In my opinion, every education system should embark on a diverse curriculum design for effective learning. The drawback that exists within most education systems is the fact that the authoritative leadership of those countries often centralizes the planning process - only involving those at the top, rather than soliciting ideas, suggestions and direction from the teachers, taxpayers, parents and, most importantly, the students themselves. There is no way an education system could effectively function without the involvement of the students who are undertaking these studies - first mistake.
In this capacity, the authoritative leaders must be willing to interview students through an academic counselor who should be embedded in all primary and secondary schools, colleges and university centers. Here, students should be the given opportunity to identify their career paths; and henceforth, the academic counselor must develop and recommend a system that best fits the needs of students' criteria. Setting up a curriculum without the input of students will result in failures.
Indeed, the interconnectedness of countries should hint to lawmakers that is time that at least a foreign language be thought of from the primary level to develop students in linguistic studies - an initiative that could enhance communication between citizens, traders and governments.
In fact, students should be given options and the liberty to choose whether they should pursue studies at secondary school, and not an ultimatum. Coupled with this, students with no interest in secondary education should be given the opportunity to attend a technical institute to pursue fields of interest.
An education system should not only encourage some students to attend technical institutes because the students choose to, but the fact remains that some students are not intellectually inclined to undergo studies at the secondary and tertiary levels; hence, an attempt to educate technically-minded students at the secondary and tertiary levels will result in failure and can seriously paralyze the entire education system.
Here, it must be noted that some intellectuals believe that secondary and tertiary learning only define education - this in itself is disappointing. Hence, these intellectuals should erase and revamp this insidious thought and contemplate the fact that technical education is an academic skill that secondary and tertiary intellectuals lack.
Hitherto, most education systems have failed, not because of poor facilities and infrastructure but because of a lack of educational support from the government, parents, teachers and the education system itself.
As an observer, empirical evidence indicates that a huge number of repeat students are either late or absent from school two to three times a week; often seen in non-academic areas at times when classes are in session. Seemingly, this is a prevalent norm amongst secondary school students.
Considering this evidence, the big questions that dominate the mind of those concerned are: Do learning institutions have a recording system that tracks students' attendance? Is there a reporting system between the ministry and the learning institutions that is capable of envisaging the institutions' learning environment designed to action, change and support? Is there a network that links teachers, parents and students - a system that keeps parents abreast of their children's behavior, attendance and performance that affects guidance and monitoring? Do these institutions possess written vision and mission statements and written rules and regulations of the system as a guide which governs the behavior of these students?
Furthermore, the development of students through the scholarship program is another area of concern. It is recommended that the authoritative leadership of the education system scour this environment for academic weaknesses ideally providing scholarships and/or loans to fill those debilitated spots.
Additionally, in an effort to develop students and prepare them for the labor force there should be summer internship programs that allow students to work in the fields in which they have interest. Hence, by the time they graduate they should have a keen idea of the jobs that potentially they will be pursuing.
More so, it is also recommended that students be given the opportunity to develop themselves through academic student bodies, which include sporting activities within their various campuses. For students pursuing agricultural science, school ground farms should be introduced - in this sense, schools can be economically self-sufficient - allowing these institutions to provide an efficient book scheme system, office tools, libraries, computer and science labs and a transport system for students.
Considering the rapidly changing learning environment the authoritative body, along with the various stakeholders, must develop long-term goals supported by short-term strategies. However, no plan is perfect. Therefore, constant and consistent monitoring is vital.
Ideally, to make this a reality all stakeholders must play their roles coupled with a support system in place. Hence, reform is inevitable.
o The author of a number of published works, D. Markie Spring was born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and now resides in Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands. He has an MBA from the University of Leicester, England, and a BA from Saint Mary's University, Canada. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
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The 2007 and 2012 elections were not classic change elections, with voters mostly weary of the political directorate and exercised by certain issues such as corruption (2007) and the lingering effects of the Great Recession (2012). Neither the FNM nor the PLP gained a majority of the popular vote in these elections.
Change elections are rarely self-generating. They require politicians to harness the mood for change into a movement for change. The PLP had done so by the 1962 election, winning the popular vote, but stymied in their efforts to win the government because of the United Bahamian Party's egregiously undemocratic boundary arrangements.
In 1987, it is likely that Sir Kendall Isaacs's FNM won the general election but were robbed of victory because of widespread fraud including massive irregularities with the voters' register.
Change doesn't come easy. Still when the momentum for change builds it often sweeps away the political calculations and certainties of the old guard.
The Clinton world, led by Bill Clinton, one of the best political minds in America, was fairly certain that Hillary Clinton would win the Democratic Party's 2008 presidential nomination. But America was in the mood for change.
The country was in dire economic shape, and had turned against the Iraq War, for which Senator Clinton voted in order to burnish her hawkish credentials. She miscalculated. America was also tired of the Bush/Clinton revolving door into the presidency.
Into the mix came a senator from Illinois, still in his first term, a fresh face in American politics, who voted against the Iraq War. Barack Obama was extraordinarily articulate, offering in his rhetoric, biography, and mixed-race heritage, the politics of change writ large.
He proved to be a canny and cunning politician. In marshalling his coalition for change, the former community organizer played and changed the game.
He assembled a team of political and technology wizards who offered him advantages in fundraising, voter outreach, message delivery, organizing volunteers and getting-out-the-vote, even as his primary and general election opponents were playing catch up.
Obama grasped that the politics of change are driven by demographics, and issues and ideas. Even before 2008, Obama and his core team recognized the demographic trends in America, and how this shift might produce a winning coalition.
The voting cohorts Obama targeted were both demographic and ideological in nature, from single white women to moderates and other groups.
Having enough money to remain competitive is critical in politics. Often more critical is one's message, a mix of rhetoric, policy positions, ideas - and tone.
Journalist David Marannis has written extensively of Obama. He offers this fascinating insight.
"At Punahou School 34 years ago, one of his (Barack Obama's) English teachers asked the class a philosophical question about what people should most fear. Classmates said death, hell, loneliness, war - and then Barry Obama straightened up and delivered his answer.
"'Words,' he said. 'Words are the power to be feared most.'"
Words are also a synonym for ideas. The politics of change are built on new ideas or old ideas made new. Change itself is an idea. While they sense something in their guts, voters are often not fully able to articulate what they mean by change.
This is where an agent of change makes a difference, offering to an electorate desirous of change a path for change.
When it comes to the power of words, Prime Minister Perry Christie and Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis have contrasting problems. While the former overuses words with great bombast, the latter is typically unfamiliar with the language and deadpan.
The stirrings of change are gathering force. A sign of this is the back-to-back single terms voters handed to the PLP and then the FNM. While voters are capable of such a pattern of voting, they are just as capable of re-electing a party to a second term given the right circumstances.
The creation of the civil society group We the People, and the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), mirror the increasing desire for significant change by many in the Bahamian middle class.
What is the change many voters desire? It includes a style of leadership that is engaging, and that seeks to build and nurture relationships with various demographic and interest groups through constant communications efforts, characterized by a sense of reciprocity and mutual respect.
While many voters expect and delight in a certain level of partisan fire, increasing numbers of Bahamians are less tolerant of the often shrill and bombastic nature of political debate. This is especially so for younger voters, who are often more sensitive to the tone of politics.
The politics of change includes a desire for novel policy prescriptions especially in seemingly intractable areas such as crime and education. Still, these and other issues are a part of a broader trend in Bahamian politics. The trend involves voters under 33.
Approximately 40 percent of Bahamians are 33 years of age or younger, constituting a key demographic and voting group. By some estimates, approximately 35 percent of undecided voters in the closing weeks of the 2012 campaign were of this age group.
The oldest of this cohort, the 33-year-olds, were born in 1979, six years after independence in 1973. The youngest of this cohort, the 18-year-olds, were born around 1994. It would be a useful exercise to determine as well as possible the numbers of 18- to 33-year-olds who registered and voted.
The 15-year expanse between 18 and 33 is a world of difference. Yet this demographic cohort share similar and significant reference points.
They were born at the outset of or in the midst of HIV/AIDS. For previous generations, the condom was used to prevent birth. For this cohort, the condom was used even more urgently to prevent death.
They were born too into a more violent Bahamian society, during the emergence of the virulent drug culture and gangland executions of the late 1970s and of the 1980s. Many of them witnessed the ravages of crack cocaine on family members.
The country grew even more violent as they matured into young adulthood. For those in this cohort residing in urban centers, they live in a quite different society than pre-independence generations.
Growing up in a post-independence Bahamas, this cohort also likely views politics generally, and political parties and recent political history in ways many politicians may find of great interest.
Bahamian 18 to 33-year-olds also often see the world through different lenses having grown up with satellite dishes, then cable television, followed by the Internet. They don't go to the Internet or go online. They are connected 24-7.
Every group of voters is characterized not only by the historic and social context into which they were born. Voters also have aspirations. In a few weeks, the country celebrates 40 years of independence, a moment of historic interest for younger Bahamians.
Yet these same young voters are at the relative dawn of an independent Bahamas.
Most of them will be at the 50th anniversary of independence, and many of them at the 80th anniversary.
For those seeking to tap into the next significant wave of political change, they would do well to understand the worldviews and aspirations of those 33 years and younger, including young women.
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Yes, there were the obligatory questions on Petrocaribe, but more importantly there were questions on whether the administration has been doing enough to engage a key neighbor. For the Caribbean, the opportunity was missed to outline from a regional perspective, the importance of energy to Caribbean competitiveness.
In essence there was no one to discuss the enormous cost of electricity to the public and private sector. There was no one to talk of the need for improved disaster preparedness support for the existing distribution network, and no one to press for proven technology deployment of energy efficiency technology and renewables.
There was also no one to request that the requisite funding mechanisms to deploy new technologies in the small markets of the region be made available and finally, there was no one there even to talk up the region's recent and much vaunted achievement in the energy front - the CARICOM energy policy. This policy sets a goal of 2027 as the date for the region to source 47 percent of its energy needs from renewable energy sources.
On that last point, it should be highlighted that the very development of regional energy policy has been supported in part by funding from the United States. Maybe the region could have been there to express thanks for some of this support and ask for more. Instead, the Caribbean and its energy policy and needs were left to parties with minimal knowledge and interest in the region.
We must ask ourselves why the Caribbean does not see this type of opportunity as beneficial to advance its own interests. While this hearing was specific to energy, it is important to point out that one is given the impression that the modus operandi of the region is to be more absent than present when there are hearings on issues important to its future. Even more apparent is the continued absence of Caribbean advocacy on Capitol Hill, which is the impression of congressional representatives and their staff.
Was the Caribbean absent from this hearing because the region is unaware of this and other briefings of relevance to its interests? Maybe, though there are list-serve mechanisms that allow one to track hearing schedules. Quite possibly, it was that no one had in their budget the monies to fly to Washington to testify, though a response to that would be that the region has embassies in this space and effective representatives who could present comments. At the very least, one would expect that the Caribbean or a relevant entity in Washington representing it could submit comments to the record. Well, alas, at last check, this has not been done.
Rather, what we experienced is a continued trend of the region to ignore opportunities to advocate for its own interests and highlight positive steps that it is taking to address critical obstacles that it faces. Sadly and most importantly, it allows policy to be constructed on behalf of the region without its input by entities and individuals with limited knowledge, when it is questionable as to whether they even care.
Even in the cases of those who do and are well intentioned, the lack of Caribbean input will result in less than fully formed programs and regional dissatisfaction that the Caribbean was not consulted.
Here is a quick primer on how the system works - the Congress appropriates money and the administration spends it. Without input in requesting support, monies are not allocated for one's needs and, clearly, without engagement in the design stage, one can hardly expect programs that address its needs. The Caribbean regularly misses the opportunity to advocate for its interests on both counts.
Back to the hearing and heartening was a response by State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Rooney that sought to delegitimize the often stated and ill-conceived notion that the Venezuela-Caribbean relationship on energy was one driven by political leanings of Caribbean leaders. Rooney explained the truthful and practical realities that the region faced at the height of oil pricing that led many in the Caribbean to depend on Venezuela.
Helpful was the commentary of Representative Jeff Duncan that the U.S. should look to its near neighbors as a market for energy considering its newfound supply stocks of LNG, noting that energy security of the U.S. neighborhood does help assure economic stability. It also helps protect the vulnerable U.S. underbelly.
Disappointing, however, a response by the State Department's special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs, which one assumes was a misstatement. When asked about engagement with the region on energy issues, the response was that the government was working through the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum (CREF) to engage the Caribbean.
While I acknowledge an affiliation with this group and believe that it provides a great forum on renewable energy issues in the Caribbean, any dependence of the U.S. State Department on this once a year conference to engage the Caribbean shows two things: A clear lack of depth as it relates to engagement of the region by the State Department on energy other than through a proxy program run by the Organization of American States; and secondly, a lack of demand for attention by the region on the issue.
If the Caribbean is satisfied with a once a year speech by the energy czar of the U.S. government on ways in which the region can work with its largest trading partner, maybe the region deserves to be where it is. I, however, would like to argue that the Caribbean is not at all satisfied with having to deal with proxies and that the region can work closely with the U.S. to develop bi-lateral arrangements and agreements in this area.
I think that there continues to be scope for direct engagement of industry in this space and efforts to develop programs where pilot projects can be tested, especially as it relates to energy efficiency and renewables can be ramped up.
Finally, I would like to encourage the Caribbean to show up once in a while to advocate for its own interests rather than to complain after the fact or worse, act as a supplicant willing to depend on the token efforts led by intermediaries whose interests are not its own.
o Anton Edmunds is the head of The Edmunds Group International, a consulting firm focused on the Caribbean region, and a senior associate at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS). Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
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The need for tax reform
The Bahamas is largely a service based country and has generally relied upon customs duties, tourism and foreign direct investments to generate revenue and sustain fiscal balance. However, the global economic crisis has shown in even greater measure the vulnerability of the financial and economic structure of The Bahamas. The government for successive budget cycles has fallen short of the requisite revenue to sustain recurrent expenditure. In this regard, it is becoming increasingly clear that the government must expand its revenue base and create or devise additional ways to generate and receive revenue.
It is encouraging to note that the current administration has committed to undertaking tax reform and has released a white paper which outlines its proposals in this regard. There have been recommendations to move toward a broad-based tax regime with July 2014 being the proposed implementation date for a value added tax (VAT) system. In light of the foregoing, it is imperative that we consider the pros and cons of such a tax regime and briefly examine other jurisdictions that have implemented this form of taxation. The VAT in simple terms is a form of tax levied upon consumption of goods and services. In other words, VAT taxes things that you purchase or utilize in everyday life such as food, clothes, fuel, dining, etc.
The obvious benefit of implementing a VAT system from the government's perspective is that it broadens and increases its revenue base, particularly in a country like The Bahamas that is driven by consumer spending. Additionally, as Bahamians are unaware of the total tax they pay for goods and services procured locally in The Bahamas, a VAT system will provide the much needed transparency. The fixed and generally known tax rate feature of a VAT regime creates accountability and curtails potential exploitation of consumers by vendors and service providers. Readily available information on the cost, tax rate and mark up associated with a good or service should consequently allow for better financial management, planning and budgeting by the consumer with little room for surprises.
A VAT system is also advantageous in that it allows consumers to make better decisions based on their financial condition. In this sense, consumers have the requisite information to avoid goods or services that charge a higher rate of VAT.
Perhaps the most critical argument against the VAT system is that it is a regressive form of taxation that rewards the wealthy and penalizes the poor. This is because all things being equal for example, the purchasing power of an individual making $50 is less than that of an individual making $500. In a VAT regime, both aforementioned individuals will pay the same VAT rate even though the less well-off individual under this scenario has less disposable income than his/her counterpart. Further, studies show that those below or closer to the poverty line tend to spend more on goods and services compared to the rich and wealthy.
Public commentary and financial experts in The Bahamas have been proponents of increased savings and investments by Bahamians as opposed to enormous spending/consumption. One can expect therefore that if consumers choose to save and invest more rather than spend, such a paradigm shift could negatively impact government revenues in the form of VAT and could hamper economic activity. Further, a high VAT rate could discourage shopping in The Bahamas (particularly from local producers and manufacturers) thereby maintaining the status quo of residents shopping in the U.S. where sales tax could be lower.
Finally, compliance costs for businesses created by the need to file returns, invest in equipment and/or systems and professional accounting/legal fees could be substantial.
The need for a detailed analysis
The Bahamas must ascertain whether the implementation of VAT is the sole form of taxation that should replace the current tax system or whether some form of progressive taxation must be introduced alongside VAT. The implementation of an income tax system and/or provision of social benefits should be considered to offset the regressive nature of the VAT.
The following questions among others should be answered adequately before the implementation of VAT. What rate of tax will have to be applied to compensate for the loss of and/or reduction in customs duties and tariffs? What is the current non-compliance rate for the collection of customs duties and will it equal or exceed the potential non-compliance rate for VAT? What is the anticipated cost of implementing and enforcing the VAT? What is the projected impact of VAT on government revenue? Which items or supplies will receive reduced or zero VAT rates and/or exemptions in entirety? What will the turnover threshold be for businesses to register for VAT? How will the government go about educating the public on the proposed VAT system?
It is interesting to note that most countries that have implemented VAT also have a progressive tax system alongside VAT. In this regard, these countries typically impose both income and corporate tax. Consequently, the presence of VAT has provided incentive for income and corporate tax rates to be reduced to lower levels. Of all the 34 members of the OECD, all countries except the United States (which imposes a sales tax in many of its states) have implemented VAT. In the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), all member nations impose income tax and various forms of consumption or sales tax. The discussion on tax reform must therefore be holistic in nature and should consider the medium to long-term objectives of the government.
The WTO component
It was reported that the minister of financial services stated that the goal of this administration is to complete ascension to the World Trade Organization (WTO) by the end of its current term. This commitment is welcomed and it is anticipated that this time line will coincide with conversion of the current tax regime to one that is consistent with the rules of the WTO. In particular, the requirement resulting from the "Uruguay Round" with commitment by members of the WTO to eliminate or reduce their tariff systems to prevent any barriers to trade will need to be addressed during this process.
The Bahamas continues to lose its competitive advantage in the global village according to several indices and The Bahamas being the only member of CARICOM that has failed to ascend to the WTO does not bolster our reputation. While most CARICOM countries ascended to the WTO in 1995, The Bahamas only gained observer status in 2000. Thirteen years later, The Bahamas joins some 28 countries that enjoy observer status compared to 155 full members of the WTO.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed firstname.lastname@example.org
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I believe it is fair to summarize what Mr. Mason said as follows:
He is a Jamaican; not a Caribbean man.
He wants no part of the "totally useless creation we label CARICOM".
The people who populate "those islands 1,000 miles away" are not "brothers and sisters".
He is unhappy about his reception in Eastern Caribbean countries he has visited, where he was "not imbued with a sense of belonging".
He had a period of "enforced residence" with persons from the Caribbean at a North American University and in Jamaica and the memories are not pleasant.
He says that "the Trinidadians have this over-bearing, suffocating attitude. The Bajans have this bombastic self-importance. Both of these nations waste no time in displaying these traits towards Jamaicans".
He was prepared to suffer my advocacy of Caribbean integration in silence, but not anymore. He says Jamaica needs "to give the six-month notice and leave CARICOM" and he adds, "Keep your oil, money, flying fish and population. We will deal with the world as it is and forge our way therein as best we can".
He says that Jamaica has "the resourcefulness, aptitude and personnel to make our mark. Let us use what we have and be inspired by George Headley, up to Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Usain Bolt, the Nobel laureate in our midst and those high achievers in the diaspora".
On trade matters, Mr. Mason sums up his position in the following way: "They see Jamaica as the market to be exploited, not where fair trade exists and our local purchases will boost jobs at home. As for me and my house, we will not buy CARICOM products".
With regard to the Caribbean Court of Justice, to which Jamaica has not signed on as its Court of Final Appeal and, to date, refers final appeals to the Privy Council in the UK, he says Jamaica should give thought to looking to Canada as its final Court of Appeal. He ends by saying that "CARICOM cannot hope to be viable without some states ceding to the whole some political power. God forbid that Jamaica should do that".
I have a certain sympathy for some of the attitudes that Mr. Mason has developed and to which he has given expression, although, not surprisingly, I dispute the basis on which he has arrived at his conclusions.
Caribbean leadership in the 15-nation CARICOM group bears responsibility for some of the impressions of the region that Mr. Mason has, although his attitude to other Caribbean people, who he met at university in North America and in Jamaica, are entirely a matter of his own personal relations.
Caribbean leadership in governments, in the private sector, in the trade union movement has not provided the people of the region with sufficient information, knowledge and understanding of the benefits of Caribbean integration. In the case of governments, too often public statements about CARICOM are made only at times of disputes usually related to trade, and the same is true of the private sector. Although every day, trade in goods and services between CARICOM states occurs with no hitch benefitting employment and revenues, it is the far fewer instances of disputes that receive attention, creating the impression of a dysfunctional or unfair trading system.
Private sector companies complain the minute that they believe they are disadvantaged and government representatives feel the need to speak out in support of them, rather than pointing to the machinery for resolving these disputes that exist in the CARICOM Treaty.
And, for some curious reason, the Labour movement, from which the intellectual argument for Caribbean integration sprung, has gone silent.
This lack of information, knowledge and understanding about regional integration has been crying out for attention by governments and the private sector for over a decade. Important as it is, regional integration is not just about trade in CARICOM; it is also about a range of common services and institutions such as the University of the West Indies, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Caribbean Examinations Council, the Caribbean Hotels and Tourist Association, and, yes, the Caribbean Court of Justice, that individual Caribbean countries cannot afford individually and in some cases lack the capacity to administer.
Regional integration ought to be about much more including debt negotiations, access to capital, creating pan-Caribbean companies that can compete in the world market and create more jobs.
On the matter of treatment of Jamaicans at the ports of entry of other Caribbean countries, Mr Mason might be surprised to know that some Caribbean nationals have complained about their treatment at ports in Jamaica. What is more, far greater numbers of CARICOM nationals, including Jamaicans, travel hassle-free in the Caribbean than those who encounter difficulties. Unfortunately, the difficult cases attract publicity, creating the impression that "hassle" is the norm. But, again, governments should address more effectively than they have the matter of CARICOM nationals travelling in the region. For the ordinary CARICOM national, treatment at Caribbean airports speaks more convincingly to the feeling of belonging than any other matter.
With regard to Mr. Mason's declaration that he is a Jamaica man and not a Caribbean man. No one would expect a Jamaican to subjugate his or her Jamaican-ness to being Caribbean, any more than a Texan would be expected to subjugate his Texan-ness to being American. Being Jamaican and Caribbean is complementary not mutually exclusive; the first is limiting, the latter provides wider opportunity. There is every good sense in being both.
It is also unfortunate that Mr. Mason employed language of rejection of Caribbean brothers and sisters and bordered on suggesting Jamaican superiority. The reality is that the entire Caribbean has been remarkable in producing athletes, innovative musicians and artists, Nobel Prize winners and high achievers in the international community. That is a mark of what the St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves calls our "Caribbean Civilization", but it is not unique to any one Caribbean country.
The call for the isolation of Jamaica from CARICOM is not in the interest of the Jamaican people; they would be weaker and much more vulnerable than they are. The same is true for every other CARICOM country. That is why every effort should be exerted to strengthen regional integration and make it work.
o Sir Ronald Sanders is a Consultant and Visiting Fellow, London University. Send responses to: www.sirronaldsanders.com. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
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1. What have you enjoyed most about your legal career?
The answer is simple: advocating for good causes and for justice.
My inspiration, my late grandmother, Georgiana Symonette would read: "But let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a mighty stream" (Amos 5:24).
She was saying: I want to see a mighty flood of justice; and she acted upon those words by fighting for universal suffrage and the right of women to vote, for majority rule, political freedom and independence, and for the economic and spiritual revolution or transformation still needed in this country. She inspired my father, her descendants and especially me even to this day. Most of all, she taught me about justice.
The challenges to justice are different every day. I am a business lawyer and never have a dull moment. But, I have had some of the most interesting jobs in the world, and I am actively working on many more. Each victory for justice is the foundation for a better society and for a better future. By helping others in need and protecting their legal rights, I continue to the best of my ability to contribute to the building up of a more just and fair Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
So, when Stone McEwan pointed out to me that our votes in general elections are not secret, I took on the challenge. We lost the battle but I think won the war by making the point emphatically that we should all not take our democratic rights for granted. The first instance decision by Sir Burton Hall is still in my view one of the most eloquent passages of Bahamian constitutional jurisprudence.
When Drs. Bacchus, a husband and wife team of a medical doctor and a dentist, told me that after about 30 years of service in Eleuthera, they were arbitrarily being transferred by the health minister to another island, I took on the challenge.
The Supreme Court quashed the minister's arbitrary decision, and, now retired, they remain a great benefit to the Eleuthera community.
There are many examples big and small.
Leona Neely had arthroscopic surgery on her knee when she slipped and fell because of an air conditioning puddle of water continuously left in the entrance lobby by her employer, the Ministry of Tourism. She was compensated for her pain and suffering, and the ministry finally fixed the faulty air conditioner.
As Acting Justice of the Supreme Court in charge of Freeport for most of 2007, I had the opportunity and privilege to reduce the backlog of civil cases to zero. Hundreds if not thousands of cases going all the way back to the mid-1990s when the court was first established, they were disposed of, and the court was current on the civil side.
Developed countries have public and private institutions for everything from human rights education to food production standards. You name it; there is an institution for it.
So, I have focused a lot on capacity building and institution building - vibrant, sustainable and just institutions to support, promote and strengthen our core values. For example, the Bahamas Bar Association still has a lot of unfulfilled potential that can be harnessed and put to good use.
This year marks the 13th anniversary of the monthly clinics I now call: Empowerment and Legal Aid Clinics. The first was held off Kemp Road at St. Bede's in January 2000. It was followed by clinics here at BFM (Bahamas Faith Ministries) spearheaded by Audrianna Pamela Thompson and others. I held such a clinic just last week at the Macedonia Baptist Church on Bernard Road.
The Bar is threatened from within and without. From within, some 'lawyers' do not really know what it is to be a lawyer, or if they do, they certainly do not apply the core values of integrity and honesty. From without, bad habits die hard. Although we have 1,100 lawyers - many highly qualified and experienced - mortgage institutions have imposed restrictions of inordinately huge amounts of professional indemnity insurance, for no apparent reason but to eliminate a wide swath of lawyers from their arbitrary lists of persons to do mortgage work. This harks back to the oligarchies of the 1950s, instead of looking forward to a vibrant and competitive present and future.
Therefore, to deal with these and other threats, I have decided to take up the challenge again of transforming the Bar Association and to put it on a path to becoming one of the best bar associations in the world. A good start has been made with the recent opening of the Bar buildings on Mackey Street.
Also, among my books, I have co-edited with the former law dean of the University of Windsor Canada, a book coming out at the end of this year on "Promoting Social Justice through the Law". Look for it. I have another one on social justice in the works.
2. What gives you the most satisfaction when you look back on your legal career?
The opportunities for public service, mostly at home, but also internationally in significant ways. I define public service broadly to include all of that part of my work for the public benefit. There is a lot of it.
For example, for more than 34 years, it has been my turn to teach others about justice - teaching and helping others, especially young people, reach their full potential. That gives me a tremendous amount of satisfaction. I am pleased that some are in this audience today.
At Mrs. Margaret Thatcher's funeral the passage was read (Ephesians 6:14). "Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness."
I teach them constitutional law, corporate governance, company law and international law. But, the fundamental lesson is integrity, to gird your loins with truth.
I travel a lot - on average two countries a month over the past two years, almost as much as Dr. Munroe, whom I in fact ran into in the airport at least on one occasion. Was it Atlanta?
With Rachel Culmer and others, I revived the Organization of Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Associations, consisting of 17 mainly English-speaking jurisdictions.
We helped our Caribbean brothers and sisters and held conferences not only in Nassau but also in Trinidad, Barbados, Belize, St. Kitts and across the Caribbean.
I wear as a badge of honor that I am persona non grata in Fiji. I was the international observer of a trial there in about 2001 on behalf of the International Bar Association. As a result of that trial and the international attention it attracted, the military marched back to their barracks, democratic elections were held and democratic institutions were restored. But, since then, there have been more military coups, and the military leaders have declared that other human rights lawyers and I are not welcome. But, I wear it as a badge of honor, and hopefully democracy will be restored to Fiji and that will be rescinded.
I was in East Timor helping lawyers to establish a bar association in turbulent conditions; in Swaziland to support independence of the judiciary, the rights of women, and democracy against the most autocratic monarchy in the world; and in Uganda training young lawyers.
These were all public service. I had the privilege to write the international pro bono declaration, adopted unanimously by the International Bar Association in Buenos Aires in 2008, setting out standards for lawyers worldwide to provide services for the public benefit. As I usually do, I involved young lawyers in my work. I worked with Adrian Hunt, among others, on this successful project.
Then, I headed until last year one of two divisions of the International Bar Association (Public and Professional Interest Division) consisting of 40,000 lawyers and more than 200 bar associations. The positive public service impacts were global.
3. What does this recognition by BFM mean to you?
By recognition, you reinforce the actions and behaviors you most want. Isn't that what recognition is? Recognition is most meaningful when it comes from people who benefit from your behavior or have a direct interest in your achievements.
Therefore, I am deeply honored that Rev Dr. Miles Munroe and his team at BFM, notably my colleagues, Audrianna Pamela Thompson, Wence Martin, and Merritt Storr, see some value in my actions, behavior and achievements worthy of being reinforced and repeated.
I am very grateful to you. But I accept this honor with humility and not primarily on my own behalf, but on behalf of my wife of 40 years this year, family, staff, students and all the many persons who have helped to make my actions and behaviors fruitful and effective.
I warmly congratulate the other honorees - Godfrey Kelly, Mrs. Adderley and the family of the Hon. Paul Adderley and retired Justice Rubie Nottage. It is a privilege to be in such distinguished company. This honor was unexpected and possibly undeserved.
But, let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I thank you very much.
o Remarks by Dr. Peter Maynard upon being honored at Bahamas Faith Ministries' Legal Profession Day.
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A celebration of motherhood, Mother's Day, which was recently celebrated, is a most celebrated and highly anticipated day on the annual calendar in so many countries. It is a time when many reflect on, honor and appreciate the love, sacrifice and benevolence of the mothers and mother figures. In the days leading up to Mother's Day, children are guided to make special little gifts for their mothers, families attend church together and fathers often purchase flowers and special items for the mothers in their lives.
The origin of Mother's Day
The origin of Mother's Day celebration in The Bahamas does not seem to be very well documented; however one can assume that the actual historical genesis of this celebration is closely connected to and derived from the United States of America.
History records that in 1907, Anna Jarvis, a member of a Methodist congregation in West Virginia, gave away white carnations in church to commemorate her mother's life who had passed on. In 1908, she lobbied for the day to be recognized as a day to honor one's mother.
President Woodrow Wilson would later sign Mother's Day into law in 1914.
The objective of early proponents
Political and social history connects the history of Mother's Day to Julia Ward Howe, who wrote a poem titled "A Mother's Day Proclamation". Howe had originally called for a "Mother's Day of Peace" challenging women to resist the political will of war and demand peace. Howe and Anna Jarvis' mother were considered to be enlightened and progressive minded women who agitated for social change in the best interest of women, children and those who were less fortunate.
The American history of this annual event tells a story of women, who understood the vital role that women play in building society, nurturing and catering to the needs of others.
Motherhood in today's Bahamas
Today, our society is filled with so many social ills, the end product resulting in a crime problem that seeks to threaten our peaceful existence, our way of life and our economic prosperity.
Against this backdrop, the mothers and women of today must rise up to the challenges that our Bahamaland faces. The oft referenced urgency of now beckons invincible motherhood.
Equipped with the traits and characteristics that engender living life in peaceful harmony, mothers must confront with a view to curing the decadence which ails us. As we take a look at our society, the social degradation of communities fueled by a loss of and divergence from our social, spiritual and moral values that have guided us in times past are apparent. The breakdown in the family structure continues to plague us as many children are left to raise themselves, being taught and mentored by all forms of media ranging from television and radio to the Internet. Our children - the future of our country - are bombarded with perils that oppose our core value systems.
The statistics show a disturbing number of young women continue to give birth to children out of wedlock, oftentimes being wooed by older men in certain instances. Sadly, many of these young ladies are left to fend for themselves after being abandoned by the father of the child and rejected by close family members. It is unfortunate that in some of these cases, the grandmothers-to-be may unconsciously express their disappointment through disengagement of any form of relationship with their errant children. The end result is usually the case of children raising children.
The challenges that females thrust into unplanned motherhood face in furthering their education to improve their standard of living and quality of life are enormous. Indeed significant determination and perseverance are key attributes of mothers who have succeeded under such circumstances. Nevertheless, a continuous pattern of this nature is bound to increase the level of social degradation, poverty and an uneducated class who may in one form or the other become a burden to society.
The mothers in the village
The old African adage that "it takes a village to raise a child" must be invoked in the hearts and minds of women everywhere. Women of every class and strata must band together to agitate for social reforms, particularly in our inner cities that will raise awareness and lead to the implementation of parenting classes, counseling centers and community associations that will focus on the continued education and development of women and children.
All and sundry must answer a clarion call to address the social ills that plague our nation to our peril and detriment. Civic and religious organizations must become more active in this social war that we have been weaved into. The women's and youth ministries in churches must do more to reach out to the communities in which they find themselves to bring about physical, emotional and mental healing to many of the hurt mothers in our communities. More importantly, women must seize this opportunity to unite knowing that there is strength in numbers to bring about the desired social and economic change that will empower women to enhance our communities and ultimately our nation.
The lack of mentorship and proper succession planning continue to create a vacuum in our society. The Bible speaks of the older women being present to provide guidance and wisdom to the younger generation. It is evident from the scriptures that the latter is dependent upon the former to navigate successfully. Mentorship is essential from the home perspective to the workplace, public life and places of worship for at some point in history changing of guards must occur.
Motherhood and Integrity
It is imperative that we witness the re-emergence of integrity among women in today's society; our Bahamas calls for women that are worthy of respect to be emulated by the upcoming generation of females. Integrity remains at the core of nation building. Our children must be able to see and identify living examples of honorable people in our homes, churches and workplace. Women and mothers must display honor and behavior contrary to what is being paraded before their eyes through the media or peer pressure.
A true mother's love must be intolerant of any form of wickedness, evil or injustice even if the perpetrator is her child. We must no longer condone dishonesty and immoral behavior by our children. It is fitting that invincible motherhood raises her head and mothers realize that we live not unto ourselves, but we are the custodians and guardians of the path to success of someone else's future. Our children are crying for help. We must therefore rise up to the task, the responsibility is ours and the moment is now. Happy Belated Mother's Day!
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed at email@example.com.
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- 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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