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The discussion about the new normal in the age of prudence and what has been termed an era of austerity has only just begun. As countries across the globe grapple with the new reality of slow economic growth and fiscal challenges the likes of which have not been experienced in recent memory...
If last weekend's Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) motorcade from Freeport to West End and the political rally that immediately followed are indicative of what lies ahead in the upcoming general election, an objective observer could reasonably conclude that Grand Bahama is no longer Free National Movement (FNM) country. That claim could equally be supported because of the abject government neglect of that depressed island, which is presently experiencing a 21.2 percent rise in the unemployment figure. The PLP's support last weekend was so overwhelmingly impressive that one can more easily understand why Zhivargo Laing abandoned Marco City in Freeport to political newcomer Norris Bain, preferring instead to take his chances once again in Fort Charlotte in Nassau, where he has no natural ties, except for his parliamentary outcome which is now tied -- with one victory and one defeat in the latter constituency.
It was during his rally speech in West End that Perry Christie urged the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) to defer the appointment of a new executive chairman until after the next general election. At that same rally, Philip Davis, PLP deputy leader, noted that Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham "all but admitted that... Freeport was neglected because of a personal feud he had with the GBPA...". Davis explained that "the feud came as a result of his (Ingraham's) refusal... to renew the work permit of Hannes Babak, the then chairman of the GBPA." And, at the opening of the headquarters of the PLP candidate for Garden Hills, Dr. Kendal Major, this past Friday, Christie once again referred to the matter, saying that Ingraham had let "a private feud with Hannes Babak get in his way of working with the GBPA" which Christie said "hurt Bahamians".
In light of these developments, we would like to Consider This.... based on Christie's and Davis' utterances, if the PLP wins, do they intend to renew Hannes Babak's work permit to become chairman of the GBPA?
Let's review the facts:
1. Hannes Babak became the chairman of the GBPA shortly after Julian Francis, a Bahamian, was fired from that position. Following Francis' departure, other senior Bahamians were 'let go' or 'retired', including Barry Malcolm, Carey Leonard, Albert Gray and Willie Moss, all long-standing and outstanding Bahamians working at the GBPA.
2. In his capacity as chairman of the GBPA, Babak was buried under an avalanche of criticism by many notable Freeport businessmen and professionals because of his position, both as the head of the GBPA that licensed businesses in that city, as well as a licensee of the very body that granted and regulated such licences. The GBPA also granted licences to Babak or to companies the he owned.
3. Babak had substantial business interests in Freeport, most notably the Home Centre, Freeport Concrete and H & F Babak Construction.
4. The Home Centre operated in the retail trade in building supplies, a business which is generally reserved for Bahamians. At the time that the Home Centre commenced operations, Babak was not and is still not a Bahamian citizen.
5. Babak's construction company actively competed against Bahamian contractors while he served as chairman of the GBPA.
6. When he was appointed as the chairman of the GBPA, Babak needed a work permit in order to hold that office, which was granted by the Christie administration during its term in office between 2002 and 2007.
7. When he assumed office, Ingraham made it patently clear that his government would not renew Babak's work permit and stuck by his word not to do so. He said what he meant and meant what he said. This action, according to some, was ostensibly at the core of the differences between the Ingraham administration and Sir Jack Hayward, a substantial shareholder of the GBPA.
We believe that no single individual should be allowed to hold a city, its residents, employees or the government hostage for any reason whatsoever, no matter how substantial their investment might be in this country. No single individual or group of individuals should be allowed to assault our sovereignty or to withhold benefits from our citizens. That is non-negotiable.
We have been reliably informed that Babak has and will continue to financially support the political party of his choice in the upcoming elections. As a permanent resident, albeit with the right to work in his own business, Babak is entitled to support whichever political party or parties he chooses. However, we trust that any financial support he offers to whichever party he chooses will not be construed as a quid pro quo for any benefit he might wish to receive should the party that he supports become the government. This includes the issuance of a work permit to become chairman of the GBPA once more.
What can a voter do?
In order to avoid this, every voter in Grand Bahama who is approached by PLP and Democratic National Alliance (DNA) candidates should make it patently clear that the only way that such voters would consider supporting either party is for the candidate to promise that, if elected to Parliament, they would vehemently oppose the issuance of a work permit to Babak to work in any capacity at the GBPA, especially as its chairman. We already know where the FNM stands on this issue. The real power of the franchise is to hold candidates to principled positions if they are elected. This is truly where your vote can count and not be wasted on more mundane issues that are often discussed during the election campaign.
For just a moment, if we were to consider dispassionately whether or not Babak is good for Grand Bahama -- which is the only criteria that, in this case, he should be judged by -- we would have to conclude from past behavior that he simply is not. There are far too many well documented examples of how he proved to be divisive within the GBPA and within the community.
Moreover, the much touted legion of wealthy international investors with whom Babak is supposed to have great influence do not seem to have ever materialized on Grand Bahama's shores.
In fact, for a person who is rumored to be such a global deal-maker, the lack of material on the Internet about him and his business is astounding. No, dispassionately or otherwise, we are forced to conclude that Babak is not the glittering solution to the problems of Freeport, proving how all that glitters is not gold.
We believe that the decision taken by Ingraham not to grant Babak a work permit was unquestionably the correct one at the time. It was correct then and it is correct now and it will continue to be correct for a recovering Grand Bahama.
The voters should make it clear that any government that attempts to reverse that considered decision will do so at its peril.
oPhilip 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.
The Financial Times has confirmed Aliya Allen, CEO and Executive Director, Bahamas Financial Services Board, as a panelist for its Global Summit on International Financial Centres, being held in London on November 27-28, 2012.
The comprehensive two-day summit is being sponsored under the broad theme, "Delivering Competitiveness and Growth in the Changing Global Economy".
Bahamas Ambassador to the United States Cornelius A. Smith presented his credentials to President Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa of Mexico in Mexico City on June 24, and used the occasion to promote the “multilateralism” that he said has benefitted both countries.
American Citizens Abroad Blasts FATCA in Comment to House Working Groups, Calls for Repeal as Part of Tax Reform Framework
Washington, DC - In an
April 4, 2012, submission to the leadership of the International Tax
Reform Working Group and the Financial Services Tax Reform Working Group
of the Committee on Ways and Means of the U.S. House of
Representatives, American Citizens Abroad (ACA) - the flagship
association representing the interests of some seven million Americans
residing outside the United States - has again called for repeal of
FATCA ("the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act") as part of a
comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. tax system. While focusing on the
particular damage FATCA does to U.S. citizens living abroad, ACA pulls
no punches in spelling out the broader harm this 2010 law (now pending
implementation) threatens to inflict on the American economy as a whole,
while failing in its stated purpose of curbing offshore tax evasion.
We have been awaiting your further response to our communications that
began in mid 2010 regarding our financial position, our request for
Government funding, and our inability to continue providing animal
control services for the non-bonded areas of Grand Bahama. Our last
communication from you on this subject was in December of 2010.
We would be grateful for immediate, honest answers to the following:
Will or will not Government assist with any funding for HSGB to provide animal services to the out areas of Grand Bahama?; What is your Department's and/or the Bahamas Veterinary
Association's plan to replace our field spay/neuter programme on Grand
"We must never lose sight of the fact that the student, as the learner, is not only the center of the school system, but the only reason for its existence." This quote by R.B. Jackson gets to the heart of why schools exist.
Despite the new initiatives, the fancy educational terms, and the ever-expanding responsibilities of schools, we miss the point if we forget that students give schools its purpose. With this in mind, the foundational consideration of all educational institutions must be how best we can serve students. An equally foundational response must include adequate preparation for success in the wider world upon completion of school. Doing this in the 21st. century, however, continues to shift from creating workers with basic proficiencies for inevitable placement in monotonous, factory-type roles, to preparing students for innovative, creative, imaginative, ideas driven work, with the skills, competencies and attitudes which engender incredible flexibility and resilience. The former characteristics are decidedly fundamental for survival in our new and ever changing landscape.
However, creating the programs and the curricula necessary to achieve the above is secondary to success in education. Understanding and respecting the individual needs of each student is primary. Underpinned by the aforementioned, education, by its very definition is about eliminating barriers to student success. In short, education requires education practitioners to do all possible to ensure the success of students -- a complex and grand responsibility indeed.
One mandate of any education system must be to get students into and out of the system as expediently as possible. In order to do this, educational institutions must be focused not only on high impact teaching and learning, but also on understanding and eliminating the many barriers to student success. For example, that positive parental involvement increases a student's performance and success in school has been proven time and again in many different education systems and countries. Concomitantly, that the lack of positive parental involvement can be a barrier to student success is also true. More importantly, however, that multiple strategies have been innovatively employed, by many different education systems and countries, with great success, to overcome the barrier of an uninterested and or unable parent have also been proven.
Therefore, the tendency to blame parents for poor student performance rings hollow in an age where access to information and the huge potential for local and international collaboration exist. Moreover, it can be argued that today's pervading parental indifference is in itself due to the underperformance of our education system. Indeed, the education "crisis" has been long in the making.
Let's briefly examine another measure -- school dropouts. How many students drop out of Bahamian schools each year, and what are the main reasons? While accurate statistics appear in short supply in the Bahamian education system, according to a 2006 report by the ABC News Corporation, American students were dropping out of high school at a rate of 2,500 per day. A later report by the New York Times, estimated that 1.2 million American students had dropped out of high school in 2010. While we may not know the exact number in The Bahamas, we do know that both government and private organizations engaging in work with marginalized youth are being overwhelmed by the numbers of citizens requiring services as a result of dropping out of school. We can deduce, if only anecdotally, that we have a similar school drop-out issue in The Bahamas.
The reasons students drop-out of school can be multifaceted and complex. Sometimes though, the reasons are rather simple. According to the National Drop Out Prevention Centre at Clemson University, the top four reasons students drop out of school were -- they did not like school, they were failing and didn't feel able to catch up, they did not like their teachers, and they felt that they did not belong at school.
Other published research points to identical factors in jurisdictions outside of the United States and highlights that dropping out of school is more of a process than an event. That is, students experience feelings of inadequacy over time. When looked at together, what becomes clear is that schools have a lot of control over maximizing and or minimizing opportunities for student success and graduation rates. To state it in a more challenging way, schools have to decide whether their modus operandi create or eliminate barriers.
Unlike poverty, unstable home environments, drugs, violence, abuse and other insidious factors that can also play a role in students' decisions to leave school, the leading factors as mentioned above are within the realm of schools to address. This in no way underestimates the importance of positive parental involvement and community support. It is understood that in the best circumstances, students and schools would have a broad support base of parents and social partners. However, the absence of these supports does not have to be a fatal barrier for student and school success. In the absence of home and community support, schools must put their shoulders to the plough and bear the responsibility of securing the future of the society. Schools are best positioned to do so. Few other institutions have access to students in the same numbers or for the same length of time. Few other institutions can have the kind of impact schools can have on deciding the direction and influencing the degree of success enjoyed by a country. Key to success in this area is being bold enough to accept the full depth of the responsibility.
Of course, when dynamics such as presented above are at play, policy makers have to dig deep to ensure that schools are fully supported, both in terms of legislation, and human and financial resources. It is fully recognized that financial resources are in short supply all over the world, and so emphasis must always be placed on developing and supporting robust human resources, ensuring that the best people are in positions of power, and that professional development holds a privileged position in the organization. Indeed, in the end, it will be the people who get the job done.
So, what are the most important lessons here?
1. The old saying still rings true, even with the best educational programs, the most futuristic curricula, and facilities with all the bells and whistles, students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Education is doomed to failure if anything/anyone other than students gives it purpose and motivation.
2. The most successful school systems around the world create trends rather than follow them. Industries adapt to the innovations of schools rather than schools adapting to industry, and successful school systems have a no-excuses approach to student success, embracing the mantra as was done in Ontario, that schools control the conditions for success. If schools are to be more successful, they will need to embrace the full responsibility of motivating the country and giving themselves permission to take the leadership role and set the trends of tomorrow.
3. Barriers to student success can be obvious external impediments such as drugs and poverty, but even more often, they are the intangible attitudes and feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness held by students, that cost nothing more than a positive, attentive, and caring teacher to address.
This is our full responsibility.
Makia Gibson is a passionate educator, working to improve education for all Bahamians! More at www.yestoeducation.com