critical juncture is a serious responsibility for all heads of government. If the Commonwealth's relevance is to be restored, Heads must identify and put in place a strong leader who possesses vision, integrity and innovation and a proven ability to implement transformational change. They must choose a person who is well-respected throughout the Commonwealth and who has extensive experience in the core areas of Commonwealth action. Above all they must choose a consensus builder in the creation of a shared vision for the Commonwealth's future. For my part, I believe that Patricia Scotland possesses all these attributes.
Caribbean heads will no doubt look carefully and objectively at the personal character, professional attributes and career record of the three regional candidates under their consideration, and on their suitability for the challenging task at hand. Journalists too should be encouraged to delve deep into the candidates' backgrounds, career trajectory and international reputation. Any assessments they publish on the candidates' relative merits and suitability should be based on sound research, not on speculative commentary or hearsay.

o Dr. Nicholas Liverpool served as president of the Commonwealth of Dominica from 2003 to 2012 and also as a judge on high courts and appeals courts in Antigua, Montserrat, Grenada, Belize and The Bahamas. This article is published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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Sir Milo's torch passed to Loretta

December 04, 2014

Victory and defeat are both replete with irony and paradox. Many a victory is the prelude to eventual defeat and many defeats contain mustard seeds which may be nourished to eventual victory.
Even in losing her bid to become leader of the FNM, Loretta Butler-Turner's stature has risen in the process. She remains one of the premier political leaders, even though she no longer holds any party post. Notably, though women constitute the largest share of the electorate, no women hold any of the major party posts in the PLP or FNM.
Yards away from the bust of her grandfather in Rawson Square and in the same House chamber where Sir Milo Butler championed the rights of the mass of Bahamians, Butler-Turner remains one of the more able and articulate members of Parliament.
She is the most effective voice of the FNM in the House of Assembly, and the most diligent defender of the party's record and champion of the party's ideals, including on matters of equality.
With her run for the leadership of the FNM Butler-Turner made history, becoming the first women to make such a run for a major party. What might Sir Milo think of this milestone, and that it is his granddaughter who is now his political heir? And that she continues his legacy as a member of the Free National Movement?
He likely would have seen in his granddaughter one of the characteristics which made him so beloved, though during much of the struggle for majority rule he was pilloried and personally attacked in the press and by those who opposed his vision of racial equality and social justice.

Courage
What made Sir Milo so beloved was his courage; his courage in fighting for social justice even before the formation of political parties; his courage in seeking employment for black tellers in commercial banks, and the courage he repeatedly displayed in the struggle for racial equality. Sir Milo often stood up to the leadership of the PLP, questioning the party's direction and questioning Sir Lynden's leadership.
When he threw the hourglass out of the window of the House it was an act resonant with extraordinary symbolism. The hourglass was used to time speakers in the chamber. Sir Milo was literally and figuratively upending time, capturing the public imagination and helping to dramatize the burning issue of the day.
Decades later his granddaughter has added more cracks to a glass ceiling that will at some point shatter. Like Sir Milo, Butler-Turner is a champion of equality. This, combined with her courage and other political and personal gifts has made her something of a political phenomenon in the country.
A part of this appeal is the number of PLPs who would vote for the FNM under her leadership, though not otherwise. This includes scores of women who have historically voted PLP as well as quite a number of grass roots voters. Such crossover appeal is often rare. Butler-Turner's appeal also includes the ability to attract DNA voters.
Her leadership bid received plaudits from across the political divide. Social Services Minister Melanie Griffin told The Tribune that "although Mrs. Butler Turner ultimately lost, her bid was enough to create an 'in-road' for other women in politics".
The MP for Yamacraw observed: "'I think as I indicated before the elections, I thought it was democracy at play,' she said. 'As a woman, we're all proud that she stepped forward and she offered herself. Unfortunately she didn't win, but it's still an in-road. Wherever we have women stepping forward for leadership positions we must support it.'"
Minister of State for Transport and Aviation Hope Strachan also spoke to The Tribune.

Character
"Mrs. Strachan said if one were to put Mrs. Butler-Turner's 'character and personality, her outspoken manner' into a man, the choice to elect her for leader would have been 'so much easier for people.'"
The Tribune also reported on the comments of one of Butler-Turner's parliamentary colleagues.
"FNM Senator Heather Hunt also said on Monday that she was proud of the Long Island MP for taking bold steps to close the gender gap in politics and carve out a path for future female politicians."
Hunt stated: "She has definitely beaten down the path, so that anyone who comes behind her or even if she tried again at a later date, she has made history..."
When a snap convention was called and against great odds she ran for the leadership of her party. Her campaign was well-run and upbeat. She articulated her vision for the FNM and the country.
It remains to be seen if various elements in the party are secure enough to listen to her advice or are so afraid of being overshadowed that they will seek to isolate and marginalize Butler-Turner.
Though she fell short, she has proven that she remains a force with which to be reckoned and that she is resilient, one of the most essential elements in life as in politics. Great leaders are tested by how they handle defeat as well as victory.
In party politics, the stronger leaders know how to rally and unify their parties, while the weaker and more insecure tend to become vindictive, seeking to purge opponents and deny nominations to some, creating even greater division.
While many see Butler-Turner as Sir Milo's granddaughter, most now see her in her own light, as someone with the courage of her convictions. Many hope that she may yet make even more history as she continues to work on behalf of her Long Island constituents as well as the thousands of Bahamians inspired by her tenacity and leadership.
In her concession statement Butler-Turner pledged: "The contest for the leadership is over, having demonstrated once again the solid democratic principles upon which our movement was founded and nurtured. Our shared task now is unity.
"As the official opposition the FNM has an essential constitutional role to play and a challenge to prepare for the responsibility of governing. I pledge my full support in these efforts in a spirit of unity and collegiality."
The FNM has in Butler-Turner one of the greater political talents in the country. A wise leadership would utilize her appeal and talents. The country and FNMs at large will judge just how well or otherwise her talents are utilized in the months ahead.

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

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The wild world of consultancy

December 03, 2014

Ever worked for an organization where consultants walk in and out through a revolving door? As one of those persons that had the door greet me and hit me on the way out, I tend to smile at the nature of the work.
As a management consultant, I have been both whipping boy and savior to both the same and different organizations. But in all times I left a place better than how I met it, or at least I'd like to think so!
Bahamians tend to rag on "consultants", in particular Bahamian consultants that align themselves with political parties. Bahamians typically see them as cronies, hustlers, gravy train riders and just all out vermin. We often refer to them as the special group of "friends, family and lovers".
As someone on the hustle myself, you tend to take the ribs, jibes and abuse with a grain of salt. Not because I'm of the friend, family or lover persuasion. But because you have to take that burden into a game where it has been sullied and made mockery of by people with legitimate reasons to do so.
Plus, when you factor in how really insulting and derogatory that particular friend, family and lover statement is, particularly when you see the same old "consultants" awarded numerous government contracts, from any standpoint (because it does not take a Nobel Laureate to appreciate if something is useful, working or not), one really has to be relaxed and calm amidst the regular jostling for prominence in this very broad field of consultancy in The Bahamas.
But, it does raise a particular concern: What exactly does a consultant do? Better yet, what are consultants supposed to be doing?
In short, we can only do what you want us to do. We can't undo anything either, unless instructed to do so. And in your organization, we are only bound by the rules of engagement you set for us.
Especially with contractually obligated agreements, most consultants in the field for more than five years tend to appreciate sticking with the original agreement unless it is formally changed and understood by both parties. This stems the flow of corruption, theft, abuse, malfeasance, lowers the risk of failure and keeps both sides of the agreement satisfied.
Trust me when I say this: We don't want to lose your money if we can help it. Neither do we want a dissatisfied client spreading negativities about our brand if it can be avoided. Also, neither should you want to waste time dissatisfying a consultant that, even within a few short days, understands your business model, what you are doing, how you are doing it and even if they don't tell you, knows the acute and problematic details and intricacies of how even you yourself are bringing harm to your company.
Just a few short months back a colleague of mine sent an email to all of the Bahamas-based consultants that he knew, asking them to form a coalition of sorts. Which is a good first step because we don't have a recognizable body that represents our industry in The Bahamas.
I took the opportunity to research some of the names copied in the email and was quite surprised that many of them were under the age of 50, including myself. Their fields of expertise ranged from small business services, to information technology, to legal services and accountancy and international trade and market research. It was a very diverse group of individuals.
While noticing the range of their skills and areas of expertise, it led me to the first notion about the aura of a consultant: There is no one, short-cut consultant and cookie cutter style of doing things.
Some persons have this perception that a consultant is supposed to be all knowing and well versed in all sectors of the universe. Nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, consultants in very many respects know very little of the particular business model utilized by a government, civic organization or company. They may have sector specific expertise, but specific organizational knowledge cannot be ascertained until you actually engage a consultant.
So, disabuse yourself of this perilous notion that a consultant is supposed to solve all of your problems with a flick of a switch. It can't happen. It does not happen. It is not supposed to happen, and you would let yourself down at every turn when you hear of one, see one or watch one operate in your respective workplace.
A second most perilous notion, which almost seems paradoxical to the aforementioned, is that some folks confuse the scope of a consultant.
Sometimes, and this is not just from my experience but colleagues express the same thing to me, consultants have been hired to conduct work in areas not of their initial expertise. For example, a financial consultant with expertise in banking being brought in to help an NGO re-organize their books is quite different from a market research consultant being brought in to negotiate cross-border agreements with your supplier.
The unwritten rule of thumb is that you never tell a potential client no. You have to work with what the market gives you at times. But it can be dangerous as much as it is an enlightening experience to broaden your scope and learn more about what these folks are doing out here these days.
The burden in this case is equally placed on both parties to explain the parameters of what is expected for any particular project, initiative or engagement. But more so the consultant has to have the professional integrity to be up front and honest and say: 'Hey, I see that you need this done, but it really is not my area of expertise; may I refer you to someone else?'
The services sector is also changing rapidly, and some say for the worse when we factor in mass layoffs and low job creation.
The days of going into an office and speaking to your accountant or lawyer are long gone. If you don't catch him or her on the way out of a luncheon or seminar or at the airport, you probably would be wasting your time trying to set up a formal meeting at their offices. So, quite frankly, any and everyone with a college degree that has minimal work experience is a consultant or can be one because he has the time, hunger and reason to take on such a profile.
The same goes for consultants in management and technical fields, especially those that manage several different projects that deserve immediate attention in several different places.
In the case of Kemp Global and our associate sub-contractors, I encourage them to go out and meet the people at their place and at their time. I take my show on the road as well, because I have to and because it gives my firm a personal charm. I will come to you, at your time and your convenience.
It not only makes it easier for us in that we don't have to spend much on accommodations, hence we can save on utility fees, but it also is a chance to go out and see the problems our clients have, right there and right now, without second-hand information and without having x-ray vision through the telephone or getting the "feel" of a conversation with our client at our offices. This is important to us, because we really want to and need to see what it is you are doing.
Thirty or maybe even 20 years ago, one would also have to wait to see a service provider for setting up formal meetings. Nowadays, due to technology and a fast paced world where results oriented practices are the fashion, as opposed to the older days where establishment and name recognition really mattered, if you are not in place to deal with a problem as it arises, it is highly unlikely you will be kept on for any project. So, the more we are out there, the better.
In a nutshell, we have to be out there. Out there with a good name and a hard working spirit to boot. We prefer it that way too!

o Youri Kemp is the president and CEO of Kemp Global, a management consultancy firm based in The Bahamas. This article was published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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Perry Christie: A generation of public service

December 02, 2014

The type of politics that we have practiced in The Bahamas over the years has served as a breeding ground for political tribalism which often clouds logic and discourages mutual respect in our country. Our politics has so divided us that some party supporters have developed a strong dislike for any politician outside of their establishment and will criticize any policy or initiative not promoted by their party. The politics of old as described above must change if The Bahamas is to be all that it can be in the years ahead.
Last week, the Prime Minister Perry Gladstone Christie celebrated 40 years in public service dating back to his appointment as a 31-year-old to the Senate of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas in 1974. In the aftermath of the festivities and celebration that accompanied this milestone, the magnitude of this accomplishment and the implications for our nation must not be overlooked. This piece considers this and the road that lies ahead for individuals with the desire to serve our country.

The genesis of a political giant
Born in Nassau on August 21, 1943 to Gladstone L. Christie - a taxi driver and Naomi Christie - a nurse, Christie was raised in The Valley and attended The Government High School (GHS). A historian in his own right, the prime minister often tells the story of the assertion made that he was incapable of learning and his expulsion from GHS. Christie recalls from time to time how he studied under the tutelage of D.W. Davis and made a conscious commitment to do better academically. It seems fair to state that his story and philosophy on second chances cannot be disconnected from his history.
Christie pursued further studies in the United Kingdom where he studied law and subsequently qualified as an attorney. In reflecting on his many years in public service, the prime minister spoke about his desire along with others to come back to The Bahamas and contribute to building the nation. This desire is identical to that of Bahamians of this generation that yearn to play a significant role and propel our country to a new level of greatness.

An admirable political resume
At the time of his appointment to the Senate by the late Sir Lynden Pindling in 1974, Christie is believed to have been one of the youngest to serve in that role. He subsequently received the nomination of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) for the Centreville constituency in the 1977 general election and has been re-elected eight consecutive times including as an independent candidate in 1987 - a demonstration of his political strength. The resume of Christie shows that he has served as chairman of the Gaming Board, Minister of Health and National Insurance, Minister of Tourism, Minister of Agriculture, Trade and Industry and Minister of Finance. There is no doubt that his numerous ministerial portfolios over the years provided him with a level of exposure that very few (if any) can boast of in The Bahamas.
In his capacity as leader of the oldest political party in The Bahamas, Christie commands the respect and admiration of both his supporters and detractors having been elected as leader in 1997. Regardless of one's political persuasion and approval of or disagreement with his leadership style or methodologies, very few doubt his genuine love for The Bahamas and strong desire to better the lives of his compatriots. He possesses a unique gift of oration and the ability to inspire in the midst of challenges. As one commentator describes him, "in listening to him speak, he is capable of captivating his audience in such a way that his actual words matter less to them".

The trials and travails of the years
It takes unusual strength and fortitude to live under the microscope and scrutiny of public opinion for four decades. The challenge here is that while criticisms are sometimes valid and constructive, they are also in certain instances unfair, insensitive and harsh. This is especially true in a Bahamas in which the assassination of people's character is seen as fair play and acceptable. Indeed while many have quivered and fallen under the pressure that comes with living under such conditions, Christie has survived and thrived.
In his first term as prime minister, while presiding over a buoyant economy, Christie suffered a stroke and was unable to fulfill his duties for some time. However, he was able to fully recover and bounce back to lead his party into another general election in 2007 which the PLP lost. He shouldered the weight of defeat and accepted responsibility for his party's loss at the polls in a thriving economy. Having been prime minister, he endured five years in opposition while taking the criticisms that come with his new role as leader of the official opposition.

A proponent of history and culture
One of the prime minister's favorite African proverbs is, "Until lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter". He quotes this adage within the context of highlighting the importance of documenting and passing on our history from one generation to the next. This is connected to the preservation of our culture to which he has contributed over the years as a founding and participating member of the Valley Boys Junkanoo group. In his own right, he is not only a cultural icon but also a sportsman that represented The Bahamas in sport events.
Christie has a unique opportunity to help shape the narrative of the next chapter of The Bahamas' history and ensure that the next generation of Bahamians share the same passion for our priceless culture. The new chapter will be defined by a new generation, some of whom Christie has assembled around him over the last few years. He must make them believe that public service is indeed a privilege which is born out of personal choice and only individuals with deep-rooted beliefs grounded in strong convictions can survive the perilous journey that accompanies this endeavor.

Saluting a Bahamian
The nature of our humanity is one that makes us not only susceptible to mistakes but also guarantees our imperfection. Hence, it can be expected that as Bahamians that desire to see a better Bahamas, we will from time to time disagree and criticize the government's policies or initiatives. However, for one moment let us pause to salute Perry Gladstone Christie not as the Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Minister of Finance, Member of Parliament, leader of the PLP or as an accomplished politician, but rather as a Bahamian that has served his country for 40 years.
Let us pay homage to a man that has sacrificed much in service to this country without the privilege to shield his family from the brutal nature and complexities of politics in The Bahamas; an ordinary man that has accomplished extraordinary things in our country. This is not an easy feat that should be taken lightly for as they say uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.
Bridge to the future
The prime minister has described himself as a bridge to the future understanding that he is the last of his kind and era currently in Bahamian politics. The imminent transition can be likened to that embarked upon several years ago by the late Sir Lynden Pindling which produced two prime ministers in the persons of Christie and Hubert Alexander Ingraham. Christie's task is an important albeit not easy one as the country begins a new generation since political independence. This is particularly true as the essence of a bridge is to provide a link and a means of transportation from one point to the next; the destination here being the future of our commonwealth.
The legacy of Christie will be defined by a number of his accomplishments, policies, initiatives and decisions. It is worth noting that Christie has indicated that he is working on a succession plan. Nevertheless, when his work is put on the scales by future generations, they will consider whether he successfully groomed and produced a new generation of Bahamian leaders to continue the task of nation building. This writer shares the sentiments of Andrew Cuomo as expressed in the following quote: "I believe we need to attract a new generation of the best and brightest to public service and I believe that government can be a source of inspiration, not degradation". Congratulations to our prime minister!

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 torch is passed!

December 01, 2014

"A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus."
- Martin Luther King, Jr

At a time when the people of The Bahamas are desperately in need of dynamic, energetic leaders full of new ideas, promise and cutting edge vision, some were taken aback by the choices made by the FNM convention last week for their leadership team.
While we question neither their commitment nor dedication to the causes espoused by their party, Dr. Hubert Minnis' laid back style and self-acknowledged challenges with oral communication certainly would indicate the need for a deputy leader who possesses strengths in these areas and not one whose persona would characterize the new FNM leadership team as bland. Therefore this week, we would like to Consider This... what hope does this new leadership team have of impressing the electorate with their ability to provide the dynamic leadership that the country is crying out for?
The torch has been passed
Last week's FNM convention represented the first time that the position of FNM leader was hotly contested since Hubert Ingraham snatched his party's leadership from the jaws of the presumed victory of Tommy Turnquest or Dion Foulkes. The two contested that position shortly before the general elections of 2007, notwithstanding Ingraham's promise that he would not run for the top party post.
Following his elevation once again to party Leader, after quietly and almost invisibly biding his time in opposition from 2002 to 2007, Ingraham surprisingly wrenched victory from the PLP which had held the reins of government for its history-making single term in office.
Last week, the torch was passed to a new generation of FNM leaders who concretized their hopes of leading the FNM into the next general elections in 2017, or possibly earlier, and to ultimately preside over the affairs of state as prime minister and deputy prime minister.
During this leadership campaign, Minnis' ad featured him telling convention delegates and the country that, notwithstanding how badly he spoke, he is now ready to address challenges and to tackle the real problems of the country instead of just carping at the PLP.
If they are going to convince the electorate that they are ready to lead the country, Minnis and Turnquest must portray and clearly communicate progressive, inspiring leadership and present substantive, cutting edge ideas on how the country should be run, instead of just how it shouldn't be run - which includes whatever the PLP does or proposes.
Effective planning and purpose
The FNM leadership elections were cleverly choreographed by the party's old guard, who felt that they had to achieve three objectives.
First, they had to establish a level of stability and unity in the party's leadership, without the internecine internal bickering, at times vicious battles, that had infected that party's leadership for the past two and one-half years.
Secondly, they had to establish a leader from Grand Bahama in order to improve their chances of regaining more of the six seats on that island in the next election.
Third, they wanted to ensure that the party's leadership was comprised of parliamentarians in order to take advantage of the national platform that such a position affords. It appears that the strategic planners have successfully secured each of those objectives.
A probationary period
We believe that the same FNM old guard has telegraphed a crystal clear message that they will permit the new leadership to prove themselves in the months ahead - a proverbial probationary period -in which the new leaders can prove that they are worthy of the challenging tasks of leadership.
We also maintain that if the PLP continues to lose popular support and the new FNM leadership does not rise to the occasion, there will still be sufficient time for the FNM to shift gears, radically altering its leadership team and once again draft a "trusted, proven leader" who has definitively demonstrated the ability to win elections. That would pave the way for the return of the "Maximum Leader", notwithstanding his perennial protestations that he will not return - unless, of course, he is drafted by the unanimous acclamation of a party whose supporters are chomping at the bit to once again seize the reins of power.
The new chairman
Whatever one might say about the new FNM chairman, Michael Pintard, he cannot be referred to as bland. He is articulate, charismatic, and assertive.
Since his election, Pintard has been extremely vocal, almost daily refuting any criticisms and maintaining that it doesn't matter how bland the leader and deputy leader might appear to be. He has repeatedly reminded us that the new leaders may not be very inspiring, charismatic or flamboyant, and that the most important imperative of the new leaders is to be exceptionally productive and effective.
The chairman has proven that he is prepared to fight difficult political battles, having opposed Prime Minister Christie in an earlier election and Deputy Prime Minister Davis more recently in Rum Cay and San Salvador in 2012.
In the last general election, Ingraham dispatched him to displace Philip Brave Davis by any means necessary, a task that he nearly accomplished, losing by only 85 votes. There is no doubt that Pintard was hand-picked by Ingraham once again and the new FNM leader and deputy leader should never lose sight of this.
The Butler-Turner factor
Loretta Butler Turner mounted an impressive campaign last week, setting an historical record by being the first Bahamian woman to offer for the leadership of any political party. She will probably continue to be the most articulate, effective and forceful voice of the official opposition in Parliament. In the meantime, the FNM old guard has correctly calculated that it would be infinitely more difficult to replace a female leader before the next election if she had won last week's race, but came up short in possessing the pizzazz required to defeat the PLP in the next general elections. Accordingly, they decided to give Minnis a chance to reform and remake himself, also calculating that, if he does not, it would be politically more palatable to replace a male leader.
Conclusion
We sincerely wish the official opposition well, and hope that they will become a more effective, focused and forceful voice in Parliament, constantly challenging the government to account for its decisions, policies and actions. That is the only way to ensure good governance: supportive when the government acts in our best national interests and constructively critical when they do not. Christie has already astutely asserted that he cannot and will not underestimate the leader of the official opposition.
The enormous economic, political and social challenges that we face in the next 30 months will only be effectively embraced if the opposition is well-oiled, prepared, focused and committed to avoid flip-flopping on important national issues, avoid taking incongruous and untenable positions and proving that the leadership to whom the torch has been passed is ready to serve with distinction in the highest offices of the land.
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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'Focus, partner and achieve: An AIDS free generation'

November 28, 2014

On December 1, 2014, the global community will observe World AIDS Day. First observed in 1988, this day provides all of us with the opportunity to unite in the fight against HIV, to show our support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate the lives of those who have died from this terrible disease.
The statistics on HIV/AIDS are truly staggering. More than 35 million people - brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, neighbors and friends - have died from HIV/AIDS since the virus was first discovered in 1981. Today, some 34 million people around the globe are living with HIV. There are over 8,000 people living with HIV in The Bahamas at an estimated three percent prevalence among the population. In fact, the Caribbean region trails behind only sub-Saharan Africa as the most HIV-affected region in the world.
The U.S. government's official theme for World Aids Day 2014 is "Focus, Partner, and Achieve: An AIDS Free Generation". We are proud of the partnership between the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and the United States in fighting HIV/AIDS. Since 2010, the United States has provided approximately $10 million in funding under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), most of which has gone to help the Ministry of Health and The Bahamas National AIDS Program provide HIV/AIDS-related treatment, community outreach support staff, rapid HIV testing kits, and laboratory supplies. The U.S. Embassy's Small Grants Program also has provided about $130,000 in PEPFAR funding to local community partners, supporting 27 projects to ensure that target populations in The Bahamas have accurate information about how HIV/AIDS is transmitted, how to get tested, and how to get treated, if necessary. All of these programs and activities move us closer to our joint commitment to eliminate new HIV transmissions and deaths from HIV/AIDS in The Bahamas, part of the "Getting to Zero" goals.
As we pause on December 1 to remember the millions of lives affected by HIV/AIDS, we should also remember to do our part to help eliminate discrimination against those affected by HIV/AIDS. In The Bahamas and elsewhere, tolerance is critical in providing access to care for those people at the highest risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV, including men and women trapped in the commercial sex industry, men who have sex with men, transgender persons, and those who engage in high risk behavior related to substance abuse issues. We all must recognize that eliminating stigma and discrimination is key to ensuring that people feel safe in accessing HIV/AIDS treatment and care services. Conversely, intolerance and treating people with a lack of dignity and respect can create insurmountable barriers for those who most need these essential services, and can lead to delayed diagnosis, delayed treatment, and death.
On World AIDS Day 2014, let us affirm that all persons - including commercial sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender persons, the wider LGBT community, those with substance abuse issues, and members of any other group that suffers from the negative health effects of discrimination - are free to access and receive essential health services. We invite all those who share our goal of an AIDS-free generation to help make our hospitals and medical facilities, schools, churches, and communities places that reach out to those in need, and to ensure that every Bahamian can be confident in knowing that he or she will be treated with dignity and respect when seeking essential, lifesaving services.

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The next Commonwealth secretary general

November 28, 2014

In November 2015, the Commonwealth will have to choose a new secretary general. The position, once occupied by high-profile globally known figures, has in recent years lost much of its luster as the organization has become less central as its office holders have failed to rise to the vital international role the body could play.
It seems too that the organization has lost its moral compass, and as a consequence its importance, and with it, its relevance to many heads of government, as evidenced by their declining attendance at biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM).
In this context, for some, the Commonwealth reached a low point in 2013 when, despite widespread protests, the present secretary general decided to proceed with holding CHOGM in Sri Lanka despite extensive Commonwealth and international criticism of that country's human rights record against its minority Tamil population.
There is now the opportunity for the Commonwealth to change direction and for the Caribbean, if it is so minded, to play a central role in that process.
That is if the region is able to come together behind one well-qualified, strong and experienced candidate able to turn the organization around, they have the capacity to provide a new form of leadership, and it can inspire its staff whose low morale and drift needs addressing as a matter of urgency.
Although there appears to be no written rule by which any part of the Commonwealth is able to attain the most senior position in the institution, it has up to now been generally accepted that the post rotates between regions. This means that assuming the candidate proposed has the right qualities the next secretary general should come from the Commonwealth Caribbean.
The role, which was last held by the Caribbean up to 1990 by Sir Shridath Ramphal, requires the incumbent to protect the Commonwealth's values; to represent the Commonwealth publicly; and to manage the Commonwealth Secretariat. In reality, however, much depends on the manner in which this is interpreted, the candidate's vision, and their ability to achieve results through a mix of diplomacy and brokered consensus.
The name of the Caribbean's nominee for the post of Commonwealth Secretary General is expected to be decided on December 8 in Havana in the margins of the Cuba-CARICOM Summit. As a consequence, over the last months the region has been giving informal consideration to the Caribbean individual best able to undertake the role.

There are three potential Caribbean candidates
Somewhat surprisingly, there is Baroness Patricia Scotland, whose name has been put forward by Dominica and is supported by Barbados and Belize; seemingly in the latter case on the basis of a trade-off in relation to another key international post. Although Dominica-born, her candidacy has taken many by surprise, as her career has been in London in the law and British politics, most recently being Britain's attorney general under its last Labour government. Although well liked as a person, her candidacy is described as "tainted" by a number or influential regional political and academic figures. This is because she is widely regarded as Britain's candidate for the role, and damagingly there is also the view that she forfeited Caribbean trust when she supported Britain's decision to invade Iraq and it is said, she did not do enough to support the region as a Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister.
The second candidate is the diplomat, consultant, academic and commentator, Sir Ronald Sanders, who is now believed to have the support of seven Caribbean nations. Nominated by Antigua's Prime Minister, Gaston Brown, he has by far and away the broadest Commonwealth experience and background, having played a key role in Commonwealth affairs over many years including in the Eminent Persons Group that reported in 2011 on the future direction and reform of the organization. Unusually, he is well known across the region because of the sometimes forthright views expressed in his syndicated column. He is also well regarded in both the "new" and the "old" Commonwealth and has published many papers on the organization's future.
The third Caribbean candidate is an academic and politician, Senator Bhoe Tewarie. As Trinidad's candidate and the republic's minister of planning and sustainable development, he appears to have only emerged as a result of some in the country wishing to deny the candidacy to a regionally and internationally respected senior politician. Senator Tewarie in comparison is little known in the Commonwealth and appears to have little relevant experience.
Whoever finally becomes Commonwealth secretary general in 2015 will be taking over at a moment when the global strategic order is changing, and there is a growing belief that with the right leadership and vision, the shared values that bind the Commonwealth will again become of global significance.
For this reason when the Caribbean comes to decide, it would do well to select a candidate who is in touch with regional sentiment, can engage with the detail, has a known world view, is able to relate to all of the nations of the Commonwealth large and small, and who is prepared to redefine its role as a stronger, more resilient and progressive organization.
It is already late in the day. Whoever is selected has very few months in which to campaign globally for the position.
Beyond the Caribbean there are Commonwealth views emerging that, if the region does not put up a credible candidate who can obtain the support of both the larger and smaller member nations, other less able candidates will emerge from Africa or elsewhere, and the Caribbean's opportunity to encourage and participate in the process of global change will be gone.
At issue is whether Caribbean heads of government have the courage to see that by proposing a candidate who has clear views, is experienced and is delivery and results oriented, it will be taking a step that would not only be popular on the street, but can propel the region, its values, and the need to recognize smallness and vulnerability, into a position of international prominence again.
For the Caribbean this is an opportunity to look ahead at a time of rapidly changing global geopolitics and relationships. It is a one off chance to offer as a candidate the best qualified individual to rebuild an organization whose time has come again.
o David Jessop is the director of the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at david.jessop@caribbean-council.org. This column is published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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The march of folly

November 27, 2014

Chief among the forces affecting political folly is lust for power, named by Tacitus as 'the most flagrant of all passions'.
- Barbara W. Tuchman, "The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam".

It is at once fascinating and disturbing to observe how the lust for power and other ambitions, so often lead to folly and failure. Politicians over millennia, though repeatedly warned of their delusions, have pursued courses of action leading to disaster and defeat.
Folly is often more our companion than wisdom. It is defined as "the lack of good sense or judgment"; "a foolish act or idea: foolish behavior" and "the lack of... normal prudence and foresight".
Folly is the grand subject of historian, author and journalist Barbara Tuchman in her sweeping book, "The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam" Born in 1912, Tuchman died in 1989 at age 77. She was a two-time Pulitzer Prize Winner for General Non-fiction and a university lecturer.
She frames the criteria: "To qualify as folly, the policy adopted must meet three criteria: it must have been perceived as counter-productive in its own time, not merely by hindsight... Secondly a feasible alternative cause of action must have been available."
She continues: "To remove the problem from personality, a third criterion must be that the policy in question should be that of a group, not an individual ruler, and should persist beyond any one political lifetime."
A review of her book at www.stoneschool.com/Reviews/MarchOfFolly.html casts the criteria as such: "... Acts have to be clearly contrary to the self-interest of the organization or group pursuing them; conducted over a period of time, not just in a single burst of irrational behavior; conducted by a number of individuals, not just one deranged maniac; and, importantly, there have to be people alive at the time who pointed out correctly why the act in question was folly (no 20/20 hindsight allowed)."

Examples
Tuchman recalls a variety of examples of historic folly: "Why, to begin at the beginning, did the Trojan rulers drag that suspicious-looking wooden horse inside their walls despite every reason to suspect a Greek trick? Why did successive ministries of George III insist on coercing rather than conciliating the American colonies though repeatedly advised by many counsellors that the harm done must be greater than any possible gain?"
Her master examples of folly include how the Renaissance popes provoked the Protestant Secessions, the British loss of its American colonies, the American debacle in Vietnam. Along the way she also provides lesser examples of folly.
Tuchman's criteria have been tweaked by others to address quite a number of contexts, some as epic as George W. Bush's Iraq War to other less grave follies in government and politics. Successive political parties and governments here at home have pursued folly, some more vigorously than others.
Often, temporary victories intoxicate, blinding a group to impending disaster and grave danger ahead. In the U.S., the Democratic Party kept nominating presidential candidates who were sure losers, until Bill Clinton recast and steered the party to victory.
Democrats were initially delighted with the nomination of Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis as the party's 1988 presidential nominee. They were fairly certain that they could defeat the Republican nominee George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan's successor.
Their groupthink and delusion proved politically fatal. Bush went on to run a more effective campaign and trounced Dukakis, who was not the strongest candidate for the Democrats. It was after the 1988 shellacking that the Democrats pulled their heads out of the sand and nominated a viable candidate.
Out of the self-interest of a few or because of purity tests, political parties often chose leaders who are unpopular or not well considered by the electorate, woefully lacking or incapable of winning, and who go on to drag their party down to defeat.

Setbacks
Folly should not be confused with failure to achieve various objectives, such as certain setbacks and defeats by those struggling for equality, including women and gays and lesbians, though some tactics in these struggles might prove folly.
For Tuchman, self-interest is defined as what is in the long-term best interest of an organization or group, not the narrow or benighted interests of a few who seek to use an organization or government to pursue their overweening ambitions or to exact revenge or banish past ghosts.
Tuchman describes the mindset of those prone to folly: "Wooden-headedness, the source of self-deception, is a factor that plays a remarkably large role in government. It consists in assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs. It is acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts."
The book review at www.stoneschool.com notes the role of those who warned of folly and the likely disaster on the horizon: "In the case of the Trojan Horse, the... role is played by Laocoon, a blind priest, who chastises Trojan leadership the moment the wooden equine is found. 'You can't bring that thing in here,' he says, 'it might be full of Greek soldiers!' Later, as it becomes evident the will to bring it in is strong, he suggests helpfully, 'Well, if you're going to bring it in, at least poke it with a spear and see if anybody yelps.'"
He was of course ignored. The resulting defeat of the Trojans could have been prevented. Those who divined that they knew better and who convinced themselves that they were more clever than others, could not countenance their fatal error, despite numerous warnings, and until it was too late.
The book review notes: "The third section of the book is entitled The British Loss of North America and treats the American Revolution from a rarely-seen perspective: that of an avoidable and silly loss of valuable colonies occurring primarily due to stiff British necks (upper lips being of no service).
"The extent to which the war was unpopular in Britain is covered, as well as the many Laocoons decrying the idiocy of antagonizing the colonists, including some viewed in the American version of events as villains."

Pyrrhic
One has to distinguish in history and life what is a real victory and what may be a Pyrrhic victory. This requires discernment and wisdom, which Tuchman defines in the spheres of politics and government as "the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense and available information."
Those who ignore common sense and readily available information in the public domain in the pursuit of overweening self-interest, often look back and wonder how they could have been so wrong, after convincing themselves of their own delusions.
Apocryphal or not, Marie Antoinette's instruction that the peasantry should eat cake, suggests the extent of delusion and absence from reality of some drunk and giddy with their own sense of power.
The author Willa Cather advises, "There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they have never happened before." One of these stories is hubris.
In the Western classics from Icarus to Oedipus, Antigone, Macbeth, King Lear, Cleopatra, and others, excessive pride or hubris, "a belief that [one] is somehow above the fates, or in control of destiny", typically leads to failure, as one is ensnared by one's own unbridled arrogance.
Throughout history there were political leaders, generals and their advisers convinced that they were marching to victory, but instead were about to march themselves and others over a cliff. Such is the march of folly.

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

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