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During the election campaign both major parties committed to long-term national planning. Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham promoted Jubilee Bahamas, a 10-year national planning process leading to the 2023 independence jubilee. Given his record, such a planning exercise would have been conducted extending the plans and accomplishments of his former administrations.
As it did with a number of other policy matters, the PLP followed suit, adding a twist: It promised a 30-year plan. Notwithstanding this copycat, and that 30-year plans tend to make little sense in terms of realistic planning, it remains dubious that the incumbent government will, given its past, fulfil its pledge.
But long-term planning going forward is critical, and not just because such planning is perennially essential. We are, today, in the midst of some of the more dramatic structural changes facing the country post-independence.
These changes are varied and complex. They include globalization, urbanization, economic and political modernization, and the interrelated demands of energy security and a complex of environmental issues.
These meta-challenges are occurring amidst, and are part and parcel of a combination of a deep cyclical "financial crisis-based recession" and a variety of structural changes sweeping the globe.
The better news, if we can call it that, is that we may experience a series of rolling recessions lasting the remainder of this decade, and related structural challenges stretching into the future, all resulting in widespread economic and social dislocation. The bad news is that much of the world economy can falter into a depression.
This is the global context of which any national planning must take full measure. While many more Bahamians suspect that we are entering a new normal, constituting a daily struggle to make ends meet and persistent anxiety about the future, many may not realize the nature, scope and depth of the challenges we face.
We are not solely experiencing the typical cyclical recession of which Bahamians of a certain age remember, and which usually lasted for a relatively short period. The turnaround in some tourism indicators should not obscure our deep-seated challenges.
The structural changes with which we are faced are wide-scale. Some of them have been partially discussed and hinted at by political and financial leaders. But the broader scope of these challenges is not fully appreciated by many politicians, business people, academics or journalists.
In turn, these opinion leaders have failed to articulate anything approaching the breadth of our challenges, much less the fundamental changes to our way of life they will bring about.
So, even while an increasing number of Bahamians sense that we are entering a new world, they may not yet appreciate what responding to that new world will entail on numerous fronts. The unprecedented level of change will be staggering.
Communicating the reasons why and responding to such change will not be easy for the political class, especially those still pandering to the mindsets of yesteryear even as events outstrip the make-believe they seek to pass off as reality.
Take something like a value-added tax (VAT) which the Christie administration has discussed introducing. Such a tax seems imperative in light of our accession to the World Trade Organization and desperately-needed state revenues.
But how does a government introduce such a tax to a populace used to taxes hidden in plain sight but unaccustomed to a tax measure like VAT? How does one sell the need for such a tax change to a high consumption society, inclusive of an often brand-name and status-obsessed middle class that has an entitlement mentality when it comes to what is demanded of government?
Tax reform is only the beginning. There are other potentially wrenching reforms on the horizon if The Bahamas is not to fall behind - way behind, on various fronts.
Globalization, not the fact of, but the nature and imperatives of change across the continents will have far-reaching implications. Think of the fundamental changes in our financial services sector wrought by advanced economies, and the fight over the privatization of BTC. Now multiply these many fold, and one gets a sense of what is on the horizon.
Changes like global aging, the shift in China's growth model to greater domestic consumption, and fundamental socio-economic and political changes from the U.S., Europe and Latin America to Asia and the Pacific will pose opportunities and challenges to the way the nation and government conduct its business, and the business of business.
In subsequent columns the challenges of urbanization and the attendant issues of crime and socialization will again be explored. Political modernization concerns the reform and modernization of the role and functions of government, including the level of public sector employment, and the privatization and monetizing of public services.
Economic modernization concerns far-reaching technological changes and the development of human capital in areas such as education, training and innovation, as well as the sustainable provision of social goods such as healthcare.
One burning question is how much the state can afford in terms of social welfare, and who pays for it. The Christie administration will soon face this question as it has promised comprehensive National Health Insurance. The pressures on the government will be immense from insurance companies to healthcare providers to those who may foot the bill for NHI.
The administration also faces its gargantuan promise of doubling investment in national education. Finding the resources alone will be a monumental task. But as importantly, what is the PLP's vision of education reform?
Thus far, we have heard mostly platitudes and generalities. To truly reform public education will require considerable improvement in the quality of teaching. There is no route to improving student performance without overhauling the manner in which we hire and evaluate teachers inclusive of issues of tenure and testing.
If we fail to get the human capital equation right, especially in areas like education training and innovation, our other public investments will account only for so much in terms of productivity and competition. In the area of training, our efforts should be targeted, consistent and practical, not wild-eyed about what may be possible given various cultural and sociological realities.
Also in terms of sociology, our great challenge in the area of human capital is building the capacity of scores of unemployed young people now facing formidable difficulties in terms of employment and the world of work. As critical, is the basic human development, education and training of young males, the source of both great economic potential and major crime.
And then there is the challenge of energy security amidst ever escalating energy costs which is vexing homeowners, businesses and the competitiveness of tourism and other industries.
The upcoming Rio+20 Summit, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, will again highlight the complexity of global environmental challenges including that of climate change.
At home, from ocean acidification to rising sea levels to biodiversity, we are faced with environmental challenges that are more than structural. They are elemental to our survival. In the question of drilling for oil in The Bahamas, the issues of environment and profit collide.
While we are all faced with these challenges, the ability of our political and business leaders to understand, navigate and communicate the new world and the new Bahamas we are facing will be pivotal.
When China shifted towards capitalism and Singapore transformed itself into an economic powerhouse, it was the collective insight and dynamism of its political, business and academic elites who made these countries cutting-edge economies. Though a smaller country we are faced with the same imperative. Are we, and our elites, up to the challenge?
Bahamas Supermarkets Limited (BSL), the former parent company of the City Market supermarket chain, is facing legal action yet again, Guardian Business can confirm.
Devard Francis, the attorney representing the Royal Bahamas Police Staff Association (RBPSA), confirmed yesterday that his firm LaRoda, Francis and Co. has filed a default judgment against BSL for failure to pay the rest of the funds owed to the RBPSA and is now waiting to secure a court date.
He shared with Guardian Business that RBPSA members have been patiently waiting for the owed monies, and have now reached their breaking point.
The RBPSA alleged earlier this year that BSL had an outstanding balance of more than $80,000 for unpaid services rendered by association members last year. A writ was then filed against BSL in the Supreme Court, claiming the company owes officers $81,321.50.
"Sometime in 2011, the plaintiff (RBPSA) and defendant (BSL) entered into a written agreement whereby the defendant hired the services of the plaintiff to secure its five New Providence store locations and three Grand Bahama locations during its hours of operation," the writ stated.
Devard Francis subsequently told Guardian Business that a deal had been brokered and therefore the lawsuit against BSL was dropped.
At that time, Francis revealed to Guardian Business that an amicable settlement was made between the two parties, though he refused to disclose the conditions.
He further shared that full payment would be given to the association first, and then distributed to the officers.
Sgt. Darrell Weir, RBPSA's executive chairman, said to Guardian Business yesterday the association is becoming increasingly frustrated, as the services were rendered nearly one year ago.
Weir disclosed that BSL has an outstanding balance of more than $35,000.
"The officers are constantly complaining that they have not received their monies as yet. We're going into almost a year since the service has been rendered. One lump sum has been made, but none since then," he noted.
"The officers need their money because they rendered a service. The members of the police staff association want their money. A fair day's pay for a fair day's work."
BSL President Mark Finlayson had allegedly promised the outstanding balance would be paid in full last month.
"We have been trying to negotiate payments and have been working feverishly towards it but to date, we have only received a partial payment of that particular sum. They have reached their breaking point, being more than patient, as the sum is still outstanding for officers in Nassau and Freeport," according to Francis.
"Our firm intends to secure a date with the court to assess damages as we have already filed a default judgment."
The attorney shared with Guardian Business that he expects a court date to be given within the next two weeks.
Expressing "strong reservations" about the second and fourth constitutional amendment bills, Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins yesterday resigned as government whip.The role of the whip is to make sure that the votes are there in support of the government's legislative agenda."I have read the letter and I accept it because that is the right thing for him to do," Prime Minister Perry Christie said in the House of Assembly yesterday."When you take positions that are directed as part of personal exchanges for a whip then you make your position untenable with respect to that position. He understood that. He understood it from the day he met with us. "He volunteered it, and so therefore I am satisfied, Mr. Speaker, that he did the right thing and I accept it."Christie suggested that no matter how a member differs with his party's position there should be a certain temperament to how those differences are expressed.He insisted, "No member of this House has to my knowledge been threatened or bullied or coerced into supporting these bills." In his letter to the prime minister, Rollins said, "While I have maintained the view that within the context of our practice of the Westminster system of government, the role of the whip is ordinarily of very little import in the passage of legislation, where the realities are that the executive comprises 50 percent of the membership of the lower House, that role is, however, consequential when it comes to any attempts at passing legislation enabling constitutional change, where three quarters of the lower House's support is a prerequisite."Rollins said he cannot support the two bills "without further clarity and/or amendments".Bill two seeks to enable a Bahamian woman who marries a foreign man to pass on her Bahamian citizenship to him. Bill four seeks to make it unconstitutional for any law or any person acting in the performance of any public office to discriminate based on sex.
Christie addressed the matter of Rollins' resignation as he wrapped up debate on the controversial bills. The bills were sent to a committee of the House.The prime minister also denied a claim Rollins made in the House last week that orders are given to "politically destroy" members of Parliament when they express any views that differ from the government.Rollins also blasted the Christie administration for using young politicians as "tokens" to help win the election. He said the PLP is not open to independent thinkers."When we stand to our feet and we speak in a fashion that appears to be contrary to that of the party line, there are those who give orders to politically destroy and do damage to that individual for no reason other than that they espouse independent views," said Rollins as he contributed to debate on the constitutional bills in the House of Assembly last Wednesday.Rollins said he and other young politicians were used to help the Progressive Liberal Party win the election and then cast aside after the party achieved its objective."Mr. Speaker, we were all as young aspiring politicians given an opportunity to offer ourselves for elected office," he said."We were told that we represent a new generation of politicians, people who would cross the bridge laid by the Right Honorable Member for Centreville (Perry Christie) and carry our people further into the promise land."We were given an opportunity to espouse our independent views. We were told that we could be who we are, that we were people of value who had something to contribute. "But when we were elected -- and this appears to be something that is consistent with all major political parties, I'm not singling out the PLP -- when you go contrary to party lines you are assaulted, figuratively and sometimes literally."The prime minister dismissed these assertions as untruths."There is nobody in this country who could say that the word came down from the leader that they had to vote in a certain way, they had to behave in a certain way," Christie said.
"I don't conduct myself like that. "There was no coercion whatsoever to anyone to tow the party line. In point of fact, because the predicate of success in any kind of vote is unanimity, I recognize there were persons on the side that I belong to who had genuine concern as a result of their interpretation of the law."Christie said this is why he met with these members. "That was an important intervention to me so that I know that when they decide to do whatever they will do they and me understand that they appreciate the consequences political of their decision," the prime minister said."Happily for me both of the parties who attended, Marco City (Greg Moss) and Fort Charlotte (Rollins), are both intelligent men. "And both of them in terms of their own independent spirit and mind and thinking were clearly aware of the consequences because the member for Fort Charlotte then indicated that he was not comfortable with some of the positions he was taking knowing that he was the party whip. "He was full and frank in his position on the matter and today he decided to resign as party whip."
Last week, Rollins also raised the matter of the late PLP parliamentarian Edmund Moxey, who was recently buried.Rollins suggested thar Moxey was victimized because he too was an independent thinker.
But Christie took exception to this."There is no one in The Bahamas who can speak to my relationship with Ed Moxey and that's a relationship that began probably before the member for Fort Charlotte was born, and there is no one in this country that could point to anyone in this Parliament and say they had anything to do with victimizing or discrimination against Ed Moxey, and I want them to look at the members in this Parliament," the prime minister said.He added that Moxey in his final days wrote that he wanted the country to move on from any matters related to his past."I actually said at the service I was going to request the speaker to read it into the record of the House because it was an uplifting account of a man who himself felt he may have been battered by the forces in public life, but he said the country must come together, put that behind it and move on, and he believed that he was living at a time where he was giving witness to the fact that those who were in government today would have no interest in pursuing what he perceived to be the kinds of attacks that he experienced. "So he himself had moved on beyond the words that were intended to divide and that would have caused pain on this side of the House."
The terminology "commoners" is often construed to refer to a wide ranging social division of regular people who are members of neither the perceived noble or religious classes. It is no news, therefore, that in any society the so-called commoners comprise the majority of the electorate and countries' populations. Logic leads us to a conclusion therefore that the power rests with the commoners in any society and The Bahamas is not an exception.
On May 7, 2012, the Bahamian people for the eleventh time since 1967 went to the polls and voted into power the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and ousted the governing Free National Movement (FNM). This victory represents the eighth of its kind for the PLP since 1967 which governed for 25 consecutive years under the late Sir Lynden O. Pindling until its first defeat by the FNM in the 1992 general election. This is compared to the FNM's three terms of governance and 15 non-consecutive years under the leadership of Hubert A. Ingraham.
The commoners of The Bahamas from year to year have made these decisions presumably based on their convictions and political persuasions to determine the party they wish to govern the country. Further, it is interesting to note that recent elections evidence a divided electorate who has failed to give administrations a clear majority as it relates to the popular vote.
The class divide
The fact that incumbent governments have been voted out of office in the last three general elections appears to be a testament that within a democracy, true power rests with the people - the commoners. It is noteworthy to state that the term democracy comes from the Greek word "demokratia" which means rule of the people. In spite of this well-documented and proven power of the people, a school of thought suggests that democracy is just an illusion which sells an idea to the masses that they have the power to elect individuals of their choice to high office. The proponents of this school argue that the undeniable truth is that power ultimately rests in the hands of a small elite group.
The reality within the context of The Bahamas is that local aristocracies, oligarchies and political dynasties abound regardless of which political party is in power. As can be expected, the interests and sometimes greed of a small and select few outweigh the interests of the common man. This is indeed the tragedy of the Bahamian commoners who supposedly have the power and should control their destinies. Official oppositions from one political cycle to another, it seems, only fight against the government of the day and most of such government's policies not necessarily because they have the interest of the people at heart, but primarily because power has slipped away from them even if only for a fleeting moment. Their motivation seems to be driven by a reduced status in society either socially, professionally or politically and a deflated ego.
The dilemma of the common man within the Bahamian democratic framework is that the major political parties have been successful in creating an effective divide in Bahamian politics either through oppression or manipulation. A certain class of Bahamians are oppressed either because of political persuasion or social and economic background. Meanwhile, there are those who are manipulated to suit the needs of the elite ruling class. The end result is that the masses remain divided and fight at the lower end to support their respective parties at any cost while the select few wine, dine and enrich themselves. In the midst of the division, the commoners' lives are not necessarily improved by the governments and politicians they have hired. The elite who "call the shots" always maintain their drive, focus and unity to maintain power both politically and economically while the victims left holding the bag almost always are the masses.
It is rather unfortunate that a select few have convinced themselves that the governing class of The Bahamas is a "members only" club with entry requirements not based solely on merit, qualification and patriotism. The small elite have resorted to treating The Bahamas like a private company - they sit as the directors and preference shareholders while the masses who are the common shareholders sit back and accept their dictates. As a result, governance is reserved for the chosen few who are considered worthy, thereby perpetuating the prosperity and expansion of established political dynasties and special interest groups. In order to achieve this objective, they seek to manipulate the electorate by keeping voters uninformed about many political and economic issues to ensure that emotionalism and sensationalism determine the outcome of elections.
The commoners must demand what is theirs
Last week the Bahamian people mourned the death of the late William Cartwright. Cartwright was one of the three founding members of the PLP along with the late Cyril Stevenson and the late Sir Henry Taylor. The party, which is the oldest party on Bahamian record, was formed in 1953 by the gentlemen during a time when it was unpopular to stand up against the ruling oligarchy. The overall platform of the PLP was to erase social, economic and racial inequality for all Bahamians regardless of their class or status. Today, both the PLP and the FNM have members who are either founding members of those respective parties or who are second or third generation descendants of founding members and those who fought in favor of the PLP's founding philosophy. Unfortunately, it is sad to note that both these parties have become guilty of the same evil that they fought against decades ago to bring so-called liberation to the masses.
The power that the masses possess in choosing the people that govern them ultimately vests power in the government. The power vested in the government and leaders it seems fair should then be exercised for the benefit and betterment of the commoners. However, it is sad that questions remain as to the identity and location of the champions of the commoners today. The average Bahamian who is classed among commoners has been taught by the actions of successive governments not to aspire for higher office or leadership within his/her own country. Appointments are made for the most part along party lines and from the elite as opposed to choosing from the pool of talented, intelligent and skilful Bahamians across the archipelago.
The time has come for the commoners to fully appreciate the extent of the power they possess. After all the common shareholders can vote in, vote out or re-elect individuals to the board to govern the affairs of what is deemed "Bahamas Ltd". The commoners need not accept this tragedy that has been assigned to them and must flip the script demanding what is rightfully theirs as owners of our Bahamaland.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nearly all of the available properties of the $34 million Turnberry Townhomes development have been sold, despite the challenges faced by the economy during the project's developmental stages.
All 257 lots have been purchased and 70 of the 80 townhomes are now occupied, with a steady sales increase over time, even during the recessionary period, making the real estate investment a success. Principal behind the project David Bronstein said the decision to follow through with or without a guarantee of sales is now paying off.
"I think we are one of the few developments started within the past five years that has come to a successful completion," Bronstein said. "For us to succeed as we have in this economy proves to me that a market always exists for a quality product, if you work smart and deliver creative marketing within the confines of the current conditions."
The Turnberry community, combined with Charlotteville, total 257 lots and 80 townhomes and feature a number of amenities in the gated complex. The ground was broken on the development in 2006 and construction commenced the following year. It took 42 weeks to build 40 structures. Bronstein mentioned that a partnership formed with longtime friend Dana Wells and the Fidelity Group was key in bringing the project to life and enabled it to stay on track.
"Over the five-year period investors and investor groups looking for a return and a safe place for their money also bought the townhomes," he said.
"The partnership enabled us to control costs and find economies of scale by building all 80 units at one time. Then we handed the marketing over to an expert."
Owner of Bahama Islands Realty Carmen Massoni utilized a sales pitch that focused on the cost and energy efficiency of the units.
"We know this business very well and recognized the value of the Turnberry package," Massoni said. "Our marketing message was consistent: The convenience of a western location; the lifestyle amenities of the townhomes at Turnberry within Charlotteville; the solid, well-constructed, low maintenance homes, and a built-in community and family lifestyle that would appreciate in value in the short and long-term."
Massoni added that middle-to-upper income Bahamians showed interest in the properties. Bronstein added that all parties involved with Turnberry are winners.
"All are rented for the long term to primarily corporate Bahamas," he said. We're pleased with the outcome; it's a sweet deal for everyone."
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) ran a magnificent electoral campaign. The gold rush worked and the Christie administration is back for the second time. The majority of the people of this nation, regardless of the numerical spin being placed by the vanquished Free National Movement (FNM), supported the big gold dream. What is that dream and how will it come into reality?
Many Bahamians had gotten tired of the antics and gyrations of the former prime minister, who, apparently, has yet to come to terms with the electoral decimation of the party which he led down the proverbial garden path. When he bogusly declared that he was a "one-man band" the scales fell from the eyes of countless right-thinking Bahamians. His uncouth dismissal of Dame Marguerite Pindling, on a public platform, was the icing on the cake, so to speak.
I used to love Hubert Alexander Ingraham with a passion akin to hero worship. There was little that I would have not done to advance his political agenda. It was only after I realize that he was not checking for me, on a personal and professional level, that I decided, reluctantly, to abandon him. Too many of us cling to people who may not have our best interest at heart because of false loyalty and tradition.
The first two terms were progressive. The third term was indicative of a man who had come to see himself, I submit, as a master and a demi-god. Bahamians, it has been opined, love a strong leader but we do not love a leader who wears his perceived authority on his shoulders. The PLP, to its credit, has sold the big gold dream to the nation, hook, line and sinker. It must now stand and deliver.
The introduction of a form of national healthcare and the timely implementation of a workable and sustainable national youth service are mandatory. The proposed referendum on gaming can wait for some time next year or beyond. Private sector jobs must be created in short order. The economy must be stimulated.
Crime and the fear of crime are literally killing this country while the high costs of healthcare is killing off the rest of our citizens. The sad thing is that most of our recorded crimes are being perpetuated by our younger people. Too many of them appear to be aimless and lack discipline.
Prison has become another institution of higher learning no matter how dubious the degrees conferred may be. This is where my good friends, Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage (PLP-Bains Town and Grants Town) and Minister of State for National Security Senator Keith Bell, come in.
Thousands of Bahamians are dying yearly because they cannot access or afford basic healthcare necessities. Governments come and they go while talking the same shaving cream about national healthcare. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out how to formulate and implement a workable scheme of national healthcare service, in my humble view.
An integral part of the big gold dream includes the provision of affordable and subsidized national healthcare. Dr. Perry Gomez (PLP-North Andros and the Berry Islands), who holds the vital portfolio of minister of health, is mandated to ensure that such a system is up and running within the next year or so. I could care less about what some say will be the astronomical costs. The life of one single Bahamian is worth more than whatever it would cost to implement such a scheme.
The big gold dream will also mean that our decaying, if not already dead, educational plant must be revamped and become more meaningful to our societal and economic needs. This graduation of functional illiterates must cease. The never-ending processing of generations of "know nothings" is passé and unsustainable. I would hope that Jerome Fitzgerald (PLP-Marathon), our minister of education, is up to the task, as he appears to be.
D. Shane Gibson (PLP-Golden Gates), minister of labour and national insurance, is my "favorite" Cabinet minister and member of Parliament. He is to be commended for having inked several wide ranging industrial agreements within the first 100 days of the Christie administration. This is what the big gold dream is all about action and less talk. Gibson is a man of action with a laser-like focus. While many others shoot the proverbial breeze and talk shaving cream, he delivers.
Last year or two, John Pinder, president of the Bahamas Public Service Union, was all over the place begging and pleading with the now mercifully defunct Ingraham administration to sign off on a new contract for public service workers. Ingraham and his sidekick, Zhivargo "seatless wonder" Laing, either ignored his justifiable pleas or marginalized him while allegedly promoting his hoped for replacement as president of the relevant union.
The big gold dream means many things to many people but the PLP must now stand and deliver. My good friend, Dr. Hubert Alexander Minnis (FNM-Killarney), leader of the defunct FNM, has his work cut out for him. He's been promising to appear on the talk show which I am privileged to host for weeks, if not months now, to no avail. He will, however, be constrained to come, sooner rather than later, if he aspires to become prime minister.
The FNM can bounce back but it will never do so, I submit, unless and until its leadership comes to understand and appreciate the influence and necessity of public relations. Mere talk and shaving cream ad nauseum will not and cannot cut it, with all due respect. I actually supported Dr. Minnis' elevation to the leadership of his party and I pray that I did not make a mistake in so doing.
The big gold dream was conceptualized by the deputy prime minister and the national chairman of the PLP et al, with the able assistance of countless others. My own advice played, I believe, a small part in the regime change which we witnessed on May 7, 2012. Mind you, I also advised the FNM and, in a discrete way, the other so-called parties, but they paid me no mind and the rest is written in concrete.
And so, the big gold dream is unfolding. As it unfolds, however, PLP's must understand that it is not all about them; their cronies and sycophants. It is about all Bahamians. None of us can or must be left behind. The boys may well be back but they are able to go back just as quickly as they came.
Eventually, in due season, Philip Brave Davis (PLP-Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador), our beloved and hard working deputy prime minister, will come into his own. The never-ending legacy and dreams of our founding father and much lamented Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling will come to realization. Brave will do the right thing.
As we prepare to celebrate our 39th year of independence, let us never forget or cease to remember that it is our collective duty to wipe away the tear from every eye; to uplift the downtrodden and to show love to our fellow Bahamian regardless of race, political persuasion or creed. This is what the big gold dream is all about. No more, no less.
To God then, in all things, be the glory. Happy independence.
-- Ortland H. Bodie Jr.
I wholeheartedly commend Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Rev. Dr. Ranford Patterson and the group of pastors (Pastors Lyall Bethel, Dr. Myles Munroe, Cedric Moss, et al.) out of Nassau who openly spoke out against the illegal gambling industry that continues to erode the moral fabric of The Bahamas.
Like them, I too am vehemently opposed to gambling. Even though there is no 11th commandment that says ''thou shall not gamble,'' I believe gambling is a violation of at least seven Biblical principles: honesty, love, stewardship, a good work ethic, avoiding greed, trusting God and avoiding danger.
By that last principle, I mean addiction, bankruptcy, crime, corruption, destruction of families and economic destabilization. The gambling industry is about capitalizing on the loss of the thousands who participate in it. It is as simple as that. If everybody wins all the time, there would be no gambling industry. I find it troubling that the Christie administration is now hoping for Bahamian gamblers to lose their money in order to line the coffers of the government. I find it absolutely amazing that many Bahamians appear not to be troubled by this. Perhaps this is an indication of the signs of the times in which we are living. Still, if it doesn't upset you that your government is now counting on you to lose your money in order to improve its fiscal standing, what will?
A Christian, according to Chad Hills of Focus on the Family, should seek to love his neighbor, not profit by his/her loss. I think Hills hit the nail right on the head by saying that gambling promotes the false hope of escaping work and education, while living in wealth.
The BCC should continue to sound the alarm on this ungodly practice, gambling. But I think that Patterson and the other pastors who recently wrote a letter to the editor of The Nassau Guardian may be setting themselves up for a big letdown. They seem to have too much confidence in the Bahamian people concerning this vexing issue. If this issue goes to a referendum, it will pass. There's simply no question about that. Even the BCC and the group of pastors would have to admit that even in this so-called Christian nation, morality is a precious commodity. If they don't believe me, then all they have to do is count the number of bar rooms and liquor stores in Nassau.
I recently heard a well known journalist say that 172,000 Bahamians buy numbers. Even though his claim wasn't based on any scientific data, he might not be too far from the truth. If it is true that one of the gambling moguls in Nassau has on his payroll a staggering 3,000 workers, then one has to admit that the numbers racket has mushroomed into a huge industry. If the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government were to shut down the number houses, it would essentially be digging its own political grave.
The PLP would only need a little over 86,000 of the 171,932 registered voters to vote yes on legalizing gambling in order for this thing to pass. I believe that the PLP will pull this thing off because it was able to get 78,815 votes on May 7. Supposing that the overwhelming majority of the 78,815 Bahamians who voted PLP would support their party's attempt to legalize gambling on Referendum Day, the governing party would only need an additional 7,186 votes from the opposition parties in order to get over the 50 percent mark. With so many Bahamians gambling nowadays, I would be shocked if they are unable to pull this thing off. Remember, it has been estimated that some 172,000 Bahamians take part in some form of illegal gambling. Therefore, passing this referendum should be a piece of cake for the Christie administration.
Another thing, the PLP can afford to legalize the web shops and not worry about losing substantial political capital, especially within the church and among the thousands of grassroot supporters in the inner city communities of Nassau. If the results of the last election taught me anything, they have taught me that no matter what scandal the PLP is alleged to have committed, it is still the most popular party in this country.
Since time immemorial, the Baptist community has been a staunch ally of the PLP. I don't see this issue changing that. As a regular churchgoer, I can tell you that most Christians that I have met have a deep disdain for the Free National Movement (FNM). The way some of these people carry on, a vote for the FNM would be tantamount to supporting the kingdom of Satan.
We must keep in mind that Prime Minister Perry G. Christie pledged on numerous occasions at his party's Gold Rush rallies to bring the issue of legalizing gambling to the Bahamian people via a referendum. Despite making this campaign promise, his party still won 29 out of 38 seats in Parliament. Had it not been for the church, the PLP never would have seen the light of day. That is why Christie is so determined on holding this referendum. He knows that his party will not suffer any political repercussions from the church, notwithstanding the opposition of the BCC and the group of pastors.
The PLP administration isn't afraid of the church. The BCC could huff and puff as much as it wants to, but it won't be able to frighten the prime minister into changing course. Clearly, the odds are stacked in the PLP's favor. It is quite possible that the prime minister has chosen to ignore Pastor Lyall Bethel and the BCC for the simple reason that many church attendees are gainfully employed in the casinos.
Let me play devil's advocate and pose several questions to the BCC. If the BCC and the group of pastors are so opposed to gambling, why don't they simply lobby the government to shut down the casinos in New Providence and Grand Bahama? If gambling is wrong for Bahamians, then surely it is wrong for the thousands of tourists who visit Atlantis Paradise Island in order to gamble.
To the best of my knowledge, I never recall personally hearing any pastor speak out against the casinos. As the BCC should know, God's moral laws are universal. It is wrong for all peoples of every nation in every age to commit adultery or to commit murder. Contrary to what the heretical Anglican priest Joseph Fletcher taught in the sixties, there is no such thing as situation ethics. Further, are any of the pastors willing to admit that any of their members are casino workers? If the answer is yes, do they collect tithes and offering from them? Clearly, these are the hurdles that they must overcome in order to effectively oppose this plan to legalize gambling.
To be sure, I support the BCC and the group of pastors. After all, I am also an evangelical Christian. But I think they have already lost this battle. Christie knows this. And he is not afraid to challenge the church in this regard. After all, he knows that the Bahamian church is pro-PLP.
- Kevin Evans
The Free National Movement's (FNM) National Central Council will meet tonight to ratify the party's candidate for the North Abaco by-election.
Greg Gomez, an educator, is widely regarded as the favorite and is expected to get the nod.
The three other contenders are Perry Thomas, of Fox Town, North Abaco; Jackson McIntosh, a former administrator for Cooper's Town, and Cay Mills, a taxi driver who also resides in North Abaco.
The council met week before last to ratify the candidate but failed to do so.
Gomez ran into an issue concerning his residency, as he has previously lived in the United States.
In order to successfully nominate, a candidate must have been ordinarily resident in The Bahamas for at least a year prior to nomination.
FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis recently confirmed that Gomez moved back to The Bahamas last August.
On Thursday, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham announced that the effective date of his resignation from the House of Assembly is now August 31.
He had previously said it would be July 19, the 35th anniversary of his first election to Parliament.
Ingraham said he pushed off his retirement date, in part, to allow Gomez a fair chance to be considered as a candidate in the by-election that must be called within 60 days after Ingraham's resignation.
"Greg Gomez, who is one of the four persons who applied to the party for a nomination, has spent some time in the United States of America and he hasn't been back home for quite a year yet. He has applied," Ingraham said.
"I want him to be considered like the other [three] as a candidate and my postponement will facilitate that. His father has been my supporter for many years.
"In fact, all of the [prospective] candidates have been my supporters at some time or the other.
"Greg has a wonderful story to tell as to how he was victimized by this government, and I want him to be able to tell it in his own words, and I want him to be given the opportunity.
"So I hope the party will look at him and the others and make a decision. Whatever decision they make I hope Greg will be able to tell his story on the campaign trail, whether he's a candidate or not."
Ingraham, who turns 65 next month, won the seat eight consecutive times -- once as an independent, twice as a PLP and five times as an FNM.
Both Ingraham and Minnis have said the party will mount a strong campaign in North Abaco despite financial challenges.
Ingraham previously reported that the recent general election campaign left the FNM $1 million in debt.
The North Abaco by-election is considered a significant test for the FNM, which is hoping to build momentum after a crushing defeat at the polls.
"Obviously, political parties are formed to win elections and so the effectiveness of any political party is usually gauged from its wins and losses, and so definitely at this stage in our development we would want to prove to The Bahamas that we have the ability to win and win the confidence of the people," FNM Chairman Charles Maynard said yesterday.
"So we are going to put our best effort forward to win."
The Progressive Liberal Party intends to run Renardo Curry again. Curry ran against Ingraham in the May 7 election.
PLPs believe that he has a strong chance of winning North Abaco for the party.
The North Abaco by-election will be the first by-election since the Elizabeth seat came up for grabs in 2010.
Dear Editor,Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe should be congratulated for putting it on the record that his younger colleagues who spoke their mind and expressed divergent views on the constitutional amendment bills will not be victimized by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).However, surprisingly for a former journalist, Wilchcombe joined some of his other colleagues in the PLP in expressing disappointment that Dr. Andre Rollins and other first-time MPs decided to express their opinions, and those of their constituents, on such a matter of national importance.The minister said he believes such disagreements should be handled internally by parties, and not aired for public scrutiny."The way I would have done things is quite differently," he said. "I am part of a team. And being part of a team requires that you understand that if you want to win the championship, you have to practice in-house."That is how basketball teams win, football teams win; that's how politicians win and that's how teams win generally."The perspective expressed by Wilchcombe is that of the old-style of politics, where parties govern in the name of the people, but really do things in such a way that it perpetuates their own chances of political success.What the young MPs represent, on the other hand, is a new era of transparency that is creeping up on The Bahamas, whether our leaders like it or not. Under this new way of thinking, the people govern not in name only, but in actual fact, through their elected representatives.In this new style of politics that is emerging, the opinions of constituents matter, and are aired in the sunshine for all to see, not buried in the darkness of internal party scheming.- F. Rolle
The new Free National Movement (FNM) leadership team has its first task clearly in front of it. The party is $1 million in debt from the 2012 election campaign, according to its former Leader Hubert Ingraham.
Ingraham also previously revealed another interesting figure. He said the party raised $131,000 through online donations during the three-plus-week period the party pushed for such donations during the campaign. Some 363 individuals donated online, 30 people made direct deposits at the bank and others took small cash donations to FNM headquarters at Mackey Street, according to Ingraham.
If such a sum can be raised in such a short time, parties could raise even more from small donations year-round, especially emphasizing online donations. U.S. President Barack Obama has mastered this method of fundraising regularly asking his supporters through emails for "$3 or whatever you can" to boost his reelection effort.
In The Bahamas, we have no campaign finance laws. Often the party that is able to solicit the biggest donations from the most "generous" investors often foreign has the advantage. This wide-open system gives foreigners who want something specific in return tremendous influence over our political system and our politicians. It also gives that same power to the richest Bahamians.
The small and medium-sized donations model is more democratic. If parties raised most of their money from smaller donations from a large number of people, these parties and their leaders would be less beholden to the narrow interests of plutocrats.
Additionally, more Bahamians would feel they have a stake in the work of their parties, as they actually invested financially in them. This would make political parties more like publicly traded companies with the wide base of donors being like shareholders.
The Bahamas could easily begin its move to regulating campaign financing by banning foreign money in our elections and capping donations. The new FNM Leader, Dr. Hubert Minnis, said in a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian that he thinks there needs to be some form of campaign finance reform and hopes that Prime Minister Perry Christie would be open to the idea. If Dr. Minnis is serious he should push for the initiative. That would demonstrate that he is a reformer. The issue has not been touched by FNM or Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administrations.
We must protect our democracy from those who seek to openly buy the influence of our political leaders. Such laws are overdue.