Search results for : Post Offices
Showing 1 to 10 of 156 results
On a recent morning radio show on the new Guardian Radio station, a host chastised politicians for lacking the will to address various issues concerning young men. The fact that in that morning's Nassau Guardian was a story on the government giving $1 million in grants for urban outreach programs targeted mostly to young people, young men in particular, seems to have eluded the host.
Perhaps it was too much to ask that the host read even the newspaper owned by the company operating the station on which the host blabbered the vapid commentary.
Here again we were treated to a shop-worn cliché about politicians. It is one in a collection of clichés and lazy thinking. Others include, "the country (it could be any country) is going to hell", which has been a refrain since the Treaty of Westphalia codified the nation-state in 1648.
Alas, with notable exceptions, this is typical fare on talk radio where fact-checking has also become a dying art. This medium of mass communication is littered with channels of mass misinformation and downright disinformation by some.
More distressing is the uninformed commentary by those one assumes should know better. Recently, there was an unexpectedly disappointing letter to the editor on the state of political affairs in the country including the 2012 election cycle.
As society holds academics to a high standard of intellectual rigor, one expects more balanced and substantive analysis from someone in academia. One also expects analysis that is fact-driven and properly researched.
The letter was not a well-crafted intellectual argument. It was disingenuous. Not because the individual is ill-willed. Indeed, the writer appears well-meaning in terms of concern for the country. It was disingenuous because it indulged in a series of gross overstatements and cavalier disregard of readily available facts.
The letter was lacking in historical and global perspective, yet another example of navel-gazing with little contextualizing of domestic affairs within the broader scope of global current affairs.
The letter writer posited: "One could argue (and I certainly would) that for four of the past five years, there was no governance at all, but just more of this sparring in the House of Assembly, just more trading of insults back and forth across the floor, while the world got on with changing its foundations all around us and the ground on which our society and economy rest crumbles away."
Such commentary is neither convincing nor dispositive. Any casual observer of the fierce parliamentary debates in a host of parliamentary democracies including the UK would view our political back-and-forth as tame.
The often vituperative nature of Australian politics would make the heads of many Bahamians spin. This is not new for Australia. It has a history of rough-and-tumble politics. Yet, Australia is often viewed as one of the better run countries.
To provide as evidence for our supposed lack of governance, the fierce nature of political debate would mean that Great Britain has not been governed for centuries. In democracies like South Korea and Japan, parliamentary sessions have degenerated into fist-fights. Are these countries also without governance?
But the claim of "no governance" belies other realities. That not a single civil servant was laid off during the Great Recession was not an easy feat. If more academics and civil servants were laid off in The Bahamas over the past five years, as has been the case in other countries, perhaps more of them would have a deeper appreciation of how tough it was to hold the country together.
Not only were no civil servants laid off. There were also no cuts in salaries and benefits, and increments are on the horizon. It is shocking how cavalier is the analysis of some when they are not daily confronted with the enormous challenges of governing including prioritizing the apportionment of limited resources.
This supposed period of "no governance" achieved: $25 million more in scholarships for students attending The College of The Bahamas, the retraining of nearly 4,000 moderate income Bahamians, the introduction of a prescription drug benefit, the introduction of a landmark unemployment benefit, millions invested in new health facilities, new entrepreneurial programs for young people, and the most comprehensive upgrade of critical infrastructure in the nation's history inclusive of potable water and infrastructure urgently needed by Family Islanders.
None of these accomplishments magically appeared. They required leadership and governance. That the writer mentioned not one of these is more than being uninformed. Intellectual honesty requires an acknowledgment of facts.
The writer declared: "I have heard absolutely nothing from any party about what the future holds... The FNM has focussed very much on vague generalities like proven leadership and deliverance, and what has been done, largely in material, infrastructural terms, in the very recent past (one or two years at most)."
"Absolutely nothing"? This is intellectually disingenuous. Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's over two dozen rally addresses since the beginning of the year contain considerably more than the usual political boilerplate. They are dense with policy and programmatic proposals.
Of note is a discussion of his vision for The Bahamas including his party's philosophy of development and ideas for urban redevelopment. His remarks in North Eleuthera addressed the balancing of domestic and foreign direct investment.
Either the letter writer has not bothered to research these or is being purposely misleading. If one has a view of the prime minister's proposals that would be fair commentary. But to claim that his speeches are mostly about sloganeering and infrastructure is exceedingly unfair and disingenuous.
The prime minister has proposed the development of Jubilee Bahamas (a 10-year National Plan), the Public Arts Project, a Parks and Recreation Authority, the Summer Institute for Boys, the Youth Development Centre, a Heritage Tourism Initiative, a Native Food Market for Over-the-Hill, an Economic and Development Council of Bahamians Overseas, an expanded mission for BTVI, and a further upgrade of post offices to government service centers.
The FNM's manifesto details proposals ranging from increasing the minimum wage, introducing National Catastrophic Health Insurance, the promotion of aquaculture and mariculture, the development of head start programs to improve literacy, numeracy and fundamental computer skills for all children by age five, the provision of "a school place or a stipend of up to $1,500 for all five-year-olds in approved educational institutions", a large-scale program of return migration to the Family Islands, a Bahamas Youth Development Corps, and others.
Again, not a single one of these was mentioned by the letter writer. What conclusion might one reach about the utter and wholesale exclusion of these facts?
Leaving aside the letter writer, it seems the self-imposed burden of some of the supposed cognoscenti and literati in developing countries is to decry the backwardness of our governance.
There is the regular excoriation of our politicians, our political process, our elections and our governance. There is the "dismay" and "outrage" at the way opposing political partisans tear the other side down.
How different this must be from more civilized countries supposedly so much better governed than The Bahamas? Perhaps these countries include a hyper-partisan United States or European Community states in the midst of a dire economic and political crisis related to their supposedly superior governance even as they slash their budgets and look to the International Monetary Fund for help.
In the frenzy of the enlightened denunciation by some of our supposed backwardness, perhaps they can offer more credible and cost-accounted policy prescriptions. Some of them might even enter frontline politics and discover the demands of governance.
There should be an immersion program called "Prime Minister for a Day". One imagines that just a day in the prime minister's chair would give rise to more insightful and convincing commentary than we are daily treated to in various media.
Politicians deserve neither pity nor unfettered adulation. But neither should they take seriously the simplistic assaults on their service in office, and the lack of acknowledgement of their accomplishments by those who do not accord them such common courtesy and basic fairness.
It is an intellectual conceit and a conceit of ignorance to fail to acknowledge such contributions by those politicians who love The Bahamas no less than those who breezily opine on affairs of state in pursuit of a hypothesis unconcerned with facts.
Last week we examined the need for a new tax system in The Bahamas and gave an example of how value added tax, or VAT, would be calculated in practice. In this article we examine the experience of Barbados in its transition to VAT and look at how we can apply those lessons to The Bahamas. Finally, we present an argument for why the tax discussion should ultimately be extended to include modest corporate taxes.
In an excellent article recently published in The Tribune titled "Barbados's Lessons for The Bahamas over VAT", Dr. Nikolaos Karagiannis of Winston-Salem State University presented a detailed overview of the process that took our southern Caribbean neighbor to its new tax system.
VAT was introduced in Barbados at the beginning of 1997 at a standard rate of 15 percent (it has since been raised to 17.5 percent). Among the reasons cited for its choosing to implement VAT was to reduce the complexity of the country's indirect tax system and to reduce the high level of duties and taxes on imported goods.
Serious discussions on tax reform began in earnest when Barbados underwent stabilization and structural adjustment under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1991. In order to coordinate the extensive work of implementing a VAT, Barbados established a VAT Implementation Unit (VIU) in 1993. In January 1994, it entered a technical cooperation agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Under the agreement, loans were allocated for the design of the VAT system and to bolster the Customs and Excise Department.
When the Owen Arthur administration came to office in 1994, the implementation of VAT was postponed to mid-1996 while research continued on estimating the impact of the tax on revenues, prices and the productive sectors.
The VIU started public relations outreach programs in May 1995, including the release of pamphlets and booklets, targeting four main target audiences: the private sector (retailers, manufacturers, importers and managers); the government sector agencies involved in the administration of the system; members of the general public (consumers) and finally the school system. The VIU presented at workshops, seminars, as well as via television and radio to further educate the public and business community. The major features of the new act were passed by the Barbados House of Assembly in September 1996 with effect on January 1, 1997.
The Bahamian context
Will Bahamians comply with a new and seemingly complicated tax? Many are skeptical that we can effectively get companies and individuals to forward the correct amount of tax to the government when we struggle to collect existing property taxes. As reported numerous times before, our government is owed some $400 million in past due property taxes according to the auditor general; much of that amount will probably never be recovered.
However, the reality may prove to be less problematic: only persons/businesses of the size and capability to adhere to good record-keeping (as measured by annual gross sales) will be included in the VAT system. Around the Caribbean region, this minimum threshold is TT$200,000 in Trinidad and Tobago (approx. US$30,000), JM$144,000 in Jamaica (approx. US$2,000) and BD$80,000 in Barbados (US$40,000). Given the higher average per capital GDP of The Bahamas, one can reasonably anticipate that our exemption threshold will be much higher than the rest of the Caribbean.
The Barbadian government was equally concerned with tax avoidance and evasion. Only those traders who were registered, and who displayed a certificate of registration, were legally authorized to charge VAT on the taxable goods and services they were selling. On the other hand, those traders who were not registered were paying VAT on the goods they were buying, but were not legally authorized to charge VAT on the goods they were selling, thereby squeezing their profits.
No doubt Bahamian business culture will need to be transformed. Compared to Barbados, which already had a strong tax framework and a history of paying taxes, this nation is starting from the opposite spectrum in terms of tax familiarity and compliance. The principle challenge for the business community will be record keeping; many companies will need to hire book-keepers or accountants while upgrading their point of sales or POS systems. Ultimately we will need to force compliance by tying it to the renewal of business licenses, alongside rigorous and impartial execution of the law by the newly created tax authority.
The move forward
As the Bahamian economy is a predominantly services-driven one, the real challenge for our policymakers is to introduce a VAT system that can achieve economic, fiscal, social and developmental objectives, while avoiding any adverse effects on tourism and financial services. As one example, VAT in Barbados was applied at a concessionary rate of 7.5 percent (now 8.75 percent) on accommodation in hotels, inns and guest houses. The government will need to decide very carefully which goods and services would be zero-rated and therefore exempted to make sure that VAT is neither regressive, nor penalizing those who are at the lowest levels of income.
Beyond VAT, how do we get the greatest mileage out of the many tax information exchange agreements, or TIEAs, that our jurisdiction has signed? One of the stated goals of the Bahamian financial services industry is to see companies locate their head and subsidiary offices within our shores.
Would that be an easier sell if we had a tax regime that allowed foreign companies to offset taxes paid in our jurisdiction when repatriating income? For example, Barbados has a number of double taxation agreements, or DTAs, that are extremely favorable for certain types of investors. These agreements promote cross border trade, avoid double taxation and prevent tax evasion.
As a result of its 2000 DTA treaty with China, Barbados has emerged as the leading jurisdiction for offshore wholly foreign owned enterprise (WFOE) holding companies in China. Under existing law, payments of dividends by a WFOE to its foreign owners are free of Chinese withholding tax. Payments of interest to foreign lenders are subject to withholding at 20 percent, typically reduced to 10 percent under applicable tax treaties. However, where a taxpayer qualifies for benefits under the Barbados-China treaty, the tax rates are reduced to five percent for dividends and 10 percent for interest.
The Bahamas should be able to compete in this space with the proper tax structure. The current tax debate is an ideal time to examine the merits of corporate tax as a boost to our competitive advantage in an era where being a zero-tax country is now a liability. This would allow the Bahamas to obtain tax income from foreign companies operating here at modest rates of 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent without increasing their overall tax burden since, by the DTA, the tax would be shared by our treasury and that of the home country.
Even as we move to a new tax system, we stress that the government will still need to be vigilant in controlling its spending and getting its fiscal house in order. This is one reason why the so-called Tea Party in the United States is so adamantly against any form of tax increases, including any overhaul of the tax code which increases efficiency and as a consequence increases collection. Instead, it feels the need to "starve the beast", as governments' natural inclination is to spend more than whatever revenue it takes in.
Referring to Barbados one last time, that country has a 17.5 percent VAT, 20 percent to 35 percent personal income taxes, 12.5 percent withholding on income and dividends, 15 percent to 25 percent local corporate taxes and import taxes on vehicles, spirits, tobacco and petroleum products. Nevertheless, they still had a 2010/2011 central government deficit of 8.5 percent of GDP and total government debt over 110 percent of GDP. Clearly, getting the tax policy right is still only one side of the government's fiscal equation.
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: email@example.com.
The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) announced its deputy leader on Wednesday night at the Wyndham Nassau Resort ballroom. Chris Mortimer won the post of deputy leader for the DNA, but in my view the real winner is the Bahamian people.
I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Mortimer on at least three occasions, and on each occasion, I became more and more impressed with his leadership style and his business acumen. He has no qualms about speaking on any issue and he has an 'arsenal' of plans to try to improve the Bahamian economy.
He is a man of purpose and this is evident by the way in which he runs Galleria Cinemas and his DNA campaign office, also known as The C.A. Mortimer Sr. Resource Center. Just before the boundaries commission, he was the candidate for the Sea Breeze constituency. He is now the DNA's candidate for Nassau Village.
When I visited his campaign headquarters, I was taken aback by the level of professionalism and organization being exuded by his staff members. They addressed everyone with respect and even though they were hosting a domino tournament, staff members maintained their professional poise. In my view, this was no accident.
His campaign headquarters has a modern kitchen, a waiting area, a full-size back yard, an entertainment room for children, offices and even a computer room where access is granted only to authorized persons. Persons who look for detail in business operations would be very impressed if they visited his campaign headquarters.
Mortimer and his team also use cutting edge technology in their campaign. I was very impressed with the Android devices that are used to track voters and keep a database record of their addresses, names and phone contacts. They can locate voter details at the touch of a button when campaigning on the road.
I asked him point blank several months ago about what type of contribution he plans to make to The Bahamas. He said that he is all about empowering Bahamians and that he will make no compromises with regards to the same.
I don't find Mortimer to be the most passionate public speaker, but my honest opinion of him is that he has the itch to serve. This is lacking in many of our candidates who just have the itch to get rich and talk foolishness.
If Mortimer's running of his campaign is any indication of what he intends to do if elected, then this can only serve as a blessing for The Bahamas. We need more men like him who will stay above the fray and bring focus and order to the many policies affecting our governance. Even if Mortimer is not elected, I think he has already built a model from which all other candidates can learn. I truly hope that he continues what he has started.
- Dehavilland Moss
I am quite
concerned about the direction in which the Free National Movement (FNM)
is headed. It appears that since Hubert Ingraham returned as leader of
the FNM in 2005 he has made it his mission to be the sole face of the
FNM. So much so, that some of the FNM's constituency offices barely
display the faces of the candidates, but are decorated with the image of
Ingraham. This continues a trend which was clearly evident during the
Elizabeth by-election. For the number of Hubert Ingraham's posters
nailed to trees and light poles, you hardly knew that Dr. Duane Sands
was the candidate in that by-election. No wonder he blew it after the
entire Cabinet invaded and occupied Elizabeth and brought with them the
full resources of the government...
Bahamas Public Service Union (BPSU) President John Pinder expressed concern yesterday that employees at the General Post Office on East Hill Street are increasingly at risk at work despite the government's pledge to relocate them.
Pinder was contacted for comment after employees were sent back to work on Wednesday following a closure due to structural problems the day before.
He said he is pushing for the employees to be relocated as soon as possible.
"When the rain settles on that roof sometimes parts of that concrete ceiling can break away from the steel due to deterioration," he said.
"We do have that concern, and I wish they could get out of there immediately."
Pinder said the government has indicated to him that the employees will be permanently relocated, within three weeks, to the Independence Shopping Centre on Tonique Williams-Darling Highway.
On Monday, the Ministry of Transport and Aviation announced that employees had found debris in one of the offices in the building on East Hill Street when they arrived at work.
"As a result of this latest incident the Ministry has determined to immediately put in place interim measures for the relocation of postal staff and protocols for the collection and distribution of mails while arrangements for finalizing a permanent location are completed," read the statement.
Postal services resumed on Wednesday.
Pinder said employees have been placed on half-day shifts to limit their time in the building.
He said while the union understands a discontinuation of those crucial services would be a "major inconvenience" to the public, it is a concerning matter.
"It is unfortunate that the job they do caters to the general public in terms of putting those mails in the mail boxes," Pinder said.
"And, so, for them to shut down services would really be a major inconvenience to the general public, and we are trying to ensure the general public is not inconvenienced."
Pinder said he has also recommended to the Ministry that employees be given hard hats.
"The Ministry has removed all the tiles to make it more visible for them to see the cracks so that employees can be more vigilant to ensure that they don't go in any area where there is a possibility that the ceiling can drop down again," he said.
"The Ministry has indicated that they will do regular checks."
The building has had several challenges over the years.
Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham will give a farewell address as leader of the Free National Movement (FNM) when the party meets in a special convention at the Holy Trinity Activities Centre in Stapledon Gardens on Saturday.
Ingraham will speak during an opening ceremony at 9 a.m., according to a statement released by the party yesterday.
The party will choose a leader, deputy leader and other officers at the convention.
Official Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis is expected to be elected unopposed, The Nassau Guardian understands.
Ingraham announced on the night of the May 7 general election that he will not serve as leader of the Official Opposition and intends to resign from frontline politics. His resignation from politics takes effect July 19, the anniversary of his first election in 1977.
The party suffered a crushing defeat at the polls.
Long Island MP-elect Loretta Butler-Turner, former Minister of Education Desmond Bannister and defeated FNM Bamboo Town candidate Cassius Stuart have announced that they will run for deputy leader.
Former Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Charles Maynard has revealed that he will run for chairman.
The party said yesterday that after the opening ceremony, which is open to the public, the convention will resolve itself into closed sessions during which there will be nominations of candidates and voting.
The evening session of the convention will be open to the public and starts at 7 p.m.
The new leader, deputy leader and other elected party officers will be announced at that time. The closing address and charge will be delivered by the new leader.
The statement from the party said, "The Free National Movement is pleased with the vast array of exciting contenders for party offices, inclusive of seasoned political leaders and newcomers, who are stepping forward to vie for the offices of deputy leader, chairman, secretary general and a host of senior posts within the party.
"The convention promises to be both exciting and transformative as the Free National Movement shows that it has heard the voice of the Bahamian electorate, and is prepared to respond positively and proactively to meet the challenges of being the Official Opposition, while laying a firm and enduring foundation for an early return to government.
"This is especially so as it becomes more and more obvious to hurting and long-suffering Bahamians that the newly elected, conflict of interest laden PLP government gained their support by false promises of a quick fix to the vexing problems of a depressed global and national economy, the home mortgage crisis, as well as the increasingly high and unacceptable levels of violent crime and murders on our streets."
The statement said the convention's theme, "Ignite the Future", emphasizes the determination of every member, and the more than 65,000 supporters of the FNM, to do everything in their power to "hold the torch of freedom high, to light the way to a better future, and to thereby ignite in the hearts of Bahamians a re-commitment to good governance, accountability and integrity in every public office".
When Willamae Johnson graduated from library school in 1981 from Atlanta University (which has now merged with Clark Atlanta University) she never dreamed she'd one day oversee an edifice as grand as the Harry C. Moore Library, knowing of course, the library facilities her country had to offer.
One year after graduation she joined College of The Bahamas, which at the time had a library that encompassed a mere two small spaces -- one housed the offices and had three rooms, and the other was the library proper which encompassed all of the services the library offered from circulation to reference media.
Today, she's the head librarian of a 60,000 square-foot facility that is able to seat 575 users at any one time. She's in charge of a library that has a 24-hour Internet café (the information commons as they call it) where students can have access to the library's computers and electronic resources. The facility offers electronic books, a licensed database that students can access remotely from home that allows them access to a variety of resources, anytime of day, wherever they are. The new library houses an audiovisual department and is home to a constantly evolving digital collection. There is also a section dedicated to Bahamiana.
The head librarian describes the transition from the old to the new library as "tremendous." The project itself, fully built and furnished, was $28 million, with $22 million allocated towards the construction, and the balance in furniture and furnishings, and fees to organizations the library needed to join.
It's a facility Johnson is proud to head up.
"This facility really is for the nation," said the head librarian. "When I went to library school, I never dreamed that I would have such an opportunity to serve in this role, and so I think this has really been for me a proud moment, one that's humbling to see what we've really been able to achieve with God's help."
Johnson took up a College of The
Bahamas post on August 30, 1982, but has been serving in the head librarian's position since 1990.
The new facility allows the college to bring all of its departments under one roof. Prior to opening its doors to college users on February 28, 2011 and officially to the general public on April 8, 2011, the library's resources had been spread out because they simply did not have enough space under one roof to encompass everyone and everything. The college's business and technology programs were offered out of a space at the Soldier Road campus at the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute. An education program and a small education library were located on Moss Road
With a grant from the World Bank in 1984, the college was able to expand its old library to a little over 10,000 square feet, which allowed them to collapse their off-site libraries and bring them under one roof. But right away, after moving in, they realized they were out of space once they got all departments together. Johnson said the librarian at the time, Vanria Thomas-Rolle noticed that they didn't have any space for growth of collections, and barely had space for staff. As a result, Johnson said the talks began immediately about what a new College of The Bahamas library would look like. That was in the late 1980s. Those talks led to designs being drawn up and what they saw the function of the new library being, encompassing thoughts of how librarianship was changing, and meeting the demands of users. Johnson said they talked about integrating technology, because at the time, the then library didn't have any technology other than the physical hands on kinds of things.
Ground-breaking for what was to be the Harry C. Moore facility took place on April 21, 2005. Six years later, the college had its new three-story facility with Johnson proudly at the helm.
On the ground floor is the 24-hour information commons as well as the public services center for persons who want to check materials out or return materials to the library. On the exterior of the library, they have a book return that can be used if the library itself is closed and users want to return materials. They also dispense from there at the media counter, audio-visual resources like DVDs and CDs. The ground floor also houses two instructional classrooms that seats 20 people each. In one of those classrooms they can also do distance education with the Family Islands. A small auditorium that seats 117 people is also on the first level.
It is on this level where they also have their special collections housed, including their Bahamiana resources. "We specifically put that on the ground floor because we know that's a resource that many Bahamians come to use, not only college students, but high school students, primary school students, members of the public, scholars from around the world looking for Bahamiania, so we wanted to make that easily accessible."
Lockers are also installed on the first level. It is there that they encourage library users to store their belongings so they don't have to lug them through the facility.
"We encourage students to use the lockers, especially when they go into the special collections area which we would like to make an area where they only take the paper they need, or their laptop, so that we can preserve our Bahamiana resources," said Johnson. "And, because we have a number of potential donors right now firming up, and we want to assure those donors that when their resources come to us, they're going to be taken care of." There is a nominal fee for the use of the lockers.
The first/second floor is where all of the library's resources that students can borrow are found. On the west side is the general stuff and on the east side, is where they have West Indian teaching practice and bound periodicals. They also have current periodicals -- general newspapers, magazines and journals at this level. The main reference desk is on this floor as well. It is also at this level where they have a small room there with computers where librarians can do special training or use databases. Also on this floor are spaces where they do special exhibits -- one of those being the permanent exhibit of the first Bahamian Prime Minister, Sir Lynden Pindling.
The second floor/third floor houses the administrative offices and the prized law collections, which they've kept separate, because Johnson said the resource is so valuable they cannot afford to lose it.
What you see in the Harry C. Moore building is the merging of three libraries into one facility -- COB's existing main library and the libraries culinary and hospitality library and the law library.
The Harry C. Moore Library also has both free-standing and compact shelving which allows them to be able to have more titles available for their users.
"Since this library is built for the next 50 years and for the general public, we have provided resources in that way to make those available," she said.
As they continue to build the library's resources, Johnson says their next real challenge will be to upgrade and continue to add research resources to the facility, so that the Harry C. Moore Library can continue to have the vast store of information that scholars need to do their research.
Three months after being made available to students, Johnson says the library facility has been amazing for the college students as it is completely wireless which gives them choices as to how and where they can use their laptops in comfortable seating, as opposed to being static.
The building is named in memory of Harry C. Moore, one of the founding presidents of the Lyford Cay Foundation who served as a member of College of The Bahamas Council. It was during Moore's tenure on the college council, that he developed a desire to see the college have a university-level library and worked along with then president, the late Dr. Keva Bethel to help the college get a library that would facilitate the transition of the college to university.
The executive council of the National Republican Alliance (ARENA) held its monthly meeting last evening (April 3, 2014) at our central offices located at East Street and Andros Avenue.
There were several items on the agenda, inclusive of: web shop regulation and taxation; crime and punishment; the performance of the PLP and, of course, our political support for generational leadership changes in the PLP at the appropriate juncture.
ARENA fully supports the regulation and taxation of web shops. We agreed to urge the government and parliamentarians to impose a minimum annual taxation rate of 30 percent on the gross revenues. An annual license should be issued to the five major operators for $5 million each. If they wish, they can open or franchise as many outlets as the market will sustain at $250,000 each per annum.
Strict vetting must be done along with criminal background checks for all proposed operators. No one should be allowed to hide behind 'the corporate veil'. An insurance bond, to ensure performance, should also be required in the amount of $10 million minimum per operator.
ARENA also demands transparency and strict adherence to ethical standards by parliamentarians and the government on this issue. There should be no allegations of 'payola' or pay to play.
The police are doing an excellent job crime-wise. The problem, if there is one, would appear to be the revolving door system created by the granting of bail. Crime, contrary to what the 'lost in space' leader of the FNM is postulating, is not 'smothering' the nation. Yes, there are issues of concern here in New Providence but, overall, the Family Islands retain their innocent status.
The FNM and the out of touch DNA are merely posturing for brownie points and talking out of their co-jointed heads. Minnis has pretensions of becoming PM one day. McCartney, apparently, is delusional from a political point. Will he still be 'leader' of the DNA come 2017? When are they going to hold a national conclave or convention?
ARENA stands fully behind the eventual ascendency of the Hon. Philip 'Brave' Davis (PLP-Cat Island), the DPM and minister of works, to the leadership of the PLP. Either the Hon. Shane Gibson (PLP-Golden Gates), minister of labor, or the Hon. Michael Halkitis (PLP-Golden Isles), minister of state for finance, would make an ideal deputy leader of the PLP.
ARENA will canvas assiduously for the election of Brave as leader of the PLP when it is time for the current leader to step down or aside. We will take 'no prisoners' and we shall not be distracted. All who come up against us, so long as they are of flesh and blood, will be defeated in the political arena.
- Godfrey Collie
ARENA Secretary General
I am quite concerned about the direction in which the Free National Movement (FNM) is headed. It appears that since Hubert Ingraham returned as leader of the FNM in 2005 he has made it his mission to be the sole face of the FNM. So much so, that some of the FNM's constituency offices barely display the faces of the candidates, but are decorated with the image of Ingraham. This continues a trend which was clearly evident during the Elizabeth by-election. For the number of Hubert Ingraham's posters nailed to trees and light poles, you hardly knew that Dr. Duane Sands was the candidate in that by-election. No wonder he blew it after the entire Cabinet invaded and occupied Elizabeth and brought with them the full resources of the government.
The FNM has seemingly placed all its hopes in Ingraham pulling off another win for the party. The party has unfortunately permitted the perception to pervade that Ingraham is the only one capable of winning a general election for the FNM. The party's debacle in the 2002 general election reinforced this perception. This does not bode well for the sustainability or future of the party. Ingraham's is the only image on the party's ads and the lone voice heard on commercials. All of the party's jingles and paraphernalia are centered around Papa. All of the current Parliamentarians go to great pains to ensure that they do not project their individuality too pretentiously. Even the new candidates have already been cowered into paying due homage to Papa and are very careful not to say anything that may annoy him.
The cult of ego that Ingraham has carefully cultivated over the years is now looming over the political landscape. He is hellbent on stringing out the dissolution of Parliament and in announcing the date of the election. The withholding of this information feeds some psychological need of his. The more he, the barefoot boy from Abaco, keeps an entire nation in electoral expectation the more it supplies this ego. Ingraham was calculating enough to move his deputy on the side at a time when it was too late to go to convention to elect a replacement. And the FNM, which questions nothing he does, will go into the general election without a deputy leader. How could a group of supposedly intelligent people accept this state of affairs?
This demagoguery culminated in the FNM's DJ changing the words of a popular gospel song to acclaim the majesty of Hubert Ingraham. The FNM's version of the song was: "There is nobody greater than Hubert". While the song was playing the entire sea of red swayed and exalted in the adoration of their god. Ingraham must have had prior knowledge of this song, as no one in that organization would dare play a song about him without his knowledge and approval. It was only after the frenzy and backlash that followed, which he did not anticipate, that Ingraham was humbled to apologize at the next rally.
In the first commandment, God admonishes us to have no other gods but me. The FNM would do well to heed this admonishment.
- Eric Gardner
"We need real campaign finance reform to loosen the grip of special interests on politics." - Tom Daschle
Every five years around election time, incessant lip service is paid to campaign financing. It can only be lip service because after the ballots have been cast, counted and catalogued, the notion of campaign finance reform retires to hibernation - that is, until the next general election. Therefore, this week, we would like to Consider This...what practical approaches can we realistically take regarding how we finance political campaigns in The Bahamas?
Unquestionably, politics has become an extremely expensive exercise. When one considers the cost of political rallies, paraphernalia, including T-shirts and other garments now available, flags, posters, signage, printing of flyers, advertisements, including newspaper, radio and television broadcasts and commercials, the cost is staggering. Let's not forget the direct cost of personnel employed by political parties; the cost of constituency offices, sometimes four or five, particularly in the Family Islands; the cost of electricity, water, and telephones; the cost of food and beverages; of political consultants; and the printing of party platforms. When these and other costs are considered, the real cost of staging a general election could very easily cost $250,000 per constituency or nearly $10 million per party. So how are political parties expected to finance such a mammoth undertaking?
Using the public purse
It has become commonplace for the government of the day to use the power of the public purse to significantly finance its party's political campaign. We observed this practice when the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) was in power; we witnessed it in the by-election in Elizabeth two years ago; and we are seeing it again in the current general election. While this has been a common practice, the Free National Movement (FNM) government seems to have taken this phenomenon to new heights.
Shortly after announcing the general election of 2012, the government launched a record contract signing marathon. The $12 million contract for the construction of a new clinic in North Abaco and a multimillion-dollar contract for a new hospital in Exuma are a few examples of this.
Last weekend, amidst great public fanfare at police headquarters, the prime minister awarded $1 million to charitable organizations. Ironically, this is the same government that - only one year earlier - reduced the government's subvention to such organizations during the annual budget debate in the House of Assembly. This is the same government that discontinued the extremely effective YEAST program that provided a positive prototype for young Bahamian men at risk and the same government that canceled the effective and internationally celebrated urban renewal program established by the PLP.
No matter which party is in power, an intelligent and discerning public should look askance at the government of the day exploiting and abusing the public purse in order to win votes after elections have been called.
In The Bahamas, political campaigns are predominantly financed by contributions from persons, companies, and organizations that believe in the democratic process and want to ensure that the message of the political party that they support is widely and successfully disseminated.
In the absence of campaign finance laws, there are no restrictions on who can contribute to a political party and how much they can donate. Accordingly, anyone -- Bahamians and foreigners - can contribute any amount to anyone at any time without any accountability whatsoever. The real question that we must address for the future health of our democracy is whether this is a desirable practice?
It has become customary for political contributions to be made in private, sometimes on the condition of confidentiality and often in secrecy with only a select few members of the party knowledgeable regarding the source of the funds.
Campaign 2012 has seen a new development in political funding. During the last few mass rallies, the prime minister has publicly appealed from the podium for campaign contributions, describing it as a further deepening of our democracy by allowing the public to become investors in his party. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, it is unprecedented and uncharacteristic. We have never before seen this prime minister - or any other for that matter - beg for money from a public podium.
It therefore begs the question: why has he done so now, during what he says is his last campaign? He alluded to the answer to this question on Thursday past at a mass rally on R. M. Bailey Park when he said that he will not tolerate anyone in his Cabinet who has financially benefited from conflicts of interest.
We believe that he made this appeal for financial contributions because, while the FNM is still well-funded by those wealthy interest groups who support him in order to continue reaping his government's largess, some of his traditional sources of funding are less generous than they have been in the past. This is possibly because he has cut some of his more financially well-connected candidates for reasons already stated and reiterated again from that podium last Thursday in a purposefully vague but very revealing way.
Campaign finance reform
Clearly, as the prime minister is opening party funding up to the masses in ways never seen before, the time has come to enact campaign financing legislation. There are several things that can be done in order to impose strict controls for campaign fund-raising, primarily to level the playing field and to minimize disparate levels of funding campaigns by the various political parties. Campaign financing legislation should also establish disclosure requirements with respect to funding and spending in elections.
Such a law could introduce statutory limits on contributions by individuals, organizations and companies, which would remove the influence of big money from politics and should also prohibit foreign influences from invading the local political process.
There should also be limits on large potential donors to prevent them from gaining extraordinary political access or favorable legislation or other concessions in return for their contributions. Campaign finance laws should also provide for the capping of such funding and for the disclosure of sources of campaign contributions and expenditures. It should also limit or prohibit government contractors from making contributions with respect to such elections.
Campaign financing legislation could even provide for matching funds by the government for all the candidates in order to ensure that the playing field truly is level and to enhance clean elections.
Finally, in order to more vigilantly protect the public purse, the law should strictly prohibit a government from signing any new contracts after general or by-elections are called.
Campaigns will become more expensive as time progresses. As we mature politically, we should seek to ensure that political parties operate on a level playing field and remove the barriers to participation in the democratic process because of a lack of funding. If we want to encourage the best and the brightest citizens to enter into the elective political arena, we should seek to eliminate the observation of U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton that: "Elections are more often bought than won".
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.