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Most people would love to live to be a ripe old age - and with the advancements in life-saving technology and medicine such a wish can easily become a reality. While life expectancy has increased over the decades unfortunately the fact remains that the older people get, the more susceptible they are to age-related conditions. One such condition is Parkinson's disease - a disorder characterized by rigidity of the body, tremors, inability to straighten the posture and a slow gait.
"Parkinson's disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disorder which research shows is a result of the brain stopping the production of an essential chemical called Dopamine. This means the nervous system is systematically broken down over time and it mostly affects mobility and a person's mood," according to Dr. Edwin Demeritte, neurologist at the Bahamas Neurological Center. "The usual onset of the illness is 60 years old but it can present early depending on the individual. Even if there isn't a history of this disease in your family, each additional decade you age beyond this point, your likelihood of developing it doubles. When you look at the present life expectancy in The Bahamas the average age is 88 for females and males is about 75.5 years, so because we are living longer, it is expected that we are seeing a higher prevalence of this illness in recent years."
Even though there are many people who are likely to have this illness, the doctor said it is probably not well represented by the current known case due to people not recognizing it, or being embarrassed about having the illness, or admitting that they have a family member who suffers from it. This approach, he said, actually does more harm than good, and treatments that can be used to manage the condition are made less effective the longer people go without seeking help.
Early symptoms of the illness may include a slight tremor that can be in one side of the body or both, rigidity of muscles, difficulty walking and slow and limited movement.
"Despite this illness being present for centuries there is still no cure for it. But there are treatments that can help to slow down the progression of the illness and if treated well many persons can live 20 to 30 years beyond the onset of the disorder," said the doctor.
"The unfortunate thing is that people are mostly unwilling to seek help for the elderly members of their families due to assuming the person is just old and this is a natural part of old aging. While this can be true it is still advised that when your family member starts to show signs of stiffening, tremors and a slow gait that is not natural for them, it should be checked out by a physician in case it is something more serious or it can be treated."
There is no lab test to indicate if a person has Parkinson's disease, but a series of observational tests and interviews are necessary for proper diagnosis.
If the disorder is left untreated the doctor said it can lead to mobility degenerating rapidly. By an average of eight years, independent mobility would have been lost and the person may be entirely bedridden by 10 years without treatment. Cognitive decline, dementia or other cognitive conditions may rapidly develop as well as a result of not seeking treatment. Overall, the mortality rate of people with Parkinson's disease almost doubles compared to persons unaffected with the illness.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) 2010 statistics Parkinson's Disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease and the 14th leading cause of death in the United States.
"You don't want to leave this condition untreated as it's not just motor skills that are affected but also the cognitive health of persons at stake," said Dr. Demeritte. "Cognitive abilities can decrease rapidly over the years without treatment and a normally independent family member may fall quickly into dependence unnecessarily."
According to the neurologist, the main treatments for Parkinson's is use of medication Levodopa, multidisciplinary management and on occasion even surgery. There is help for this condition and to ensure your family member has the best chance at remaining independent as long as possible early and consistent treatment is necessary."
The illness not only affects the people afflicted, but the whole family emotionally, physically and financially. It is for this reason that despite how the person afflicted may feel about it family members getting help and showing support every step of the way is essential.
To bring awareness to this debilitating condition, the Kingdor National Parkinson's Foundation hosts its 12th annual Gala Ball under the theme "Love is a Song Worth Singing" on Saturday, April 21 at the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort, Cable Beach at which Grammy award winning artist, Regina Belle will perform. Tickets for the event are $250.
The Kingdor National Parkinson's Foundation (KNPF) was established in 2000 by Mavis Darling-Hill, an advocate for awareness and research who had a family member afflicted with Parkinson's disease. The organization was designed to assist people with the illness as well as educate those not aware of the disorder. One of the primary goals of the organization is to help raise funds to assist in finding the cause and the cure of Parkinson's disease.
Actor Michael J. Fox and boxer Muhammed Ali are two famous persons who are afflicted with Parkinson's disease.
There is no doubt that these are serious times in our country as we continue to confront challenges to our way of life as manifested in the economy and the scourge of crime. Amidst these issues, we woke up last week to the news that Moody's Investors Service had downgraded The Bahamas' issuer and senior unsecured ratings to Baa2 from Baa1. Moody's however revised The Bahamas' outlook upward from negative to stable.
Regardless of how much we pretend and how long some of us had buried our heads in the proverbial sand, the downgrade came as no surprise and was expected. However, secretly we had hoped for the better, relying on improvements in our economy as well as the government's efforts to defer the inevitable. And so here we are in a valley holding on to the dream of a better future and a Bahamas that will emerge stronger from the adversities that face us.
The day of reckoning
The often referenced quote that the chicken has come home to roost provides an effective description of our current state of affairs. As a people, we have demanded and continue to demand basic services and some from the government over the years. Successive administrations have sought to accommodate this appetite by increasing expenditure from year to year. A major factor here has been the archipelagic nature of our country, which results in duplication of infrastructure and government spending on multiple islands.
It is good to see the demand for more accountability and stewardship from the populace and various interest groups in our nation today. This is because the level of activism in the clamor for transparency and financial discipline seems to have been missing hitherto. We seemed to have failed to make the connection between government spending, taxation and our sovereignty. In essence, even though we placed demands on the government over the years, we ignored the reality that either we or future generations would have to pay some day. That day has come and the moment of truth is upon us.
A revelation of what we know
Moody's indicated that the continued deterioration of the government's balance sheet and sluggish economic growth are the main reasons for our downgrade. To say that this was and has always been obvious would be an understatement. The Bahamas' debt-to-GDP ratio has increased from approximately 32 percent in 2007 to 59.0 percent in 2013. Moody's highlighted the fact that at almost 60 percent, the ratio was 20 percentage points higher than the median for Baa-rated sovereigns which stood at 39.5 percent in 2013.
As can be expected, the rise in sovereign debt increased the financing cost and interest payments by the government to 14 percent of revenues in 2013 from about nine percent in 2007. When considered in conjunction with the level of government revenues during the referenced period and corresponding high government expenditure, it is not surprising that the fiscal deficit had increased up to 2012/13.
Peer review and pressure
The term "peer pressure" is normally used to describe the influence that an individual's (especially a child's) company or associates have on his/her behavior or performance. In the context of the review of our sovereign rating by Moody's, it is clear that the pressure on our rating was driven by the metrics and characteristics of countries with the same Baa1 as The Bahamas.
Unfortunately, The Bahamas did not measure up well with its former peers with the same rating. This can be likened to the grading of an individual or entity in comparison to other classmates by an assessor.
The facts are clear, The Bahamas' debt-to- GDP ratio in 2013 was about 60 percent while our peers had an average of 40 percent and we spent 14 percent of our revenues on interest payments in 2013 in contrast with 8.3 percent on average spent on interest payments by our former peers. It should be noted that, at nine percent in 2007, we were above the peer average prior to the Great Recession albeit this would have been offset by a low debt-to-GDP ratio of 32 percent at that time. Moody's estimated that our deficit narrowed to 5.4 percent in 2013/14 but noted that this reduced figure is more than double the average for our former peers. When we add the reality that The Bahamas averaged an annual economic growth rate of only 1.1 percent from 2010 to 2013, it is apparent that our fate was sealed and it had become difficult for Moody's to justify maintaining our Baa1 rating.
Is there a silver lining?
A number of positives can be extracted from the publication by Moody's announcing its downgrade decision. The assigning of a stable outlook by Moody's reflects the rating agency's expectation that the government's "medium-term fiscal consolidation plan will contain the government's debt burden in fiscal 2015 and afterwards lead to a gradual reduction in the debt-to-GDP ratio".
"The rating outlook also envisages that real GDP growth will strengthen somewhat to 2.0-2.5 percent in 2015, owing in large part to the ongoing recovery in economic growth in the U.S., which is closely correlated with tourist arrivals in The Bahamas". The agency seems to express some optimism and confidence in the government's fiscal consolidation plan citing components of our fiscal reform agenda. This is the silver lining in an otherwise disappointing development in our recovery process. It would be unfortunate and a shame, however, if while external parties have some faith in our proposed course of action, we do not believe in our own plan and/or fail to have the courage and discipline to successfully implement the same.
What do we do now?
Our country is at a juncture that requires the talents and cooperation of all of us as we emerge from this valley. Life is made up of mountains and valleys; in the same manner that individuals experience high points (mountains) and low points (valleys) in their lives, so do nations in their national journeys. We must not forget that a valley is only but a depression between two mountains and in our voyage as a nation, we are headed to another mountain top.
In the interim, we must exude fortitude, discipline, unity and transparency to emerge successfully from our current predicament. It is interesting to note from the statistics highlighted by Moody's that the deterioration in our fiscal condition spanned over administrations led by the Free National Movement (FNM) and Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). While it can be argued and perhaps proved that one administration played a bigger role in the current state of our finances, it would still be hypocritical and disingenuous to point fingers. As is often said, he who lives in a glass house should not throw stones.
The actualization of the Bahamian dream may be a challenge for many at this time but the dream will never die but will come to pass with our emergence from this minor setback. We must continue to strive and thrive as we build a nation of fighters that are no strangers to perseverance and overcoming adversity.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shannon Butler, who was arguably one of the brightest minds to graduate high school in 2013, has completed his one-year university foundation program in the British pre-med system and is now eager to commence his medical school studies in September.
"I'm really excited to start medical school so that I can finally begin what I love," said Shannon, the 2013 All-Bahamas Merit Scholar, who aspires to become a cardiothoracic surgeon.
Shannon, who is at home for summer break, finished his first year at St. Andrew's University in Scotland with grades that he said were satisfactory. Shannon took organic and biological chemistry, human biology, introduction to medicine, statistics, academic English and medical ethics in his second semester and finished the year with a lot of distinctions in individual classes, and the program in its entirety with honors. In the British system, everything is graded on a 20-point scale -- grades of 17 and above are classified as distinction, grades from 14-16.9 are upper second-class honors, 11 to 13 lower second and anything below an 11 a failure.
In September he will enter the six-year medical program that he says is perfect for people who know that they only want to study medicine.
"It avoids all of the extraneous requirements of other systems where you have to get a bachelor's degree and do lots of hours of research and community service, and you always try to have the top grade point average (GPA) and all of that stuff," said Shannon.
Even though the study habits he had adopted held up through his first year at university, he's anticipating that things will now have to change for him as he enters the rigorous program.
"With medical school you don't really have much coursework and many assessments -- it's really all about studying. I was actually reading the student handbook a few days ago and for my first year, in both semesters, I only have two assessments -- a mid-term that is 25 percent and my final exams which are 75 percent -- so basically this upcoming year it's going to be studying every single day."
After his first semester at university he had described the experience and adjustment as tough. He was homesick. His second semester was a different experience. He returned to the campus adjusted and with a solid group of friends. He experienced less homesickness and felt more at home in Scotland that he said resulted in an experience that was more enjoyable for him.
"I knew the ropes so things got a bit easier for me. I started out not liking the place that much, but now I'm actually excited to return to Scotland," said Shannon.
He's not only eager to return to his studies, but to the town he's grown to love which he said has a "charm" that he did not realize it had when he first went there.
"I always wanted to be in a big city, but now I basically realize that I like the small town. I get to see a lot of people -- almost everyone that I know...professors, students, all around the town and it [town] has a lot of history and a lot of beauty to it with the pier and the beach, and even the wilderness and farms outside of it."
During his first year he extended his education beyond the classroom. He made the first of what he expects to be many sojourns over the next six years into Europe by visiting The Netherlands. In the period between the end of his exams and his first-year graduation, he and his friends visited Amsterdam. They took the train to the countryside to look at small towns and to view the famous Dutch windmills.
At home, Shannon is relaxing in preparation for his return to Scotland. After his first week at home, he lent his services to his former high school teacher for two weeks for a chemistry course work preparation class. Shannon helped the tenth grade students with course work, writing lab reports and conducting experiments.
For the remainder of the summer break he plans to relax to prepare himself for the upcoming medical program.
"I just want to hopefully relax and leave the work experience, the research and the internships all for next summer and all the summers after that," he said.
"Actually, the school does not encourage trying to prepare yourself for medical school, because it says all that studying will come in time, and actually as soon as you arrive. I spoke with a teacher of mine who actively encourages taking breaks when breaks are given."
Shannon said his reading this summer will be for his enjoyment. He is currently engrossed in a fantasy book.
Shannon amassed a total of $146,000 in scholarships to help fund his education -- the All-Bahamas Merit Scholar, a four-year $140,000 scholarship. He was also named the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity's 2013 valedictorian and awarded a $6,000 scholarship.
He's also known for his focus. The former Queen's College student in high school distinguished himself with an impressive academic record, having achieved 10 Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) awards with nine A grades and one B grade. The results earned him the award for the best BGCSE results in the country; the best results from an independent school student and the highest award in mathematics.
Shannon's advice to graduates who are preparing to transition into university life is to ensure that they attend a school that they really like, and to ensure that they pick a course of study that they like.
"Just make sure that you're in a healthy environment and be prepared to buckle down and do your work, pull all-nighters and study as much as necessary to get the grades that you need. But also try to genuinely enjoy yourself and have a great time," said the former Q.C. head boy and valedictorian.
Murders increased by 36 percent between January 1 and April 5, 2014 compared to the same period in 2013.
There were 22 murders recorded during this period last year compared to the 30 murders recorded this year so far, according to The Guardian's records.
A closer look at the figures show that 11 people were murdered in January; eight in February; eight in March and three so far this month.
The murder count does not include several matters that have yet to be classified,
including the four bodies found last Thursday on Anguilla Cay.
The bodies had tires placed on top of them and were burnt beyond recognition, according to authorities.
Of the 30 murders, six occurred either on or near East Street; four took place in Yellow Elder; three on or near Soldier Road (all in New Providence), and another four on Grand Bahama.
Other murders took place in Pinewood Gardens, Coral Harbour, on Carmichael Road, Market Street, Mackey Street, Baillou Hill Road, Eneas Street, Roseland Street and Cowpen Road (all in New Providence).
Abaco, Exuma and Bimini also recorded murders.
There have been seven murders in the country since last Saturday.
The most recent killings took place over the weekend.
A man who allegedly shot another man in the head in front of an apartment complex off East Street on Saturday night was stabbed to death around 8:30 p.m., police reported.
In a separate incident, a man, 31, of Samuel's Addition, off Farrington Road, was stabbed to death at a barbecue on Eneas Street around 9 p.m. on Saturday.
Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade said last week violent crimes with the exception of murder have trended downward.
He was unable to provide the percentage representing that decrease and to date has not released crime statistics for 2014.
Asked about the crimes on Grand Bahama after three murders occurred in fewer than 48-hours, Greenslade said there were "no concerns".
"Grand Bahama has recorded murders in recent times," he told reporters at Police Headquarters. "Two people have been arrested in two of those separate murder cases.
"In one case the weapon was recovered. There is an outstanding retaliatory matter that is being pursued where another person has lost his life.
"[But] I am satisfied that good work is being done in Grand Bahama, and we will see if we can sort those things out as soon as we can."
Following a spate of murders late last month, Prime Minister Perry Christie said the government will dedicate more resources to law enforcement and social intervention programs.
"I am continuing to dedicate resources to the police force because I intend to smother, to smother and suffocate this bad behavior," he said.
"At the same time [I will] continue to dedicate resources to holistic programs of Urban Renewal where in the big sense of the word we are able to deal with kids in their environment as we find them."
That pledge has been made several times since the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) took office in May 2012, which was the bloodiest month on record with 21 murders.
Last month, the government announced plans to introduce two initiatives -- violence breakers and a program called shock treatment -- to its Operation Ceasefire plan in a bid to lower crime.
However, Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis said last week that crime is "smothering" the nation despite the prime minister's repeated statements that his government will arrest the problem.
Minnis said the PLP is "long on talk but short on action" when it comes to crime.
Faced with a new round of questions over police reporting of crime, Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade last week went off into his characteristic defensive, emotional overreaction.
We saw it in 2012 when we questioned him on the failure of police to report a spike in rapes in New Providence.
We also saw his bizarre and angry response a few weeks ago after we reported a drug suspect was allowed to marry at Central Police Station.
The thing about this kind of response from the commissioner of police is that he often leaves us confused over who his anger is directed at.
Such was the case last week after we reported the United States Embassy had advised its citizens of an attempt to rob an armored truck outside Wendy's restaurant at Cable Beach just over two weeks ago.
The attempted robbery, according to the Americans, happened at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday.
The Bahamian public was told nothing about two criminals escaping in the area after the incident.
Bahamian police failed to report the crime to this country's citizens.
Last Monday, The Nassau Guardian reported that Assistant Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson confirmed the attempted robbery and denied there was any attempt by police to suppress reporting of the incident.
A day later, Free National Movement Deputy Chairman Dr. Duane Sands, who was contacted by us for comment, questioned whether the failure of police to report the crime was an accident, a deliberate omission or whether the political directorate sought to suppress that information.
Responding to reports on the matter, Greenslade said in an interview with The Nassau Guardian, "Please, I beg you, stop selling The Bahamas short.
"I have difficulty with that and I am not sure what that agenda is [but] it must be an agenda, and it is not a good agenda."
When asked who those comments were directed at, Greenslade did not respond directly.
"I am not sure what the agenda is," he reiterated.
"I will tell you whatever has been said based on the intelligence I have, and the intelligence our people in this country have, there is something terribly wrong with the conversation."
Despite the failure of police to report the matter, Greenslade said he is satisfied with the level of transparency of the police force.
He also said it was "out of order" for any comments to have been made on the matter without him properly verifying the facts.
In an apparent reference to comments made by Assistant Commissioner Ferguson, Greenslade blasted, "No other person reserves the right to speak for me unless I brief them.
"And those people that I brief are the minister of national security and the right honorable prime minister of this country.
"And anyone else is offering an opinion and the public would do very well to be careful of those opinions."
Anyone listening to the police commissioner could easily see why we were left confused by his comments.
Who exactly is he accusing of selling The Bahamas short?
Was it the media for daring to question him on the failure of police to report certain incidents?
Was it Dr. Sands for raising questions on the matter?
Who exactly is he accusing of having an agenda? And what agenda is he talking about?
And what of the strange response that seemed to be directed at Assistant Commissioner Ferguson?
Was the commissioner suggesting that this very senior officer was out of line to respond to a reporter's questions on this incident?
There is no one in this entire matter who spoke for the commissioner, so who exactly is he referring to when he said "no person reserves the right to speak for me unless I brief them"?
A more appropriate response from our police chief would have been an explanation on why the public was not made aware of an attempt to rob an armored truck at a very busy restaurant in a highly-populated area on a Friday afternoon.
Wouldn't everyone living in Cable Beach want to know that three criminals had just tried to rob an armored truck and escaped into their neighborhoods?
These kinds of statements from the police commissioner do not foster goodwill and trust between the police and the public.
They do nothing but feed the sentiment of mistrust in the organization.
Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage also did nothing to help the situation.
He reported on the floor of the House last Wednesday that the matter had in fact been reported, but he failed to expand on his claim.
In fact, his statement appeared disingenuous, or perhaps he himself was not properly briefed.
Neither the minister nor the commissioner would be able to point to any report to the public of an attempted robbery of an armored truck outside Wendy's in Cable Beach Friday before last.
The truth is, police did not report what happened.
We went back to our police report on that date, just to be sure.
Here is what police reported in relation to the attempted robbery of an armored truck:
"According to reports, around 6 p.m. on Friday 21, March 2014, police acting on intelligence went to the parking lot of a shopping complex located at western New Providence, where they uncovered a handgun along with a quantity of ammunition. No one was arrested in connection with this incident. Investigations are ongoing."
If you are waiting to read the part about the three criminals who attempted to hold up the two armored truck workers transferring money into the truck, then your best bet would be to refer to the report from the United States Embassy.
All of us as citizens and residents of The Bahamas ought to be concerned about whether police are accurately reporting crimes and in their full context.
This debate erupted earlier this year when Sands highlighted that police statistics on shootings and rapes are notably lower than records kept by Princess Margaret Hospital.
It was another moment that placed Greenslade on edge.
If the failure to properly report this one incident involving the armored truck was an oversight then our commissioner and our national security minister should explain it as such.
Their credibility rides on such matters.
Too often our officials respond to public concerns and media probing with defensiveness and obfuscation.
How are we to have trust in our police officials and indeed in our government officials when the attempted armed robbery of an armored truck outside a popular restaurant on a Friday afternoon is reported as a firearm discovery in a parking lot?
This kind of vague reporting cannot be trusted and ought not be defended by a commissioner of police and a minister of national security who appear more concerned about their reputations than keeping us safe.
We as citizens should be outraged and offended that we have to learn of such matters from the United States Embassy and not our police officials.
The commissioner's recent statements do not help his image or that of the force he leads.
Disingenuous statements and incomprehensible comments to reporters leave us wondering what we can believe from our leaders who are responsible for the security of our nation and its people.
Free National Movement (FNM) Deputy Chairman Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday the fact that the United States Embassy in Nassau has once again made a crime public that was not reported by police "creates room for speculation" about the Royal Bahamas Police Force's policies.
Sands was contacted to respond to comments Assistant Commissioner Anthony Ferguson made to The Nassau Guardian on Sunday in defense of police policies on crime reports.
Ferguson responded to a previous Nassau Guardian article which pointed out that a new U.S. Embassy crime warning referenced an attempted armed robbery of an armored truck at Wendy's restaurant two weeks ago.
The matter was not included in police crime reports.
"What Bahamians ought to be asking ultimately is who is determining what ought to come to the attention of the Bahamian people," Sands said.
"If there is a discrepancy and the U.S. Embassy or one of its agents would report something that was not reported locally [by police] then we have to ask why or how did that happen.
"Was it an accident? Was it a typographical error, was it an omission or was it a deliberate instruction that came from somewhere. And if it came from somewhere was it the political directorate that sought to suppress that information or not?"
Sands said the minister of national security and minister of state for national security should be questioned over the matter.
"When a sovereign [country], the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, finds itself in the unbelievable internationally embarrassing situation of having a crime of this magnitude reported by our neighbor and we haven't reported it, then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be made to give a public account, the Ministry of National Security should be made to give a public account and the prime minister should feel red-faced," he said.
On Sunday, Ferguson said police do not cover-up or downplay any crime in the country that "ought to come to the attention of the Bahamian people".
Ferguson confirmed the attempted armed robbery of the armored truck and said a firearm was recovered.
"I am telling you I am aware of the attempted armed robbery of the armored vehicle, and what could have very well happened in that case [is that] the information did not get to the press officer in time when he was sending out his release," he said.
He added, "Obviously, if the U.S. Embassy got it, they must have gotten it from a police source."
However, the incident was not included in other crime reports since March 14.
In February, there was widespread speculation about the consistency of crime reporting for 2013 after it was revealed that the Princess Margaret Hospital's records showed that more people were treated for injuries than the number of shootings and rapes listed in the police statistics.
When questioned about this, Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade said police statistics and hospital data will "never be the same".
The Bahamas has been listed as a "priority" by the United States government for assistance in the local crime fight, partly because of the local crime rate over the past several years, Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) official Shanna O'Reilly said yesterday.
The U.S. Embassy is funding the anti-violence and crime prevention initiative Resistance and Prevention Program (RAPP), which is being facilitated by the PADF.
The PADF has partnered with the Royal Bahamas Police Force to introduce the multi-year program to Bahamian officials. The initiative was launched at the Police Training College yesterday.
Crime statistics have fluctuated over the last few years. Despite a drop in crime for the first half of this year compared to 2013, crime numbers remain high.
O'Reilly said the program was uniquely designed for The Bahamas based on an extensive needs assessment.
"The Bahamas was one of the major priorities for the U.S. Embassy," she said following the opening ceremony for the program. "So that also went into the calculation."
Asked if the crime rate also factored in on the decision, O'Reilly said,"It was a part of the picture."
"The Bahamas is actually one of the countries that the U.S. government was very interested in prioritizing as well. So that was a big factor in that."
Twenty individuals from various Urban Renewal centers will go through the program. Following their completion of the program they will be accredited and will be able to teach others.
O'Reilly said the RAPP will build on what Urban Renewal is already doing.
"This 40-hour accreditation workshop is intended to prepare leaders to mentor, educate and encourage others and work with young people to take concrete actions that improve the future of the next generation," according to a statement detailing how the program will work.
"The workshop will provide an opportunity for participants to exchange experiences and discuss theoretical frameworks on social crime prevention, the root causes of youth crime and violence, gangs, organized crime, domestic violence, communication and action plans to address these issues.
"Ultimately, it will prepare participants to lead up to five day-long courses in crime prevention on a variety of topics covered in the instructor's manual and participant handbook, and serve as agents of change in the promotion of concrete crime prevention techniques through the use of action plans in targeted 'hot spots'-- areas with 5,000 or more residents -- that include the communities of Fox Hill, Kemp Road, Saint Cecilia, Pinewood Gardens, Farm Road, Bain and Grants Town, Nassau Village and Fort Charlotte."
Police said they have noted a "marked increase" in crime statistics involving youth. Police also said a large number of the murders in the country are carried out by young men.
The program will continue until Friday. Once completed, its organizers will draft and launch an action plan to ensure that participants make use of the tools they learn during the course.
All categories of violent crimes in The Bahamas with the exception of murder have trended downward up to March 19, 2014, according to Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade.
While Greenslade did not provide statistics, he said police officers have been doing good work and the police force's strategies in the crime fight have been producing results.
However, the commissioner said murders remain a vexing issue that police with the assistance of all stakeholders "have to get a handle on".
"Despite what we do in terms of all the other categories that are trending downwards, it is murder that you hear of on a constant basis," said Greenslade in a recent interview.
"And that causes tremendous fear. And of course, it's the most egregious crime. People lose their lives. That is something that we have to get a handle on.
"Are we arresting people? Yes we are, in great numbers.
"But if we are not able upon arresting people and charging people with reasonable evidence... to keep them away from the communities in which they live, and in which we live, we simply have a hemorrhaging."
Up to Monday, there were 23 murders for the year, according to The Nassau Guardian's records.
There were 21 murders around that time last year.
So far there have been four murders for the month, one manslaughter and a death of a woman that has yet to be classified.
Police recorded 119 murders in 2013 and 111 murders in 2012, a seven percent increase, according to statistics released by the police force in January.
Greenslade said aggressive targeting of known offenders, increased saturation patrols, community-based policing and other special operations, including extended hours, will continue to be implemented.
Despite murders increasing, Greenslade said The Bahamas remains a beautiful country.
He said there are several communities where "nothing happens over the course of the year".
"What we have are core groups of people who are feuding among themselves," Greenslade said.
"They are on the fringes of society. That is no secret.
"Many of them are not educated. Many of them are not gainfully employed and are not looking for work, and they have decided to make a life of crime their business."
Greenslade has repeatedly expressed concern about repeat offenders, particularly those who are on bail. He said some are too dangerous to be allowed back into the community.
While the government is reviewing the Bail Act and focusing on speeding up trials, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson said simply making amendments would not solve the problem.
On Sunday, National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage said the government plans to soon introduce two initiatives -- violence breakers and a program called shock treatment -- to its Operation Ceasefire plan in a bid to lower crime.
The Coalition for Responsible Taxation is anticipating the country's first "forward looking" economic study of the impact of value-added tax (VAT) and other tax alternatives on the Bahamian economy and standards of living will "heavily influence" the government's decision-making process on tax and fiscal reform.
However, those involved in the study admitted yesterday that it cannot account for the question of how well the tax regime would be administered, or what would occur should there be a drop in compliance with the tax laws - a major concern for many with respect to the likely impact of VAT.
Calling the study "the responsible thing to do", Gowon Bowe, co-chair of the coalition, which is funding the study by UK-based consultants Oxford Economics, said that the study will be ready by early May and will inform the position that it will put forward to the government on VAT.
"I will be a public study and so the chips will fall where they may once we have that analysis and that position has been put forward," he said.
Bowe added that all efforts will be made to accelerate the results, but the focus will be on ensuring a "quality" study is produced.
The detailed plans for the study and the lead economist who will work on it on behalf of the coalition, Henry Worthington of Oxford Economics, were introduced at a press conference held at the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation's headquarters (BCCEC) yesterday.
The coalition co-chair said that notwithstanding government's plans to implement VAT on July 1, he thinks it is only natural that the study's outcome would "heavily influence" the government's thinking on VAT, given that it will provide a "very empirical" assessment of the various revenue and spending measures' likely impact on the economy.
"We believe there's enough clamor by the average citizen that it behooves them to take very serious consideration of all studies being done. This is not a back-of-the-envelope exercise we're conducting, it is costing us and we've hired a very competent group of economists to do so, so in that sense it's not a study that can be dismissed. Although it's still their judgment they have to focus on," Bowe added.
The study, according to Worthington, will provide a macroeconomic model of the local economy and will look at VAT and other tax alternatives' effect on GDP, employment, peoples' standard of living, earnings and real earnings. It will take into account the relationship between earnings and inflation, government debt and its impact on trade and the balance of payments. It will assume first of all that VAT is implemented at a rate of 15 percent on July 1, 2014, and that tariffs are reduced by a level commensurate with the rate of VAT.
To date, only two studies have been produced on VAT in the Bahamian context, one by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) - which the government pointed to as justifying the decision to implement VAT - and one by the Nassau Institute, which panned the idea of introducing the tax.
Asked how reliable the coalition felt the IDB study was as a basis for determining whether VAT is the right tax for The Bahamas, Bowe said that one of the challenges with the study was that it did not look at alternatives to VAT, that it was not "forward looking" but instead looked at what would have happened over the proceeding decade if VAT had been implemented in 2001.
Worthington said a "critical" difference between the study he will undertake and the IDB study is the fact that the IDB study was a "counter-factual" that "looks at what would've happened" over the proceeding decade if VAT was implemented early in the 2000s, whereas the Oxford Economics study will be "forward looking", projecting the economic impact going forward.
He added that the IDB also did not "disaggregate" the effect of VAT on the various sectors in the economy as specifically as the study he is leading intends to, by breaking it down into tourism, financial services, agriculture and the industrial sector.
Bowe said: "We believe (the IDB study) is a credible study, but the fiscal position was vastly different then (when the IDB study assumed VAT was introduced, in the early 2000s) and in reality it had a very basic assumption which we're not certain will actually hold, which is that 100 percent of the excess revenue will go to paying down debt."
In this regard, Bowe and Worthington noted that the Oxford Economics study will not only look at a variety of different tax scenarios, including VAT at different rates and other forms of taxation, but it will also forecast what might happen in the economy overall under various tax regimes if the government were to vary its spending levels. Many stakeholders have called for the government to commit to reducing its spending levels if it is going to implement VAT to address debt.
Among the tax alternatives to VAT that will be factored in to the study are payroll tax, and the possibility that the government will - as it has indicated - regularize and tax the web shops come July 1.
Bowe said that income tax will not be one of the scenarios examined in the model.
"We're going to work with Oxford Economics to really pick the headline ones that would really have the greatest macroeconomic impact," he said.
Compliance and administration
Asked if the study would provide any comfort to those who are concerned about how low levels of compliance or poor administration would factor into the success of a VAT regime, Worthington admitted that such a study would not be the best means of examining how this variable could affect the outcome.
"Those things are better addressed via other means of analysis. We've spoken to various stakeholders and those issues have been brought up time and time again, so I'm not trying to deride their importance, they certainly are important but putting them into a black box model is not the appropriate thing. I guess we'll have to make some sort of assumption about compliance," he said.
Both Bowe and Worthington emphasized that no study or model should be expected to give a definitive answer on what is the right policy decision for the government with respect to tax, but each will add to the debate. Worthington stressed that the outcome of any model must be viewed in light of the assumptions inherent in that model, and subject to thorough contextual analysis.
Worthington and the coalition have now met with the Ministry of Finance and various Cabinet ministers, the Clearing Banks Association, the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association, major hotels, the Department of Statistics and the central bank.
The group has plans to meet with the Association of International Banks and Trust Companies (AIBT), representatives of the construction and the wholesale sectors, along with the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the U.S. economists Prime Minister Perry Christie has asked to come in to conduct a further VAT study on behalf of the government.
Speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday, Christie said for the first time that if VAT is introduced, it will be introduced at a lower rate than 15 percent. He also said that the government is waiting to complete its dialogue with the private sector before it determines that there is "no alternative" to VAT.
With the noise for the Bahamas to do something about its national debt reaching a crescendo, none of the three major political parties set to contest the 2012 general election inspire much confidence that they will be able to address the situation
Wall Street set the ball rolling. It gathered pace with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). And by the time the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) had finished, the momentum pushing the Bahamas to immediately deal with its growing national debt pile had become a runaway train.
None of this is surprising to astute observers. A look at the headline statistics shows reason for their concern: A $4.25 billion national debt that contin ...