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The Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) is encouraging insurance companies to make it easier for farmers, whose crops were destroyed during Hurricane Irene, to claim benefits.
"We want to take this opportunity to make an appeal to persons in authority to ensure that those persons, farmers in particular in the islands who lost quite a bit of their vegetation, to have those restored because they rely on those as income for their family," BCC Vice President Victor Cooper said yesterday during a press conference at Cousin McPhee AME Church to announce a National Day of Prayer to be led by the council.
While seeking to help farmers, Cooper also said the council is organizing other relief efforts.
"Right now churches are in the process locally of raising funds to assist persons in our Family Islands whose homes were damaged in Irene. So the hurricane relief fund is going. Once we visited the island of Exuma, we got firsthand knowledge of persons needing help.
"And so we saw several homes that were damaged and immediate steps and efforts were put in place to secure funds to ensure that those homes could be restored."
Several islands sustained damage as a result of the storm.
BCC President Rev. Dr. Ranford Patterson said that despite the destruction on some islands, Bahamians are blessed in that no lives were lost during the storm.
The day of prayer will be on Wednesday and BCC officials will meet at 10 locations across New Providence between noon and 1 p.m.
The meetings are scheduled for Transfiguration Baptist Church, Market Street; Lynden Pindling International Airport; Potter Cay Dock; Arawak Cay; Rawson Square; Paradise Island next to the taxi stand; the Royal Bahamas Defence Force Base; Yamacraw Beach; South Beach Pools and Clifton Heritage Park.
That night at 7:30 there will also be a praise rally at Pinewood Gardens Park. Similar prayer sessions are scheduled for the Family Islands.
Addressing the first wave of participants during the orientation seminar of the multi-million-dollar National Job Readiness and Training Program, held yesterday at the Sheraton Resort on Cable Beach, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham acknowledged that the need for jobs in The Bahamas is great, and he encouraged participants to take full advantage of the opportunity as current job prospects are slim.
The program is expected to employ thousands of Bahamians over the next year, but even with the initiative, Ingraham pointed out that thousands of Bahamians will remain on the unemployment line.
"The number of applicants seeking to participate in this program demonstrates that our economy, like economies throughout the world, is severely affected by one of the worse global economic crisis in a century. Unemployment is far, far too high in our country," Ingraham said.
According to government officials, 12,800 Bahamians signed up for the program. However, the $25 million program is only designed to accommodate 3,000 people.
"The government cannot hire all unemployed persons. My life would be so much easier if we could. Indeed, the government's finances are stretched. You will be aware of projects which my government has undertaken creating thousands of new jobs in the construction and allied services sector. Still, there is a limit to the burden which tax payers are able to afford."
He continued, "That is why in addition to providing some stimulus to job creation, we are also taking advantage of opportunities for shorter term and temporary placements, the PM added."
About 400 young Bahamians showed up at the Sheraton to participate in the first orientation program. In Grand Bahama, where the participants viewed the orientation in New Providence via simulcast, 240 people were selected for the first phase.
Ingraham revealed that in New Providence 200 people will be trained at the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI), beginning in the current semester.
The government will pay the training cost and provide a stipend to participants. The same will happen in Grand Bahama, Ingraham said.
The orientation, which is the first phase of the program, will last two weeks and will provide a smooth transition into the workplace.
The orientation course is designed to develop soft skills including: Work ethics, a positive attitude, aptitude, reliability, punctuality, problem solving, social interaction, team work and time management.
Participants will be paid $210 per week while in training over the next year.
"At the end of your engagement, if you are not employed permanently, you will be eligible to receive an unemployment benefit from NIB (National Insurance Board)," Ingraham said.
"While this Job Readiness and Training Program is designed to last only 52 weeks, we seek to encourage an environment where many, if not all of the participants can find long-term employment, primarily in the private sector. It is our hope and expectation that a general improvement in the nation's business and economic climate will assist in this regard."
Ingraham said he expects the job market to grow in the next 12 to 18 months as the economy slowly recovers.
He added that the core priority of the government is to enhance the skills and job readiness of unemployed persons. The program's aims are: Ensuring that job seekers have job readiness skills, upgrading and enhancing skills; making it possible for job seekers to acquire new skills, and improving the marketability of the workforce of The Bahamas.
Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes said the program is the most "comprehensive jobs and skills initiative in the history of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas".
The remaining selected participants will begin their cycles in the coming weeks.
Several participants at the orientation commended the government for introducing the program.
Nineteen-year-old Javaughn Rolle, who recently graduated from high school, said he is grateful that the government is giving him the opportunity to be trained.
Rolle said he wants to study information technology.
"This is a good thing that the government is doing. I'm happy to be a part of it," he said.
Kevin Black, 18, said he wants to be an electrician. Black said he's prepared to study hard and take full advantage of the opportunity given.
The program is designed to prepare unemployed Bahamians for entry into the labor market. One hundred and fifty businesses have registered to participate in the program as employers.
In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession -- to the praise of His glory. -- Ephesians 1:11-14.
You have a great future, which is in Christ. Many of you plan for a different future through the various plans that financial planners offer you. Your plans for the future may include life insurance, stock portfolios, pension plans, real estate holdings etc.
These are good because they come in handy when you are too old and not able to work or able to generate an income. However, a volatile economy, or questionable investment practices can cause your investments to evaporate. Unfortunately, your financial planners cannot provide you with a guarantee that your investments will be there when you need them.
The cross of Jesus Christ is the best investment plan you can make. Trust in God for your future. While there is no guarantee that you or your family will be around to enjoy the benefits of your investments, I can guarantee you that you will need God's future plan in Christ Jesus.
God's plan for all members of the human race to be with Him in heaven was made before the foundation of the world. That plan is referred to as our election.
There are those who will tell you that in God's plan of election, some are predestined to go to heaven while others are predestined to go to hell. That is a misconstruction.
God's plan is that all human beings end up in heaven. That is why He sent Jesus Christ to die for the sins of all humans. In Christ Jesus, we all become a part of the family of God. Hell was made for the devil and his angels, not mankind. The devil and his angels cannot be redeemed.
Many people get extremely comfortable in this world and carry on as if it is their destination. We are all travelers journeying through this life. Our ticket does not say destination earth.
We are like passengers waiting to transit to our destination. The psalmist says we are like new grass that springs up in the morning but by evening is dry and withered. He writes, "The length of our days is 70 years -- or 80, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away" (Ps. 90:10). Brothers and sisters don't get too comfortable down here. Heaven is your home.
You were marked in him with a seal. You are all aware of the importance of a seal. Whether it is on a legal document, or on a container of food, or medication, it is imperative. A seal is used to provide protection. Nonetheless, constantly you become aware of lawyers trying to dance around documents which are protected by a seal. Food and medication are sealed to protect the consumer, yet criminals raise them and contaminate the contents.
In contrast, the seal of God protects you. God's plan is fool proof. No one in the earth, under or above the earth can tamper with God's seal. No lawyer can find a way to get around it. No devil or demon can deprive you of God's blessings. Your seal from God is for all eternity.
The Holy Spirit is God's deposit of guarantee to you. He will keep you safe until the Lord calls you home to your resting place, your destination. Amen.
o Rev. Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at The Lutheran Church of Nassau, can be reached at P.O. Box N 4794, Nassau, Bahamas, or telephone: 323-4107; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: www.Nassaulutheranchurch.org.
With the 2013 Sunshine Insurance Race Weekend seven months away, and many locals already training for next year's event, the organizers are reminding the public that registration is now open for the January 19 and 20, 2013 event. Early registration ends July 31, and persons may register online or in person at either the Baillou Hill Road or East Shirley Street office of Sunshine Insurance (Agents & Brokers) Limited.
Brian Moodie, president of Sunshine Insurance, lead sponsor for the Sunshine Insurance Race Weekend, said that his company is pleased that Bahamians and residents have embraced this event as a healthy lifestyle activity and as an opportunity to support the local charities that benefit from race weekend, namely the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation, the Cancer Society of The Bahamas, The Bahamas Breast Cancer Initiative, Sister Sister Breast Cancer Support Group and the Cancer Association of Grand Bahama. Each of these charities received $10,000 from the 2012 race weekend.
Both the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® and the Marathon Bahamas courses will remain the same, allowing our visitors to experience and enjoy The Bahamas' sun, sand and sea. The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® will begin on Church Street, in front of St. Matthew's Anglican Church, and end at the Atlantis Resort, adjacent to the tennis courts. Marathon Bahamas will start at Junkanoo Beach on Long Wharf and end at Arawak Cay. These courses have been referred to, by international participants, as "the most scenic race courses in the world", and just into its fourth year, the Sunshine Insurance Race Weekend can already boast of repeat local and international participants. To date the numbers are tracking 45 percent ahead of last year's registration at this point.
On February 14, 2010, the first Marathon Bahamas was held, and since then, the event has attracted participants from about 20 countries including the United States, Canada, Poland and other countries in Europe, Africa, South America and the Caribbean.
When 2012 rolled in, the excitement of being in media was at an all-time high as the country prepared for a final showdown between Perry Gladstone Christie and Hubert Alexander Ingraham.
In the weeks and months that followed, there was not a dull day in the world of news and no shortage of headlines produced from the treacherous campaign.
In the lead up to the May 7 election, the Progressive Liberal Party released its highly-anticipated Charter for Governance with specific 100-day promises included.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has said repeatedly that he is focused on fulfilling those pledges, although the timing of their implementation, in some respects, may need to be adjusted due to the poor state of public finances.
He and the PLP have been given a clear mandate and the prime minister expects to be held accountable as he goes about seeking to fulfill those promises in the face of still difficult economic circumstances.
It is too soon to realistically expect much of what has been promised to have materialized, especially since we are a good ways off from that much-talked about 100-day mark.
In any event, any reasonable minded person would expect the substantive accomplishments of the Christie team to take much longer than 100 days to be achieved.
But it is not too soon to examine those "promises" that appear to be dead on arrival.
These are just some:
1. Leslie Miller's promise that one of the first actions of the Christie administration will be to rid the country of Jose Cartellone Construcciones Civiles (JCCC).
At a rally days before the election, Miller, now the MP for Tall Pines, declared that one of the first actions of the new Christie administration would be to rid the country of Jose Cartellone Construcciones Civiles, the Argentinian company spearheading the controversial project.
That declaration drew loud cheers from the Gold Rush crowd and raised even more questions about the wildly over-budgeted project.
But it appears that Miller's declaration was his own.
The new government did not rid the country of Jose Cartellone in the initial days or weeks of its administration and has not announced any plans to do so.
Minister of Works Philip Brave Davis has stated the government's position that it will carry on with Jose Cartellone and complete the project as soon as is reasonable to do so.
The new administration inherited the project and all the frustrations and challenges associated with it.
It is now left to borrow to pay for cost overruns that at last reports had exceeded $90 million.
Miller, who is now chairman of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, remains highly critical of the road project.
He said BEC would have to dig up the medians along these new roads if it needs to get to its underground cables.
Miller has also said he would not support any additional borrowing to complete the road work.
One Facebook commenter claimed -- incorrectly so -- last week that the PLP campaigned to kick Jose Cartellone out of the country.
Progressive Liberal Party Chairman Bradley Roberts had this response: "The PLP did not campaign to kick out JCCC, the campaign in part was to kick out the FNM who gave the contract to JCCC. The government is working to bring this contract to conclusion ASAP without incurring additional cost for the taxpayers. Please let's speak the truth and shame the devil."
2. Philip Brave Davis' promise to move for a commission of inquiry within the first 100 days to investigate the road work project, BTC sale, Arawak Cay port deal etc.
Another example of a promise from an individual candidate that is not a commitment of the new administration was the one made by Davis, who is now our deputy prime minister.
This was indeed a noteworthy declaration from Davis at a PLP mass rally at Clifford Park in April. So much so that it grabbed headlines and made our front page.
"I shall agitate for the commission to be appointed so it can call for people and papers to examine and explore the facts surrounding specific matters of great national importance," Davis said.
"With this fact-finding body, we shall seek to examine and reveal the role of special interests involved in the grant of a 40-year monopoly at the Arawak Cay Port."
Davis said at the time that Bahamians still don't know the names of the people "hiding behind the corporate veils". He questioned where the "people's money" went. "Inquiring minds want to know," Davis said. "Let the chips fall where they may."
The PLP deputy said the commission would also be mandated to examine matters pertaining to the sale of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC).
The government sold 51 percent of the shares in BTC to Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) last year.
Davis said, "Investigations into that sale should include matters related to the selection of the Cable and Wireless company as the preferred purchaser of the Bahamian peoples' value and profitable asset."
Davis said he would also support the commission's examination of the New Providence Road Improvement Project, in particular the "massive levels" of the cost overruns.
Then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham reported to Parliament earlier this year that the project was $77 million over budget.
The PLP has called the project "poorly managed".
But there has been no talk of a commission of inquiry within the first 100 days -- not from Davis or anyone within the administration, at least not publicly.
The new government's focus is elsewhere.
When asked about the commission of inquiry promise last month, Prime Minister Perry Christie was noncommittal.
Christie indicated that the government would have to look carefully at the matter before making any determinations in this regard.
"With respect to a commission of inquiry, the government has to determine whether that goes forward," he said.
"We have to determine whether it is in the best interest of our country to hold a judicial inquiry into the port, into any matter that we might consider necessary."
Davis said not long after coming to office he still supports the appointment of a commission of inquiry, but for now the government must deal with "more pressing issues".
"I said I would support such an inquiry and that would be a matter that Cabinet would have to discuss and deal with," he told The Guardian.
He explained that the government had not yet reached the stage to appoint a commission as yet.
"We will deal with the more pressing issues that are facing us now, which are crime and the economy," he said.
"Those are things that we are interested in now."
He continued, "We have not forgotten BTC but at the moment we are trying to get our streets safe again."
3. Philip Brave Davis' promise to create 10,000 "immediate" new jobs for young Bahamians.
A key issue on the campaign trail was the high level of unemployment in the country.
The most recent Labour Force Survey, which was released by the Department of Statistics in February, contained some insightful but at the same time alarming information on the current state of unemployment in The Bahamas.
Apart from the distressingly high unemployment rate of nearly 16 percent overall and the continuing challenges to the Grand Bahamian economy, with an unemployment rate of 21.2 percent, the data on youth unemployment was perhaps the most disturbing.
Youth unemployment was pegged at 34 percent.
So any promise relating to job creation, particularly for the youth, stood out in the lead up to the election.
Two months in, there has been no indication from the new administration of these 10,000 "immediate" new jobs for young Bahamians.
But as the term "immediate" is subjective, some may argue that the government has several months left to fulfill this pledge.
Several days ago, Prime Minister Christie said his administration was feeling the pressure to deliver on its campaign promise to create jobs.
"It takes time to bring about the jobs that are necessary for people and we can hear the clamor already of people who elected us that they are impatient and they want progress," he said.
"It's pressing me very hard, I'm at it for many hours in the day working at this."
Just over a week ago, Prime Minister Christie announced that 300 new jobs will be created on Bimini when a new casino opens in December.
4. Dr. Perry Gomez' promise at an Andros rally that National Health Insurance will be made reality WITHIN THE FIRST YEAR.
I considered carefully whether to include this as an example of dead-on-arrival promises.
It is, but only in the sense of Gomez's recent backtracking on the timeframe for implementing NHI.
Dr. Gomez -- the now minister of health and former director of the National AIDS Programme -- chaired the Blue Ribbon Commission on NHI under the first Christie administration.
Several months before the 2007 general election, the then government brought an NHI Bill to Parliament.
Although the bill was passed, the election took place before the promised regulations to flesh out the details of NHI were drafted.
"If the term of government was not interrupted in 2007, The Bahamas would be well on the way to achieving many of the goals that we had set for it, including National Health Insurance," he said at the rally.
"I can assure you that if that were not the case that National Health Insurance would have been implemented by the next Christie term; that didn't happen. And I assure you tonight that when the bell is rung and the votes are tallied and the PLP is announced the winner, National Health Insurance will be on the front burner of the PLP government and will be implemented within a year."
After coming to office, Dr. Gomez quickly conceded that implementing NHI within the first year of the new Christie administration is not realistic.
He explained that the rate of unemployment is too high, and since NHI is a contributory scheme it would be difficult to bring on the program before more Bahamians are employed in significant numbers.
While campaigning, he had told The Nassau Guardian that most of the work for NHI was already done between 2002-2007 and implementing it within the first year of the new government was realistic.
It is unclear what new information the now minister accessed that made him have a change of heart on the timeframe.
No new unemployment numbers were released between the time he made his campaign declaration and the time he admitted that the scheme is not doable in year one.
A new timeframe for NHI is unclear, but Prime Minister Christie has reiterated that it remains a priority of his government.
5. Michael Darville's and Greg Moss' promise that a Ministry of Energy and Industry will be located on Grand Bahama.
At the launch of the PLP's Grand Bahama team of candidates early this year, Michael Darville, now Senator and Minister of Grand Bahama, made this announcement.
"Understanding that the expansion of the economy requires reduced energy costs, the Progressive Liberal Party will embark from the first day in office to establish a new Ministry of Energy and Industry to be located on Grand Bahama," Darville declared.
"The primary mandate will be to reduce the overall cost of electricity per kilowatt hour throughout The Bahamas, and to improve the inefficient failing electrical infrastructure of BEC, while working with the owners of the Grand Bahama Power Company to reduce the fuel surcharge by expanding alternative energy sources."
At that same event, Greg Moss, now MP for Marco City, made the same promise.
He said, "A new Ministry of Energy and Industry will be the nation's first ministry to be situated outside the capital. We will also name a Minister for Grand Bahama with direct responsibility, in consultation with other relevant government ministries, for the oversight of the various government agencies and departments in Grand Bahama.
"We will conduct an extensive review of the cost of electrical power in Grand Bahama to ensure that customers are not being overbilled.
"The present cost of electricity in Grand Bahama is alarming in light of the fact that the Grand Bahama Power Company is not paying any customs duties on the import of fuel."
In the end, the prime minister decided against this Ministry of Energy and Industry.
He however immediately kept his promise to establish a Ministry for Grand Bahama.
The ministry was previously promised by former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, but was never established under the former government.
It's not clear why Prime Minister Christie decided against a Ministry of Energy and Industry on Grand Bahama, which according to Darville would have been mandated to look at reducing energy costs throughout the entire country.
These are but a few of the promises made during the campaign on which there has been some backtracking.
They might be a good lesson to voters that promises of national significance that are made by individual candidates ought not be taken seriously as they may not be the position of the party, and the new administration when it takes office.
Former Chairman of the National Insurance Board (NIB) Patrick Ward said he did not approach former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham directly when Director Algernon Cargill's contract came up for renewal because he did not think he was required to, according to notes from an interview contained in the final report into certain actions at NIB.
Ingraham was the minister responsible for the nation's social security agency.
The issue of Cargill's compensation package has featured prominently in that report.
Grant Thornton, the firm conducting the examination, asked Ward who approved the increase in Cargill's annual base salary from $140,000 to $171,225.50 from October 20, 2008 to October 19, 2011, according to the report.
"Mr. Ward stated that there was a clause in Cargill's contract that says that he is entitled to salary increases that other executive management staff receive," the report said.
"This is stated in their contracts. The HR Committee approves the increase. This was the same for the previous director."
Grant Thornton asked why the NIB Board was not informed about the increases.
"Mr. Ward stated that he did not discuss details of the executive remuneration at the full board meetings," the report said.
"The minister does not approve annual increases. The minister approves the initial contract/terms of the contract.
"You cannot run to the minister every time for salary increases. The previous minister didn't and as far as I am aware, it has never been the case."
According to the report, the former chairman also stated that the terms of the renewal contract were sent to the Ministry of Finance for approval through the financial secretary as was the case for other such appointments of renewals.
"I didn't approach the prime minister directly, who was also the minister of finance, as I didn't think I was required to," Ward is quoted in the report as saying.
According to the report, instructions from the Board of Directors were to renew Cargill's contract "on terms that substantially reflect the terms and conditions of the contract currently in place, subject to ministerial approval as required".
The auditors said the Board of Directors and the HR Committee members appeared to have no knowledge of the salary adjustment, based on all documents provided.
The report said that during interviews with Grant Thornton, some board members stated they interpreted the section of the NIB Act as it relates to the director's salary to be a matter between the minister responsible for NIB and the director.
"As a result, Father Etienne Bowleg, deputy chairman of NIB and a member of the HR Committee, indicated that he never knew the director's salary until October 20, 2011 when a new four-year contract was granted at an annual salary of $171,000."
A legal opinion from Thomas Evans, QC, which was sought by the chartered accountants, determined that the NIB Act requires that overbased increases in salary and bonuses for the director and other members of the executive management require the approval of the minister.
Regarding bonuses paid out to Cargill and other NIB executives, Bowleg said "the bonuses never surfaced at the Human Resources Committee meetings and the Board of Directors meetings", the report stated.
Executive bonuses totaling $723,333.31 were paid during the period January 1, 2010 through May 2012, according to the report.
NIB files show that Cargill received $194,791.66 in bonuses during that period.
As reported by The Nassau Guardian on Monday, the report said executive bonuses in 2010 were in the range of 15 percent to 71.8 percent of the base salaries of executives.
Cargill received a 71.8 percent bonus on his 2010 base salary of $145,600, the report said.
Grant Thornton was hired by the government on November 30, 2012 to perform a forensic investigation of a November 8, 2012 letter addressed to Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson by Gregory Moss, who at the time was chairman of NIB.
The Board has recommended Cargill's termination.
The director remains on suspension.
In addition to the contents of the letter, the firm was also asked to examine salaries and bonuses of executive management during the years 2008 through 2012.
Grant Thornton took four months to complete the report, which Gibson has promised to table in the House of Assembly.
It is unclear at this time what the government's next move in relation to this NIB matter will be.
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn. You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and independence. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.
- Abraham Lincoln
The problems facing the Bahamian economy are daunting especially when it comes to issues of government spending and the current deficit. Across the world over, we continue to see countries downgraded by rating agencies due principally to two things: first, ever increasing debt; and secondly, no coherent plan to grow the economy. The most recent country cited by the agencies was Spain which was downgraded three notches to BBB from A. We saw recently again where Spain had to seek a bailout of $125 billion for its banks.
We are reminded in the Bible in the book of Proverbs that the borrower is slave to the lender. We read this time and time again and few of us ever stop to ponder the truth in this statement.
Like our government, the majority of Bahamians have the same challenges with high spending and high debt. In the case of the government, there are limited options available to correct the situation due to high unemployment and a continuing weak jobless economy.
We have repeated time and time again the need to save and plan for a rainy day. Regrettably, few Bahamians either save or plan for the proverbial rainy day. Today, those who are retired and have planned are being penalized with low interest rates on their savings. It is important that government seriously considers the implementation of a mandatory savings or retirement plan to assist the ever growing needs of an aging population and to minimize the impact on National Insurance.
As we move forward, it will no longer be an issue only of the "haves" and "have nots". It will be between the generations (the generation gap) as we live longer and have more needs that have to be met and a younger generation which is jobless and does not and cannot contribute to the tax base.
This minority, who save, place their funds in financial institutions with a promise of a fair return on their deposit. The bank then lends the money to a number of interested groups including, the government, businesses, private citizens et al. The end use of the funds are for the purchase of government bonds; the expansion of businesses; employed as working capital; home mortgages; car and furniture purchases; or any number of acquisitions of goods and services by the public.
It is not good public policy to punish savings. Industrious savers are adversely affected and punished by reduced interest rates on deposits. Moreover, the financial institutions whose job it is to protect and preserve the value of those savings are often vilified, mostly and ironically, by those who spend beyond their means, or those who defraud the government by not paying National Insurance and other government taxes.
Savings is a virtue that is seldom recognized and often goes unappreciated. Instead, we show a preference for persons participating in any scheme that can deliver the easy money. No need to save, and we assume that the good days will go on forever. The Christian nation has forgotten the biblical promise of seven good and seven lean years. Perhaps the time has come for us to prepare for the inevitable seven lean years.
Our present situation
As you listen to the various radio shows, none of us are prepared to take the blame for our present predicament. Instead, we blame our financial institutions; they are the main culprits, according to some pundits and by nearly all persons who took out mortgages they could not afford, who now discover that the property is now worth less than they paid for it. It is often overlooked that these financial institutions never forced anyone to buy or borrow. Admittedly, some institutions made it extremely easy with no or minimal down payment requirements which were supported by inflated appraised values by the realtors; both with the knowledge that should one person lose their job in a household they could no longer honor their commitment.
The sad and more egregious situations are those property owners who could afford to pay, but decided to renege on their obligations anyway because they needed the monies to support their extravagant lifestyles. Those persons who abandon their commitments know they are behaving disreputably and tend to justify their actions by blaming someone else while the politician and the media blame the financial institutions.
For the most part, the financial institutions lend in good faith, thus enabling citizens to buy homes and acquire other assets. To be sure, there was some reckless lending and some reckless borrowing and once brought together, the merry-go-round was started.
The Bahamas is at a stage in its economic life where there is a need to step back and objectively and dispassionately review the tenets of a market-based system and what is needed to make that system work.
On the micro-level, it is understandable and easy to feel sympathy for the homeowner evicted or about to be foreclosed on. We feel the pain and we see the misery. On the macro-level, however, we must recall that our society was built on the sanctity of civil contracts. If borrowers are allowed to abrogate their responsibilities without consequence, then the system unravels. If that happens we all suffer. As we have written before, the first casualty is that credit disappears which can have serious implications for re-starting our economy. This leads to bankruptcies, further increases in unemployment and ultimately, a declining GDP. Precisely the opposite of what we need today to fix our economy.
The most recent debate on the economy speaks to the government needing to borrow some $500 million. It's our opinion that it would be substantially more than that (we will write on this at a later date) but it is likely that after shifting some things around the public won't see exactly how bad things really are.
We must keep in mind that a number of companies are seeking to raise several hundred million for any number of projects in addition to the government's need for funding. It is the confidence in the local financial system that determines whether private or public projects could proceed. Expected return on capital is what drives the system. If investors don't think they will be repaid, they would not lend to anyone including to the government. We need only look at the Eurozone for examples of this.
Finding our way
At the heart of capitalism is deferred gratification. We seem to have lost our way and need to urgently re-examine our priorities. We have been living off our children's future for far too long. It must stop and it must stop now. We seem to live in a "I want it now universe" - a "want" that must be satisfied irrespective of what the government or companies can afford. The recent demands by some unions and other non-organized groups are good examples of that attitude.
We should never forget the fundamental economic principles upon which our economy is based. Investments are made on the premise that they would yield a good return over the long term. If institutions are not assured of getting paid, they would hoard cash and require insane amounts of security.
If that happens, businesses can't expand, new jobs cannot be created and young people cannot obtain financing for a home. It is a business of trust. Once that trust is broken, the system would freeze up and we all will suffer the dire consequences of a dysfunctional economy. We must work diligently to prevent this outcome; we need to honor our obligations or at the very minimum, work collaboratively with our financial institutions to design and honor an appropriate re-worked financing plan.
o CFAL is a sister company of The Nassau Guardian under the AF Holdings Ltd. umbrella. CFAL provides investment management, research, brokerage and pension services. For comments, please contact CFAL at: email@example.com.
Hurricane Season in The Caribbean officially began on June 1st and ends November 30th, meaning that this is the period most likely to see Hurricane activity. However, a natural disaster can occur at any time, and the best defense is to always be informed and prepared
Apart from the dangers posed by the force of high winds and heavy rainfall, a hurricane can also produce abnormal and extremely dangerous storm surges. These occur as a result of the unusual combination of atmospheric pressures, and with the addition of the strong force of the winds, become even more dangerous.
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) member of Parliament for Mangrove Cay and South Andros Picewell Forbes is probably wondering why he has fallen into the bad grace of his leader Prime Minister Perry G. Christie. Forbes, who is currently serving in his second term in the House of Assembly, has not been appointed to the Cabinet or any of the government boards. He has been relegated to the backbench of the governing party's parliamentary caucus. This intriguing development was not missed by Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Charles Maynard, who questioned the absence of the South Andros member of Parliament in any of the appointments. Maynard even wondered if Forbes was being punished by Christie. I think that the FNM chairman may be on to something here.
Every last one of the PLP members of Parliament, except Forbes, is either serving in the Cabinet or on a board. Unsuccessful PLP candidates such as Tanisha Tynes, Julian Russell, Alex Storr, Jerome Gomez, Gary Sawyer, Frank Smith and Clay Sweeting have been appointed to the senate or to government boards. Sweeting has been appointed vice-chairman of the Bahamas Agriculture and Industrial Corporation (BAIC). Mount Moriah Member of Parliament Arnold Forbes is the chairman. Smith has been made chairman of the Public Hospitals Authority Board; Tynes is chairman of the Hotel Licensing Board; Sawyer has been appointed chairman of the Air Transport Advisory Board; Gomez is chairman of Nassau Flight Services; Russell is chairman of the Hotel Corporation and Alex Storr chairs the Mortgage Corporation board.
Interestingly, many of the board appointees figured prominently in past PLP governments, especially during the 80s and early 90s. For example, Franklyn Wilson, Valentine Grimes and Philip Galanis have all been appointed to boards by the governing party. Wilson heads the Bahamas National Commission for UNESCO; Galanis heads the Bahamas Trade Commission and Grimes heads Bahamasair Holdings Limited.
Like Maynard and many FNM supporters, I thought that Christie would have at least given the chairmanship post at the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas (BCB) to Forbes, seeing that he is a journalist by profession. Instead, that post has been given to the Reverend William Thompson. One Louis Hancell has been appointed to the vice chairmanship position at the BCB.
I think that Forbes and the BCB would have been a match made in heaven. What must surely raise the ire of Forbes and his supporters is the fact that many of his parliamentary colleagues are serving in their first term in the House of Assembly and the Senate. Yet Christie has placed more confidence in them than in the South Andros representative, who has been in the House of Assembly since May 2007. Political newcomers such as members of Parliament Greg Moss (Marco City); Dr. Michael Darville (Pineridge); Dion Smith (Nassau Village); Dr. Kendal Major (Garden Hills) and Senator Cheryl Bazard have all been appointed to key positions in the fledgling Christie regime. Both Smith and Major serve as the speakers of the House; while Moss heads the National Insurance Board; Darville, of course, is the minister for Grand Bahama and Bazard has been named chairman of the Compliance Commission.
Also, newcomers such as Dr. Andre Rollins (Fort Charlotte) and Renward Wells (Bamboo Town) have been given important positions by the prime minister. Rollins heads the Gaming Board and Wells is parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Works and Urban Development. Interestingly, both of these men were leaders of the now defunct National Development Party (NDP). Rollins even contested the 2010 by-election in Elizabeth as an NDP candidate. Yet these two johnny-come-latelies to the PLP are serving in prominent positions, while Forbes languishes as a parliamentary backbencher.
By virtue of his seniority, Forbes should have at least been appointed to the Cabinet. But I believe that his absence from any of these board appointments is a calculated more on the part of the hierarchy of the governing PLP.
To put it bluntly, Forbes has been slighted by the prime minister. And this isn't the first time that this has happened to the South Andros representative. A few years back, a former PLP parliamentarian, who, by the way, has also been appointed to a board, was openly campaigning in South Andros. He was seeking to get the PLP nomination to run in that area, notwithstanding the fact that that area already had a sitting PLP representative. He had evidently heard of Forbes' much publicized financial difficulties and wanted to take advantage of the situation.
It was also rumored in the press that the PLP was seriously considering dropping Forbes from its ticket. Much to his relief, Christie went to South Andros and publicly endorsed his candidacy. But this was weeks after the political drama began. What took Christie so long anyway? For what it's worth, Forbes made a strategic blunder in allowing Christie and others to lure him away from his lucrative career in broadcasting to enter into the cut-throat world of Bahamian politics.
When it was being rumored in the press prior to 2007 that Forbes was being courted by the PLP to run on its ticket, he was considered by many political analysts to be a future star in the PLP. But obviously that has not transpired. His decision to enter frontline politics has probably set him back five, six or even 10 years, from a financial standpoint. He should have never left his well paying job at ZNS.
Personally, the only sensible course of action for Forbes to take is to severe his ties with the PLP and Christie and get a job at one of the radio stations such as Guardian Radio or one of the radio stations of Eileen Dupuch Carron. Media personalities such as Ortland Bodie, Darold Miller and Chrissy 'Love' Thompson are all thriving in the radio talk show industry. Why stay with a political organization whose leadership seems hell-bent on embarrassing you at every given opportunity? Forbes must come to grips with the fact that the prime minister has no confidence in him and probably doesn't even want him to be a part of his party.
The rumors about the PLP plotting to dump him in the lead up to the 2012 general elections were probably true after all. This latest saga only serves to reinforce my suspicions. Forbes should cut his losses and leave the PLP. There is no future for him in that party.
Looking back in hindsight, he is probably regretting that he did not take that six-figure job at the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) from the then FNM government. He probably thought that his fidelity to the PLP would have been rewarded by the prime minister (Christie).
So far, he has been dead wrong. Judging from the shoddy manner in which he has been treated, he should have taken the URCA job. Perhaps, he is being punished by Christie for contemplating on leaving the PLP for the URCA job. I don't know for sure. But I believe that Christie no longer wants him to be a part of the PLP. This latest snub by the leader of the PLP should serve as an indication to Forbes that he is no longer wanted by Christie. He should pack up his georgie bundle and leave the party.
For what it's worth, though, Forbes deserves better from the prime minister and the PLP. If Christie could treat his own like this, what would he do to a political opponent? Just a thought to ponder.
- Kevin Evans
By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
INSURERS ESTIMATE $90 MILLION TOTAL LOSSES
THE BAHAMIAN general insurance industry is likely to incur around $90 million in insured losses as a result of Hurricane Irene, a leading executive said, with his company aiming to process "80 per cent-plus of claims" within six-eight weeks.
Patrick Ward, president and chief executive of Bahamas First, told Tribune Business that he, too, believed the level and volume of Hurricane Irene-related property and casualty claims would be below the 'couple of hundred million' that the industry paid out as a result of Hurricane Frances in 2004.
And he described ...
Around 119,000 Bahamians have registered to vote in the next general election, Parliamentary Commissioner Errol Bethel told The Nassau Guardianyesterday.
Of that total, 50,000 are from Grand Bahama and the Family Islands, Bethel confirmed.
He suggested registration has slowed in recent weeks because people think the recent closing of the old voter register meant the closing of voter registration altogether. Registration will continue until an election is called and Bethel encouraged Bahamians to continue to register.
Bethel said his department probably did not even register 1,000 voters this past week.
The department issued a public notice yesterday asking Bahamians to take advantage of the registration locations that are open today at the Parliamentary Registration Department, the Mall at Marathon and the Town Centre Mall. Those locations will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The notice also reminded the public that registration centers at the Parliamentary Registration Department, the Mall at Marathon, the Town Centre Mall, the National Insurance Board, Baillou Hill Road, Lowes Pharmacy, Soldier Road, the South Beach Post Office, the Carmichael Post Office, the Elizabeth Estates Post Office, the General Post Office and Super Value Food Store, Mackey Street, will be open August 8 to 12 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Evening registration centers will be open at the Parliamentary Registration Department, the Mall at Marathon, and the Town Centre Mall from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
"The public is reminded that only Bahamian citizens 18 years and older are eligible to register to vote and applicants are required to produce proof of citizenship," the notice read.
Bethel said there is still a lot of work for his department to do considering that the boundaries commission has not yet met.
"After the boundaries commission is done, then voters cards will be issued," he said. "There is lots of work for the Parliamentary Registration Department."
Each of the Caribbean hotel investment conferences held in April and May this year included sessions to encourage closer cooperation between the public and private sector but, immediately prior to the Caribbean Tourism Summit in mid-June, the governments of Jamaica and of Antigua and Barbuda announced significant new airport arrival taxes, with a new hotel occupancy tax also added in Jamaica. The Caribbean hotel industry's greatest fear now is that other governments will follow.
These extra charges target the region's highest spending visitors - the stay-over guests. While everyone understands the difficulties that island governments currently face in trying to balance their own budgets in times of world economic uncertainty and with increasingly youthful populations, it is a fact that much of the region's hotel industry is in deep financial crisis and has been for some considerable time. The region's largest employer and biggest direct and indirect taxpayer cannot be "the cow you take to market and milk it twice".
Today, most lower and middle market Caribbean hotels, which have significant bank loans, are in default to some degree or other. Energy and water costs on many islands are as high as US$40 per day per occupied room - with little actual utility cost differential per day per room between budget hotels charging US$80 a night and luxury resorts charging US$800 a night.
Reservation systems, like Expedia, and tour operators continue to negotiate aggressively low hotel room rates, such that Smith Travel Research projects that average room rates in the Caribbean will not recover back to 2007 dollar levels until 2014.
My own research suggests that lower end hotels will not even achieve that level of rate recovery. More tour operators are pressuring hotels for all-inclusive rates, where meals become part of the tour operator's "commissionable" package, but Caribbean hotel restaurants are already incurring operating losses in the face of escalating world food prices. Inevitably, hotel refurbishment and marketing budgets continue to be cut.
Prior to this year's two hotel investment conferences, I researched opinions from the hotel sector, relative to its perceived needs from Caribbean governments, and the following points summarize the concerns and suggested requests.
Review taxation structures for new and existing hotels, "in their role as the region's biggest export industry and foreign currency generator". Many hotels currently require major re-investment and are struggling with bank debt and increased operating costs.
Without new thinking, continuing low levels of inward investment in the sector and a downward spiral of standards are resulting in a consequent loss of global competitiveness for the overall Caribbean hotel product. At least a certain percentage of hotel taxation should go directly towards generic Caribbean global marketing in order to create world class campaigns of adequate scale.
If taxes are reduced on the hotel sector - the current principal direct/indirect "tax cow" - governments should seek to derive compensating levels of tax revenue from the following alternative targets: much higher cruise ship port fees; effective taxation of private condo/villa rental income; a wider property tax base; corporation tax increases paid by a wider range of businesses; abolish duty-free concessions for car rental companies. Governments should also take steps to re-invigorate and grow the region's agriculture and fishery industries as major components in sustainable economic activity - for export and for direct supply to the hotel/restaurant sector and to other local consumers.
Governments should simplify and improve duty-free import concessions for refurbishment of existing hotels and for development of new hotels - but also expand them to include incentives for furnished condos and villas, providing that those units are in a hotel managed formal rental program that generates taxable income on island.
This latter action will speed up the recovery of the leisure real estate market, provide construction work, ultimately generate additional tax revenue and create new fresh resort inventory with extra earning potential for the region's hotel companies. In general, current fiscal incentives are significantly better in many Central American tourism destinations than in most Caribbean countries.
In the light of rising world food prices, there is a need to eliminate import duties for hotels on all food items - not available from local sources -- and governments should actively encourage the growth potential for local food supply.
Reduce utility costs through part/full privatization of existing electricity companies in order to finance investment in better infrastructure: the proposed gas pipeline from Trinidad or on-island LNG trans-shipment facilities; replacement of old diesel generators with efficient gas turbines, hydro, wind and tidal generators.
Similar privatization of water companies should be undertaken for greater efficiency through re-investment in updated and extended infrastructure. Given likely increases in long-term energy and water demand, this is a safe investment for the region's social security funds, insurance companies, unit trusts, credit unions and private conglomerates - many of them still too risk averse to invest directly in the Caribbean hotel industry.
Re-invigorate human resources within the hotel sector and improve the industry's profile as a career choice. Governments and the hotel sector should cooperate in developing and resourcing better, larger management and operative level training facilities throughout the region. Speed up and expand CSME to effectively allow CARICOM citizen managers and specialists to work anywhere within the region. In the meantime, expeditiously grant medium-term work permits for other skilled personnel from outside the region - where their expertise helps to drive world class standards and disseminates their specialist knowledge.
All stay-over visitors to the Caribbean (except yachtsmen) arrive by air. Greatly increased UK airline and regional airport taxes continue to have a significant negative impact on air travel to, and within, the region. The UK's APD tax was highly discriminatory and costly for the Caribbean but lobbying by the public and private sector has been completely ineffective to date and must be more vigorously pursued with the UK government.
The Caribbean Diaspora in Britain can be a powerful lobby at the next UK general election, if the APD issue is successfully communicated to them. The region now faces additional potential negative effects from the proposed European Union's airline "carbon tax" and must avoid further increases in regional airport taxes.
Almost all Caribbean-based airlines are currently loss making but their ticket prices (including taxes) are some of the highest in the world per seat/mile. The private and public sector across the region should work together to help create, finance and under-write a viable pan-Caribbean international and regional carrier, which will genuinely "partner" with the rest of the Caribbean tourism industry. Meanwhile, the cruise sector, which operates in the region virtually tax free and increases its "Caribbean hotel market share" year on year, must also be forced to make its fair share contribution to government tax revenues in the region.
I do not pretend that this commentary from the Caribbean's hotel sector represents a panacea, but the region's most vital industry is on a slippery slope, with a significant part of it in danger of being decimated by strengthening world-wide competition.
It seems very likely that middle market hotels on the islands with a lower cost base, like the Dominican Republic and Cuba, will survive. Highly likely too that the region's luxury resorts will survive, but what are the survival chances for some of the rest of the Caribbean's hotels, particularly older properties with significant debt finance? Some of the dominoes are already falling.
Governments and the hotel sector should communicate quickly and effectively to act together with the greatest sense of urgency. Arguably, the French market has already left for the Indian Ocean and most of the Germans for South East Asia. And some people still think, "These islands market themselves!"
o Robert MacLellan is CEO of MacLellan & Associates, the largest hospitality, tourism and leisure consultancy based in the Caribbean. He has 18 years experience in the hospitality industry in the Caribbean and was a cruise ship hotel officer and vice president, hotel services, of a cruise line earlier in his career. Printed with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
The Nassau Guardian reported that Dr. Philip McPhee wants churches to give government "financial donations for national development programs" (Churches asked to give govt revenue, July 17, 2012), as a fallback position for those churches that do not want a referendum legalizing numbers/gambling houses.
Of course gambling is already 'legal' as numbers houses operate with business licenses and pay government taxes like National Insurance, property tax and business license, and conduct business quite openly.
Dr. McPhee seems to think that having a referendum to legalize gambling is important to raise revenue for government through taxes from the numbers houses, but all this talk about a referendum is basically a charade. Also, an important question is, does government need more revenue or to slow spending down?
But I digress, so back to the main point.
It occurs to me that the church has lost its focus which is assisting the community. To suggest that the churches can donate to government and they can come together to develop a corporate entity with "specific and agreeable goals" is pie in the sky.
Just who does Dr. McPhee think will take the organization over and do what they like with the funds using their coercive power? You guessed it, the government.
Churches like other civil society participants are to assist the less fortunate among the communities they serve. That is one of their main functions, is it not? Getting the government involved in every aspect of our lives is what has helped get us in the trouble we're in.
There are no better words to explain the banality of offering to get government involved in charitable initiatives than Michael Tanner's, director of Health and Welfare Studies, Cato Institute, about the role of society in this regard: "There seems to me to be something wrong in this society, with the way we've now decided that government is the answer to everything, even faith-based charity. It used to be that if there was a need, if in your congregation someone was homeless, the preacher would get up and say: Pass the collection plate, dig into your pocket, give, give till it hurts. Now, the preacher gets up and says: Write your congressman. Lobby Washington. Demand that they raise taxes so that we can have more money for our program. That seems to turn charity on its head. And I think, as we debate, we do have to debate the practical implications. We have to debate the legal implications. But I think we also need to look at the fundamental question of relation of government to individuals and to civil society. And I would submit that what we need is more civil society and less government, even when it has the best of intentions.
Finally, if the church can afford to donate 10 percent to the government for charitable initiatives, why not use those funds to do more in the community the church serves?
Isn't that the role of the church anyway?
To subordinate charity to political forces is folly.
- Rick Lowe, weblogbahamas.com.
Turks and Caicos Islands - The Government is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr Colin Heartwell as the new Chief Executive Officer for the Turks and Caicos Islands National Insurance Board. Mr Heartwell will begin his three year contract at the end of August.
Mr. Heartwell is a senior executive with two decades of business management experience in various areas of economic development. He has been a Director General of Western Economic Diversification Canada, overseeing an investment portfolio of more than $350 million, the inaugural CEO for TCInvest, attracting significant foreign ...
He was scheduled to arrive at Nassau 7:15 p.m. the evening of January 31 but was delayed by several hours, arriving instead 17 minutes past midnight as the first month of the New Year rolled into the second. His arrival in a new year on a new day in a new month foreshadowed a number of transitions in church and state.
John Paul II arrived in The Bahamas in 1979 on the final leg of his first overseas journey outside of Italy as head of the Roman Catholic Church. He was, at just over three months, at the dawn of his papacy, in what would prove an extraordinary pontificate of approximately 27 years.
In his brief address at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre in the early hours of the morning of February 1, the pontiff highlighted two of the central principles of the Catholic Social Tradition, human dignity and the common good: "With the profound conviction of the surpassing dignity of the human person, may all the people of these islands make their individual and unique contributions to the common good that takes into account the personal rights and duties of all citizens...
"I ask God to lead you to the full achievement of your destiny. May he give to the people of The Bahamas rich and lasting blessings. May he assist the poor, comfort the sick, guide the youth, and bring peace to every heart."
The Pope's words were the proverbial mustard seeds delivered during a time of transition at home. Sir Milo Butler died just weeks before the papal visit. Bishop Paul Leonard
Hagarty, OSB, who came to The Bahamas in 1937 as a young priest, and who was first appointed by Pope Pius XII in 1951 as vicar apostolic of the Bahama Islands would resign as bishop of Nassau in 1981.
He was succeeded by Lawrence Burke, S.J., the first Caribbean man to lead the local church. Both prelates advanced the church's educational and social apostolates, with the latter often speaking out on matters of social concern.
In October of 1979, the governing Progressive Liberal Party held its 24th annual convention. Perry Christie and Hubert Ingraham were at the beginning of their political careers.
Christie was a newly minted Cabinet minister having been appointed in 1977, to be joined in Cabinet by Ingraham as minister of housing, national insurance and social service in 1982.
At the convention, Sir Lynden gave a lengthy address during which he noted that Pope John Paul II's admonition inspired him to launch a "Social Revolution". He invoked the mustard seeds of assisting the poor, guiding the youth, comforting the sick and bringing peace to every heart.
While the efforts of his subsequent governments did not exactly constitute a "social revolution", there were important advances in social development. The PLP launched an impressive public housing program. The Grants Town Urban Renewal Project was introduced, a number of community clinics and schools were built, additional social assistance was granted for various groups, and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Affairs introduced a variety of programs.
But tragically, the late 70s and the decade of the 80s were a dark period for the country with rampant drug trafficking and use, mass corruption by the Pindling government, and an attendant decline in positive social mores.
Sir Lynden's PLP also failed to keep pace with the rapid urbanization of New Providence and increasing social dislocation and exclusion. Hubert Ingraham and the FNM's contributions to social development are well-known and considerable.
Yet, in comparison to both Sir Lynden and Ingraham, Perry Christie's contributions to various core issues of social justice have been abysmal. Christie has proven himself to be a paper progressive, long on rhetoric, short on action. Most progressives and arguably most Bahamians have come to expect little by way of Christie turning his grandiose rhetoric into reality.
Given a prior term to introduce National Health Insurance to relieve the suffering of thousands of Bahamians, Christie failed to do so. Now into his second term, Bahamians are being treated to more of the same banal and insipid rhetoric.
At the recent National Pride Day ceremony in Rawson Square commemorating the role played by various suffragettes and other women in national development, Christie offered his usual platitudes in a meandering speech filled with precious little that was substantive.
Shockingly, mere weeks later, Christie uttered perhaps some of the most offensive remarks any head of government might give pertaining to equality for Bahamian women. His remarks excused his party's failure to support a constitutional question making Bahamian women equal in law to men.
When asked by this journal whether the PLP's stance on the 2002 referendum was a setback for women, Christie reportedly answered a dismissive, "No." This, from the same man who attempted to wax eloquently a few weeks prior on women's rights and the equality of women.
One can almost hear the subtext: we'll get around to this at some point... no big deal. Once again Christie dragged out the lame excuse of the process as to why his party campaigned against the various questions in the referendum.
He admitted that he was not opposed to the question granting women greater constitutional equality. He just didn't like the process, as there needed to be more consultation with the church. How this mantra of process plays out on the proposed referendum on gambling should prove interesting. Nevertheless, where have we heard before this excuse about process?
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was continuously confronted by Christian ministers as to why he moved so quickly in demanding various and immediate civil rights for black Americans. Why not delay your demands for equality, engage in more process and consult more widely, Dr. King was often asked.
He answered in his classic "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" and in many other writings that the time to do the right thing was always now. He had disdain for those who argued process as an excuse to delay justice for others, insisting on the fierce urgency of now. He demanded in "I Have a Dream": "We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy."
Christie's PLP could have said to churches and the Bahamian people, in the spirit of the suffragettes and other champions of social justice, that by 2002 it was more than enough time to grant Bahamian women greater equality.
The majority of PLP parliamentarians sensed this when they voted for the questions in the House. The betrayal of the women's rights movement came later in the interest of winning office.
This was not one of the finest moments of the party of those heroes and heroines of the struggle for majority rule and female equality. Nor was the period from 2002 to 2007, when Christie and his party could have reintroduced the question, but never did.
As he signed the Civil Rights Bill of 1965, President Lyndon Johnson predicted, correctly, that its passage would cost the Democratic Party the South. But, Johnson chose to make history rather than delay justice.
Concerning principles like human dignity and the common good, the great men and women of history, given an opportunity to advance the cause of social justice, choose the path of progress and inclusion, even at risk to their contemporary fortunes.
Then there are those, who, though given an opportunity to lead and to achieve great things, are more content to talk into the sunset while making excuses for their historic failures.
I was surprised to hear and see media reports on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning of coverage of Prime Minister Perry Christie's remarks to senior public officers. He reportedly acknowledged that our country is now "in the midst of one of the most difficult and challenging fiscal periods in the nation's history." In his budget communication last month, also he admitted that the Bahamian economy was inextricably linked to that of the United States and that recovery in our economy was dependent on recovery in the U.S. economy.
On Thursday, the minister of labour, Shane Gibson, also advised the media, following the execution of new agreements with the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Bahamas Public Service Union (BPSU) providing for the payment of increments to public officers concluded by the Free National Movement (FNM) government, that "the financial conditions of the country remain the same" - presumably, the same as reported by the FNM government prior to May 7.
When the FNM government advised of the serious threats to the Bahamian economy resulting from the worst international financial and economic world crisis, we were scoffed at by Christie and his colleagues. They claimed that the weak Bahamian economy was the result of FNM policies. Indeed, they seem to have convinced themselves to believe their own brand of voodoo economics.
Ignoring all of the warnings and advice on the economy given by the previous FNM government in the House of Assembly, in annual budget presentations and in nationally broadcast addresses to the nation on the state of the economy, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) made all manner of promises to the Bahamian people claiming that they could do a better job on the economy than the FNM.
Now, the prime minister and his colleagues want to use the conditions prevailing in the Bahamian economy as an excuse for their inability to deliver on the outlandish promises made during the recent election campaign - promises for dramatic levels of new job creation, promises of the introduction of national health insurance, promises of private home mortgage relief, and promises to double the education budget to list only a few.
The Bahamian public is not so silly as to believe that the true financial condition of the country was not known to the PLP before May 7 when they were dreaming up their "charter" for governance. They made campaign promises knowing fully that they could not deliver on them. Now, deliver they must.
Now, instead of delivering on its promises the PLP government is busy trying to lower expectations among its supporters. And they are holding out FNM initiatives coming on stream as the best, if not only, hope for better in the weeks and months ahead. For example, the prime minister is now promising, with great passion, to maximize Bahamian employment at the Baha Mar project notwithstanding that he knows (and we know) the requirements of the government and the commitment of Baha Mar to do just that. He is also busy announcing new tourism related developments scheduled to commence shortly at Albany and in Bimini among others - all matters approved and in hand prior to the election.
In the closing days of the 2012 election campaign, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham reported that the economic tide was no longer ebbing but rather beginning to rise. He promised that all would benefit from that rise. He also cautioned that the PLP were reapers not sowers. He was absolutely right on that score. Having defeated the FNM at the polls the PLP is now seeking to score points among its supporters with promises of fruits that are the product of FNM labor. And they are seeking to restrict the distribution of those fruits amongst their supporters only - as admitted by the prime minister in North Andros and as alluded to by the deputy prime minister and the chairman of the PLP with regard to staffing in the Urban Renewal program.
Even internationally the PLP seeks to bask in the glow of FNM accomplishments. It is a cruel irony that Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell traveled to Rio+20 Conference in Brazil to boast of The Bahamas' accomplishments on the environmental and conservation fronts, protecting sharks and turtles and expanding the network of marine protected areas - all accomplishments of FNM administrations.
Then Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle traveled to London pursuing investments by pushing The Bahamas' modern and efficient public infrastructure and welcoming investment climate - all the result of FNM policies and programs. He subsequently met with owners of downtown Nassau properties to remind them of targeted concessions available to facilitate the repair, upgrade and expansion of their properties under provisions introduced via amendments to the Hotels Encouragement Act made under the FNM and under the City of Nassau Redevelopment Act, enacted under the FNM.
Most recently the minister of financial services, Ryan Pinder, returned to the capital following meetings in Geneva to proudly report that the World Trade Organization (WTO) had commended The Bahamas for the progress made in readying The Bahamas for entry into that global organization - work undertaken and implemented under the FNM and work which Pinder criticized as being insufficient while it was taking place and he sat in opposition.
I do acknowledge that Christie in speaking with the press admitted that the work required to bring the illegal numbers/lottery within the framework of taxable businesses had been completed by the FNM and that the work for the adoption of the new tax system outlined in his budget communication was undertaken by the previous FNM government. Indeed, the prime minister might have advised the media that the "white paper" on value added tax (VAT) to which he referred was left in place by the FNM. He might also have acknowledged that the Debt Management Committee in the Ministry of Finance was the creation of the FNM administration which had already reached agreement on a joint arrangement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a plan for managing our national debt going forward. Finally, he might also have admitted that the reform and modernization of the real property tax system had been in train for well over a year, that the government was in receipt of recommendations on a way forward from tax consultants and that Cabinet had already accepted and given formal approval for the Ministry of Finance to move forward with the recommendations.
I look forward with great interest to a time when this PLP administration will begin to implement any of its elections promises. So far their single accomplishment after seven weeks in office has been to fire Bahamians where they found them working and to feed seeds of doubt on whether any of the jobs and skills training and job creation initiatives in place on May 7, 2012 will be continued. Christie must soon enough come to accept that the way to create jobs is not to fire employed persons and simply replace them, but rather to grow the number of new and additional jobs over the number which he found in the economy.
The prime minister may, in the spirit of full disclosure, advise the Bahamian public of the sums of money being expended by his government during these difficult economic times to expand his personal office at the Cecil Wallace-Whitfield Centre, create new office spaces for Minister of State Khaalis Rolle and senior advisor Sir Baltron Bethell at the Office of the Prime Minister, and to create new luxury accommodations for the Ministry of Financial Services at West Bay Street.
Perhaps a report on monies being dedicated to these ventures and the re-engagement of retired policemen and customs officers and other retirees should be disclosed so that public officers and the general public, who are being advised to take fiscal responsibility seriously, might be convinced that their new government intends to practice at least some of what it preaches.
- Dr. Hubert Minnis, leader of the Free National Movement
By CELESTE NIXON
Tribune Staff Reporter
PLP representatives held a joint press conference outside the National Insurance Board (NIB) Baillou Hill Road Headquarters yesterday claiming that the unemployment rate is higher than recent government reports indicate.
MP for Elizabeth Ryan Pinder said the recent employment statistics released last week are misleading Bahamians into thinking that the country's unemployment situation has improved.
"These figures are FNM voodoo economics at its best," said Mr Pinder.
The Department of Statistics released the results of its Labour Force and Household Income Survey on Friday, revealing a slight decrease in the nu ...
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A LEADING Bahamian health insurer yesterday saw its attempt to 'stay' an agency's demands for due commission payments shot down by the Court of Appeal, which found that the carrier and its general insurance affiliate were not "a single economic unit".
The appellate court's judgment showed how Atlantic Medical Insurance attempted to tie the action launched against it by Fred S. Ramsey General Insurance Agency to another Supreme Court case, which had been initiated against the same agency by its property and casualty underwriter affiliate, Security & General.
Atlantic Medical and Security & General have as their parent ...
First printed February 22, 2012
Recently the Department of Statistics released the latest unemployment numbers. They were not pretty to say the least. Given that we are in the "silly" season we expect many political analysts to offer their own opinions as to why the employment numbers are so high. What we would like to see are some specifics addressing the myriad of issues facing us today (including the high level of unemployment) over the next 36 months. We can write and pontificate on why the unemployment rate is so high, particularly among the country youth, but will instead today focus on the debt cancer affecting on our national body.
One of the single biggest issues facing us is our national debt. We are fast approaching the point when we will no longer be able to borrow at favorable rates in the international market. Although the debt build-up was several years in the making, we still have time to change course and address some of the attendant issues. We cannot continue to run deficits along with those unfunded liabilities which we never speak about -- i.e., civil servant pensions.
We are in urgent need of a plan to address unfunded pensions but also a plan to grow our economy and manage the debt problem. Debt is not all bad when used appropriately. It becomes a problem when we stop borrowing for development only and begin to borrow to meet interest payments and recurrent expenditures -- i.e., civil servant salaries, etc.
The Bahamas is not alone in this regard. One by one, the countries of Europe are losing their ability to sell their bonds at an interest rate that is sustainable for their economies. They have seen their revenue bases eroded and have had to resort to severe and socially disruptive restructuring exercises. Even with central bank's interventions to accommodate their spending by printing money together with the assistance of other countries, which tax their citizens to pay for the excesses, the debt burden still remains far too high.
Deficit must be addressed
We believe that dealing with the deficit is the single most important factor for the future of The Bahamas. Some would argue that crime and education are more important but that would be shortsighted. Whenever economies are doing well there is a tendency for crime and social ills to decline. Indeed, unless the country has the financial ability to provide funding to fight crime and provide education, the social condition would only get worse.
We believe that the major focus of this upcoming election should ultimately be about dealing with the deficit and putting the country on a path to achieving a sustainable budget deficit rate; one that is less than the growth rate of our country. By not dealing with this issue we run the real risk of creating many problems for ourselves including the likelihood of opening ourselves to harsh penalties such as those imposed by international agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Continued economic imbalances could, in the long run, affect the exchange rate and our sacred one to one dollar peg to the U.S. dollar.
No one likes to talk about devaluation but we must face a new reality, we can't afford to put our head in the sand like the ostrich. Instead, we have to develop a coherent plan to grow our economy.
Unless we seriously attempt to address our problems directly and urgently, we will face tough choices in the future. Choices, which are not pleasant for any government.
The growing debt and the deficits are a deadly cancer on the economy. Together they will deliver a mortal blow to the economy if not dealt with. Putting off treatment as we all know will not make the cancer go away by itself, and the cancer of our debt is clearly growing and malignant. It will soon overwhelm our national economic body. The treatment of a cancer is always accompanied by both cost and pain, whether on the personal or the metaphorical national level.
Problem can be fixed
The problem is solvable and indeed there may be many different solutions. Our difficulty is that we have not yet found the political will to decide on what type of treatment is needed and the will to change our way of doing things and move away from doing only those things which we are comfortable with. Change is difficult, but we cannot grow without change.
Our solutions must be politically feasible; we have an aging population requiring increasing health service which is growing in cost annually. Some estimates place the figure as high as 70 percent over the last decade. This is clearly not sustainable. We must address this issue as a matter of urgency. As our population ages, an increased burden is placed on the National Insurance scheme. Informed opinion suggests that National Insurance in its present construct won't be able provide for all of us in the future unless fundamental changes are made. We should add here that National Insurance was never intended to provide 100 percent for us in our retirement.
We also need to address our tax structure. Why we continue to kick the can down the road is beyond us. We must deal with this issue now. It cannot be left for future generations to deal with. If we continue to ignore those problems, it is our considered view that our economy will become like some of our friends to the south.
If the government decides to raise revenue via tax increases, it may be useful to conduct an exercise to examine the different implications for various tax increases. Not all tax increases give the desired effect; some can have the reverse effect of further stalling revenue intake rather than increasing it. We won't argue how we should spend our tax revenues. However, we do suggest that we should seek to collect them with as little negative impact as possible. Taxes have consequences.
Some appropriate level of government spending is required. We believe, however, that the spending should be targeted with a view towards creating new industries and employment opportunities for our citizens. Keynes did argue that deficit spending was a good thing in recessions. But he also assumed that the debt would be paid back in the next growth cycle. Must government and citizens forget the latter part?
There are some ideas that are fundamental to the growth of the economy, capitalism and free markets as we know them today. Thomas Hobbes argued that income measures what you contribute to society and spending measures what take away from it. Adam Smith argued that it is the wealth of nations and not the wealth of governments that matters. He argued it was more important to grow the economy and not government.
Without economic growth, the average person will be left worse off. If our population grows by one percent a year and at the same time our gross domestic product fails to grow by one percent, there is less for each person to share. It follows, therefore, that private sector growth is what is needed for general prosperity.
We should take the opportunity to learn from the crisis. Our economic structure as it currently stands, cannot be supported or sustained if we are to move forward with minimal pain. Our structure assumes that our government knows best how to allocate capital, a proposition that has been rejected in both theory and practice over the years.
We should never let a good crisis go to waste. Our economic structure as it currently stands is just unworkable if we are to move forward with minimal pain. Our structure assumes government knows best how to allocate capital, a proposition that has been rejected in both theory and practice over the years.
With regards to the problems facing The Bahamas in the next few years, we believe that there is no easy solution. We are convinced that there are no easy choices. Nevertheless, we are confident that the choices we eventually make will have both short-term and long-term consequences and we stand a better chance of success if we plan carefully.
o CFAL is a sister company of The Nassau Guardian under the AF Holdings Ltd. umbrella. CFAL provides investment management, research, brokerage and pension services. For comments, please contact CFAL at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let me open by remarking that in my discussions with many colleagues involved with various sectors of financial, investment and banking services I have found that there is 100 percent unanimity of wanting The Bahamas to be a well regulated jurisdiction. It is believed that a well regulated industry will help considerably to sustain and attract business to The Bahamas.
Attracting new business in this current environment is extremely difficult and The Bahamas needs to be able to emphasize and demonstrate why it should still be considered a jurisdiction of choice.
Like the hotel industry (the number one industry of The Bahamas) the financial services industry is made up of large, medium and small players.
It is this diversity of operators that gives the public choices. This diversity should also be recognized as a positive strength. By way of example, look at the potential employment and other mayhem that would have occurred had Atlantis closed its doors. Similarly in the financial industry, there is and always has been the potential for the "big banks" to immediately withdraw from the jurisdiction. This could be for a variety of reasons often beyond the direct control of The Bahamas - i.e., changes in business strategies and consolidation among the global players.
This is not just empty rhetoric it is evidenced by the reduction of bank licensees. Another example of note is to acknowledge what has happened to the mutual fund administration segment of the financial services industry - from a thriving segment it too has essentially disappeared. The Bahamas should not ignore these events and it needs to be fully alert to these potential dangers which would/could prove to be a death knell for the financial services industry as a whole.
In order to create a favorable environment it is important for the regulators to enhance the development of all sectors within the financial services industry and in particular recognize their size. Such actions would considerably enhance the attraction of new players, clients, etc., which in turn will continue to broaden the base of the financial services industry. Quite often one gets the impression that The Bahamas only wants to attract the big global players. This might be an ideal goal but in reality, I do not consider it to be realistic especially as their numbers are shrinking.
Currently the regulators tend to be viewed as an impediment to business as opposed to being a benefit. Recently the Securities Commission of The Bahamas circulated papers (some for discussion) others as guidelines to its licensees relative to compliance officers, capital requirements and increased annual fees.
The approach taken by the Securities Commission, and to some degree by the Central Bank, is to adopt policies and guidelines for the entire industry - i.e., a "one-size-fits-all" syndrome. This situation is becoming more pronounced by the Securities Commission as it is tending to automatically include Financial and Corporate Service Providers (FCSP) licensees along with the investment sector participants - the FCSP licensees seem to be losing their individual identity (they have already lost their individual regulator).
In the cases of the "big" players the "one-size-fits-all" policies and guidelines are probably regarded as impediments, however they invariably have the adverse impact of increasing the cost of doing business. Though, when it comes to the medium and small players such impediments become difficulties - serious difficulties which can and do divert potential business from this jurisdiction. I briefly expand on the recent bulletins received from the Securities Commission.
Compliance Officer - Guideline: This states that the person fulfilling this role has to be an independent person. How can a business of maybe two or three persons be expected to have an employee with an independent role? Why cannot the CEO or COO be assigned to fulfill this role? With smaller firms there does not tend to be sufficient business to occupy the full time of such executives and it would make viable and economic sense if one of them could also fulfill this role.
Does such a suggestion of amalgamating these functions increase the risk that an independent person would have? Specifically, securities investment advisors have minimal risk, as they do not undertake banking or custodial roles thereby the risk is significantly reduced. For the "big players" who have independent persons as compliance officers all of them have the right to raise non-compliance issues; however, it is invariably senior management who makes the ultimate decision on how to deal with all of the issues raised. I do not think that allowing the dual role (similar to the smaller banks) undertaken by small firms will significantly increase the risk exposure.
Capital Requirements - Guideline: A recent change in the legislation has increased the required capital of a security investment advisor from $25,000 to $125,000. What is the rationale behind a 400 percent increase? One can argue that $125,000 is still a relatively small capital requirement which if viewed in isolation is true but equally one can ask why? What is this supposed to represent? This is considered an adverse move as pending applicants now have to find an additional $100,000, which may not be that easy.
In other words it creates a difficult environment, which faces the smaller operators (especially Bahamians) as well as the negative aspect of changing and/or evolving guidelines.
Furthermore, one has to query the relevance of this increase in capital. For example, is it based on risk formula or is it just an arbitrary number? I would have hoped that the Securities Commission would have followed the Central Bank's example of determining the overall risk of their licensees relative to their business segment. If this modern risk-rating approach was undertaken then it may make more sense and be more appropriate to ensure the company had adequate professional indemnity insurance (PII).
In most cases the security investment advisor licensees have minimal risk as they do not undertake any banking functions and they are not the custodians of the assets. Their real and only exposure would be erroneous trade executions. Once the risk is ascertained then the appropriate level of capital and/or professional indemnity insurance could be put in place. The capital, however, should be allowed to accumulate via retained earnings and consideration could be given to a possible control over the dividend payments. At this time, the guidelines indicate a new company can obtain professional indemnity insurance within the first 12 months of its operation. However, in reality the Securities Commission will not issue the license until it has evidence that the PII is in place. Which should come first the chicken or the egg? How can an adequate level of PII be ascertained without some factual history? Currently the Securities Commission now demands the minimum capital and proof of professional indemnity insurance in an amount which is subject to unknown determination. The guidelines say minimum PII covers up to $500,000, however it has been learned that this amount is subject to negotiation.
Negotiation without any determination of the risk is not the way to proceed and dangerous precedents can be set. The issues of capital requirements should be spelled out clearly for all licensees - large, medium and small.
Furthermore why cannot the "capital" be one or the other - i.e. paid in capital and/or PII ? What additional risks are being mitigated by having both?
Proposed Increase in Annual Fees: To even suggest increasing fees in this world economic environment is very bad news. The rationale given behind the proposed increases is, in my opinion, flawed. To say that the proposed increases only represent 30 percent (or only 12 percent in real terms when adjusted for inflation) and is comparable with other jurisdictions (the identity of the comparison jurisdictions are not given). It is far from obvious how these percentages were obtained yet from my discussions with people in the financial services industry their increases range from 125 percent to 700 percent. Let's be cognizant of what I call Economics 101 - the "law of diminishing returns". This could be a direct result if the proposed increases are put into effect. Increases of such amounts are unacceptable in today's environment and will have the direct effect of driving business away from The Bahamas - not just potential new business but also existing business. In other words such increases can effectively 'kill' the business. Also part of the rationale given for such increases is to allow the Securities Commission to be an independent body. However, such an arrangement could allow the Securities Commission to be overstaffed, inefficient and bloated. Is this an example of the well regulated jurisdiction that The Bahamas wishes to promote? Unfortunately and due to recognized and understandable cost constraints, both regulators carry some elements of their workforce who are unskilled and/or inexperienced for the roles to which they have been assigned. Unfortunately this can and occasionally does have a damaging external impact on the image of The Bahamas. Jurisdictional impact is not just something that the regulators should question of its licensees, it is also something the regulators need to consider when issuing such pronouncements reports, etc.
I go back to my opening remarks: "All licensees want a well Regulated Bahamas jurisdiction". In such an environment one would expect and hope that some teamwork would evolve in arriving at mutually beneficial solutions - the licensees (often represented by seasoned professionals) and the regulators should cooperate and learn from each other and make this a more user-friendly environment. Alas this is not the case, there are too many known situations where the licensees have found the approach of the regulators to be confrontational. There are also many instances where the regulator will never admit to a mistake or even retract a position. This is most unfortunate and prevents the benefits of meaningful two-way exchanges to flourish where both parties can learn from each other to everyone's mutual benefit. A recent impasse relates to "segregation of cash and client assets" where the current posture of the regulators is the opposite to the tenets of the law. I have been involved with, and a part of, the financial services industry covering a variety of roles for over 35 years. I have seen the good times and the changing times. It is an industry that has brought significant but un-quantified benefits to The Bahamas - between 15 percent and 20 percent of GDP are numbers frequently promoted. It also provides an essential diversification from tourism.
The Bahamas needs to seriously consider the "big picture" and consider changing the current regulatory climate to "custom-fit" all licensees in accordance and related to their size and risk.
I trust the foregoing will be accepted in the constructive manner intended so together we can build an improved business climate.
- Law abiding resident
Companies lose an average of five percent of their annual revenue due to occupational fraud and abuse, according to a recent survey released by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).
Marlon Cooper, managing director at Symptai Consulting Ltd., addressed the importance of businesses having certain systems in place to ensure they don't suffer such revenue losses, during a seminar yesterday at the British Colonial Hilton.
"Often times, persons within a company use their positions to destroy the company one way or the other. They abuse processes and systems, so the company are faced with those losses," he explained.
"That's completely different from those additional losses where external persons or entities also attempt to defraud a company or to get monies or services out of a company and then not pay for those services."
Cooper addressed seminar attendees on the topic "Delivering Business Value through Continued Monitoring".
"We are trying to educate the Bahamian market about how you can continuously monitor the controls within your business processes, to ensure that the business does not suffer money leakage, revenue loss and is not susceptible to fraudulent activities that may be as a result of overpayment, or payment of things that should not have occurred. We are trying to educate the public that technology is available and being used here in The Bahamas," Cooper noted.
Cooper pointed out how the National Insurance Board (NIB) is one of the major entities locally that has put a system in place to combat these issues in regards to the unemployment benefit fund.
"In addition to that, they wanted to ensure that they are able to deliver on their promise to make long-term and short-term benefit payments, and also that the contributions payments that are set to come in, come in a timely manner," he said.
With the Caseware Solution system, Cooper shared that there is a tight system of accountability.
"It monitors regular business processes, whether you are looking for duplicates of payments, your payroll process or you want to make sure that only persons who were employed are being paid."
Newly-ratified Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) candidate for the upcoming North Abaco by-election Renardo Curry said he has blood in his eyes as he prepares to try to bring North Abaco MP and former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's long-held seat back into the hands of the governing party.
Curry, who addressed party leaders and hundreds of other party faithful at PLP headquarters on Farrington Road last night, said with Ingraham out of the way the people of North Abaco are willing to make a change.
"I live among the people. I know their concerns after campaigning for over a year, and you would think I would be a better [representative]," he told The Nassau Guardian.
Curry, 38, will run against Greg Gomez, the Free National Movement's (FNM) ratified candidate for North Abaco, and S. Ali McIntosh, the servant leader of the Bahamas Constitution Party.
Curry said last night that Gomez is his wife's first cousin, but he will defeat him nonetheless.
While some political observers think the by-election is the first major test of the FNM and its leader, Dr. Hubert Minnis, some have said it will also test whether the governing party has lost or gained momentum, depending on the outcome.
At Sir Lynden Pindling Centre, Prime Minister and PLP Leader Perry Christie told The Guardian that Curry has made a compelling case that he can emerge victorious after losing to the former prime minister in the last general election.
"He brought a lot of people with him from the constituency who all have come down to indicate that Hubert Ingraham had a lot of personal support, and they believe on a real considered basis that that personal support is not transferable to another candidate. And so he is convinced that he will be a good candidate and at the end of it all he will be the winning candidate," said Christie.
The prime minister said that the government will put its full support behind Curry's candidacy.
"I think it's important for us to communicate to the people of Abaco that they have an opportunity for them to have their representative, in Mr. Curry, sitting around the table and being a part of the governing party and being able therefore, to represent their best interests," he said.
"So the choice will be to vote for a candidate (Curry) who will go into the political wilderness with the rest of his colleagues and [attempt to] rebuild the FNM back into a party that people could consider electing as a government.
"In the meantime, they have four years in which they could have Mr. Curry sitting around the table and making decisions which could impact their lives right now. So for me, the choice is clear."
Curry won five of the 12 polling divisions in that constituency in the last general election.
Ingraham secured his seat with 2,235 votes while Curry got 1,856 votes.
Curry, 38, said this week that the margin of his loss --379 votes -- is a reflection of his support, which he said has increased since May 7.
The North Abaco native said he thinks Abaconians are ready to return the seat to the PLP, something they have not done in 25 years.
As previously reported, a by-election must be called within 60 days after Ingraham's resignation from the House of Assembly becomes effective on August 31.
In a statement released last night, the PLP said it is committed to presenting young and energetic leadership to the Bahamian people, and Curry embodies that.
Curry was the sole applicant for the seat, according to the PLP.
"This should come as no surprise because the Prime Minister and PLP Leader Perry Christie advised the public on May 18 that Mr. Curry had indicated a preference to forego a senatorial appointment in order to put himself in a position of maximum readiness for the anticipated by-election in the North Abaco constituency," said the PLP.
"If successful at the polls, Mr. Curry will join a class of government parliamentarians that are collectively among the youngest group ever to sit in the halls of Parliament."
The PLP won 29 of the 38 seats in the House of Assembly and the FNM secured the remaining nine.
Curry said if successful as the new MP for North Abaco he would place emphasis on job creation programs through central and local government projects, which would include the establishment of a job placement program for college graduates; a technical learning institution such as BTVI on Abaco, and he also plans to support National Health Insurance.
He will return to Abaco today to continue campaigning, and expects PLP officials to join him on the ground in the coming weeks as the campaign heats up.
Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis said his party doesn't agree with the government's decision to cancel the sale of nine percent of its shares in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) to the Bahamian public as previously promised by the Ingraham administration.
BTC CEO Geoff Houston reported last week that the government is getting almost double the profits as a 49 percent owner in BTC than it received as a full owner.
Minnis said Bahamians should be allowed to share in those profits.
"The small Bahamian would have been in a position to double and triple and possibly increase his profit margin," said Minnis.
"I think if you are truly interested in Bahamians, this would have been a great opportunity to empower them and empower the small man so he could share in a part of the wealth."
Prime Minister Perry Christie revealed on Sunday that his administration would not follow through with the sale of nine percent of its shares because "it stands in the way of what [the] government has a mandate to do".
Christie has repeatedly promised that his administration will make every legal effort to regain majority control of BTC.
The Nassau Guardian also revealed yesterday that Christie has appointed a negotiating team ahead of talks with Cable and Wireless (CWC) CEO Tony Rice.
Minnis said this is sending a bad message to the international community.
"That is now a private company," he said. "They (CWC) bought BTC from the government. They have majority share.
"For the government to now go and try to say they are going to buy it out, you are talking about nationalization; that is dangerous terminology in the international arena.
"You're sending a bad message, especially when he (Christie) was just in Florida the other day trying to lure investors here.
"Why would I want to invest my money [in a country where] a government...may not even be friendly?"
He continued, "This whole process of establishing his committee...I think that's a bunch of fluff.
"I could establish any committee; I could put Einstein on it if he is around. But what difference does it make? I'm not interested in their reporting because whatever they report isn't going to make any difference because he cannot do it."
The prime minister noted on Sunday that in a previous meeting, Rice attempted to convince him to reconsider his position.
However, Christie has maintained that it's not what he thinks that matters.
"It's what the people who voted for me think and I can't go back to them and tell them [maybe in] about the next four to five years," he said.
Minnis said that's just an excuse.
"He is trying to use the excuse that Bahamians told him to do this and that's a promise he made -- please," he said.
"Didn't he make a promise to give them national health insurance too?"
Cable and Wireless acquired 51 percent of the shares in BTC in April 2011.
While the previous Christie administration had planned to privatize BTC, it had said it would not sell a majority stake in the company.
The prime minister said he expects talks with CWC to start in August.
A MOTORCYCLE wreck turned a Lenawee County man into a paraplegic. Desperate for any relief, he chose stem-cell surgery in Europe, a procedure that may have improved his health but left him with a $51,000 bill.
Now, after years of litigation, the Michigan Supreme Court says Kevin Krohn's auto insurance company doesn't have to pay, declaring that the experimental surgery -- not approved in the U.S. -- was not "reasonably necessary" under state law.
The recent 4-3 ruling closes a case in which the court's conservative Republican majority prevailed over liberal Democratic justices. At least six civil cases this year have been decided by the same mar ...
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE EMERALD BAY RESORT'S immediate past owners must bear the burden of proving they are entitled to claim a $3 million deposit relating to a failed deal to sell the Exuma-based property, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
The appellate body backed a Supreme Court ruling by Justice Bernard Turner, who found that the London-based office of Japanese insurer, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, plus the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) receivers it appointed, should be the plaintiffs in the dispute with a potential purchaser that is seeking to reclaim the deposit it paid into escrow.
The $3 million deposit, plus accumulated interest, is currently being held in ...
Response from the Straw Business Persons Society to the Ingraham's Administration on the Development of the New Straw Market.
EDITOR, The Tribune.
THE straw vendors will not be discriminated against!
It seems to me that the Ingraham administration has a serious issue with the straw vendors. The straw vendors are being asked to obtain their business license and ensure that their National Insurance contribution is current in order for them to receive a stall in the newly built Straw Market on Bay Street. Since when did this become a prerequisite to relocate an established business to a new premises?
Why is there a different demand placed on the straw vendors? A demand that is not common ...
I thought I must have misunderstood the report in the paper which seemed to suggest that Prime Minister Perry Christie believes that members of Parliament should receive pay increases and that constituency allowances for MPs should also be increased.
If accurate, this would support the view that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) election plan was to win the government and then share the Public Treasury's funds to handsomely pay the PLP inner-circle - hence, the Gussie Mae Cabinet and the excessive appointment of senior PLPs, their family members and close friends to chairmanships and posts on statutory boards where they are all paid stipends and honorariums. Now we have talk of pay and allowance increases for MPs? This is shameful.
I would think that Bahamian parliamentarians, many if not most of whom are successful professionals with prosperous private practices, businesses and fat bank accounts, could wait for any increase in salary until such time as our economy rebounds and our unemployment numbers decrease. Why a minister of government who receives a ministerial salary of $60,000, plus a MPs salary of $26,000, plus entertainment allowances, health insurance and use of an official vehicle with fuel and liability insurance all paid for by the government needs a salary increase more than unemployed Bahamians need jobs escapes me.
As for the others, with the exception of Picewell Forbes, all PLP backbenchers have been appointed as parliamentary secretaries and as chairmen or members of statutory boards posts that all come with salaries and allowances attached, plus in some cases use of a corporation's vehicle is included. Again, why would parliamentary secretaries and chairmen of statutory boards need salary increases ahead of unemployed Bahamians being afforded the opportunity to obtain a job earning a minimum wage salary?
Christie has not been clear on the fate of the 52-week skills and job training program put in place to employ and train some 4,000-plus unemployed Bahamians. This program needs to be continued and expanded before any consideration can be given to increasing the pay checks of parliamentarians.
As to Christie's call for increases in constituency allowances for MPs, it is more than a little ironic that Christie, who found it impossible to spend the special constituency allowance of $100,000 provided by the Free National Movement government for small infrastructural projects in his constituency, now claims that MPs need more money if they are to adequately represent their constituents.
The prime minister needs to explain to the Bahamian people exactly what his election campaign pledge of believing in Bahamians and investing in Bahamians means, because for far too many of us increasingly it's looking like what he really meant was that he and his party believe in PLP parliamentarians and that they will use the country's resources to invest in those parliamentarians and their families.
"In the short run, my view is that Irene is going to inject an economic stimulus."
The heading above is a quote from a leading Bahamian businessman in reference to the damage caused by Hurricane Irene. The "Broken Window" story in Henry Hazlitt's "Economics in One Lesson" illustrates the fallacy in the leading businessman's erroneous assumptions.
The businessman is right with his first conclusion. The hurricane damage may mean more business for construction firms. But for the homeowner, it is a loss because the money for repairs to his house is no longer available for other uses.
So instead of replacing his old car, the money saved for that purpose is required to restore his house to its pre-hurricane condition. There is no gain for the homeowner and new "employment" has not been added.
The businessman was thinking only of the immediate parties involved in restoring the property - that is, the homeowner and the construction firm. He has forgotten the loss of business to other parties not involved in hurricane repairs.
Overlooked are the parties who could have benefited had the insurance money and required deductible been available for new capital expenditure.
Seen is the rebuilding but unseen is the investment in a new T.V., car, house or whatever, precisely because it will not be purchased.
As Professor Steve Horwitz pointed out for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) this week: "The inability to imagine the unseen is the source of a great deal of bad economics. For example, many observers claim the hurricane will create jobs, and they are right. However, creating jobs is not the same as creating wealth if those jobs are just cleaning up the mess from a disaster.
"And the same goes for creating jobs through government stimulus programs and the like: The path to prosperity comes from reducing the amount of labor needed for what we currently produce so we can free it to produce other goods we'd like to have but can't yet efficiently produce. This is just another way of seeing why having to devote labor to cleaning up a mess is a loss in wealth, not a gain."
"We'll never put a stop to natural disasters, but if people imagine the 'unseen', it may be possible to correct disastrous economics."
THE NASSAU INSTITUTE
o First published November 9, 2011.
Over the past few days we have seen a few news items about the Department of Statistics' pending surveys. We believe this is a good thing. But we wonder if the information collected from these surveys is used to inform those who plan the development of our country.
Most people generally recognize the role that demographic trends play in shaping societies, mature economies, emerging markets and the environment.
China and India, for example, have become immense economic engines in part because each has a population of more than one billion people. An increase in the youth population has been a major factor in the recent unrest in the Middle East. Young people are compelled to protest because they feel they deserve opportunities and a voice in society that reflects the strength of their numbers.
Europe and Japan, conversely, are known to be suffering economically because of their aging workforces. The proportion of the population that is retired, and thus dependent on others to support them, is rapidly increasing.
In The Bahamas our population is also aging, and with that comes a stress on our national insurance program.
Some may suggest that there is nothing we can do about demographic trends, and every country must live with its demographic destiny. We don't think this is the case.
Political and business leaders can do a great deal if they are willing to take a precise approach to prediction. Past and present demographic trends, as well as those expected in the near future, can help calculate socioeconomic trajectories.
In the public sector, the first step is to pinpoint a country's development trajectory and demographic profile. The next step is to plot the potential for social, economic and environmental progress. Then, look for challenges and opportunities. Finally, develop policies and actions to improve the country's trajectory.
Companies can use a similar approach to take advantage of demographic trends in countries where they hope to find new sources of talent or potential consumers.
A proactive approach to demographics will help in planning for our country's future.
Where will the demand for labor come from? Is it nursing and home-care, given the aging population? Is it the need for more resources to fight the ever-growing rate of crime? Is it education to position our citizens to take advantage of changing economic trends? Is it agriculture to decrease our dependency on imports? Is it a need to change our tax structure to meet our growing needs and the needs of a fragile and open economy?
Generally, as a population ages the economy sees a boom as the aging population saves for retirement.
Regrettably in The Bahamas, our savings and retirement planning are lacking at best. We all must admit that our national insurance program is not in a position to take care of us all on its current path, despite the fact that National Insurance is now in the best position since its formation.
Armed with the information to be collected from the soon-to-be statistic surveys, we trust that our leaders will have a better understanding of population trends and needs. This will allow them to develop strategies attuned to the newly acquired demographic information and determine the rate at which our workforce is aging and prepare accordingly, creating a self-sustaining future, avoiding long-term insolvency and improving the quality of life for generations to come.
The strictures of demographics don't have to be destiny. If we don't use demographics to better plan the development of our nation, we fully expect our country to find itself on the glide path of some of our regional counterparts.
o CFAL provides investment management, research, brokerage and pension services. For comments, please contact CFAL at: email@example.com.
The business community is bracing for the worst as Hurricane Irene sweeps in from the southeast, carrying with it the possibly of financial ruin.
Although the storm isn't expected to strike The Bahamas until Wednesday, for some entrepreneurs, the damage has already been done.
Preben Olesen, the CEO of Port Lucaya in Grand Bahama, said many of the boats docked at his marina have pulled up anchor.
"They were supposed to stay the weekend, and this obviously affects business," he said. "I had other clients who were supposed to come out here this weekend.
"Tourists won't come. Now we're making preparations to possibly leave."
Indeed, businesses across the country are now scrambling to mitigate a possible disaster.
The Director of Cruise Development, Carla Stuart, told Guardian Business that five ships are expected to arrive in Nassau on Wednesday and one on Thursday. Cancellation of these vessels "seems likely", will have considerable ripple affects on the local economy, she said.
"It is expected the port will be closed on Wednesday," she said. "That would be a major loss."
"Definitely it would be a tremendous hit for many different people, be it the tour operations, the restaurants, Atlantis and the Bay St merchants. Even the taxi drivers would lose revenue. There are so many people who would be affected."
Stuart added that there would be a series of emergency meetings over the next 24 hours to determine whether the cancellations are necessary. One Royal Caribbean ship, the Allure of the Seas, has already been re-routed to its final port of call, shifting its arrival into Nassau to Saturday. Carrying approximately 6,400 passengers, she anticipates no loss in revenue, if all goes to plan.
Monarch of The Seas will call on Nassau today, rather than Wednesday. Carnival Pride will make an unscheduled call into Freeport on Wednesday, and Carnival Conquest has cancelled its arrival into Freeport.
"We're watching and monitoring very close," Stuart said. "If this weather continues, then definitely, there will be further changes."
In the meantime, at The Welcome Center, Stuart said shutters are being placed on the windows and sand bags will soon be in place.
Thousands of other businesses throughout The Bahamas are following suit over fears of widespread damage to property.
At press time, the core of Hurricane Irene was moving just to the North of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The maximum sustained winds had increased to nearly 80 mph, and although it was classified as a category one hurricane, the storm is expected to strength considerably over the next 24 hours.
Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and dangerous waves, forecasters said.
David Johnson, the Director General of the Ministry of Tourism, told Guardian Business he's in the process of cutting his holiday short in Tampa Bay so he can be back in The Bahamas to help prepare for the landfall.
A command center has been set up at the British Colonial Hilton to field calls and establish what threat the hurricane could have to the industry.
"I'm making plans to beat the storm in," he said. "We have a national plan and there are various steps we must execute.
"There is an emergency meeting tonight [Monday] to determine the way forward."
Geneva Cooper is the Senior Director in charge of Crisis Management at the Hilton command center. She said the ministry is currently assessing the number of tourists in the country and any potential loss in business.
In San Salvador, she said, there are currently 448 tourists, and at the moment, all of them will be staying put to ride out the storm.
"The administrator on that island is having a preparedness meeting and most will be staying," she added.
Johnson said the hurricane's full impact on the tourism sector, including the scale of holiday cancellations, wouldn't be fully known until Tuesday.
The command center, which is staffed 24-hours a day, is currently checking in with various resorts and ensuring that lines of communication, such as satellite phones, will be reliable once Irene arrives in The Bahamas on Wednesday.
"Much depends on what happens in the next 24-to-12 hours," Johnson said.
How to secure your businessAlthough the initial focus should be on protection of life and property, Winston Rolle, the Chairman of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC), said entrepreneurs must prepare for Hurricane Irene if they want to protect the bottom line.
"You must secure your premises as best you can and ensure your staff aren't in harm's way," he told Guardian Business.
In collaboration with the government, the Bahamas Hotel Association and Planet Now, the BCCEC has contributed to Bahamas Hurricane Preparation (www.bahamashurricaneprep.com), a website intended to help residents, tourists and entrepreneurs brace for severe weather.
From a business perspective, at the top of the list is ensuring you have a back-up power supply. The lights could go out for several days after the storm, the website says, which could dramatically interrupt normal operations.
Installing a generator will go a long way to keeping the business operational.
However, entrepreneurs should prioritize which systems must be kept online in the event of a sustained blackout, whether it be the freezers, sprinklers, lights or alarm systems.
The BCCEC recommends you install the generator in an area that is safe from any potential flooding or high winds.
At the same time, it should also have access to the outside for exhaust.
Another consideration for businesses is the protection of records. Whether it be in electronic form or raw material, steps can be taken to ensure they are safe from loss or damage.
It's a good idea to back-up any information electronically and store it in a secure location.
In terms of insurance, entrepreneurs should keep up to date with their insurance policies, and note that, if you own a home business, the policy at your residence may not cover any damage related to the business.
You may require two policies to ensure complete coverage.
"Overall, the most important thing is to watch the storm carefully and take precautions," Rolle said.