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News Article

July 27, 2012
Christie 'committed' to campaign finance reform talks

Prime Minister Perry Christie yesterday said the practice of politicians using money to sway voters has deteriorated to "repugnant" and sometimes "criminal" levels over the past 15 years.
Christie's comments were delivered at a Parliamentary Conclave hosted at the British Colonial Hilton where he also called on parliamentarians to decide whether they are committed to bringing about election campaign finance reform.
"The country has to decide, Opposition and governing people here, we have to decide whether or not we are prepared to put in place regulations that will govern the conduct of elections and persons who are contesting those elections with respect to the monies being spent," the prime minister said.
"We have to be honest with ourselves here, brutally honest with ourselves in the recognition that practices have evolved in The Bahamas over the last 10 years, 15 years that are repugnant to best practices in a democracy. Do we have the will to address what we know to exist in the best interest of this democracy?"
His statements came a day after he told the House of Assembly that two international groups which monitored the May general election called for government to create laws that would limit campaign spending.
The groups also recommended that government prohibit anonymous donations or international donors from giving money to campaigns and to create a mechanism to oversee the flow of money within campaigns.
On the sidelines of the conclave, Christie told reporters that he knows of many instances when politicians have used money to buy votes.
"We are living a lie to just continue to allow this current system that we are operating under to exist, because you know and I know and everyone else knows a lot of things are happening in this current system, where you're taking advantage of all sorts of opportunities if you're the government, and it places people at a significant disadvantage and that's not how a democracy functions."
He added: "There are laws now that say that you shouldn't treat, meaning that you shouldn't do things to induce people to vote for you in an election, and clearly you can just list countless examples where the law is breached.
"Almost like when I'm in power I do it and when you're in power you do it.
"We have to examine all of the practices of how money is used and how people come to you asking you for money during the course of an election.
"It is harmful to the democracy to be caught in situations like that, and that is why the observers recommended that we change."
Christie said he would not force the legislation on Parliament but would speak to members of his government about the need to bring about reform.
"I'm hoping that it is understood that I am committed to initiating discussions with the political parties and yes I would like to say that I will be recommending to my colleagues a certain course of action with respect to the steps we should take," he said. "But I don't want to impose it on The Bahamas. Like everything else we should involve and I'm hoping that there would be unanimity moving forward on the kinds of laws that will come out of the recommendation of the observers."
Days before the last general election, then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said he received reports that PLP operatives allegedly tried to buy votes in a Haitian-Bahamian community by hiding cash inside t-shirts.
"There's a deep, underlying and disturbing pattern in the PLP," Ingraham said at the FNM's final election rally on Clifford Park. "While we in the FNM are busy trying to encourage all registered voters to vote and vote early, they are doing their best to try and influence voters."
Ingraham said he was told that people were given yellow t-shirts with as much as $600 concealed in the fabric.

However the PLP also alleged that the FNM tried to sway voters with jobs and contracts. Before the election, PLP Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchel alleged that voters in his constituency were offered repairs to their homes and jobs at the Atlantis resort if they voted for the FNM.

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News Article

July 13, 2012
An opportunity to push sustainable tourism

Guardian Business: Can you briefly describe your experience in the tourism sector and what your role is today?

Sonia: I had the privilege of working for the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island from 2002-2005. It was a breakthrough opportunity for me after serving seven years at the Ministry of Works as a design engineer and project manager. In the role at Atlantis I drew on my project management skills, as I had responsibility for executing an annual multi-million dollar capital budget for all the senior vice presidents of the company who were at the time my internal customers. Unlike in the public sector I was given a lot of autonomy to run the projects department. I, of course, closely coordinated with the heads of the facilities division but felt empowered, and I was expected to succeed.
I currently own and operate a full service mechanical and electrical engineering consultancy and, as it turns out, my major project is the Baha Mar Development resort being undertaken on Cable Beach. Graphite Engineering Ltd. has been selected as the Mechanical and Electrical Engineers of Record for this project.

GB: Why did you choose to work in tourism as a career?

Sonia: I did not choose tourism specifically as a career, but as a consequence of what was available in the economy. An opportunity in tourism presented itself and I was pleased to embrace it. Bahamian engineers continue to be under represented in major tourism projects at the level of design and onwards. This will only change if we continue to build capacity and, when given an opportunity, we provide stellar service.

GB: What has been your most memorable moment?

Sonia: My team was given the opportunity to oversee the renovation of the Crown Ballroom. By dollar value it was the largest project given to our department. It was not a technically challenging assignment but we had a very short time frame to deliver the project, and we were able to get it done.

GB: Has the industry changed since you started your career? How?

Sonia: As it specifically refers to the engineering services in hotels, there have been a myriad of changes because the mechanical and electrical systems that support these buildings, keeping them lit and cool, continue to be more sophisticated.

GB: What should The Bahamas focus on to stay competitive?

Sonia: We are currently sitting on an opportunity to aggressively push sustainable tourism and make this a given for any property in The Bahamas. We should require that our hotels in the first instance be high performance buildings, with excellent carbon footprints. We should be reusing, recycling and cutting waste. If we can do this without hurting our cost competitiveness we would set ourselves apart from the pack and demonstrate that we really care about our country.

GB: What advice would you give to a young person who is considering a career in tourism?

Sonia: Do your homework, literally. There a lot of opportunities very high up in the food chain of these resorts that Bahamians can fill. We must accept the fact that a lot of the developers are multi-national companies and it means we may be competing with international persons for jobs at home. This means we need to get international exposure and experience, and be prepared to function at the top of our game.

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News Article

January 07, 2012
PLP wants answers on Atlantis deal

With ongoing worries in some circles over the recently announced Atlantis ownership change, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) yesterday renewed demands for the government to make public the details of the asset transfer agreement between Brookfield Asset Management and Kerzner International.
The PLP said the government "must immediately come clean to the Bahamian people in the public interest".
In late November, Kerzner International Chairman and CEO Sir Sol Kerzner announced that his company was transferring ownership of Atlantis Resort and the One&Only Ocean Club to Canadian real estate conglomerate Brookfield Asset Management, one of his company's lenders.
Sir Sol also said at the time that he received a commitment from the new owner that staffing and capital investment levels will be maintained.
But the PLP said yesterday that, "With the jobs of more than 7,000 Bahamian employees at stake and with uncertainty among the affected workers, this government's insensitivity and lack of transparency are proof positive that it does not put the well being of Bahamians first -- above their narrow political interests and above special interests."
The PLP called on the government to say whether there are any guarantees in the agreement to protect and preserve those jobs, wages and benefits and if so, what the terms, conditions and duration are of such guarantees.
"The PLP reminds the FNM about its much-touted principles of public life where transparency and accountability were prominently featured," the party's statement said.
"Many Bahamian families are relying on these jobs so it's incumbent upon the government to be seen to be fighting for the rights of and protecting the interests of Bahamians. Our people deserve no less."
Kerzner signed a four-year management contract for Atlantis, a move that ignited concerns among the business community on the long-term health of the biggest private employer in The Bahamas.
This week, Guardian Business noted that the deadline for the transfer of Kerzner International's assets in The Bahamas and Mexico has come and gone.
Brookfield agreed to exchange approximately $175 million of debt for the holdings, which include Atlantis Resort, The One&Only Ocean Club and the One&Only Palmilla in Mexico. The agreement ended months of speculation as Kerzner International sought to restructure $2.6 billion in mortgage debt.
Zhivargo Laing, the state minister of finance, told Guardian Business he was unsure of where the matter stood.
He said he had not been following the matter but expressed confidence that the deal was well in hand.
Ed Fields, the senior vice president of public affairs and retail services at Kerzner International (Bahamas), said the agreement is "moving along as planned".
"The delay is attributable to the time of year and the complexity of the transaction," he told Guardian Business.
Meanwhile, in Toronto, the senior vice president of communications at Brookfield Asset Management, Andrew Willis, insisted "there's nothing out of the ordinary with the process".
"We're working with all parties to close the transaction," he said.
When he spoke in the House of Assembly on the matter in November, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said he had received assurances that the 7,000 jobs Kerzner provides on Paradise Island were secure.

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News Article

April 24, 2013
Hotel union questions 'inability' of resorts to fill positions

A Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) official suggested yesterday that Atlantis and Baha Mar representatives reported challenges in finding Bahamians to fill job vacancies at their resorts in a bid to get the government to sign off on additional work permits.
"I believe they are trying to make a case early, because the first thing an investor will say is, 'We can't find suitable or qualified persons, therefore we need 'x' amount of work permits,'" BCHAWU General Secretary Darren Woods said.
"To say there is a shortage in terms of skilled people - cooks, painters and stewarding personnel - is a concern for us, and I definitely doubt that is accurate because we would have heard that cry from Atlantis as mandated by the industrial agreement."
George Markantonis, president and managing director of Atlantis, said last week that on any given day the mega resort has 300 to 400 vacancies.
Markantonis insisted, "we cannot get people for" many positions the company has advertised online. Those positions include cooks, painters, a kids facility manager, an IT service support manager, a concierge and an assistant director of marine mammals.
According to Kristen Wells, the director of the Baha Mar Academy, the up-and-coming mega resort is "hard pressed" to fill thousands of positions needed by the end of the next year when the resort is slated to open.
She said Baha Mar is faced with traditional shortages in professions like food and beverage, wait staff, restaurant managers, assistant restaurant managers, front and back of house and room supervision.
Woods said Wells' and Markantonis' comments came as a complete surprise. He said many of the 800 or so people Atlantis made redundant in 2008 are still unemployed.
Woods noted the union's industrial agreement dictates that the resort inform the union of job vacancies. The union in turn provides recommendations for suitable candidates.
Last month, Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell told Parliament that in the interest of protecting Bahamian jobs, the government plans to cease issuing work permits for maids, housekeepers and laborers with a year.
Yesterday, he called the disclosures by the two resorts "incredible", particularly as the work permit debate between the private sector and the government escalates.
"That's an incredible thing for an employer to say and so both the government and the private sector have to determine why that is, and see whether those vacancies can be filled," Mitchell responded yesterday.
"I sent a note to the vice president of human resources at...Atlantis, saying this here is a young man sitting before me.
"His qualifications are master's degree in business administration [and a] bachelor's degree in computer technology and you say you have perhaps 600 vacancies.
"Why is this young man not able to get a job at Atlantis? What's the reason?"
Mitchell insisted if there is a Bahamian available for a job, a Bahamian should get that job. He said a work permit is not going to be issued.
Woods said the union is still trying to assist the 140 former Baha Mar workers, who were laid off in February. He said Baha Mar should recognize those Bahamians are "very skilled" long-term workers.
However, in the deeds of release agreement Baha Mar stipulated that those workers are "barred from seeking or obtaining employment with [Baha Mar] during the 18 months following the effective date".
Woods said the union is still negotiating with Baha Mar to have that clause removed. He said the union does not oppose foreigners occupying jobs provided that no Bahamian can fill those jobs.
He added that the union intends to write to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Immigration requesting an investigation into Baha Mar's and Atlantis' claims.

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News Article

November 13, 2012
Minister Rolle Addresses Investment Promotion and High Unemployment

***image
2***Nassau, The Bahamas - Minister of State for
Investments the Hon. Khaalis Rolle, joined a panel of hospitality
leaders November 9, to address prospective investors about current
trends in The Bahamas to create jobs and expand the industry.

The
Caribbean Hotel Investment Conference and Operations Summit was held
November 8- 9 at the Atlantis Resort, where hotel executives gathered to
learn about the 1,000 careers growing in the hospitality and
service-orientation industry

...

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News Article

July 14, 2012
Revival of casino investment

The announcement that Resorts World Genting in partnership with RAV Bahamas, Ltd. will open a 10,000 square foot casino at the Bimini Bay Resort and Marina this December is welcome news. With unemployment hovering around 15 percent and Grand Bahama struggling with unemployment around 21 percent, this investment has near term tangible benefits.
The Bahamas needs a diverse portfolio of hotel accommodations and entertainment, a luxury boutique gaming resort certainly adds to that repertoire. We can thank Atlantis for a grand introduction to the mass tourist market but The Bahamas is much more than Paradise Island, we are a nation of 700 islands and surely the world is ready to see more.
With global press coverage, it begs the question as to who is Resorts World Genting? Resorts World Genting falls under Genting Malaysia Berhad, part of the multinational Genting Group, a consortium of companies and brands with significant market exposure in Asia only recently expanding to the Western Hemisphere.
The Bahamas is right to encourage and invite investment from the Genting Group; Resorts World Genting Resorts knows how to operate world class integrated resorts. World Genting won the World's Leading Casino Resort in 2005, 2007-2010, and Asia's Leading Casino Resort from 2005-2010.
As the prime minister noted, "Their vast customer base, marketing clout, and state-of-the-art operations will have a very positive impact on Bimini Bay Resort and the local economy, creating new construction and permanent operational jobs as well as entrepreneurial opportunities for Bahamians."
The Resorts World Genting brand name cannot be underestimated, the mere announcement of investment in The Bahamas made worldwide headlines thrusting The Bahamas into spotlight. This publicity attracts the attention of potential investors and developers; The Bahamas is open for business.
But there are still questions. Bimini has a population of 2,008 according to preliminary Census 2010 data released by the Department of Statistics. With an estimated 300 new jobs in the immediate future and the potential for additional 700, how will Bimini cope with the rapid increase in population?
Bimini will require substantial infrastructural improvements in the very near term to meet the expectations of the high net-worth individuals it so desperately seeks. Will Bimini's runway be expanded to accommodate larger jets? Will utilities be able to keep up with increased demand as the local and tourist population swell?
Should the casino operate with such predicted success to increase Bimini's economy by 25 percent; Bimini's infrastructure must be ready to handle the success.
And this leads to the definition of success, while predicted to be an economic success, is this a social success? We have gained the investment of an award winning integrated resort group, Genting, and yet, the very center of their investment, a luxury boutique casino touted with windows to display the tranquil beauty of The Bahamas, leaves Bahamians outside looking in? We praise the investment and invite all to enjoy the splendor of our country, but are Bahamians left out?

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News Article

January 26, 2012
The Bahamian Dream II

The hope and expectation of every parent is to produce offspring who attain higher levels of success than they did.  The genuine desire of each generation should be one that is built around the attainment of higher heights and charting of new territories by successive generations.
The Bahamian Dream was born out of dissatisfaction with a substandard life and discomfort with the status quo.  It is one of deep aspiration, a cherished desire, unique ambition and daring vision of a Bahamas in which the average Bahamian can be all that he/she hopes to be.  It is a dream embedded in the minds of our forefathers and defined by the achievement of feats unimaginable in that era, but conceived in the hearts of our founding fathers.  This dream peaks at the juncture where Bahamians hold their destinies in their own hands and their strength lies in their unity, fortitude and beliefs.
It has afforded Bahamians like myself, born in Farm Road to parents who formed part of the working class at the time, educated in Bain and Grants Town at the Willard Patton Primary and C.R. Walker Secondary schools with opportunities to receive tertiary level education, command decent salaries and become homeowners.  The pursuit of this dream has also encouraged some of us to take risks and become entrepreneurs in spite of the challenges associated with such endeavours - a sacrifice made willingly to provide a better way of life for our children and generations yet unborn.  However, as impressive as this may sound, reality dictates that far too many Bahamians, particularly of my generation, have yet to claim the same testimony.
It appears that the Bahamian Dream is met by roadblocks due to an inability to foster ownership of the economy by a wide cross-sector of Bahamians.  This is 'the tragedy of the shrinking middle-class and select upper class' that characterizes the 21st century Bahamas and threatens the very essence and crux of the dream.  There is the accepted fact that there are more educated Bahamians up to post-graduate levels today than there were before, as well as more Bahamian entrepreneurs.  In addition, we acknowledge that The Bahamas has the third highest per capita income in the Western Hemisphere and it can be argued that we enjoy a decent standard of living as a result.  However, one may ask the following questions: Why aren't we satisfied?  What more do we want?  The reality is that as a people collectively, we are yet to lay hold of the entire dream.  There is still much more to be achieved, more grounds to cover and we owe it to ourselves and future generations not to stop until we have done so.  The dream encourages us not to become complacent or lackadaisical, but to continue pressing until we have witnessed widespread prosperity.  To many this is a utopian outlook and nearly impossible, but I belong to the more optimistic crew of believers who dare to believe that it is possible and at the least, we should attempt to make it possible.
 
Banks and the government
The global economic crisis is real and has impacted us severely.  Atlantis, the country's largest private employer which has created thousands of jobs for Bahamians and effectively improved the standard of living and quality of life for many, has been plagued with rumors of possible defaults on their obligations which can place thousands of jobs at risk.  There is a rising concern that the inability to bring this matter to a quick resolve can have a negative impact on an already depressed Bahamian economy.  The inability of successive governments to diversify the economy and reduce our vulnerability and dependency on employment by foreign employers has contributed to the catastrophic position that we find ourselves in today.  A robust small-medium sized business sector would have safeguarded to some extent against such possible misfortunes.  We are still waiting on the government to pass legislation concerning SMEs and it is unclear why such an important piece of legislation has not been enacted to date.  In the same manner that we passed vital legislation to save the turtles and the sharks almost overnight to preserve our marine resources, the passage of legislation to make Bahamians more self-sufficient should have been met with equivalent and perhaps more priority.
It is challenging for today's Bahamians to become entrepreneurs being faced with start-up costs that many of them are unable to meet.  There are insufficient venture capital funds to provide access to seed money and there are limited alternative sources of funding.  Bahamians complain regularly that financial institutions won't lend them money to start a business, but instead are quick to provide funds to finance the purchase of vehicles, vacations, grocery, furniture, etc.  If this is in fact true and the facts suggest that it is, why do they continue to enjoy our patronage?  After all, they have made millions and billions of dollars which some of them have expatriated back to their home countries or issued in dividends.  We must come together to demand more from these institutions and in the mean time patronize the financial institutions, banks, co-operatives and credit unions that will assist us in achieving the Bahamian Dream and provide more attractive rates and offers based upon the credit risk posed to each customer.  The power rests with the people and this power should be activated to make this dream a reality.
 
Empowering Bahamians
In recent times, the government has made several moves that will delay the economic advancement of the average Bahamian and defer the attainment of the Bahamian Dream.  In addition to the questionable levels of borrowing, the country's fiscal position forced the government to carry out what was viewed by many as a fire sale of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC).  The firm was sold to foreigners reportedly under value and the bidding process appears to have been tainted.  A Bureau of Public Enterprise should have been formed to oversee the privatization process to ensure transparency in the bidding process and lack of political interference by politicians who are primarily concerned about the electorate's and/or special interests' concerns.  It is worth considering the approach adopted by the U.K. in privatizing its equivalent of BTC about three decades ago.  In 1981, then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's government announced that her government would be privatizing British Telecommunications (BT), which held the monopoly on telecommunication and informed the public of a program to phase in liberalization of the market prior to the sale.  The irony of this transaction from a Bahamian perspective was that Cable & Wireless, who bought BTC, was the first firm to offer alternative telephone service and receive an operating license through their subsidiary Mercury Communications in this newly liberalized market.  In 1984, legislation was passed empowering the state to sell BT.  In the same year, up to 51 percent of BT shares were sold to "British" private investors.  Legislation was also enacted that enabled BT to be in a position to succeed in the midst of an already established local competition by allowing BT to form joint ventures, expand globally and manufacture its own apparatus.  The remaining government shares were eventually sold in 1991 and 1993.
What Thatcher effectively did was expand the middle class and create wealth for hundreds of thousands of Britons through liberalization and eventual privatization.  Contrasting the U.K.'s approach to the government's modus operandi in choosing to sell to foreigners, one wonders whether the government is a proponent of the Bahamian Dream or whether it has a vision for its people.  It is little wonder that we are faced today with a tragedy of the shrinking middle class and select upper class.
If we are to empower Bahamians in the 21st century Bahamas, creating jobs alone from foreign direct investments and empowering a handful of Bahamians is not the course of action to be taken.  Bahamians need a government in place that is sensitive to the needs of its people at large.  Sir Clifford Darling, Sir Randol Fawkes, Sir Milo Butler, Sir Lynden Pindling and Arthur D. Hanna, among others are men who were radicals of their time, understood the needs of the people and fought for majority rule.  They denied themselves and swallowed their pride to meet those needs.  That is why, more than half a century later, they are still loved by many Bahamians.  We cannot allow our progress in advancing economically to be retarded.
This generation and future generations will not be satisfied with just a job in the civil service, hotels or banks, which are not owned by Bahamians.  An economy dominated by job seekers, as opposed to job creators, will not experience the rebuilding or expansion of the middle class.  The lack of ownership within The Bahamas' economy by a broad spectrum of Bahamians fosters job insecurity and impedes the chance for a better way of life thereby choking the Bahamian Dream.
 
Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed to arinthia.komolafe@komolafelaw.com.

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News Article

September 30, 2013
Nation for sale, pt.3

"The social object of skilled investment should be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance, which envelop our future."- John Maynard Keynes
In part one of the "Nation for Sale" series, we questioned whether The Bahamas has become a nation for sale to the highest or best positioned foreign bidders. In part two, we considered the legacies of our prime ministers, past and present, to determine whether by their policies regarding foreign investors, we have been and continue to be a nation for sale. This week, we would like to Consider This... do we need to urgently adopt a modern, progressive investment policy for the 21st century if we are going to finally realize the dream of empowering Bahamians in a more meaningful way?
The anchor project template
In his first term as prime minister, Perry Christie accentuated the benefits of his government's anchor project policy. The plan was to have a substantial investment, anchored on each major island of The Bahamas with the tripartite objective of (1) expanding the economic activity on that island, (2) encouraging residents to stay there instead of migrating to islands where greater employment opportunities existed and (3) encouraging persons who had left their island to return because of the jobs and other economic prospects that would be created by such anchor projects.
The government felt that anchor projects could be achieved by offering foreign investors large tracts of Crown land for which, in some cases, the government would receive an equity position in the project. The thinking was that the government would provide the land for the investment, and the foreign investor would offer shares to the government. The application of this policy would conceptually present a mutually beneficial result, and, in the fullness of time, there would be cumulative benefits to our citizens. Few would challenge the rationale of such a policy, but there were some unanswered questions.
A more progressive variant of this approach would entail a government policy that ensures that the residents of the island on which the anchor project is situated receive concessions for the ancillary Bahamian-owned enterprises that will inevitably flow from such anchor projects. Hence, local entrepreneurs would know that the government policy would ensure that the businesses related to the primary investment, including transportation, watersports, artists and artisans, restaurants, night clubs, laundry facilities and other related services that would spin off from the primary investment, would be available only to them. It is not enough for a government to focus only on the primary anchor investor; it is equally important to engage urban planners, architects, environmentalists and others to ensure that a holistic approach to development is undertaken from start to finish.
Granting concessions
Another enticement to foreign investors is the granting of concessions by the government, usually in the form of financial benefits, including, for example, a tax holiday for a certain period of time. Perhaps the "mother of all concessions" was that granted to the Grand Bahama Port Authority, which to this day is the beneficiary of enormous tax and other advantages. Similarly, the hundreds of millions of dollars granted to Kerzner International were as breathtaking as they were mind-boggling for a company that landed on our shores only with the promise of raising the sunken city of Atlantis from the ashes of a dated, lackluster and tired property that had changed ownership several times in a single decade.
The granting of concessions is a practical tool used by governments the world over as an inducement to foreign investment. However, the larger consideration is whether the country is really getting value for the concessions that it bestows on foreign investors and, if so, to what extent? The answer to the question is that we really don't know.
The reality of this approach is that the foreign investor wins coming and going. They benefit by having considerable taxes waived, often for lengthy periods of time, with the justification that they create jobs, which is a noble objective. But they also win by not being required to pay any taxes when they repatriate the profits that they earn in The Bahamas.
If we are going to be more discerning in our approach to foreign direct investment, we need to be able to better quantify the benefits that accrue to the country before we offer and grant concessions to such investors. The simplistic and politically expedient approach to obtaining jobs in return for concessions is no longer enough. While this template might have worked in the past, this model fosters a country of servile workers who own little or nothing, who are not empowered through ownership and whose only benefit is a salary at the end of the week or month. In addition, it is long overdue to seriously consider imposing a withholding tax on repatriated profits that are earned here. Otherwise, the investor benefits both ways, at our expense.
Just as we openly welcome foreign investors here, we should consider what kind of concessions would enhance our own citizens' chances for success, and we should grant them to those Bahamian enterprises that satisfy certain threshold parameters.
The long-term development needs of our country
It becomes increasingly obvious and immediately important that we need to have a long-term plan for our country. It is imprudent for successive governments to approach governance of a small country such as ours without more clearly defined and generally agreed upon approaches to national goals and objectives, such as what we want The Bahamas to be and a time frame for achieving those objectives. It is virtually impossible to grow our country in the short term without a clearly defined long-term horizon as to the nature of investments that will benefit our country.
Every Bahamian is an investor
We often hear about the plethora of consultants who are constantly hired by the government, often where there are qualified Bahamians to perform contracted assignments. We need a renewed commitment to Bahamianization regarding consultants engaged by the government. Bahamians are alienated and disconnected from their government for several legitimate reasons, one of which is the absence of a deliberate determination to ensure that, wherever possible, Bahamians are provided the first opportunity to participate in the engagements that successive governments hasten to distribute to foreign consultants - another symptom of a nation for sale.
Furthermore, if the government is thinking about privatizing our national assets, Bahamians should be afforded the first opportunity to invest in such privatization exercises, and be seriously considered for the opportunities that we love to bestow on foreigners - yet another clear example of selling our patrimony.
Therefore, when foreign investors come knocking at our doors, an enlightened and progressive government would advise that such investors are expected to either (1) find Bahamian business partners with whom to invest or (2) offer shares in their enterprises to the Bahamian public, or even better, both of the above. Other countries do it. Why shouldn't we?
Conclusion
The time has come for our political leaders to understand that they will be judged not only by the jobs that they create, but now also by the Bahamian owners in our economy who they facilitate. Bahamians are tired of successive governments giving away our land and economic opportunities to foreigners, at our expense. If we do not radically alter our thinking about ownership and greater participation in our economy, we will be thrown back into a new form of slavery, once again being nothing more than servile workers whose patrimony has been pillaged and whose bodies and minds have been enslaved.
Properly formulated and adeptly executed, Christie's legacy could entail an administration whose primary objective is one of Bahamian economic empowerment. It is now time for a reversal of a policy, which for too long has had at its core a subliminal message that we are a nation for sale. It is now time for the establishment of an economic culture that is inclusive and beneficial to all who call The Bahamas home and who wish to build our nation for generations yet unborn.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com

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News Article

January 18, 2012
Defending the indefensible

Dear Editor,

During the mid-1980s, Michael Jordan played professional basketball for the Chicago Bulls.  His first six years were marred with many individual accolades, but no championship rings.  Jordan was the subject of a whirlwind of criticism because he could not bring home the championship trophy, and rightly so.
Coaches were fired and new players were brought in until at last, in 1990, the Bulls defeated the Los Angeles Lakers to win their first ever NBA Championship.  Deservedly so, the Bulls remained one of the hottest NBA tickets for a number of years.  They played staggering defense, had a great offense and played team basketball.  They were the epitome of a great basketball team and the city of Chicago and the NBA reaped the rewards.
From 2002-2007, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) brought continuing growth to the Bahamian economy.  Our tourism product was doing very well and I know personally of persons who had two jobs.  The PLP commercialized their success through press conferences, press releases and print media, albeit their campaign was ineffective.  The PLP also had a few major scandals which many Bahamians believed were not effectively dealt with by Perry Christie.  Many Bahamians believe that his indecision vastly contributed to the PLP's lost in 2007.  It has also come to light that Christie allowed the Bahamian assets in Atlantis to be used as collateral for Sir Sol Kerzner's ambitious investment campaign oversees.   Christie should be given credit for the good progress that the economy made during this time and he should also be given credit for the bad decisions that he made during his tenure.
In 1992, Hubert Ingraham ushered in a new chapter in Bahamian history.  He opened the airwaves - a move that I believe has deepened the democracy in The Bahamas.  He completed the deal for Atlantis to begin business operation on Paradise Island - a single move that I believe has positively contributed to the stability of The Bahamas for the last 18 years.
Since 2007, The Bahamas has seen major infrastructural work.  We have seen the completion of the straw market, the ongoing work at Lynden Pindling International Airport, the completion of the Milo Butler Highway, the completion of a new court complex on Nassau Street, the commencement of the Baha Mar project and the reconstruction of underground water mains and the paving of new roads in New Providence.  Ingraham and his Cabinet are to be given credit for these capital works, but be reminded that all governments have the responsibility to build infrastructure.
Additionally, since 2007, The Bahamas has seen four murder records in five years.  We have seen major spikes in unemployment and unemployment, rape, armed robbery and several scandals involving missing or unaccounted funds at several government ministries.  We have also seen mismanagement on major projects and a soaring national debt.  Who can forget the scandal at the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA)?
My point is that just as Ingraham, Christie and their Cabinets receive praises for the good that they have done, they must also share in the items gone wrong.  This applies to all past and future governments.  You can't have it both ways.
When Jordan was losing, he was blamed.  When he started to win, he was known as the catalyst for their victories.  There is no difference with our present government and it will be no different with future governments.  A spade will always be a spade. Let's evaluate our government's performance as it unfolds and call it as we truly see it; put our love for party aside and try to see issues from a nationalistic perspective.
There is no need to 'pretty up' our commentary.  There is no advantage to be gained for covering up known facts and telling untruths.  Bahamians need to stop trying to defend the indefensible, especially when the facts exist to prove otherwise.
 
- Dehavilland Moss

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News Article

September 16, 2011
Saunders: Bahamians must expand horizons

Young people in The Bahamas must hold their heads high and expand their horizons if they want to survive in difficult financial times, said Donald Saunders, the Deputy Secretary General, attorney and former FNM candidate.
He felt the recent City Market closures was an example of why Bahamians should educate themselves, remain flexible and always be on the look out for new and unusual opportunities.
"Yes, the country, along with most of the world, is suffering to some extent," the told Guardian Business.
"But this is an opportunity to achieve better skills and look to jobs of the future.  I think we really need to train Bahamians in new areas.
"People should be prepared to retool themselves from an educational or training perspective."
Saunders said Bahamians often focus on the core industries, including tourism and financial services.
But technology, farming and other less conventional professions must also be considered.
Although he admitted the economy was undergoing difficult times, Saunders added that the government was doing a reasonable job keeping employment at an acceptable level.
He pointed to various programs and projects supported by the government, which have provided thousands of opportunities for Bahamians.
Baha Mar, for example, the multi-billion-dollar development in Cable Beach, has so far employed more than 1,000 locals.
"We talk about the Chinese and other foreigners," he said, "but we should take the opportunity to ensure we have Bahamians employed at these facilities and [are] really learning from these foreign workers so we don't have to depend on them as much.  Upgrading your skills is very important."
Saunders felt Atlantis would continue to generate jobs through upcoming projects and repairs to the site.
Work being done to the magistrate court building and the supreme court in downtown Nassau, along with the current road works project, are also keeping Bahamians employed.
But in particular, Saunders highlighted the importance of the Job Readiness and Training Initiative, which Hubert Ingraham, the Prime Minister, kicked off this month.  Hundreds of Bahamians were inducted into the program as the first class - 400 participants from New Providence, and 240 from Grand Bahama.
The $25 million program includes 52 weeks of job placement and two weeks of orientation.  Thousands are expected to go through the initiative over the next several years.
"When the economy does take a turn for the better, they will be in a position to take full advantage of that," Saunders explained.  "I do think we have to encourage young people to look at new areas of employment."
And despite the hard times, he pointed out that the government, unlike other countries in the region, has not cut any essential services.
"As a young Bahamian in the professional world, and especially as an attorney for major bank institutions, I often see the affects of the downturn on the economy and general public. In my view, the government is doing a fairly good job in how it is dealing with the economy and how they are sustaining it," he said.

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