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It is about that time again when politicians find their way back to Church. In the past, there were very active political surrogate communities within the numerous church bodies and many were even labeled as PLP or FNM denominations.
However, the last decade has seen a decrease in the level of influence that political organizations have on congregations, due primarily to the non-partisan stance that Pastors have taken. This position was taken out of necessity. The fallout that happened following past elections had a negative impact on the ability of a congregation to do what it was mandated to do, not to say that it has stopped the ground level skirmishes.
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The Bahamas has a bicameral (two chamber) Parliament. The House of Assembly's members are elected and the members of the Senate are appointed.
Maurice Tynes, the clerk of Parliament, recently appeared before the Constitutional Commission and recommended a new electoral system be adopted in The Bahamas to better reflect the will of the people.
More specifically, Tynes suggested the Senate be abolished and the Parliament be unicameral (a single chamber). The chamber would be comprised of elected and appointed members. The appointed members would be selected based on the percentage of votes the political party they represent received. A party would be required to gain at least five percent of the vote before it could be considered to participate in the sharing of parliamentary seats, Tynes argued.
Such a system would open up our democratic process to voices beyond the two dominant parties who currently occupy all of the political space in The Bahamas. In the last general election, the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) received nearly 10 percent of the vote. Yet, all those Bahamians who voted for the DNA have no voice in Parliament.
In that same election the Progressive Liberal Party secured 48.7 percent of the vote and won 29 (76 percent) of the seats in the House. The Free National Movement captured 42.1 percent of the vote and only won nine (24 percent) of the 38 seats.
The PLP's super-majority in the House is a distortion of the will of the people. Consequently, it can force through laws without consultation with a majority it truly does not deserve. Our Constitution is archaic in this regard, noted the clerk.
"This first past the post, or winner take all, voting system is indeed a simple and fast way to vote and to count ballots, but the first past the post system produces too many distortions in the result of the balloting and most often the result does not accurately reflect the will of the people," said Tynes.
It is unlikely that this generation of politicians will change our electoral system. There are few revolutionary thinkers in that bunch. Younger Bahamians, however, should examine the various voting models that exist around the world and seek, in their time, to create a voting system that allows more voices to be recognized in Parliament.
We all have seen that the two main political organizations have become bloated and exhausted patronage parties. New voices need to be given a chance to bring forward new ideas and modes of operation in order to help reinvigorate The Bahamas.
If the web shop sector is going to be allowed to exist then it should be regulated, Governor of the Central Bank of The Bahamas Wendy Craigg told The Nassau Guardian.
Noting that web shops are operating outside the regulatory framework, the governor said they really are not underground businesses.
"It does not fit the definition of underground activities," she said of the sector. "It has a face. It is very visible."
The governor pointed out that the Central Bank and local commercial banks adhere to strict national and international standards aimed at guarding against money laundering and terrorist financing.
When she was contacted for comment recently, Craigg did not take a position on whether web shops should be allowed to operate, as it is a highly political issue in the purview of the government.
Instead, the governor pointed to the dangers of having an unregulated web shop sector.
"As a Central Bank, we are certainly aware that last year the domestic banks took explicit measures in compliance with these AML (anti-money laundering) regulations to have accounts that were operated by these number houses closed," she said.
"That definitely came to our attention, and so they were left with a dilemma as to what to do with these large cash balances.
"We know that some of them were directed to the Central Bank to acquire government paper, government registered stock, treasury bills, but since we are also bound to comply with national KYC (know your customer) requirements, we had to deny those requests."
Ian Jennings, president of Commonwealth Bank, told The Nassau Guardian that the bank is still abiding by the position that the numbers businesses are operating illegally.
He said Commonwealth Bank will not entertain these accounts because it has to comply with know your customer and other requirements.
"Obviously, since the referendum, the whole question has been called into account as to whether or not it is illegal or legal activity," said Jennings, referring to the gambling referendum which took place one year ago today.
"For Commonwealth Bank, until the court rules otherwise or there's a change of the law the bank is still at the position that it is an illegal activity."
A legal challenge filed by web shops in the wake of the failed referendum remains tied up in the courts.
Jennings noted there is no clear evidence of what is happening to the proceeds of the unregulated industry.
"It's like the governor said, we hear anecdotal stories, but there is nothing we have that can prove to anybody [what they're doing]."
Jennings also said, "We're concerned with regard to the extention of credit."
He added, "The total level of credit, if it is not being regulated just adds more burden onto the consumer."
Craigg said unregulated businesses involved in "cash intensive activities" could be vulnerable to criminal exploitation.
"And that is why they've been recognized by the international organizations as requiring oversight under national AML so they have to abide by those requirements," she said, "the same way the casinos [have to]. Casinos today have to comply with AML/CFT (combatting the financing of terrorism) regulations."
The governor said some of the businesses involved in numbers made applications to the Central Bank for permission to invest overseas.
"And then the informal information that has come to our attention is that they are becoming very important providers of credit which is outside of the formal regulated banking sector and if these activities are sizeable, this certainly creates an unleveled playing field for regulated credit entities and it basically results in an under reporting of the value of credit activities in the economy," she said.
"Our understanding is that some of them are engaged in the provision of small loans, consumer loans perhaps through becoming owners of or funding pay day advance companies.
"They provide mortgages. They do in-house financing for housing and condominium development. They are owners of large commercial housing developments, so this is just a way that they are investing their cash resources that they cannot place within the banks on deposit."
The governor added that this unregulated sector could also be distorting important national economic data.
"If they are not being measured as a part of the activity that's taking place in the economy then we have an under reporting of economic information such as employment, personal income, GDP output data for the country, and by their very nature these web shops or number houses are very cash intensive."
The Nassau Guardian contacted the governor for comment on this highly divisive issue after Prime Minister Perry Christie said she had concerns about the unregulated numbers industry.
In a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian, Christie said, "Today, the governor of the Central Bank is demonstrating concern for this because what has happened is there has now been the evolution of a new economy that is underground, a new banking order that is taking place where mortgages are being given and where huge sums of money are moving.
"You always have money laundering concerns when you don't regulate, but I'm thinking now of when the banks say you can't bank your money, the Central Bank says you can't invest in treasury bills, the Central Bank says you can't export your money, you can't put it in another country, then you ask the question if that is the case, what is supposed to be happening to the money?
"And so, that is a very trying set of circumstances for me now."
Last week we explored the effects that monetary policy at the turn of the millennium may have had upon the current mortgage and overall debt crisis. As several individuals are calling for a further reduction of the discount and prime rates (DR and PR), it is important to note the impact such a move will have on individuals' credit positions and financial wellbeing.
There is no doubt that the reduction of the DR and PR proved beneficial to the government in that it provided the government with an opportunity to service its debt at a lower interest rate, even though the overall benefits to consumers appears to be minimal. On the other hand, the reduction of the DR and PR would have negatively impacted some organizations, Financial Institutions (FIs) and the National Insurance Board, as they would have lost millions of dollars in investment income.
In the final analysis, FIs usually win and are rarely dealt the bad hand of the stick in any situation within a credit-driven and consumer society like The Bahamas. Financial Institutions in response to the aforementioned reduction imposed charges in other strategic areas, increased some of their fees and maintained their rates for consumer loans. We have witnessed quiet increases in FIs' fees for transactions such as ATM or passbook withdrawals - service charges on accounts and additional fees were applied to loans in the aftermath of the rate reductions. A well-known fact is that the ultimate and main loser is usually the consumer who on the one hand receives a 'supposed' break on his debt servicing due to the DR and PR reduction, but pays hidden fees and charges on the other hand.
The net effect on the consumer is that he/she ends up paying the same amount and in some cases more to the FIs, which may result in non-performing loans or lost property to foreclosure. This reinforces the point that an active Consumer Protection Commission ought to be in place to provide checks and balance on behalf of consumers relating to financial transactions among other things.
In addition to providing debt-servicing relief, it is expected that further reduction in the DR and PR should have also provided access to credit at a cheaper rate for individual and business consumers. The positive effect for business owners is that it creates the opportunity for expansion of the business and/or maintenance of inventory levels. However, it is estimated that approximately one third of commercial banking loans extended to Bahamian companies are in arrears. If businesses are faced with increased energy and gas costs combined with tax increases in National Insurance, business license fees and other diverse areas, it becomes less possible for businesses to be sustained during the current economic climate and more importantly create jobs that will help stem the growing unemployment rate.
The likelihood of FIs extending credit under already constrained circumstances is lower than normal and the underwriting of new loans is being done with extreme caution - a prudent course of action. This further emphasizes and highlights the importance of and the urgent need for a functional and effective credit bureau. It is noted that the Central Bank of The Bahamas had obtained assistance from the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Center (CARTAC) with the aim of establishing a credit bureau, albeit the process has been ongoing for a few years. Considering the history of adjustments to the DR and PR, these rates are normally revised (downwards for the most part) not more frequently than in five-year intervals. Whereas this does not suggest that monetary policy should be stalled or be predictable, the historical trends suggest that there is ample time to establish a credit bureau prior to any potential adjustments to the DR and PR.
What are the fiscal policies of the political parties?
In light of the challenges that our economy faces and the general consensus that we must revisit our economic model, it is disturbing to see that little is being said about the proposed fiscal policies of political parties as we enter the heart of the general election campaign. It is a well-known fact that during the election campaign seasons in the past, we have heard politicians produce their grand ideas of what they intend to do for the Bahamian people. The important part of the equation is, however, often omitted and very rarely if ever do we hear about how they propose to 'foot the bill' for their grand but necessary ideas.
It seems inevitable that the next government post the 2012 general election will have to continue this spate of borrowing at least during year one of governance to ensure the government is able to meet its obligations. Fortunately, government debt servicing has been aided by one-off payments in 2011 from the sale of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company and capital inflows from Baha Mar. However, the likelihood of similar capital injections for 2012 is slim. A part from a significant turnaround and increase in tourism numbers and the government's ability to constrain its spending habits, it is difficult to see how we will get ourselves up out of this national disaster.
Our politicians seem to have mastered the art of avoiding reality and failing to inform us that hard decisions will have to be made. In essence, austerity measures are not unforeseeable and it could be argued that these measures are unavoidable. Of course such declarations are unpopular (albeit they would be truthful) and politicians fear the potential backlash of such honesty. The government has continued to borrow in the midst of declining revenues and increased taxes that placed a heavy burden on the Bahamian people. It would not be surprising, therefore, if the current tax levels are maintained or increased to meet budget requirements. Unfortunately, the persons most affected by these tax burdens form part of the working and shrinking middle classes. In the absence of foreign direct investment or new sources of revenue, any reduction in taxes will most certainly require the government to carry out extreme measures to cut its spending, increase the efficiency of state-owned enterprises to stop wastage and implement efficient tax collection policies.
The national debt crisis constitutes an unwanted and unsolicited gift to future generations of Bahamians that threaten their opportunity for economic prosperity. This crisis and prevailing macroeconomic indicators makes it difficult to see any significant economic growth in the near future. Our leaders and all of us must rise above the partisan politics and make a concerted effort to place our economy back on track.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed at email@example.com.
Elections are more often bought than won.
- U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton
As the general election in The Bahamas approaches, there has been considerable discussion about the sources of political campaign finance. One of the local tabloids has suggested that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) is being funded by "unsavory characters". At one of the Free National Movement (FNM) rallies, the prime minister is quoted as saying: "The PLP has plenty money! And there is a reason they have plenty money. The money they've got, we don't want! We'd rather be out than in if we have to use that kind of money! Our hands are clean!"
Therefore this week, we would like to Consider This... should we be concerned where political parties receive their campaign contributions?
Campaign finance refers to funds that are raised and spent to promote candidates and political parties in election contests. In modern democracies, such funds are not necessarily devoted exclusively to election campaigns. Political contributions are also used to finance issue campaigns in referenda, party activities and party organizations.
For the most part, however, in The Bahamas, political campaign finance is used to establish campaign headquarters at the constituency and national levels, to purchase party paraphernalia, including signage, pins, and flyers, to pay political consultants for polling and focus group activities, party manifestos, newspaper, radio and television commercials, constituency activities, travel to the Family Islands and for political rallies and concerts.
And, yes, political campaign finance is also used to purchase votes. Although this is illegal, vote buying has been a feature of our political culture long before the establishment of the first political party in 1953.
Reasons for giving
There are many reasons why persons contribute to political campaigns. The first and most obvious reason is that donors support the political positions, programs or personalities of one party over another and want to see that candidate and party win in order to implement those policies and programs. In many cases, the donor's intentions are noble and sincere and contribute to the strengthening of the democratic process.
Another reason for making a political contribution to a particular candidate or a party is to ingratiate oneself to both, in case the candidate or his party wins the election. The donor then hopes to be able to obtain support for his personal, business or civic programs.
There is also wide public perception that some donors expect government favors in return, such as specific legislation being enacted or defeated, the awarding of significant government contracts or other benefits granted as a result of large campaign contributions; so some have come to equate campaign finance with political corruption and bribery.
So then, does it really matter who finances political campaigns in The Bahamas? The short answer is yes. If political parties expect to be taken seriously, significant contributors must be closely scrutinized in order to determine whether the acceptance of their contributions will adversely affect the voters' perceptions. Let's look at several examples.
Much has been made about lawyers who defend clients who are accused of criminal offenses. The suggestion is that if a candidate is to be taken seriously by the voter, he should not represent persons so accused. There is an even more pernicious suggestion that lawyers who do so are undesirable candidates for Parliament. We totally disagree.
We are a country that is governed by the rule of law, whose primary precept is that a person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a candidate representing such persons, even in cases where the accused are awaiting an extradition hearing. Let us remember that there was no similar public outcry when Eugene Dupuch and Sir Orville Turnquest successfully represented Robert Vesco, the internationally renowned financial fugitive, when the United States sought his extradition. In fact, Sir Orville subsequently enjoyed an illustrious and distinguished career as a Cabinet minister and deputy prime minister and then ultimately as governor general of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
Even more has been made of candidates accepting donations from such individuals. Keeping in mind the innocent until proven guilty concept, we see nothing untoward about taking donations from such accused individuals, nor do we see anything inappropriate about accepting donations from individuals who have been acquitted of the charges against them. They were presumed innocent and proven to be innocent, therefore donations from such persons are just like those from people who have never had a brush with the law. Of course, if the contributor was actually convicted of an offense, then it would be imprudent for such contributions to be accepted. Far too often in this society we do not appreciate the difference.
A second example involves a completely legitimate, clinically-clean contributor who makes a substantial contribution with the clear understanding that, if elected, the winner would ensure that certain actions are taken or favors granted for the contributor's benefit. Notwithstanding that contributor being above reproach, such an arrangement is equivalent to bribery and corruption.
Accordingly, the real test of the appropriateness of the contribution must be the legal standing as well as the intention of the contributor and an understanding of the motivation of such contributions.
Campaign finance laws
Most countries that rely on private donations to fund campaigns require extensive disclosure, including the name, employer and address of donors. This is intended to police undue donor influence, while preserving most of the benefits of private financing, including the right to make donations and to spend money to enhance political free speech, saving government the expense of funding campaigns and keeping government from funding partisan free speech, which some citizens would find odious.
Supporters of private financing systems believe that private financing fosters civic involvement, ensures that a diversity of views are heard, and prevents government from tilting the scales to favor those in power or with political influence. They also encourage enhanced transparency in the funding of candidates and the political parties.
There is no campaign finance legislation in The Bahamas and we submit that the time has come to consider changing this. We believe that the correct balance of political finance impacts a country's ability to effectively maintain free and fair elections, effective governance, democratic government and the regulation of corruption.
Political campaign finance can affect various societal institutions. We fully recognize that money is necessary for democratic politics, and that candidates and political parties must have access to funds to play their part in the political process. Money is never an unproblematic part of the political system, and, therefore, regulation of this process is highly desirable.
We also believe that our political culture must be taken into account when devising strategies for controlling money in politics in Bahamian elections. Ultimately, the effective regulation and disclosure of political campaign finance can help to control the adverse effects of the role of money in politics, but only if well-conceived and implemented. Without those proper regulations, our democratic process is in danger, and the pirates might just have to be expelled once more.
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 Republic of Haiti has set itself to become an emerging nation by 2030. This will not happen by that time unless it takes steps now to deal with these three most important issues.
1. The complete degradation of its ecology
2. The intergenerational and endemic misery of the majority of its population
3. The lack of sense of civism and the sense of appurtenance linking one citizen to another in a shared heritage.
Starting with the latest issue, the lack of the sense of civism and appurtenance, it is the gangrene that is ravaging the world today. The United States has just spent more than a trillion dollars to pacify and reconstruct Iraq after Saddam Hussein in the last 10 years, but because not enough policy thinking and funding was earmarked for the issue of nation building, meaning injecting the sense of civism and appurtenance within the different sectors of the Iraqi population, the Shiite and the Sunnis, the situation is quite explosive.
The successful nations of this world have no other magic formula. Before implementing any institution or infrastructure building they have given themselves the task of infusing the sense of civism amongst the different ethnic or geographic groups of their nation. Failure to do so, each citizen will try to take its own brick from the national edifice preventing any incremental unified construction. I am afraid it is the story of Brazil in spite of the buzz that Brazil is now an emerging nation.
Haiti, in spite of its original role of pioneering nation-state, has enjoyed very few years of nation building experience. Its founder Jean Jacques Dessalines was assassinated two years after independence, as he was enforcing the doctrine that the state patrimony must be shared by all. Henry Christophe tried the same formula as King Henry in the northern part of the country, but 15 years later, the whole edifice crumbled as the laissez faire doctrine of Alexander Pétion took hold nationally and survived until today.
The different economic and social initiatives have all failed because they are not cooked with the oil of the sense of appurtenance. The benefits of social engineering have remained, as the Haitians have baptized with their natural wit, á l'oral, meaning without the expected outcome. The doctrine of the sense of appurtenance, according to the Renan dictum, the bible of the concept of nation building, is the first ingredient to institute a nation state for any government that has the ambition to do so.
It is the belief and the practice that all the citizens, whatever the confines of their geographic location or the shade of their color or the status of their parents, will receive the same appropriate services of sane institutions and adequate infrastructure. The child of the city as well as the child of the countryside can aspire and can achieve his greatest dream if he appropriates enough diligence and enough creativity.
This is not the story of Haiti. Cumulative governments have accepted that 90 percent of the population lives marginalized, either in the country side without schools, health care and roads and economic incubation, or live in the slums of the city with the same indifference to the basic needs of that segment of the population. Different international organizations with social intervention in Haiti have either mimicked the culture of the government or have engaged in make believe initiatives that have compounded the problem.
To conclude this topic, the Haitian government must take steps to incorporate the education of civism in the curriculum of the grammar schools, the sense of ethics in the secondary schools and at the university. Through affirmative action, it must make sure that those who have been discriminated against for the past two centuries receive their share in the patrimony. This must be done with the consent and the assent of the elite as a natural obligation that each brother owes to his brethren.
Once this step is taken, it will be easier to attack the second issue, which is the intergenerational misery of the majority of the population. The spectacle is the same whether in the capital, in the small towns or in the countryside, hordes of men and women are idle or engage in makeshift commerce where the return is so small that it is a psychological endeavor to continue the business of staying alive.
The grandmother the mother and the child all inhabit the same hut with no prospect of a better tomorrow. The grandmother, who barely knows how to read and write, the mother with only a grammar school education, and a child in an underfunded school, ill nourished and doomed to quit school before achieving the baccalaureate (high school).
Where Haiti is
With such a large population with no formal education, it is difficult to apprehend the policy that Haiti is open for business of the government. Very few global businesses will entertain opening shop in such an environment. There will be some, but they are so inimical to good business practices that the population will regret that they were let in in the first place. The Haitian government should instead initiate a policy of Haiti seeking for business. Using the natural and creative talents of the majority of its population, Haiti must concentrate instead on value-added products, using art as an addendum to machine-made pieces.
Best Western hotel has just built its first major facility in Haiti. According to the corporate executives, Haiti has added a touch of art to each one of its rooms and each one of the walls of the Best Western Haiti is one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry, tooled and retooled by hundred of artisans who were given a free hand to use their creative talents.
The Haitian government, to employ its masses of unemployed and underemployed people, must incubate hundred of creative centers where any modern flat screen TV can be transformed with carved mahogany frame into a picture setting. The replicate of this model of art imitating nature and nature imitating art will be extended to all home furniture including the toilet cover. This is the forte where the Haitian people are best. They will find themselves useful to themselves, useful to society and useful to the world.
The Haitian government can also use its mass of agricultural workers to produce organic and nostalgic fruits and vegetables for its Diaspora in the United States, Canada and France. The free zone should serve as a receiver for the packaging, and the dispatching of fresh produce to all corners of the world, bringing back precious foreign exchange money into the country. With a culture of a export-oriented nation, this intergenerational misery will come to an end and progressively the culture of wealth building will become part of the fabric of the society.
The degradation of the ecology is a component of the misery of the population. Unable to wait for the tree to grow it has taken into the habit of eating the seeds. Haiti's vegetation was once destroyed by the rapacious colonial practice of cutting its entire forest of hardwood trees, such as mahogany, cedar and chain for the construction of palaces in Europe. But nature has been so generous to the country that the loss was replenished with a vengeance, with the help of good soil and abundant rain. The population to feed was only around 500,000 people at that time.
It is now 10 million people. Charcoal made of carbonized wood in a pit is the preferred ingredient used by the rich and the poor for cooking. It would have been sustainable if the wood was only the discarded ones. But, the peasants deprived of any other cash commodity are now indiscriminately using avocado, mangoes and all type of fruit trees for making coal for cooking.
Inundation, flood, and construction in a fragile environment have also contributed to render Haiti a land so vulnerable that any constant rain of one or two days will cause disaster of biblical consequences. It follows if Haiti plans to enjoy the status of an emerging nation by 2030 it must first hold onto the land that it already has before the whole structure goes into the sea. It will have nothing to enjoy as it seeks to become an emerging nation.
The government has declared 2013 the Year of the Environment, but so far it has been as most programs introduced in Haiti, big propaganda with no result and no outcome in the end. The minister of environment has failed to engage the public in a massive conservation culture, where in each home vegetable residue is put into a pit to produce organic manure. The seeds of each eaten fruit are saved to be transformed into a seedling for planting later.
Haiti has also failed to engage into the carbon exchange mode where it will use its mountains to partner with the pension fund of say New York or California state to invest into massive plantation of mahogany, cedar and other precious wood. This investment will bring high returns to the foreign retirees, to the nation and to the Haitian citizens while facilitating the cooling of the atmosphere.
These are the steps to be undertaken to bring Haiti into the path of progress and development. They represent the groundwork upon which education, infrastructure, tourism and health can be tacked upon to deliver a true emerging nation well before the targeted date of 2030.
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: email@example.com. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
U.S. Charge d'Affaires John Dinkelman yesterday emphatically denied that the Free National Movement (FNM) had any involvement in producing the U.S. Embassy's 2014 Investment Climate Statement on The Bahamas.
The U.S. diplomat spoke to The Nassau Guardian after suggestions by Labour and National Insurance Minister Shane Gibson that the son of former FNM Chairman Johnley Ferguson wrote the report.
"The Bahamian opposition had nothing to do with this report," Dinkelman said.
"The Bahamian employees of the [U.S.] Embassy did not write the report.
"American diplomats wrote the report for Americans to consider the Bahamian investment climate."
The report raised concerns about an alleged lack of transparency and "undue government interference" in The Bahamas' bidding and procurement process.
Gibson said on Thursday that Hank Ferguson, commercial specialist in economics in the commercial section of the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, wrote the controversial report.
He questioned whether the criticisms of the government are those of the United States or those of the son of a "staunch FNM".
But in a statement issued on Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau said non-American staff members do not author such documents.
At the end of the report, Ferguson is listed as the "contact point at post for public inquiries".
Dinkelman explained that Ferguson was listed as a point of contact for potential U.S. investors.
As it relates to Ferguson's political affiliation, Dinkelman said he does not know and does care as a foreign diplomat.
"I am only concerned about the quality of his work, which has been superlative," he said.
"Any aspersions that Mr. Ferguson may have twisted any report that the United States Embassy puts out, in any sort of partisan manner, I reject entirely and categorically.
"The products, which come out of our embassy are unfettered by any domestic partisan disagreements or differences that may exist."
Dinkelman was also asked to respond to Prime Minister Perry Christie who asserted on Tuesday that the information in the report was likely gleaned from opposition sources.
In response, Dinkelman said, "Undoubtedly, a series of American diplomats assigned to Nassau contributed from every conceivable source, from the private sector to the public sector, from non-governmental organizations, international organizations and, as cited in various parts of the reports, from international watchdog organizations, which measure The Bahamas and The United States, but literally every country of earth to provide, as I would stress, a snapshot of where things sit in The Bahamas as of today."
The report also said many of the Progressive Liberal Party's "ambitious campaign promises" remain unfilled more than two years after the Christie administration took office.
Christie suggested it is "simply inappropriate" for the U.S. officials to draw negative conclusions on the success of his government's plan, based on a "snapshot" of the current situation.
Dinkelman said the document, which has 19 sections, is an overall positive review of The Bahamas.
"Anybody who is overly critical of the document simply has not read the entire document," he said.
"The United States, through this report is actually supporting and reaffirming a positive light on the investment climate in The Bahamas."
Dinkelman admitted there was a factual error in the report, which he said is being addressed.
The report said Standard and Poor's (S&P) downgraded the country's credit rating in 2013.
S&P did not downgrade The Bahamas that year, but revised its outlook to negative in September 2012, as pointed out by Christie.
"When that was called to the embassy's attention we immediately reported that to Washington," Dinkelman said.
"I suspect that, given the long holiday weekend, that the change to the website for this report would not be affected until early next week."
He added that while the report has negative and positive aspects, the document would not dissuade American investors from doing business in The Bahamas.
"Unity is strength...when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved."
- Mattie Stepanek
On Tuesday, July 9, 2014, one day before independence day in The Bahamas, there were several historic moments in Bahamian history. On that date, we witnessed His Excellency Sir Arthur Foulkes demit office as our ninth governor general in an independent Bahamas, four short years after being sworn in.
Several hours later on that same day, the 10th governor general since independence, and the ninth Bahamian, assumed that office in the person of Dame Marguerite Pindling. We should remember that Sir John Paul, a British citizen who served as the last governor of the colony of The Bahama Islands, was the first governor general of the newly created Commonwealth of The Bahamas on July 10, 1973. He held that post for a very short time, only until August 1, 1973 when Sir Milo Butler became our first Bahamian governor general.
Therefore this week we would like to Consider this... What should we expect of our newest governor general, Her Excellency Dame Marguerite?
In assuming office as the governor general, Dame Marguerite embodies a series of firsts for our nation. She is the first Bahamian governor general to attain that post without having served in the executive or legislative branches of government. Without exception, all other governors general have served in either the executive or legislative branches of government, and in some instances both.
In addition, Dame Marguerite is the first spouse of a former Caribbean prime minister to become governor general. The only other similar situation, albeit not quite analogous, was Dame Nita Barrow, the sister of the founding father of Barbados, Errol Barrow, who served as prime minister of Barbados from 1966 to 1976, and who during his tenure led Barbados to independence from Great Britain in 1966.
There is no question that Dame Marguerite has made enormous contributions to the body politic for many decades, primarily in a supporting role as the spouse of Sir Lynden Pindling, the leader of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and prime minster for 25 years.
And while she has never offered for elective political office, Dame Marguerite has been squarely at the center of politics in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
Married on May 5, 1956, Dame Marguerite found herself immediately in the thick of the first political campaign ever fought by the Progressive Liberal Party. Election day, June 8, 1956, saw history made when six members of the fledgling Progressive Liberal Party were elected to the House of Assembly, including her new husband, Lynden Pindling.
Finding herself in a new role as her husband became the leader of opposition business in the House, she immersed herself, along with many other PLP women, in fundraising, which enabled the men to bring the PLP message to the Out Islands, as
well as efficiently and speedily organizing branches of the party.
She also became part of the group of women agitating for the right to vote because, in those days, activism and being a part of the PLP went hand in hand, even for women who were traditionally homemakers. Almost everyone in those days was caught up in what was becoming a national movement toward economic and social empowerment. Being involved in the movement, she became well informed about the events of the day so she could liaise with the women of the party and keep them abreast of what was happening as the party moved forward, toward their goals.
Even as her family grew, Dame Marguerite grew as a public figure, the wife of the man who eventually became the leader of the party. Gifted with natural wit and innate style, she learned how things were done in a more international arena as she represented The Bahamas at the side of her husband, even filling in for him upon occasion. It is also a matter of historical record that the first time she actually stood in for him was to deliver a speech in England on his behalf when Sir Lynden was called back to The Bahamas in May 1980 to deal with the national crisis caused by the sinking of the HMBS Flamingo by Cuban fighter jets.
The family influence
It is well known that Sir Lynden, unless he was away or otherwise engaged in some pressing matters of state, returned to his home almost every day for lunch, where he shared time over the meal, more often than not prepared by his wife, with his family. Friends and colleagues of Sir Lynden have recounted how helpful such a respite was for him, and that, on occasion, when confronted with important national issues, his luncheon sojourns to his family home would provide him with the time to reflect on such issues in a quiet space, which often would allow him to discover a resolution before returning to his office, no doubt aided by the support, insight and advice that he might have received from Dame Marguerite.
As a mother and grandmother, Dame Marguerite also brings to her new assignment a maternal perspective that has been forged not only from her family structure but also from her interaction with thousands in her political life, as can be seen from the nurturing and caring support that she has always provided to her husband and children as well as to her political associates. These life experiences should assist her in becoming an outstanding governor general.
Charitable and civic contributions
For more than half a century, Dame Marguerite has made enormous contributions to the Bahamian community through her involvement in charitable organizations, most notably the Red Cross. Her role as patron succeeded in raising the profile of many of these organizations and directly contributed to increased funding.
Dame Marguerite's new role
Dame Marguerite will no doubt adorn her new office with the same grace, elegance, civility and aplomb as she displayed these past 58 years. Now in her role as governor general, as then, these and other attributes will serve as an important model, especially for the young people of our still fledgling nation.
By her own statements, we know that Dame Marguerite fully appreciates that the central role that she played in the body politic prior to attaining this office will require a radical shift in her political focus and perspective. She now recognizes that such activity and public and private pronouncements will have to be subsumed by impeccable impartiality. She acknowledged this in her first address as governor general that, both in tone and tenor, assuaged the concerns that were publicly expressed in the lead-up to her appointment. We applaud her for seeking to allay these concerns so definitively.
As she executes her vitally important role as head of state and the Queen's representative in The Bahamas, we are confident that at all times Dame Marguerite will remember the powerful words of the father of the nation that as we "look up and move on, the world is watching".
We join with all who wish Dame Marguerite well and believe that she will serve our country with distinction as governor general.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Concern has been raised regarding an organization, which claims that it will donate a portion of funds raised from an awards ceremony honoring Bahamian women to support sufferers of HIV/AIDS and cancer, over the establishment's registration status as a non-profit organization. Celebrating Women International (CWI) claims it is registered as a non-profit organization (NGO), however unease has arisen following checks made with the Registrar General's Department.
CWI states on its website that it is "celebrating and honoring the women in our lives, supporting the fight against women suffering from HIV/AIDS and cancer".
The group issued a press release in July in which it announced plans to honor 50 "outstanding Bahamian women with an inaugural 'Women of Excellence 2014 Award' for their outstanding accomplishments professionally and within the community". The press release notes that events also to be held in October, include a gospel concert, awards luncheon, women's festival and a ball.
It adds: "Part proceeds from all paid events will support the fight against women suffering from HIV/AIDs and cancer in The Bahamas."
CWI's website and press releases contain a number of discrepancies. These included various spellings of the organization's name and the fact that CWI claims, in a factsheet about the organization, that it was "founded in 2001" as an NGO in The Bahamas, while a July press release later states it was founded in 2013. CWI's website was created on July 9, 2014, according to checks by this newspaper.
Following concerns raised, checks by Guardian Business revealed that the Registrar General's Department found that no such organization - either under the name Celebrating Women International, as the name appears on the group's website, or Celebrating Woman International, as it is stated in its press releases - is registered with the department at all. This was confirmed by official Donna Lightbourn, who said that the department is mandated to register all non-profit organizations.
Contacted for comment, Jeffery Smith, executive director of Celebrating Women International, which is at present soliciting a variety of women from various social strata in The Bahamas to accept invitations to be honored at the awards ceremony in October for their contributions to society, refuted the statements of the government office yesterday.
At first he stated that CWI is registered as a non-profit. Pressed on the fact that this was denied by the Registrar General's Department, Smith then stated that it may be registered "under a subsidiary".
Smith went on to deny that the organization is raising money, saying that they are "not necessarily" hosting paid events, shortly before telling Guardian Business that the organization intends to give monies raised to the "AIDS camp".
"We are working to get the Nazareth Center...we are working with the AIDS camp for monies to go to the AIDS camp," he said.
The Nazareth Center is a children's home. The name of the camp which provides services to persons living with HIV and AIDS is the All Saints Camp.
Pressed further as to whether the organization is or is not hosting paid events, Smith said: "We have not established what is taking place at the moment," before adding: "We have a proclamation from the prime minister. Have you seen the proclamation from the prime minister?"
The Cabinet office yesterday confirmed that the group was able to obtain a signed proclamation from the Prime Minister Perry Christie seen by Guardian Business and sent to potential honorees, that October will be "Women of Excellence" month in The Bahamas. The proclamation specifically references CWI as an organization "founded in 2013 for the purpose of mobilizing and inspiring women across the globe to honor, recognize and celebrate the value of their contributions to community and national development".
Pressed again as to this discrepancy in the information about CWI's founding year provided in CWI's website, fact sheet and press releases, Smith said this can be explained by the fact that CWI's "parent body" was formed in 2001, while CWI itself was formed in 2013.
Asked the name of this parent body, Smith said: "TGKI".
A press release issued by CWI on July 3 states that the organization is a subsidiary of "TKHGFI", a non-profit organization". However, no record could be found of such an organization having been registered in The Bahamas, either.
On its website, CWI describes itself as a "group of women's advocates in The Bahamas, United States and Canada, that supports women's rights".
Asked to confirm who the women's advocates are that CWI represents or works with, Smith said: "We have some groups...I am not able to disclose that. There are several groups here in The Bahamas that advocate for womens' rights".
Asked why he could not disclose the names of the groups, Smith added: "We don't get political here. We are celebrating women. We are doing a great cause".
As for CWI's board of directors, Smith said "We have quite a bit. There is John Allens, Mr. Colin Smith, myself...four or five other people."
An official at Government House confirmed that the venue had been booked by CWI for the awards ceremony on September 30, 2014.
Smith said CWI is simply seeking to honor women. "We've met all of the requirements for what would be taking place," he told Guardian Business.
He said he would provide evidence of the company's registration, but said he could not do so before press time yesterday.
On December 2, 2013, I celebrated my 80th birthday with much gratitude. Having reached such an important milestone, I paused to reflect on my youthful days when I became a part of an organization dedicated to the struggle for social justice.
Today, my soul mourns the social, economic and political state of the nation and I must conclude that we have travelled from slavery to slavery. We have to agree that something is drastically wrong in our nation and we must unite to seek an effective remedy.
My struggle on the battlefield was rough and sometimes disappointing. However, I remained steadfast and focused in my resolve to preserve democracy. Recently, I was shocked and disappointed in the minister of tourism regarding his revelation of the intention to establish a gaming mecca in The Bahamas. Our forefathers must be in misery as they turn over in their graves. My, my, what a serious departure from our heritage culture and the things we fought for not so long ago. Questions about who should get the next casino license and the establishment of a gambling economy should be cause for serious reflection by all Bahamians.
I vividly recall that in March, 1972 I was informed that Cabinet was to develop a green paper on independence. A green paper is a working document that is sent to Parliament for further development of a final document called a white paper. I was elated because this meant that we were continuing to uphold the primary underpinnings upon which our election rested. My joy quickly vanished when I found out that the venue for the national conference was to be the casino theater on Paradise Island.
I immediately sought an audience with the prime minister to find out what was the reasoning behind his decision to discuss and develop independence for a nation in a casino theater. The prime minister confirmed that the casino was the intended venue and bluntly told me that if I had a better location to suggest he would accept that location. I accepted the challenge and within days identified Harold Road Auditorium (A.F. Adderley School gym) located over the hill. The prime minister accepted the Over-the-Hill location and fortunately the conference was opened on April 15, 1972.
This conference was indeed symbolic because we created a mock parliament setting up the auditorium like the House of Assembly. We borrowed the paraphernalia from the House, including the mace, and constructed a replica of the House over the hill.
It was a national event and it seemed like everybody attended. In attendance were social and cultural organizations, a delegation from every Family Island, unionists, taxi drivers and persons from all walks of life. It was a historic event and we were able to openly discuss and share our views on what we thought an independent Bahamas should be. The official opposition members refused to attend the meeting because they felt as if we should not have created a mock Parliament over the hill and while they believed in independence they did not believe that we were ready for it in 1973.
The opening of the mock Parliament took the form of the official opening of Parliament held in Parliament Square today. During the meeting we were able to develop the green paper and place the completed draft of the proposed format on the prime minister's desk. It was sent to Parliament in the fall of 1972 and a date was set in January 1973 for independence on July 10, 1973.
On December 12, 1973, there was a serious rift within the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the government over casino operations and ownership in The Bahamas. I recall the nasty confrontation between former Minister of Development the late Carlton Francis and the former Minister of Finance A.D. Hanna. It was truly a rude awakening for those present. The confrontation came about because of the critical position taken against the United Bahamian Party in 1967 by the PLP. As a matter of fact, the PLP waged a vicious campaign against casino gambling and the mafia bosses during the 1967 campaign which led to majority rule. It was unthinkable to many of us that the government would want to form a partnership with the mafia group that we campaigned so vehemently against after winning the government. We must not forget the remarks made by Francis that day on the floor of Parliament in connection with the government's plan to take over the casinos in The Bahamas. Francis, who was also perceived to be speaking on behalf of the Baptist Convention, stated the following, "I am making it clear that as far as I am concerned this is a conscience matter. This resolution raises a fundamental question for me. I am making a clear divergence between my principles and political considerations. Leaving conscience aside, I would like to raise the point that we are a young nation. We have not yet found a national identity. I feel that the white paper (on independence) and the speech from the throne put before us certain ideals and qualities that I would like to see in a young and growing nation. Gambling is a cancer eating away at the qualities that help to make people what they are. I believe there are alternatives, but no one will find these alternatives as long as they can find the easy way out. I do not believe that gambling is good for the country."
Francis was forced to resign as minister of development and it is my opinion that his reaction was brought about by the behavior of Hanna. Further, I found it difficult to understand why the prime minister seemed eager to let his most able minister go and demonstrated no compassion or sympathy for him. Francis' removal from the Cabinet table created a void that was difficult to fill.
Some 41 years ago, our government seemed hellbent on lying in bed with casino operators and today nothing has changed. The mission of the Quiet Revolution has been betrayed.
On January 26, 1974, I made the following statement at the First Annual Conference of the Coconut Grove constituency, "The introduction in this country of an economy based on organized gambling will surely destroy our cultural heritage."
Today, 40 years later, I stand by that statement and call upon the nation to take a stand. We do not need any more casinos in The Bahamas. I humbly beg the government to reconsider its present position. We all know that there are alternatives, but we refuse to explore them. We must act now and we must be creative.
I was first elected to Parliament on Tuesday, January 10, 1967 to represent the Coconut Grove constituency. I soon found out that the Progressive Liberal Party government inherited a system of oppression and had no intention of changing it. I called my constituents together and we decided to seek help to embark on a social, cultural and economic development program. The program was a success and to our credit the constituents of Coconut Grove gained a community center, Jumbey Festival, and Jumbey Village on Blue Hill Road. I recall our first classical and folklore concert on March 9, 1969 at the Government High School Auditorium. The Rt. Hon. L.O. Pindling attended the concert and expressed surprise and shock at the talents displayed by our young people from the Coconut Grove constituency.
Shortly after this concert, the prime minister invited me to his residence for a talk and congratulated me for the work that I was doing in the community and invited me to become a parliamentary secretary in his office with responsibilities for community development known these days as Urban Renewal. I accepted the post and received my instrument of appointment in December 1970.
I arrived at the prime minister's office in January 1971 to receive instructions and was shown a nine by 12 office in the Cabinet building very near the prime minister's office and instructed to set up the community development program from there. I expressed some concern about the space I was offered and was informed that it was the only space available. I sought some assistance from Carlton Francis, minister of finance, and with his help I was able to set up satisfactory machinery on the second floor of the Spotless Cleaners Building on Madeira Street.
I was eager to get started and immediately contacted the community development unit of the United Nations requesting assistance in the development of a community development program. An officer from the United Nations was dispatched to Nassau to assist us and we developed a program for The Bahamas. On September 15, 1971, I wrote to the prime minister expressing my frustration and disappointment in the government's attitude towards social problems in the country. The following is an excerpt from that letter, "Our educational system is nearly up to par at present, however, we must remember that we took this country over just four short years ago and all who voted for us at that time are now in the cold and in need of social development machinery. Immediate steps should be taken: To improve and build the minds of the masses in Over-the-Hill areas like Grants Town, Bain Town, the Five Pound Lot etc. and to develop a program that will allow our people to further participate in the economy of the country. Then and only then will we be able to say that we represent all our brothers and sisters."
In October 1971, I presented that community development program to the Progressive Liberal Party's convention and it was unanimously adopted by the convention.
The Coconut Grove Community Centre was an ambitious venture but the residents of the Coconut Grove constituency and their member of Parliament rose to the task undauntedly. The community library and clinic,
preschool, cultural workshops and a small theater were a part of a self-help project. This was the first time that a member of Parliament had personally done something so significant in his constituency. The first fundraiser, a telethon, was held on Sunday, June 15, 1969. We received pledges of donations in the sum of $10,000 and donations of labor and material. In October 1972, we delivered to the government of The Bahamas two complete units, namely the community clinic and
library, which are still in operation today. Both units, which are located on Acklins Street, were fully equipped and professionally staffed, putting in operation the first of its kind over the hill. It may be interesting to note that the clinic served women and infants from as far away as Gladstone and Carmichael Roads. The pre-school unit was completed at a later date and that too is still in operation today.
Cabinet initially agreed to provide funds for the completion of the center, the cultural workshops and small theater with a seating capacity of 200, but later we were denied by the powers that be. God knows I tried. The theater on Acklins Street was to be a training ground for artists, an opportunity for them to sharpen their skills and talents before they performed at Jumbey Village Theatre, which was likened to Carnegie Hall.
Every year we constructed a site for the four-day street festival on Coconut Grove Avenue called the Jumbey Festival, which brought thousands of persons in to the Coconut Grove community to experience indigenous Bahamian culture and way of life. The site included a replica of a typical Bahamian village. It was a strenuous task having to build and take down the site every year and I recognized that eventually we had to develop a permanent site.
In 1970 I had a vision for a cultural center, Jumbey Village. I knew that through self-reliance and self-help, we could produce life from a former dumpsite on Big Pond to create and construct a beautiful heritage village. In 1970 our Jumbey Festival on Coconut Grove Avenue provided the financing to begin land clearing at Big Pond. I was able to get the entire community involved. The proposed Jumbey Village was a three-prong mission: social, cultural and economic. Donations came in the form of monies, trees, trucks and delivery drivers, to name a few items.
The Coconut Grove Women's Charity Club, Junior Jaycees, Southern Youth Corporation, College UNICOMM, churches and the nation's schools, private and public, all played a major role in the development of the Village, as it was called.
The junior and secondary schools had a function and the proceeds were donated and the teachers donated a half day's pay towards the Bahamian people's Jumbey Village. Dame Doris Johnson, then minister of transport, and Livingstone Coakley, then minister of works, provided assistance in materials and equipment.
o Edmund Moxey is a former member of Parliament. The second and final part of this piece will be published in tomorrow's newspaper.