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News Article

May 30, 2012
Advice for the prime Minister

In our reading we came across a letter to then President-elect Ronald Reagan from his Coordinating Committee on Economic Policy which we thought sheds some light on where we are as a country today some 30-plus years later.
We have up-dated the letter to reflect the issues and challenges facing The Bahamas and made some specific recommendations to our prime minister. The quotations herein include our modifications to that letter in our context.
Today The Bahamas faces many challenges. To some, the task seems daunting. But if we review history around the world, we would be surprised as to how similar the problems are, and as such the solutions can also be similar.
The late 1970s were also a time of great economic anxiety fed by a runaway government, spending out of control, taxes that were too high, regulations that were too burdensome, high unemployment, increasing healthcare costs and increasing energy costs.
As we have time and time again reiterated in these pages, what we need to do is develop a consistent long-term focus that does not change with the temperature of the electorate or the latest fad. The need for a long-term point of view is essential to allow for the time, the coherence, and the predictability so necessary for success.
As they wrote to Reagan: "The need for a long-term point of view is essential to allow for the time, the coherence, and the predictability so necessary for success."
We believe this is appropriate advice to our prime minister today.
We would recommend that the prime minister assembles his advisors and focuses on implementing his reforms in his first year, and then they ride out the various storms confident that the policies would work in the long run. Similar policies in other developed nations have resulted in a boom for their economies.
We believe a 180-degree change in the present economic policy is an absolute necessity. The problems of increasing government spending and debt, low national savings, declining government revenue, increasing inflation and slow growth, falling standards of living, declining productivity, declining education and increasing healthcare costs, are severe but they are not intractable. Having been produced by
government policy, they can be addressed by a change in policy.
Prime minister, you articulated an impressive array of promises during the election. They will take time. But more importantly, to be achieved you must think long-term. We invite you to have your Council of Economic Advisors (as you suggested you would) study, develop and recommend guiding principles, on priorities and linkages among policy areas, and on the problems of getting action.
You have identified in the campaign a list of key issues and policies during your first 100 days (which we would not list here) necessary to restore hope and confidence in a better economic future. This requires fundamental policy changes that may take more than five years, but should result in a sound and growing economy.
The advisors to Reagan suggested some "guiding principles" which we have amended for our prime minister:
"The essence of good policy is good strategy. Some strategic principles can guide your new administration as it charts its course."
"Timing and preparation are critical aspects of strategy. The fertile moment may come suddenly and evaporate as quickly. The administration that is well prepared is ready to act when the time is ripe. The transition period and the early months of the new administration are a particularly fertile period. The opportunity to set the tone for your administration must be seized by putting the fundamental policies into place immediately and decisively."
"The need for a long-term point of view is essential to allow for the time, the coherence, and the predictability so necessary for success. This long-term view is as important for day-to-day problem solving as for the making of large policy decisions. Most decisions in government are made in the process of responding to problems of the moment. The danger is that this daily firefighting can lead the policymaker farther and farther from his goals. A clear sense of guiding strategy makes it possible to move in the desired direction in the unending process of contending with issues of the day. Many failures of government can be traced to an attempt to solve problems piecemeal. The resulting patchwork of ad hoc solutions often makes such fundamental goals as price stability, economic growth, affordable healthcare and housing more difficult to achieve."
"Challenges that your government must face are linked by their substance and their root causes."
As we have written on many occasions, measures adopted to deal with one problem will inevitably have effects on others. It is as important to recognize these interrelationships, as it is to recognize the individual problems themselves.
"Consistency in policy is critical to effectiveness. Individuals and business enterprises plan on a long-range basis. They need to have an environment in which they can conduct their affairs with confidence."
You have announced your goals and policies during the election. Your administration should commit itself to their achievement, and should seek Parliament's commitment to them as well. Then the public as well as the government would know what to expect.
"The administration should be candid with the public. It should not over-promise, especially with respect to the speed with which the policies adopted can achieve the desired results."

Seizing the initiative
"The fundamental areas of economic strategy concern the budget, taxation, regulation, and monetary policy. Prompt action in each of these areas is essential to establish both your resolve and your capacity to achieve your goals."

Budget
For the most part, you have inherited a budget which perhaps was near completion, hence allowing you little room to make substantive policy changes save for some tweaking given the late stage of the process.
"You must convince the financial markets and the public at large that your economic policy is more than rhetoric. The public and especially the financial community are skeptical and need a startling demonstration of resolve".
You have made key Cabinet appointments but this won't be enough. The business community will be watching to see whether you are serious about decreasing the budget deficit and how you propose to grow the revenue base without any increase in taxes given the current fiscal structure.
Everyone will be watching to see where cuts are made and revenue measures are address. Our interest payment as a percent of government revenue continues to grow at an alarming rate. Prompt and strong action is necessary if these budgets are to be brought under control, as they must be. The nation can no longer afford governmental business as usual.
"The formal budget alone is far from the whole story, though it is visible and important. Off-budget financing and government guarantees mount and expand programs through the use of the government's borrowing capacity, draining the nation's resources without being adequately recorded in the formal spending totals. In addition, the mandating of private expenditures for government purposes should be limited. Efforts to control spending should be comprehensive; otherwise, good work in one area will be negated in another. And these efforts should be part of the administration's development of a long-term strategy."
Hopefully once the Council of Economic Advisors is appointed, one of its first mandates will be to identify an extensive list of areas for potential savings, but it will be up to your administration to implement the recommendations.
To borrow from the United States, we should consider the appointment of a budget director along with an Office of Management and Budget, whose responsibility will be to assist you in developing and executing your policies and programs.
The OMB will evaluate the effectiveness of agency programs, policies and procedures, assesses competing funding demands among agencies and set funding priorities. The OMB will ensure that agencies or departments operate in conformity to your budget and administrative policies.

Tax policy
Tax policy is properly the province of the Ministry of Finance. You have assumed responsibility along with your junior minister. Given the overall economic health and our continued reliance on an antiquated system, which has serve us well, we believe one of your first orders should be a task force which takes a comprehensive review of our system of taxation with specific mandates and a time frame to report to you in with actionable recommendations. We cannot as a country continue to rely on the old system which is repressive.
Other key proposals are tax incentives for the establishment of economic zones that are consistent with your charter of governance.

Regulation
The Bahamas lives in a global village with ever increasing regulatory changes that have and will continue to drive the way we conduct business. While we must adhere to international regulatory reforms, we must be mindful of their impact on The Bahamas. We must ensure that regulators' mandates are consistent with preserving our financial sector while working with industry to grow the sector.
The current regulatory overburden must be removed from the economy. We believe the appointment of a ministry for the financial sector is a step in the right direction and should better coordinate the various agencies towards a common purpose.
We have recommended in these pages before that we should move towards a consolidated regulator.

We are aware that steps have been taken in this direction. We urge your administration to complete the process. A consolidated regulator will enable your ministry to have consistent and clear understanding of the issues and challenges involved as we move our financial sector forward. The person heading up this effort will require your continued, wholehearted support.

Unprofitable corporations
Many of our economic problems today stem from the large and increasing proportion of economic decisions being made through the political process rather than the market process.
A comprehensive program needs to be developed with specific mandates and time lines to address the continued drain on the public treasury by the likes of ZNS, Bahamasair, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, Water and Sewerage, the Bahamas Development Bank, etc.
We have numerous examples of successful public-private partnerships, such as Bank of Bahamas, with no government support. The new boards should be given specific mandates to achieve specific economic targets with minimal social fall-out. The country cannot continue to support nearly $75 million per annum indefinitely.
We recommend, also, that the price control departments become more active to ensure the consuming public is not disadvantaged.

Monetary policy
A steady and moderate rate of monetary growth is an essential to provide a healthy environment for economic growth. We must be careful, however, not to interfere and to ensure that all work toward a common goal.
The Central Bank is an independent agency. However, independence should not mean lack of accountability for what it does. The challenge is how to assume accountability while preserving independence. As we indicated before, monetary policy must be mindful of the full impact on the economy and not just one sector. Monetary policies have implications for budgetary and other economic policies.
The activities of a wide variety of departments, agencies, and other units of government affect economic policy.

As President-elect Ronald Reagan's Coordinating Committee on Economic Policy said many years ago: "The flow of economic events does not recognize organizational lines. The economy itself operates as a system in which constituent parts are linked, sometimes tightly. The combination of interwoven problems and disparate organizations means that, in the process of policy formulation and implementation, some people high in your administration must identify the central ideas and problems and devise a strategy and tactics for dealing with them. Your leadership is essential to this effort".
We support this position.
They went on to say: "Our final point is our most important one. The success of your economic policy will be a direct reflection of your ability to maintain a steady course over your full first term. Rough times will come and crises of one kind or another, some small, some of great moment, will arise. Sustained effort through these testing times means that public understanding and support are essential. Of equal and related importance is the understanding and support of the Congress."
Today, we can echo these same words and say that gaining public and parliamentary support are critical as you make some tough choices for the betterment of the country.
Sir today, much like the advice given back then to Reagan: "You have emphasized in your successful campaign precisely the strategy set forth in this document. In moving to implement it, you will be doing what the people voted for. Every effort must be made to maintain and broaden your base of support by improving public understanding, and close cooperation with the Parliament, Cabinet and others in your administration can help in these tasks. Their ability to do so should be one important criterion in their selection."
"At the end of the day, however, the burden of leadership falls on you: Leadership to chart the course ahead; leadership to persuade that your course is the one to take; leadership to stay on course, whatever way political winds may blow. Through effective advocacy of the sharp changes so sorely needed, your leadership has brought us to this long-hoped-for opportunity at a critical moment for the nation. Your leadership can maintain this advocacy in the convincing manner necessary for a successful outcome."
We wish you much success over the next five years as we address some serious pressing economic and social issues.

o CFAL is a sister company of The Nassau Guardian under the AF Holdings Ltd. umbrella. CFAL provides investment management, research, brokerage and pension services. For comments, please contact CFAL at: column@cfal.com.

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News Article
Midyear Budget Contribution March 2013
March 04, 2013
Midyear Budget Contribution March 2013

I know that with everything I say today, Mr. Speaker, the members opposite will try and divert attention away from their inadequacies and failings and the inadequacies and failings in their proposed mid-term budget by seeking to blame all of our present national woes on the past Free National Movement administration.

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News Article
Prime Minister Wrap-Up Debate of 2010/11 Budget
June 10, 2010
Prime Minister Wrap-Up Debate of 2010/11 Budget

As with countries across the globe, this is an austerity budget. It takes account of the severe and crippling impact of a global economic recession which has ruined economic performance in our country as it has around the world.

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News Article
Miss Universe 2009 Fashion Showcase
August 13, 2009
Miss Universe 2009 Fashion Showcase

Miss Universe 2009 Fashion Showcase - Live at the Sheraton Hotel, Nassau Bahamas.

6:10pm - People are starting to queue up at the entrance of the Sheraton Hotel which is hosting this years Miss Universe 2009 Fashion Show.
The press are starting to arrive and set up to record and report on this fabulous event. The catwalk and lighting both look absolutely fabulous. The press area, where we're sitting, is located right at the end of the catwalk, and I'm positionedright at the front.

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News Article

October 29, 2013
The Haitian-Dominican migration crisis

On September 23, 2013, the Supreme Court of the Dominican Republic handed down the decision TC0168/13 in the matter of Juliana Deguis Pierre, 28, a Dominican citizen with four children born in the Dominican Republic, ruling against her and all persons similarly situated.
The ruling stated that those persons born after 1929 in the Dominican Republic of parents who did not have proper documents while entering and continuing to live in the Dominican Republic without legalization are henceforth stripped of their Dominican citizenship. The ruling will be enforced by all the branches of the Dominican government.
While the decision is global, it is of particular concern to some 210,000 Haitian-Dominicans who were born in the Dominican Republic, have received their birth certificates, have been to school in the Dominican Republic, have lived a normal life in the Dominican Republic and have little or no attachment to the Republic of Haiti.
The Dominican Republic, as the United States, utilizes the concept of jus solis as the basis to confer citizenship on people born under the sun of its territory. The only exception to this rule has been children of diplomats accredited to the Dominican Republic who were considered persons in transit.
A 2004 law enshrined in the amended Dominican constitution of 2010 expanded the concept of persons in transit to include not only diplomats but also all persons who enter and remain in the Dominican Republic without proper documents. Their offspring would step outside the umbrella of jus solis and, as such, they could not benefit from Dominican citizenship.
The Supreme Court used a strict framework in rendering its decision in the matter of nationality of who is and who is not a citizen of the Dominican Republic. It sent scrambling the government and civil society, the Haitian and the international community that perceived an ethnic cleansing similar to or compared with what happened in Germany under Hitler, in Serbia under Milosevic and in Rwanda under Prime Minister Jean Kambanda.
E palante que vamos!
The Dominican Republic has been often in the news as a star nation that fits its slogan: We are pushing forward! Its tourism business might be along with The Bahamas a booming industry in the Caribbean. Its economy, in expansion since 2004, is sucking human resources (manual and professional) from Haiti to maintain the push forward. Its balance of payments with Haiti from which almost everything is imported (mostly after the earthquake of 2010) is an enviable position of master/servant. What, for God's sake, did the Dominican Supreme Court have in mind in rallying against itself the wrath of the civilized world in pointing the country as a pariah state that uses the cleansing doctrine to solve other structural problems?
Playing the double advocate
The Dominican Republic, with a population of 10 million people, as the Republic of Haiti, has been absorbing some one million Haitian people in its midst. In spite of infrequent skirmishes, life continues rather smoothly for this migrant population. Some 150,000 attend colleges and upon graduation they find jobs in the hotel industry that prize their command of different languages as well as their demeanor of hard and professional workers. Some 100,000 toil in the sugar cane industry, sometimes as slaves sent by their own government (in the past through a joint governmental agreement). They are now lured by unscrupulous brokers, leaving conditions at home that are inhospitable that make them easy prey for an illusory eldorado in Santo Domingo.
Stan Golf, in an op-ed in the Push, says it best: "The Haitians cut the cane, labor in the most exhausting factories, perform the most grueling work with the least money and much like the Afro-American and the Latinos in the United States they provide the super exploited economic and safety valve against the demands to increase wages."
It is hard for Haiti to blame a discriminatory situation in the Dominican Republic that it entertains itself at home. The living conditions in rural Haiti or in the shantytowns surrounding the cities is, to put it simply, inhumane. With no infrastructure and no institutional buildings in those catchment areas, past governments have been at best callous, at worst criminal, in dealing with their own citizens. A brain surgeon's qualification is not necessary to explain why so many poor Haitians are fleeing home seeking a friendlier sky not only in the Dominican Republic but also in The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Dominica, Florida and now Brazil.
The ghost of Plessey vs. Ferguson in the Dominican Republic
Homer Plessey was a rich citizen of New Orleans with light skin color. The law around 1892 in the United States and in Louisiana was that persons of color could not ride in the same train car with a white person. Homer Plessey was chosen to test the practice. Upon boarding the train in a white section and informing the conductor that he was a colored person, he was ordered to leave the car and sit in a black only compartment.
He refused, was escorted out and arrested. He later sued all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, where he lost. The court in a seven to one decision upheld the constitutionally of state laws that recognized the principle that in public facilities the doctrine of separate but equal shall remain the law of the land. It was such until 1954 when the decision was reversed by Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.
It is not difficult to envision the ghost of Homer Plessey in Juliana Deguis Pierre challenging the decision of the lower court until the Constitutional Court rendered its decision that stripped all persons similarly situated of Dominican citizenship, in particular its target the Haitian-Dominican community. Will it take 54 years to find the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. of the Dominican Republic so as to bring that nation to reason and into the humanist rationality as proffered by Emil Vlagki in his book "Les Miserables de la Modernite"?
The antecedents
The history of the Republic of Haiti and of the Dominican Republic is intertwined for the last five centuries. The big island or Ayti - land of mountains - as it was called by the Taino, was discovered by Christopher Columbus, on December 5, 1492, who renamed the island Hispaniola. The Spanish conquistadors who came along with Columbus took only 30 years to facilitate the decimation of the Taino population that was estimated at around one million people. It happened because they were submitted to hard labor and because the diseases brought by the Spaniards to the island, such as smallpox, measles, influenza, gonorrhea and typhoid, ran amok in a population not immune to such illnesses.
The richness of Hispaniola lured to the region French buccaneers, who settled first in the small island of Tortuga - la Tortue - before moving to the western part of the mainland. They grew in number and in strength, fighting with the Spanish until the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 settled the issue, granting the western part of the island to France and the eastern part to Spain.
With grueling slave labor imported from Africa, the western part became one of the most prosperous colonial sites of the world, enriching France up to 60 percent of its national budget. The eastern part languished under Spanish rule with only 6,000 inhabitants in Santo Domingo around 1697.
Through the Treaty of Bale in 1795, France took complete control of the island. It was also around this time that Toussaint Louverture came on the scene, defeating the British, the Spanish and later the French to govern the entire island around 1801. The independence of Haiti from France led by Jean Jacques Dessalines in 1804 left the eastern part an open front that could have brought back slavery to the newly independent country. As such, all governments thereafter have sought to fight to maintain control of the entire island.
Under Jean Pierre Boyer, the fourth Haitian president, his governance of the eastern part (as well as the western part) was so callous that the Dominicans organized a war of independence under the leadership of Pedro Santana, Francisco Sanchez and Ramon Malla leading to the liberation of the country on February 27, 1844, from the yoke of the Republic of Haiti.
The nation building process in the Dominican Republic was not a smooth one; dissension amongst the founding fathers led to the reoccupation of the Dominican Republic by Spain and the offer of annexation by the United States. It was again the Republic of Haiti that came to help the Dominican Republic regain once more its independence.
The Haitian and the Dominican dilemma
While Haiti in its first constitution stated clearly that from now and for the future all Haitians are black (in spite of the color of their skin), the Dominican Republic has enshrined in its ethos that all Dominican are white (in spite of the color of their skin).
One of the most revered Dominican heroes and presidents was Ulysses Heureaux or Lilis. He was a dark-skinned Dominican, the son of a Haitian father and of a mother from St. Thomas. He ruled the Dominican Republic for decades, building infrastructure and bringing stability to the nation.
Yet the Haitian card is put on the table every time a score must be settled by some politicians. Rafael Trujillo used the card to kill some 35,000 Haitian people around the border of Ouanaminthe and Dajabond in the Parsley massacre to take revenge against Haitians who were supposedly siding with the opponents of his government.
Is the nationality card a new tool crafted by the Dominican government and adopted by the judiciary to enforce the white only ethos for some political game? Haiti has played those two cards and it has failed miserably in both. In spite of the terms of its constitution that all Haitians are black, the light-skinned Haitians have dominated the political panorama for the first 150 years after the country's independence with no apparent nation building results. The rest of the nation's history has seen since 1946, or the last 50 years, the emergence of the dark-skinned Haitians in the sphere of power with similarly dim and poor results for the nation.
In conclusion: Two wings of the same bird
The Republic of Haiti and the Dominican Republic that occupies the same island named Ayti, by the Taino, or Hispaniola, by Christopher Columbus, are condemned to live together. Whether the two wings will fly in tandem to y palento que vamos - push the bird forward - will depend on the wisdom and the applied policies of the governments and civil society on both sides of the border.
I have often argued for the concept of hospitality for all as defined by Ernest Renan in his formula for building a great nation as the best model for y palento que vamos! The Dominican Republic, in spite of its slogan y palento que vamos, will stall in the long run if it continues to marginalize the weakest segment of its population, the Haitian-Dominican one, as well as the native-born dark-skinned Dominican.
The Republic of Haiti's operation decollage - operation take off - will remain on the ground as long as the majority of its population, rural Haiti and Haiti of the shantytowns, is treated as second-class citizen.
The best course of action for each one of those two nations is to start treating each one of its citizens as a valuable resource. Carthage, London, New York, Singapore and now Shanghai did not use any other method to occupy at a time in world history the status of the premiere city of the globe. They provided the best education to all citizens within their territory, and they incubated all the able bodies to create and produce for their benefit, and for the benefit of the nation, immense wealth.
In following these models, the Dominican Republic and the Republic of Haiti will y palento que vamos huntos! They will be pushing forward together!
o Jean H. Charles LLB, MSW, JD is a syndicated columnist with caribbeannewsnow.com. He can be reached at jeanhcharles@aol.com and followed for past essays at caribbeannewsnow/haiti. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.

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News Article

August 06, 2014
Leslie Miller's latest round of sexism and misogyny

Tall Pine MP Leslie Miller's campaign to redeem himself following remarks he made in the House of Assembly earlier this year about brutalizing a former girlfriend were woefully unsuccessful.
Any pretense that he was a changed man in light of those sexist and misogynistic remarks were shattered last week as Miller discussed proposed constitutional changes granting women full equality.
To say that Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller is representative of a bygone unenlightened era is an understatement. His remarks reported in The Nassau Guardian were pre-modern, uninformed about the realities of the 21st century and stunningly unintelligent.
"If my sister marries a foreigner, I expect for that foreigner to take her home to his country and support her," he said.
"What they bringing him here for? Don't come to my country and take a job from one of my Bahamian brothers."
In equally poor measure, Miller referenced remarks he said a constituent made about FNM Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner. The disparaging remarks referred to a certain physical aspect of Butler-Turner. Recall that during the last election Miller made a crude joke about Butler-Turner.
All of these comments by Miller should be placed in the context of his now infamous House remarks. They are in the same stream of thought and anachronistic thinking which made him believe that he could speak openly in Parliament about beating a woman, which he found quite funny at the time, playing to his colleagues and to his public persona.
As reported in this journal: "'That's like beating your wife or your girlfriend every time you go home. You just beat her for looking at her. I love ya. Boom, boom, boom. I had a girlfriend like that.
"'When I didn't beat her she used to tell me I ain't love her no more 'cause I don't hit her. But seriously I had one like that. I had one. She used to tell me,' he insisted as other members murmured and chuckled.
"House Speaker Dr. Kendal Major injected, 'We know that you're joking with that.'
"However, Miller said he was 'serious with that'.
"'I tell her I get tired, man,' he continued, laughing. 'My hands hurting a little bit... give me a break.'
"After a comment from a sitting member inquiring whether he was joking, he reiterated, 'I am telling you the truth. One thing I don't do is lie.'"

Xenophobe
Now Miller has doubled-down on his sexism and misogyny. Strikingly, he managed to sound like a sexist and a xenophobe in one breathe.
"If my sister marries a foreigner, I expect for that foreigner to take her home to his country and support her."
One can imagine a cartoon of a man grabbing a woman by her hair dragging her into a cave, with the words "Home, Sweet Home" in a frame on the cave wall, as the man roars and brags, while beating his chest, "If she doesn't do what I say, I'll beat her. I is man."
What Miller is saying is that women should do exactly what a man wants. It is the man who has the agency and the will, while women are to be passive. Miller seems to believe that women should shut up and do what the man says, with as little choice as possible.
The fact that women and men are both breadwinners in most of the West and increasingly in other parts of the world today seems irrelevant to Miller. He lives in a world which no longer exists, just like most sexists and misogynists, upset that the era of men subjugating women is fast slipping away.
Miller also seems woefully out of touch with the reality of the modern Bahamas where the primary breadwinners in most families are women. Today scores of Bahamian wives and partners are providing more income for their families than are their male counterparts.
The clearly insular Miller also seems to ignore the reality of globalization, a significant feature of which is the movement of human capital. Today, educated and professional modern couples are deciding together where they want to live and raise a family.
Millions of men around the world have moved to their wives' home countries, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it is the woman who may have a higher paying job or that her home country may afford a family a better quality of life.
Should these men pack up and return to their home countries? Of course, that would be absurd, as absurd as Miller's ranting.
There are many Bahamian men who have moved to their wives' country. Would Miller have them all pack up and return home?
Moreover, there are many fine men who relocated to The Bahamas after marrying Bahamian women. They have contributed significantly to the country in their professions ranging from medicine to the foreign service, and they have been generous in their community service. Should these men also pack up and leave?

Befuddling
What makes Miller's comments even more, to put it politely, befuddling, is that in The Bahamas overwhelmingly more women are attaining tertiary degrees. This is true at COB as it is at tertiary institutions overseas.
A report by the Inter-American Development Bank dramatizes a critical developmental challenge, which Miller's unenlightened thinking will not help.
As reported in The Tribune: "Almost two-thirds of college and university-educated Bahamians have moved abroad to seek jobs in developed countries, costing this nation a sum equivalent to 4.4 percent of annual gross domestic product (GDP).
"The so-called 'brain drain' was highlighted in a newly released Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report, which noted that 61 percent of tertiary-educated Bahamians had left this nation for jobs in Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) member countries.
"The study, 'Is there a Caribbean Sclerosis', which attempts to determine why economic growth in The Bahamas and five other regional nations has been stagnating, effectively suggests this nation is losing its 'best and brightest' minds to other economies.
"This, in turn, has major implications for the productivity, innovation and creativity of Bahamian firms and the wider economy, all areas where it is suggested this nation is not as competitive as it might be.
"The IDB report's authors, Inder Ruprah, Karl Melgarejo, and Ricardo Sierra, summed it up thus: 'The Caribbean countries have lost more than 70 percent of their labor force with more than 12 years of schooling through emigration.'"
This brain-drain which is making the country less competitive and helping to stagnate the economy is made up mostly of women. There is much that needs to be done to attract these women to return home to offer their talents and expertise.
One such measure is the proposed constitutional change. Bahamian women will be able to automatically pass on their citizenship to their children as is the standard practice in the vast majority of countries.
Bahamian women living overseas, thinking of returning home, would not want the added hassle of a potentially drawn-out and cumbersome process to pass on citizenship to their children born overseas.
Bahamian women at home and abroad must largely be appalled by the thinking of Leslie Miller, who jokes about beating women and who seems to think that a woman is a mere appendage to a man, with little to say about where she should live and help to raise her family.
The Tribune story continued: "The IDB study gives no explanation as to why 61 percent of Bahamian tertiary graduates head abroad, although the likely reasons include the fact many of them stay overseas when their college degrees are completed; the narrowness of the Bahamian economy and opportunities at home; and a lack of information about openings in The Bahamas.
"Still, the findings have worrying implications for The Bahamas, as they indicate an entire generation of entrepreneurs and top-level managers may be heading abroad, never to return. And with Baha Mar set to create 5,000 extra jobs, and other major investment projects coming on stream, this nation needs all the top-quality labor it can get."
Leslie Miller and those of a similar view may live in the past as much as they wish, and keep their heads and minds buried in the sands of yesteryear. In so doing, they will not only retard progress for women. Their views may also help to keep the country back in terms of economic growth, innovation, entrepreneurship and the fuller emancipation of women.
o frontporchguardian@gmail.com, www.bahamapundit.com.

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News Article

November 18, 2013
VAT How we got here

Amid what appears to be a growing public tide against the July 1, 2014 implementation of value-added tax (VAT), Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis has finally released a position on this contentious issue.
It came as pressure grew within his party for the official opposition to make a clear statement on what would be the most dramatic shift in tax policy in decades.
The statement Minnis came up with is stunningly shallow. It lacks intellectual rigor and shows a startling lack of vision and leadership, all of which we desperately need at this stage of our development.
That is surprising in the sense that he should have access to the facts and to sound advice from qualified and knowledgeable people within his own party.
Given how long it took him to release a statement, he should have had adequate time to formulate a more reasoned position that could be taken seriously and add value to the ongoing discussion on tax reform.
But given his record on matters of serious import (for example, multiple positions on gambling), no one should be surprised that his sole approach is to attack the government on its plans without presenting a well thought out contribution to this growing debate with accompanying proposed policy alternatives.
It seems once again that the opposition leader has gauged the direction of the wind and formulated his position based on the mood of the country. But be mindful that his position could shift again with any sudden temperature change or change to the national tone.
Minnis, who 18 months ago sat as a minister of government, called on the current administration to immediately "come clean to the people, and to explain, precisely and clearly what the circumstances are which have prompted this sudden lurch towards the imposition of VAT".
It is worrying that the official opposition leader does not know the answer to this question.
Minnis is operating as someone who only entered the political arena in May 2012, distancing himself from the actions of the former administration.
He pretends instead to be blind to the fiscal circumstances of the day, but more importantly to the fiscal realities that existed while he was a minister of government, and the decisions taken to address those realities.
While no one should excoriate the FNM leader for setting along his own path and defining his own leadership style, he and his party are saddled with their record in office.
They cannot run from the decisions taken by the FNM administration -- the good and the bad ones.
If as opposition leader Minnis does not know what the circumstances are that have prompted this "sudden lurch towards the imposition of VAT", he might be ignoring easily available facts.
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Bradley Roberts has gone as far as saying Minnis might be suffering a case of memory loss.
"How else [do you] explain his scolding for a debt crisis created by his own party?" Roberts asked.
"Or was Dr. Minnis asleep at the Cabinet table when his government approved, borrowed and spent over $2 billion in five years, running up the national debt and pushing the country into this current fiscal dilemma?"
If Minnis is not sure how we got to where we are, he might find it useful to do a bit of research and examine the facts of the country's debt levels.
This might jog his memory.
In August 2011 when the international credit rating agency Moody's downgraded its outlook for the Bahamian economy from stable to negative, it pointed to the significant run up in government debt levels in recent years and the country's limited growth prospects.
Moody's noted that debt rose steadily between 2000 and 2008, but over 40 percent of the increase occurred between 2009 and 2011.
Government debt at the end of June 2011 was estimated at $3.5 billion. It has continued to grow. It is projected to be $4.9 billion when the government implements VAT next July.
This is unsustainable. We are in crisis.
Had the Free National Movement been re-elected to office last year, we would have been facing the same urgent need to tackle our debt, and reform our narrow and inefficient tax system.

Reform
Before Minnis twists himself into an impossible situation and puts his credibility on the line, perhaps he ought to have a discussion with former Minister of State for Finance Zhivargo Laing, his former Cabinet colleague, who helped engineer fiscal policies under the Ingraham administration.
Laing has not hidden the fact that the FNM had planned to implement VAT within "two to three years" if it had won the election last year.
The PLP administration is seeking to do it at the start of its third year in office.
Laing said more recently, "In office, we certainly looked at implementing it and if returned to office would have given it early consideration. However, we would have also given it broad consideration in the context of the wider reforms to our tax system that we were already undertaking."
So Minnis' own party was eyeing what he now calls a "regressive" taxation system. He may wish to examine why his party also thought this regressive tax was the best option.
He now warns that VAT would "seriously impair the already weak, uncompetitive and struggling Bahamian economy and harm and diminish the quality of life of every Bahamian".
Unlike Minnis, Laing does not run away from the fact that the Ingraham administration piled on the debt.
The pace was dizzying.
Laing noted in a speech to the Rotary Club of Freeport in August that, "A country can borrow to cover its deficits for a long time, for decades and decades.
"It can even do so increasing its debt to GDP ratio to extraordinary levels, above 100 percent, but the price to pay for this is reduced ability to afford products and services (education, infrastructure, technology, etc.) that could lend to a more prosperous, efficient and peaceful state.
"Minimizing deficit spending is good government policy, especially in times of economic growth."
The former government has been sure to provide a clear explanation that the high level of borrowing was needed in the face of a dramatic downturn in the global economy.
That explanation has been arguable, as the PLP accused the Ingraham administration of taking actions to worsen an already bad situation.
While prime minister, Hubert Ingraham had said often in his last term that without borrowing the government would not have been able to do simple things, like pay the salaries of civil servants.
Minnis ought to know that we are now suffering the fallout of sky-high deficits and annual borrowing.
To be clear, the vast majority of the resolutions to borrow were approved in Parliament by the then opposition led by Perry Christie.
Nobody likes to hear of new taxes, and so VAT and tax reform was not a prominent theme of the 2012 general election campaigns.
Upon coming to office, the PLP itself feigned surprise at the state of public finances. With that excuse in hand, it continued to borrow, saying it needed to do so to deal with the problems it inherited from the Ingraham administration.
"The fiscal accounts are in much worse shape than we had expected as we came into office," Prime Minister Christie told the House not long after the May 2012 general election.
"In our very short time in office, it has become clear to us that the previous administration has, through its actions and fiscal policies, constrained our room to maneuver."
In May 2013, the Christie administration brought a resolution to the House of Assembly to borrow $465 million to finance the projected revenue shortfall in the 2013/2014 fiscal year.
This added to the $650 million the new government borrowed in its first year.
Government debt as a percentage of GDP is projected at 56.4 percent at the end of 2013/2014.
Christie advised that much of the money the government borrowed last year was required to cover unpaid financial commitments incurred during the Ingraham administration.
"The legacy of high public deficits and spiraling debt burden that we inherited is brutally onerous: almost one out of every $4 in revenue collected by the government must be allocated to pay the interest charges on the public debt and cover the debt repayment," he said.
"Had we chosen to ignore the grave structural imbalance in the public finances, the debt would have continued to spin out of control."
This year, the government will spend an estimated $230 million on debt servicing alone.
While it is true that the PLP claimed to have immediate but unrealistic answers to attack our fiscal and economic woes while on the campaign trail, it is not on its own responsible for the current state of affairs.
It matters not at this juncture who is to blame, however. What is required now is reform to arrest the growing unsustainable debt levels.
As stated by Laing in his address to Rotary, "If you want to punish those who drive up cost through waste or bad decisions, then do that at election time, but know that the cost still has to be paid by the citizens."
Minnis may wish to read and carefully consider that useful and informative address delivered by Laing.
In the speech titled "VAT and its implications for The Bahamas and the Bahamian economy", Laing pointed out that the government needs cash and it needs it badly.
"We are in discussions about VAT implementation because there is a glaring reality confronting The Bahamas, which is that its income cannot pay for its operations," Laing explained.
"It has not done so from The Bahamas became an independent nation. We have run deficits and financed those deficits with borrowings since 1974, when we ran a deficit of some $33 million. Incidentally, we had a surplus of about $3 million the year before that, the last such surplus seen on total budget performance."
Laing continued, "In the wake of the crippling effects of the global recession of 2008 and the strain it put on the revenue of the government, our deficit spending has reached extraordinary levels, which is unsustainable, especially in light of the modest growth seen both in terms of the world's economy and our domestic economy so dependent on it.
"The government needs money to pay for its expenses, and it needs money badly. That is why VAT is being discussed with the sense of urgency that it is being discussed today. In 1995 when the issue first arose, it was being discussed as a planning function; today it is a practical issue of money."

Details
The Nassau Guardian last week reported on the government's proposed VAT bill and regulations. It is not clear when these will be brought to Parliament.
The debate cannot be vibrant and well informed without the official release of what is being proposed.
Minnis has said the PLP should immediately disclose to the Bahamian people the details of any economic studies and analyses either by domestic or international advisors or agencies that have led the government to this proposed course of action.
Many people are indeed awaiting the release of an economic impact study to show specific projections resulting from the VAT implementation, including the projected cost of living impact.
Financial Secretary John Rolle said last week that the cost of living is expected to rise between five and six percent in the first year. There were no details to show how these figures were arrived at, and there were no projections provided for cost of living increases in subsequent years.
This year is almost ended, and the government will have six months to clearly make its case, to seek to calm frayed public nerves, and cause for a smooth implementation of the new tax system.
That is ambitious.
Anecdotal evidence suggests the government is losing, not gaining support from the public on its push toward the implementation of VAT.
Its marketing of the initiative is on shaky ground, and it is only now just starting its public education campaign.
While there is an urgent imperative to act, it appears that on its current track, the new tax system could be off to a chaotic and undesirable start -- a difficult birth, as we opined here previously.
What the government needs now is a more community based VAT campaign and a bit more time to get the message out.
It might be in the interest of everyone to push off the implementation date by a few months. It would allow the business community and consumers to better digest the details of VAT.
And perhaps it would give the opposition leader a bit more time to better understand how we got to where we are.
We hope it would also give the government a little more time to present a tax reform package that has buy-in from the opposition.
On a matter this grave, such a buy-in could only be in the national interest.

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News Article

February 11, 2015
On the PLP govt immigration policy

Dear Editor,
The announcement of the government's new immigration policy appeals to certain emotions and foments a resentment of foreign nationals. In reviewing aspects of the policy, it appears, in what has become a troubling pattern, that the government is prepared to ignore the rule of law.
Illegal migration is a critical challenge which must be responded to vigorously, effectively and humanely.
The scapegoating of illegal immigrants suggests an ulterior motive: that illegal migration is to blame for the inability of this government to grow the economy and stimulate job growth; enunciate a uniformed and cogent policy to confront the crime menace; and confront a variety of other issues.
People should not be manipulated and hoodwinked by a do-nothing administration whose legacy will include spending the largest amount of money travelling to the largest number of foreign countries while lambasting foreign nationals for a host of problems.
The PLP's new immigration policy has as its primary objective to disguise and distract from the incompetence and failures of the present government. It is a strategy adopted throughout history by the most sinister of governments. It is unethical. It is below any standard that Minister of Immigration Fred Mitchell, a longtime advocate of human rights, should dare to utter.
Recent angry utterances on immigration matters suggests that some now believe that human rights mostly only apply outside of The Bahamas, and that while protesting and standing in support of the disenfranchised around the world, The Bahamas government should be permitted to trample the rights of citizens and others who find themselves in The Bahamas.
The government must report to the Bahamian public the number of illegal immigrants detained and repatriated to their country of origin since the announced implementation of the new immigration policy effective October 1, 2014.
And, they should provide a comparison against the number repatriated during previous years.
One must expect that after mounting such a huge campaign that the government will be able to demonstrate that its policy is actually reducing in a significant and meaningful way the number of illegal immigrants entering and remaining in our country, since this is clearly what the government wants Bahamians to believe.
Bahamians must demand to know whether the minister's bluster and the "black eye" it has earned The Bahamas internationally as a result of his bluster and belligerence, and the inconvenience being caused Bahamian citizens and legal residents as they travel to work daily, have actually resulted in an increase in the number of illegal and undocumented individuals identified, detained and repatriated from The Bahamas.
The people of The Bahamas must know the number of Bahamian citizens and legal residents who have been illegally detained by immigration officials, a violation of their rights, rights guaranteed and protected by the Bahamian constitution and by Bahamas law. The minister should also advise on the length of time such legal residents have been illegally detained by the government.
I accept that the minister will never be able to provide an accounting of the thousands of Bahamian citizens, legal residents and visitors who have been inconvenienced by immigration roadblocks set up during the busy morning commute, so I will not ask that he report on this number.
The minister must report to the Bahamian public on the number of applications received at the Immigration Department for the new immigration identity card (belonger's card) required by the government's new immigration policy. He should advise as to the expected processing time for the card and report the number of cards actually issued to legal residents including work permit holders since the introduction of this new policy.
Anecdotal information suggests that legal permanent residents of The Bahamas, who made application for the new immigration card in August last year following the announcement of the new policy, were still waiting for the issuance of cards in January, 2015!
Now the minister wishes to extend this requirement to the dependents of residents and work permit holders and to children born in The Bahamas to foreign parents? I am interested in knowing what new systems, technologies and staff have been added to the Department of Immigration to make the implementation of his new policy possible.
Bahamians acknowledge that our country has for more than half a century been burdened by the problem of illegal migrants who come in search of better economic opportunities or freedom from political persecution, including many in-transit to North America. Bahamians will not object to efforts by a responsible government to improve our ability to document and register legitimate residents in the country.
But the registration and record keeping of legitimate residents must be done in full accordance with Bahamian law and our obligations under international conventions, particularly in this regard, with the obligations of states party to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The laws of The Bahamas do not require anyone, be they Bahamian citizen, permanent resident or work permit holder to have on their person at all times, a passport or immigration identification document. If it is the desire of the government to implement such a requirement then it must begin by legislating the requirement.
As such a requirement exists in many other jurisdictions, drafting such a law should not prove too taxing for the government. But the requirement must exist in law before it can be enforced by policy.
This government behaves as if their policies, seemingly pulled from the seats of their pants, have the force of law. They do not and the government must be reminded of this at every turn.
This government's new immigration policy now expanded in a way that is likely to jeopardize access to education for many blameless children is wrong. It is as wrong and unlawful as was the decision by this government to create and staff a National Intelligence Agency without the benefit of legislation. Such unlawful actions which seek to permit unlawful spying on citizens, or which seek to excuse the periodic unlawful detention of legal residents including Bahamian citizens, offend our democracy and should not be tolerated by Bahamians.
The following should be noted with regard to the Mitchell's announced "new" immigration policy:
1. It has been the longstanding policy of successive Bahamian government's that first applications for work permits could only be made for individuals' resident outside of The Bahamas. That successive PLP governments have in the past frequently caused this policy to be waived, particularly for the benefit of their friends and associates who seek to engage illegal immigrants already in The Bahamas, does not make the policy "new" though it may be "new" to this PLP government.
2. Illegal immigrants and undocumented individuals have been routinely detained and deported from The Bahamas over the past 40 years of independence. The consistency and increase in these exercises have tended to increase when the PLP is out of office.
3. The first post-independence government did away with "belonger's" status. It was seen as an imposition by the previous colonial government, creating rights to immigration status for hundreds of expatriates in The Bahamas prior to July 10, 1973, a status to which many PLP ministers at the time took grave exception.
4. Repatriation exercises have, prior to May 7, 2012, been carried out in full compliance with the law and our obligations under international conventions which require that deported individuals, including dependent minor children deported with their parents be properly identified and documented. This assists in identifying repeat immigration offenders but also assists in determining applications for immigration status by individuals claiming to have been born in The Bahamas and repatriated to some other country with their undocumented parent during their youth.

- Kirkland Turner

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News Article

February 14, 2012
The Bahamian role in the Haitian immigration issue

Dear Editor,
 
Michel Martelly is Haiti's current president.  He has been on a worldwide tour to improve Haitian interests at home and abroad.  We all know the dire circumstance that Haiti is now in and has been in for as long as we can remember.  His statement advising Bahamians of Haitian descent to form an alliance and vote for the political party that has their best interests has once again fueled massive debate about our illegal immigration problem.
Back in the 1980s, the minister of immigration was Loftus Roker.  He had a no-nonsense policy when it came to illegal immigration.  Once you were found to be an illegal immigrant, the minister made sure through policy that you were repatriated immediately.  He authorized raids at any time during the day and night.  There was a certain fear among the illegal Haitian immigrants back then who referred to Roker as "Daddy".  Illegal immigrants back then were fearful in the hospital, on the way to work and even for their children at school because of Roker's many impromptu raids.
Fast track to 2012.  That fear is gone as illegal immigrants know that their chances of being caught are next to none due to our lax immigration laws that have not been adequately updated and that are horrendously unenforced.  Roker subsequently resigned from Lynden Pindling's Cabinet and ever since then, our immigration policy to our detriment has remained the same and its mandate not been carried out.
From the mid-1980s to now, tens of thousands of illegal Haitian immigrants have illegally entered our shores.  Tens of thousands of them I am sure have been repatriated, but tens of thousands of them have fallen through the cracks and have remained in The Bahamas illegally.  We have also had the naturalization of thousands of Haitians who were born in The Bahamas despite the fact that their parents were illegal.  Many of these illegal immigrants are also in limbo because their requests have gone unanswered.  The law does permit that children born to illegal immigrants can apply for Bahamian citizenship at age 18.
It is now 2012 and our national policy to halt illegal immigration is still repatriation.  How sad and ineffective.  We are in dire need of a more scientific and engaging approach where The Bahamas and Haiti can sit down and try to solve this problem together.  It is in The Bahamas' best interest to do all it can to ensure that Haiti's economy becomes viable.  And who may I ask is the current Bahamian ambassador to Haiti?
No right-thinking Bahamian can doubt that Bahamians of Haitian descent form a very important fabric of our society.  We have Bahamians of Haitian descent on the police and defence forces, the immigration and customs departments, in education and there is speculation that some are even in Parliament.  Stephen Dillet was the first black person elected to the House of Assembly and he was of Haitian descent.
Successive governments have failed miserably on the illegal immigration issue and now many of the Bahamians who idly sat by and raised their 'pom-poms' at political rallies while this problem festered now want the government to wave a magic wand and fix this problem overnight.  Bahamians need to think again because it is not going to happen.  The Haitian-Bahamians are here to stay.  Bahamians also need to be equally as concerned with the economic plight of the Chinese who are chipping away at owning our land and whose business interests and acquisitions have spiked tremendously over the last few years.
Martelly's statement is one that can be expected of any leader to his people.  We must remember that he was not granted access to visit The Bahamas by himself and maybe the timing of his visit is questionable.  Would Bahamians rather he advised Bahamians of Haitian descent to vote for a government that does not have their interests at heart, given the historically bad economic situation in Haiti?  Of course not.
All and sundry are saying that Martelly's visit, though by Brent Symonette's admission was abrupt, is an election ploy by the governing party.  They are saying that the visit should have been planned and should have been entertained any time other than now, especially since elections are imminent. These arguments are futile now because Martelly's visit has come and gone.  The damage, if any, has been done.
The hidden meaning behind Martelly's statement that a lot of Bahamians are missing is the fact that he could not have come to this conclusion if he did not feel that a particular party favors the interests of Haitian-Bahamians more than the other party.
Where are the government agencies who allow illegal immigrant activity to continue unabated?  The ministers of national security, labour and foreign affairs need to be equally at the heart of this discussion because they have responsibility for many of the agencies that either don't perform, or underperform, in their duties.  These are some of the major issue that Bahamians need to be concerned about and they should demand answers from the government and not Martelly.
No government past or present has effectively dealt with our vexing immigration problem and no government has been able to stem the flow of illegal immigrants coming to The Bahamas.  From attorneys general who hired illegal immigrants, to big and small companies who can be seen daily transporting hundreds of cheap illegal immigrant labor to and from work, I think that Bahamians want to have their cake and eat it too.
An identity card system for all Bahamians, residents and temporary workers alike, should have been implemented since the 1980s where this card must be in your possession at all times.  Shantytown issues that were allowed to blossom under successive governments should have been tackled decades ago.
Haitian mothers with no status were allowed to have babies after babies in the public hospital without a whimper of dissatisfaction from Bahamians or legislators and now these children are 18 and ready to apply for citizenship.  Haitian children who were allowed to attend public school and be educated free of charge are now looking for jobs in The Bahamas.  And now Bahamians want to act like there is a quick fix to this problem.  No way.  We are all culpable in this national fiasco and this issue will not be solved overnight.
Three ways that I believe can stem the tide of illegal immigration are to implement effective ways to properly police our borders, properly document illegal immigrants presently residing in our country and vigorously enforcing our immigration laws.
More long-range defence force patrol vessels and more defence force bases strategically placed in Inagua, Ragged Island and other selected islands would be a first step.  Jack Thompson, director of immigration, can't even produce a report on how many illegal immigrants are living in Fox Hill, let alone New Providence or the entire Bahamas.  This tells you that we don't even possess some of the tools to begin to tackle this issue.  We haven't even reached the 'starting block' yet.  The problem collectively rests on our shoulders and we have done a very poor job with regards to implementing effective immigration policies.
Don't blame the Haitian president for wanting what is best for 'his people'.  He knows as well as any other novice that Bahamian-Haitians contribute vastly to the economy of The Bahamas.  He knows that despite his best efforts, even if Haiti was able to turn its economy around, many Bahamians of Haitian descent will never return to Haiti.  They are apparently here to stay.  We can only blame ourselves.
 
- Dehavilland Moss

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News Article
Budget Debate By the Deputy Prime Minister
June 03, 2010
Budget Debate By the Deputy Prime Minister

It is an honour to rise today to present my contribution to the 2010/2011 Budget Debate. At the outset, I wish to extend my sincere appreciation to the wonderful people of the St. Annís constituency, for their constant and steadfast support.

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