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At the center of the 2008 global crisis was the mortgage debacle. The U.S. government funded mortgage agencies that provided funding for residential mortgages, which in most cases, the mortgagee was not able to afford. The end results were foreclosures and a depressed housing market -- now headed into its fifth year.
As we all know, in the absence of a holistic economic plan The Bahamas continues to depend on the success -- or lack thereof -- of the U.S. economy. The Bahamas is now experiencing what the U.S. experienced back in 2008 in the mortgage market as a result of lenient lending practices. To fix the core of this problem we need policies that are realistic, achievable and measurable.
After reading the article "PLP to tackle mortgage 'crisis'" in Monday's Nassau Guardian, we felt compelled to provide some thoughtful analysis on the matter. We hold no political brief for any party, but as a financial research and investment company we have a professional and civic duty to opine on ideas which may impact our clients in particular or, as in this case, ideas which we think could adversely impact the Bahamian economy in the short and long term.
While the idea of providing relief for peoples having a difficult time meeting their mortgage obligations is arguably a good one, and one which we support, we have serious questions on some of the specifics outlined in the Progressive Liberal Party's (PLP) proposal as reported in The Guardian.
In order to place our argument in context, you may recall that our company argued against the loose monetary policy back in 2005-2006, when financial institutions and developers were very lax in their lending policies. We saw double digit credit growth and warned this would come back to haunt us in a very negative way. The loans default crisis (including mortgages) of which we spoke has arrived.
As regards the solution to the 'crisis' proposed by the PLP, there are several points that we support: the idea of extending "first time homeowners" stamp duty exemption to people who have lost their homes to foreclosure and are trying to purchase a new home; the argument for some form of review of finance charges and related fees; the regulation of "unregulated lenders"; and the proposal to, "bring under stricter control and supervision the system of salary deduction". We agree with the PLP that this is being abused by some lending institutions.
Concerns about the plan
Our greater concerns are related to the other recommendations in the proposal.
In a democracy it is not prudent for the government to mandate any financial institution to do anything. The shareholders, directors and management decide what course of action should be taken.
Governments and financial services regulators (central banks) sometimes resort to "moral suasion" in a credit crisis in order to try and persuade financial institutions to provide relief to mortgage payers. Alternatively, monetary policy initiatives by the Central Bank in the form of interest rate deductions are applied to solve the issue of mortgage delinquency.
That course of action, particularly with respect to our current predicament, is likely to be ineffective in and of itself. It is our view that a holistic plan is needed. A plan that will examine the likely outcomes and impact on all stakeholders in order to avoid unintended consequences.
By way of example, the recent reduction in prime rate caused serious issues for pensioners, insurance liabilities and National Insurance in terms of matching long term liability obligations.
While the government's debt obligations may have benefitted from the reductions, the real intended beneficiaries -- those who are already in significant arrears -- did not and will not benefit from the initiative. The unintended was the increase liability obligations by National Insurance, insurance companies and defined benefit pension plans.
What people need are jobs. Merely dropping interest rates or guaranteeing interest payments will not cause lenders to extend credit, especially since the creditworthiness of many borrowers was and still is slipping. In the case of new or revised loans at the lower rate, the average monthly benefit will not make much of a difference to the borrower.
The suggestion that a financial institution would simply write off 100 percent of the provisions is impractical at best.
Financial institutions are in business to return a profit to its shareholders. Further, the fact that these amounts are written off today does not preclude the financial institution from attempting to collect on the amounts written off sometime in the future when the circumstances of the borrower might have changed more favorably.
Provisioning for bad debts is an accounting requirement -- nothing more, nothing less. As regards the suggestion that the government would take a lien over the property, we do not see how this is possible given that the financial institution already has a lien over the property.
As for the government paying the interest of the delinquent mortgages, while this is a noble idea it is also not practicable and could encourage irresponsible future behavior.
Why would anyone who is current on their mortgage continue to pay if the government would step in and pay the interest for five years? This could have far-reaching consequences unless, of course, we have misunderstood this suggestion.
We are concerned about whether anyone attempted to do the math and cost-out the proposal to see if we, an already debt-laden country, could afford this ambitious proposal.
Has anyone given consideration to the moral hazard?
Let's see how much this will cost the people of The Bahamas.
Total Bahamas domestic credit was approximately $7.103 billion at the end of February. Loans or mortgages with maturity over 10 years stood at $4.639 billion. Mortgages outstanding was $3.090 billion with total private sector loans in arrears of $1.159 billion. Total mortgage arrears stood at $619.6 million.
Assuming the estimated proposed interest rate of 5.75 percent (again we do not know how the government proposed to do this in a capitalistic society, but accepting the proposal as is) this would translate into an additional annual commitment by the government of $35.63 million or $178.14 million over five years.
With what is essentially "free money" until 2017, those who are current on their mortgages would elect to stop paying since the government would be obliged to pay their interest until 2017. They would receive two benefits: a reduction from the average rates of 7.77 percent to 5.75 percent (an immediate savings of over two percent); and to have the government pay the interest until 2017.
It would be logical and indeed quite smart for everyone to stop paying their mortgages for the next five years and have the government pay on their behalf. This would translate into an annual cost of over $266.7 million per year in interest payments (more than the government's current debt service commitments) or $1.335 billion over five years.
All of this would further increase our debt to GDP ratio, which everyone is concerned about. What happens after 2017 if the economy does not turn around and continues to muddle through? We submit that given the current economic climate as well as the projected growth trajectory, it is highly unlikely that The Bahamas could afford this expenditure, unless we are able to grow the economy (provide more jobs) in the order of 10 percent per annum.
With reference to the suggestion that financial institutions extend maturity on the existing mortgages, as far as our research suggests, this is presently being done. With respect to using pension assets, again for the most part, this is being done already.
The reality however, is that less than 30 percent of companies in The Bahamas have a pension plan, so again, while a noble idea in the absence of pension legislation this will not result in any immediate assistance to the people it is intended for. Perhaps the idea of some form of mandatory pension may be considered to reduce the reliance on National Insurance in the future.
We again state, for the record, that this commentary is not politically motivated. We are simply interested in good economic policies which will further enhance the well-being of all citizens and permanent residents of The Bahamas. What we do not wish to see is capital being inadvertently driven away because of some ill-advised economic policy.
The Bahamas has any number of financial institutions which are ready, willing and able to provide advice on economic matters of national importance. This being one such matter, we felt compelled to present our views and to encourage political parties to consider stress testing some of their ideas that have been proposed so that we can navigate the future from an informed position.
CFAL is a sister company of The Nassau Guardian under the AF Holdings Ltd. umbrella. CFAL provides investment management, research, brokerage and pension services. For comments, please contact CFAL at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week, when the leaders of the country's major political parties were either defending debunked job creation numbers, vacillating on critical women's rights issues or conjuring images of arcane obeah resurrection rituals, The Nassau Guardian released a scientific poll of voter support throughout the country.
The FNM had 34.2 percent total support among those surveyed and the PLP had 30.3 percent of support placing the governing and opposition parties in a statistical dead heat when factoring in a 4.4 percent margin of error, according to a poll conducted by marketing research firm Public Domain for The Guardian between March 5 and March 12.
The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) had 21.7 percent total support.
There was huge reaction to the poll and widespread discussion about what it means for what is expected to be one of the most closely contested elections in recent memory.
When we take a look at the demographics within the poll we get an even better idea of who supports whom as the election approaches.
If the general election was held at the time the poll was taken, more men would vote for the FNM than the PLP, the poll discovered.
Among the 501 respondents surveyed, 36.3 percent of men said they would vote for another Ingraham administration, while 28.2 of men would opt for another Christie administration.
The DNA had a fairly strong showing among men, with 25 percent of them throwing their support behind the fledgling party.
Nine percent of men surveyed were undecided. The poll also showed that 1.5 percent of men surveyed would choose an option other than the three major parties.
When it came to women, the FNM and the PLP were neck and neck.
Among women respondents, 32.3 percent supported the FNM, while 32.2 percent supported the PLP.
Female DNA supporters made up 18.7 percent of those surveyed. Many more women appear to be undecided (15.2 percent).
Only 1.6 percent of women said they would not support any of the three major parties.
Voting divisions by age
Clear distinctions can be made when the electorate is examined by age group.
The PLP has the advantage over the FNM among those younger than 35.
Among those between 35 and 54 years of age, the PLP actually comes in a close third behind the DNA.
And among those over 55, the DNA appears to barely register.
A clearer distinction between those who just became eligible to vote in the upcoming election and those who have voted before but have not yet turned 35 years old, would have helped to better demonstrate exactly where the parties stand among different subsets of young voters.
But what is gleaned from the data is that 34.1 percent of this voting bloc supports the PLP, 29.7 percent of this voting bloc supports the FNM and 25.9 percent support the DNA.
Among voters under 35, 7.9 percent remain undecided and 2.4 percent plan to support someone not on the ticket of a major party.
The FNM has a major lead among voters between 35 and 54 years old.
The governing party garnered 35.1 percent of the support of this group.
The DNA trailed with 23.9 percent of support among this age group.
The PLP was basically even with the DNA with 23.5 percent of support among this voting bloc.
However, things could shift in favor of any of the parties, as 16.3 percent of this group remained undecided - the largest percentage in any demographic.
Those planning to support someone other than a candidate of the major parties only accounted for 1.2 percent of this bloc.
The FNM also leads the PLP among voters 55 years old and up. This same category presents the most troubling information for the DNA.
Support for the new major party among this group, which has most likely participated in several elections, is considerably weak.
Among those 55 and older, 42.2 percent support the FNM, 37.2 percent support the PLP, and just 7.3 percent support the DNA.
Even if all the undecided voters in this bloc (12.7 percent) threw their support behind the DNA, the party would still have less than half the support enjoyed by the FNM and would be nowhere within striking distance of the PLP.
This group also has the lowest number of voters (0.6 percent) who would choose to pick an option other than the FNM, PLP or DNA, according to the poll.
But can polls predict winners?
If the winner of the next general election is determined by popular vote, the methodology used in this poll (often used to predict winners in much larger countries), would make this a fair indicator of how things would go if ballots were cast today.
However, the party that forms the next government will be determined by which one of them gets the majority of seats in Parliament.
There is no reason to discount that a party that loses the popular vote could still win the majority of seats in Parliament.
The recent amendments to the boundaries have sought to minimize this, but with lower numbers of voters in many Family Island constituencies, there are many scenarios that could play out.
A more detailed set of polls of all 38 constituencies would paint a much clearer picture of who could win the next general election.
DNA could play critical role
FNM Leader Hubert Ingraham has said that the DNA will not be a factor and the race for the prize is essentially between his party and the PLP.
PLP Leader Perry Christie has taken the same position, boldly declaring that the DNA will not win a single seat.
DNA Leader Branville McCartney, whose own seat both Ingraham and Christie believe is in jeopardy, has said that if there is no clear majority winner after the next election, he will insist that another election be held.
If the Public Domain poll translates to seats across the board and the undecided are split equally among the parties, then McCartney's DNA could win as many as 10 seats, leaving no party with a clear majority.
In that case, the DNA could be the kingmaker, deciding who will head a possible coalition government.
All the leaders think this scenario unlikely.
However, stranger things have happened.
In the event that such a situation presents itself, McCartney would be wise to rethink his position.
And the two veteran leaders may want to do likewise.
After five years in office, a government and opposition are completed their constitutional mandates. On May 7, the Bahamian people will decide who they want to lead them for up to another five years.
Bahamians are excited. More than 172,000 people have registered to vote -- more than 20,000 than voted in 2007. The election is the main focus of the political parties; it is the main focus of the people; it is the main focus of the country.
The Bahamas Customs Immigration and Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU) is conducting industrial action. As previously reported, an agreement has yet to be reached between the union and the government on several outstanding issues, including health insurance, compensation and what the union has claimed is an illegal shift system.
The union must be sensible. In-depth industrial negotiations take time. It takes a government able to focus on the issues at hand to strike a deal. Clearly and obviously this will not, and cannot, happen at this time.
In a few weeks, a new government will be elected and it will have the time to sit with the customs and immigration union and come to an agreement. Why can't the union wait?
Union Vice President Sloane Smith said on Tuesday that the country's security could be at risk as "non-qualified" Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) officers are manning some entry points in place of officers at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA). A few defence force officers have been placed at LPIA as union members have been conducting industrial action since last Thursday.
In response to the union's claims Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Immigration Brent Symonette told The Nassau Guardian that the immigration process at LPIA has gone without incident and the defence force officers stationed at the airport have been given sufficient training.
Symonette also said the immigration process went much smoother than expected over the Easter holiday weekend with the defence force officers in place. It is good that the government has a contingency plan in place for such action. But such action is not useful at this time.
Smith said the union would continue demonstrating until its issues are resolved. He added that members of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) would soon meet to discuss the union's next move. The customs and immigration union falls under the TUC umbrella.
We hope the union sees the futility of its actions and waits for its new negotiating partner to be elected. The union only recently formed after its members broke away from the Bahamas Public Services Union. All it is doing is demonstrating its immaturity by angering the traveling public and inconveniencing our visitors by protesting at a time when the government is so preoccupied that it is not really listening.
The Bahamas is a nation founded and built upon Christian principles. It is therefore expected that this week and in particular during the weekend, a vast majority of Bahamians will commemorate and reflect upon the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The reality is that the Easter story is one that we can all relate to in our personal and professional lives. The suspension of all rallies and political activities by all political parties in observance of Holy week is welcome news as it suggests a certain level of reverence for religion and spirituality by our political leaders . However, one can't help but wonder whether the candidates for this year's general elections, leaders and aspiring leaders in general appreciate the true cost of leadership with all of its triumphs and trials.
The life of Jesus tells the story of a man who was so sure of his calling from a very early age that even the temptation of being afforded the world before the debut of his ministry could not deter him from His ultimate purpose to save the world. He performed miracles and preached a gospel of repentance during his three and a half year ministry. However, Jesus received mixed reviews during this period and was not always accepted by all, but what is clear is that he bore the mark of a great leader and left behind a legacy for many generations to come.
The triumphant entry
The triumphant entry witnessed Jesus riding into the town of Jerusalem on a colt being greeted to shouts of joy and gladness from the multitudes that were present singing Hosanna unto Him. Leaders and aspiring leaders can learn a thing or two from this event which was well attended by genuine followers, disciples and sycophants. The irony of the Triumphant Entry is that the same crowd that praised Him within a matter of days ridiculed Him and called for his death. However, Jesus was not deterred by this because He was always sure of His calling and denied himself in spite of opposition. Leaders must be mindful of the vast audience that so easily massage their egos and appear to loathe them for such crowds are fluid and allegiances or positions are unpredictable.
Rejected by the system
The system indicted and convicted Jesus for his non-conformity with the status quo and His desire to bring freedom to the human race. The nature of the system is one that is comfortable with business as usual and taking a stand contrary to popular belief(s) is often frowned upon. A leader should be prepared to stand for his beliefs regardless of its contradiction to the general held notion and obvious opposition within the system. True leaders must be willing to be blacklisted for their beliefs to achieve their dreams.
Betrayals and denials
The betrayal by Judas and denial by Peter as clearly documented in the Bible will probably be recited multiple times during the course of this week. It is my hope that leaders, aspiring leaders and Bahamians in general accept the fact that they will have their fair share of Judases and Peters as they journey through life seeking to fulfil their God-given assignments. In the end as is commonly stated, we must be true to ourselves and be willing to walk alone. The betrayal and denial as noted in the preamble to the Easter story speaks to the role of greed, the love of money, loyalty and fear in discipleship and the following of any leader.
As Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, He asked His Father to "let this cup pass over me", speaking in relation to having to go to the cross to be crucified and all of the humiliation that came along with that. The thought of the burden of a mission and sacrifices attached to achievement of a vision can be so overwhelming on a leader that he/she tries to abort the dream. However, great leaders persevere; they push through the challenges with the ultimate goal in sight and declare like Jesus did - "Not my Will but Your Will Be Done".
The road to the Crucifixion is a painful, agonizing and lonely one. Jesus bore and carried His cross alone as He journeyed to Calvary to the jeers and insults of the crowd. One cannot help but reflect on the radical shift in the scenery of the Triumphant Entry compared to that of the Crucifixion. It is no news that the people that once applauded your great works are very seldom around to rescue you from going to the cross. In fact, it is not unusual for these persons to be on the other end of the spectrum demeaning your achievements and person. The actual death of Jesus which marks the climax of the tragedy may come in different forms to leaders ranging to character assassinations, persecutions and losses. However, this is inevitable at some points in the life of every leader or aspiring leader.
We celebrate Easter because Jesus rose from the dead. Indeed the darkest of nights must always give way to the rising of the sun. In spite of it all, one thing that we can always be assured of is the fact that if you are willing, there is a resurrection after the crucifixion. Your mindset is transformed in the resurrection and you will become a stronger and better person as a result. Jesus' ability to be true to His ministry and His calling gave birth to the Christian church as we know it today. Consequently, there are millions around the world that follow his teachings and practice. Hence, Jesus left behind a legacy that has spanned over centuries. Indeed, this was the crowning moment for the cross that He had to bear.
Triumphs and trials are a bittersweet mix in leadership. But one must always be mindful that the goals they are seeking to achieve and the eventual legacy that they will leave behind, ultimately supersedes any temporal challenge that one may face. After all no student is greater than his master/teacher and Jesus taught us all how to become great leaders.
Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed at email@example.com.
More than 170,000 Bahamians have registered to vote, exceeding the projected figure, Parliamentary Commissioner Errol Bethel revealed yesterday.
Bethel told The Nassau Guardian more than 100 people register on a daily basis in New Providence.
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Bradley Roberts said the numbers indicate that people are anxious to vote.
"The PLP urges the prime minister to call elections," he said.
"Ingraham has five years and he is not to go a minute over that... The government has not performed."
Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Chairman Mark Humes came to a similar conclusion.
"I agree that people are tired of the government," he said.
However, he added that "they are also tired of the opposition".
"What you see is a lot of people who wouldn't ordinarily have voted are coming forward," Humes said.
"The numbers are a clear indication that Bahamians are going to do something that neither the PLP nor the FNM parties is expecting.
"People now have a choice. What you see is new voters coming out to get rid of both of those parties. In 2007 the numbers weren't this high. This new group is a manifestation of what is to come."
Asked his thoughts on the registration number, Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Carl Bethel declined to comment.
But Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham recently said it is clear that the FNM has more support than the opposition.
Last week, Ingraham said he intends to announce the election date on or before May 2.
Bethel, the parliamentary commissioner, said he is not surprised that his projection has been exceeded.
Just under 12,000 people have registered to vote in the last month.
In 2007, just over 150,000 people had registered for that election.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE Superwash laundromat chain suffered five armed robberies in a 10-day period, prompting its president yesterday to describe the Bahamas as a "Wild, Wild West" society where "everybody is in fear", with the crime situation likely to get worse - not better - in coming months.
Dionisio D'Aguilar, a former Bahamas Chamber of Commerce president, while praising the police and civic-minded Bahamians for helping to catch the suspects alleged to be behind one of the armed robberies afflicting his business, blasted the two main political parties for lacking "vision and ideas" to combat this nation's crime crisis.
He again called f ...
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) would have to borrow at least $300 million in order to finance the country's capital expenditure commitments if it wins the May 7 general election, PLP Leader Perry Christie said yesterday.
The borrowing would add to the country's national debt, which is currently hovering at just over $4 billion.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has previously indicated that the government has to borrow $65 million to fund the over budgeted New Providence Road Improvement Project.
In an interview with The Nassau Guardian at his Cable Beach home yesterday, Christie said if his party wins, his administration would most likely have to institute a freeze on expenditure in some areas in order to keep expenses down as it finds ways to increase revenue streams.
The sobering prediction came as the 2012 election campaign shifted into high gear, with just a little over three weeks until the election.
For the past several months, the various political parties have been propagating their election campaign promises.
Among other things, the PLP has pledged to double the nation's investment in education and training, implement National Health Insurance within the first year in office, roll out Urban Renewal 2.0 and create more jobs.
Yesterday, Christie conceded that the implementation of many of his party's promises would be predicated on the fiscal realties it would meet if the PLP is returned to power.
"When the next Parliament convenes, my government will be faced with having to borrow money in the same way we were faced with having to borrow $125 million when we won in 2002," Christie said.
"This time it will be over $300 million, I'm sure. There is a need now to borrow over $300 million for the capital development budget.
"Whatever our commitment and promise, the reality is we're going to meet in place certain financial and economic conditions.
"What I'm anticipating is that [if we win] we are going to meet the resolutions to borrow the money and the question is just how much is going to be there and also we're going to meet reports in place as to what flexibility we have to introduce the programs that we promised the people of this country.
"If I'm correct in saying that [the government] has been spending out of turn, a responsible government will have to review what is taking place with a view to determining how quickly we can implement the promises [we] made. So there will be restraint."
However, Christie said his party has policies ready to increase the country's revenue and diversify the economy.
These include a larger focus on agriculture and fisheries exports and consolidation of the tourism and financial services industries.
So, in the parlance of the day: Papa done ring da bell.
Whatever that means.
Don't get me wrong. I
can talk the talk like any other Bahamian in 2012. Papa = the current
prime minister, Hubert Ingraham. "The Bell" = the announcement of a date
for the next general election. I know how to translate the statement.
I just don't know what it means.
Here's why. Some time
ago, I wrote up my own manifesto (since the political parties vying for
leadership of the country hadn't seen fit to share any of their
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham announced yesterday at his party's beach event that he will inform the country today of the election date.
Ingraham said he will first meet with his Cabinet this morning and a statement will be made by 1 p.m. regarding the next election. The prime minister also said he will make a national address at 8 p.m. about his party's term in office and the upcoming election.
"The real bell will ring tomorrow," Ingraham told thousands of Free National Movement (FNM) supporters yesterday at Montagu Beach.
Ingraham said he hopes voters will be satisfied with the performance of his party this term. The FNM led the country through the financial crisis of 2008, which led to the worst recession since the Great Depression. The effects of that recession are still being felt in The Bahamas. The country's unemployment rate remains above 15 percent.
"We did the best we could in very difficult circumstances and we believe that the population will accept that we did as much as was possible," Ingraham said.
In this election the FNM's main challenger is the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). Its leader last night at his party's beach event told PLPs not to "slacken up" but to continue to push hard for a victory after Ingraham calls the next general election.
"For us to win, we must demonstrate that we are prepared to work and to work hard," said Christie at the Western Esplanade near Arawak Cay.
Parliamentary Commissioner Errol Bethel said recently the number of registered voters has exceeded 170,000 - the largest voter register in Bahamian history.
In the weeks to come in the official campaign, Ingraham and Christie will push with all they have left to be declared winner on Election Day. The veteran leaders are likely in their last election campaign and neither wants to retire a loser.
Branville McCartney and his Democratic National Alliance (DNA) will do all they can to play spoiler. The DNA is seeking to create a third way in a country that has essentially only welcomed two parties at a time in its independent history.
What Bahamians must remember in the weeks to come is that this is the people's time. After five years of evaluating the government and the opposition, it is time to choose. No party has the right to be in power. They must earn our trust. No leader has the right to lead. He must prove he is good enough to be in charge and make tough decisions in tough times. The country needs strong decisive leadership to help resolve many of the problems that make The Bahamas dysfunctional at this time.
For those who did not get to register and who will not get to vote, it is clear that you never really wanted to. The politicians, public officials, the media and everybody else, urged you to register. Yet, you did not. The ability to vote is a privilege many fight and die for.
Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma has spent much of her life in jail fighting for democracy in her country. Yet we have people here who will not even register to vote. This is sad.
We must take seriously our democratic responsibilities and participate. For those who are registered, read a little more these next few weeks; have debates with friends and family; listen to the politicians. You must be the judge in this contest. Be informed so you can make an informed decision.
Nassau, Bahamas - A
message from The Royal Bahamas Police Force - "Working together for a
safer Bahamas"in light of Easter Weekend:
The Easter Monday Holiday for many residents is a day for family activities which
include picnics at the beach, parties, sailing or cruising around the island and visiting family and friends.
would like to encourage residents that are planning activities at the
beach or at other public areas to be extremely vigilant. Pay close
attention to your surroundings and be alert to suspicious people,
activities and vehicles.