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Expert Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) for the
verification of the vote tabulation of the November 28, 2010
Presidential Election delivered its report to the Government of
Haiti on January 13, 2011. Following the January 17 visit of OAS
Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, the report was officially
submitted to the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) by President
Préval on January 18. This report contains an assessment and
recommendations on the vote tabulation and other factors that had an
impact on the preliminary results of the first round.
Mission, consisting of nine experts in tabulation, statistics, data
analysis, information technology and electoral systems, from...
"Rosy" is the latest adjective being used to describe the 2011-2012 budget, with retired senior banker Al Jarrett charging faults in key assumptions will produce a wider deficit than the government is projecting.
Inflation generally, rising oil prices and the cost of money specifically, are all underestimated in budget considerations, according to Jarrett. He said with these assumptions wrong, Bahamians can expect a much deeper deficit position by the close of the 2011/2012 budget year.
"We could be looking at a bigger budget deficit next year than [the prime minister] is talking about - of half a billion dollars," the retired banker told Guardian Business on Tuesday.
The government is projecting a government finance statistics (GFS) deficit of $248 million for the 2011/12 fiscal year, based on a total deficit of $314 million and $66 million estimated for debt redemption.
The severity of inflation over the budget period is the key assumption Jarrett is at odds with government projections on. The architects of the budget are assuming inflation in the 1.7 percent range, according to Jarrett, who believes a figure almost double that is more realistic.
"The budget is implying that we are going to have a 1.7 percent inflation in The Bahamas in 2011/12 and right now we're operating at at least three percent," Jarrett said. "It's already defying what they are saying and implying."
Inflation is a key factor in financial projections - gross domestic product (GDP) is discounted by inflation to arrive at 'real' GDP growth. A projection of two percent real GDP growth for example, would become no growth if inflation was under-projected by two percent. It factors into revenue and expenditure projections.
Consumer price inflation as measured by the revised Consumer Price Index (CPI) slowed to 1.4 percent for the 12 months to January 2011, according to preliminary data the prime minister cited during his May 25 budget communication. In an annex to the communication, consumer prices were estimated to grow by two percent in 2013.
But Jarrett holds that the evidence of a higher rate of inflation is already evident.
"The figures that are coming out right now are indicating that we are operating at inflation in about a three percent range now.
"In other words because of the cost of food, the high cost of oil, rising interest costs no doubt impacting the cost of goods being purchased now having high inflationary costs, the heavy burden of taxes that were included last year are still being felt in the economy," said Jarrett.
"As a result of all of these things which will no doubt impact inflation there is no way we will have inflation, if this trend continues, below three percent by next year."
If inflation rises faster than projected, it means expenditure would likely be more than anticipated and, with less money available to Bahamians in real terms, spending and any government revenue it would generate likely less.
Jarrett highlighted two other elements that, though contributory to inflation, he felt would each result in a wider deficit than projected. The first was a trending increase in global rates, according to Jarrett.
"The global rates are starting to rise, including the prime rate in the United States which is now about 3.25 percent, New York prime. The Fed rate is now starting to increase. There is that expectation that in 2011 the global rates are going to be much stronger and higher," Jarrett said.
If Jarrett's assumptions are correct it means an increase in the cost of money on the US side. Saying that foreign currency debt was $1.3 billion, a third of the national debt, the government will find much higher rates prevailing in the market when it goes to roll any of that debt next year, according to Jarrett. The factors likely to result in the hike in rates were global trends toward rising food and oil prices, he said.
Jarrett said higher oil prices themselves will directly result in sharper inflation, and were not fully factored into budget calculations.
"They are projecting oil will be from $90 to $110 per barrel throughout 2011," Jarrett said. "Anything over $80 per barrel is inflationary," according to Jarrett.
An increase in oil prices was factored into the budget, but the government is projecting that it will not have a significant impact on inflation.
"The recent firming in oil prices remains a downside risk to the outlook, and could lead to a modest increase in domestic inflation," Ingraham said in the budget communication.
Jarret's conclusion is that underestimations of inflation and the factors underlying are ill-boding for the deficit.
"The budget is not a conservative budget," Jarrett said. "It's trying to paint the rosiest picture it can paint, knowing that it did not take [these things] into consideration in a real, meaningful way."
The absurd escalation in murders over the holidays has left many calling for a return to carrying out the death penalty.
Capital punishment is an irreversible action. Do we entrust our legal system to such an extent that we are confident an innocent person will not be executed?
Not even six months ago, Bahamian police and defense force officers faced an ugly accusation of physical abuse on Cuban detainees. The incident drew international media attention, flared diplomatic tensions and heightened concerns of human rights advocates over prison and detention center conditions.
In February of 2013 over the course of a mere 24 hours two men died while in police custody. These are not isolated incidents.
The U.S. Department of State in its Bahamas 2012 Human Rights report notes the most serious human rights problems were complaints of abuse by police and a poorly functioning judicial system, amongst others. Moreover, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB ) notes an alarmingly low rate of conviction in the technical cooperation document for the Swift Justice pilot program.
The IDB document highlights a paltry 5.1 percent conviction rate for the period between 2005 and 2009 and reinforces public concern over the institutional capacity of the courts. The document notes, "This situation is contributing to the recent dramatic increase in incidents of violence and crime that remain unresolved amid an increasing judicial backlog and a diminishing number of convictions".
Recent statements by our prime minister and attorney general confirm public concern over the number of people on bail and slow pace of the court system.
Prime Minister Perry Christie recently revealed that 462 men are out on bail for serious crimes. He said, "We are not going to have these people who are charged with murder being put out on bail because of the failure of the state to try them in what the court says is a reasonable period of time."
But perhaps he should speak with Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson, because a backlog of over 1,000 matters is clearly an impediment to conduct a trial in a "reasonable period of time".
Even Maynard-Gibson concedes that the court system is fundamentally broken. At the opening of the legal year, she said, "The backlog, including serious offenses committed last year, is over 1,000 matters. These statistics show that notwithstanding the efforts of various administrations over decades, the system is fundamentally broken. Bold steps must be taken to restore confidence in the system".
Criminals don't fear the death penalty because the conviction rate is too low and trials too slow. If The Bahamas can only muster a conviction rate of 5.1 percent, will the physical execution of a death row inmate alter the criminal mindset for murder? Not likely.
The attorney general has big plans for March, when 10 criminal courts will begin operation and a 10-point plan is to be implemented. It's a start, but many Bahamians already affected by crime will find little solace in more promises.
Bahamians need assurance that evidence is properly stored and recorded, witnesses protected, and jurors and judges are free from conflict of interest. Past allegations of police abuse and human rights infractions cloud confidence in our justice system. An execution will not curtail criminal intentions. An effective judicial system is a better place to start.
"We must never lose sight of the fact that the student, as the learner, is not only the center of the school system, but the only reason for its existence." This quote by R.B. Jackson gets to the heart of why schools exist.
Despite the new initiatives, the fancy educational terms, and the ever-expanding responsibilities of schools, we miss the point if we forget that students give schools its purpose. With this in mind, the foundational consideration of all educational institutions must be how best we can serve students. An equally foundational response must include adequate preparation for success in the wider world upon completion of school. Doing this in the 21st. century, however, continues to shift from creating workers with basic proficiencies for inevitable placement in monotonous, factory-type roles, to preparing students for innovative, creative, imaginative, ideas driven work, with the skills, competencies and attitudes which engender incredible flexibility and resilience. The former characteristics are decidedly fundamental for survival in our new and ever changing landscape.
However, creating the programs and the curricula necessary to achieve the above is secondary to success in education. Understanding and respecting the individual needs of each student is primary. Underpinned by the aforementioned, education, by its very definition is about eliminating barriers to student success. In short, education requires education practitioners to do all possible to ensure the success of students -- a complex and grand responsibility indeed.
One mandate of any education system must be to get students into and out of the system as expediently as possible. In order to do this, educational institutions must be focused not only on high impact teaching and learning, but also on understanding and eliminating the many barriers to student success. For example, that positive parental involvement increases a student's performance and success in school has been proven time and again in many different education systems and countries. Concomitantly, that the lack of positive parental involvement can be a barrier to student success is also true. More importantly, however, that multiple strategies have been innovatively employed, by many different education systems and countries, with great success, to overcome the barrier of an uninterested and or unable parent have also been proven.
Therefore, the tendency to blame parents for poor student performance rings hollow in an age where access to information and the huge potential for local and international collaboration exist. Moreover, it can be argued that today's pervading parental indifference is in itself due to the underperformance of our education system. Indeed, the education "crisis" has been long in the making.
Let's briefly examine another measure -- school dropouts. How many students drop out of Bahamian schools each year, and what are the main reasons? While accurate statistics appear in short supply in the Bahamian education system, according to a 2006 report by the ABC News Corporation, American students were dropping out of high school at a rate of 2,500 per day. A later report by the New York Times, estimated that 1.2 million American students had dropped out of high school in 2010. While we may not know the exact number in The Bahamas, we do know that both government and private organizations engaging in work with marginalized youth are being overwhelmed by the numbers of citizens requiring services as a result of dropping out of school. We can deduce, if only anecdotally, that we have a similar school drop-out issue in The Bahamas.
The reasons students drop-out of school can be multifaceted and complex. Sometimes though, the reasons are rather simple. According to the National Drop Out Prevention Centre at Clemson University, the top four reasons students drop out of school were -- they did not like school, they were failing and didn't feel able to catch up, they did not like their teachers, and they felt that they did not belong at school.
Other published research points to identical factors in jurisdictions outside of the United States and highlights that dropping out of school is more of a process than an event. That is, students experience feelings of inadequacy over time. When looked at together, what becomes clear is that schools have a lot of control over maximizing and or minimizing opportunities for student success and graduation rates. To state it in a more challenging way, schools have to decide whether their modus operandi create or eliminate barriers.
Unlike poverty, unstable home environments, drugs, violence, abuse and other insidious factors that can also play a role in students' decisions to leave school, the leading factors as mentioned above are within the realm of schools to address. This in no way underestimates the importance of positive parental involvement and community support. It is understood that in the best circumstances, students and schools would have a broad support base of parents and social partners. However, the absence of these supports does not have to be a fatal barrier for student and school success. In the absence of home and community support, schools must put their shoulders to the plough and bear the responsibility of securing the future of the society. Schools are best positioned to do so. Few other institutions have access to students in the same numbers or for the same length of time. Few other institutions can have the kind of impact schools can have on deciding the direction and influencing the degree of success enjoyed by a country. Key to success in this area is being bold enough to accept the full depth of the responsibility.
Of course, when dynamics such as presented above are at play, policy makers have to dig deep to ensure that schools are fully supported, both in terms of legislation, and human and financial resources. It is fully recognized that financial resources are in short supply all over the world, and so emphasis must always be placed on developing and supporting robust human resources, ensuring that the best people are in positions of power, and that professional development holds a privileged position in the organization. Indeed, in the end, it will be the people who get the job done.
So, what are the most important lessons here?
1. The old saying still rings true, even with the best educational programs, the most futuristic curricula, and facilities with all the bells and whistles, students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Education is doomed to failure if anything/anyone other than students gives it purpose and motivation.
2. The most successful school systems around the world create trends rather than follow them. Industries adapt to the innovations of schools rather than schools adapting to industry, and successful school systems have a no-excuses approach to student success, embracing the mantra as was done in Ontario, that schools control the conditions for success. If schools are to be more successful, they will need to embrace the full responsibility of motivating the country and giving themselves permission to take the leadership role and set the trends of tomorrow.
3. Barriers to student success can be obvious external impediments such as drugs and poverty, but even more often, they are the intangible attitudes and feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness held by students, that cost nothing more than a positive, attentive, and caring teacher to address.
This is our full responsibility.
Makia Gibson is a passionate educator, working to improve education for all Bahamians! More at www.yestoeducation.com
The fundamental principle of governance is the protection of its citizens and upholding the Rule of Law. If a Government cannot apply this principle effectively it ought to be removed.
There is no doubt that the Bahamas, New Providence in particular, is one of the top ranking countries in the world for crime. This island 21 by 7 has one of the highest per capita rape, arm robberies, and murder statistics in the world. Put simply, this country is not safe. We have callous mean spirited persons wreaking havoc on this country of ours. As a result, law-abiding citizens are forced to live in fear. These criminally minded persons are responsible not only for the crime they commit, but for all of the costs involved by persons trying to protect themselves and their property. In most cases we rarely hear about the impact that crime against the person has on the victim and the victim's family. For the homeowners, persons are forced to enclose their yards, install burglar bars, cameras and alarm systems. In many instances dogs are not considered pets anymore but are in yards for protection. I consider myself a pet lover. I have seven dogs. Five of them are for protection purposes and they were trained for that reason. Many businesses have the added expense of security, which is now a necessary expense. In many cases this expense is transferred to the customers.
Yes Bahamas...we live in paradise but we are paralyzed by fear!
The Bahamas had the third highest murder rate among 13 Caribbean countries in 2013, according to a survey by The Nassau Guardian.
In 2011, The Bahamas had the 5th highest murder rate among 15 Caribbean countries in 2010 when it recorded 29 murders per 100,000 people.
According to The Guardian's compilation, The Bahamas, with a population of 351,461, had 34.1 murders per 100,000 people (based on 2012 population figures).
The country recorded 120 murders in 2013.
However, police have not yet released their annual crime statistics which sometimes include reclassifications which could lead to a modification of the figure.
St. Kitts and Nevis, with a population of 46,204 (based on 2011 population figures), had the highest murder rate of the surveyed countries with 45.5 murders per 100,000 people. St. Kitts and Nevis had 21 murders in 2013.
Jamaica, with a population of over 2.7 million, had the second highest murder rate with 44.1 murders per 100,000 people. Jamaica recorded 1,197 murders in 2013.
The U.S. Virgin Islands had the fourth highest murder rate, with 32.9 murders per 100,000.
The U.S. Virgin Islands has a population of over 100,000 and recorded 35 murders in 2013.
Trinidad and Tobago, which recorded 405 murders in 2013 and has a population of over 1.3 million, was fifth with 30.5 murders per 100,000.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines (27 murders) was sixth with 27.6 murders per 100,000; Saint Lucia (34 murders) seventh with 20.1; Dominica (12 murders) eighth with 16.8; Anguilla (two murders) ninth with 14.8; the Turks and Caicos Islands (three murders) 10th with 8.8; Barbados (24 murders) 11th with 8.7; the Cayman Islands (four murders) 12th with seven and the British Virgin Islands (one murder) 13th with 3.5.
According to the United Nations, the international homicide standard that countries seek to be at or under is five per 100,000.
Out of the 13 countries surveyed, only the BVI met that standard.
The Bahamas, like many of the countries surveyed, has had a fluctuating murder count over the years.
In 2010, there were 94 murders recorded in the country, a record at the time. The next year there were 127 murders, an all time high and in 2012 there were 111.
Jamaica has also seen a sporadic movement in murders over the years. In 2008, Jamaica recorded 1,619 murders; 1,683 in 2009; 1,445 in 2010; 1,133 in 2011 and 1,097 in 2012.
Dominica, which has a population of 71,293, has also had a steady rise in crime over the last few years. In 2008, Dominica had seven murders; 13 in 2009; 15 in 2010; six in 2012 and 12 in 2013.
The country whose population most resembles that of The Bahamas, Barbados, with a population of 277,000 people, has seen a low murder count in the last few years. In 2008, Barbados recorded 23 murders; 19 in 2009; 31 in 2010; 27 in 2011 and 21 in 2012.
Here at home the government has pledged a war on crime.
Last summer, there were 12 murders recorded in a 13-day period.
As the new year approached, murders began to increase and in the last Friday of 2013 four people were shot dead and seven injured in a drive-by shooting in Fox Hill.
In the wake of the shooting, Prime Minister Perry Christie unveiled more than 20 initiatives Cabinet agreed to as part of the government's effort to "escalate" the war on crime.
Chief among the initiatives are plans to increase police saturation patrols in crime hot spots and possibly reinstating the 12-hour shift for police officers.
The question of granting bail to those accused of serious offenses and debate over whether to resume capital punishment have also made headlines in recent weeks.
So far for the year there have been five homicides. Four have been classified as murders.
The United States Embassy in Nassau has warned Americans living in and travelling to New Providence and Freeport, Grand Bahama to be on "heightened alert" and to take "appropriate steps" to enhance their personal security to avoid becoming victims of crime.
The embassy issued a statement yesterday which highlighted the murder of two American citizens in The Bahamas in the last eight months, and several other incidents of armed robberies in the last week, which it said occurred in areas frequented by visitors.
Anthony Kyle Welch, 47, who moved to The Bahamas from Mississippi, was bound with duct tape and stabbed to death at his home on Albacore Drive, off Midshipman Road in Freeport, Grand Bahama around 10 p.m. on Friday.
In May 2013, Kyle Brauner, 34, of Illinois, who was a crew member of a vessel docked in Nassau, was shot dead during a robbery shortly after leaving Hammerheads Bar and Grill around 4:30 a.m.
The embassy said that on Saturday two men, one of whom wielded an assault rifle, robbed an American couple at Jaws Beach of their vehicle and belongings. The couple was not injured.
The embassy highlighted several other armed robberies that occurred this month, including a man who was robbed of a deposit bag containing money outside CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank at Harbour Bay Shopping Plaza on January 14.
"Earlier this month, an armed robbery occurred in the Harbour Bay shopping center, and a local restaurant was robbed by armed assailants at the Caves Village shopping center.
"U.S. citizens, residents and tourists frequent both of these areas."
The armed robbery at Caves Village could not be found in the police daily crime reports.
In its statement, the embassy said armed robberies remain a major threat to U.S. citizens throughout the country, including areas frequented by tourists.
"In the past eight months a number of U.S. citizens have fallen victim to armed robbery and two have been murdered," read the statement.
"The Royal Bahamas Police Force issued a message last year citing concerns about the increased number of armed robberies in [New Providence].
"In light of this situation, U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to The Bahamas should review their personal security plans.
"Remain aware of your surroundings, including local events, and monitor local news stations for updates. Maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security."
The embassy encouraged U.S. citizens to enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to get the latest security updates and to be more easily contacted in case of an emergency by the embassy.
The embassy issued a similar crime warning in November 2013 citing at least three incidents in a six-month period where American visitors were robbed by machete-wielding assailants on Grand Bahama.
According to crime statistics released two weeks ago for 2013, armed robberies in the country fell by eight percent, from 1,106 cases to 1,022 cases, and robberies fell by two percent.
The data showed that most of the country's crimes occurred in New Providence.
Days ago, the National Bureau of Statistics of China released the figures of China's national economy development in 2012, which showed that China had achieved its set goal of making progress in socio-economic development while keeping a stable trend in the operation of the national economy.
According to preliminary accounting, the gross domestic product (GDP) of China was 51.9322 trillion yuan (about US$8.24 trillion) in 2012, an increase of 7.8 percent at comparable prices. Specifically, in terms of quarter statistics, the increase of the first quarter was 8.1 percent, while that of the second quarter was 7.6 percent, of the third quarter 7.4 percent and of the fourth quarter 7.9 percent. In terms of industry, the value added for the primary industry was 5.2377 trillion yuan, up by 4.5 percent; for the secondary industry 23.5319 trillion, up by 8.1 percent; and for the tertiary industry 23.1626 trillion, up by 8.1 percent. In terms of chain relative ratio, the gross domestic product of the four quarters of 2012 went up by two percent.
Agricultural production went up steadily
China's total grain output in 2012 was 589.57 million tons, an increase of 18.36 million tons, up by 3.2 percent, an increase for nine consecutive years.
Industrial production was getting stabilized
The total value added for the industrial enterprises above designated size in 2012 was up by 10 percent at comparable prices, or 3.9 percentage points lower than that in the previous year. Specifically, in terms of quarter statistics, the increase of the first quarter was 11.6 percent, while 9.5 percent for the second quarter, 9.1 percent for the third quarter and 10 percent for the fourth quarter. In December, the total value added for the industrial enterprises above designated size was up by 10.3 percent compared with the same month last year, or up by 0.87 compared with November.
In the first 11 months, the profits made by the industrial enterprises above designated size stood at 4.6625 trillion yuan, up by 3 percent. Among the 41 major industrial divisions, 30 divisions registered increases in profits, 10 divisions witnessed reduction and one division suffered losses. The profit rate of the industrial enterprises above designated size from their primary activities was 5.66 percent.
Investment in fixed assets kept a fast growth
In 2012, the investment in fixed assets (excluding rural households) was 36.4835 trillion yuan, a nominal growth of 20.6 percent (a real growth of 19.3 percent deducting price factors), which was 3.4 percentage points lower than that in the previous year.
The total investment in real estate development in 2012 was 7.1804 trillion yuan, a nominal growth of 16.2 percent (a real growth of 14.9 percent deducting price factors), or 11.9 percentage points lower than that in the previous year.
Market sales enjoyed a steady growth
In 2012, the total retail sales of consumer goods reached 20.7167 trillion yuan, a nominal annual rise of 14.3 percent (a real growth of 12.1 percent deducting price factors), or 2.8 percentage points lower than that in the previous year. In December, the total retail sales of consumer goods rose by 15.2 percent nominally (a real growth of 13.5 percent deducting price factors), or 1.53 percent growth month-on-month.
The growth rate of imports and exports declined
The total value of imports and exports in 2012 was US$3.86676 trillion, an annual increase of 6.2 percent, or 16.3 percentage points lower than that in the previous year. The total value of exports was US$2.04893 trillion, up by 7.9 percent; the total value of imports was US$1.81783 trillion, an increase of 4.3 percent. The trade balance was US$231.1 billion. In December, the total value of imports and exports was US$366.84 billion, up by 10.2 percent. The total value of exports was US$199.23 billion, up by 14.1 percent; and that of imports was US$167.61 billion, up by six percent.
The growth of consumer prices fell back
In 2012, the consumer price went up by 2.6 percent, which was 2.8 percentage points lower than that in the previous year. Specifically, the price went up by 2.7 percent in urban areas and 2.5 percent in rural areas.
Urban and rural residents' income increased steadily
In 2012, the per capita total income of urban households was 26,959 yuan. Specifically, the per capita disposable income of urban households was 24,565 yuan, a nominal growth of 12.6 percent, or a real growth of 9.6 percent deducting price factors, which was 1.2 percentage points higher than that in the previous year. The per capita net income of rural households was 7,917 yuan, up by 13.5 percent, or 10.7 percent in real terms, which was 0.7 percentage points lower than that in the previous year.
Money supply maintained a steady growth
By the end of December 2012, the balance of broad money (M2) was 97.42 trillion yuan, a growth of 13.8 percent, which was 0.2 percentage points higher than that at the end of the previous year; the balance of narrow money (M1) was 30.87 trillion yuan, up by 6.5 percent, or 1.4 percentage points lower; and the balance of cash in circulation (M0) was 5.47 trillion yuan, a rise of 7.7 percent, or 6.1 percentage points lower.
At the end of December, the amount of outstanding loans was 62.99 trillion yuan, while the amount of outstanding deposits was 91.74 trillion yuan. In the whole year of 2012, the newly increased loans reached 8.2 trillion yuan, an increase of 732 billion yuan; the newly increased deposits were 10.81 trillion yuan, or 1.17 trillion yuan more than that in the year of 2011.
Population and employment were generally stable
By the end of 2012, the total population in the mainland of China was 1.35404 billion (not including residents in Hong Kong SAR, Macao SAR, Taiwan Province and overseas Chinese), an increase of 6.69 million than that at the end of 2011. The number of births was 16.35 million and the birth rate was 12.10 in a thousand, or 0.17 thousand points higher than that in the previous year; the deaths were 9.66 million with a death rate of 7.15 in a thousand, or 0.01 thousand points higher; the natural growth rate was 4.95 in a thousand. At the end of the year 2012, the total number of employed persons was 767.04 million, or 2.84 million more than that at the end of 2011; the number of urban employed persons was 371.02 million, or 11.88 million more.
The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences recently published a 2013 China's Economy Blue Book report, saying to maintain growth is the top priority for China's current economic work. China's economic growth in 2013 is expected at 8.2 percent, with a forecast that the increase in CPI in 2013 is likely to fall to three percent.
Experts are prudently optimistic on the performance of China's economy in 2013, for China still has to be cautious about the potential downturn of the world economy, and get itself prepared for the world economic downturn with sufficient policy flexibility and backup. Judging from the present situation, the probability of downward risk is expected at less than 50 percent. However, with time going on the probability may vary from month to month.
o Hu Shan is the Chinese ambassador to The Bahamas.
About $81.6 billion added to The Bahamas' gross domestic product ( GDP) figures over an 11-year period has caused some local businessmen to question the release of the revised series, while Department of Statistics (DOS) officials defend it as the responsible course of action.
The added GDP value is based on a comparison of the county's GDP in current prices as reported in the International Monetary Fund (IMF's) April 2011 World Economic Outlook, to the revised GDP series released by the DOS on May 25, 2011. The comparison was made over the period 2000-2010. Representing an annual average increase of 14.1 percent across the period, Guardian Business asked DOS Assistant Director and Supervisor of National Accounts Clarice Turnquest if the new numbers should impugn or strengthen the DOS' credibility.
"It depends on how the public perceives it," said Turnquest. "It's necessary. I would wonder about a department that does not revise its series -- that does not update as necessary.
"Look around you and the economy is changing actually faster than it used to. You cannot maintain old ratios and old methods and still say your result is relevant. So to me, the revisions improve the relevancy of the department, improves the accuracy, it improves what you are putting out there."
In a nut shell, last year the DOS completed a decade-long project which allowed more reliable data to inform the calculation of 2007 GDP, resulting in a significantly higher estimate. According to the new data, 2007 current GDP came in at $0.9 billion or 12.7 percent over the IMF's latest published estimate for that year. Turnquest said the DOS faced the decision of either revising the series for some statistically significant period or causing a 'break' in the series -- for example producing a 2010 GDP estimate that would spike dramatically over previous years and render comparison to those years essentially meaningless.
"The problem with a figure like GDP is you need [results for] 10 years or more to study. Not necessarily to release. You could release and say you have a break in series and go from there, but that doesn't satisfy the researchers, the users, whomever," Turnquest said.
Analytical tools like trend analysis generally require about 10 years of data, according to the statistician, and researches including those at international organizations such as the IMF, she said, call for revisions to a suitable period to allow them to do such analyses.
"They will tell you, they need you to backcast it so they can do trend analysis," Turnquest said. "It's a normal procedure when you introduce a new series... and it's necessary with a figure like GDP to do that."
International organizations including the United Nations, the IMF, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the Inter-American Development Bank all request the GDP results, Turnquest said. Unlike the lay person who is primarily interested in one or two tables, she said such organizations receive and review a comprehensive set of supporting tables.
"They look at [the tables]. If they have some concerns to say, well, maybe these two items should have (been) added to this in this particular table and it isn't happening, they will let you know," said Turnquest.
Credit ratings organizations use GDP estimates as a key factor when rating sovereign debt. Guardian Business spoke to Moody's Vice President/Senior Analyst Aaron Freedman Friday, May 27th. The Bahamas falls under Freedman's portfolio at Moody's -- one of the foremost credit ratings companies in the world. Freedman was asked if the newly revised series was a cause for concern.
"I don't think that that's probably our primary concern," Freedman said.
"Generally speaking, our approach is to use the newest, most accurate numbers," according to the analyst. He added that Moody's generally looks for independent verification of key information used to support ratings, such as GDP for sovereign debt ratings, and institutions like the IMF may add a degree of comfort if revisions did generate doubt.
"I suppose occasionally one may have a suspicion that if the revised GDP numbers are constantly going up, you could argue, well they're playing with the numbers to try to make themselves look better," Freedman said.
"I don't mean specifically in the case of The Bahamas, I'm talking broadly here, but that's a potential suspicion one could have. But the IMF generally reviews these numbers and I think it reviews the calculations of these numbers. I think if there was any kind of question about their accuracy or about the motives for the revisions they would probably highlight that."
El Salvador is another country that Freedman covers. He said that he recently looked at their latest numbers and noticed that they, too, had been revised upwards.
"They've just done the same thing, restated numbers for several years," Freedman said.
Revisions to series are not that uncommon, according to Freedman, though large changes are less so. Still, they are not always a cause for alarm, according to Freedman, who cited the case of Guyana as an example.
"The differences are generally relatively minor, sometimes though you can see an enormous change. For instance we saw that with Guyana recently -- which we don't have a rating for -- that they recently revised their means of calculating GDP with the IMF stamp of approval and as a result of that their GDP figures now are considerably higher than they were previously."
Underlying the recent revision to the GDP estimates for 1997 to 2009 was the implementation of a new Supply and Use Table (SUT) for base- year 2007. The SUT is not new to national accounts statisticians -- in fact it is one of the first steps recommended to them under the United Nations' 1993 System of National Accounts (SNA), according to Turnquest.
The SNA is a manual that guides national accounts statisticians on GDP estimation and is periodically updated. Turnquest said most countries are estimating GDP on the SNA 1968 and SNA 1993, though there is now an SNA 2008 that many countries are or will be moving to.
The SUT may be said to bring balancing and reconciliation aspects of book-keeping and accounts to GDP estimation -- allowing information to be cross-checked and 'balanced' across industries and commodities through economic data integration. According to the DOS, it "fosters more accurate and refined GDP estimates" than the two other estimation methods employed -- the production and expenditure approaches.
The SUT was a key aspect of the SNA 1993, and Turnquest says the department has been in the process of generating the new SUT since before 2002, going through two trial tables before reaching a point of comfort to rely upon the 2007 SUT that it completed last year. The first SUT it generated took two to three years and was completed in 2002, the second in 2005. The tables were generated with the oversight of a Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC) consultant in accordance with the SNA 1993, according to Turnquest.
It was a learning process, the national accounts statistician recalled, as researchers improved on benchmark data sets and became familiar with the system. Despite being the first recommendation of SNA 1993, she said the data required to produce the table is 'extensive' and for many countries was really more of a final step as a result.
Informing the 2007 SUT was new benchmark data, including an extended tourist expenditure survey, which captured for the first time expenditure items like golf, fishing, perfumes, hair braiding and weddings.
Another was the DOS' 2006 household expenditure survey, which captured information about food items, utilities, transportation, domestic services and charitable donations across a sample of a cross section of households. The DOS said the additional details it provided was a major influence on the GDP increase.
The DOS also used its 2007 economic census, saying that it provided extensive data and had broader coverage than normal. It allowed for a benchmark for cost structures, according to the DOS.
"These data sets provide actual data thereby eliminating estimation techniques previously used," read a May 25th press release by the DOS. "The end result is a 2007 SUT that was utilized for the revised GDP figures. As stated previously, these GDP results, compared to those presented in previous years, show a marked increase in the level of GDP. This change is a direct result of the full implementation of the SUT of The Bahamas."
Once the 2007 SUT was completed and implemented, it revealed a much higher GDP for that year. With the new benchmark data showing significant growth, the statisticians set to essentially pro-rating years before and after the 2007 base year.
"You have to revise the series once you introduce new benchmark data," Turnquest said. "We have to maintain our integrity in terms of being as relevant and as accurate as we can be. We can't get caught up with what may or may not be going on outside of the department. You have to continue moving forward. So if we produce the result and we are content enough that we have revised it and worked with it, you have to bring it forward."
According to Turnquest, the release of the new GDP series was not a lightly made decision, but she is convinced it was the only responsible decision to make with the new benchmark data showing a clearly higher GDP than previous estimates suggested.
"It's easier and safer to not adjust when necessary, to not change when necessary. But then what you have is irrelevant and doesn't apply," Turnquest said. "You have to move with how the economy is moving and how methodologies are changing. We have to keep abreast. If we don't then we become irrelevant. I think not [releasing the new series] would make you irrelevant and then you should question credibility."
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 ...