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The government has been urged to move swiftly to release all of its "financial modeling" work on the impact of the value added tax (VAT) so that businesses and consumers can see if it has got its "facts straight", the head of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation's (BCCEC) VAT division has argued.
Robert Myers, vice chairman of the BCCEC, said that seeing evidence of how VAT is expected to impact revenue, growth and other variables under "best and worst case scenarios" is among the "most critical" pieces of information that the government should be prepared to release as it pushes ahead with implementing the tax.
He identified such modeling work, in addition to the tariff schedule showing how tariffs on goods will be adjusted when VAT is implemented, as two additional fundamental pieces of information that the government should be releasing in conjunction with the VAT legislation and regulations.
"I think we have a right to understand what the modeling looks like. When I start a new business, I look at what's the best and what's the worst case scenario. Let's stress test the model and see what happens if things go wrong.
"They're asking businesses to go through a lot of trouble to implement this and comply and if the net result is that they slow the economy or cause stagflation, then we should be able to see that for ourselves."
Myers added that the private sector should be doing its own analyses of the likely impact of VAT under different conditions.
The BCCEC recently formed a Tax Reform Committee which it says will seek to "engage constructively" with the government over VAT.
Chester Cooper, BCCEC chairman, said the purpose of the committee is to "elevate the discourse" over VAT, get more stakeholders engaged in the discussion over the tax, and to provide analyses of its likely impact.
With VAT due to be implemented on July 1, 2014, the government has yet to release VAT-related legislation and regulations, despite having most recently indicated that it was aiming to do so by the end of September.
On September 25, VAT consultant to the government Ishmael Lightbourne told attendees at a meeting of the Bahamas Society of Engineers that the legislation and accompanying regulations have been before the Cabinet for "a month".
"We're pushing as much as we can to get it out of there because we know you need to see it," said Lightbourne at the time.
There has been no indication given that the government intends to release financial modeling work as suggested by Myers.
With doctors, accountants and successful business owners in his family, Raemon Wilson knew one thing and it was that he wanted to be just as successful or even better, than his family members. To do that he knew he needed to obtain higher education and was looking forward to attending college after graduating Government High School -- but reality set in. He was accepted into a number of schools, but he simply could not afford the tuition. Press fast forward on the story of his life by three years, and Raemon is proud that he has completed his freshman year at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) and is an honor roll student to boot.
"When I came to NEO, in the fall of 2012 that was a big thing for me. I was so thankful I was actually in college," said Raemon who is at home for summer break. He said he had many days during his first year where he just sat and thought about actually being in college. Especially after he said he had literally given up after sitting at home for two years after graduating high school and trying to figure out how he would be able to pay for a college if accepted.
It all changed in January 2011. He got a call from Freeport from the mother of his cousin who attended NEO and told him the school was in need of people for their band and music program. Raemon immediately made an audition video and emailed it. The scholarship the band director offered the 20-year-old was a near full scholarship, and he jumped at the opportunity.
Raemon posted a perfect 4.00 Grade Point Average (GPA) after his first semester. He fell off in his second semester to a 3.46 GPA. He chalks the fall-off to the fact that he took 19 credits in his second semester versus 16 hours in his first semester.
The one thing he does know is that he has to work as hard as he can during his junior college years and use the two years as a stepping stone to get into better colleges. He has plans to get a doctorate degree. He wants to use his degree to teach eventually. But long term he wants to open a percussion school at home, exposing people to all sides of percussion from marching band to concert band, stage band, native stuff and African as well as Latin music.
The son of Leon Wilson Sr. and Ramona Wilson says he definitely would not have been able to attend college, had it not been for his scholarship.
"When I graduated high school it was very important for me to go off to school, especially as I had an older brother who graduated with honors from Shaw University [in North Carolina] and he was an inspiration and that's what I wanted," he said. "But I was out of high school for two years. I was seriously getting disappointed. As the last of four children, and all of my siblings are successful, all but one has a college degree and she's still very successful at her job and has a very good position, I wanted to do just as well as they did and better."
For Raemon, a general music major, he said it wasn't hard to get himself back into the frame of mind to study.
"I just had that desire to go off to school and to do whatever it took, so it wasn't a struggle for me to get back into the school mode because I know what I'm there for, and that this is a one-time chance for me and I know I can't mess it up. On top of that I have a lot of people in my family, especially on my mother's sides who have degrees and are doctors, accountants, have degrees in computer science and own their own businesses and are very successful -- and all of that ran through my mind."
With an aunt, principal Helen Johnson in Andros, whom he said cracks the educational whip with her children, her nieces and nephews, he said he knows that he has to do well.
"Education is proof to show what you have done with your life. It's mental certification," said Raemon.
He admits that he was not as focused on education in high school, just barely making the honor roll. He says he knew he could do better than he did, but said he has grown up and realizes the importance of an education.
He's also a young man who says music meant everything to him in high school, and that he could always be found in the band room. It's his drum-playing skills that are now paying for his education. He said college is tough, but that he's embracing the challenges, including his struggles with math and English.
He has been made the vice-band president with which comes responsibilities to back up the president -- ensuring the band members gets everything in order; that everybody gets in their music; that they are practicing their music and in line during practice.
"We make sure that the disciplinary part of the practice isn't so much a burden on the band director and he can spend more time directing rather than disciplining," said Raemon.
He also says the music has given him more discipline.
"The theory isn't something you have to learn just to get an A [grade] in class, it's something you have to know because you have to teach it. Through music I learned to pay more attention in class for me."
He's had to be disciplined to do as well as he did in his first year, because there were many days during that first year that he said he found himself in the band room practicing sometimes until 3-4 a.m. and having to get to a 9 a.m. class for a subject like math that was tough on him, and also complete his homework.
His main instrument is the drum set, but during his first year at NEO he said he played the multi tenor; Lat percussion, conga drums and bongos. He also played auxiliary percussion and African drums like the rope-tuned skin-covered goblet drum known as the Djembe and the Doumbek.
Raemon said for as long as he could remember he's always had an interest in music having grown up around it and his interest has always been the drums. He played in the Church of God of Prophecy marching band from age seven to age 12. He started to learn to play the piano, but lost interest. He also played with the Bahamas All-Star Band from 2010-2012.
Hundreds of teachers yesterday agreed to hold a strike vote, Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President Belinda Wilson claimed yesterday, although no evidence was provided to confirm the numbers.
"We're trying our best not for it to go this far, but sometimes like my parents say, when you can't hear, you'll feel," she told reporters at BUT headquarters on Bethel Avenue.
"If the majority of the members say strike, then we're going to hit the streets."
Wilson said a date for the strike vote will be determined by next week.
In the meantime, she said she will write to the director of labor requesting that the Department of Labour oversee the vote.
Wilson noted that if the strike vote passes, a 16-day cooling off period is required.
"The 16-day cooling off period is an opportunity for the government to right the wrongs," she said.
"We hope that cooler heads will prevail... We hope that the government will use wisdom.
"We hope that the prime minister would intervene and give instructions to his subordinate ministers so that we could avoid all of these problems.
"We are going to send the additional information to the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, and we're asking for the ILO to send a group down to do conciliation and to intervene."
The BUT has already communicated to the ILO on denial of access to school campuses for the union and health and safety concerns at Stephen Dillet and Uriah McPhee primary schools, according to Wilson.
Those are just some of the concerns the BUT says it has with the Ministry of Education.
Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald has previously said the BUT will only be allowed on campuses during after-school hours, or in the case of an emergency.
But Wilson insists the Ministry of Education cannot deny the union access during school hours. She said that is a "basic and fundamental" concern.
She likened the barring of executives to security officers barring a doctor from entering the Accident and Emergency section of a hospital.
"The school is an extension of our workplace because our members are there...It's union busting," she said.
As it relates to the health and safety concerns, Fitzgerald said the ministry has spent over $700,000 on repairs to both schools.
But Wilson said the union remains concerned. She said the union met with various education and government officials in the last two months, including the prime minister.
However, she said meetings have been fruitless.
Fitzgerald told The Nassau Guardian on Sunday that the union wants to threaten and bully the government to get its own way instead of resolving disputes through the right process.
"I think it's unfortunate, and I think it's unnecessary," he said. "In many cases, it's illogical as well because it really has nothing to do with pay or benefits or rights of teachers.
"The issues which they are raising really don't impact [the] members. Issues which did involve the teachers, I think we have addressed to a great extent."
On November 6, the BUT asked all teachers who normally participate in after-school activities to end their participation in those activities.
POLICE are asking for the public's help in solving three shootings and armed robberies that happened late Monday night.
THE family of Anthony (Tony) Hepburn, 72, who disappeared from Clifton Bay on Sunday, May 5, is asking anyone who might have seen him to contact the police or the family.
Teachers at Carlton Francis Primary School staged a sit-in yesterday over issues that included a "severe shortage of teachers" and a lack of adequate furniture for students.
Several teachers, who spoke to The Nassau Guardian on condition of anonymity, said some students are forced to stand or sit on the floor in classrooms because of a lack of chairs.
They also claimed that teachers in grades one and two have to move between classrooms because there are not enough instructors.
As the teachers stood behind the school gates, a group of about 20 parents stood on the other side demanding that the Ministry of Education address the concerns.
Other issues include a poor drainage system, mold in the classrooms, a leaking roof and the lack of a pedestrian crossing, the teachers and parents claimed.
Morgan Brooks, whose child is in the first grade at the school, said the lack of furniture at the start of the school year is inexcusable.
"Tell the minister (of education) to bring his chair from his office for my child to sit in," she said. "Bring his desk from his office for my child to sit at.
"Instead of focusing on cutting my teachers' [salaries], let's cut his salary for our roof because it is leaking... Bring us some furniture. Some of the children don't even have a desk to sit at. We need action and we need it now."
Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald said the ministry recently received cabinet approval for the purchase of about $800,000 worth of furniture.
"From time to time we do have these issues that unfortunately schools have to deal with," he said.
"It's not to the point where we feel like it will impact the level of education...But we should have those matters addressed throughout the country."
As it relates to any other issues the teachers may have, Fitzgerald said he has asked Director of Education Lionel Sands to go to the school and meet with them.
"I want to get a full report before I make any determination," he said.
Parent Teacher Association (PTA) President Sharmaine Adderley said the problems at the school have been simmering for years.
"We've gotten promises year after year," Adderley said. "That's why we haven't said anything.
"This is the first three weeks of school and we find teacher shortages through the roof, teachers having to be taken to hospital for high blood pressure; we have to do something about it.
"Our teachers are standing here because they want to teach. This is not a lazy staff. These are workers. These are good teachers. So we are asking for them to step forward and get these things done. Bring in the people."
One angry father stormed on campus and brought out broken pastic chairs he claimed that second graders are forced to sit in. He placed the chairs in the middle of the road.
Shantell Mackey, who has two children who attend the school, noted the possibility of injuries that those chairs pose to the children.
"You see those prongs sticking out," she said, pointing at the broken chairs. "Can you imagine what type of injury a child can get?
"I really want the ministry to come and deal with issues that are happening with this school."
Shelly Anderson, who has a son in grade two, said it seems as if her child is only being entertained at school.
Anderson said she has yet to see evidence that he is learning anything.
"Every day I pick him up from school and I ask him, 'what did you do in school' or I look in his book and there is nothing. He says 'mommy they take me into the library and we watch movies'."
The school has just over 1,000 students and 46 teachers.
The sit-in follows similar action at Stephen Dillet and Uriah McPhee primary schools this week over conditions at those institutions.
Suspended National Insurance Board (NIB) Director Algernon Cargill has asked the Supreme Court to set aside the findings of a forensic report into allegations of misconduct made against him last year.
In an application for judicial review filed yesterday, Cargill also asked the court
to "quash the decision of the minister of labor and national insurance (Shane Gibson) to appoint the accounting firm of Grant Thornton", which conducted the forensic review.
Cargill is also seeking a
declaration that Gibson's
appointment of Grant Thornton "amounts to a usurpation of the power of the Board of NIB".
In the event the court finds that Grant Thornton was properly appointed, Cargill is asking for a declaration "that the procedure followed by Grant Thornton in the forensic review was unfair, arbitrary and in breach of the rules of natural justice".
Cargill contends that the appointment of the accounting firm was not in compliance with the NIB Act because the appointment was not made by the board with prior resolution and the job did not go to tender.
He submits the payment of Grant Thornton was possibly over $600,000.
The court document claims that the auditors' conduct was irregular because they refused to provide Cargill, the principal subject of the review, with questions or issues to be discussed that would have enabled him to adequately respond to the review.
"Other employees of the National Insurance Board were provided with a list of questions prior to their interview by agents of Grant Thornton," the document states.
The document adds that contrary to its duty to act fairly, Grant Thornton released the audit without interviewing Cargill.
"Contrary to its duty of fairness, Grant Thornton failed/refused to provide the applicant (Cargill) with a fair warning that Grant Thornton intended to make adverse findings against the applicant," the court document claims.
"In all the circumstances the applicant had a legitimate expectation and was entitled to be provided with the allegations made against him and those arising in the course of the investigation and be afforded a reasonable opportunity to be heard prior to the conclusion of the forensic review.
"For the reasons given...the minister of labour and national insurance and Grant Thornton failed to act fairly; thereby, constituting an abuse of the applicant's constitutional entitlement to due process of the law."
The forensic audit found that bonuses may have been improperly paid to Cargill and other executives, and also highlighted reported irregularities in the awarding of certain NIB contracts for various projects.
The report also said that auditors found that Cargill is listed as an officer of the company owned by his brother that rented an apartment to NIB.
These are among the key findings contained in the report that is expected to be tabled in the House of Assembly soon.
The government engaged Grant Thornton to conduct the review after (now fired) NIB Chairman Gregory Moss wrote Gibson last November advising that the Board of NIB had reached a unanimous decision to fire Cargill.
In the letter, Moss made a series of serious allegations against the director.
Gibson has said the report will be tabled after Cargill gets a chance to respond to the adverse findings against him.
However, the minister said the director has until May 21 to meet with the board.
A separate report lays out the findings of allegations made by Cargill against Moss.
Last November, Cargill took legal action against Moss and NIB following the allegations. That matter remains outstanding.
Note: This column and the next are dedicated to young Bahamians, white, black and other hues, of varied ethnic and national origin, straight and gay, male and female, and other identities of association or belief, who form a rainbow of possibilities for One Bahamas, who have benefitted from the promises of majority rule and independence, and whose privilege of citizenship is to help to extend these promises and to realize promises partly fulfilled or promises not yet met.
Following the heartbreak and dismay of the November 26, 1962 general election in which the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won the majority of the popular vote, but lost the election, attaining far fewer seats than the United Bahamian Party (UBP) because of gross gerrymandering, key figures in the PLP nonetheless realized that the days of minority rule were numbered.
Having won the majority of the popular vote, the PLP intensified its program of nonviolent direct action and its efforts to heighten the political and social consciousness of the black majority and to defeat the economic and political misrule of a classic oligarchy wedded to white supremacy.
Through its major public communications organ, Bahamian Times, edited by Arthur A. Foulkes, the PLP increasingly and effectively countered the propaganda of the UBP, which had concocted insidious themes such as the party's 1962 election propaganda aimed primarily at black women: "Vote PLP and starve".
Just as the General Strike of 1958 heightened the political consciousness of black Bahamians, especially those living at New Providence, Black Tuesday, April 27, 1965, proved a pivotal moment in the struggle for majority rule, bolstering the opposition to the UBP and radicalizing the consciousness of many more Bahamians, now even more determined to effect political change.
That change, the denouement of a certain stage of the struggle, when the consciousness of the majority reached a historic apogee, arrived on January 10, 1967 when the Second Bahamian Emancipation was ushered in by the mass of Bahamians.
On the evening of the 10th the numbers trickled in from the various constituencies, cut along farcical boundaries largely unchanged from 1962. But this time, on that day, the PLP won not only the majority of the popular vote.
The party tied the UBP 18 to 18 in the number of seats in the House of Assembly, with Sir Randol Fawkes representing the Labour Party winning a seat as did independent candidate Sir Alvin Braynen.
More on the numbers needed to form a government momentarily. But this for now: The political arithmetic on the 10th meant that minority rule was effectively finished.
The masses immediately understood the new arithmetic and the new political calculus. Celebrations erupted that night as soon as the final results were tallied and despite the tie, which some revisionists putatively and incorrectly assumed and assume still to have been an inconclusive result.
Waves of celebrants marched from Over-the-Hill to Bay Street, flooding the precincts of the UBP's political and economic power with songs and chants of freedom and choruses of appreciation for newfound empowerment.
Majestic sounds of cowbells and goat skin drums shook some of the oligarchy's most hallowed grounds, announcing a new era for a mass of people locked out of economic and political power and historically allowed limited access to Bay Street where they were discriminated against and segregated into inferior status.
The celebrations were euphoric, spilling over into a new dawn. Throughout the night car horns trumpeted the victory. There were spontaneous rush-outs throughout Nassau with jubilant crowds gathering at various places such as the Taxi Cab Union complex on Wulff Road.
Now that the change had come, it was time to form a government. There is often the temptation to historical revisionism by some, for all manner of reasons. Yet the facts and reality of certain events often prove stubborn.
Sir Randol, a PLP ally, was part of the progressive movement, running with the full support of the PLP.
It was inconceivable that the firebrand, regarded as being even more radical than the PLP, would betray the movement and support the UBP. His expected support afforded the PLP a majority. The problem was that the party had to elect a speaker.
Had Sir Alvin supported the UBP, there would be a tie of 19 to 19, with another election almost inevitable, a contest in which the UBP would have been slaughtered, as they were in the 1968 general election subsequent to the death of PLP MP Uriah McPhee.
But it was widely known that Sir Alvin was not on good terms with the UBP and that the idea of becoming speaker of the House of Assembly was not unappealing to him. The story is told that when Sir Lynden telephoned Sir Alvin the conversation began:
Sir Lynden: "Mr. Speaker!"
Sir Alvin: "Yes, premier!"
Sir Alvin, who hailed from Current, Eleuthera, grasped the moment and sided with the majority, becoming the first speaker in a majority rule government.
While the formation or the christening of the new majority rule government took place a few days later, the new birth of freedom was ushered in on January 10, 1967.
That new birth of freedom of January 10 was a triumph of democracy, a day of celebration for all Bahamians.
Following the bitter loss of 1962, an election which many PLPs were convinced they would win, especially after women were newly enfranchised earlier that year, a group of men approached Sir Lynden about the party's response to an election they felt that the UBP had stolen by massively outspending the PLP and through outrageously undemocratic means.
These men and others were not prepared to accept the defeat and the continued rule by a racist and greedy oligarchy determined to retain economic and political power by manipulation of the instruments of state and government.
One of the men who approached Sir Lynden was enraged by such a defeat and wanted, in the words of some, "to tear down the town".
Having considered democratic politics ineffective and nonviolent action insufficient, there were those who wanted to immediately march on Bay Street and wreak mayhem.
To his everlasting credit, Sir Lynden, supported by his closest colleagues, quenched the rage and stopped what would have been a disaster for the country, the movement and the PLP. He intended for his party to triumph at the ballot box.
In a circular read to thousands of students on Majority Rule Day this year, Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes, a key figure in the struggle, enthused: "On the 10th of January 1967 the will of the majority of Bahamians was freely expressed in a general election based on universal adult suffrage where all men and women of adult age, regardless of property qualifications could vote to determine who would govern them."
The celebration of Majority Rule Day and the path to an official holiday has been characterized by fits and starts, and by the politicization of the history by some and the hostility and ambivalence of others, most of which has proven deeply disappointing and narrow-minded.
There is the need for a broader understanding of the struggle for and the attainment of majority rule, beyond certain partisan, racial and historically myopic mindsets.
Next week: Towards a shared understanding and celebration of Majority Rule Day.
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