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Socialism is a dirty word in most Western-styled democracies, as it tends to evoke images of individuals living on the economic fat of the state, at taxpayers' expense, while electing not to work or otherwise make themselves productive members of society.
From the early days of the 1970s, most European nations structured a social net whereby the ordinary citizen would be able to access basic healthcare, college level education and access to other common expectations. This worked well when population levels were relatively small and they were culturally cohesive.
With the advent of the European Common Market and relaxation of cross-border travel and migration, huge numbers of foreign nationals moved from one jurisdiction to the other, especially where the economic benefits were more attractive. They settled in and eventually had children and grand children.
Today, in most of these European countries we are now witnessing the bankruptcy of the system and challenges to maintaining the social net in the face of apparent and real resentment from the indigenous people. This is now the case in France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Political parties and individuals who argue for expulsion and the closing of borders are on the rise.
Socialism is now, once again, a dirty word in many of these countries and we are seeing massive immigration round-ups of foreign nationals and their progeny. Closer to home, in the Dominican Republic, we saw where the Constitutional Court of that nation has ruled that people of Haitian descent who were born after 1929 are not, automatically, eligible to Dominican citizenship and all of the benefits that would accrue there from.
In our own country of The Bahamas, the unknown number of illegal nationals, the bulk of whom are of Haitian extraction, is causing angst and societal discomfort. It is commonly accepted that our educational facilities are maxed out due to the large number of children of Haitian parentage who are in the system.
Our healthcare institutions are also challenged due to the massive demands made by foreign-born people. Last year, according to statistics, more than 60 percent of the live births at Princess Margaret Hospital were to Haitian mothers. On any given day, the vast majority of patients at our clinics are of foreign antecedents.
We pride ourselves on being a democracy, and as self-professed Christians we say that we have a social conscience. The status quo, however, has now become almost unbearable. How do we, as an indigenous people, provide the expected social amenities for Bahamians while excluding others who are foreigners? Do we go the route of the Dominican Republic or do we bite the bullet?
Our democracy is being challenged in that during the last electoral cycle it is a known fact that thousands of individuals actually voted even though they were not born in this country. The majority of them were made citizens by paper fiats during the course of the last five or so years.
At one point, the Haitian president visited New Providence and at a very public forum he urged his compatriots to vote for the party which had their best interests at heart. Many believed that he was advocating political support for the PLP. The rest is, of course, history.
Recently that same Haitian president was a guest of honor at the 70th birthday bash for our own home-grown prime minister. During brief remarks, Michel Martelly, urged Perry Christie to create jobs for the millions of economically dispossessed Haitians. Christie did not bat an eye and promised to see what he could do.
Indigenous Bahamians are being relegated to the back of the bus when it comes to employment on the most mundane construction site, especially over at Bimini and down at Baha Mar. Unemployment rose by almost two percent but our politicians say that they are encouraged by the figures which show that more individuals are now actually seeking jobs. Mind you, it does not seem to have dawned on them that there are, in fact, no real jobs out there for them to seek.
We should not be surprised, however, when we consider that one of our erstwhile political figures, who has now, mercifully, been consigned to the dust bin, crowed that 49 percent was equal to 51 percent.
Just recently, the minister of national security boldly declared that $5 million was spent on the failed and badly executed so-called referendum on gambling. A few days later he was correcting that figure by saying that only $1.2 million was spent. Is it any wonder that our national debt and recurrent expenses are not known with any degree of certainty by anyone?
A social democracy is possible in The Bahamas, however. The problem with its implementation is that none of our current crop of politicians has any vision or plan for the same. Their archaic methods of governance and the way they wield power do not lend themselves to socially empowering individuals.
They will all die the death of a thousand cuts before we see the introduction of universal healthcare, economic incentives for ordinary Bahamians and access to a real Freedom of Information Act.
Here it is that we all know that we need to generate more revenue. We have the spectacle of the web shop industry raking in hundreds of millions of dollars, tax free, each year. Instead of the government (anyone of them) simply bringing legislation to Parliament to regulate and tax this industry, it talks stupidity about a value added tax regime.
Most of us are already taxed to the max yet the politicians are going to wring out the last red cent from our pockets or die trying. Why not introduce a sales tax? Why not introduce a flat income tax, across the board, of 10%?
Social Democracy is possible but until then, in all things, to God be the glory.
- Ortland H. Bodie Jr.
Women, not men, get pregnant. So, what's the big deal? I believe many fathers are happy because they feel free to do whatever they want to do while the mothers labor at home.
Unfortunately, society has cultivated roles based on pregnancy rather than shared responsibility. Traditionally, society expects pregnant women to remain home after pregnancy, at least for a while, and provide all the baby needs while performing as maids in the home. Where are the husbands or partners? They are having fun with friends.
How could this be? I have actually witnessed mothers with newborn babies at home having to call their mothers or mothers-in-law or sisters to come and assist in doing simple tasks that the father should do, but he is "enjoying" extracurricular activities with his friends. How insulting and inconsiderate! How can a father seek to have fun outside of the home while a mother is at home struggling with baby needs and household chores? Isn't it true that fathers are "pregnant" also? They just do not carry the babies in a womb.
There are some fathers who claim that they cannot change diapers, feed babies, or even bathe them and they refuse to learn. Why is that so? Is it because they were not exposed to that in their homes while growing up? Is it because they were constantly told that it is a woman's job? Or is it because men are made with a serious physiological design that prohibits them from touching dirty diapers? We know this is not true.
Here are some interesting facts from an online article I recently read: "According to a survey of 8,000 men and 3,500 women in Brazil, Croatia, Chile, India, Mexico and Rwanda, statistics on the issue of male participation in household duties from these six developing countries are pretty sobering. It's not only diapers that men shy away from, it's childcare in general. In Rwanda, 61 percent of the men surveyed consider it to be a woman's duty. In India, 86 percent of dads say they would never touch a diaper because it's women's work." What about fathers in The Bahamas and the Caribbean?
Although I have no statistics to share, I noticed that some fathers in The Bahamas and the Caribbean who do change diapers and bathe the children are thinking in their minds that they are helping the mothers out. They are not doing it because it is also their responsibility.
Some men have taboos about changing girls' diapers. I wonder why? Are these fathers uncomfortable changing girls' diapers because they have questions about their own sexuality? Then, should mothers change boys' diapers? You notice it is mostly the fathers who have the taboos. Mothers have been changing both boys' and girls' diapers for thousands of years and we have not seen any negative results. Why do fathers have this hang-up? This must stop.
My observation is that very few fathers really make serious adjustments in their work or play schedule when babies are born. They might get one or two days off during the first week but soon resort to their regular activities. Why is it that it is the mother who gets up at night to deal with the crying baby, has to clean the baby's bottles (if the mother is not breastfeeding), and still prepares breakfast for the father before he leaves for work? This is unfair and wrong.
It is my view that the responsibility of parenting newborn infants and children of all ages is the full responsibility of both father and mother. That's not negotiable. The father is to cease all extracurricular activities and sometimes normal activities to join the mother in performing every hourly and daily task for the newborn baby. The father's celebration that he is now a man because he has a child should be demonstrated by being at home and working with mom and not by sharing cigars and playing dominoes with friends under the trees at nights. Whether he likes it or not, he is to suck in his guts and muster up the courage to become a hands-on father with all of his children. If he does not know what to do, at least he can have a willingness to learn and become good at it. The attitude is important. There are fathers who boast of having been in the delivery room watching the child's birth, but their involvement ends right there. It is as though that herculean task fulfills his divine responsibility as a father. What a shame!
A shining example
While I am saddened with the fact that far too many fathers are not doing their natural God-given responsibilities as caregivers, there are some who are wonderful, caring and full-time fathers. There are some fathers who are shining examples for parenting. They refuse to let the mothers get up at night to tend to a crying baby. They are naturally involved in every single aspect of caring - feeding, cooking, washing clothes, hugging, changing diapers, putting on clothes, shopping, cleaning house and cuddling. These fathers cannot wait to get home after working hours to lovingly tend to the needs of the baby and mother. They reduce or stop all unnecessary activities outside of the home to spend the time at home with mom and children. As the child gets older and more independent, allowing more leisure time for both parents, they wisely and gradually allow more and more fun times apart or together without sacrificing the emotional or physical well-being of the children. Thank God for these fathers.
Fathers, are you spending the time caring for your newborn child? If not, start today.
o Barrington H. Brennen is an ordained minister of the gospel, marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to email@example.com; or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas; or call 327-1980.
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.
FREEPORT, Grand Bahama - State Minister of Finance Zhivargo Laing says he is not "delusional" about the uphill climb for the Grand Bahama economy.
The minister served as the opening speaker of this year's Grand Bahama Business Outlook at the Grand Lucayan Beach & Golf Resort. This year's event, he said, comes at a critical time. Laing believes it will be remembered as the turn of the tide for this struggling economy.
He told Guardian Business the island will begin to recover by the fourth quarter of this year, and by early 2013, the unemployment rate should fall below 20 percent.
"I'm not delusional," he said. "Grand Bahama's economy is significantly challenged. I think people do not realize for about 10 years this has been going on. That is the closest to a recession you can get.
"But I remain bullish on the future."
The minister began his speech by looking back over the last 10 years. In May 2002, he said, unemployment stood at 6.4 percent. By 2007 it had risen to 8.8 percent, caused by a lack of significant investment, the impact of hurricanes and in particular the closure of the Royal Oasis Resort.
Of course, next came the recession in 2008. The GBPA was also plagued with ownership and managerial issues at this time and there was limited promotion of the island.
Millions upon millions of dollars in government subsidies, he claimed, "stopped the island's economy from collapsing".
According to the latest numbers from the Department of Statistics, the unemployment rate on the island stands at more than 21 percent. Investment, both foreign and domestic, has remained stagnant and uninspiring.
After acknowledging the past, Laing announced to the crowd that the future holds a different story.
Continued government subsidies to the tune of $17.3 million this year, rising airlift from Bahamasair and "aggressive intentions" from the GBPA "will begin a renaissance of this island", he said.
Last week, Guardian Business reported that Bahamasair plans to inject at least $25 million into the Grand Bahama economy through significantly expanded airlift.
Through an initiative with the Ministry of Tourism, direct service from Baltimore, Raleigh, Louisville, Richmond and Fort Lauderdale will all begin in a matter of weeks.
Bahamasair is investing in new, more efficient planes for its fleet and will enlist a sub-service operator to assist with the service.
According to David Johnson, the director general in the Ministry of Tourism, airfare will be slashed 50 percent and travel time by 70 percent.
"I think we're going to gain serious momentum in the tourism sector as Bahamasair follows with this arrangement," Laing added. "I expect it will create results."
The minister said the "fullness" of the Job Readiness Programme should be felt a little later this year as spending works its way through the system. He told Guardian Business the intention is to improve the economic outlook and generate enthusiasm for those on the island.
Another concern for business interests in Grand Bahama is the future of the shipping industry.
Over recent months, Hutchison Port Holdings has laid off dozens of workers as Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), its sole client, continues to move operations over to Panama.
The booming South American nation has proven to be a force to be reckoned with in the region, offering high efficiency, low prices and convenience.
Hutchison Port Holdings owns a significant stake in the Grand Lucayan, which has also experienced major struggles in recent years.
Laing said that with light at the end of the tunnel, stakeholders in Grand Bahama will stay the course.
"The one thing I am confident about is those who made an investment here are interested in protecting it. They have the ability to be creative and innovative," he said. "The government is prepared to do what it can to provide support. I think GB is ready for the turn and things will get better."
Democratic National Alliance Leader Branville McCartney said he is not surprised by the recently released unemployment figures, adding that he believes that the unemployment rate is worse than what is reported.
According to figures from the Department of Statistics, the national unemployment rate jumped to 16.2 percent from 14 percent. The Labour Force Survey was conducted in May with a reference period of April 29 to May 5, 2013.
"I saw the report regarding the increase of the number of persons unemployed," he told The Nassau Guardian yesterday. "I have some questions regarding that because they say it was done in April and May of this year, but I don't think it's a true reflection of the number of persons unemployed.
"I think it's higher and it will get even higher because we are aware that there are certain institutions that will be laying people off in the very near future."
McCartney offered similar comments on Guardian Radio 96.9 FM on Darold Miller Live yesterday afternoon.
While McCartney holds a pessimistic view of the unemployment situation in the country, several government officials said there is reason to hope that the unemployment rate is on track to improve.
Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis told The Guardian on Wednesday that while the government is not satisfied with the rise in unemployment, it is optimistic about job growth prospects.
Halkitis said in spite of the rise in unemployment, the numbers also show that people are hopeful about employment opportunities and that jobs have been added to the economy this year.
He added that the government shares the optimism of those who have reentered the workforce.
The Department of Statistics said the unemployment rate is higher because of a 33 percent decline in discouraged workers (people who are willing and able to work but did not seek employment because they are so discouraged they have given up looking).
Just before the statistics were released on Wednesday, Prime Minister Perry Christie said he is hopeful of an economic turnaround by next year.
"I'm trying to encourage people to be optimistic, to wait a bit longer because next week I'm going to make a major announcement on another set of work in The Bahamas that will again create another new economy in a different part of The Bahamas," Christie said outside of the House of Assembly.
Unemployment on Grand Bahama increased from 18 percent to 19.5 percent, according to the report, which was released on Wednesday.
But McCartney believes that the true figure for Grand Bahama stands about 22 percent.
"I have concerns with that report," he said. "We will comment more on that in the very near future."
While McCartney pointed to a number of jobs that were lost over the past several months, he had no information on the number of jobs that were gained.
Halkitis noted that hundreds of employment opportunities have been created recently.
"We realize that there is much work to do in the area of job creation, and we are encouraged by some positive movement in the months since the survey was conducted, and we remain committed to doing what is necessary to put more Bahamians to work," Halkitis said.
If the Department of Statistics conducted a labor force study today on Grand Bahama the island's unemployment rate would be lower than the 19.5 percent that was recorded in May, Minister of Grand Bahama Dr. Michael Darville said yesterday.
Darville said while he is not questioning the accuracy of the figure, the economic climate on the island has changed since the time of the survey and more jobs have been added.
He said the end of the Ingraham administration's 52-week program likely contributed to the higher unemployment figure.
"In May, there was a transitional period where we went into a point where the unemployment, I felt, was increasing," Darville said. "I am convinced that if we were to do the statistics at this time the unemployment rate would not be the 19.5 percent that we see in this report.
"Since May of this year we have seen increased employment at the [Freeport] Container Port and the establishment of a few other businesses on the island which clearly indicates that we are in recovery mode."
After a slight decline last year, the national unemployment rate is now the highest it has been in at least 10 years, according to figures from the Department of Statistics. Those figures show that the jobless rate jumped to 16.2 percent from 14 percent.
The data is contained in the 2013 Labour Force Survey, which was conducted in May with a reference period of April 29 to May 5, 2013. The information was released Wednesday.
During the period of 2002 to 2012, the country's highest unemployment rate was seen in 2011 at 15.9 percent, according to records from the Department of Statistics.
The latest numbers show that the unemployment rate on New Providence rose to 15.9 percent from 13.1 percent, and the rate on Grand Bahama jumped to 19.5 percent from 18 percent.
Unemployment among youths (people 15 to 24) rose to 30.8 from 30.7 percent with the youth jobless rate for residents of New Providence and Grand Bahama "considerably higher than any other age group," the statement said.
Grand Bahama's labor force consists of 25,115 people with 4,900 unemployed. There were 2,635 unemployed women and 2,265 unemployed men in Grand Bahama's labor force at the time of the survey.
Yesterday Darville said that in spite of the statistics, there are many projects in the pipeline which will create jobs for Grand Bahama.
Darville said ongoing renovations at The Reef hotel has created 250 to 300 construction jobs and will create 1,000 permanent jobs once the property is reopened.
He added that he anticipates growth in Grand Bahama's industrial and tourism sector.
"We see a bright light down the tunnel in terms of our unemployment situation," Darville said.
"What is of great concern to us is the unemployment statistics and that roughly one out of every three young person is unemployed.
"Knowing that and seeing where we are, we are working diligently with our private sector partners and we have a strong focus on training for the expansion that we anticipate in the industrial sector and also in the service area."
The Nassau Guardian spoke with a single mother of two who lives in Freeport and said she has not had steady work for a year.
The mother, who did not want to be named, said she is hopeful about job prospects in spite of her situation.
"I think we are going to have jobs soon. There are a lot of places opening, there are some small business opening," she said.
"I've been putting my papers out there but nobody is calling back, but I'm not discouraged."
The 22-year-old said she makes a living taking odd jobs as a babysitter and hair stylist while she looks for full time work.
The Department of Statistics said the unemployment rate is higher because of a 33 percent decline in discouraged workers.
This category consists of people who are willing and able to work but did not seek employment because they are so discouraged they have given up looking.
During the period of 2002 to 2012, the country's highest unemployment rate was seen in 2011 at 15.9 percent, according to records from the Department of Statistics.
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.
UNEMPLOYMENT in the Bahamas has reached a staggering 16.2 per cent, a figure that the official Opposition claims "is deeply troubling" as it directly relates to the performance of the government and its efforts to create jobs for thousands of Bahamians who are "desperately looking for gainful employment".
By ALISON LOWE
Agriculture could be generating $305 million per year towards Bahamian Gross Domestic Product (GDP), compared to the $40.2 million recorded in the most recent statistics, if proper reporting and recording of all agricultural outputs took place, a Department of Agriculture official said yesterday.
Leslie Minns, a statistician with the Department, said in his most recently-issued report on agriculture's contribution to the Bahamian economy that there has been "under-reporting" of agricultural output since the first census in 1978.
"Agriculture in the Bahamas is perceived as one of the sectors with little economic activit ...
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 ...