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News Article
McWeeney urges citizenship for investment program

The government has been urged to implement an investor-citizenship program that would effectively allow high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) to trade investment in this country for citizenship rights as a means of spurring growth in the economy.
Queen's Counsel Sean McWeeney, a partner with law firm Graham Thompson and Co., is advocating for The Bahamas to learn lessons from its past as it seeks to reposition the financial services industry for future growth. Among those lessons, he believes, is the need to attract "quality" HNWIs to live and work in the country, rather than taking a "mass market" approach to selling the country's offerings.
This could be achieved, he suggested, by jumping on the "bandwagon" that has seen other competitor jurisdictions implement programs that give investors accelerated access to citizenship rights in return for meeting an investment threshold.
McWeeney, a close advisor of Prime Minister Perry Christie, was speaking yesterday morning at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) Caribbean Conference 2014. McWeeney is a specialist in trusts and laws relating to the financial services industry.
"My own view is that we should (implement an investor-citizenship program) but it should be focused on high quality, rather than high quantity. Investment thresholds would therefore need to be rather high. It is moreover vitally important that we settle on one thing: The granting of citizenship on the basis that the recipient never has to step foot in your country is not a credible, sustainable approach; moreover, it's a red flag to the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), as witnessed in the recent experience of Malta, which under pressure from the OECD had to introduce a longer qualifying residency period under its own investor citizenship program.
"A far more credible approach for investor citizenship would be to offer permanent residency, in the first instance, with a guarantee of citizenship once the required period of residence is met," he added.
McWeeney noted that just a few wealthy individuals who are heavily committed to The Bahamas have had a transformative effect on the Bahamian economy over the years.
"Sir Harold Christie persuaded Sir Harry Oakes to move from Canada to The Bahamas, and in just a few short years, Oakes had almost singlehandedly transformed the Bahamian economy with his developments, just as other high-net-worth immigrants have done after him, all through the years, such as the likes of Sol Kerzner of South Africa, who created all that you see at Atlantis, and Joe Lewis of the United Kingdom, who is transforming the western end of Nassau with his magnificent Albany resort and residential community. It has always been a comparatively small number of movers and shakers who have had this economically transformative effect.
"This same high quality/low number paradigm may be what the financial services sector of The Bahamas in the 21st century needs to re-aspire to. Instead of the mass marketing of yesteryear, the emphasis must now be on the quality of the investors we attract and the added value that they bring with them for the economy of The Bahamas. That's why we really do need to encourage the establishment of family offices in The Bahamas - a place where our clients can live and work, managing their investments..."
Such investor-citizenship or "economic citizen" programs have been introduced in recent years as a means of enticing HNWIs to invest and live in countries such as Malta, Portugal, St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and others.
Through those programs, investors can effectively "buy" citizenship in the target countries by bringing financial assets with them to the country.
In Portugal, this investment threshold presently stands at US$1.3 million, while in St Kitts and Nevis a real estate investment of US$400,000 could achieve the same goal. Each requires a differing amount of actual physical presence by the investor in the country in order to fulfil the requirements necessary to attain citizenship; St Kitts and Nevis requires no physical presence at all.
In The Bahamas, at present, anyone making an application to get citizenship must have been resident for at least seven years preceding his or her application, meaning that while major investors do at times gain citizenship, the process is not one that will attract new business to the country.
McWeeney said that if this type of business is to be attracted, a "recalibration" of immigration policies and how they are executed is necessary.
On this front, he congratulated the government for being dedicated to establishing a "special unit" in the immigration bureaucracy for the "expeditious treatment of residency and work permit applications for high-net-worth individuals and their families and for the key managerial personnel they may need to bring with them to manage their business".
"Already the nucleus of this is operational and there is evidence it is producing positive results, but the government needs to do more - a lot more - and it needs to do it now. The special immigration unit needs to be expanded and properly equipped and applicants must be processed to finality in the shortest possible time and with the minimum amount of pain for the applicants. The unit also needs to be moved to more hospitable premises," he added.
Guardian Business understands that such an investor-citizenship program has gained significant traction within the financial services industry, and plans are afoot to begin making the case to the public on the benefits of offering such a program, which could easily become a political lightning rod.
Commenting on the changing environment in which The Bahamas finds itself operating today, McWeeney told delegates at the STEP Caribbean Conference 2014 that the "world is an infinitely more complex place now, and we can't reset to a bygone era".
In addition to focusing on "quality not quantity" and "laying out the red carpet" for potential investors, he said The Bahamas must be innovative in developing new products to sell to them, and must ensure it markets itself enthusiastically but strategically, if it is to prosper in the current environment.
Referring to the need for Bahamians to also ensure they are equipped to attract new business, particularly when it comes to the language skills that will be needed, McWeeney added: "Excellence, not nationalist entitlement, must be our primary watchword".

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News Article
Celebrating Haitian culture

The Bahamas is a multi-ethnic archipelago. There are Bahamians of African descent, Greek-Bahamians, Lebanese-Bahamians, Chinese-Bahamians, Haitian-Bahamians, and many more mixes.
All these peoples from all these different places bring their cultures, foods and ways of thinking to our land, making us more dynamic as a collective.
Too many Bahamians think lowly of our brothers and sisters from Haiti. Due to years of misrule, that once rich nation is the poorest in the hemisphere. Its people flee in makeshift vessels whenever they can to the wealthier northern countries of The Bahamas and United States.
Landing here with nothing, many Haitians start at the bottom of our society. They take whatever jobs they can. They live where they can.
Those poor economic and social conditions in Haiti and the inadequate enforcement of our immigration laws have led to a large Haitian presence in The Bahamas.
Once timid, these Haitians and Haitian-Bahamians have become open about celebrating their culture. Young Haitians and Haitian-Bahamians can be seen wearing shirts and chains with the Haitian flag on them. And, the annual Haitian Flag Day is quite the event.
This Saturday, hundreds, if not thousands, of Haitians and Haitian-Bahamians will gather at the Botanical Gardens to celebrate the day. Bahamians of all cultures and nationalities should feel free to join them. Nativists should move beyond bigotry toward those of Haitian ancestry.
Haitians are a major part of our country. At this stage that simple fact will not change. We must all learn to live together, embracing the advantages of multi-culturalism.
Haiti has been doing well economically of late. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has its real GDP growing by four percent this year and in 2015 -- not bad for a country that has been at the bottom for so long.
If Haiti's leaders can learn to rule and share power without violence, the basket case may rise to someday be a force. In such a scenario The Bahamas, with its large population of Haitians, will be well-placed to benefit from trade between the islands.
Haiti was the first black republic. Its people were an inspiration to black peoples worldwide. They have suffered much under tyranny. We should welcome those Haitians who have joined our community and embrace the skills and talents they bring. Of course, the government is responsible for ensuring that our laws are maintained. It should keep the borders secure and evict those who are illegally here of all nationalities.
There are, however, many Haitians who have legal status in The Bahamas. They are here and are going nowhere. We should embrace them as major players in the future of The Bahamas. Their rise to positions of authority and power in all spheres can no longer be stopped. It should also not be feared.

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News Article
Haiti: a national dialogue that pleases many but disturbs some

On Friday March 14, 2014, an historic step that will lead to peace and harmony among the Haitian people took place in Petionville, Haiti. An instrument that was labored over for weeks by the executive, the legislative and the political parties, under the observation of the judiciary and civil society, was signed.
The Catholic Church, under the leadership of his newly appointed Chybly Cardinal Langlois, served as the mediator, cajoling the parties to sit down, discuss amongst themselves without foreign intervention their concerns, and arrive at a consensus on critical issues such as governance, elections and the constitution.
These were only the beginning steps in a larger dialogue that will later delve into the structural underpinning that impedes the development of Haiti from a failed state to an emerging one. While the dialogue was applauded by the majority of the population and by the international community, a group of senators, as well as members of the opposition bloc bent on derailing the present government, has threatened to rock the boat and plunge the country into total chaos.
The Catholic Church, deriving from a call from God to Abraham to quit Mesopotamia (Iraq) and to go to Palestine, where 2,000 years later, the Son of God would freely give himself in immolation to replace the blood of the animals offered in sacrifice in expiation for original sin, is pursuing its role of making this earth better for each man and for each woman.
The new world order of charity, love, fraternity and hospitality offered by Jesus the Christ was spread to the world on the back of the Roman Empire. The history of the Catholic Church, an institution created by God but led by men, is filled with false starts and with major failures. I have in the past not minced words, making the observation that the Catholic Church is an excellent incubator of a mafia culture that infects the social, economic and political spirit of the countries where the Catholic faith is the strongest.
Yet the Catholic Church is also one of the best vehicles for civilization and for progress throughout the world. The republic of Haiti, ostracized by the entire planet after its independence from France, received recognition only from the Vatican in its universal quest to find teachers and preachers to render the former slaves fully equipped to lead a life of self-actualization.
From a clergy hailing from Brittany in France, Francois Duvalier, the dictator, transformed Haiti's clergy into a national one. At the departure of his son into exile, following a transitory period, a defrocked priest Jean Bertrand Aristide took the reins of power. It was neither for the good of the church nor for the country. Haiti knew a difficult time of dissension and disorder that pierced its ethos to the bone and almost brought the nation to the level of RDC (the Republic Democratic of Congo).
The hierarchy of the Catholic Church wanted to make amends and help the nation of Haiti reconcile with itself. Its role as mediator between the parties is subscribed to that effect.
The ink placed on the document by all the participants was not yet dry when the group of six senators and the opposition bloc which refused to take part in the dialogue started the process of dismantling the result and placing stumbling blocks before its implementation.
Their prime target was paragraph 12 of the agreement that calls for setting aside the articles of electoral law that have not been amended on time through dilettantism or obstruction by the opposing bloc in parliament. Considering that elections must take place by the end of the month of October to fulfill the requirements of amending the constitution, the framers of the conciliation process have agreed to take steps to prevent delaying tactics that could derail the election.
Amending the Haitian constitution to align all the elections in a five year period is a crucial step in avoiding repeated balloting and saving time and money for the country.
The opposing parties that refused to sit down and take part in the negotiation process are combing the fine lines of the agreement to find errant commas and other punctuation that would annul the terms of the conciliation.
Haiti fits squarely the parody suggested in the recent observation of Roger Cohen about Argentina. It is a poster child among nations that never grew up, blaming everybody and their father for ills that are internal in the first place.
It refuses to accept that a former dictator called Duvalier and a former president called Aristide have shaped an ethos of delusional power that refuses to face the realities of nation-building, which call for the rich and for the poor to hold hands together and continue the renovation of the legacy bequeathed by the founding father, Jean Jacques Dessalines.
The mediator through its principal, Cardinal Langlois, is offering the practice of full disclosure in response to the method of marooning practiced by the opposition forces. The Catholic Church in Haiti is pursuing, maybe for the first time since Constantine, the Roman Emperor in 313, a politics of state married with the faith in an effort to make a nation hospitable to its people.
Will the gang of six and the opposition succeed in putting enough stumbling blocks on the way to hospitality for all? This is the difficult question that the nation of Haiti will face. I am observing a country filled with young ladies and men eager to educate themselves but with no prospect of employment and no job creation in the pipeline. I am observing also a critical mass of the population living in abject poverty but preserving their dignity while praying for an end to their misery.
Would they stand in line to immigrate to Brazil, cross the border and face humiliation in the Dominican Republic or accept the lure of Canada for the best and the brightest, perpetuating the brain drain that hemorrhages from the country?
Cardinal Langlois has told all parties that frank negotiation is the only way to salvation for Haiti. Will the country remain in the barbarity of the age before Abraham or will it come into the age after Christ where solidarity, charity and love must be the lot of each and for each? Stay tuned!
o Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.com and followed at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti

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News Article
Gray hits out at union for 'refusing to work'

CUSTOMS and Immigration Officers have refused to work their assigned hours despite a court ruling ordering them to remain on a shift system until the court says otherwise, according to acting Labour Minister Alfred Gray.

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News Article
Mitchell right to support gay rights

Dear Editor,

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell is to be commended for taking the opportunity in his contribution to debate in Parliament on the demise of Nelson Mandela to support the issue of LGBT rights as an integral pillar of the progressive agenda advanced by Mandela.
We live in a society that despite its progress (we can be rightly proud to be the only Caribbean country to have decriminalized homosexuality, way back in 1991), is still too often governed by ignorance, taboo and prejudice when it comes to sexual orientation.
Politicians generally only wade into the debate to assert their own personal heterosexual credentials (as if anyone cares), and religious leaders quite predictably only get involved to the extent that they see an opportunity to drag us a little backwards. Both have shamelessly lent credence to the fictitious notion of a "gay agenda", much like southern racists once suggested a communist agenda behind the civil rights movement.
It is time for right-thinking leaders to ask themselves honestly how much longer this important human rights issue can be ignored in The Bahamas. If such introspection is not enough, they need to take a look at what is going on in the world outside The Bahamas. Do we really want to be left behind by the pope on an important issue of social progress? Yikes!

- Andrew Allen

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News Article
Men charged with Andros murders

One of the suspects in the kidnapping and murders of immigration officer Shane Gardiner and his girlfriend Tiska Braynen claimed at his arraignment yesterday that he had an alibi.
Cordero Saunders, 24, of Central Andros, told Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt that he was in New Providence and this could be verified by officers of the Grove Police Station, where he must sign a register on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays as a condition of his bail.
Ferguson-Pratt asked the prosecutor to investigate the claim, although she noted that the offense allegedly occurred over a month-long period.
Saunders is charged along with Daniel Coakley, 26, of Fresh Creek, Andros; Zintworn Duncombe, 26, of Fresh Creek, Andros; James Johnson, 21, of Calabash Bay, and Terrel Mackey, 26, of Central Andros.
Prosecutors allege that they kidnapped and murdered the couple between November 24 and December 21, when their bodies were discovered in bushes by boar hunters.
They are also accused of conspiring to rob Gardiner and attempting to rob him.
The men were not required to enter pleas to the charges. They have been remanded to Her Majesty's Prisons until March 5 when it is expected that the case will be transferred to the Supreme Court by a voluntary bill of indictment.
Mackey and Johnson claimed that they had been beaten and suffocated by police officers.
While the remaining defendants made no complaints of physical harm, their lawyers Michael Kemp and Ian Cargill said the men were concerned about their safety at the prison because two of Braynen's relatives worked in the Maximum Security block.
Ferguson-Pratt said she had no control over housing at the prison but she promised to bring the matter to the attention of the prison superintendent.

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News Article
PM: Govt won't continue economic status quo

Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday the government is in the process of restructuring the financial services sector to ensure growth occurs in The Bahamas' economy beyond the "status quo" .
"I, as prime minister, do not only wish to continue the status quo with respect to the Bahamian economy, but allow The Bahamas to move to a new growth paradigm through the diversification of our economy and the refocusing of our financial sector towards activities which add significant value to our clients," said Christie at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) Caribbean Conference 2014 at Atlantis resort.
"Indeed, critical to the survival of our centers is the need to periodically assess our individual strengths and strategies, particularly in the realm of wealth and estate planning.
"The Bahamas now finds itself at a similar crossroads as our forbearers [did] many years ago.
"And my government is determined to apply the same boldness, creativity and political leadership to continue to drive our economy towards an even higher growth trajectory."
In April, the Department of Statistics released data which revealed the growth in gross domestic product (GDP) fell to just under 0.7 percent in 2013 from 1.03 percent in 2012.
The growth rate in GDP in 2011 was 1.06.
Christie said there is a significant need to generate new industries in The Bahamas.
He said notwithstanding The Bahamas' successes in the financial services sector over the years, the government must overhaul key industries such as investments, insurance, public and private banking.
"We are also seeking to add to this menu through the introduction of arbitration services and yacht and airplane registries, and updated intellectual property registries," Christie said.
"We are also looking to link more comprehensively our financial offerings with our trade and logistical agenda, and we have announced our intention to create a trade finance campus in Freeport, Grand Bahama to enhance our transshipment and container port assets.
"We also seek to encourage more front office and mind and management work in the country.
Christie said as a part of the overhaul the government is re-examining its immigration policies to ensure that they are "conducive to our goals".
He said while the government is committed, the changes will not happen overnight.

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News Article
QC: Legal 'cartel' is 'crippling' the financial sector

In a move which has prompted a strong backlash from the Bahamas Bar Association, a Queen's Counsel and key advisor to the government has laid out a vigorous case for the liberalization of immigration policies for specialist foreign lawyers so that the "closed-shop cartel" that is the Bahamas Bar Association can be "cracked open" to the benefit of the financial services industry.
Sean McWeeney, Q.C. and partner with law firm Graham Thompson and Co., told an international conference that The Bahamas has "been too insular for too long, and way too protectionist in too many ways for too long".
His recommendation on opening up the legal profession to foreign practitioners was among eight that he put forward on how The Bahamas must act if it is to survive and prosper as an international financial services center in an increasingly challenging competitive environment.
Asked to comment yesterday afternoon on McWeeney's position, Bahamas Bar Association President Elsworth Johnson hit back, saying that he is "diametrically opposed" to McWeeney's statements. Johnson said The Bahamas does have the expertise needed by the sector, and if skills gaps exist, training of Bahamian lawyers should be the first priority.
Speaking at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) Caribbean Conference 2014, at Atlantis yesterday, McWeeney said that while The Bahamas has one of the highest numbers of lawyers per capita, the number with the necessary expertise in trust or funds securities business is "ridiculously thin".
"It's crippling us. It's keeping us back. It can't go on; we have to change course and open up," McWeeney, a specialist in trusts, told delegates.
The former attorney general suggested that if the Bahamas Bar Association does not adjust its approach to the question of foreign lawyers working in The Bahamas of its own volition, then the government should be willing to step in.
"The government should be prepared to take the lead in opening the doors to foreign lawyers in strategically important areas of the financial services sector, if the local bar can't shake off its parochialism and cartel-type self-protectionism".
His position was supported by Minister of Financial Services Ryan Pinder, who told Guardian Business he "completely agrees" that the current state of the legal profession is holding back growth and development in the financial services sector.
Their comments come at a time when the local offshore financial services sector finds itself, due to evolving international regulatory demands, at a critical juncture when it faces rising competitive challenges.
McWeeney said: "The Bahamas Bar Association cannot continue to be the closed shop cartel it has always been. We simply do not have the specialist lawyers to sustain - much less grow - the industry.
"How we can be expected to grow trust or funds securities business with such ridiculously thin resources on the ground? I don't know. To perpetuate this exclusionary status quo is simply an invitation to send the business elsewhere - to other jurisdictions where the required skills are to be found in adequate supply."
He later added: "We need to stop looking at foreign lawyers as predators who are only looking to steal our lunch. We need to view them instead as collaborators and ever replenishing sources of new business for The Bahamas.
"The old exclusivity must therefore give way to a new and pragmatic liberalism that encourages closer structural relationships and operating synergies between Bahamian lawyers and their international counterparts. It must be supported by a liberalization of immigration policies such that the government should be prepared to take the lead in opening the doors to foreign lawyers in strategically important areas of the financial services sector if the local bar can't shake off its parochialism and cartel type self protectionism.
"(We need to) not only allow but encourage Bahamian law firms to not only partner or structurally associate with foreign law firms in such a way that there can be a much freer movement of specialists lawyers into The Bahamas."
Johnson said he was surprised to hear of McWeeney's comments, adding that he would have expected he might have sought a meeting with the Bar Association before offering such strident remarks.
The attorney suggested that McWeeney's claim regarding a lack of expertise is not supported by "quantitative or qualitative" research about the state of the bar's membership.
"I am diametrically opposed to the statements made by Mr McWeeney. I think not only do we have some of the best financial services lawyers in this country, we have more than 1,100 lawyers, and they are available for training," said Johnson.
"The Bar Association does have provisions where, if you can show that the necessary expertise are not here, the exceptions should be made. But what should happen is that the exceptions should be made in terms of training our most precious resources. That is our human capital."
He added: "I don't agree with McWeeney when he says it is a 'closed shop cartel'; that's not so. We take our mandate very seriously. We take the protection of our members, the interests of our members, very seriously.
"I issue a challenge to McWeeney that if he sees a lack of talent at our bar we should meet to discuss it, and I can point him to the persons in the field. And in terms of our training, I am sure I can point him to any of our lawyers who is prepared to do that."
Johnson said he would hope that any discussions regarding possible amendments to the Legal Professions Act would be done with consultation with the bar, and in a way that "respects the best interests of our country, the legal profession, and our judiciary".
He added: "If what they want is a free flow of goods and services, then they need to come out and say that."
Ryan Pinder told Guardian Business he too sees a lack of the necessary legal expertise in The Bahamas and agrees that it can only help to open up the legal profession.
"He's exactly right when he talks about securities lawyers. You can go out and count securities lawyers on one or two hands; however, you have a new Securities Industries Act that requires heightened expertise in securities. You want to do funds, and you frequently hear about people wanting to make offerings to the public of their shares, but you don't have the people with the talent to help them do that. As we move into tax transparency and talk agreements and value-added tax and everything else, you don't have the tax expertise in the bar to do it.
"I've always been an advocate. It helps the industry. I think if you talk to the industry, I think they will say they have a more successful because they have a more liberal legal framework where they don't cast away expertise because they come from elsewhere. So that's long been the cry of the industry, and I agree with (McWeeney)."
Guardian Business understands that discussions have recently been underway with respect to making amendments to the Legal Professions Act.

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News Article
Matters of national security and immigration

Dear Editor,
I listened to a JCN talk show when I heard a well-known caller, Sparkey, comment on crime. One of the things he said was what I have been saying for years.
We don't make guns here so they were brought in by crooks. Sparkey told the host of one of his experiences. He said he left Coral Harbour and traveled to the U.S. on a yacht and returned on the same yacht to Coral Harbour. The yacht was not searched by any law enforcement agency, i.e., immigration, defense force or customs.
By this, Sparkey confirmed what I said previously, special interest people with a different hue are smuggling the guns and their children are not being gunned down.
Twenty years ago, Mina Outten held a one-day conclave at Workers House. As a presenter, I spoke about immigration reform, suggesting that everyone should have a national I.D. card, similar to the U.S. green card. Well, 20 years later we now start the process.
Minister of Immigration Fred Mitchell said it would not be mandatory for Bahamians, but foreigners and those with work permits would have to carry an I.D. card.
Immigration carried out a road block last week. A foreign executive of an offshore bank was stopped and detained because he was not carrying I.D. This created a great media uproar. What was most disturbing to me was that Cabinet ministers are not on the same page.
Minister Mitchell, who is responsible for immigration, was in total support of his officers. As a no-nonsense man you can take his word all the way to the bank and if he said his officers acted according to the laws of The Bahamas, I would take it to the bank.
The other minister, Ryan Pinder, needs to tell Minister Mitchell and the Bahamian people what he found out that Mr. Mitchell does not know.
Everyday black people, especially the ones from the Caribbean, are locked up and it is rarely reported in the local media. When Cubans are locked up it is all over the media. Why is that?
In 2009 I went to Atlanta on a business trip. I was stopped at least five times at check points. I did not have a problem with it because I was in their country and they were doing their job. If Minister Pinder is in an apologetic mood, then he should go to Atlanta and get them to apologize to me.
-- Audley D. Hanna Sr. JP.

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News Article
Moree: 'High level' discussion on role of immigration needed

A top Queen's Counsel has urged that there should be a "high-level public discussion" on the role of immigration as a tool of development, in the wake of recent comments suggesting that the legal profession is too closed and the government should consider allowing investors to trade investment for citizenship.
Speaking to the question of whether the Bahamas Bar Association should be "cracked open" to allow the easier entrance of foreign attorneys to practice in this country, Brian Moree Q.C., said a balancing act must occur.
"I think that the immigration policy of the country is an important tool of development, which can be used in order to try to balance the interests of two important constituencies," he said."On the one hand, it must take into account the legitimate and reasonable expectations of qualified Bahamians, who have a right to expect that they will have access to opportunities in this industry in their own country, and on the other hand we must balance the interests of the compelling need for sufficient numbers of highly-qualified and specialized experts within specific areas of the financial industry, in order to be able to service the needs of a sophisticated and demanding marketplace."
Addressing the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) Caribbean Conference 2014 last week, attorney and key advisor to prime minister Perry Christie, Sean McWeeney, of Graham Thompson and Co., said that the Bahamas Bar Association is too closed to foreign lawyers, with a lack of financial law specialists "crippling" the financial services industry.
President of the Bahamas Bar Association, Elsworth Johnson, said he is "diametrically" opposed to McWeeney's comments, and said that there are many lawyers with the specialist skills McWeeney spoke of, and where there are not enough, training should be a priority.
Moree told Guardian Business that he believes "we have to accept" that no country in the world, let alone a small one such as The Bahamas, can reasonably expect to meet all of its human resources needs from within its own country.
"There has to be a recognition that from time to time in specific target areas you'll need to supplement your
local labour force with expatriates," he said.
"I think anyone involved in business generally, and in the financial services industry, will confirm this global business moves on the back of relationships and if you are seeking to attract the multinational service providers and institutions, you are going to have to accept that they will require some of their own staff and employees and if you don't want to accommodate that then you shouldn't expect that multinational business to come to The Bahamas."
The attorney said that there must be a public discussion that considers those "two separate interests".
"In my mind the solution lies in trying to properly accommodate both of those interests in an immigration policy that is well articulated, has the overall support of the Bahamian public, and supports the operation of international business."
Referring specifically to the issue of investor citizenship, which McWeeney also promoted as a means of growing the economy, Moree said that The Bahamas "has to make some decisions".
"The financial services industry today is very different from what it was even ten years ago, and one way of attracting money to The Bahamas is to attract high net worth individuals and ultra high net worth individuals and multinational business and money will follow them.
"It is a strategy which I know many jurisdictions are looking at and it's a legitimate strategy which we as a country have to decide if we want to employ as we try to find ways to expand the financial services industry, within the context of what's going on in these international agencies which are insisting on more and more levels of transparency.
"Some would say that's a better quality of business anyway, when it results in real tangible business moving here," he added.
The government has recently been signalling that it wishes to be more accommodating in its immigration policy, in order to assist in growing the financial services sector, although it has not come forward with a specific position on an investor citizenship program.

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News Article
PM points to immigration policy overhaul

Prime Minister Perry Christie has signaled that the government is set to undertake an overhaul of immigration policies as they relate to investors and the financial services sector.
Speaking during the wrap up to the mid-year budget debate, Christie said that growing the financial services industry will "require new thinking and a new level of tolerance".
Christie said that various ministries of the government are engaged in an effort to design a "transparent, predictable and user-friendly immigration policy to attract foreign investors and entrepreneurs who intend to make a meaningful commitment to the overall development" of The Bahamas.
Noting that other countries The Bahamas is in competition with have taken a more facilitative approach to th e immigration of individuals to work in their key sectors, Christie said that The Bahamas loses out by not also attracting the persons that it needs to "grow its pie".
He said that going forward, the government will be committed to beginning to sensitize The Bahamian public to "the reality that financial services is everyone's business".
"A further reality means that in order for the sector to continue to improve the lives of ordinary Bahamians, it is imperative that the sector grow - both through internal resources and also by
attracting foreign capital and talent," he said.
Christie said that he has been assured that by upgrading the country's immigration policy The Bahamas should benefit from a greater level of investment.
"The financial services industry assures me that with the right government policy (and I am not talking about policies that are found in some of our neighbors to the South!), I mean a development focused immigration policy - a large number of persons are willing to invest in the country and to choose The Bahamas as their place of primary residence.
"I have charged the Minister of Financial Services to create a policy which not only attracts homeowners but also individuals who are job and wealth creators. I would like to attract people who want to establish businesses along the lines of the National Investment Policy, and those which complement the existing skills pool of The Bahamas and encourages higher education," he said.
Christie pointed to efforts to encourage the re-development of the Bahamian captive insurance industry, and upcoming debate on legislation that would enable the establishment of "a new fund product that will revolutionize the way we do business with Latin America" as two other initiatives being undertaken by the government to reinvigorate and maintain the competitiveness of the financial services industry, following dialogue with the sector.

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News Article
Pray tell, why shoot the messenger

Dear Editor,
I wish to begin my commentary by apologizing profusely because too many people are bored out of their minds by the facts because facts have a bad habit and a notorious reputation for getting in the way of a good, juicy, salacious story.
It is important to note that the philosophy of The Bahamas government regarding the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the facilitation of seamless travel experiences by Bahamians anywhere in the world. Since the foreign affairs ministry is the first line of formal contact between governments, overseas travel allows the minister to maximize personal contacts and forge relationships with numerous counterparts from foreign countries at a single meeting. That's my cursory understanding of the role of that ministry.
As for the philosophy of foreign affairs, the government's successful policy thrust in securing the Schengen visa waiver, the more recent reciprocal visa waiver for travel between the People's Republic of China and The Bahamas, and last but not least the electronic passport initiative together support this overarching philosophy. The current minister of foreign affairs and chief messenger, Fred Mitchell, aggressively and successfully pursued all of these policies on behalf of the government and by extension the Bahamian people.
Even now The Bahamas government is seeking to improve access to the United States for Bahamians; just another policy objective heaped on the plate of messenger Mitchell.
In its attempt to bring government services closer to Bahamians living abroad in addition to strengthening international trade relations, the government established embassies in China, Cuba and Geneva and consulate offices in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. These diplomatic presences were the deliberate and determined policies of the government led again by messenger Fred Mitchell.
Whether it is work permit reform, random immigration checks at bus stops and traffic lines or a speedier repatriation process of illegal immigrants, at all material times the minister is advancing the government's policies, so why shoot the messenger? Redirect the fiery darts at the policy already.
This brings me to the tribute Mitchell delivered at St. Gregory the Great Anglican Church on Sunday, December 22, 2013 in honor of the life and work of the late South African icon and President Nelson Mandela. Mitchell closed with these words: "With today's service, I think the anti-apartheid movement in The Bahamas comes formally to an end. This fight is over. That war is won. But the struggle continues on other fronts, to defeat injustice and prejudice of every kind wherever it is and even in the face of unpopularity like today's unpopular LGBT cause."
As inconvenient a fact as that statement was to some people, it encapsulated the spirit, tone, tenor and letter of Bahamian law and the government's social policy; and so with that closing remark the minister was reinforcing government social policy, not a personal view or advancing a personal agenda as some have accused him of doing.
With all of the vitriol, attacks and criticisms directed at this minister, not one critic was able to say that "to defeat injustice and prejudice of every kind wherever it is and even in the face of unpopularity like today's unpopular LGBT cause" was not the government's social policy. Editor, the critics could not because the statement is representative of the spirit of the government's social policy. If it is not, then these smart critics must educate us fools on just what the social policy is.
Certainly the policy cannot be to deny this grouping access to housing, health care, employment, promotions and salary increases and imprisonment based on their sexual orientation or who they choose to love. Not in a 21st century free, modern, democratic Bahamas. We are not the Russian Federation or the Republic of Uganda. The critics might want to consider taking aim at the policy - not shoot down the messenger.
At running the risk of confusing people whose minds are made up, I must reiterate that ministers of the government don't have the luxury of advancing their personal opinions in their official capacities of state representatives, as that is a constitutional impossibility. That said, pray tell, why shoot the messenger?
- Elcott Coleby

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The issue of irregular migration

Dear Editor,
Irregular migration, including human smuggling and trafficking in persons, is a complex challenge which the United States and The Bahamas continue to address as neighbors and partners.
Migrants from various nations see opportunities for economic stability and improved quality of life in The Bahamas and The United States. While many of these migrants are economic migrants seeking a better life, there are also those trying to escape persecution. One of the key challenges authorities face when dealing with issues of illicit migration is to separate those who need protection from those who seek to enter our nations to commit crimes or even acts of terror. This is not an easy task.
The United States and The Bahamas face the challenge of irregular migration together. Our countries have successfully worked hand in hand to combat illicit smuggling and trafficking. The United States Government deeply values its partnership with the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and will continue to seek to advance collaborative initiatives with our Bahamian partners on the issue of irregular migration and illicit trafficking. Our long-standing partnership is one based on shared responsibility and mutual respect. It is a partnership based on shared approaches to shared challenges.
Under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), the United States, The Bahamas, and our regional partners are achieving results in efforts to reduce illicit trafficking, advance public safety and security, and promote social justice. Programs through the embassy's International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Section (INL) have enabled the provision of training and acquisition of equipment for the Ministry of National Security, the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, which help to enhance effectiveness and interoperability with United States law enforcement agencies, so that we can jointly investigate and address transnational crime, including human smuggling and trafficking in persons. In addition, the United States continues to support the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) and the RBPF in the execution of search and rescue cases in an effort to promote security and maritime domain awareness and develop a more effective maritime end-game capability.
As its long-standing partnership with The Bahamas continues, the embassy recognizes that the task is not complete and that there is much more work to be done. The RBPF, RBDF, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, and Office of the Attorney General will remain important partners in the joint fight against transnational crime. The United States will continue to seek ways to deepen and broaden our security partnership, which has become a valued cornerstone of our bilateral relationship with The Bahamas.

- John Dinkelman, U.S. charge d'Affairs

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Munroe: RBDF hearings may end this week

The hearings into the alleged abuse of Cuban detainees by Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) marines at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre may be completed by the end of the week, the marines' attorney Wayne Munroe said yesterday.
The hearings resumed last week and are scheduled to continue tomorrow, Thursday and Friday he said.
"We might actually be finished this week," he said.
"The only thing that may delay it that I can think of is the two (former) detainees who are in Cuba. If we can get them up here for this week, or if we cannot get them here, I don't know if we are going to arrange to go down there."
Munroe previously said he wanted the alleged victims to testify.
So far, 12 people, including Carlos Pupo, who alleges to have been beaten, have testified.
Several RBDF officers and marines, immigration officers and a doctor have also testified, Munroe said.
"We had Carlos Pupo on the stand on Thursday and he said he was beaten from 3 a.m. to sunrise," Munroe said.
"He gave some description of some beating that isn't consistent with what anybody says."
Pupo is being held at Her Majesty's Prisons, according to Munroe.
Munroe represents five marines accused of abusing the detainees after some of them attempted to escape from the facility.
Munroe said his clients deny the allegation.
He said the marines could face stoppages of pay, a reduction in rank or other disciplinary actions that would be placed on their record.
The allegations touched off a firestorm of controversy and protests from a group of Miami-based Cuban advocates who labeled the incident an abuse of power.
An RBDF officer, who is also a lawyer, is prosecuting the matter.
Munroe said his clients would take the stand to give their account of what happened.
"Curiously, their account is in line with what the immigration officers say and in line with what the injuries on these people say," he said.

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Customs staff told to work shift system or lose pay

CUSTOMS and Immigration Officers who do not adhere to the shift system will face pay cuts, Labour Minister Shane Gibson confirmed yesterday.

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Saving CARICOM, pt. 2

o This commentary is taken from a lecture given by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell on February 6 at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago. Mitchell's address was on "Saving CARICOM".
Stay with me for a minute here.
We in the Progressive Liberal Party returned to power in The Bahamas in 2002. We had lost to the Free National Movement 10 years earlier in 1992 which ushered in a more conservative and laissez faire attitude toward governance.
The leader of our party Lynden Pindling, who had founded the modern Bahamian state, was thrown out of office unceremoniously in 1992 after 25 years, and within eight years was dead of prostate cancer. When we came back in 2002, the CARICOM leadership of Manley, Burnham, Williams, Barrow had all passed on and we met a new order.
The new order was Kenny Anthony, P.J. Patterson, Jean Bertrand Aristide, Ralph Gonsalves, Patrick Manning, Owen Arthur, all a new generation of CARICOM leaders, all forged in the crucible of the region's premier institution, the University of the West Indies, with the exception of Mr. Aristide.
Jamaica's Prime Minister P.J. Patterson explained that Haiti had no other natural allies than we in CARICOM in the sub-region and he believed that it was necessary that they not stand alone and he persuaded them to join us.
Amongst these new leaders was a commitment to the CARICOM project. Even when there were strong disagreements around the table you got the feeling that no one would leave. There were some strong disagreements as in the meeting in St. Lucia in 2005 when P.J. Patterson sought to bring the leaders of the opposition together with the prime ministers in order to forge a consensus on the Caribbean Court of Justice. The meeting got off to a rocky start when one of the leaders of the opposition said he would not sit next to that prime minister because that prime minister was trying to put him in jail.
We stayed in office until 2007 when we lost to Hubert Ingraham, the leader of the opposition and once prime minister again. It surprised everyone in the region including us.
However, we might have seen it coming, for a trend against incumbents had started to develop: St. Lucia had elections in December 2006 and Kenny Anthony lost, then we lost in Nassau in May 2007. Then there was a loss by Portia Simpson Miller in Jamaica in September 2007, and then by Owen Arthur in Barbados in January 2008. Said Musa lost on February 7, 2008 in Belize and then a loss by Keith Mitchell in Grenada on July 8, 2008.
Patrick Manning, the then prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, speaking at a political rally in Port of Spain reminded his party how up to that time he had bucked the trend. Here is how the press reported the statement by the then prime minister on Sunday, July 13, 2008: "Prime Minister Patrick Manning said yesterday that his controversial actions in the selection of candidates in the last general election were vindicated by the results of the elections across the Caribbean.
"Addressing the PNM's 42nd Annual Convention, Manning noted that many people questioned the strategy he employed in the selection of candidates, which saw many senior MPs and Cabinet members rejected.
"Let me ask you this question, where is the last government of Belize?" Manning enquired. 'Gone!' the crowd replied. 'The last government of The Bahamas?' he asked. 'Gone!' was the refrain. 'The last government of Jamaica?' he enquired. 'Gone!' shouted the crowd. 'The last government of Barbados?' he asked. The response was the same. 'The last government of St. Lucia?' 'Gone!' they shouted. 'Where is the last government of Grenada, my dear friends?' 'Gone!' the crowd chorused. 'Where is the last government of Trinidad and Tobago?' Thunderous applause drowned out the words, 'Here, here.'"
Of course, history now shows that in 2010, a trend had indeed developed and that trend continued in Trinidad and Tobago. My larger point here is that we can detect the shifts in our societies by looking at one another.
Another example is how Jamaica started to develop a crime problem in the 1970s; and many of them as they fled Jamaica and came to Nassau would warn us that we too would face the problem of bars on our windows and crime out of control. We are seeing these same pathologies today in The Bahamas.
My point is that on this anecdotal level, trends seem to develop in our region and it tends to start south and move north.
The trend reversed itself somewhat within five years when beginning with Kenny Anthony some of the men who had lost power five years before were back in power again. Kenny Anthony described it on July 4, 2012 in St. Lucia as returning to power following a period of political metanoia. This inspired us in The Bahamas. In addition to Perry Christie, Portia Simpson Miller has returned and so has Keith Mitchell of Grenada. Of the original group that were Perry Christie's peers in 2002, only Ralph Gonsalves and Denzil Douglas are still there uninterrupted by the vagaries of democracy. Everyone else had lost elections.
What we do then in The Bahamas is we look at the CARICOM region and what is happening here because it has been a fairly reliable predictor of what may transpire in our own society.
In fact, the talent to run our election campaigns has often come from Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados.
You may also know that the Progressive Liberal Party was founded following a visit in 1953 to Jamaica by the founders of the party and talks with the then leadership of the People's National Party.
My thesis then is that the development of the CARICOM project is a natural projection of what has been done on an informal basis by people over the years as they migrated from one territory to the next.
Who can forget how the lives of the region and of Trinidad and Tobago were influenced and transformed by the man now known as the Mighty Sparrow who hailed from Grenada.
I have styled this lecture rather grandly " Saving CARICOM". That has elicited many responses from many people but most people have said "how are you going to do that?" I argue that it does not need a savior, contrary to the harsh judgment issued by the Trinidadian writer V.S. Naipaul in his essay "The Killings In Trinidad". CARICOM is a project that grows itself. The project is organic and when one looks at the history of the events, it shows that the Caribbean ethos causes it to survive, compels it to survive.
In this effort I adopt the history as outlined by the distinguished Secretary General of CARICOM Irwin La Rocque.
In an address delivered right here in Trinidad on October 3, 2013, the secretary general gave the summary narrative of the founding of the modern CARICOM project. I think that one decision that should be made is to adopt a common narrative about the founding of the organization and spread the story. It is important for the history to be reduced to a bite size. It makes for part of the wider understanding amongst the younger people of how we came to be where we are. The secretary general wrote: "Ladies and gentlemen, in real terms our integration process can be regarded as beginning 81 years ago, given that it was in 1932 that the first concrete proposals for Caribbean unity were put forward at a meeting of Caribbean labor issues leaders in Roseau, Dominica.
"It was the labor movement which championed and pioneered integration as a means of self-governance for the West Indian territories. At congress in the late 1920s and 1930s, Caribbean labor leaders went from discussion of the idea to actually drafting a constitution for the unified terror territories, aided in large measure by a young economist from Saint Lucia, Arthur Lewis, who later distinguished himself and the region as our first Nobel laureate.
"Progress stalled with the intervention of the Second World War but shortly after its end in 1945, momentum was regained towards independence as a unit. This was the main theme of a landmark meeting which took place in 1947 at Montego Bay, Jamaica. Out of that meeting, the process began towards the West Indies Federation. This federation would eventually involve the British colonies, with the exception of then British Guiana and British Honduras, and came into being in 1958. Its goal was independence and some services were established to support the West Indian nation, including a Supreme Court and a shipping line. In preparing for independence, a plan for a Customs Unit was drawn up but during the four years for the federations (sic) existence free trade was not introduced among the islands.
"The end of the federation in 1962 brought a close to this phase and to this approach to integration. In many ways, however, the end of the federation led to the beginning of another chapter in the integration process which would evolve into the Caribbean Community. The need to maintain and possibly expand the Common Services that existed during the federation was the catalyst for that (1963) Common Services Conference which I mentioned earlier. The UWI and the Regional Shipping Service along with the Caribbean Meteorological Service, which began one year later, kept the embers of integration glowing along with the so-called Little 8, comprising the Windward and Leeward Islands and Barbados which stayed together after the dissolution of the federation.
The Little 8 folded in 1965 and later that year, the premiers of Barbados and British Guiana and the chief minister of Antigua and Barbuda Messrs Barrow, Burnham and Bird respectively, agreed to establish the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA). It was the first attempt to integrate through trade. The other territories joined the initiative and CARIFTA was launched in 1968 along with the Commonwealth Caribbean Regional Secretariat, which became the CARICOM Secretariat.
"During that period, 'regional nationalism' was alive and well. It was a nationalism born out of a common desire and recognition of the imperative to forge our individual nationalism within a regional context. There was a political chemistry among our leaders.
"Eight years later, recognizing that CARIFTA could only carry us thus far, our leader felt confident enough to move on to a Common Market and Community and deepened integration arrangements on the basis of three pillars: economic integration; foreign policy co-ordination and functional co-operation. The Treaty of Chaguaramas formalizing this new agreement was signed in 1973. That treaty which reflected the aspirations of the time could only carry us so far. It included a Common External Tariff (CET) which incidentally requires member states to give up some sovereignty. However, decisions were largely unenforceable and dispute settlement arrangements were weak. Trade barriers among members were also rampant and many of the provisions of the treaty were best endeavor clauses.
"Sixteen years later, the watershed meeting of Heads of Government at Grand Anse, Grenada in 1989 set the region on course towards the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). Grand Anse was a bold response to the circumstances of the day. The community was faced with a changing global economic environment while the performance of the regional economy was sluggish. The traditional market for our commodities was threatened with the advent of the European Single Market, and discussions continued on the global trading arrangements. Both of these developments would result in preference erosion for the commodities the region had come to rely on so heavily. Grant assistance was also declining. Our leaders recognized that we needed to become more self-reliant for our development. A deeper form of integration was the logical answer to those challenges.
"To accommodate this even deeper form of integration, the treaty was revised significantly and was signed in 2001. That revision of the treaty set out the objectives for the community, including the Single Market and Economy. These include improved standards of living and work; full employment of labor and other factors of production accelerated, coordinated and sustained economic development and convergence; enhanced co-ordination of member states' foreign policies; and enhanced functional co-operation. That last objective recognized the need for more efficient operation of common services and intensified activities in areas such as health, education, transportation and telecommunications.
"In 2006, five years after the signing of the revised treaty, the single market was ushered in. Twelve of our 15 member states form the single market, while Haiti and Montserrat are working towards putting it into place.
"In the midst of these various transitions in the wider region, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), whose members are either member states or associate members of CARICOM, have also been strengthening their integration arrangements which were first codified with the Treaty of Basseterre in 1981. In many ways the OECS has moved beyond CARICOM with the Revised Treaty of Basseterre Establishing the OECS Economic Union, signed in 2010, which among other things has granted free movement of persons within the member states. This is an integration group that has had its own single currency and institutions, such as its Central Bank, Supreme Court and Stock Exchange. There is much to be learnt from the progress being made at the level of the OECS which could assist the wider integration effort."
I would only argue also that along with the common narrative on the founding of the CARICOM project, there was the parallel story of the emergence of the Pan African Movement across the Caribbean and the struggle for national independence, the negritude movement, the civil rights movement in the United States and the common cause found in the struggle of the Indians who had come to this part of the world as indentured workers. All of those blended together to produce what we now call today CARICOM.

o Fred Mitchell is the member of Parliament for Fox Hill and minister of foreign affairs and immigration.

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1m funding increase 'only cos adjustments'

THE increase of just over $1m in the 2014/2015 budget allocation for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration reflect only cost-adjustments, according to Minister Fred Mitchell.

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Four released in missing persons probe

POLICE have released the four persons they were questioning in connection with the disappearance of an Immigration Officer and his girlfriend in Andros.

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Saving CARICOM, pt. 5

This commentary is taken from a lecture given by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell on February 6 at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago. Mitchell's address was on "Saving CARICOM". This is the final part of the lecture.
This brings me to my pet peeve, the nature and culture of our decision making around the region. It is manifested in the suggestions which The Bahamas advances each year on the length, for example, of opening ceremonies of CARICOM gatherings. Try as we might, those ceremonies continue to take far too long and interfere in my respectful view in the timely dispatch of the work of the body. That is just symptomatic of what I call the deliberative nature of our culture.
In other words, we like to talk.
Mr. Anthony in the chamber address again says: "The simple truth is that decision making, especially in the all critical area of trade when time is of essence, has become cumbersome, layered, and bureaucratic. For instance, it takes months to get a decision from COTED and by the time the decision arrives the reason for the request ceases to be relevant, or the situation which necessitated the request has so deteriorated that the initial solution is no longer the answer to the problem."
Those who are familiar with the negotiations on the Carib/Can agreement will know of which the prime minister speaks.
In our meetings and visits, we are fond of invoking the Singapore model for development. However, we must realize as Sam Huntington, the Harvard professor, makes clear in his seminal work "Political Order in Changing Societies" that there is a trade-off between rapid development and growth on the one hand and democracy on the other. That trade-off seems to be that if you want rapid growth and development at the same time, then you have to move toward a more authoritarian model of governance. That may work in Asia but I dare say is inimical to the way we do business in the region. However, something must be done to reduce the amount of words expended and to increase the level of action and dispatch.
So now can I pull all of this together in some coherent way.
It is clear that The Bahamas, and I think that the CARICOM project, has much to recommend itself.
I have said in another context that if CARICOM did not exist, it would have to be invented. There is no more efficient way to conduct ourselves as small countries but in some sort of multinational supra-body that will deal with the old traditional world powers.
CARICOM for good or ill is that body. There has been too much concentration on the issues of market and economy and not enough on how we actually function and how our people actually succeed and work together.
Clearly in terms of institutional arrangements The Bahamas has some way to go in convincing its public that this is a good religion to adopt but I think we are mainly there. We have put our money where our mouth is.
As we say in our country: "Talk is cheap; money buy land."
I want to borrow from the convergence model and suggest a couple of items that ought to be carried out with dispatch.
In this summary, I mention first of all the strengthening of the powers and human resources of the secretariat and more reliable and dedicated funding mechanisms.
Secondly, the closer coordination of the foreign policy of CARICOM to leverage the number of votes we have in international bodies for the benefit of the region.
I recall the recent visit to the region of a Canadian minister of state in the Ministry of External Affairs who came to remind The Bahamas and other CARICOM countries that they should not support a mooted push by Qatar to move the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) from Montreal to Doha because of our traditional friendship. It was a very interesting statement given the difficulty our nations often have when seeking to get results in Ottawa, even a simple meeting with public officials or resolving the tortuous issues of visas for our students.
Leveraging in this context should become a fine art for CARICOM.
I also believe that we ought to have a more structured approach in our relations with the United States. One idea is for greater access of our young people into the tertiary level institutions of that country with a right to live and work there in pursuit of training opportunities.
Thirdly, I call for a specific focus on the development of young people including a commitment to double the investment in education over the next five years.
Fourthly, that our ministers of culture, trade and finance continue to build on ways to improve the ability of youngsters to use their raw talents to build wealth for this region.
I recall a 17 year old from Britain who was hailed as a genius because he made millions from an app, which he invented. I pointed out that we have that same genius in the Caribbean but perhaps we do not recognize it.
Did not Usain Bolt, a young man from Jamaica, come from poor and humble circumstances and using his talent, this genius, transform his life into one that is worth a fortune? And, in the process, he lifted the collective spirit of Jamaica out of despair. I worry about him and others who emulate him; that they are not taken advantage of by the commercial hucksters of this life. Encouraging the Bolts of this world, nurturing them, supporting them, educating them, protecting them; that is a role that governments can do by their policies.
Not only is this true in sports but in all cultural spheres including music, drama and the arts.
This is a mission which former Prime Minister Patterson speaks to with some urgency.
Fifthly, I believe that we ought to declare a state of emergency in relation to the development of boys and men. We cannot continue along the path of the dysfunctions which now obtain across our societies where so many men and boys are not participating in the society but instead embrace a life of violence and crime or a lack of "stickability". I say this with the greatest of respect and honor to the millions of men and boys who do get it and who do succeed but we must reach back and help to lift our fallen brothers. Our women too should recognize the urgency of this problem even as they take their rightful place in society. They have an interest in resolving this issue as well.
I am asking that CARICOM embrace this as a priority in fixing our problems. We will not regret it.
Finally, we must all commit to telling the CARICOM story. This means people-to-people engagement, improved and increased travel and transportation links. The leaders themselves should travel and interact in the jurisdictions of the other. It is to build that chemistry about which Kenny Anthony spoke.
When I was opposition spokesman on foreign affairs during the period 2007 to 2012, I continued to travel to the region and pay official calls on governments and opposition leaders. There was a look of consternation often on the faces of many when I visited. There was apoplexy back in the capital by my political opponents at home. However, I wanted to lead by example. CARICOM must be a continuing project and enterprise in or out of government. The project is both formal and informal. What may be posited about that project is that its success is ensured by turning specialized functions into localized actions the region over.
Lastly, I mention again the need to revisit the charter and to reflect the broader embrace of the issues and begin the conversation on public policy and sexual orientation as one of the characteristics for which there can be no discrimination.
There are a number of other important public policy issues which require focus. Clearly these would include climate change and our continued dependence on fossil fuels, transportation and migration, which must be solved. The commonalities of dependence and vulnerability within the context of energy and climate change make these policy developments imperative.
However, I believe if we fix the problems of structure and decision making and human rights issues, our ability to resolve the others will follow. In any event, I have spoken too long and it is time to stop. In our country we say: "You must talk some and keep some." The process of saving CARICOM is ongoing. Each generation is called to take the project further. I would not urge despair.
Kamau Brathwaite, the Barbadian writer, reminds us in Negus:
It is not enough to be free
of the whips, principalities and powers.
where is your kingdom of the word...
It is not enough to be free
of malaria fevers of the hurricane,
fear of invasions, crops' drought, fire's
blister upon the cane...
It is not enough to be able to fly to Miami,
structure skyscrapers, excavate the moon-
scaped seashore sands
to build hotels, casinos, sepulchres...

It is not enough
to be pause, to be hole
to be void, to be silent
to be semicolon, to be semicolony...
To which I add a loud hallelujah and amen!
Once again, I am deeply grateful for this invitation to speak here this evening.
Thank you and good evening.

o Fred Mitchell is the member of Parliament for Fox Hill and minister of foreign affairs and immigration.

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