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By LARRY GIBSON
THE recent visit by President Martelly of Haiti, and comments he made to a gathering mostly of Haitian nationals and Bahamians of Haitian origin, continue to provoke much highly-charged discussion. No matter where you fall on the immigration issue, all this recent discussion highlights the need for clear, transparent and uniformly administered immigration policies. The immigration problems that we face today are largely the result of 40 years of turning a 'blind-eye' to such0 issues.
This weekend, I came across a January 7, 2006, edition of The Economist, which carried an article entitled Incredible Shrinking Countries. The article suggested that contrary to popular thi ...
The much-anticipated upcoming general election is expected to be formally called and Parliament dissolved by Prime Minister Hubert A. Ingraham within the next few weeks. Established youth organization (organizers of the 'Say Something' youth forum) 'We Are The Future' - A Youth Organization in conjunction with its election arm 'Truth Bahamas' wishes to engage those seeking election in discussion on the key issues currently affecting The Bahamas.
The governing Free National Movement, the official opposition Progressive Liberal Party and the newly formed Democratic National Alliance have now all officially launched their candidates. It would, therefore, appear that the three political parties, as well as the numerous independent candidates, are ready for the campaign ahead of the general election.
Notwithstanding the lights, carefully orchestrated political performances and the professionally drafted, repetitious, empty and partisan rhetoric without a clear statement of the issues currently facing The Bahamas and a clear statement of each party's policy position on those issues, it would appear that no one is ready to actually govern the country for the next five years if elected. While it is imperative for each party to outline what it intends to do if elected, this rhetoric is not helpful and is moreover unrealistic, especially considering the flexibility required in governance, as well as the unstable global economic climate in which the elected government must operate.
Where the leaders of the respective parties have made traditional campaign promises, there has been no substantial and realistic discussion as to the viability of these promises and absolutely no indication of the source of funds required to make such promises a reality.
Whilst we understand that election campaign literature (Manifesto 2012, Our Plan, etc.) has yet to be published 'We Are The Future' - A Youth Organization, on behalf of the youth electorate, call for this literature to include a clear statement of each party's policy as it relates to the following key issues currently facing The Bahamas:
1. Crime - Including proposed statutory amendments to ensure that justice is properly served and safeguarded in the interest of society, propositions for the enhancement of the prosecution capabilities at the Attorney General's Office, propositions for the preservation of independent prosecutions inclusive of the source of additional resources to be allocated for crime fighting (if any), etc;
2. The judiciary - Including parties' policies on protecting the independence of the judiciary, propositions on expanding the number of judicial officers, propositions for the modernization of the various judicial registries inclusive of the source of additional resources to be allocated for crime fighting (if any), etc;
3. Immigration - (i.) General policy on immigration, more specifically including parties' policies on illegal immigrants, those working and residing within The Bahamas without leave to work and/or remain, policy on present statutory framework and proposed amendments to either regularize and/or crack down on illegal immigration;
(ii.) General policy on foreign labor, more specifically including an established and transparent process for the grant of work permits, such that the same may be subject to proper scrutiny, whether public, judicial or otherwise, etc;
4. The economy - General economic and monetary policy, including propositions to diversify the current economic model, relieving the present day reliance on tourism, inclusive of the source of additional resources to be allocated on such diversification (if any);
5. Tax - General policy for a sustainable system of taxation, more specifically propositions for the overhaul of the current tax regime, more specifically, policy and propositions on income tax, value added tax (VAT), sales tax, corporation tax, etc;
6. Oil exploration and drilling - General policy on offshore oil exploration and drilling, more specifically, in support of it or not, if so, policy on the requisite environmental protections and tax framework, immigration policy relating to the required specialist workforce, policy on educating young Bahamians in specialist areas;
7. The environment - General policy for a sustainable environment, more specifically, the proposed legislative program to ensure protection of the environment, etc;
8. Youth entrepreneurship - General policy to encouraging youth entrepreneurship;
9. Social welfare - General policy for sustainable social welfare, inclusive of the source of additional resources to be allocated for proposals (if any);
10. Unemployment - General policy to reducing unemployment, inclusive of the source of additional resources to be allocated for proposals (if any);
11. Sports - General policy to encourage sporting in The Bahamas.
The country looks forward to considering parties' and candidates' policies on the issues in exercising the established democratic tradition through the upcoming general election.
- 'We Are The Future' - a youth organization
Hubert Ingraham and the Free National Movement (FNM) have tried desperately to make this political campaign a referendum on his leadership. They have attempted to compare his leadership record and style to that of Perry Christie's. All things being equal it may have worked; apparently it did work in 2007. We now have a track record of both leaders taking political office after a recession.
Firstly, any credible leader would leave his country better off than he met it. Can Bahamians honestly declare that they are better off in 2012 than they were in 2007? I think that most reasonable people will concede that Christie left The Bahamas in better condition in 2007 than he met in 2002. Better condition refers to the quality of life of Bahamians. Let us examine some of the indices that underpin quality of life and form the basis for Ingraham's hubris.
Here is what the prime minister promised in an earlier Speech from the Throne: "My government will restore fiscal discipline to the public finances of the country, and will ensure that value is obtained for public expenditure and public business."
Time has proven that Hubert Ingraham cannot credibly lecture anyone on his leadership merits when it comes to fiscal discipline. When he returned to office in 2007, Hubert Ingraham met the national debt at $2.9 billion. It has now ballooned to $4.6 billion and by the end of this fiscal year the national debt is expected to be in the area of $5 billion. That is a net increase of some $2.1 billion in just five years. What kind of leader would make such a promise and then explode the national debt by over $2 billion in just five years?
One of the most important indicators of a nation's quality of life is the safety of its citizens. Can Bahamians truthfully claim that crime and the fear of crime are less now than they were in 2007? How can you boast of your leadership prowess after having presided over the most murderous and violent era in the history of The Bahamas?
Over 457 murders over a period of less than five years! Additionally, every other category of violent crime increased during this glorious leadership reign. A true leader would have taken measures necessary to reduce the incidents of violent crime and the fear of crime. Hubert Ingraham and the FNM have not demonstrated the kind of leadership needed in mobilizing and uniting communities in the fight against violence and criminal behavior.
Other areas where Hubert Ingraham's leadership has failed miserably are education and immigration control. These are issues vital to the quality of life of Bahamians. The FNM under Hubert Ingraham's leadership has failed to improve the education system institutionally, structurally or systemically and his leadership has failed to adequately prepare Bahamian students for the world after school. This is a terrible indictment on leadership.
Moreover, Bahamians feel that because of the immigration policies implemented by the FNM they have very little stake in the ownership of the county's economy, nor are they permitted to compete fairly in their own country. The immigration policies seem to curry favor foreign labor and foreign investors. This state of affairs does not bode well for the stability of the society.
Most failed leaders look to something or someone to blame for their failure. The global recession has been a convenient whipping dog for Hubert Ingraham and the FNM. However, Hubert Ingraham once pronounced that any leader worth his salt would anticipate a future recession and take corrective measures to mitigate the impact of that recession. Here is what he had to say in one of his earlier budget communications: "Furthermore, these budgetary problems were allowed to develop at a time when a prudent government would have recognized that cautionary measures should have been in place to meet any likelihood of a major recession in the U.S. economy, and to cushion the resultant impact on our tourism-driven economy."
How prudent was Ingraham's government? He went on to indict the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government by pronouncing: "It cannot be said that those who were responsible for managing the economy did not know hard times were coming, they just chose to ignore all the indicators."
Surely in 2007/2008, Ingraham knew a recession and resulting hard times were approaching? All fiscal and economic indicators pointed to it. Judging by his reckless response to, and the irresponsible choices made during, the recession Ingraham appeared to have been caught off guard by the recession. So much for leadership!
Leadership in government is about building and strengthening institutions that enhance democracy and improve the quality of life for citizens. Leadership in government is about inspiring people to achieve their dreams and ambitions. It is about building national consensus and compromise. Leadership is about mobilizing and consolidating the resources and talents of citizens toward national development. Leadership is not about demagoguery; it is not about power, intimidation and bullying.
So if I were the PLP or Democratic National Alliance, I would welcome a campaign based on leadership. I would put Ingraham's record, all of it, against the acid test of true leadership. I would seek to determine whether his five years of leadership improved the quality of life of Bahamians. I would simply ask if Bahamians were better off in 2012 than they were in 2007 - a simple and measurable reality - and let the people decide.
- Eric Gardner
A mixture of optimism and an expectation of challenging and uncertain circumstances to come characterize the views of a number of leading figures in Guardian Business' round up of opinions on what 2014 has to hold for The Bahamas in terms of growth, unemployment levels, government policy initiatives and the outlook for a variety of key sectors.
Here James Smith, former central bank governor and chairman of Colina Financial Advisors Limited (CFAL); George Markantonis, president and managing director of Atlantis Resort; Anthony Ferguson, president of CFAL; Aliya Allen, chief executive officer and executive director of the Bahamas Financial Services Board; Franon Wilson, president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association; and a top banker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, offer their views on what The Bahamas can expect in 2014.
James Smith said he expects The Bahamas to experience "some modest economic growth in 2014, but at an insufficiently high level to produce any dramatic change in the unemployment rate".
"The Bahamas is still emerging slowly from the deep recession which began in 2008 and was marked by negative GDP growth rates for most of the period, accompanied by high unemployment rates; more than doubling from 7.5 percent at the end of 2007 to a little over 16 percent currently," he said.
"Given the unflattering macroeconomic statistics of 2013, any positive trends for 2014 are likely to be at best 'modest' since we would be projecting from an already low base."
"Our major economic sector, tourism, is likely to continue to face headwinds in 2014 because our major market, the USA, projected GDP growth and lower unemployment levels are unlikely to be sufficient to dramatically alter the fall-off in tourist expenditure, total room revenue and average occupancy rates experienced in The Bahamas over the last three quarters of 2013," Smith said. "There is likely to be an improvement in employment levels in the tourist sector as a result of accelerated job additions to meet the December 2014 deadline of the Baha Mar project."
On the financial sector
"The second largest economic sector, financial services, continues to operate under the stressful conditions induced by international regulators' demands for increased capitalization, which in turn has led to some downsizing in the local market in order to preserve profit levels or to avoid stringent regulatory oversight," he said.
"The continued losses of high-end jobs in the financial services sector would compress overall demand for goods and services locally and present a challenge to economic growth throughout 2014."
"Our third largest sector, construction, which accounts for about 10 percent of GDP but also has the highest proportion of value-added contribution to GDP, is expected to continue to perform poorly as a result of the fall-off in demand for new construction and the restraint on new mortgage loans in the banking sector, which continues to be plagued with abnormally high loan arrears portfolios of over $1.2 billion at the end of the third quarter in 2013," he said.
"The moderation in consumer prices as a result of declining oil prices is likely to be tempered somewhat with the planned introduction of a new consumer-based tax during the second quarter of 2014.
On foreign direct investment
"Plans in the pipeline for some major and minor FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) projects in the tourism sector could have a positive impact on economic growth and employment levels if they materialize over the next several months," Smith said.
"However, there is likely to be a continued drag on the economy; one that cannot be adequately addressed by increased government spending at a time when a growing public sector debt issue is being closely monitored by both local and international lenders."
George Markantonis, president and managing director of the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort, the country's largest private sector employer, said he is very optimistic about 2014 based on the pace of bookings the resort is seeing for the new year.
"Only February seems somewhat weak in the first four months and we are taking steps to try and correct that," he said. "We believe that the improving American economy, the stable U.S. housing market and the climbing Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) are all creating more consumer confidence in the U.S. which realistically provides us with 85 percent of our annual business.
"A bright spot on the horizon is our group booking pace continuing to grow, while a dark spot is the declining airlift coming into the country. December numbers released (last week) show year-on-year decline in seats of eight percent, mostly due to reduced December service of American from Dallas and Jet blue from Ft. Lauderdale."
New trends in tourism that The Bahamian tourism sector will need to consider in 2014:
"New gaming licenses are being approved across the United States which will continue to add competition for our casinos," he said. "In addition cruise lines are continuing to add non-traditional attractions to their new mega-ships thereby directly competing with land-based mega-resorts, that is water slides, celebrity chef restaurants etc, etc."
Major policy steps the government could take to impact the tourism sector in 2014:
"We are very pleased that government is reviewing the gaming regulations of course but hope that there will be some significant steps taken to reduce utility costs across the sector, and to minimize the addition of more fees to business which will have to be passed on to the consumer and may impact the value perception of the destination," he said.
Anthony Ferguson said he expects a "challenging" 2014.
"I think 2014 will be a challenging one for The Bahamas as the U.S. slows in the first half coupled with the implementation of value-added tax (VAT) which would cause businesses to delay any hiring and expansion decisions," he said. "This will be countered by Baha Mar as they look to hire and train for the December opening. However 5,000 kids graduating from school in 2014 will negate Baha Mar hiring."
On unemployment levels
"I don't think we can really reduce unemployment in 2014 as the Baha Mar hiring will be offset by the 5,000 school graduates," Ferguson said. "To rescue employment the government needs to balance new taxes against incentives for businesses to consider expanding their business."
On policy initiatives which could stimulate the private sector:
"The government should reduce the red tape, allow economic passports, revisit immigration policy," he said.
"It's mind blowing that the Department of Labour are directing businesses who to interview and hire. It's also socialist. And if they sent qualified people you be grateful!
"The government needs to reshuffle the Cabinet and implement an economic planning ministry to develop a 20 year strategy for Bahamas Inc. Unless we do this we are headed in the direction of the rest of the Caribbean."
Aliya Allen, CEO and executive director of the BFSB, said she is upbeat about the potential for 2014 to generate more opportunity and greater returns for the financial services sector.
"Generally, we see a number of bright spots for financial services, as a result of the initiatives we have undertaken in recent and past years," she said.
"These include ongoing developments in the captive insurance and funds sectors, as well as continuing to solidify our position as a leader in wealth management."
Major trends or changes that The Bahamas will have to adapt to in 2014:
"The cost of compliance will continue to be a challenge, with initiatives like FATCA, for example. Indeed, I would add to that the cost of compliance with VAT, even for firms that benefit from zero rating but wish to reclaim inputs," she said.
Significant policy steps the government could take to positively impact the financial sector:
"The government has demonstrated a historic commitment to the financial community," Allen said.
"If this commitment could be expanded to include additional resources we could truly be first in class in business, both local and international. That extends to setting and monitoring turn around times in all effective business processes and departments such as the Department of Immigration, the Registrar Generals Department, and the Bahamas Investment Authority."
Franon Wilson, president of Arawak Homes and the Bahamas Real Estate Association, said he too is optimistic about what the new year holds for the economy.
"I am optimistic in large part because of Baha Mar, and in that regard even though the hotel will not open during the course of this year they'll probably be hiring a lot of people and that will be a big jolt in our economy," he said.
"I do think the levels will come down. I don't think it's going to happen overnight and go back to 2005 or 2006 levels, but I do think now it is moving slowly in that direction and that will give a boost. We won't be in the clear but we'll be moving in the right direction."
On policy initiatives that could stimulate the private sector:
"At the end of the day certainty is key and I accept the country's financial position is in a state where we need some type of reform to help the government to move forward and maintain the standard we have right now, whether it's VAT or a blend of VAT and something else; whatever it is, I'm looking forward to getting that process done so we can move forward. We need to deal with it and move forward."
A leading banker, who offered his views on condition of anonymity, told Guardian Business he fears The Bahamas will "let a good crisis go to waste" in 2014.
"Rahm Emanuel, the former Chief of Staff for [U.S. President Barack] Obama said something along the lines of 'You never let a serious crisis go to waste,'" he said.
"I find that quote a very appropriate place to start as I reflect on where The Bahamas finds itself financially today.
"The Bahamas economy has suffered a body blow since the financial crisis erupted in the developed world in 2007. While the U.S. seems to be emerging from this crisis, albeit painfully slowly, we have yet to see the Bahamian economy back to pre-crisis levels. Unemployment in The Bahamas remains stubbornly high and loan delinquencies have soared. With the economy in the doldrums, government revenue has plummeted but the expense base has not changed materially. The net effect of this development has been that the budget deficit has widened and the debt to GDP ratio is in the danger zone. The government is taking steps to address the problem of the lack of revenue, through the proposed introduction of VAT. Based on public pronouncements of the business community, the government's proposal has gone down like a lead balloon with loud voices suggesting dire events if VAT is introduced."
The economic outlook in the short and medium term:
"The short-term (one to two years) does not look particularly good," he said.
"The introduction of VAT in 2014 will likely tip the struggling Bahamian consumer over the edge and exacerbate their already difficult existence. Delinquencies are likely to worsen as living standards erode. Discretionary spending funds will reduce and related consumption will decline hurting the already struggling Bahamian private sector. The Bahamian consumer accounts for a considerable percentage of the Bahamian GDP and lower consumption will hurt Bahamian economic recovery and tax revenues. The devil is in the details and the public cannot see the execution of VAT meeting the GOB revenue expectations simply because Bahamians do not have a culture for paying taxes as is evident with the $500MM in delinquent property taxes. The informal sector and cash basis society will blossom and leach the tax revenue GOB is relying on.
"The medium term (three to five years) perspective is more positive as global economies in general, and the U.S. in particular, are showing greater robustness in their economic recovery, which should hopefully translate to more tourism traffic for The Bahamas. The U.S. is particularly important to The Bahamas as more than 90 percent of our tourist traffic and related revenues come from there and signs that U.S. consumers are more willing to spend and charge up their credit cards auger well for the Bahamian economy. Coupled with the opening of Baha Mar in late 2014, I see a resurgence in the domestic economy and employment levels in 2016."
Fiscal reform in 2014 - stuck between 'a rock and a hard place'
"It appears that the government knows all the VAT related pitfalls but it finds itself between a rock and a hard place," he said.
"It needs to plug the fiscal deficit and control the growing debt to GDP ratio. The introduction of measures to reduce the deficit cannot fail as the alternatives are much worse. Barbados has already announced a reduction in civil servant levels by 3,000 to avoid going to the IMF for a bail out and Jamaica has defaulted twice. Both face many years of painful adjustments that cannot be good for their people.
"The mandarins from the IMF have persuaded it that the same medicine of VAT that has been applied with modest success elsewhere would work here, notwithstanding the tax avoidance and downright tax evasion culture that is pervasive in The Bahamas. VAT is simply a revenue generating tool that government is presently promoting - there may be other options that may be more targeted and have a greater chance of success with lower leakages and collection costs. The government is hopefully exploring all options including a phased introduction of VAT with lower starting rates. But any form of taxation will have the same impact on lowering consumer spending.
"But reducing the deficit requires not only an increase in revenue but also a reduction in expenses - from the bloated civil service to the inefficient government corporations. No administration historically has wanted to touch these sacred cows and regrettably, the time has now come where the country cannot simply ignore the vast government bureaucracy and the amounts that are used to subsidize the corporations.
"Instead of taking the opportunity to reset the public's expectations, the government is maintaining that everything will be fine soon and unemployment is dropping and economic recovery is in sight. No serious effort is being made to sit costs or wastage. We are, yet again, letting a serious crisis go to waste."
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.
The bodies of three men, believed to be a part of a group of Haitian nationals whose vessel ran aground last week, were discovered over the weekend near an Eleuthera shoreline.
Assistant Superintendent Elburt Ferguson, officer in charge of Central Bahamas, told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that the bodies washed ashore on the north side of Governor's Harbour between Friday and Saturday.
"We found two bodies on [Friday] and we also found a dismembered body on [Saturday]," he said, adding that a portion of the man's torso and leg were missing.
"We suspect that it probably would be from a shark, maybe a shark attack, but we can't say that for certain. That's why we are waiting for an autopsy," Ferguson said.
The bodies found on Friday have already been transported to New Providence for an autopsy. Ferguson said the other body will be transported when arrangements can be made.
Ferguson said attempts are also being made to determine the identities of the victims.
On Wednesday night a sloop ran aground at Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera, Wednesday evening. Police picked up 14 of its occupants.
Eddie Ferguson, chief immigration officer, told The Nassau Guardian that between 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. residents of the area noticed a group of suspected Haitian immigrants walking near a beach. At that time, Ferguson said authorities apprehended 12 men and two women, who were taken to Governor's Harbour Police Station for processing.
It was unclear where the illegal immigrants traveled from, although Ferguson said based on preliminary reports it's suspected they came from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Meantime, Assistant Superintendent Ferguson said yesterday that authorities apprehended an additional 13 persons since Wednesday.
In total, 25 Haitians have been captured.
Ferguson said the immigrants were transported to Nassau last week for further processing and will be repatriated soon.
He added that authorities will continue to search for any additional migrants who may have gotten away.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has agreed to pay Customs and Immigration officers overtime pay in accordance with the Employment Act, said Labour Minister Dion Foulkes.
The decision came during a meeting on Saturday with Ingraham, Foulkes, officials from the Bahamas Customs Immigration and Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU) and representatives from the departments of Customs and Immigration.
Foulkes is confident that the weekend meeting brought an end to months of industrial action by the union.
"The prime minister met with the Customs and Immigration unions on Saturday. We discussed all of their 15 issues that they presented to me, that I presented to the prime minister. We resolved the vast majority of them including the issue of overtime pay, which was the main issue that the Customs and Immigration [union] brought forward.
"There were some personnel issues which the prime minister indicated that the Department of Public Service, along with the union, will continue to talk about and get resolved. From our point of view, we think that the matter is settled and the meeting went extremely well. I think for all intents and purposes, this will bring an end to the industrial action by that union," Foulkes told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.
The union's main sore point was the fact that its members were paid overtime set under a fixed rate which differs from the time-and-a-half overtime pay mandated in the Employment Act.
"The prime minister agreed that Customs and Immigration would pay overtime pursuant to the law which is the Employment Act. They were being paid a fixed rate which was established by Customs several years ago. Their argument was that being paid a fixed rate was not legal, that they should have been paid pursuant to the Employment Act which is time and a half and of course on holidays, double time. So the prime minister agreed with them and they will sit down with their respective departments to work out how that will work going forward."
Earlier this month, Customs officers stationed at Arawak Cay staged a walkout over "unhealthy working conditions" at their job site. BCIAWU Vice President Sloane Smith said that several employees reported to the union that their skin broke out, they had problems breathing or had severe headaches over the past few months because of mold in their building.
Last December, the BCIAWU staged several protests agitating for Foulkes to certify a strike vote weeks after the vote was taken. Members had concerns over salaries and the shift system implemented by the government in January 2010.
Foulkes eventually signed the vote in mid-January.
A financial officer at the Road Traffic Department has alleged that "phantom-like" accounting practices are taking place in the government agency, and urged that
a "doll house operation" that exists within it be shut down.
He was referring to an unofficial 'accounting unit' that was separate from the main accounting office, according to the report obtained by The Nassau Guardian.
The financial officer said in the report that when the unofficial unit was compared to the main office, there were 'reportable conditions'.
"These conditions are reportable because there is no segregation of duties and responsibilities [in the unit], as well as there is decentralization, thus controls are almost non-existent," he wrote.
The financial officer also wrote that up to August 2011, the de-facto accounting unit had been in operation for at least two years.
The financial officer said the figures coming out of this unit "indicate ineffectiveness and that figures don't lie, people do".
He also wrote in the report to the government's top financial officers, "I cannot sit in idleness by and allow persons to use their superficial intelligence and position of power to manipulate the accounting process, therefore I am seeking an immediate transfer."
In another report, the financial officer alleged that the user IDs of employees who left the department years ago -- including that of former road traffic controller and current Gardens Hills MP Brensil Rolle -- were used to issue hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of driver's licenses last year.
In Rolle's case, his user ID accessed the system as recently as November 1 of last year, despite him being out of the department for several years, said the officer in the report sent to Treasurer Eugenia Cartwright, Financial Secretary Ehurd Cunningham and Auditor General Terrance Bastian on December 12, 2011.Rolle left the department in 2005, and was replaced by now Director of Immigration Jack Thompson.
Last night, Rolle said he was flabbergasted by the allegation.
"That should be impossible. I shouldn't even have anything related to a password or an ID. The very week that I left licenses were issued under the signature of Jack Thompson," said Rolle, who emphatically stated that he could not speak to any issues that occurred at the department after he left.
The report emerged as a result of efforts by the officer to reconcile the driver's license issuing system and the cash receipting system for the period between July 1 and November 30 last year, the report claimed.
The report also claimed that a user ID of an employee who left the department more than 10 years ago had been used to issue at least $249,000 worth of driver's licenses and was last used to access the system on November 30.
In another instance, the user ID of an employee who has reportedly been stationed at another agency for over two years, last accessed the system on November 30, and issued licenses valued at $29,275.
The department is supposed to collect fees on driver's licenses printed.
However, the officer claims he was unable to reconcile the number of driver's licenses issued and the cash received for them.
"There are four main users who print driver's licenses in the driver's license unit, however, evidence (indicates) that they have access to 48 user IDs," wrote the officer. "The main user IDs account for about 22.24 percent of the dollar value of driver's licenses printed, whereas the supposed dead/inactive user IDs account for some 77.76 percent of the dollar value of drivers licenses printed."
The department printed nearly $1,000,000 worth of driver's licenses during a five-month period last year, according to the officer.
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.
Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader Branville McCartney last night pledged to hold a referendum on citizenship if his party is elected to government.
McCartney said such a referendum would allow Bahamians to decide whether people who come to The Bahamas illegally in the future, or their children could be eligible for citizenship.
Under the Constitution, people born in The Bahamas to foreign parents have the right to apply for citizenship at age 18.
McCartney has previously said children of illegal immigrants should have no such right even if they are born in The Bahamas.
The DNA leader made the formal announcement regarding the referendum when he spoke at an event at the Wyndham Nassau Resort where his party unveiled its full slate of candidates.
McCartney served as minister of state for immigration in the Ingraham administration, but resigned from the Cabinet two years ago.
He left the Free National Movement last year and formed the DNA.
Last night, McCartney also reiterated his criticism of Haitian President Michel Martelly, who visited The Bahamas last week and urged Haitians and Bahamians of Haitian descent to form a voting bloc and support the party that has their best interest at heart.
Martelly also criticized the Bahamian Constitution for not providing for automatic right to citizenship for children born in The Bahamas.
McCartney said if he becomes prime minister he would "not enter another country and disrespect its democracy".
In addition to addressing the controversial immigration issue, the DNA leader also outlined what his party would tackle in its first year in office if it becomes the government and pledged to "redefine the possible".
He said a DNA government would find new and creative ways to generate revenue to match the growing diverse needs of Bahamians.
"So while we complete the projects that will be inevitably left behind by previous governments, a DNA government will focus more on production, design, technology, manufacturing and inventive industries driven primarily by exported goods and services provided by local businesses," said McCartney as DNA supporters cheered him on during the nationally-televised event.
"Within the first year of office, a DNA government will create sustainable opportunities for Bahamian small to mid-size enterprises, particularly those in the agriculture, fisheries, alternative and renewable energy, and manufacturing and assembly industries."
Last night, the DNA also formally announced Christopher Mortimer as its deputy leader.
Mortimer told supporters that if elected, the DNA would do much to curb crime, unemployment, environmental issues, dependence on foreign oil and improve the state of the economy.
"However, I want to be clear; some of these things will not happen in the first 100 days of the DNA government," he said. "They may not happen in our first term, but just as the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step, our journey toward real change for one Bahamas begins on election day."
Mortimer said he 'graciously' accepted the responsibility of being the party's second in command.
"I do not bear this responsibility lightly because I understand the magnitude of the undertaking facing the DNA and our country," he said.
Mortimer beat out several other DNA candidates, including Randy Butler (North Andros), Wayne Munroe (Mount Moriah), Charlene Paul (Elizabeth) and Wallace Rolle (South Beach) on Monday night for the deputy leader post.
Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis has pledged that the government is set to undertake a "comprehensive review" of policies and practices that impact the financial services industry, to facilitate international investors and the "non-Bahamian expertise needed to grow our financial services sector".
At the same time, Davis said that the government is committed to the need for a "smart human development policy", which will attend to skills gaps in the Bahamian economy, with the ultimate goal of making The Bahamas a center of excellence for the region in financial services training and research.
Davis made these commitments at the opening dinner of the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) International Business and Finance Summit at Georgetown, Exuma on January 23.
His comments relating to immigration and other policies come close to two weeks after Minister of Financial Services Ryan Pinder apologized in person to UBS (Bahamas) Ltd. Executive Director Emmanuel Fiaux, after he was sent to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre when he could not produce his work authorization documentation during a special operation conducted by the Department of Immigration.
Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell defended the immigration officers involved, arguing that they had done nothing wrong during the incident, however, the BFSB and the Association of International Banks and Trust Companies in The Bahamas (AIBT), along with other industry and business commentators, called for the government to take a "more sensitive approach" to immigration matters in order to avoid potential "harm" to the industry.
Addressing the BFSB summit, Davis said that the government's overall objective is to "facilitate the ease of doing business in The Bahamas, and to support our international trade commitments in a manner which would be of maximum benefit to the Bahamian economy".
He said that the government will ensure that arrangements are made to ensure that policies are "in keeping with internationally accepted practices".
At the same time, Davis assured those present that the government is also committed to ensure that Bahamians take up economic opportunities in The Bahamas, and would seek to strike the "the right balance with respect to the maximum use of Bahamian expertise with the best possible career path for upward mobility".
Davis noted that the government sees the need for a "smart human development policy" in order to address the 'skills gaps" that is prevalent in the Caribbean and Latin America.
"My government is not prepared to sit idly by with respect to addressing any real or perceived skills-gaps in The Bahamas," he said.
"Therefore, we will work with all relevant institutions within the Bahamian government and outside of the government to ensure that Bahamians are ready for the changing realities in the financial services sector.
"I take this opportunity today to also implore Bahamian practitioners to take it upon themselves to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.
"The Ministry of Financial Services, in concert with various public and private sector institutions, I am pleased to say, is fully focussed in this area. The Bahamas is closer than ever to establishing itself as the centre of excellence for the region in financial services training and research.
"Minister Pinder has been directed to make achieving this distinction a priority for his ministry. Towards this end timely initiatives have been taken in advancing financial services internships, industry training and development, and new courses in taxation and corporate finance."
Davis noted that The Bahamas is also committed to a "smart policy" via public diplomacy and increased dialogue to "counter misperceptions" about the Bahamian financial services industry and champion its strengths.
"We are seeking to ensure that international organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), continue to acknowledge that The Bahamas is a well-regulated jurisdiction and one which is known for its compliance with international best practices," he said.
"In fact, arguably, the anti-money laundering, anti-terrorism funding, and regulatory regimes of The Bahamas are more robust and far more effective than the corresponding regimes of those countries who are leading the fight against our jurisdiction.
"The Bahamas will tell the entire world that its financial services industry is a legitimate, development model and one which had made a substantial contribution to the gross domestic product, the economic prospects and long-term development of The Bahamas."
EDITOR, The Tribune.
I LISTENED with keen interest to remarks made by Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham in Exuma over the weekend (March 3-4) concerning the industrial unrest in the Customs and Immigration Departments at the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA).
The prime minister made it emphatically clear that his government will not give in to the unreasonable demands of the union of these government agencies.
Apparently, immigration line staff had failed to show up for work on Saturday (March 3), causing a major back-up at the LPIA. One thousand passengers, many of them visitors, were negatively affected by this move which can rightly be described as a blackmail.
What is even ...
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
By CELESTE NIXON
Tribune Staff Reporter
AS the labour stand-off at the airport continues, immigration and customs union officials have made a deal with Labour Minister Dion Foulkes not to speak to the press about their discussions going forward, Trade Union Congress president Obie Ferguson revealed.
Mr Ferguson, legal representative of the Bahamas Customs, Immigration and Allied Worker's Union, said negotiations with the minister resumed on Wednesday morning at 8am.
Agreeing with Mr Foulkes not to discuss the contents of the meeting, Mr Ferguson would not comment on the progress of negotiations or if the strike action would continue while negotiations are cont ...
The election season is well in full force in The Bahamas. All of the major political parties have cranked up their machinery and politicians are making their presence felt on the talk show circuit. No one would argue that crime and the economy are two of the biggest concerns on the electorate's mind as we move toward the 2012 general election. However, politicians should not make the mistake of campaigning on these issues alone. The Bahamian electorate want answers and proposed policies on a multitude of issues including immigration, exploration of natural resources for economic benefit and future plans to address our failing education system. One of the issues that the next government of The Bahamas must confront is the more than half a century topic of gambling by Bahamians in The Bahamas.
Gambling no doubt is one of the most controversial topics of discussion in The Bahamas. There are many proponents and critics. It remains uncertain, however, what percentage of the Bahamian population is for or against legalizing gambling by Bahamians. The reality is that we as a nation continue to go round and round in circles on this matter, while thousands of Bahamians patronize the multitude of what are commonly referred to as 'number houses' in The Bahamas.
An argument against the legalization is that it will bring with it a myriad of social issues that are opposed to Christian values and will cause a decadence in Bahamian society. While it is accepted among some that gambling may not be an outright sin in the Bible, gambling done in excess is sinful.
Others opposed to the legalization of gambling have put forth an economic argument claiming that gambling is an open form of regressive taxation that will affect those of the lower income brackets more than those of the middle and upper class. As a result, those of the lower income class will fail to take care of their financial obligations at home such as paying necessary bills and caring for their families. A perception exists that individuals below the poverty line gamble more than persons who are not poor. However, studies in America suggest that the reverse is true as it was found that more persons of the middle class played the lottery as opposed to those of the lower income class.
Proponents of legalizing gambling assert that government cannot legislate morality. Further, proponents claim that there are many potential benefits including an increase in government revenue which can contribute toward charitable purposes, infrastructure and most notably education. Advocates of the legalization of gambling also argue that it is another legitimate source of income for a government that has limited ability to increase its revenue intake. Although this argument has been successful in persuading a lot of Americans to vote in favor of a national lottery, it was found that the eventual revenue was not utilized in the manner that many had hoped for. For instance, the additional revenue from the lottery did in fact go towards education; however, many states reduced or offset the allocation to the educational budget against revenue received from the lottery. Hence, the education budget was not increased overall but education was merely funded by another source of revenue. To remedy this effect, a few states in America have passed legislation to ensure that a certain percentage of revenue received from the lottery is allocated for the specific purpose of education. This ensures that the funds are used for the purpose intended on the one hand, and on the other hand it ensures that the states do not decrease their allocation to education.
The greatest issue with gambling in The Bahamas is the fact that there is much hypocrisy surrounding the point. Several decades ago, the government of the day approved policy for hoteliers and casino operators to provide gambling services, however casino gambling and 'playing numbers' was outlawed for Bahamians. It is interesting to note that civic organizations, churches and schools still have the ability to distribute raffle tickets as a major fundraiser. However, provisions have been made for such activities under the Gaming and Lotteries Act. Over the years, law enforcers have conducted random raids of 'number house' establishments in an attempt to discourage the practice of gambling by Bahamians otherwise called 'buying and selling numbers'. However, the truth of the matter is that neither the government nor the law enforcers have done an adequate job 'shutting down' the number houses.
There is widespread hypocrisy in that the government allows foreign investors to enter the country and provide amenities for casino gambling for their guests, but Bahamians though guests of these hotels quite often are unable to utilize these gambling facilities. It is unclear whether the operators of 'number houses' want gambling by Bahamians legalized. Any potential legalization will certainly decrease their profits, reduce market share and relinquish their current control to a government authority. Liberalization of the gambling market will foster competition and encourage the entrance of more competitors. Hoteliers and casino operators may not prefer any gambling policy that allows Bahamians to gamble not because of a threat to their market share, but because it will provide Bahamians with the licence to enter these establishments and patronize all the amenities just as the foreign tourists and non-residents do. Arguably, hoteliers and casino operators may not find such a policy good for their businesses.
It appears that there are arguably many special interests who prefer to keep the status quo. However, maintenance of the current state of affairs will increase hypocrisy and anarchy among Bahamians. It is advisable for the next government of The Bahamas to ascertain the gambling appetite of the Bahamian population and propose a referendum on the matter. We must take a "what is good for the goose is good for the gander approach".
Legal gambling in The Bahamas should benefit both Bahamians and non-residents alike. The same is true for illegal gambling; neither Bahamians nor non-residents should benefit. If Bahamians agree to legalize gambling, it follows that the government must take the necessary steps to comply with the wishes of the people. However, if the overwhelming response is to keep gambling by Bahamians illegal, the government and relevant government agencies must enforce the law and uphold the provisions of the Gaming and Lotteries Act. This is the essence of democracy - a government of the people, for the people and by the people.
Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Whistleblower hopes that noted televangelist Dr. Myles Munroe wasn't caught off-guard when Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell gave him a tongue-lashing for publically calling him out on his latest pro-homosexuality pronouncement.
Mitchell has a habit of using pejoratives to describe anyone who doesn't agree with him. Last month he called Free National Movement MP Hubert Chipman homophobic, even though Chipman went out of his way to say that he has nothing against homosexuality.
As for Munroe, his only fault in all this is that he called for the removal of Mitchell from his ministerial post after he gave his Trinidadian audience at the University of the West Indies the impression that most Bahamians are pro-gay. And for this Munroe is labeled ignorant and anti-PLP. Mitchell has come dangerously close to giving the impression to the Bahamian public that to disagree with the LGBT view is to be anti-PLP and ignorant. The Whistleblower applauds Munroe for throwing his immense weight behind the anti-gay lobby, despite his alleged support for the party.
The Whistleblower understands that a sitting PLP MP attends his church. My only fault with the noted clergyman is that he should have never mentioned travelling to 138 countries, as this would only whet Mitchell's insatiable appetite to travel more at the expense of the hardworking taxpayers who are already bracing themselves for the impending introduction of the valued added-tax system in July.
It was reported in a national newspaper that Mitchell has already used more than half of his budget after he was advanced a whopping $45,000 for travel. At the rate he is on, he will easily exceed the $1 million he spent on travel in the first Christie government. The Whistleblower will not hold his breath for other men and women of the cloth who are PLPs to come to Munroe's defense.
In their wholehearted devotion to the PLP, Christian personalities such as Prophet Lawrence Rolle, the Rev. Dr. William Thompson, Dwight Armbrister and Mother Pratt will not jump into the anti-gay fray. To do so would only hurt their party. If The Whistleblower is correctly interpreting Mitchell, then the above personalities are in a bit of a quandary. If they were to follow Munroe's example in disagreeing with Mitchell on this matter, then they will be castigated as anti-PLP, homophobic and ignorant. If, on the other hand, they embrace Mitchell's position, then they will be considered heretics by the church.
- The Whistleblower
The recent visit by the president of Haiti, Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly, to The Bahamas has created the perfect non-issue for political parties that are grasping at straws. The Haitian president advised Bahamian voters of Haitian descent to simply vote for the party and candidates that best suit their interests in the upcoming general election. It's something that we all should do; it's the essence of politics and elections in a democracy, in my view.
So what's the uproar all about? Well, they are looking for votes by hook or crook. So, one easy way to do it is to stir up the emotion of the Bahamian electorate on the illegal immigration issue; where unregulated Haitians are at the heart. Offering substantive suggestions on how we could deal effectively with our illegal immigration challenges are lacking on the part of political parties in The Bahamas; especially the opposition lot. Their prime perspective is to send all illegals home forthwith -- nothing more, nothing less. It's an impractical and unworkable solution laced with man's inhumanity to man, in my opinion.
The fringe political party, Democratic National Alliance (DNA), and its leader Branville McCartney went to town with all kinds of nonsense regarding the Haitian president's words to his people and Haitian-Bahamian voters. He said that the president's remarks were a direct attack on Bahamian democracy and all Bahamians. McCartney further stated that "Sweet Micky" should respect the sovereignty of our democracy. What did Martelly do or say that we missed which instigated such empty sentiments by the leader of the DNA?
Bradley Roberts, chairman of the official opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), said that he thought that it was an insult to the Bahamian people that a foreigner would come to The Bahamas to instruct Bahamian citizens to vote one way or the other. When did Martelly do this Roberts?
Others have said that the president of Haiti's visit was ill-timed because of a general election being around the corner in The Bahamas.
The bottom-line is this: opposition parties in The Bahamas feel and know deep inside their hearts that Bahamian voters of Haitian descent will support the governing Free National Movement (FNM) in the greatest numbers in the approaching general election because Haitian-Bahamians believe that the FNM is the political vehicle in The Bahamas that has their best interest at heart.
The other parties are strong on their anti-foreign and immigrant messages. Everyone with eyes to see, and ears to hear knows this. Do not blame Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly for the hate and divisions within the Bahamian society caused by Bahamian politicians who simply do not like outsiders.
The time has come for the Bahamian people to realize the enormous benefits of trade and cooperation with our neighbor to the south -- Haiti. Martelly spoke about creating jobs for his people so that they do not have to leave Haiti looking for the same; and he encouraged his compatriots in The Bahamas to return home to help build their poor nation.
The main purpose of the Haitian president's visit to The Bahamas, according to news reports, was to promote Haiti as a nation ripe for investments and full of opportunities. He encouraged his people to unite with him to turn things around in Haiti for the better.
Martelly brought hope to his people in The Bahamas, and Bahamians should see the wisdom and benefits of a Haiti on the move with increasing economic benefits to The Bahamas and its people.
This is something to rejoice about, and Bahamians should welcome a new era of success and prosperity with Haiti and its people.
- Dennis Dames
Relations between Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago are becoming increasingly difficult. This deterioration in relations between two of the most influential countries in the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) does not serve the interests of either country or the community as a whole.
Urgent steps should have been taken some time ago to defuse the growing tension between the two countries over trade matters. That tension has now worsened over a recent denial of entry of Jamaicans to Trinidad and Tobago that has been highly publicized and widely decried in Jamaica.
In a commentary in June this year, entitled "No need for a trade war between Jamaican and Trinidad and Tobago", I said, "It may be that in some form of quiet diplomacy unknown to the publics of the 15-nation CARICOM, the secretary-general of the CARICOM Secretariat is already engaged in behind-the-scenes activity to try to end the verbal slogging that has characterized the recent relations between Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. If that is so, then hopefully his efforts will result in an understanding of how the two most populous English-speaking countries in CARICOM can resolve the differences that have arisen. If no such initiative has as yet been taken, then consideration might be given to doing so."
On the information available, it seems that either no effort was made to solve the trade problems between the two countries, or any such effort failed. Whichever it is, the current situation is a festering sore that urgently needs constructive attention.
Vocal elements of the Jamaican private sector are concerned about the huge trade deficit that Jamaica experiences with Trinidad and Tobago. They are also concerned that many Jamaican products are unable to compete against Trinidad and Tobago products both in their own domestic market and in the wider CARICOM market. They attribute this situation to cheaper energy made available by the government of Trinidad and Tobago to its industries.
The trade figures are as follows: In U.S. dollars, the value of Jamaica's imports from Trinidad and Tobago is: 721.0 m (2010); 877.7 m (2011) and 702.2 m (2012). While the value of its exports to Trinidad and Tobago is: 19.1 m (2010); 21.0 m (2011) and 18.3 m (2012). However, it is important to note that imports of mineral fuels, lubricants and related material represented 82.6 percent, 85.3 percent and 81 percent of Jamaica's total imports from Trinidad and Tobago in 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively. If Jamaica had not imported those energy-related products from Trinidad and Tobago, it would have had to do so from elsewhere, probably at a higher cost.
Nonetheless, it is clear that Jamaica experiences a large trade deficit with Trinidad and Tobago. While a large trade deficit with Trinidad and Tobago among CARICOM member states is not unique to Jamaica, Jamaica is the largest market of all CARICOM countries for Trinidad and Tobago products. Over the three-year period, 2010 to 2012, the trade surplus in Trinidad and Tobago's favor was US$2.24 billion.
Even if Jamaica were not undergoing its current grim economic situation, the severe imbalance in trade should be addressed. But, what is certain is that an organized boycott of Trinidad and Tobago products that is currently being proposed in Jamaica is not the answer. As the Trinidad and Tobago foreign minister, Winston Dookeran, pointed out, "Both countries will lose if there's any containment of trade because out of trade comes employment opportunities in Jamaica and they too will be put at risk."
A real opportunity now exists to find a permanent solution to this increasingly contentious issue that has the potential for souring the overall relations between these two countries and spilling over into the CARICOM community as a whole. The opportunity has arisen through an invitation by the Jamaica foreign minister, A J Nicholson, to Dookeran for talks on the other festering issue of entry to Trinidad and Tobago by Jamaicans.
On November 19, Trinidad and Tobago immigration officials denied entry to 13 Jamaicans and sent them back to Jamaica the following day. News of this outraged a large number of Jamaican people who feel that the island's nationals are wrongfully denied rights of "hassle-free" travel accorded to all CARICOM citizens by the CARICOM Treaty; a 2007 decision of CARICOM heads of government; and a judgement given by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in October 2013. The immigration authorities appear to have denied the 13 persons automatic entry and stay in the country because of a view that they could become "a charge on the public purse". In denying them entry, immigration officers did not take account of "community law", which has precedence over inconsistent domestic legislation, as stated by the CCJ.
In accordance with the CCJ ruling, the 13 persons should have been allowed "to consult an attorney or a consular official of their country". They should also have been given in writing the reasons for denying them entry and advised that they could challenge the decision. It appears that they were not given those entitlements. Further, the CCJ judgement requires the government of Trinidad and Tobago, like all other CARICOM governments, to put machinery in place "to provide effective and accessible appeal or review procedures with adequate safeguards to protect the rights of the persons denied entry". This machinery has not been established by Trinidad and Tobago or by many other CARICOM governments - an issue that will escalate in coming months unless governments adhere to the law.
The talks between Nicholson and Dookeran, while important on the issue of right of entry, should also now include the problem of trade. Dookeran should go to Jamaica with a clear mandate from his government to put constructive proposals to his Jamaican counterpart on the trade issues. After all, Trinidad and Tobago has gained enormously from trade arrangements with all CARICOM countries, and with Jamaica in particular. On the Jamaican side, as the Jamaica Observer said in a recent editorial, more Jamaican producers have to improve their capacity "to produce goods and services at prices that are internationally competitive in price and quality".
Last June, I suggested that addressing the trade difficulties between the countries will "require a mix of innovative approaches which could include the deeper integration of the factors of production between Jamaica and several CARICOM countries, particularly Trinidad and Tobago; investment by Trinidad and Tobago financial institutions and companies in the productive sectors of Jamaica to help promote economic growth and more employment; and, maybe, even an 'aid for trade' component given that Trinidad and Tobago has enjoyed a consistently high balance of trade surplus with Jamaica".
In their mutual interest, the governments of Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica should address the problem comprehensively and constructively.
o Sir Ronald Sanders is a consultant and senior research fellow at London University. Send responses to: www.sirronaldsanders.com. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
While I am enthralled with the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) and of a certainty they shall receive my vote, I am a realist and know that much of what is being espoused by the DNA will not easily be enacted upon despite their best efforts. I am expecting, however, some measure of change and I believe I shan't be disappointed.
What is most important is that the Free National Movement (FNM) be removed from public office and buried with its bosom friend the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). This country of mine, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is a dear and cherished possession. It has been made to run a foul and its people living without hope, spiralling in despair especially in the last 15 years. Good God, we need a change of government and thanks be to God we finally have a pleasing option in the DNA.
The first order of business is to change the government - finally and absolutely rid from public view the FNM and the PLP. What the DNA can or will do is irrelevant right now. Let's rid ourselves of these two, enjoy a few months of fresh clean air then steer our focus on our new government the DNA.
Fundamentally, what is wrong with the FNM as a government is a misalignment of personal careers and public office. For example, we have a minister of finance who is not an accountant and does not have any training in fiscal matters, but is a lawyer. The minister of education is not a teacher or an educator, but a lawyer. The minister of national security is not a military man or a criminologist, but a banker. The attorney general is a senator and a great talker and under his watch countless murderers are on bail. We have a minister of agriculture, yet we grow no food. We have a minister of labour who can create no jobs who is also a lawyer. Immigration is overseen by the minister of foreign affairs and overridden by the minister of finance. The minister of works has impeded transport by creating massive traffic congestion on practically every major thoroughfare in the capital by constant diggings. As a result major trenches have been excavated creating a habitat for mosquitos which has created a dengue fever epidemic.
But thanks be to God the minister of health is a medical doctor, because the minister of social services is an undertaker.
- P. Anthony Dean