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National Alliance (DNA) is disturbed by the Minister of Labour's feeble
attempts to pacify the unemployed masses on Grand Bahama Island. During a
recent visit, Minister Dion Foulkes announced that some 60 Grand
Bahamians have been employed at the multi billion dollar Bahamar Project
in New Providence.
This, however, is merely a drop in the
proverbial bucket, as hundreds of qualified Grand Bahamian workers
remain without job opportunities as a result of the neglectful policies
of Hubert Ingraham and his Free National Movement (FNM) government. The
Department of Statistics in its most recent labor force survey revealed
that unemployment in Grand Bahama now stands at a staggering 21.2%, an
increase of 37.5% in just six months. The report also revealed that
Four days after Acting Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis was robbed in his home, the United States Embassy in Nassau yesterday warned Americans living in and traveling to The Bahamas to be on the alert as armed robbery remains a major threat facing U.S. visitors and residents.
"As the holiday season nears with its many celebrations, there is, unfortunately, often an increase in criminal activity," the embassy said in an email.
"The embassy continues to receive reports of crime, particularly armed robberies and burglaries.
"Within the past week, a high-ranking Bahamian government official became a victim of crime during an armed invasion of his home."
On Monday, three armed men drove onto Davis' West Ridge compound, accosted his unarmed chauffer and robbed Davis and his family at gunpoint in their home, police said.
The embassy cited three incidents within the last year when American visitors were robbed.
It noted that a man and woman were robbed by a knife-wielding robber in their hotel room in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
The email pointed out that other Americans have fallen victim to armed robberies in the country in the past year.
"Robbers and burglars will often conduct pre-attack surveillance by observing the intended property and/or victims," the email read.
"This underscores the need for an increased awareness of common activities which can directly impact personal security."
The embassy issued an email last month warning Americans living in and traveling to Freeport to be aware of a recent increase in reported armed robberies.
Crime statistics from January 1, 2013 to July 11, 2013 reflected a one percent decrease in armed robberies.
According to statistics tabled in the House of Assembly, there were 571 reported armed robberies up to July 11 last year compared to the 566 reported armed robberies this year.
More recent statistics are not available.
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.
It never fails. On the eve of an election, sleeping trade unions in the country awaken and suddenly take notice of 'the plight of their membership'. It is almost as perennial as the grass. They carry on about agreements that have been languishing at the negotiation table for years, company bosses who ignore them and a government that moves too slow. They summon the media to announce, time after time, that they are about to resort to industrial action to shut the country or a business down.
The truth is that these worn tactics - in the face of the global economic downturn and changing dynamics in the demand for labor worldwide - are becoming increasingly dangerous for the union's members. Unionists have to, more than ever, work with employers, certainly to protect the 'rights of the working man' but also to ensure that this same man has work to go to the next day. No one can force a business to keep its doors open and no one would blame someone for closing up shop if that shop was not profitable. And as the events of the past few years have shown us, there is no such thing as a company too big to close its doors.
The most talked about issue over the social networks over the past few days was the nine-day closure of KFC. While many disgruntled customers joked about the lengths they would go to get their hands on a 'two piece spicy meal', the human element of the situation was glossed over. During the closure KFC executives said they would not pay staff, who they accused of engaging in 'illegal' industrial action on February 20.
For the 300 employees of KFC who sat in limbo, reporting to work every day under the union's orders only to the find doors locked, there was more at stake than getting a fix of the Colonel's 11 herbs and spices. They were forced to loiter outside the company's nine Nassau locations, chatting amongst themselves, some with children on their laps or underfoot. Many of KFC's employees are single mothers with, as a few of them told me, two and three 'deadbeat baby daddies'. Unsure of when the next paycheck was coming in, some workers applied for the dole, desperate for emergency food stamps to feed their families.
Luckily for them, the standoff between the union and their employer was brief. After a series of negotiations mediated by Labor Minister Dion Foulkes, both sides came to an agreement over the terms of a new contract and stores opened on February 29. But the tentative contract terms contain reduced benefits for new employees and some concessions, albeit with expiration dates, for current employees. And those employees are today without a week's pay.
The unions overextended their hand and underestimated the lengths their opponent would go to prove his point. The franchise owner of KFC Nassau, George Myers, doesn't need the doors of the chicken restaurant to be open to put food on his table - the union's members do.
George Smith, former Cabinet minister and a good friend of Myers told The Nassau Guardian that Myers was 'pushed too far'.
"We (the country) are having economic problems. They (the union) should have said, 'Look, when the economy turns around can we revisit these things and set some benchmarks for when the economy improves?' They know that their union isn't about to supplement those people but [executives at KFC] know they could afford to hold out for a long period of time. I assure you, George Myers used the time to give his top people holidays and clean the place up a bit," Smith said.
The only resort chain in The Bahamas to have two proprieties on two different islands, Sandals, faced recent union drama of its own. There was no actual industrial action taken by current employees of the Sandals Royal Bahamian, the resort's property on New Providence. During the whole ordeal, I wondered what would have happened if in fact there was a walkout of workers at the property. Chairman of Sandals Resorts International Gordon "Butch" Stewart just invested $20 million in the refurbishment of a block of rooms at Sandals Royal Bahamian and millions more expanding his current holdings at Emerald Bay in Exuma.
His general manager in Exuma, Jeremy Mutton, recently spoke about the cost of running a resort on the out island. His son and CEO, Adam Stewart, has said that Emerald Bay will not be profitable until at least 2014. Royal Bahamian General Manager Patrick Drake is on record referencing the high cost of utilities in Nassau.
Gordon Stewart is essentially the sole proprietor of the multi-billion-dollar company. He has no shareholders, no board of directors to consult if either property does not make money. It is not out of the realm of possibility that he could one day pick up his marbles and leave. No one does business in The Bahamas - whether they are local or a foreign investor - because they think Bahamians are cute. They do so to make money. Let's not fool ourselves; unions are a business as well too. They make money from the salaries paid to their members. Pushing an employer so far that he would rather close the doors of his business is like a parasite killing its host.
Labor unions have always had to negotiate in the context of the economic realities in which businesses and the employees who work in these establishments exist. As the world attempts to rebound from the worst global recession since the Great Depression, they have been focused on keeping the doors of businesses open and securing their members' jobs. Nowhere is this truer than in the United States.
The Washington Times reported that according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, major work stoppages -- situations when 1,000 workers or more go on strike or are locked out -- dropped 95 percent in 2009 compared with the previous year. This is the lowest level since the U.S. government began keeping a tally in the 1940s, the Washington Times said.
Even the mighty automobile unions of Detroit, in order to save the jobs of their members who are employees of General Motors and Chrysler, agreed to no-strike clauses which expire in 2015 as conditions of the government bailout.
However, here at home it seems the threats, and sometimes follow through, of work stoppages have not gone dormant because of the recession. Union leaders continue to threaten to withdraw labor and shut down essential services.
It's not much of a stretch to say that the trade union movement has been flexing its muscles recently because of the looming general election. Union leaders, and their members, know that politicians will say and do anything to quell any discord that could derail their political ambitions.
"Unions tend to try to get what is duly, rightfully theirs at this time in the political season because over the past years unions have not been getting their fair share before elections. So if it takes a union this period of time to save their problems until now, then there you have it," said Dwayne Woods, president of the Bahamas Utility Service and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU), which represents workers at the Water and Sewerage Corporation.
"It doesn't mean that they are not entitled, and it doesn't mean that they are being political. Whatever is going on here is non-partisan and non-political. I don't play games; [these are] the wishes of the membership," Woods added.
A few dozen of his members protested and withdrew their labor for at least two days last week. They were pressuring government to immediately address a list of labor concerns, including the regularization of several contracted workers, some of whom had been working with WSC for 11 years, and who did not enjoy the same benefits as permanent workers. The union is also pushing for the corporation to revisit its 'unfair' promotion policies; pay separation packages to workers made redundant after government ended its practice of water barging from Andros, and rehire two employees who were recently let go from the corporation or pay them severance packages.
Over the last few months, unions representing Customs and Immigration officers, air traffic controllers and the public service have also been agitating against government to address their issues - or face industrial action.
Labor Minister Dion Foulkes said while some unions do have genuine concerns, it is no coincidence that they have ramped up their efforts to conclude trade disputes as the next election draws nearer.
"It does seem that some of the unions are using the election season as leverage in their negotiations. Some of the issues that have come forward have been very legitimate issues by the various unions. Some of the matters have been in negotiation for quite some time and they are just coincidentally coming to head at the same time when the next elections are due.
"It seems to be there may be some political motivation behind the actions by some unions, but the public will have to draw their own conclusions from the facts presented," Foulkes said.
As we celebrate National Women's Week in our country, I pause to remind us that God did not create women to "help men out" but to be their equal partners and companions everywhere on earth. God's original design was not for men to be in a leadership position while women just came along to help them as assistant leaders. I know this has been the notion for thousands of years, but it is a misinterpretation of scripture. The King James Version of Genesis 2:18 states: "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." Many other versions translate the last part of the verse this way: "a helper that is right for him".
The words "help meet" and "helper" have been causing a stir for thousands of years. Many interpret this text to mean that the woman's purpose is to help the man out by being his aide, maid or servant. Men are taught that women are to stand beside them as support, but not really as their equal. The thought is that while the man has the position of leadership, the woman is to provide assistance to his leadership. This is a false assumption. To understand that both male and female were created in a position of equal leadership and power sharing, we first need to understand an earlier scripture found in Genesis 1:26-28: "Then God said, 'Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky. So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, 'Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in sea..."
Companions, not maids
Two very important principles arising from these verses are: 1) Both male and female are given equal power and authority over the earth and not over each other; 2) Both male and female are created in God's image. These are important points because the underlying reason for violence against women is that men are taught that women do not have equal power with them, they do not have the same authority and that they are of lesser value. How could this be so when both male and female were created in God's image? In a previous article on the subject, I wrote: "Together they (Adam and Eve) reflected God's image. In essence, male dominance teaches that males were created in the image of God and females were created in the image of man. There are no Biblical texts or teachings that support the idea that Eve was to be subordinated to Adam."
Until men understand that women are of equal value and have equal authority with them in the home, church, community, and country, violence against women will continue. This brings me to the meaning of the word "helper" in Genesis that is so often misused. The original word in Hebrew is "ezer". It simply means someone just like him, a companion, or a partner. Note carefully that "helper" is used in scripture not to suggest a hierarchical order, but a person with power and strength. Hebrew 10:13 states: "The Lord is my helper."
Theologian Wendy Francisco states that "everywhere else in scripture that uses 'ezer' describes the coming help of God, or, in a few cases, an army. In short, there is no hint of hierarchy in it". The clear meaning of the word "ezer" is one who is in position "corresponding to him", "his counterpart, his complement". Power or authority "over" someone is out of the picture here. What I find interesting is that scripture talks about God as an "ezer" - helper.
If God, our helper, is not inferior to us or subordinated to us, why are women subordinated to men?
Raising our sons
We can stop the violence against women and girls in our country by educating our children that boys and girls are equal. Boys and men should not be granted any special privilege that girls and women are not granted. They are not in charge of women and girls. They do not own them. They are not entitled to decide for them or place limits on them as they seek to realize their full potential.
Several years ago, I wrote an article entitled "Mom Ruins Son's Life". I said: "A major reason many of our Bahamian men are messing up their marriages or romantic relationships is because their mothers made them believe that the best way to build men's character is to serve them as masters. Instead of building responsibility and self-discipline in their sons by allowing them to enjoy the privilege of doing things for themselves, mothers spoil their sons by picking up their underwear on the floor, washing their dishes, and ironing their clothes. According to these mothers, boys are just to play ball, rake the yard, and clean cars. The girls are to wash the dishes, cook, sew, and clean the house. This is a great disservice a mother can do to her son. In fact, she is not only hurting her son, but her son's marriage and her son's sons."
women and girls
Violence against women and girls is a global crisis. Violence against women and girls at the highest conceptual level includes violating their human rights and civil liberties and depriving them of individual freedom. At the personal level it includes rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, genital mutilation, economic abuse (withholding money), emotional/psychological abuse, intimidation, verbal abuse, honor killing, acid throwing, rape in war zones, gender selection (abortion or abandonment of baby girls), forced prostitution, trafficking, etc.
Here are some global facts. Up to seven in 10 women around the world experience physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes. As many as one in four women experience physical or sexual violence during pregnancy. An estimated one million children, mostly girls, enter the sex trade each year. Worldwide, about 50 percent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16. The truth is there is no such statistic of violence against men around the world. We must stop ignoring these horrendous acts of violence and statistics. Particularly, the church must admit that it has committed a grave error in devaluating women by subordinating them to men and begin the task of reparation and healing by preaching the right theology.
Remember men, women are not our assistants, maids, cooks and sex toys. They are our equal companions with equal value, voice, vote, and power.
What are you going to do to help end violence against women? We can begin by educating our children about gender equality. Let us start now.
o This article is written in recognition of National Women Week. Barrington H. Brennen is a 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 visit www.soencouragement.org; or call 242-327-1980, or 242-477-4002.
The most recent labor survey, which was released by the Department of Statistics, contained insightful and alarming information on the state of unemployment in The Bahamas.
Apart from the high unemployment rate of 16.2 percent overall, and the continuing challenges to the Grand Bahamian economy, the data on youth unemployment is quite disturbing.
Youth unemployment, which is pegged at 30.8 percent, is especially a cause for concern if only because many of the young people have not yet had the opportunity to join the labor force; and as such, they are being denied access to gainful employment, which is considered by many social scientists as the traditional route to the process of social integration.
High youth unemployment is not peculiar to The Bahamas. It is now recognized as a global phenomenon which is adversely impacting developed and developing economies. Several studies on the subject have suggested that prolonged periods of unemployment among young people tend to lead to a reduction in self-esteem, diminished levels of well-being and a sense of isolation from peer groups.
Over time, youth unemployment could become problematic to the larger society since young people without the means to provide for their basic needs may not only engage in anti-social behavior, they may also withdraw entirely from the labor force and by so doing further reduce the future developmental potential of the economy.
The marginalization and social exclusion of the youth, according to some studies, are even more pronounced during a recession in that young workers are usually the first to be laid off or downsized when firms begin cost-cutting exercises. And those who remain in the labor force are disproportionately represented in the "informal" sector where they have no formal contract of employment, no guarantee of regular work and in some instances, little or no rights under labor laws.
The more educated among the youth are often forced to "trade down" or accept employment far below their qualifications, and for the most part, that group is underemployed and often becomes resentful of the society or the environment in which they find themselves.
Many countries, both developing and developed, have attempted to address the problem in a variety of ways, including by provision of direct incentives to labor intensive sectors and/or establishing schemes to promote self-employment.
Both initiatives, although useful, are not the solution in isolation and ought to be part of a more comprehensive youth employment strategy which has at the centerpiece, sustained macro-economic growth for the entire economy.
To be sure, the self-employment initiative pre-supposes a widespread possession of the entrepreneurial spirit and acumen, which clearly is not present in everyone, nor is it something that can be taught.
It has to be recognized that the future growth and development of any society is dependent on the efficiency with which it employs its factors of production: land, capital, labor and entrepreneurial know-how. Of all the factors, it is labor that has to be continuously introduced, engaged, trained and developed at an early stage in order to be most productive.
In other words, we have to regard our youth as an asset that has to be fully integrated into the productive process and good public policy demands that young people be given priority. According to the United Nations, instead of seeing them as tomorrow's leaders, we ought to regard them as today's partners.
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.
Death, taxes and childbirth! There's never any convenient time for any of them. - Margaret Mitchell, "Gone with the Wind"
Over the past few months, there has been considerable debate about the government's plan to introduce a value-added tax (VAT) regime in The Bahamas by July 1, 2014 and also about the likely effects that such a tax will have on the Bahamian economy. In fact, the government has made the introduction of VAT the cornerstone of its efforts to reform the country's taxes.
In a series of articles on VAT over the next few weeks, we will address the benefits and costs associated with this new tax system and the challenges that we will face with its introduction and operation. This week, we will begin the VAT series and ask our readers to Consider This... just what are the facts about the state of the country's finances that have necessitated such a quantum shift in our tax system?
Central to the discussion of the country's finances is a clear understanding of four basic concepts: gross domestic product, government revenue, the national debt and expenditures. A serious consideration of the facts about the nation's finances must engender a discussion and understanding of each of these four components. This week, we will consider two of the four components, namely gross domestic product and government revenue.
Gross domestic product (GDP)
Normally referred to as GDP, the gross domestic product is the total value of the nation's output or the size of our economy. Even more simply put, GDP is the total value of money that is generated annually by the economy. It is an important economic indicator for two reasons: (1) it measures the total size of the economy and reflects its growth or contraction over time; and (2) many of the other financial indicators such as revenue, expenditure, the deficit and national debt are reflected as a percentage of this widely accepted measurement in order to provide an indication of how we are doing generally and how we compare with other countries.
Based on information provided by the Department of Statistics, the GDP for the past six years is as follows:
We can see from the information above that, for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2013, the Bahamian economy returned to the general level of output achieved in 2008. The intervening years reflected a contraction in the economic output as a result of the world-wide recession.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that our GDP will grow at rates of between 3.4 percent to 4.7 percent for the years 2014 to 2017, reflecting both a recovery from the recession and natural growth of the economy. The projected GDP for 2014 to 2017 is presented below:
It is important to note that an overwhelming amount of the country's economic activity is generated in the area of services. It is estimated that the services, industrial and agricultural sectors account for approximately 91 percent, seven percent and two percent, respectively, of total economic activity. Hence, The Bahamas has developed a vast services economic platform. We will discuss the implications of this reality for government revenue generation in greater detail in subsequent articles.
The government derives its revenue from three broad categories: tax revenue, non-tax revenue and capital revenue. Tax revenue accounts for approximately 85 percent of total tax and non-tax revenue, while non-tax revenue accounts for approximately 15 percent of the total. Capital revenue, which is generated from the sale of government assets, is generally negligible except for the sale of BTC in fiscal year 2011.
For a very long time, customs duties and excise taxes constituted the largest share of tax revenue. Customs duties are import taxes that are imposed at the border on imported goods and the schedule of such taxes could range from a low of duty-free items such as for breadbasket commodities to an average rate of 35 percent for certain imported goods to even higher rates in other cases.
Excises taxes are different from customs duties. Whereas customs duties are import or border taxes, excise taxes are imposed on goods manufactured or produced and sold in The Bahamas as well as certain specified imported products. For example, tobacco, alcohol and gasoline are the three main targets of excise taxes in most countries around the world as they are in The Bahamas. These are everyday items of mass consumption that generate huge revenues for governments. Tobacco attracts an excise tax of 220 percent, and gasoline is taxed at more than $1 per gallon. We also impose excise taxes on imported cars, in some cases as high as 82 percent of the first cost.
Historically, The Bahamas has not imposed taxes on capital gains, corporate earnings, personal income, sales, inheritance and dividends. Instead, we have relied on a very narrow range of revenue sources other than customs duties and excises taxes, namely real property taxes and stamp duties.
Hence according to Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis, "Our current system is one where the burden of taxation falls on a relatively narrow base of goods and makes us particularly vulnerable to economic shocks."
For the years 2008 to 2012, recurrent revenue has remained virtually static in the range of $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion. The recession has adversely affected economic activity and consequently tax collection.
Additionally, the government revenue as percent of GDP in The Bahamas is approximately 17 percent, which is low by a regional comparison of approximately 22 percent, which accentuates the need to increase the revenue base in order to bring us in line with our regional neighbors. The most effective way to achieve this is to broaden the tax base to ensure that a wider cross section of the goods and services available within our economy are subject to taxation.
The WTO and taxation
In addition, The Bahamas government has applied for membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and would like to complete that process by the end of 2014. The WTO, whose primary mandate is to level the playing field for trading between its member states, as a condition of membership has required its member states to reduce, if not eliminate, what it perceives to be barriers to trade.
Historically, one of the most effective national tools that countries have employed to limit trade within their borders is the imposition of customs duties. Ironically, in the case of The Bahamas, we have not used customs duties as a barrier to trade because we produce very little that we would wish to protect from the importation of similar and competing products. In reality, for us customs duties have primarily been a vitally important revenue measure, as we have already noted.
Accordingly, The Bahamas' accession to the WTO creates an interesting and perceptibly intractable quandary: How do we join the WTO, which by its very nature will require us to eliminate a significant portion of the government's revenue, while simultaneously being able to continue to offer the level of public finance to which we have become accustomed? The answer to this question lies at the heart of reforming our taxes.
Next week, we will review the state of the nation's expenditures and the resulting impact on increasingly challenging deficits, as well as the national debt. In subsequent articles, we will closely examine alternative tax options and provide our assessment of the government's planned value-added tax.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just a mention of the word tumor can cause patients to experience a wave of terror, but according to health experts uterine fibroids that are generally non-cancerous tumors and grow in a woman's uterus are much more common that one would imagine.
Fibroids are muscular tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus.
They can grow as a singular tumor or there can be many of them in the uterus, ranging in size from an apple seed to as large as a grapefruit.
Dr. Vanessa Ingraham, a licensed naturopathic physician and certified yoga instructor, said fibroids are very closely tied to an estrogen/testosterone ratio imbalance in women, and in The Bahamas the contributing factors to that imbalance are typically diet, the environment and cosmetic choices.
Ingraham and her husband Dr. Stephen Truszkowski, a trained sports-based chiropractor and contemporary medical acupuncturist, own and manage The Blake Integrative Medical Clinic.
"We know that consuming foods that contain xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens from plants or actual estrogens from either lactating animals or dairy products, or from chicken and animal foods, not only decreases the age of puberty in young girls but they also add to the estrogen burden on women throughout their life," Ingraham said.
"The xenoestrogens, which are all the plastic residues and agricultural chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and all of the things they spray on conventional crops, all of these things act as xenoestrogens.
"That means that even though they are not estrogen hormones they are able to bind to hormone receptors and trick the body into thinking there is estrogen, telling the tissue to separate or telling the tissue to do whatever it's meant to do when estrogen binds it."
When it comes to the women that Ingraham treats for fibroids, the understanding about the condition, its causes and how to limit the potential for recurrence ranges from patient to patient.
As noted by Ingraham, international statistics show that black women are three times more likely to develop uterine fibroids, though the exact cause of this is unclear.
Ingraham said that common skin care products, hairstyles involving glues and perfumes used by Bahamian women are often highly carcinogenic and can cause hormonal imbalances in the body.
"Lotions, make up and lipsticks that contain heavy metals such a lead, all of that," Ingraham said.
"Also the cleaning products, and women traditionally do more cleaning and are exposed to more household chemicals than men.
"All of the bleach, Febreze and scented products have an impact on hormone imbalance."
The four primary types of uterine fibroids include subserosal fibroids, which develop in the outer portion of the uterus and continue to grow outward, and intramural fibroids, the most common, which develop within the uterine wall and expand making the uterus feel larger than normal.
Then there is submucosal fibroids that develop just under the lining of the uterine cavity and can have the most effect on menstrual bleeding. This type of uterine fibroid is also associated with infertility and miscarriage.
Pedunculated fibroids grow on a small stalk that connects to the inner or outer wall of the uterus.
According to the National Uterine Fibroids Foundation, 12 hysterectomies are performed in the United States every 10 minutes, but nine of them probably did not meet the guidelines set out by the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists for hysterectomy.
Even more startling is that between 170,000 to 300,000 of the 600,000 hysterectomies performed annually in the United States are the result of uterine fibroids.
The foundation notes that 60 percent of women who undergo a hysterectomy have their ovaries removed.
Some of Ingraham's patients have had hysterectomies performed, giving them the impression that there they are in the clear, but as pointed out there are many forms of uterine fibroids.
For women with fibroids, The Blake Integrative Medical Clinic focuses on significantly reducing stress, balancing hormones naturally via high-quality supplements.
But before treatment begins Ingraham and her team of consultants conduct an assessment in an attempt to identify the cause of the condition.
Nutritional therapy, diet and supplements can stabilize and lower the levels of estrogen in the body.
As estrogen amounts drop, existing fibroids should subside, reducing in size and even new ones can be prevented from developing.
Diet and supplements can also reduce some of the symptoms of fibroids, Ingraham suggested.
Supplements of both the herbal and non-herbal types are commonly used to shrink fibroids, including good sources of zinc, Vitamin A and Vitamin C.
"These are kind of standardized to know exactly how much of each phytochemical in each formula is used," Ingraham said.
"We use a lot nutritional supplements as well. A lot of the foods we eat are not as nutritious as they used to be because of shipping and containers, and not keeping things fresh and cold enough, or picking them too early.
"Foods do not have the same mineral profiles as foods did 50 or 100 years ago so we use a lot of dietary supplements, vitamins, minerals and amino acids."
There is range of products available, but Ingraham recommends using high-quality supplements after a consultation, and being mindful of vitamins made from coal tar and petrochemicals (source of artificial color that is used in many foods).
Petrochemicals and their byproducts, such as dioxin, are known to cause an array of serious health problems, including cancer.
What to avoid
Avoid pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and wash your food well, particularly fruits.
Bathe the washed food in a produce wash for around 20 minutes before cooking.
Have a good water filter for your source of water.
Use only organic whole foods where possible.
Buy hormone-free meats and dairy products where possible.
Do not microwave food in plastic containers.
Use glass or ceramics whenever possible to store food.
Do not leave plastic containers, especially drinking water, in the sun.
If a plastic water container has heated up significantly, throw it away.
Avoid using a fabric softener as it can put petrochemicals right on your skin.
Use a simple laundry and dish detergent with less chemicals.
Use organic soaps and toothpastes and avoid fluoride.
Avoid creams and cosmetics that have toxic chemicals and estrogenic ingredients such as parabens and stearalkonium chloride. Instead use more natural products. Inexpensive brands usually have more toxic ingredients.
Avoid nail polish and nail polish removers.
Use naturally-based perfumes as perfumes are petrochemically based.
Avoid surfactants found in many condoms and diaphragm gels.
o Recommendations provided by Beyond Vitality: Holistic Health, Nutrition and Fitness.
o For more information on the wide range of services or supplements offered at The Blake Integrative Medical Clinic visit www.purehealthbahamas.com or www.blakeclinic.com.
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