- Benjamin Disraeli
A year ago, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won the general elections with 48.6 percent of the popular vote, while the Free National Movement (FNM) polled 42.1 percent. The winner did not receive a mandate from the majority of votes cast, principally because the relatively new Democratic National Alliance (DNA) garnered 8.6 percent of the vote. Although there was an impressive turnout of 92 percent of the registered voters, the Bahamian people voted for a change, only the second time in history they decided to replace the government after a single term in office.
Last week, we examined whether, during the past year, the reality of the government lived up to its campaign promises. We concluded that most Bahamians were unable to point to many successes of the first year of the second Christie administration, which should serve as a wake-up call for the PLP. In the interest of presenting a balanced view of the two major political parties, this week we would like to Consider This...how has the Official Opposition performed in its first year in opposition?
The Opposition's scorecard to date
In brief, the Opposition's performance in this first year has been neither remarkable nor impressive. In fact, it is fair to say that the Official Opposition has been unable to capitalize as it should have on the uninspiring performance of the governing party, becoming one of the weakest Official Oppositions in recent Bahamian history.
Shortly after he was unanimously elected the Leader of the FNM on May 10, 2012, also making him the Leader of the Official Opposition, Dr. Hubert Minnis promised in his inaugural address that: "For our part, we pledge to work with the government in the best interest of the Bahamian people. At times, this may require that we oppose what we believe is not in the national interest. We will not oppose for the sake of opposing. But we will oppose, without hesitation and vigorously, what we believe is harmful to the general welfare and common good of the Bahamian people. We will also stand guard over, and be ever ready to protect, the constitutional rights and freedoms of all Bahamians." Well said, but let us closely examine whether the Opposition remained loyal to that pledge. To date, so said, but not done.
An early test came when the government introduced the Constitutional Referendum (Amendment) Bill in Parliament, which was necessary because, without it, the government could not legally conduct a referendum on any subject other than a constitutional issue. Without this amendment, the voice of the people would have been silenced because the people could not legally be consulted, by referendum, on any pressing national issue unless it pertained to the constitution. The Official Opposition opposed this amendment and in so doing, confirmed, firstly, that it did not believe that a non-constitutional referendum should be held and, secondly, that it was content to see the voice of the people stifled in all other important national issues.
The second test came when the Official Opposition initially vowed to support the referendum questions to regulate and tax web shops or to establish a national lottery, then, at the last minute, reversed itself by encouraging Bahamians to vote no to both referendum questions.
Then shortly after the referendum questions were defeated, in a third test, the Official Opposition flip-flopped on its earlier position by opposing the government's alleged intention to allow casinos to conduct online gambling for tourists, claiming that Bahamians should be afforded the same rights as the casinos. This is precisely what would have been permitted by supporting the very same referendum questions that the FNM vociferously opposed several months earlier.
The fourth test of the Opposition's commitment not to oppose for the sake of opposing arose during the recent debate on the bill that provided for making Majority Rule day a public holiday. Although it supported the Majority Rule Bill, several Opposition members of Parliament argued that we should do so only by eliminating one of the other public holidays because it felt that to create another public holiday would not be in the public interest. Their non-sequitur arguments were unimpressive and lacked substance.
Finally, following receipt of the long-awaited forensic report on the National Insurance Board (NIB), portions of that report were reportedly leaked to some segments of the press.
The forensic accountants concluded that excessive, authorized bonuses were paid to certain NIB executives. This week, the leader of the Opposition publically stated that the bonuses might be justifiable.
In our view, it would have been far more appropriate and less impetuous for the leader of the Opposition, who admitted not having seen the forensic report, to have said he will comment once he has had an opportunity to review it. But such are the missteps of persons who are still in their apprenticeship period in such a monumental task as that of leader of the Opposition, especially someone who has not had any appreciable apprenticeship period nor any real political mentor as our former and present prime ministers had.
In fairness to the Official Opposition, only four of the current eight Opposition members of Parliament, namely Dr. Minnis, Mrs. Loretta Butler Turner and Messrs. Edison Key and Neko Grant have had prior Parliamentary experience. The other four Opposition members are new to Parliament. Like many of their counterparts in the PLP, the missteps of the Official Opposition this past year resulted as much from the inexperience of its members as it did from the issues which it misguidedly elected to oppose.
To his credit and chagrin, Dr. Minnis is attempting to lead a highly fractured party, which is comprised of numerous competing factions. Some of these factions are determined to undermine his leadership style which is characterized by a sincere desire to radically reengineer the political culture of a party which, for 20 years, was led by a maximum leader whose personal mantra could be summarized as "my way or the highway". The contrast in leadership styles between Messrs. Ingraham and Minnis are as different as they are discernible. Dr. Minnis, like Mr. Christie, is a consensus builder.
Although, to date, his vision appears to be as vacuous and opaque as Mr. Ingraham's was determined and transparent, Dr. Minnis is challenged by a weak and largely inexperienced team that seems to lack any focus other than to oppose for the sake of opposing.
Despite these observations regarding the current Opposition leader, he is a great improvement in the civility that is required of our 21st century polity. We believe that, as he matures in his new role, Dr. Minnis will increasingly find his footing.
The reality is that, notwithstanding the missteps, mishaps and mistakes of the government, thus far we are unable to itemize many successes of the Official Opposition in this new Parliamentary term.
The Official Opposition, like the government, should stop and take stock now to ensure that, notwithstanding the seeds of discontent that have already been sewn in its first year, it is not too late to reverse its performance if it hopes to reap an abundant crop of votes in 2017.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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His appointment is good news for developing countries in so far as Carvalho de Azevêdo is from a leading developing country that has shown itself not to be averse to taking on the countries that have dominated the WTO. Those countries are the United States and the collective 27-nation European Union.
But, while a WTO director-general from the developing world is to be welcomed, his appointment in itself should not be cause by smaller developing countries - particularly the small states of the Caribbean and the Pacific - to assume that there will be a sea-change in WTO rules and procedures to treat them more fairly. There should also be no rejoicing that the traditional agenda of the U.S. and the EU will be pushed any less strongly. That agenda has a very limited focus, which is to get a narrow agreement easing the movement of goods throughout the world. Having grown their own economies on protectionism from competition and built up their manufacturing and services sector on the back of it, they now want access to the markets of the developing world, in particular China, India and Brazil.
The U.S. and the EU are two big players accustomed to getting their own way when they act together. Even when they have rivalries over agricultural subsidies, they have managed in the past to devise a bargain that maintains their advantage over developing countries.
Getting movement from them to enlarge the WTO agenda so that, while it advances a broad global trade agenda that improves the flow of goods and services around the world, it also gives developing countries the right to protect and grow local businesses and industries for a period of time that would reasonably make them competitive, will not be easy.
And, it should not be assumed that there is harmony in the interests of the large developing countries such as China, India and Brazil with the small states of world.
Thus far, in the Doha Round of negotiations at the WTO, small and vulnerable economies have had to fight every inch of the way for concessions that they have won in negotiating committees. It should be understood, however, that while these concessions have been noted, they are not enshrined or implemented.
The Doha Round of negotiations is now in its 12th year. The world has witnessed no negotiation of such length that has produced so little. If the sums were done on how much countries have spent on these negotiations, the total figure so far might have made a huge difference to combatting HIV/AIDS or non-communicable diseases in very many countries.
The round was supposed to be a "development round" - a recognition that "the majority of WTO members are developing countries" and that there should be efforts to "place their needs and interests at the heart of the work program". Small and vulnerable economies, such as those in the Caribbean, have good reason to be disappointed that developed countries have not fulfilled their commitment to place "development" at the center of the round.
Of course, in the intervening 12 year-period, China, India and Brazil have emerged as powerful economies. China is now the second largest economy in the world; India is third and Brazil seventh. The U.S. has remained the largest single economy, but if the European Union is taken as a single bloc, it would be the world's top economy at $15.65 trillion.
What is significant is that China, India and Brazil have grown significantly without any settlement of the Doha Round negotiations. This fact makes the 'development' component of the round far more important to smaller developing countries that lack population and resources, but they are now caught in the middle of the struggle between the big two - the U.S. and the EU - and the big developing countries China, India and Brazil especially.
The negotiations, so far, have also been based on the concept of a "Single Undertaking", which means that 'nothing is agreed, until everything is agreed'.
Well, the likelihood of everything being agreed was a false ambition from the outset, and its impossibilities are at the root cause of the lack of progress.
It is that concept of 'nothing is agreed, until everything is agreed' that Carvalho de Azevêdo will have to tackle before he can begin to make a difference to the WTO. Both a different ambition and a different modality of negotiation would have to be agreed.
And, if these are agreed, then the arduous task of scrutinizing a negotiated text would have to be undertaken to be sure that its clauses can actually deliver on development. Developing countries - and particularly small states - have been parties to many declarations and agreements whose texts have been rich on promises and poor on delivery.
These are huge tasks for Carvalho de Azevêdo, assuming that he holds the view that the negotiation objective and the modalities for negotiation require to be changed. In any event, he will need to hear the voices of small and vulnerable countries, and he will also need them to solicit the support of the larger developing countries and the developed nations in this quest.
Over the period of the Doha Round, small and vulnerable economies - including those in the Caribbean - have done very well to participate in the negotiations, albeit the burden has fallen on only a few. Many Caribbean countries individually do not have the resources to deal effectively in the negotiations; others are not represented at all. But, apart from resources at the WTO, Caribbean countries also need a pro-active agenda of forward looking proposals. Such proposals should be devised at a pan-Caribbean level, and they should be advanced by a strong and joint team of WTO-based negotiators providing solid and compelling arguments for their individual country representatives to put forward.
The appointment of Carvalho de Azevêdo is an opportunity for Caribbean countries in which they should invest collectively as a region.
o Sir Ronald Sanders is a consultant and visiting fellow at London University. Send responses to: www.sirronaldsanders.com. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
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Shortly before the budget was read by Flaherty, Canada's national broadcast medium, the CBC, broke a story on details of the budget that indicated Canada will be making big changes in its foreign aid programs. As a Caribbean-Canadian who has written extensively on the topic of Canada-Caribbean relations, CBC's breaking news story really caught my attention that brought on "pre-budget anxiety" and other concerns, especially the CARICOM region's ability and vision to deal with the Ottawa game change on foreign policy.
Many aspects of the Flaherty budget have created great national debate in Canada and the global communities. The various provincial governments are very concerned about skills-training monies to address local labor market shortages; the municipal governments are concerned about urban transportation and re-building of old bridges, roads and other forms of infrastructure; tax cheating corporations and individuals are edgy about Ottawa's new detection strategies that will be implemented to identify and prosecute the cheaters criminally.
Interestingly enough, the foreign policy game change has become quite topical and debateful. Many observers close to the foreign aid community have attributed the debate to the vigilance of over 100 non-governmental organizations engaged in international development and who protect their turf with great self-interest and selfishness. This is why there is often an exchange of personnel in staffing practices that are easily identified within the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAIT) and the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC), which is the umbrella organization representing the selfish non-governmental organizations (NGO).
In 1960, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) came into existence by an Order-In-Council. Unfortunately, its emergence seems to have lacked strong coherence and a strong mission statement or mission that would give the agency effective strategic vision. In the absence of these very two important elements, the agency evolved as an Ottawa depository for return CUSO volunteers, WUSC cooperants, United Nations volunteers and other development workers.
In addition to these groups, previous staffers of various religious organizations also found refuge within CIDA as the understanding and requirement was experience in charity work. Therefore, it should not be a surprise to anyone that CIDA's motive has always been to work with the phonies in Canada and their hand stretched partners overseas to continue perpetuating the notion of poverty and impossibility to achieve self-reliance.
As a Caribbean-Canadian who has watched Ottawa for many years, it was quite refreshing to listen to the budget presentation and to listen to the policy announcement that will bring a new era in the future conduct and management of Canada's foreign policy: an era that must be clearly understood by all CARICOM governments and regional multilateral agencies that have come to be so dependent on Ottawa.
It is my sincere hope and wish that, as the bureaucratic shuffling and posturing takes place under the newly designed super ministry, Canada will also pay greater attention in the posting of its foreign diplomats in CARICOM nations that should reflect the diversity of Canada and demonstrate strong sensitivity to the region's development needs. Taking a holistic and integrated approach to foreign policy and development assistance in the region should result in greater dividends.
At the same time, as efforts are made to ensure that Canada's diplomatic representation in the region will be sensitive, the St. Lucia-based OECS and its authority will have to seriously rethink how it will re-establish a diplomatic presence in Ottawa. In my view, if the lame duck and visionless secretariat does not understand the importance of a diplomatic presence in Canada, then individual OECS members will have to make their own independent decision by recognizing that there are many mechanisms that can be explored to harness good diplomatic relations with Canada.
CARICOM governments must understand that society is rapidly changing and one effective way of responding to the changes is by ensuring a strong foreign policy mechanism. Canada and the Eurozone nations will not be there for ever to prop up regional governments. Therefore, it is important to understand the change dynamics and respond accordingly. Canada's changes in its foreign policy management seem to mirror what Norway and Ireland did a couple of years ago.
CARICOM governments must be prepared for diplomatic and non-governmental organizational posturing in the region. There will be different stories hatched and delivered. There will be attempts to consolidate power and presence through promises that will never be realized.
Let me conclude by saying that Caribbean Commonwealth governments will have to rethink in light of their future dealing with a super Canadian ministry known as Foreign Affairs, Development Assistance and Trade.
o This is the second of two articles submitted for publication by the late Ian Francis shortly before his recent untimely death and which, encouraged by his fellow contributors, caribbeannewsnow.com has decided to publish posthumously. The late Ian Francis was a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He was a former assistant secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
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Addressing a less than overflowing crowd at the service, Prime Minister Perry Christie struggled to offer any significant accomplishments even as he sought to lift the mood of various disconsolate and frustrated party members. While church is a place of hope, many have lost hope in Christie.
If a day can be a lifetime in politics, what a seeming lifetime it has felt like for scores of Bahamians over the past year given the PLP's charter of unfulfilled hope and broken promises. And, oh the blunders.
A national survey to gauge the public's views of the party's major blunders since May 7 would likely produce seven times seven. Though not exhaustive, the seven outlined here showcase a pattern of blunder and a prime minister hardly in command of his freewheeling and chaotic administration.
The blunders outlined are specific missteps and mishaps. In addition to these and significant others, is the abysmal failure of the PLP in keeping promises such as those 10,000 new jobs and doubling the government's investment in education.
Now we are told that the promised National Health Insurance program is really, really, really on the way. There is just now appointed an Implementation Committee. Really? Why wasn't such a committee appointed a year ago? Fear not, uninsured Bahamians, the Christie administration has a plan and even a committee. What amazing progress.
In a reprise of its last disastrous term, the Christie administration is as shambolic as before. A chronically indecisive Christie has slipped comfortably back into his late-again routine; routinely late for various appointments and reliably unable to make decisions in a timely manner.
What is surprising is that quite a number of people are actually surprised that Christie and his colleagues are not much different than last time. How amazing is the human capacity for short and repressed memories, and magical thinking.
In addition to the "déjà vu all over again", as Yogi Berra might say, is the game-playing by the administration on matters ranging from gambling to the spectacle involved in the quixotic quest to supposedly buy back BTC.
The buyer's remorse of many voters is capsulized in an online poll in The Tribune with an overwhelming number of respondents grading the government as a failure. A dire critique has come from columnist and stalwart PLP Philip Galanis, whose blistering commentary of the administration is revealing and may be a bellwether.
A blunder is a "stupid or careless mistake". A blunder may result from poor judgment, ideological bias, blinding self-interest, misreading the public mood, and other blinders.
Power reveals, with the PLP's blunders offering insights into various unspoken mindsets and private agendas within the administration. Blunders are events people remember, which sometimes come back to haunt politicians, often searing an impression or a feeling into the consciousness of voters.
The seven blunders following are in no order of rank, except for the first, which ranks as the mother of all blunders.
One: Christie's gambling referendum debacle was a comedy of errors, a study of sheer incompetence, conceived in arrogance and hush-hush, wrapped in flip-flopping, ending in defeat and a loss of significant political capital and goodwill.
What an amazing feat: Christie and his cohorts managed in one sweep to offend numbers' bosses and their employees, much of the church, pro- and anti-gambling supporters, as well as a general public amused and confused by the spectacle. The critique of the referendum by Dr. Myles Munroe will have a lasting impact.
Two: One of the pledges which helped the PLP to secure its relatively slight margin of victory was the promise of mortgage relief, which the party aggressively touted as a lifeline to homeowners desperate for help.
Elected, the party repeated the promise. A year later, not a single homeowner has been helped, though we are now told that a paltry four or five homeowners might qualify for help. It is one of the most egregious and heartless of the party's broken promises.
Lest we forget, the government allocated $10 million for its mortgage relief program. The program has been a colossal failure.
Christie's response on his failure to ensure relief was stunning. He claimed he was disappointed. He doesn't get to be disappointed on this issue as if it has nothing to do with him.
The failure on this is squarely his as minister of finance. He should have issued a groveling apology for not providing in a timely manner the relief he promised. This failure crystallizes the public's perception of the kind of prime minister he is: late-again, stunningly incompetent, almost as if he's living in alternative reality.
Three: The manner in which the administration has handled the issue of work permits for foreigners has left PLPs and FNMs stunned, riling permit holders for domestic workers and frightening much of the business community.
While there can be reasonable debate on various immigration matters, the politics of nationalism can easily backfire in the wrong hands. The government has come across as belligerent and ham-handed, smacking of xenophobia.
Four: The prime minister has certainly improved his flip-flopping skills in the last year. He did so again on the promise of a referendum on oil drilling. It remains curious why the announcement of a deferral came from the environment ministry and not the Cabinet office. Perhaps this mystery will one day be solved.
As with the gambling referendum, the PLP appears more intent on putting private interests ahead of Bahamians first. Much of what Dr. Munroe said on the gambling referendum seems applicable on the issue of oil drilling.
Five: Though the PLP attempts to spin its promise of doubling the public investment in education, Christie made such a promise year before last in a national address on crime.
The clumsy and at times high-handed manner in which it has handled the hike of fees for COB students has hurt a party which has a history of reaching out to college students at home and abroad. This matter is doing enormous damage to the PLP with students and younger voters.
Six: Relatedly, that infamous barring of the students from COB from attending a meeting of the House of Assembly is going to haunt the PLP for a long time. The event has resonance, a resonance that exploded on social media, giving a potentially lasting, poor impression of the PLP in the minds of potentially thousands of young people.
Seven: This blunder is more of a rolling and collective one, with each appointment adding fuel to the widespread impression that the Christie administration overwhelmingly seems more like a retirement party for a largely old boys' network and decidedly less like a bridge to the future.
From diplomatic missions to ministry after ministry, the mostly old boys are back including at the police force where certain retirees have been reengaged and placed over gazetted officers.
With buyer's remorse for say a new cell phone, one can often return the item fairly quickly. Not so with a government. Sadly, the PLP's first year after returning to office is likely a harbinger of things to come. More worrisome, given Christie's style of leadership, things can get even worse.
o email@example.com, www.bahamapundit.com.
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It has been my custom to follow the pattern of the season to check up the vagaries of nature on the body, the mind and the spirit.
I usually have my medical checkup in the United States; this year I have mine in Haiti. It was cheaper, faster, and more convenient than last year. This experience defies the concept of the best practice model where the United States, in spite of the shortcomings in the healthcare area, does have the world's best medical infrastructure in the industry.
My father of 101 years old was feeling uncomfortable with swelling in the feet. He needed urgent medical care. My sisters in the United States were urging immediate travel to New York for the best care. But in the meantime, a nephew, who is the medical director of a major hospital in Port au Prince, stepped in to offer his medical expertise.
I was pleased and surprised to find out that Med Lab, housed in Canapé Vert hospital, under the direction of Ralph Baboun, was administering laboratory services with the highest standard that you can find from any of the best medical institutions in the Western world. More surprising, it was cheap, fast and efficient. The price for blood, urine and feces exams was no more than $37.50. In the case of my father, he was eligible for a reimbursement of 80 percent of the cost due to the fact that he is retired from the Haitian judicial system as a former chief judge of the civil court.
My medical cousin provides a home visit, a medical service in short supply in the United States, coupled with a 15-minute chat of doctor to patient service, explaining the details of the ailments and offering diet advice that may be as beneficial as the pills. Last year my father was hospitalized in Brooklyn NY for the same ailment. He was discharged with no clear information that the problem was a lack of protein that caused the swelling at or around the same time in April or May.
I took advantage of the live experience of my father's checkup to follow the same path for my own checkup. It was pleasant, albeit I could not benefit from the 80 percent reimbursement since I was not a state retiree, nor does Haiti have a universal health insurance policy.
An excellent checkup result will depend on how diligent you were in practicing your daily exercises throughout the year. I have been constant in that routine. But I was delinquent in following God's advice that those who pray together shall have a better stand in his indulgence. I recently registered at health club not too far from my home and what a eureka!
Under the beat of a drum, the aerobatics instructor forces you to sweat and reach parts of the body that have not been moved for years. My abdomen that has taken a curve that resembles a three-month pregnancy. I was determined to put a fast remedy to this interference. At a cost of $25 per month, I have been submitting myself to the gruesome rituals that will make the body firm and lean.
The Bahamas has entered recently into the select club of tropical places that provide medical tourism to its tourist clientele. Haiti's most dynamic Minister of Tourism Stephanie Balmir could add one more layer of service that the country could offer to its tourist clients. Imagine aerobatic exercises to the tune of the drum at the Labadie beach or profiting from a trip to Haiti for a spring medical checkup (if not insured) at one third of the cost in the United States: no more than $100, labs and medical examination included?
For the last 10 years I have been promoting once a year at this time of the year, the good health habits that include daily exercises. The states that foot the bill for medical bills should also demand that the citizens practice good health habits. It should also incorporate as a regular course of business providing health monitors in public parks to facilitate such culture. I am surprised that Mayor Mike Bloomberg, so concerned with health issues after his fight against soda, cigarettes and lard, did not leave that legacy to the citizens of New York City.
China is leading the world in urging its citizens to practice all types of callisthenics; this movement is exported wherever you will find a Chinatown in most of the cities of the United States.
Eating natural food, free of chemical fertilizers, following nature in its sequence to listen to the body for renewal, and rejuvenating and living according to Aristotle's principle in medio stat virtus (in the middle ground you will more likely to find virtue), these are the steps that will lead to a long and happy life.
o Jean Hervé Charles LLB, MSW, JD, former vice dean of Students at City College of the City University of New York, is now responsible for policy and public relations for the political platform in power in Haiti, Répons Peyisan. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
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One year ago, thousands assembled on Clifford Park to celebrate once it became apparent that the PLP had defeated the Free National Movement (FNM) in a landslide victory. FNM supporters across the country at that time were shocked not only by the defeat itself but also by the margin in terms of number of seats won by the PLP.
It seems fair to state that for the thousands who journeyed to Clifford Park, there was a feeling of victory, a sense of hope by a people who believed they had just ushered in an administration that believes in Bahamians. The electorate had grown weary in a country plagued by a sluggish economy, high taxation, high cost of living, growing unemployment and the ever-present and perplexing issues of crime and immigration. The perception that investments in capital projects had taken priority over people and the development of human capital under the previous administration did not help matters either.
An opportunity to build legacy
About 365 days ago, the leader of the PLP was granted another opportunity to redeem his record and cement his legacy having been afforded another chance by the Bahamian people to govern the nation. Perry Gladstone Christie on his way to victory articulated a vision that promotes a new generation of leaders and promised to transition the PLP and ultimately The Bahamas into the 21st century. He would be branded the 'bridge to the future' as he transitions to complete 40 years of consecutive political service to our nation at the end of this five-year term in office.
The commentary over the next few days and weeks will dissect the PLP's performance over the last year and myriad views and assessments will be given. The beauty of politics in The Bahamas in 2013 is that the electorate has not waited for the one year mark to hold the government accountable; Bahamians have and will continue to ensure that our leaders do not forget that they are servants of the people. The current administration did not have the luxury of a honeymoon and will be called upon to deliver on its promises during its five-year term in office.
History and the impact of the PLP
In the midst of the discussions, this piece takes a look back at the historic institution called the PLP as it celebrates its 60 years of existence this year. Having the distinction of being the oldest political party of record in The Bahamas, there is no doubt that the PLP has given much to the Bahamian people. However, Christie and his team must seize the opportunity provided by the remainder of this current term in office to introduce reforms and national institutions that will cause the people to believe in the PLP as they did in the days of old if the party is to stay relevant. At a party convention 40 years ago, Sir Lynden stated, "To stay on top, this party must find new causes to champion and new social injustices to eradicate."
In the midst of an inevitable generational shift in political leadership in The Bahamas, the PLP must hold fast to its founding philosophies and adapt to the landscape of the 21st century. For these are the philosophies that endeared the party to the people and provided the PLP with its identity; hence, current PLP leaders must go back to the old landmark.
The origin of a movement
The formation of the PLP is well documented. It is a party that was born out of the need to end racial discrimination and bring about social, political and economic freedom for all Bahamians. At the time of its formation, the gap between the haves and the have-nots was expanding despite the growing prosperity that The Bahamas was becoming accustomed to. The party released its original platform 60 years ago, a landmark document that the PLP titled, "A Challenge to be Met". The platform promised to raise the standard of living for all Bahamians among other things. At the time, the PLP pledged to extend the voting franchise to women, reduce the parliamentary term from seven years to five years, institute a Court of Appeal and it pledged a commitment to move toward self-government.
A clarion call to the people
Essentially, this landmark document called upon the Bahamian people to support the right of full and equal political participation, equal employment opportunity, security, equal treatment in the civil service and the right of peaceful assembly, freedom of speech, of religion, and freedom of the press.
Sixty years later, The Bahamas has been plunged into the 21st century and the age of information, yet the realties of the PLP platform in 1953 still provide a basis for advocacy in 2013. Moreover, today's circumstances mandate our leaders to take a position as to whether the highest court in the land ought to remain the Privy Council or whether The Bahamas should subscribe itself to the Caribbean Court of Justice. More importantly, should The Bahamas consider its own domestic court of last instance superior to the Court of Appeal? After 40 years of independence as a democratic constitutional monarchy and approaching a constitutional referendum, today's generation of leaders and Bahamians must consider whether its time to move toward a republic and sever ties with Great Britain albeit maintaining commonwealth membership.
The wisdom of the ages
It is insufficient for today's 'new generation' of PLPs to claim to possess all the ideas to fix our nation and move our country forward. This new breed must go back to the old landmark, they must embrace and appreciate the philosophies of the party for which they stand as standard-bearers. Yesterday's PLP leaders knew what they wanted, where they were going and for the most part achieved their goals. They were progressive and liberal and not afraid to state their unified position despite opposition. They always knew their identity and identified with the needs and the wants of the Bahamian people.
Moving forward with resolve
Unity of vision and purpose is a prerequisite for success for the party during this term in office and for any possible re-election in 2017. There are still other social causes to fight for - reformation and improvement of our education system is desperately needed. We must also not forget to provide our people with access to valuable real estate and other ownership opportunities and move forward with the institution of a national health insurance scheme in a country where more than 50 percent of the population lack private health insurance. National security remains relevant and central to the performance of any economy in the same vein as a robust immigration policy and energy plan for the future.
As the current PLP administration celebrates one year in office, the individuals charged with leading the country must ensure that The Bahamian people continue to feel their hearts as they did the leaders of old. Their actions over the next four years will speak louder than any words they ever utter and successful implementation of their updated landmark document, "A Charter for Governance", will remain to be seen.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed at email@example.com.
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A year ago yesterday, May 5, those who were attending the PLP rally at R.M. Bailey Park took it as a good omen when the full moon filled the eastern sky with an other-worldly golden glow. Following a frenetic political campaign which was characterized by PLP supporters as a "gold rush", the celestial display on that night portrayed more of a golden hush. A year ago today, May 6, the PLP organized a gospel concert at Clifford Park as it readied its supporters to go to the polls the following day, May 7, and vote for a change. A year later, we wanted to look back at what this PLP government has accomplished and Consider This... does the past year's reality live up to its campaign promises?
If we are brutally honest, few Bahamians would respond in the affirmative to this question. Some would even express disappointment, disillusionment, dismay and defeat. Others who swallowed the program of political promises would now admit that, in such a very short time, they have succumbed to buyer's remorse. Still others will assert that they had expected so much more from what, during the campaign, appeared to be a dream team, a balance of seasoned political veterans and precocious 'young Turks' who embodied promises of a brighter future and who collectively said they "believed in Bahamians".
The scorecard to date
If we reviewed just a few of the developments of the past year, we can understand the public's reaction to the government's performance one year later.
At the top of the list of the past year's letdowns is an issue that threatened to fracture the country as, for the past seven months, the government has been enmeshed, ensconced and entangled in the gambling question.
What began with the false start of a December 3 referendum date only to be rescheduled to January 28, was followed by confusion regarding the referendum questions, and exacerbated by a hands-off approach by the government. The issue of the web shops, which has landed and remains stagnated in the courts, is a striking example of a decision that could have been neatly and decisively taken by executive action instead of creating discord and dissonance in the Bahamian society.
The gambling issue has now accelerated to an even higher level as a result of recent disclosures that the government intends to allow hotel casino guests to engage in online gambling. Many Bahamians find this offensive for two reasons: (1) in a 21st century Bahamas, Bahamians believe that the prohibition on its citizens gambling in casinos like tourists are allowed to do is outdated, and (2) there is an innate sense that it is wrong to allow foreigners to engage in online gambling, which the general population voted down for its citizens in the referendum earlier this year.
There are other issues that could have been quickly and decisively resolved if some in the executive branch were not terrified of their own shadows or had the political prescience and audacity to extricate themselves from the quagmire of their own inertia. Many Bahamians who truly want this government to succeed cannot fathom why the latter refuses to take decisions concerning those persons in the government and its statutory institutions who are incorrigibly incompetent, inept and insolent.
There is another failure which, though well-intended, has completely missed the mark. The mortgage relief program, which is sorely needed, but from which not a single soul has yet benefited, has resulted in the government admitting that the program must be revisited in order to meet its intended objective.
Another of the more frequently mentioned disappointments of the government's first year centers around what many perceive as an affront to young, upcoming professionals in the foreign service. For a prime minister who, for the past 16 years, has characterized himself as a "bridge to the future", many wonder why would he not draw from a younger cadre of fresh faces who are driven by 21st century ideas, ideologies and approaches, and who are more representative of the future of The Bahamas - especially after campaigning on a platform that highlighted believing in the talent of our young professionals?
The government has not satisfactorily or consistently explained that many of its campaign promises cannot be achieved because of the deplorable condition in which the former administration left the public treasury. Apart from the excessive borrowing, in many cases to fund the last general elections, and the resulting record fiscal deficits, the only thing that Bahamians understand is "what have you done for me lately". In order to explain why nothing can be done for anyone lately, the shocking way that the public coffers were left bare and that to continue on its predecessor's reckless borrowing patterns would place us all at great risk is a refrain that should be resoundingly repeated at every opportunity.
The government got off to a slow start, partly because of the large number of newly elected representatives who needed time to assimilate into their new roles. Despite the pledge of being ready to govern on day one only a handful was - most were not. Some, one year later, still are not ready and one wonders if others ever will be.
There are several realities which undoubtedly are faced by many who are elected to office on their first attempt. In the first place, it takes time to settle into any new job. If you are given ministerial responsibility, that takes even more time for the minister to gather his bearings, to understand on whom he can depend, and to ascertain which civil servants are helpful and supportive and which remain more loyal to the former administration and therefore inclined to undermine the new administration's programs and policies.
Secondly, politics in The Bahamas does not normally provide a period of apprenticeship for our elected officials. There is little training ground for elected representatives to understand how government works, or the normally accepted parliamentary conventions, particularly if elected without prior experience in government. Much of the training occurs by error or by osmosis, often at the speed of very cold molasses.
Another factor that has impeded the progress of this first year is that, sadly, some politicians - even newcomers - believe that, once elected, they have arrived. They do not return telephone calls and are generally unresponsive to those they promised to serve faithfully in return for their precious vote. In fact, in just a year, some have even become arrogant in their short time in office, while others have forgotten that they are servants of the people.
To the government's credit, although really more of another promise than a full-fledged success, this week in Parliament the minister of health announced that the national health insurance program that was passed by the last Christie administration will be implemented during this term. This is urgently needed by many thousands of Bahamians who cannot afford medical health insurance.
The reality is that, in spite of a very promising and vigorous campaign featuring many new and interesting faces as well as a detailed and comprehensive platform, much as we would like to, we are unable to point to many successes of the first year of the second Christie administration. The government should stop and take stock to ensure that notwithstanding the seeds of discontent that it has sewn in its first year in office, it is not too late to reverse the trend in order to ensure a hearty harvest in 2017.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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