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The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) came into existence on September 1, 2009. URCA replaced the Public Utilities Commission and the Television Regulatory Authority. URCA is supposed to act as an independent body and its main purpose is to regulate the telecommunications industry.
On its website, when clicking on the consumer section, there are five main points that URCA is supposed to ensure that competitors in the telecommunications industry execute to protect consumers. These are listed below:
o Ensuring that the quality of your utility services are satisfactory
o Ensuring that prices for utility services are reasonable
o Promoting and protecting your interest
o Promoting competition in the utility sectors
o Publishing reports on the utility sectors.
I ask the question then: What is URCA doing to ensure that the consumers of cellular services receive satisfactory service? BTC's announcement that it is upgrading its network and that there are going to be outages is not good enough. Certainly, URCA has a much bigger role to play, but as it is supposed to be an independent body, why isn't it publicly coming to the defense of the consumer?
Friday, June 15, 2012 was another day in which many businesses lost thousands of dollars because cellular services were disrupted. This in my view is unacceptable. Where is the redundancy in BTC's network? Shouldn't capabilities exist so that when the primary system is down, that the secondary system is booted up to handle all the network traffic?
If these capabilities do not exist now, I hope URCA has demanded that BTC put these systems in place for future upgrades. We have had a horrific experience with the New Providence Road Improvement Project (NPRIP) and now the upgrades at BTC are proving to be moving along the same trend. These examples are certainly not the best way to execute projects.
Maybe BTC and the decision makers of the NPRIP can look at the execution of the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD). They are rebuilding Lynden Pindling Airport, but the airport has remained open and is still providing its core service which is to ensure that consumers depart and return to the airport safely.
Bahamians now know better and these companies who take the unpopular approach to projects without carefully considering the negative effects to its consumers had better get on with it and rethink their strategies. I say to URCA that BTC's outages are planned and the question to ask is why these planned outages can't be completed between 12 a.m. - 6 a.m.
I say to URCA, that "independent body", to please regulate and protect the consumers.
- Dehavilland Moss
Each of the Caribbean hotel investment conferences held in April and May this year included sessions to encourage closer cooperation between the public and private sector but, immediately prior to the Caribbean Tourism Summit in mid-June, the governments of Jamaica and of Antigua and Barbuda announced significant new airport arrival taxes, with a new hotel occupancy tax also added in Jamaica. The Caribbean hotel industry's greatest fear now is that other governments will follow.
These extra charges target the region's highest spending visitors - the stay-over guests. While everyone understands the difficulties that island governments currently face in trying to balance their own budgets in times of world economic uncertainty and with increasingly youthful populations, it is a fact that much of the region's hotel industry is in deep financial crisis and has been for some considerable time. The region's largest employer and biggest direct and indirect taxpayer cannot be "the cow you take to market and milk it twice".
Today, most lower and middle market Caribbean hotels, which have significant bank loans, are in default to some degree or other. Energy and water costs on many islands are as high as US$40 per day per occupied room - with little actual utility cost differential per day per room between budget hotels charging US$80 a night and luxury resorts charging US$800 a night.
Reservation systems, like Expedia, and tour operators continue to negotiate aggressively low hotel room rates, such that Smith Travel Research projects that average room rates in the Caribbean will not recover back to 2007 dollar levels until 2014.
My own research suggests that lower end hotels will not even achieve that level of rate recovery. More tour operators are pressuring hotels for all-inclusive rates, where meals become part of the tour operator's "commissionable" package, but Caribbean hotel restaurants are already incurring operating losses in the face of escalating world food prices. Inevitably, hotel refurbishment and marketing budgets continue to be cut.
Prior to this year's two hotel investment conferences, I researched opinions from the hotel sector, relative to its perceived needs from Caribbean governments, and the following points summarize the concerns and suggested requests.
Review taxation structures for new and existing hotels, "in their role as the region's biggest export industry and foreign currency generator". Many hotels currently require major re-investment and are struggling with bank debt and increased operating costs.
Without new thinking, continuing low levels of inward investment in the sector and a downward spiral of standards are resulting in a consequent loss of global competitiveness for the overall Caribbean hotel product. At least a certain percentage of hotel taxation should go directly towards generic Caribbean global marketing in order to create world class campaigns of adequate scale.
If taxes are reduced on the hotel sector - the current principal direct/indirect "tax cow" - governments should seek to derive compensating levels of tax revenue from the following alternative targets: much higher cruise ship port fees; effective taxation of private condo/villa rental income; a wider property tax base; corporation tax increases paid by a wider range of businesses; abolish duty-free concessions for car rental companies. Governments should also take steps to re-invigorate and grow the region's agriculture and fishery industries as major components in sustainable economic activity - for export and for direct supply to the hotel/restaurant sector and to other local consumers.
Governments should simplify and improve duty-free import concessions for refurbishment of existing hotels and for development of new hotels - but also expand them to include incentives for furnished condos and villas, providing that those units are in a hotel managed formal rental program that generates taxable income on island.
This latter action will speed up the recovery of the leisure real estate market, provide construction work, ultimately generate additional tax revenue and create new fresh resort inventory with extra earning potential for the region's hotel companies. In general, current fiscal incentives are significantly better in many Central American tourism destinations than in most Caribbean countries.
In the light of rising world food prices, there is a need to eliminate import duties for hotels on all food items - not available from local sources -- and governments should actively encourage the growth potential for local food supply.
Reduce utility costs through part/full privatization of existing electricity companies in order to finance investment in better infrastructure: the proposed gas pipeline from Trinidad or on-island LNG trans-shipment facilities; replacement of old diesel generators with efficient gas turbines, hydro, wind and tidal generators.
Similar privatization of water companies should be undertaken for greater efficiency through re-investment in updated and extended infrastructure. Given likely increases in long-term energy and water demand, this is a safe investment for the region's social security funds, insurance companies, unit trusts, credit unions and private conglomerates - many of them still too risk averse to invest directly in the Caribbean hotel industry.
Re-invigorate human resources within the hotel sector and improve the industry's profile as a career choice. Governments and the hotel sector should cooperate in developing and resourcing better, larger management and operative level training facilities throughout the region. Speed up and expand CSME to effectively allow CARICOM citizen managers and specialists to work anywhere within the region. In the meantime, expeditiously grant medium-term work permits for other skilled personnel from outside the region - where their expertise helps to drive world class standards and disseminates their specialist knowledge.
All stay-over visitors to the Caribbean (except yachtsmen) arrive by air. Greatly increased UK airline and regional airport taxes continue to have a significant negative impact on air travel to, and within, the region. The UK's APD tax was highly discriminatory and costly for the Caribbean but lobbying by the public and private sector has been completely ineffective to date and must be more vigorously pursued with the UK government.
The Caribbean Diaspora in Britain can be a powerful lobby at the next UK general election, if the APD issue is successfully communicated to them. The region now faces additional potential negative effects from the proposed European Union's airline "carbon tax" and must avoid further increases in regional airport taxes.
Almost all Caribbean-based airlines are currently loss making but their ticket prices (including taxes) are some of the highest in the world per seat/mile. The private and public sector across the region should work together to help create, finance and under-write a viable pan-Caribbean international and regional carrier, which will genuinely "partner" with the rest of the Caribbean tourism industry. Meanwhile, the cruise sector, which operates in the region virtually tax free and increases its "Caribbean hotel market share" year on year, must also be forced to make its fair share contribution to government tax revenues in the region.
I do not pretend that this commentary from the Caribbean's hotel sector represents a panacea, but the region's most vital industry is on a slippery slope, with a significant part of it in danger of being decimated by strengthening world-wide competition.
It seems very likely that middle market hotels on the islands with a lower cost base, like the Dominican Republic and Cuba, will survive. Highly likely too that the region's luxury resorts will survive, but what are the survival chances for some of the rest of the Caribbean's hotels, particularly older properties with significant debt finance? Some of the dominoes are already falling.
Governments and the hotel sector should communicate quickly and effectively to act together with the greatest sense of urgency. Arguably, the French market has already left for the Indian Ocean and most of the Germans for South East Asia. And some people still think, "These islands market themselves!"
o Robert MacLellan is CEO of MacLellan & Associates, the largest hospitality, tourism and leisure consultancy based in the Caribbean. He has 18 years experience in the hospitality industry in the Caribbean and was a cruise ship hotel officer and vice president, hotel services, of a cruise line earlier in his career. Printed with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
During the election campaign both major parties committed to long-term national planning. Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham promoted Jubilee Bahamas, a 10-year national planning process leading to the 2023 independence jubilee. Given his record, such a planning exercise would have been conducted extending the plans and accomplishments of his former administrations.
As it did with a number of other policy matters, the PLP followed suit, adding a twist: It promised a 30-year plan. Notwithstanding this copycat, and that 30-year plans tend to make little sense in terms of realistic planning, it remains dubious that the incumbent government will, given its past, fulfil its pledge.
But long-term planning going forward is critical, and not just because such planning is perennially essential. We are, today, in the midst of some of the more dramatic structural changes facing the country post-independence.
These changes are varied and complex. They include globalization, urbanization, economic and political modernization, and the interrelated demands of energy security and a complex of environmental issues.
These meta-challenges are occurring amidst, and are part and parcel of a combination of a deep cyclical "financial crisis-based recession" and a variety of structural changes sweeping the globe.
The better news, if we can call it that, is that we may experience a series of rolling recessions lasting the remainder of this decade, and related structural challenges stretching into the future, all resulting in widespread economic and social dislocation. The bad news is that much of the world economy can falter into a depression.
This is the global context of which any national planning must take full measure. While many more Bahamians suspect that we are entering a new normal, constituting a daily struggle to make ends meet and persistent anxiety about the future, many may not realize the nature, scope and depth of the challenges we face.
We are not solely experiencing the typical cyclical recession of which Bahamians of a certain age remember, and which usually lasted for a relatively short period. The turnaround in some tourism indicators should not obscure our deep-seated challenges.
The structural changes with which we are faced are wide-scale. Some of them have been partially discussed and hinted at by political and financial leaders. But the broader scope of these challenges is not fully appreciated by many politicians, business people, academics or journalists.
In turn, these opinion leaders have failed to articulate anything approaching the breadth of our challenges, much less the fundamental changes to our way of life they will bring about.
So, even while an increasing number of Bahamians sense that we are entering a new world, they may not yet appreciate what responding to that new world will entail on numerous fronts. The unprecedented level of change will be staggering.
Communicating the reasons why and responding to such change will not be easy for the political class, especially those still pandering to the mindsets of yesteryear even as events outstrip the make-believe they seek to pass off as reality.
Take something like a value-added tax (VAT) which the Christie administration has discussed introducing. Such a tax seems imperative in light of our accession to the World Trade Organization and desperately-needed state revenues.
But how does a government introduce such a tax to a populace used to taxes hidden in plain sight but unaccustomed to a tax measure like VAT? How does one sell the need for such a tax change to a high consumption society, inclusive of an often brand-name and status-obsessed middle class that has an entitlement mentality when it comes to what is demanded of government?
Tax reform is only the beginning. There are other potentially wrenching reforms on the horizon if The Bahamas is not to fall behind - way behind, on various fronts.
Globalization, not the fact of, but the nature and imperatives of change across the continents will have far-reaching implications. Think of the fundamental changes in our financial services sector wrought by advanced economies, and the fight over the privatization of BTC. Now multiply these many fold, and one gets a sense of what is on the horizon.
Changes like global aging, the shift in China's growth model to greater domestic consumption, and fundamental socio-economic and political changes from the U.S., Europe and Latin America to Asia and the Pacific will pose opportunities and challenges to the way the nation and government conduct its business, and the business of business.
In subsequent columns the challenges of urbanization and the attendant issues of crime and socialization will again be explored. Political modernization concerns the reform and modernization of the role and functions of government, including the level of public sector employment, and the privatization and monetizing of public services.
Economic modernization concerns far-reaching technological changes and the development of human capital in areas such as education, training and innovation, as well as the sustainable provision of social goods such as healthcare.
One burning question is how much the state can afford in terms of social welfare, and who pays for it. The Christie administration will soon face this question as it has promised comprehensive National Health Insurance. The pressures on the government will be immense from insurance companies to healthcare providers to those who may foot the bill for NHI.
The administration also faces its gargantuan promise of doubling investment in national education. Finding the resources alone will be a monumental task. But as importantly, what is the PLP's vision of education reform?
Thus far, we have heard mostly platitudes and generalities. To truly reform public education will require considerable improvement in the quality of teaching. There is no route to improving student performance without overhauling the manner in which we hire and evaluate teachers inclusive of issues of tenure and testing.
If we fail to get the human capital equation right, especially in areas like education training and innovation, our other public investments will account only for so much in terms of productivity and competition. In the area of training, our efforts should be targeted, consistent and practical, not wild-eyed about what may be possible given various cultural and sociological realities.
Also in terms of sociology, our great challenge in the area of human capital is building the capacity of scores of unemployed young people now facing formidable difficulties in terms of employment and the world of work. As critical, is the basic human development, education and training of young males, the source of both great economic potential and major crime.
And then there is the challenge of energy security amidst ever escalating energy costs which is vexing homeowners, businesses and the competitiveness of tourism and other industries.
The upcoming Rio+20 Summit, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, will again highlight the complexity of global environmental challenges including that of climate change.
At home, from ocean acidification to rising sea levels to biodiversity, we are faced with environmental challenges that are more than structural. They are elemental to our survival. In the question of drilling for oil in The Bahamas, the issues of environment and profit collide.
While we are all faced with these challenges, the ability of our political and business leaders to understand, navigate and communicate the new world and the new Bahamas we are facing will be pivotal.
When China shifted towards capitalism and Singapore transformed itself into an economic powerhouse, it was the collective insight and dynamism of its political, business and academic elites who made these countries cutting-edge economies. Though a smaller country we are faced with the same imperative. Are we, and our elites, up to the challenge?
Aliya Allen began her career in 2004 at the Attorney General's Office in civil litigation and chambers. She joined Graham, Thompson & Co. in 2007 as an associate and was quickly promoted to partner in the financial services practice of the firm in 2010. At the time, she was the youngest partner in the firm's 60 year history. Allen was recently appointed chief executive officer and executive director of the Bahamas Financial Services Board.
Guardian Business: What is the biggest challenge facing your sector? What measures need to be taken in The Bahamas to solve it?
Aliya: The intensified competitiveness of global and emerging financial centers has created a major but ultimately surmountable challenge for The Bahamas. An ongoing commitment to and investment in human capital, and raising the quality of our business environment and infrastructure will ensure that we remain well positioned to take advantage of the wealth of opportunities that exist. As a jurisdiction we have taken some important steps towards maintaining our own competitive advantage by passing no less than 15 financial services related bills at the end of last year. For instance, the Trustee Act, which was already a remarkable piece of legislation, is now after these most recent amendments, a beacon of clarity, robustness and flexibility. We have elevated our wealth management platform to the next level.
GB: How has your business or sector changed since the financial crisis?
Aliya: The financial crisis led financial centers around the world to reassess the need for regulation. The conventional theory that markets were ultimately self-correcting was challenged and after long periods of deregulation we all watched as a raft of regulation was implemented in an attempt to strengthen global financial stability.
The problem many would say is that smart regulation and a fair, consistent and balanced approach is what was required, and this is not always the approach that was taken by some jurisdictions. Thankfully, The Bahamas has always erred on the side of smart regulation.
GB: How would you describe or classify the ease of doing business in The Bahamas?
Aliya: We have seen steady improvements in this area but given the highly complex and ever-evolving nature of our competitive industry there is always room for improvement. Both the private and public sector are increasingly cognizant of the need to create advantages that are attractive to doing business in The Bahamas. We need to maintain an open mind and open dialogue on further changes that will enable us to be viewed as a jurisdiction that not only welcomes business but has a progressive attitude for facilitating the conduct of business here.
GB: What should young businesses keep in mind in this current economic climate to survive?
Aliya: That in difficult times marketing should be viewed as an investment, not simply as an expense. This is true for all businesses, not simply new ones and it is the same for financial centers. BFSB understands this paradigm all too well.
GB: What makes a great boss? What makes a bad boss?
Aliya: A great leader has vision and focus but is never hesitant to take advice. Inflexibility and dogged pursuit of your own aims, even in the face of competing viable theories is the surest way to fail.
GB: Can you describe a life experience that changed how you approach business today?
Aliya: can't speak about a single experience that has changed the way I approach business but I can speak about experiences that have shaped how I approach work. When I was a child my parents would make us stand on the dining room table every night and recite poetry and read short stories from the Royal Reader. At the time, it was a chore and we would inevitably groan, "this is boring!" However, it developed my confidence and language comprehension at an early age, and it engendered a love of language and reading that has stayed with me. Those Royal Reader nights taught me that there is no short cut for hard work and that often you have to do things you don't want to do. I've had many "Royal Reader type" of experiences since then; nights when I have stayed up till 3am thinking about a complex problem, or forced myself to go home on a Friday and power up the computer instead of winding down.
GB: What keeps you grounded?
Aliya: My family is quick to point out my failings (in a loving way) whether I want to hear them or not. I have always been encouraged to challenge conventional thought and my ideas are often challenged in the most humbling way. Recognizing my own fallibility has kept me grounded.
GB: What excites you about the sector?
Aliya: The depth of talent and experience in our sector make it an incredibly invigorating space for creative ideas and thought. BFSB has been remarkably successful in providing a forum for some of those ideas to be fleshed out and eventually turned into action. I think the ease of and ability to generate client driven solutions will be the key to our competitiveness as a financial centre and I look forward to facilitating that process going forward.
GB: What are you currently reading, or what is something you've read recently that has been influential?
Aliya: "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman. It is a well-researched and comprehensive examination of behavioral decision-making. Kahneman posits that there are two mental systems, one that is fast and the other slow, that shape our decision-making. The "fast" system is unconscious, prone to snap judgments and easily swayed by emotion and most people are hard-wired to think this way. The "slow" system, is meticulous, conscious, fact-checking and rational and difficult to engage. Sometimes you are called on to make decisions quickly and with limited information and that is unavoidable, but this book has caused me to look more skeptically at decisions I've made in those circumstances and has changed the way I approach decision-making today. Unfortunately, the pull of "fast" system decision-making is that it often "feels" right, but it is more likely to be wrong than you think.
Attorney at Law / Chairman of the Bahamas branch - Charted Institute of Arbitrators/London
What attracted you to the sector?
I became interested in pursuing a career in diplomacy while studying French at La Sorbonne, Paris, France. My deceased brother, Richard Cooper, himself a lawyer, encouraged me to read law after I had finished my tertiary education in France. I studied for the LLB in London, while simultaneously working as a full-time officer at The Bahamas Maritime Office. My primary duties were in the areas of registration of mortgages, an area of ship finance, which firmly established my interest in the financial sector.
How long have you been involved in financial services?
Following my call to the Bar in 1993, I practiced over a broad range of areas in the law, but my primary interest was in corporate and commercial laws. I became actively interested in financial services about one decade ago, and have been involved in the sector since then.
What keeps you motivated?
We all know that life is full of challenges. I meet these challenges, and bring stability to my professional and personal like by drawing inspiration, strength and hope from God. My conviction of The Bahamas' potential to be a premier international arbitration center in the Americas with capacity to complement other arbitral seats around the globe particularly motivates me. Ensuring that there are successors in the industry in 2030 and beyond is also an important motivating factor for me.
Why do you think you have been successful?
I attribute my success to the favor of God and the kindness of persons that have touched my life. My parents, especially my father the Late Rev. Dr. R. E. Cooper Sr. made huge sacrifices for my education and instilled in me a determination and appreciation for life and the opportunities it brings. Along the way, persons have sowed into my success. For example, my benefactor the late Frank Lloyd was instrumental to my completing my studies in France and England after my father's death. Of course, it was left to me to embrace the opportunities afforded to me, and as with others, hard work, dedication and a fearless determination to re-start from ground zero all contributed to where I am today.
Did mentoring play a part in your success?
Yes, I consider mentoring critical. Friends, family and associates have mentored me over the years in areas as wide as business etiquette, diplomacy, and in the legal and financial sectors. I do believe, however, that mentoring should start at home; my parents were my first mentors. I have also found that mentorship is not hinged on age, but rather experience and a willingness to share.
What qualifications do you feel are the most useful in helping you perform in the sector?
Fluent knowledge of the French language has enabled me to provide professional services to the francophone community. Additionally, obtaining my Series 7 has given me the investment knowledge and exposure to respond effectively to a dynamic and evolving marketplace and particularly to the business needs of my clients.
Training with The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in London has allowed me to provide the option of Arbitration/Alternative Dispute Resolution to clients who are keen to conduct business in The Bahamas, and want a commercially viable option to settle disputes.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge in my career has been staying innovative and seeking new opportunities within the global community. This is a continuing challenge. In order to meet the challenge, I regularly attend legal and financial conferences all over the world, to remain on the cutting edge of what is happening internationally, and to be familiar with what others globally perceive as the future of the financial industry. Also, I research market developments and remain abreast of the global financial regulatory climate.
What advice would you give young people just starting out in the industry?
I would say to young people that they should learn how the financial markets operate. I strongly advise them to read and research to understand national, regional and international economies. Exposure by means of travel or internships whether in The Bahamas, regionally or worldwide would prove to be very strategic for future networking, and the establishment of a competitive curriculum vitae. I advise young people that becoming fluent in a foreign language in which business is conducted is more pertinent today than it was when I was studying.
I also encourage young people to pursue their vision with laser focus and not to be afraid of dismantling "the box" and embracing the global market.
I write this letter with deep consternation after reading this Komen blog (http://blog.komen.org/?p=1339) and the press reports on the Susan G. Komen and Ministry of Health announcement of a $100,000 gift to launch a breast cancer program yesterday, September 12.
It also strikes me as so ironic that, exactly one month away from Christopher Columbus' "Discovery" date we, who are supposedly an "independent" nation, are still looking to a "savior" from outside the country to "discover and rescue us". See what you lookin' at, Bahamas - wake up, and stop perpetuating this nonsense.
The Cancer Society of The Bahamas (CSB) was formed in 1976 by a small but fiercely dedicated group who worked relentlessly to form an organization dedicated to educate the public about cancer so that it may be prevented, diagnosed and treated in its early stages, to be of service to cancer patients and their families, and to raise funds to support these programs; and after close to 40 years of sacrifice, hard work and struggles in the original trenches of the cancer fight, they have built an organization that assists the local population all over The Bahamas with all forms of cancer, breast cancer being one of their primary targets.
I know the story intimately because I helped to write it as a 30-year breast cancer survivor and a past president and board member of the society. Although I have long retired from the society I still keep in contact with all of the many entities that deal with cancer care in this country.
Here is my story: When I was only 31 years old, it was the late Dr. Poad who accurately diagnosed my cancer as soon as he saw it, and referred me to the outstanding Bahamian surgeon, Dr. Earle Farrington who performed my biopsy and mastectomy at Princess Margaret Hospital with the late Dr. Wavell Thompson as the anesthetist, after the specimen was correctly diagnosed as stage one Piaget's Disease by Bahamian lab technicians and pathologists, and I recuperated in PMH with Bahamian nurses, the late Lillian Thompson and Susie Mae Lockhart, taking excellent care of me.
This was 30 years ago when we did not have all of the experts, equipment, nor amazing technology that we have today and I am still alive. So don't you think Bahamians knew what they were doing then and are doing now?
I joined the society when they were in the process of purchasing the first ever mammogram machine for The Bahamas which was donated to Princess Margaret Hospital. We knew then that "early detection was the best protection". That was our motto 30 years ago when Komen was just being formed and we were working closely with the American Cancer Society, who embraced the CSB with open arms, asked us what we needed and then shared their services, expertise and resources freely with us so that we could adapt it in whatever way we thought necessary to appeal to the Bahamian public.
We knew 30 years ago that Bahamian women's breast cancer developed at an earlier age than the U.S. statistics showed and that it was more aggressive. We might not have had the scientific data to show it, but our doctors had the empirical knowledge to advise us it was needed, so the CSB was advocating monthly breast self-examination and mammogram screenings at an earlier age decades ago.
In contrast, the Komen organization is only 30 years old and entered the Bahamian cancer scene a mere four years ago. The correct story is that they were introduced to The Bahamas through the auspices of the Bahamas Breast Cancer Initiative (BBCI) that was formed by the wife of the then U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas, Stephanie Siegel, herself a breast cancer survivor.
Members from the Sister, Sister Breast Cancer Support Group, the Cancer Society of The Bahamas, me, and a group of extremely qualified Bahamian cancer specialists - Dr. John Lunn, Dr. Theodore Turnquest, Dr. Larry Carroll, Dr. Corrine Sinquee and Dr. Devaughn Curling - were invited by Siegel to work along with the BBCI to advance cancer care in the country. We, the Bahamians, were their respected consultants and were asked for our advice on how to achieve this.
We are the ones who have been in the trenches and on the ground from the outset; we are the ones who know our people and our country; we are the ones who patients turn to for assistance; we are the ones who have the right to set the policies and procedures because we know the story. This is our country and we must demand the respect that we deserve. Visitors to our country should have the decency to ask our permission to participate, not barge in and try to take over. But as in all such cases, if the donkey lets you get on his back, in so doing it gives you the right to ride him.
It was the BBCI who invited the Komen organization to partner with it to assist in the fight against breast cancer here in The Bahamas. It was the BBCI who informed Komen about the genetic study which was developed by most of the same brilliant Bahamian cancer specialists listed above who worked along with their colleague, Dr. Judith Hurley out of the United States, and this study was also assisted financially by the highly successful and locally organized annual cancer fundraiser Ride for Hope. I trust that these persons and organizations will also write in to elaborate on "how the story go" since many of them were not mentioned in the press reports.
I resigned from the BBCI because I was not prepared to bow to Komen's control. I refused to be told by them how and what to do to develop educational programs for women in The Bahamas based on the standards and statistics of a group who "just reach". It appears that too many people are not aware that slavery and colonialism are dead and I, for one, refuse to dance to the beat of someone else's drum especially since I was involved in writing the music "in the first beginning".
In these days and times, no person or organization should be allowed to come into the country purporting to be our "savior" with the presumption that they have the right to impose their standards unequivocally upon us, telling us how and what we must do in order to conform to their guidelines. Allowing persons to dictate their terms of engagement just because they can write a fat check is no better than prostitution and I cry shame on those who perpetuate this pathetic behavior.
I am a Bahamian first and foremost and I believe in the Bahamian people. I have respect for the successes of the Bahamian people who work hard and I have no hesitation in speaking out in their defense - so should we all.
I am therefore outraged that the Ministry of Health would deny and ignore the cancer achievements of our historical past and "diss" our own organizations and professionals by saying they want to partner with a entity from outside the country to do the very things which these organizations have already developed and have been doing for years.
This is ridiculous and a total waste of time and energy. Furthermore, just how many digital mammogram machines do we need in the country anyway, especially if we do not intend to also invest in properly training the personnel to operate and maintain them? We also refuse to enact legislation that will guarantee quality and consistency in standards of diagnosis or even enforce existing legislation that is already on the books that will protect our women from poor quality diagnosis and care.
Before independence in 1973, many of us might have been poor in the material sense, but we were richer in spirit and creativity. We were more self-sufficient and proud because we relied on our own selves and our community to sustain our existence.
Do we wish to continue to be like Oliver Twist? When we are hungry, do we want to continue to cower and plead, "Please, sir, may I have some more?" Or do we want to ask our neighbor to help us plant a seed to grow a tree that we can eventually stand next to and lift up our heads to pick the fruit to feed ourselves for generations to come? Bear in mind that this process takes time and serious nurturing with plenty of hard work and patience, but such is the long and winding road to success.
How in the world are we ever going to regain our self-respect and dignity if we continue to put out our hand in supplication instead of in collaboration? Collaboration embodies mutual respect - supplication perpetuates dependence. Ask yourself: What position and condition would you wish to encourage?
- Pam Burnside
The prospect of receiving an award for being academically exceptional was never at the forefront of Ricara Skippings' mind as she matriculated through her bachelor of business administration (accounting) program at The College of The Bahamas (COB). She said she was simply following the sage advice of her mother.
On Wednesday, May 28, when scores of high achievers of the college's 2014 commencement class were honored during a special awards ceremony, Ricara was leading the pack. She completed her program with distinction, earning the School of Business' top awards as well as the college's two primary honors.
"I really did not expect this because I actually was working to make my term grades and get a sense of self accomplishment and do my best in every course. I never thought about awards. That was never at the forefront of my mind," she said.
"My mum would always say, you are not competing with the person sitting next to you in the classroom, you are competing against the person sitting in China, Germany, Africa, New Zealand. This is a global environment and if all you think you have to focus on is the person sitting in front of you, then you have big problems."
Ricara humbly accepted the School of Business award, donated by Fidelity Bank and Trust, and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce Award for Academic Excellence. Many other graduands were honored in various schools - from mathematics, physics and technology to English, education and communication and creative arts - for being high achievers.
Acting President of COB Dr. Earla Carey-Baines commended them for their perseverance.
"In the academic arena, they had set themselves apart as scholars and leaders worthy of accolades and emulation. We salute all of our award recipients, as these past years have not been easy ones. The achievement of a college degree is fraught with many tests and challenges. To succeed in college requires commitment, perseverance and sacrifice. You sit before us, not only because you have succeeded, but because you have excelled."
Randol Dorsett is a partner at law firm Graham Thompson and chairman of the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority. In 2001 when he graduated from COB he was recognized for his scholastic aptitude. He returned to his alma mater to deliver the keynote address to the honorees, urging the males among them to be leaders in every facet of society.
"We need more men of excellence now more than ever. We need role models for our sons. Our young Bahamian sons must look up to you for guidance. They must emulate your quest for excellence and model themselves accordingly," he said. "When they are faced with the decision to follow the man who leads the gang on the corner and the student who attends COB, they must come to the realization that to be a man is to know responsibility, to take care of one's self and to take care of one's home. To be a man is to be faithful to one's family, to be a man is to be a leader with a burning desire always to better one's self."
He also challenged the college to be the leading voice in The Bahamas and to help solve the issues this country faces.
"The college and its academics must be the voice of reason in the midst of all the idle talk. When we consider national development plans, issues of taxation, the rights of citizens, issues relating to the environment, these are all issues [in which] the college must have a leading voice. The college must undertake and produce the research which must underpin the public debate," he added.
In all, almost 70 graduating students were honored for their academic excellence and leadership. Among them was Ashley Knowles, who earned an associate of arts degree in music and is a member of The College of The Bahamas Concert Choir. He has travelled the world performing under the leadership of his mentor and choir director Audrey Dean-Wright. Most recently, the college's choir performed at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. He enthusiastically expressed his appreciation for her musical guidance.
"I have been prepared so well, it is like you are almost indebted because you cannot repay [Mrs. Dean-Wright], or the music department, or the college for all I have learned in such a short time. When I travel internationally, people are surprised that I am only a second-year student completing an associate degree. They are so pleased to see that this type of training is happening here in The Bahamas," he said.
At the awards ceremony, Dr. Eslyn Jones, vice -president of student affairs, presented a special award to Dean-Wright, an associate professor at the college, for her longstanding commitment to music and education at the institution.
"For over 18 years, this young lady has been training our students and giving us beautiful music at all our ceremonies and services. We thought it fitting to honor her today. This plaque is a small token of our appreciation for the hard work that she has done over the years," she said.
The college's 2014 commencement activities happened under the theme: "A legacy of leadership: Forty years of educating the nation".
Industry position: Technical Support Officer, Underwriting, Bahamas First General Insurance
What attracted you to the sector?
Initially I desired to be a teacher. During my high school years, however, I developed a love for economics. After summer jobs at Lloyd's and Commonwealth Bank, I became interested in banking, particularly trust administration.
How long have you been involved in financial services? What keeps you motivated?
I have been involved in financial services for the last 10 years
and have been employed at Bahamas First General Insurance for seven-and-a-half years.
I am motivated by the person that I know that I am and the potential that lies within me, along with my desire to be the best and to truly be a person of excellence. I must be my best not because someone is watching but because of me. I do not judge myself based on others' actions. I am also motivated by the support I receive from those around me. Knowing that persons are pushing you to succeed is great motivation.
Why do you think you have been successful?
I have been successful predominantly because of the favor of God.
As I reminiscence, I realize that throughout my life He has allowed me to "stand out" with various key persons who have presented me with opportunities and caused me to gain the necessary exposure.
My "success" is also due to the hard work of my parents, Bradley Pratt and Theresa Hopkins. They ensured that I was educated and that I had the tools needed to succeed. I watched them push to success in spite of obstacles. Beyond that, they loved me and pushed me to success. Just about every person that I have come into contact with has believed in me, sometimes beyond what I believed in myself. This provided a great impetus and I was driven to discover what they saw in me; in other words, to see if I could actually do and achieve what they thought I could.
Finally, I would not downplay my hard work, discipline and determination.
Did mentoring play a part in your success?
It sure did. In the personal arena, I was mentored by the late Ruthmae Bonnie Miller and I continue to be mentored by Kelson Miller. Careerwise, Oscar Sawyer "took me under his wings" when I first arrived at Bahamas First and continued to ensure that I had a firm foundation and understanding of policies throughout his time at the company.
Bonnie Nguyen may not know that I consider her a mentor but she is to me. She has helped me to grow in confidence and challenges me to perform many tasks that I would not "take on" without her guidance.
What qualifications do you feel are the most useful in helping you perform in the sector?
All of my post secondary education was geared toward financial services. I knew that I wanted to be a part of the industry. The CII courses which I became involved in after my official entry to the sector were a tremendous source of knowledge and greatly assisted my understanding, paticularly of the insurance sector.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career? How did you overcome it?
This is somewhat of a hard question for me.
My biggest challenge in my career to this point, I would say, has been wanting to be promoted too quickly. Because I know who I am and what I can do, I sometimes become frustrated with where I am. I have learned to remember that some things take time and that continued diligence, efficiency, initiative and excellence in my work and personal life will take me to where I need to be in time.
What advice would you give young people just starting out in the industry?
I would tell young people that this is definitely an interesting industry. I particularly like insurance because it "touches on" many different sectors, law, medicine, construction.
I would encourage them to work hard, work well, not get caught up in office politics, contribute and participate in work related social activities as it helps to deepen your commitment to the job and wanting to see your company succeed.
Having an open mind and believing in themselves can position them to take advantage of the many wonderful opportunities that will be presented to them.
Company: Front office manager, British Colonial Hilton
Guardian Business: Can you briefly describe your experience in the tourism sector and what your role is today?
Andrew: I started work in the field of hospitality in 1991 on the front desk at the Casuarinas Hotel on West Bay Street. I then moved to The Sheraton Grand Hotel on Paradise Island in 1992 until 1999, when I was given the opportunity to be a part of the team at the Hilton Hotel downtown.
Within my present role I am responsible for the front desk, concierge, valet, pool, beach and gym and the executive lounge, which hosts our top tier guests.
GB: Why did you choose to work in tourism as a career?
Andrew: The various daily activities are very exciting. Everyday brings new challenges and the opportunity to meet people from around the world. No two days are the same, especially when working along with people from various cultures and backgrounds.
GB: What has been your most memorable moment?
Andrew: I have had so many, from meeting royalty (most recently Prince Harry) and celebrities, to being selected to work in Minneapolis to work for Hilton, to administering CPR to a child that had a coin lodged in her throat. Overall, the hotel industry has been very good to me.
GB: Has the industry changed since you started your career? How?
Andrew: The industry has changed drastically; guests are much more knowledgeable about the product and services and aspects of the daily operation have truly evolved into a science from a revenue standpoint. Overall, customer service is very demanding and we have had to rise to the challenge in order to remain competitive.
GB: What should The Bahamas focus on to stay competitive?
Andrew: We as a country must become more service oriented. I feel that we have strayed away from a true service culture and must focus on regaining this. As our number one industry, training needs to be introduced earlier in high school education in order to groom those that wish to become tourism professionals. The establishment of a BGCSE in hospitality would be great! Also, due to the high operating cost locally, there should be further concessions, especially to smaller branded hotels in order to attract them to us.
GB: What advice would you give to a young person who is considering a career in tourism?
Andrew: Stay focused on your goals and try to gain a strong educational base and work on your language skills. Work and interact with as many people as possible in order to help you decide if you have skill of working along with people. Be patient but aggressive and take on any opportunities for advancement that may come your way.
On Friday May 20th , 2011 a group of Bahamian and Haitian-Bahamian artists, hosted an art exhibit and mini musical concert in Nassau at Jacaranda House, called "Nostrum Fabula" (Latin for "Our Story"). The event was under the patronage of the Bahamian Governor General and the Haitian Ambassador to The Bahamas; the Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture also attended. Leading broadcast journalist, Jerome Sawyer, served as the master of ceremonies. It featured Bahamian folk musical artists like the Region Bells and the disc jockey alternated between Kompa and Goombay music.
An untitled art piece by Bernard Petit-Homme, a 26 year old Bahamian born of Haitian immigrant parents, served as the cover art for invitations and promotional material for the event. The image features the Bahamian and Haitian flags. The flags make up the torso of a man who is both black and white; he is silhouetted by the orange and yellow sun; his arms stretch across blue waters of the sea. In the painting Petit-Homme seeks to reconcile his Haitian and Bahamian selves and acknowledge the mixed bloodlines of many as a consequence of slavery. He crafts a celebratory message of unity and brotherhood; a message that ran like a thread throughout the entire event, at which the Bahamian and Haitian national anthems were played.
However, the spirit of unity, tolerance, mutual understanding and respect expressed at the exhibit are not shared by everyone in The Bahamas. Indeed, it is safe to say, that despite their proximity, their many shared cultural practices and a long history of relations between Haiti and The Bahamas, the attitudes of most Bahamians towards Haitians is one of resentment, suspicion or outright hostility.
The Haitian "problem" in The Bahamas is shaped by a number of factors. Haitian migrants are a crucial source of cheap, reliable, motivated labor, particularly in the agricultural sector. Increasingly, however, as the middle class shrinks and the ranks of the Bahamian working poor swell, there is growing resentment toward Haitian immigrants and their children because they are now competing for jobs deemed above their social station. Where once a Haitain only worked as a gardener, farmer, grounds keeper or "handyman"--work young Bahamian men have looked down on for the past forty years--they are now working at gas stations, in hardware stores, and gaining employment as masons and carpenters, jobs Bahamian men have dominated. Many a Bahamian contractor prefers Haitian immigrant labor to Bahamian, not simply because it is cheaper, but because it is better.
There is also the real and perceived strain on national services, such as education and health care, created by the immigrant influx. And there are national security concerns, fed by the fear of Haitian immigrants "violent" people. Added to this are Bahamians' fears of cultural erasure, and political/economic displacement due to the perception of Haitians as a lurking enemy intent on "taking over." All of these factors make the Haitian-Bahamian encounter a vexed one; one that reveals class, color and ethnic fault lines.
The often bigoted public discourse in newspapers, on radio and television speak to the volatility of the situation. For a time I would cut out the more virulent letters to the editor I came across in the papers. One of the most memorable was entitled "Haitians Attract Flies." The most recent was blaming the devastating quake in Haiti on devil worship. I grew up with certain received notions about the Haitian people; they have been the butt of jokes my whole life. There was no greater insult among us as children than to be called Highshun. There is a stigma attached to Haitian origins; a social/ethnic blemish that many young people try to hide because of the stinging ridicule and contempt heaped on them through no fault of their own. I remember a young man at COB who insisted on Anglicizing his name in my class and others who tolerated all sorts of mispronunciations because they at least didn't sound French.
In this uneasy climate, many Bahamian artists attempt to resist the stereotyping of the Haitian people. Artists such as John Cox, John Beadle, Jackson Petit-Homme, Maxwell Taylor, and Eric Ellis, and writers such as myself, Telcine Turner-Rolle, Patricia Glinton-Meicholas, Keith Russell, Nicolette Bethel and others have attempted to prick the conscience of Bahamian society. My play "Diary of Souls" was a fictional treatment of a true event; the tragic death of Haitian refugees at sea in the Exumas in 1990. Sadly, these tragedies have been happening for a very, very long time and still happen.
At stake is the very notion of what it means to be a Bahamian. Haitian immigration challenges the core values/ideals of the Bahamian state, putting the people and the nation on trial, and calling international attention to the question of just how committed The Bahamas is to freedom, equality and justice for all.
But we are an itsy bitsy country. We cannot possibly be expected to have an open door policy. We have the right to protect our borders from illegal entry. We are not the continental United States or Canada; we are specs on the world map. And even in a nation the size of the US, illegal immigration from Mexico and further south is the source of heated debate and conflict.
But though we may protect our borders, Haitian immigrants and those of Haitian descent are here to stay. We may not all want them here but all need them here. We need them, as we have always needed immigrants, to help build our country by doing the things we can't or won't do. It makes no sense to drive a wedge between them and us, to create a hated, disenfranchised underclass.
The reality is that our citizenship laws ensure the imperilment, not the protection, of The Bahamas. Disenfranchising a person for 18 years or more, while they await entry into the exclusive club of Bahamian citizenship, creates frustration, shame, anger, alienation and bitterness in the hearts thousands of young people who know, have, and want no other home but this one. It's simply inhumane, short sighted and stupid.
If we cannot bring ourselves to make citizenship automatic upon one's birth for all those born here, we should at least amend the constitution to lower the eligibility date. Why not 10 years old instead of 18? Avoid creating frustrated stateless teens that can't get scholarships, can't fully participate in national life.
Of course, there's always the other option. While picking up my son from school, a gentleman who was also waiting for a child, told me he had the solution to the Haitian problem. "I would blow their boats right out of the water when we find them." And then he proceeded to carefully lovingly take a child's hand and lead her out of the school yard.
IAN STRACHAN is Associate Professor at the College of The Bahamas.