Opinion

January 18, 2017

It was painfully disheartening to read about Jimmy Palacious’ shameful pronouncement that black people “breed too much”. It was all too reminiscent of Richard Lightbourne’s equally disrespectful and demeaning comments...

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'Bitching and complaining'

January 18, 2017

Leadership is not easy. Ask Prime Minister Perry Christie. Ask former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham. Ask a pastor. Ask a boss. Ask a responsible parent. And yes, leadership is difficult at times, because the most difficult issue you face is colleagues who, as Christie put it, "bitch and complain".
According to the online Urban Dictionary, "bitching" is "Repeatedly saying something over and over, or rather whining about it, therefore destroying the point you were trying to make and making you look like a complete bitch because no one is listening to you." Is that what Christie meant his colleagues were doing? Who knows. This much is true, however: if you lead, you will face this in some form or fashion. The longer you lead, the more you will face it. Strong leaders have to deal with it, and weak leaders have to deal with it more. Capable leaders confront it; incompetent leaders confront it more. Human beings are more inclined to blame and complain than accept responsibility and forge ahead. The PM says when he hears his colleagues "bitch and complain", he asks them, "Suppose you were me?"
Well, in politics - in fact, in life - those who "bitch and complain" are not the leader. Very often, under the pressure of many complaining constituents, they want nothing more than relief and look to the leader for it. In the face of the whining followers, leaders must summon those unique qualities characteristic of sound leadership: vision, focus, resolve, principles, communication, courage, honesty and motivation. They must never themselves become whiners and complainers. They must not yield to the loudest complainers, rewarding their whining as some virtue greater than patience and self-reliance. A leader should, a leader must, listen, but listen to all. Quiet souls who work diligently for the group's cause need as much, sometimes more, attention than those loudmouth gripers who tend to get almost all the attention. Calling talk shows incessantly and complaining about everything on the planet is no virtue. There is great virtue in rolling up your sleeves, getting in the fight and producing some difference yourself.
It gives me no pleasure to say it, but it seems to me that too many Bahamians, both in positions of leadership and in the wider public, have become weak and timid. The golden years of this nation, when prosperity and abundance made us the envy of the Caribbean, have made too many of us limp, lazy and dependent. Now, in the hour of our great challenge, we "bitch and complain", looking for some grand political savior or saviors. We don't ask, "What can we do for ourselves?" Rather, we ask: "What will they do for us?" In this is the defeat of our people and the wrecking of our nation. Self-reliance is a virtue that needs reawakening among us.
In his book "Self-Reliance", Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried."
As far back as antiquities, this much is true: success has never been the reward of the sluggard, the lazy or the complainer. It belongs to the diligent, the creative and the industrious. There is no salvation to come from the political realm of our nation, even if some great push might. Government has never been and will never be the champion of prosperity for our country, even if it must help facilitate it. We, the people, individually and collectively, of this land, must gird up our loins; we must pick up our plows; we must get in the fields and do the great work necessary to turn ourselves around. Many are already doing this, and doing so under the most trying of circumstances; but too many are not. Too many are simply settling for mediocrity, preferring do what we feel is enough to get by, and discovering that what we are doing does not even do that. The hour is late and the task is great, and only greatness can answer that call. That greatness is not only in some political or religious head. It is in all of us, and if we recognize it, begin to tap into it, it will change our personal circumstances and perhaps that of our nation.

o Zhivargo Laing is a Bahamian economic consultant and former Cabinet minister who represented the Marco City constituency in the House of Assembly.

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Leaving the sidelines: 'Show up. Dive in. Persevere'

January 17, 2017

I watched with mixed emotions as the outgoing president of the United States (POTUS), President Barack Obama, delivered his farewell speech in Chicago where it all began. The skinny kid with the funny name from the south side of Chicago (as Obama often described himself) was taking a bow after writing his name in gold on the pages of U.S. history. A man who is literally an African-American - half African and half American - had achieved what many thought was impossible and became the dream Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had several decades ago.
There was much joy and sorrow as Obama delivered yet another masterpiece that reminded many of what he has come to embody. In his final speech as POTUS and amid periodic tears on the faces of his audience, he inspired hope among his people as he outlined the threats to the freedom that their ancestors fought so hard to obtain. However, there were hardly any comments made by Obama that were more instructive to this writer than the following: "If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you're disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures and run for office yourself. Show up. Dive in. Persevere." This is the premise of my decision to enter into public life to serve my people in spite of the perils and culture of mudslinging that our politicians have promoted for years.

Heeding the call
On January 11, 2017, one day after the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of majority rule, I stood on a stage and accepted the nomination of the Democratic National Alliance as the candidate for the Killarney constituency. The decision to enter public life in this regard was not taken lightly but followed much prayer, reflection and consultation. As a patriotic Bahamian, I simply love my country too much to allow the perpetuation of the status quo.
In 2017, we have come to look for a Bahamas that once held much hope and promise for its people. We have come to find a nation built on the blood, sweat, toil and tears of our forefathers and foremothers; a nation in which no man or woman should be slave to anyone or anything or second-class citizens in their land of birth; a country in which the majority and not a select few rule their own destiny. We seek a nation not polarized by political tribalism and blind loyalty to party colors. It is time to reignite the true Bahamian spirit which is inspired by allegiance to the aquamarine, gold and black, and not divisive politics of yellow, red or green.

The state of our Commonwealth
Regrettably, what is the state of our Commonwealth today? For the first time in our nation's history, our credit rating has been downgraded to junk bond status after multiple downgrades over the last five years. This is despite the fact that over $1 billion has been collected in VAT since the introduction of this new tax; a regime that has transferred money from the private sector into government coffers and reduced the disposable income of our people.
Our national debt has continued to grow, even with the increased government revenue as government expenditure has continued to rise. Unemployment is exceptionally high, particularly among the youth who have not been given a fair deal. The middle class that our founding fathers fought hard to help build is shrinking by the day. Economic growth has been dismal, as we have experienced two consecutive years of negative growth.
Instead of focusing on and implementing real public sector reform for the betterment of our nation, our leaders have perpetuated the status quo. The public sector has continued to grow, with reports that the civil service has grown by 4,500 since 2012, while the private sector is daily under siege by a system that promotes dependency on the government and handouts to our people. We have become a government country and a false private sector which depends on the sole patronage of the state for its survival. Our people are being pushed down and toward the poverty line daily and The Bahamas continues to be ranked low on the ease of doing business, while our financial services industry is quickly becoming a shadow of itself.
The menace of crime threatens our freedom, and we are plagued by corruption as well as a lack of respect for the rule of law. The spirit of entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized enterprises have not been adequately promoted. We have become obsessed with jobs rather than creating an environment that allows us to own our economy and fulfil our God-given potential.
The sad reality is that we didn't get here overnight and both major political parties have put us in this predicament. This is why we have heard both sides argue about the state of our nation and which party left our economy in a wheelchair or on life support. The discourse sometimes focused more on which one has done less or more damage to our nation rather than turn our economy around as Obama has done in his final term.

The new era
Amidst all our challenges, our leaders seem to have forgotten that we live in the "era of prudence". The populace is tired of business as usual and demands accountability and transparency. The people demand openness and honesty from political leaders. Gone are the days when it was acceptable for elected officials to elevate themselves to the positions of kings and queens while they belittle the people with whom the power lies. It is time to return to the old landmark and return integrity, dignity, humility, decency, self-respect, civility and responsibility to public life.
It is time to do away with the politics of hypocrisy, dishonesty and convenient conviction. As Obama put it: "How do we excuse ethical lapses in our own party, but pounce when the other party does the same thing?" Unfortunately, this has become the norm and the way politics is practiced in our nation. Our political leaders profess unity with their mouths but promote division, animosity and hatred with their actions. They outlaw Bahamians based on their complexion, creed, origin, gender and social class forgetting about our history. Their amnesia is convenient insofar as our history is concerned. They forget that the Arawak Lucayans, Tainos, Eleutheran Adventurers, African slaves and subsequent settlers on our islands make us who we are today. However, it is convenient for them to perpetuate discrimination as 21st century slave masters with political power trying to rewrite history and marginalize segments of our society for political expediency.

Time for change
The outgoing POTUS noted that"change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged and come together to demand it". Our nation is in crisis and it is time to change course. It is time to uproot the status quo. It is time for the changing of the guard. It is time for real change in our Bahamaland. It is for these reasons that I have decided to leave the sidelines and enter the political arena to serve the Bahamian people. I have heeded this clarion call for love of country. Together we must rebuild the proverbial walls of our nation. We owe it to this generation and generations yet unborn to restore hope once again in the Bahamian Dream.
The POTUS that changed the game made a profound statement in noting that: "We weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character are turned off from public service; so coarse with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are not just misguided, but somehow malevolent. We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others; when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them."
This notion is a reality in The Bahamas and has discouraged patriotic young Bahamian professionals from entering into the political arena. However, this writer will not retreat into the shell of despair and will not be silenced by the roaring of toothless intimidating lions when the Lion of the Tribe of Judah is on my side. There is indeed too much at stake for our country to be deterred by shenanigans and distracted by empty rhetoric or propaganda.
We are all God's children and Bahamians that love this country too much not to get involved. Despite the narrative that is promoted by some, no Bahamian loves this country more than another. We all lift our heads to the rising sun, but more importantly to the hills from whence cometh our help. The struggles of freedom fighters that came before us and helped usher in majority rule must not be allowed to be in vain. A luta continua ("the struggle continues"), victoria acerta ("victory is certain").
As I embark on this journey, I would like to thank the management team of The Nassau Guardian, loyal readers and followers of this column. Over the years, your support and words of encouragement have been invaluable, providing me with the much-needed strength to speak truth to power while inspiring a generation. From the bottom of my heart to the depths of my soul, I say thank you. This is not the end but only the beginning; it is not goodbye but rather see you around. God bless you and God bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to a.s.komolafe510@gmail.com.

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50 years later: A time for reflection

January 17, 2017

Each of us bears a social and ethical responsibility of pioneering the dreams the dreamers dreamed of a nation and its people; to go beyond the imprisonments of mental empowerment; to see the promise of our emancipation through the prism of education; and to be socially awakened fervently clutching the hope we seek to taste of the bittersweet cup of economic freedom.
The primal promise inscribed on the pillars of our country was for every man and woman to be given knowledge as a weapon to protect them from their oppressors.
I've peered from the window. I've seen the daylight breaking through. And I saw the determination of the Bahamian people moving forward and never again accepting the status quo, to perceive with my eyes, a nation which was no longer afraid to express their fears of the things they never quite say out loud. I was bewildered that the Bahamians found their destination and they made their vows to a new doctrine. Treacherous mountains are looming in our way. Don't get weary. Let us toil through our journey, and walk until the last chain of economic immobilism falls. The genuine will of our people is to share their talents and hopes. I believe the tides can surely turn. I believe that barriers can be lifted. And I believe that change is the only guaranteed inevitability.
We are the unknown. We come from neither fortune nor fame, and we are educated enough. We ought not be afraid of the fear of being heard, for speaking and fighting for what is right. We are compelled to represent our fundamental belief to provide a ladder of economic and social hope to all Bahamians and not to a mere privileged few. The future of our country and the success of it are causes that rely on the courage and the capabilities of our people to address the seemingly daunting issues and to remove the deeply rooted doubts in their minds.
Young Bahamians in their state of quandary should never hesitate to turn to the arc of history and to find comfort in knowing that there was a generation of Bahamians guided with an enduring spirit to overcome the impossible odds. Carrying on your rightful place as seeds of the future, and, when in the place of fear, always pause to remember the hope that faith will give you strength. Your ambition for nationalism should reflect the developmental needs of our country being relevant to the times.
Our generation should value its responsibility to Bahamian collectivism in understanding the archipelagic nature our country. Equity must be instrumental in our development, grounded in the theory that where there is any Bahamian throughout The Bahamas, that Bahamian is entitled to the fruits of our national labor. As young Bahamians when you examine the political, social and economic realities of The Bahamas, we must abandon a Nassau-centric mentality. You are the creators of your history in the next 50 years. You will be the heroes in your times, and the source of our nation's strength.
We must reject the cynicism surrounding our future knowing that we will encounter unfamiliar problems, great risk and challenges. But be optimistic that we are the formula for unleashing the spirit that is needed for development in our country. We are a people who have the commitment, determination, vision and dexterity to manage the economic complexities of our country. Our generation must learn the essentials of serving the people's hearts and souls. Once again the destiny of our country is in the hands of the people. Young Bahamians are the indispensable force in deciding our future. We are the students of previous generations. Therefore, we should abandon our pride and seek advice from history. The most powerful weapon is a talented and educated Bahamian. Everything we do as a country depends on the most powerful asset we have and that is the Bahamian people. Young Bahamians should never become complacent in their efforts of throwing a blow for progress. To all the Bahamian millennials losing hope: Let us be the generation who will bring back the pride and glory of being a Bahamian.
It's imperative that we become masters of our destiny, never fearing to dream. Whether you are a young Bahamian living home or abroad, realize your desire of being engineers in your country's future. We have some difficult days ahead, but the difficulty we face will always bend toward the talents of our people. Even though we are small in size as a country, the hearts of our people beat to the vitality of our democracy.
Those who believe in economic freedom cannot rest until that freedom comes. The journey to majority rule remains intact. We shall not stop until the majority has its rightful place at the economic table of brotherhood. The anguish of our journey will be dedicated to mentally reclaiming our country. This economic revolution must mirror the needs of our people. We must inspire ourselves to affirm the importance of ownership, placing it in our very minds, hearts and bodies as we struggle to remove any economic inequality. The moral compass will give us a stronger sense of direction on our continuous journey.
Let the promise of majority rule be the promise again. Let it be the dream our founding fathers had it out to be. Fifty years later we find ourselves in a state of perplexity and uncertainty, a quandary for us as the custodians of our nation. Perspective is a beautiful thing for those who possess the ability to contextualize the potential that exists in our country. I always believe that the Bahamian people are the center of our nation's hopes and aspirations. The cause of building a promising future for all Bahamians is not a partisan one; it's a fundamental responsibility for us as citizens to work in a national interest. Truly, any meaningful revolution must be inaugurated in the minds of the Bahamian people.
Fifty years later we recognize there were problems and obstacles along our journey. We recognize the imperfection of our human progress. The voyage to a better Bahamas came at the expense of human suffering and discomforting endurance - from the peace of nature stolen from the Lucayans wiped out by the scars of slavery; to the story of poor black Kate, whose death sparked a movement in Exuma led by Pompey a creole slave; to a Women's Suffrage Movement striding side by side with a soul heavy with a cause; to a ceremonial mace hurled out of a window; to the Burma Road Riot; to a General Strike that hastened opposition to a regime that denied taxi drivers an opportunity to make an earning; to a fierce patriot by the name of Ruby Ann Darling who would be inscribed on the register to vote, making her the first woman to register, breaking the back of electoral discrimination against Bahamian women; to a time where a young premier dreamed large dreams for all.
These intervals of history represent acts of human courage and bravery. For those out there who see the future of our country from a pessimistic view, I say to you: You do not know Bahamian history, because history will show that the Bahamian people are a nation of men and women who toil through despair to get us here. Moreover, we the Bahamian people, despite the challenges, have always overcome. Despite what they want us to believe, our best days are always ahead of us, because it is the human spirit of the Bahamian people never to give up.
Our founding fathers, the farmers of The Bahamas, planted the seeds of our promise so deep, hoping the sun and the rain that come from their people would bring a harvest to reap. We are all a part of some great plan to claim our land. We have an unyielding faith in our God-known destiny. We will continue to tread until the fighting spirit of the previous generations of Bahamians awakens.
The last 50 years were built on the rubble of untold tribulations and great perils. We must continue the historic promise of majority rule to break any economic or social gridlock that creates an atmosphere that undermines the illusion of fairness of any advancement to become a better citizen. It is written doctrine that places an inherited responsibility on the shoulders of the new generation of leaders to never support a way of life that enriches the powerful and affluent, while disenfranchising the working class or the poor. It is the promise of majority rule that anywhere Bahamian people are being exploited and subordinated while members of another group of Bahamians are granted privileges, we will tear it down.
The answers for our aspirations, goals and common ideal will rely on our ability to answer one question: Which path will we follow? Will we build the next 50 years of democracy on populism, division, hate, severe inequalities, misogyny, xenophobia, political idiocy, fear-based messaging, emotional manipulation, stagnation, lawlessness and religious pandering? Or will we build the next 50 years of our democracy on tolerance, the talent of our people, respect, liberty, accountability, nationalism, rationalism, inclusion, equality, talent, freedom and hope? Governments to come will be challenged with managing the hopes and the rightfully demanded expectations of the Bahamian people.
To Sir Lynden Pindling, Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, Milo Butler, Arthur Hanna, Clarence A. Bain, Jeffrey M. Thompson, Carlton Francis, Randol Fawkes, William Cartwright, Warren Levarity, Dr. Curtis McMillan and Clement Maynard, thanks for telling us that this land is ours by birth and that you toiled through despair to get us here.
For the thousands who've prayed and the hundreds that fought, we say thank you. To those of us who remain behind, our thirst for economic freedom will not be quenched until we fight for what's ours.
We will continue to tread our journey until the Joshua generation in each of us awakens. Let us be true to our God and let us be true to our native land.

o Latrae Rahming is the press secretary in the Office of The Prime Minister.

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Downgrading The Bahamas, pt. 1

January 16, 2017

"Regardless of what our national credit rating is, people will always want a roof over their heads, food on their tables, fuel for their cars and clothes on their backs."
- Robert Kiyosaki

In December 2016, Standard & Poor's Global Ratings revised the outlook on its long-term rating on the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to BB+ (speculative or "junk" grade) from BBB- (investment grade). S&P stated that this rating downgrade was based on its projection that the Bahamian economy will grow at a much slower rate than was previously anticipated only eight months earlier.
This is the first time that The Bahamas received such a rating ("junk status") from an internationally recognized ratings agency. Therefore, this week, we would like to Consider This... Why was The Bahamas downgraded, and what does it mean for the country and its citizens?
In part one of the series, we will examine the major ratings agencies, how sovereign ratings are calculated, what Standard & Poor's said and what the downgrade means for The Bahamas.

The ratings agencies
Ratings agencies are independent institutions that assess the financial strength of companies and governments, particularly their ability to meet their financial obligations. They carefully study the terms and conditions of each specific debt issue and the fiscal and social developments of independent countries and rate them, reflecting the agency's degree of confidence that the borrower will be able to meet its promised payments of interest and principal as scheduled.
There are three major ratings agencies that rate company and governmental (sovereign) debt: Standard & Poor's, Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings. These companies were established in 1860, 1900 and 1913, respectively. These three major ratings agencies collectively earn 95 percent of the revenue in this sector, which accounts for their enormous clout relative to other agencies. Ratings offered by these agencies affect the response of investors in capital markets and influence decisions about investing in countries with poor ratings.

How sovereign ratings are calculated
Ratings agencies use a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods to calculate sovereign ratings. In a paper entitled "Determinants and Impact of Sovereign Credit Ratings", Richard Cantor and Frank Packer narrowed the process down to six critical factors that explain more than 90 percent of sovereign credit ratings:

o Per capita income is important because a larger tax base increases a government's ability to repay debt, while it can also serve as a proxy for a country's political stability.
o Strong GDP growth makes a country's existing debt easier to service over time, since that growth typically results in higher tax revenues and an improved fiscal balance.
o High inflation can not only signal problems with a country's finances, but also cause political instability over time.
o A country's external debt can be a problem if it becomes unmanageable.
o Countries with a history of defaulting are perceived to have a higher credit risk.
o More economically developed countries are seen less likely to default.

What did Standard & Poor's say in 2016?
In issuing its report last month, S&P asserted that The Bahamas' downgrade resulted from several key factors:
o The country's weaker economic growth, which is now pegged at 0.3 percent is significantly lower than its 1.2 percent estimate earlier in the year. S&P noted: "We believe that this lower growth trend will challenge the government's ability to meet its fiscal projections, likely resulting in rising debt.
"The erosion of The Bahamas' creditworthiness reflects these growing vulnerabilities within a context of a weak external position with growing levels of external debt, double-digit unemployment, high non-performing loans in the banking system and high household indebtedness".
o The slower pace of fiscal consolidation, which is exacerbated by continued fiscal deficits, increased national debt and infinitesimal improvements in government's excessive expenditures. S&P also noted that government spending is outpacing revenues, despite the introduction of value-added taxes, and increased expenditures that will result from the restoration efforts related to Hurricane Matthew;
o A reduction in the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) will further negatively affect the government's tax revenues and fiscal consolidation plans. GDP will also be adversely impacted by the delay in the opening of Baha Mar, which was anticipated to significantly improve the macroeconomy. S&P noted: "We believe that it will take time before the resort is able to operate at full capacity."
o Notwithstanding S&P's downgrade, the rating agency decided to place
a "stable" outlook on The Bahamas and its credit rating, essentially implying that, barring major negative shocks to the economy, no further downgrades are likely over the next two years.
o It should also be noted that Moody's, the other leading rating agency, is keeping The Bahamas at "investment grade", suggesting a more relaxed perspective on Baha Mar and the Christie administration's fiscal consolidation efforts.

What does this mean for The Bahamas?
S&P's downgrade is potentially highly damaging for the nation and its economy because it signals to the international capital markets that the creditworthiness of The Bahamas is slipping into dangerous territory. There are two immediate possible consequences of the downgrade.
First, a ratings downgrade will affect the government's ability to borrow in the international financial markets and the cost of such borrowings will be higher than it presently is. This could seriously impair the government's ability to achieve its legislative and social agendas, because the government will likely have to pay more for current and future debt issues, raising its debt servicing or interest costs, which could divert money from essential public and social services. We should remember that the government has very little discretionary income available to implement its agenda.
In order to defray the essential costs of governance, in light of these developments, the government will likely incur even greater deficits, which could result in even higher levels of borrowing at a higher cost.
Secondly, a ratings downgrade could severely impact foreign direct investment in The Bahamas. Foreign investors often refer to sovereign debt ratings before making investments in a country because it provides a barometer of the stability of their investment. In addition, foreign companies that operate in The Bahamas could face higher interest on their debt if the lenders of those companies perceive that there is greater risk of such companies' capacity to repay their debts to their foreign lenders. Furthermore, if The Bahamas has a favorable sovereign rating, investors will be more inclined to invest. Unfortunately, if that rating is not favorable, investors may go elsewhere. Because of our historical dependence on direct foreign investment to fuel our economy, the downgrade could stifle prospective investments here.

Conclusion
The challenge before us is how the government will address the systemic weaknesses that plague us, and the proactive measures that will be implemented to ameliorate these systemic weaknesses that contributed to the downgrade.
In part two of this series we will address the government's response to the S&P downgrade and what proactive measures can be taken to reverse the factors that got us to this point.

o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com.

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Taking charge and navigating our lives

January 13, 2017

Many of us live a life of cramped existence. We allow our environment to determine our thoughts and destiny, and so become caged in our circumstances. We won't permit ourselves to transcend what surrounds us, even though evidence exists concerning another way we can live our lives that is more rewarding. Rather, we allow unfounded fear to direct our paths, even though there is a way out of the circle we have allowed to entrap us, if we allow ourselves to think and see differently.
It is like the philosopher, Plato's, cave, where people are confined, so they know no other existence. When a member of the group sees a reflection of the sun penetrating the cave causing shadows, he decides to explore further by moving toward the light, and finds a world he never dreamed existed. He returned to tell his mates of this other existence, but they cannot understand, because the cave is all they know. When he further tries to convince them to come with him and see what they are missing, they refuse, and he ends up being put away by them. These cave dwellers refused, through fear, to take charge of their lives and navigate toward a higher existence. Fear handcuffed them, preventing a qualitative change of experience.
Even in Caribbean society today, fear stagnates our progress, although the few manage to conquer it and move on to a better life. But fear does not exist, and has no basis. It is a mere notion, a figment of our upbringing. Fear comes from perceived or real threats, although what threatens us is also fearful of us.
Society has baked fear into us as a means of control, because we are wary of the consequences. The plantation created a fear of the whip, which was transferred to our schools in the form of harsh rules for both students and teachers, so none could help to liberate the other, although some aspects changed over time, only to be replaced by new tools of fear.
We fear losing our jobs, so we carry news and undermine each other. We fear we won't get a scholarship unless we cultivate the political authorities. But in the process we become diminished, unless we take charge of our destiny, and navigate our own lives to our chosen shores. It is easy. Just think differently, and the courage to act comes to the forefront to show us the way.
When we see injustice in our society, we will realize we are not helpless to confront it, when we summon our true nature, take charge of the situation, and navigate our lives using our wisdom and insight to mobilize fellow citizens to contest unjust acts. If we allow them to go unchallenged, then even the freedoms and rights we think we enjoy will be further nibbled at, until our society becomes something we no longer recognize.
The point is to act to take charge of ourselves, and navigate and direct our lives to influence others through raising their consciousness, by presenting them with the vision of a better life, and a more wholesome society.
In our Caribbean society, moral values in many instances seem to be on the retreat. We read of top leaders allowing themselves to become the victims of ignoble circumstances, either created by them, or fostered by others to tempt them. Corruption results, the political system is smeared and the country's image defaced.
We hear of incentives being given to foreign corporations to attract investment, which some say is more than the benefits received, although political officialdom will insist this is not the case. But what about our moral obligation to protect the patrimony of the people? If we give greater opportunities to outside others, won't the more powerful prevail, and what results is a diminished sovereignty?
Should not the political directorate in each country, in concert with consenting citizens, exercise its authority and take full charge of any situation, by mobilizing and navigating the country's intellectual capital to challenge attempts to threaten its independence, and so direct their lives to what is essential to a decent existence? Should not a national and moral ethic take precedence over dubious economic gains?
And what about the way we educate ourselves to take charge, direct and navigate our own lives? Does our education system consider these things? What does education in the Caribbean really do, and what is it for? What are the results that education produces? Can they be measured? What does education lead to? Is Caribbean society really served by the kind and quality of education it offers its citizens at the various levels?
For me, if education is to produce citizens who can take charge and navigate their own lives, including society to achieve what's best for it, then it should be education for development, transformation and innovation.
Development entails equipping clients with the knowledge to take society to a higher, new and more qualitative level, where values and ethics pervade public life.
Transformation involves a fundamental change in our development philosophy and practice to produce a fair, equal and trustworthy society which achieves the economic and social goals we set.
Innovation ensures continuous change in what we do, how we think, and create, to bring new processes and possibilities into effect to impact society positively.
But the prerequisite of all this is taking charge of, and navigating and directing our lives along the paths that lead to the success we envision.

o Oliver Mills is a former lecturer in education at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus. He holds an M.Ed degree from Dalhousie University in Canada, an MA from the University of London and a post-graduate diploma in HRM and training, University of Leicester. He is a past permanent secretary in education with the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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Leadership for new and changing times

January 13, 2017

We find ourselves at a very important time in our nation's history. There is an abundance of crime, corporate corruption, political confusion, economic stagnation, globalization and also a new generation that is not being afforded the necessary opportunities to fully develop and be the change we want to see. There are many people positioned as leaders but very little true leadership. One of the top authorities worldwide, John Maxwell's mantra is that "Everything depends on Leadership". When we see problems that are not solved in our community it is because of a lack of initiative and leadership. My definition of leadership is the ability to influence people through inspiration to buy into a vision that accomplishes purpose, solves problems and brings fulfillment.
Leaders are often the first persons to be blamed. They are also normally the first persons to be praised or to take the credit. Leadership requires a fresh and new perspective when it is true leadership. Qualities of the leadership that we need in all areas of influence in our country are: visionary, integrity, innovative, passionate, decisive and goal orientated, humility and courage. Not all leaders will be the same, however these qualities should always be in those we submit to and call our leaders.

Visionary
Vision is one of the most important qualities of a true leader. Vision answers the questions of what or where are you leading to. Vision produces leadership. Leaders without vision are only followers with a title. When a man or woman has a mental picture of a desired outcome, we call this vision. True vision is birthed out of the determination to solve a problem. Vision brings energy, creates passion, a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging. In order to have a good vision you must be able to write it down, present it and articulate it to those who you are expecting to follow you. When a leader has vision, he has a clear direction of what is his next move. True vision should never have limits. We are able to initiate change and influence in our nation when we allow ourselves to be open to new ideas and ways of doing things.

Integrity
We need leaders who will say what they mean, and mean what they say. Leaders should always be in a position to hold themselves accountable. The word of leaders should always mean something to their followers. The value of a leader's words should always hold merit and mean something to those entrusted to him. Our current ways of operating in politics, business, religion, socially and in other areas have created doubt and lack of confidence in our leaders today. Election after election politicians have promised us so many things that have never come to fruition. Many business leaders give false hopes to their employees that cause problems in the long run in their career and financial prospects. If you want to be a world changer, begin with being true to yourself in what you say and do. Stand for something or compromise will control your life. As a leader you must value a good name more than you value status, money, connections or even power.

Innovative
An innovator is someone who uses old ideas and builds on them through new ones. The archaic ways of doing things in all realms of influence may not be best for new and changing times. Today we are faced with problems that we have never faced before, such as cyber-policing and numerous changes in the way we do business. The wants and perceived needs of the populace are different than it was 40 years ago. In order to serve as a leader in these times you will need to understand the current needs and current resources available and use wisdom to lead effectively. Years ago post offices were thriving businesses; today with the implementation of the Internet, leaders made the shift to improve their efficiency. Leaders should always be open to change. The only thing that does not change is change. Having a positive attitude to change and doing things differently as opposed to being fearful of change is a valuable quality that all leaders should adopt.

Passionate
Passion is a powerful resource of a leader. When leaders are passionate about their leadership they inspire others to believe in their vision. Passionate leaders do all that they can to see their vision come to fruition. Normally when a leader finds a sense of purpose in what they are doing they become passionate about it. Our motives or motivation normally produces the passion within leaders. Passion produces energy that can make the difference between success and failure. Passionate people attract leaders to their visions. Passion is expressed in different forms, however every time it is expressed it is noticed and valued by those with positive mindsets.

Decisive and goal oriented
A leader should always have goals as priority and make the necessary decisions to reach them. Many leaders simply occupy a position for the sake of having a position. True leaders identify specific targets to aim for during their tenure in leadership. Spinning tires in leadership gets you nowhere. Furthermore, leaders who are afraid to make decisions are not true leaders. True leaders embrace the responsibility for decision making. The buck always stops with a true leader. A true leader always gets wise counsel, but they always take the responsibility for decisions they make. Leaders should never be afraid of failure, although they must always try to avoid it. As a leader you will fail sometime or another. Failure is only failure when you refuse to learn from it. Leaders must always be wise in making decisions and look toward the greatest good for their vision and those who entrust their confidence to them and choose to follow them.

Humble
True leaders are actually servants. The greatest leader, and the man that had the greatest influence in the history of mankind stated that, "The greatest among you will be your servant," Matthew 23:11. Over-inflated egos and pride in leadership work for the leader's demise. You should always seek to add value, as opposed to seeking to exalt yourself. Humility is so important as a leader because when you are humble you are able to equip, impart, protect and provide adequately for those who are under your leadership. A prideful leader makes the vision about them, while a humble leader makes it about the team and the purpose behind the vision. Humility attracts while pride divides and offends. Some people perceive humility as a weakness while it is actually one of a true leader's greatest strengths.

Courageous
A true leader is no push over. He is not controlled by fear and is not afraid to pursue the vision that he truly believes in. Throughout a leader's journey he will have moments of uncertainty and also moments of doubt. But this doubt should always be combatted by courage to know that they are able to succeed, and if they don't, know that they did their best. True leaders possess self-confidence, or belief in the ability to know that they will succeed in their given circumstances. Never pick a battle that you cannot win and when you pursue a vision pursue it with all that you have. When you get over fear and give it your all, your chances of success will always be much greater. Courage inspires and opens up possibilities that would normally remain dormant.
The world needs principled leaders. Personalities are good, but principled leaders are the ones who will bring our communities out of the problems we currently face. Facts change, but principles can be applied in any situation. When we look at whom we choose to be our leaders, let us compare their actions and plans to the principles we want to see in them.
In particular, in the next general election of our country, let us choose leaders who will stand for vision, integrity, innovation, passion, decisiveness, goal orientation, humility and courage. There are more qualities that our leaders should adopt and this piece is not comprehensive on the very important topic of leadership. However, if leaders properly employ these principles in their businesses, jobs, churches, social lives, social clubs, sports, schools and other leadership positions they will be on the path to sure good success. Leadership requires a lot of things, but all the qualities must work together to make leadership successful.

o Malcolm Foulkes is a 24-year-old evangelist, businessman, leadership specialist, coach and author. He is currently working on international projects and pursuing his bachelor's degree in marketing.

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Elections are not won by chance

January 13, 2017

"Chance has never yet satisfied the hope of a suffering people. Action, self-reliance, the vision of self and the future have been the only means by which the oppressed have seen and realized the light of their own freedom." - Marcus Garvey

With a general election just a few months away, we are at the dawn of the election season. So, brace yourself to be bombarded with partisan propaganda and visits by candidates seeking your vote, many of whom care very little for you and most of whom you will probably not see again for another five years until they once again solicit your support.
Most of you have been through that before. For those of you who have not, be prepared to be wooed, persuaded and even cajoled into supporting them. Over the next few months, during the campaign, you will receive an unprecedented amount of attention. Enjoy it while it lasts but after the encounter, discuss the real issues with family and friends who have earned your respect.
Here's my take on what we face. The people of The Bahamas, with a history of faith in God and an abiding love for each other and a blessed country, deserve to live in a peaceful society that creates stellar opportunities to improve the quality of life through economic empowerment. They have every right to expect that the affairs of this county, our country, are administered economically and effectively by a government constantly striving to make life better for the average citizen.
All Bahamians must become engaged in the national debate on the important issues, the challenges we face as a people and as a nation. We must have conversations wherever we congregate, in the food stores, shops, at the watering-places and after church services. I urge you to have honest and wide-ranging discussions about the future of the country.
Forthright dialogue could only serve the interest of all who live in our Bahamas.
You have heard that the 2017 elections will be the most important in our history. It certainly is crucial. Every election is important which is why all Bahamians at 18 and over should register to vote now and actually vote on election day.
The political landscape has never been so confusing, as manifested by the historically dismal low voter registration, at this point, less than 45 percent of eligible voters.
People are disenchanted, disappointed, disillusioned and, yes, generally disconnected from the political process. There is sufficient resentment for the government, the Official Opposition, the PLP, the FNM and the DNA for each to get their fair share.
The government has failed to live up to its primary pledge to "Believe in Bahamians". The Minnis-led opposition failed in its

performance in the House of Assembly and is arguably the worst in recent

memory.
The PLP has failed to ensure that the government remained faithful to many of the party's campaign promises. The FNM has failed to keep that organization unified. The fragmentation of the opposition forces is still unfolding and its prospects of forming and maintaining a stable government are dubious.
I firmly believe that the PLP remains the best party to provide the essential national stability and sound leadership in Bahamian affairs, but can only do so if it regains the respect, admiration and support of Bahamians.
The government must address public concerns about several vital matters. Among them are, how monies collected on VAT have been spent and will be spent, allegations of malfeasance, fiscal mismanagement, abuse in various governmental agencies and plaguing allegations of high-level corruption.
The PLP must present a slate of candidates rooted in the core principles of the party and dedicated to the service of all Bahamians, not only to the privileged and entitled. The PLP must have a comprehensive understanding of the issues facing The Bahamas. It must also demonstrate a deep appreciation of the need for economic recovery and growth and, more importantly, must articulate what must be done to achieve these objectives. The party must also demonstrate that it possesses the imagination, an enlightened vision for the future and an engaging ability to attract support in order to get the best result and benefits for the Bahamian people.
It falls to the PLP to shoulder the burden of not leaving the results of the elections to chance. The stakes are just too high to leave it to chance.
The PLP must convince the Bahamian people that it is truly committed to promoting a progressive society that cares for its aged, poor and infirmed, and for a caring society that treasures its youth by nurturing and educating them so that they would be productive citizens.
The PLP must protect and strengthen National Insurance and introduce a realistically affordable and comprehensively workable National Health Insurance scheme. The PLP must reject any suggestion of increasing VAT beyond the current 7.5 percent. The PLP must commit to making public lands available to deserving Bahamians, and simultaneously promote a wholesome awareness of the importance of the environment to the quality of life.
The interests of Bahamians must always be at the center of government policies and decisions.
If the PLP reaches out to that great reservoir of Bahamian talent available to assist and reconnect with the people, it can again be the party that lifts our sights to a new horizon and elevates our hopes for a better tomorrow.
In 1953, the PLP pledged its unwavering commitment to serve the Bahamian people who have vitally contributed to its many successes over the year. The PLP must again prove its worthiness over the other political parties. And it must be done to the people's satisfaction.
We must continue to demonstrate and believe that for The Bahamas, our best days are ahead of us, and that together we can make it so. We can do this by appealing to the patriotism and the better nature of the enduring Bahamian spirit.

o George Smith is a former member of Parliament and the Cabinet.

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Sherlyn Hall's titillation and incompetence

January 12, 2017

The incompetence and bumbling failure of Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall to get the gender equality referendum tallies out in an efficient and timely manner was bad enough. One journalist spoke of the mass chaos at the Parliamentary Registration Department headquarters as results were tallied.
Instead of accepting full responsibility for the referendum results mess, Hall rushed to defend himself, demonstrating that he should have been removed from his post because of his incompetence and failure to take responsibility for his incompetence.
Now he is embroiled in a titillation concerning some women being turned away from registering to vote because their breasts and shoulders are not sufficiently covered, titillating some excitable and offended staff who seem deputized as modesty police by Sheriff Hall.
This behavior by some of the staff of the department is discriminatory, sexist and misogynistic, reminiscent of some other countries, where women are publicly shamed about their attire at the whim of some public officials. Hall's defense of these officers is defenseless.
There is appropriate dress in the public domain. But what is happening in the current registration process is an abuse of power and the public shaming of some women, egregiously, mostly by other women.
There are numerous reports of women turned away from registering to vote or required to wear a shawl because they were wearing sleeveless blouses or dresses, or some other supposedly inappropriate attire.
Some have been turned away more than once. A dear friend, who is not an immodest dresser, was turned away. Another friend was shocked when two of her female family members were told that they had to wear a shawl.
Yet another friend tells of an acquaintance returning to register for the fourth time with a selection of blouses for the morality and modesty police to choose from. These women and others are being frustrated from exercising their right to register, a serious offense and an undemocratic practice.

Brilliant
Corinne Lampkin, in an impassioned and brilliant letter to the editor of this journal, observed: "When I was told by the photographer at the Parliamentary Registration Department, as I attempted to register for the embarrassingly failed gender equality referendum, that my shoulders had to be covered for the photo, several facts occurred to me.
"The first was this: In all my years going about my business in public, enduring the despicable and humiliating cat calls from strange men, never has anyone said anything about how sexy my shoulders are.
"How strange, then, that I should have to cover this part of my body in order to be seen as decent, when it draws no special attention from anyone in public.
"Another thought was this: Your job is to take a photograph. I have not solicited your advice on my clothing choices. As far as I am aware, you provide me with no shopping stipend. What say have you in how I dress?
"Following the referendum, when all and sundry literally waited all night for the results, this also occurred: Sherlyn Hall needs a come-to-Jesus. He has much more serious problems to concern himself with than determining the virtuousness of his countrywomen...
"I am a grown woman. I make my own money. I guide my own morality. I make my own choices, and I vote for whomever I want. I do not need anyone telling me I cannot access my constitutional rights because I don't look decent to them. The Parliamentary Registration Department has its own lane, and it needs to stay in it."
An editorial in this journal noted that National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage insists "that there is no law that bans women from registering to vote because of what they are wearing".
Is the illegal behavior by some of Hall's staff taking place at the direction or toleration of the parliamentary commissioner, and in contravention of the law and what his minister has told the public? If it is, Nottage must bear responsibility and remove Hall forthwith.
The denial of the right to register because of supposedly inappropriate attire by the staff of the department, is not uniform, showing the arbitrary conduct of some staff of the department. There is blatant discrimination at play, which Hall has defended.

Laughable
The laughable irony is that some of the women registering others to vote and turning away certain women, are wearing sleeveless dresses.
Some have been spotted wearing bedroom slippers as they command other females to dress appropriately or don a shawl in order to register.
Another irony: Some who have worn similar attire when taking a photograph for a driver's license or a new National Insurance card are being turned away by the morality police when attempting to register to vote.
The actions of some of Hall's staff expose the government and Hall to a legal challenge by those, pun intended, who may seek redress.
Women denied the right to register should record the event, including recording the names of those refusing them the right to register. This information should be passed on to the Ministry of National Security and to other relevant authorities. They may consider being accompanied by an attorney.
Clearly of a fundamentalist bent, Hall, a preacher in his church, has seemingly determined that his personal moral code takes precedence over the rule of law and the laws of the land. He hath become a law and authority unto himself. He is demonstrating extraordinary arrogance and poor discretion and judgment.
Hall follows the fundamentalist fashion of certain pastors and reverends who believe that their interpretation of Christian scripture and certain mores, trump our constitution and laws.
This includes those pastors with a hate agenda against gays and lesbians, whose latest hatred and vitriol were on frenzied display last week as they spewed their venom toward those who sought to defend the United Nations investigating violence against those in the LGBT community.
There is a religious fundamentalism resident at home and abroad which seeks to upend and replace legitimate state authority with certain religious strictures.
This is the narrow mindset of those who seek to deny fundamental rights and protections to gays and lesbians in a democratic state.

Fundamentalist
It is also the mindset of those who demand that Bahamian women registering to vote must abide by a certain dress code which adheres to the strictures of a fundamentalist clique.
In an editorial entitled "Protecting our election process", this journal advised: "If the Parliamentary Registration Department does not change course and it continues to deny Bahamians the right to register, this systematic abuse will undermine the legitimacy of our election.
"People who are repeatedly frustrated will give up on registering. A voter list minus Bahamians who were improperly denied the right to register would not represent the true will of the people...
"For all our problems as a nation, we have had free and fair elections. The actions of the department at this election jeopardize the vote to come."
There are questions of how properly trained are some of staff of the department at satellite registration centers in dealing with all manner of registration issues.
In the end, Nottage bears final responsibility for the registration process and the conduct of Hall, who, it is now clear, never had the capacity for the post he holds.
His incompetence and poor judgment shows that he was the wrong choice to succeed former Parliamentary Commissioner Errol Bethel, who was generally well regarded.
Hall was never the right leader for the department. It was not fair to him or the public to place him in such a sensitive position.
The department is stuck in a sort of Stone Age. The parking lot at its headquarters looks like it has been hit by an asteroid. The morality play of the dress code fiasco fits in with the Stone Age mentality.
The handwritten registration process is antiquated in what has been a computer age since the last century. Why can't there be pre-registration online for those choosing this option?
The surly, dismissive and rude attitude of some staff is in marked contrast to other staff members who are courteous, helpful and highly professional.
The department should immediately clarify questions about the dress code, instructing staff to desist from blocking women in certain attire from registering to vote.
Hall should publicly apologize to those women who were unfairly turned away or treated inappropriately during the registration process.
Undoubtedly Hall has given service to the country during his years in the public service. Many people of faith serve in government with distinction and prudence, as well as with respect for civil law and authority.
When we undermine certain laws and authority, we open ourselves to jeopardizing certain freedoms and rights, like freedom of religion, freedom of association and freedom of expression, which all come with certain responsibilities.
The state should never prioritize the moral code of any one religion or denomination, which is what a number of fundamentalist Christian pastors in The Bahamas believe. The pluralistic state should not impose the religious beliefs of one group on the rest of the population.
Prioritizing a single religious worldview risks the necessary pluralism and diversity of a healthy democracy. It risks also the kinds of religious warfare The Bahamas has happily avoided, to which the churches should say, "Amen!"

o frontporchguardian@gmail.com, www.bahamapundit.com.

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Time to be fish or fowl

January 11, 2017

Dr. Hubert Minnis, leader of the Free National Movement (FNM), effectively ousted the so-called "Rebel Seven" from the FNM, and they effectively left the party. Now each must be what he or she must be.
No matter what anyone says, the FNM is not "all together now". Some of its members have left; others are considering leaving; and many are staying with a level of disgust that suggests that they might as well leave. Minnis is overseeing a house of cards. Charges of deceit, tribalism, insecurity and selfishness have rocked the party to its core.
The latest such charge came from the FNM's Long Island Association. There is lot of activity by the party, for sure, but activity and effectiveness are not the same. Yes, the FNM may win the next election, but winning is not vindication, even if it feels good. The organization is not whole, and an unhealthy political party as government is not good for the nation.
In recent reporting, Loretta Butler-Turner, now leader of the opposition, is reported as saying she did not leave the FNM. In effect, yes she did, and so did her colleagues. You cannot oust the leader of the party as leader of the opposition without the consent of the party's council or support of the majority of its supporters, and not have it seen as betrayal. In that circumstance, you should tender your resignation, settled in the notion that what you do, you do for the good of the nation. One thing is true, no political party is more important than the nation. It is the nation that gives meaning to a political party, not the other way around. To make a move, no matter how seemingly injurious to a political party, that is in the interest of the nation, if that is what you believe, is something not to be ashamed of.
Butler-Turner needs to move on. She must not look back. She has set her course and now she must take it to its natural end. To do this, she must not think in terms of getting elected but in terms of being effective for the country. The Bahamian people need champions, people prepared to see the truth, speak the truth and pursue the truth. Sometimes that truth must be spoken for the people, and sometimes it must be spoken to the people. What they do not need are panderers merely looking for power, panderers who have no plans for effectively using power to make Bahamians better off. Butler-Turner must use her position, as leader of the opposition, with skill and potency to be what that position demands - a voice of reason, enlightenment and advocacy for better. If she does this, she will reap many rewards, now and into the future. Her choice was a hard choice; it was not broadly popular. But if it was rooted in principle, she must be resolved.
As for the next election, Butler-Turner cannot expect to run on an FNM ticket. That is simply unreasonable. She must run as an independent, or as a part of another party - her own or one of the others in existence. Given the mood of the population, there is truly room for capable, compelling and compassionate independent candidates. Bahamians truly may elect some of them in this present climate. But be sure, mediocrity will not draw them. Wishy-washy will not attract them. And they will not support anyone looking back. This is a time for courage, conviction, clarity and compelling. Butler-Turner has the ability to exhibit all these traits, but she must do what she must to express them. Her deeds must cause people to erase any doubts they have about her gender, or her commitment to the singular cause of their betterment. Only genuine service will make this possible.
These are hard times for politicians in The Bahamas. People are fed up, frustrated and shifty. They want their lives to be better economically, socially and politically. Their hearts feel sick from years and years of failed promises they feel were made by succeeding governments, and they are looking for a way out. It is not uncommon to hear Bahamians say, "I have never seen it like this in all my life." I heard it yesterday passing through the airport in New Providence - and the person who said it was working.
When you are in an environment of fear, the best way to survive, and to excel, is to be fish or fowl. Be true to yourself; know what you are about; and be about that. Whatever the outcome of your deeds, they can only vindicate you in the end - not necessarily with victory, but with dignity. No fish, no fowl is ashamed of itself. Operating in their own space, their movement is a wonder to behold.

o Zhivargo Laing is a Bahamian economic consultant and former Cabinet minister who represented the Marco City constituency in the House of Assembly.

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Majority Rule: Fifty years later

January 09, 2017

"In a democracy, the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme." - Aristotle

Fifty years ago tomorrow, a new era was ushered into Bahamian history. For the first time in nearly 250 years of parliamentary governance, the voice of the majority of Bahamians was represented in the House of Assembly. The date of this momentous election, January 10, 1967, is referred to as Majority Rule Day.
Despite the dismal disappointment of successive governments to officially observe this date as a national holiday until three years ago, January 10 will irrevocably and irreversibly mark the trajectory of a people toward liberation and independence from the white oligarchy that for centuries had dominated and directed their lives.
Therefore, this week, and as we begin a new year, we would like to Consider this... Considering the social, political and economic changes that emanated from majority rule, 50 years later, does the majority really rule?
The foundation that was laid by the first majority rule Cabinet foreshadowed a new Bahamas. That first majority rule Cabinet unabashedly announced that the education of a people would be its primary focus and articulated a vision for a modern Bahamas where Bahamians should possess prominent positions in their country. It was those first fathers of freedom who declared that their Bahamianization policy would ensure equal opportunity for Bahamians, regardless of their race, religious or political affiliation or social standing.
The dividends earned from that investment in Bahamians are undisputed. Consequently, today the legal, medical, accounting, architectural, engineering, nursing and teaching professions, just to name a few, speak volumes about the visionary and enlightened leadership of that majority rule Cabinet.
Today, Bahamians of all backgrounds not only occupy, but also own offices and stores on Bay Street, once the sole domain of the chosen few. Today, commercial banks, which eluded and in some instances prohibited, employment for most of our people, are, almost without exception, headed by persons who could previously not even have gained admission to their doors prior to majority rule.
Similar commentary can be made about the institutions established by some of the first fathers of freedom including, among others, the establishment of the Central Bank of The Bahamas, the National Insurance Board, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and The College, now University, of The Bahamas.
There were severe personality and philosophical differences of opinion about the direction that the country should take back then. However, despite the seismic schism in the PLP stemming from these differences that took place not long after majority rule, there is no doubt that the first fathers of freedom were motivated and guided by a deep love, devotion and commitment to a better Bahamas for all Bahamians.
With the passage of 50 years since that momentously historic day, does the majority really rule? The answer to the question is complex. While no one can dispute that we have made considerable progress in many areas, we are constantly confronted by colossal challenges, many of which seem to be intractably insoluble.
It is true that some Bahamians have done well. Within a single generation, the country has been transformed from a quiet and peaceful seasonal tourism archipelago into a year-round vacation destination, accounting for 55 percent of our gross domestic product and employing more Bahamians than any other industry. The same can be said for financial services that accounts for 20 percent of GDP, and is also a major employer.
However, despite the advances that we have made as a nation, we are essentially a country of job-seekers and employees. Don't get me wrong - there is absolutely nothing wrong with being an employee. As a developing nation, job creation is an essential ingredient to wealth creation and financial, economic and social stability. However, it often seems that we overly emphasize job-creation as the litmus test for our national success. Fifty years after majority rule, should we be concerned that Bahamians have not taken a greater stake in the ownership of our economy in the tourism, financial services and the industrial sectors, areas that are vital for sustainable growth and development?

Crossing the bar
It is essential that Bahamians have greater ownership in our economy. Until we do, we will not be able to significantly determine our own economic future. Time and again, we have seen persons come "across the bar" and take ownership of our major industries. They are no smarter nor more gifted than Bahamians.
What they have are two very essential elements that assist them in their ventures. Firstly, they have been greeted by successive friendly governments who are prepared to roll out the red carpet and grant them concessions that are not as readily available to Bahamians. Secondly, sometimes they come with the necessary financing to ensure that their projects are favorably received.
In the meantime, in addition to being confronted by unfriendly red tape, many Bahamians find that some of our commercial banks are unreceptive to perfectly viable, feasible projects, while being receptive to financing items that feed our insatiable appetite for conspicuous consumption and consumerism. Sadly, those banks that are sometimes willing to provide funding for entrepreneurial ventures lend borrowers only sufficient funds to get them into trouble by being undercapitalized.
On the other hand, those same banks are very willing to fund projects brought by those same "across the bar" investors, sometimes projects so questionable that those venerable financial institutions are left regretting their decisions.
What also concerns us is, given the jump-start that was provided by the first fathers of freedom, would they recognize what The Bahamas has become today, and would they be disappointed in the progress we have failed to achieve?
Clearly, back then, the voices of most voters were speaking loudly and forcefully in support of the men who were elected to govern. Back then, the voices of the majority were raised in support and encouragement of those who, like the voters, had been a part of a disenfranchised group struggling to take their place as first-class citizens in their own country.

Disconnected
Back then, there was more of a connection with the voter and their elected representatives. Back then, the majority and their representatives in the Parliament spoke more often with one voice, expressing the same dreams and desiring the same goals for themselves, their families and their nation. Back then, the majority was a big part of governance.
Today, the divide between Bahamians and their leaders is far more marked. The voice of the majority is too often ignored or drowned out by that of those whose five-year terms in office seems to instantly bestow on them a kind of god-like wisdom, a condition that seems to set them apart and deafen them to the voice of the majority.
Today the chasm separating the majority from those who have won their vote is larger than ever. Unlike yesteryear when the people were an integral part of the lives of those who represented them so that they could better speak on their behalf, today many of those who govern do not interact with the majority of the people to stay in close touch with their goals and aspirations. Today it is almost as if the governed and the governing were not two parts of a whole but more like two separate entities with two different agendas.
It is sad but true that neither of the recent administrations would make their antecedents proud that they have raised us to new heights. Unfortunately, they failed to build on the dream of the first fathers of freedom to enhance Bahamian ownership of our economy.
At the end of the day, it is a sad fact that, 50 years later, while we have achieved majority rule in the political sphere, we are disappointingly far away from economic independence and ownership. This could have been achieved had the inheritors stuck to the script that was drafted by the first fathers of freedom and overwhelmingly approved by the voice of the majority, first at that election of 1967 and then at subsequent polls.
Perhaps the next generation of leaders will be more successful in this regard and will listen more attentively to the voice of that majority, allowing them to, once again, be more connected to those who govern. This would enable them to more perfectly become a government that truly reflects the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the majority, reflecting in every decision made for our nation that a revered and respected majority does, once again, rule.

o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com.

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Shedding the scales of the revolution

January 09, 2017

The events that led to the formation of the first black majority government remain a celebrated moment in modern Bahamian history.
Many trace its genesis to the Burma Road Riot, the organizing efforts of the taxi union, the brave and determined suffragettes, the boldness of the members of the National Committee for Positive Action, and the community work of Dr. C. R. Walker, Milo Butler, Clarence Bain, Randol Fawkes, Henry Taylor, Cyril Stevenson, William Cartwright and Lynden Pindling.
There are other luminary figures who played a significant role in the attainment of this feat, who are perhaps too many to list. It was a people's movement, if only for the fact that many ordinary Bahamians were active participants in the early days of the struggle.
Historically, the origin of an organized fight against social injustice and inequality can be linked to the heroic feat of the slave in Exuma call Pompey, who led a revolutionary rebellion in 1830.
In truth, it was a journey that started from 1834, with the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. There is no singular event that can be credited for what culminated in the swearing in of a government of majority Afro-Bahamians on January 14, 1967; and which changed the political landscape of the Bahama Islands and propelled it towards self-determination.
The change was designed to be transformative, with radical policies to level the social and economic platforms and to allow for land ownership by those who were denied such basic rights.
It is striking that just 50 years later, the Bahamian who stood to benefit from the movement feels a profound sense of betrayal, disappointment and outrage at those who were the protectors of the movement.
There is a disconnect of ideas and aspirations. They have not yet tasted the best fruits of the revolution. They feel that the scales of second-class rights remain their lot. They see a schism between the meaning of the revolution and its achievements. Their emotional disgust with the political directorate stands at the center of a dark intellectual rift brought on by poverty, fear, disappointment and hopelessness.
Majority Rule was a movement that sought to achieve an equal seat for the Afro-Bahamian in the day-to-day governance of these Islands. It was not focused on the simplicity of undoing the generational denial of opportunities for black Bahamians to share in governing.
Its mantra was neither shallow nor narrow in prescription. It was designed to be a large and all-encompassing movement of ideas and thinking.
The men and women of the movement were driven by a broad vision of the need to create a myriad of opportunities for ALL Bahamians and in ALL areas of life. The best testament of the thesis that the movement was a far-reaching view of class and race alliance is self-evident in the fact that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), the vehicle for change, was formed by three white Bahamians: Henry Taylor, Cyril Stevenson and William Cartwright.
There is no evidence that the revolution was intended to be defined by time.
None of the leaders could have honestly foreshadowed that the core of its goals was capable of full success in the course of their lifetime.
Many recognized that to unmask the shackles of generations of social and economic oppression required a long, focused and determined journey that went far beyond the daily rhetoric.
This too is buttressed by the fact that the prominent ethos of the revolution was a desire to create a nation state grounded in the principles of Christianity: religious freedom, equality and social justice, respect for the rule of law and one's neighbor, the value of hard work and industry and intellectual honesty.
In the usual public commentary and analysis, the most obvious takeaway is that the revolution created an incestuous culture of political dominance in a two-party system.
The PLP (formed in 1953) and the FNM (formed in 1971 with the merger of the Free PLPs and the UBP) remain the benefactors of the stability brought by the 1967 movement.
This is perhaps due to the lessons learnt from the English and American political experiments, where many of the architects received formal educational instruction and therefore for them represented the best models of governance. The bi-party political warfare is a result for other countries in the region who withstood similar revolutionary winds in the 1950s and 1960s.
It must be considered that the results of the Burma Road Riot in 1942, the General Strike in January 1958 and all of the other social unrest did not immediately culminate in the change that was being pursued.
It was 25 years from the workers' march from Windsor Field to Bay Street that change was achieved. The demands by the leaders of Burma Road were not utterly ridiculous (see the speech of Dr. C. R. Walker in Sir Orville Turnquest's "What Manner of Man is this"), yet they were not realized in 1942.
It was perhaps the view of the political class that small victories were essential to achieve the fundamental structural changes then needed in the colony.
As a political ideology, the early successes of the 1967 movement manifested a reality that there was little space for radical liberalism and progressivism in Bahamian politics. By its name, the PLP holds to a view that it is the liberal and progressive party; but its policies in government since 1967 in many instances fail to stand true to such a claim as they were largely conservative.
It is telling too that there have been no other successful third party-led coalitions in our modern history. The last coalition government was formed when Alvin Braynen and Randol Fawkes crossed the floor and agreed to stand with the PLP.
Braynen became speaker of the House of Assembly and Fawkes served as minister of labor.
Since 1967 the failed attempts to create a third party movement have been in part due to the fact that their formations were the result of schisms from the establishments of the PLP and FNM.
There has been no groundswell of disgust and annoyance with the status quo brought on by the failed policies of the PLP and FNM to catapult a movement rooted in the upliftment of the people.
The large percentage of those who participate in the electoral process manifest that the majority are content to decide whether the nation's direction should be placed in the sometimes incompetent hands of those who wear the colors of the PLP and FNM.

Restart and reset
In the 50th year of the attainment of Majority Rule, there must be an honest assessment of the nation state alongside those primary goals and values that the revolution intended to unleash.
There is no doubt that the successes are numerous, chief of which is the overwhelming number of qualified Afro-Bahamians who make the nation proud.
There is a stable democracy of smooth and seamless transition of political power. Discrimination in all forms is generally non-existent and the economic pie is sliced to ensure that some enjoy the basic needs of citizenship.
It appears though that no one is fighting today for the continuation of the spirit of the revolution. The current political battles are centered on the shallow sharing of the spoils of an election and not on the institutionalization of a radical and progressive transformative thinking in our nation.
The failures of the revolution are far too many. Poverty still exists in a greater magnitude that we should readily accept.
Social dislocation and marginalization as the by-products of a failed educational policy stifle the air of achievement for too many young Bahamians. The disappearance of family, community and a neighboring theology feed into a pervasive culture of criminality. And, a political class devoid of sophisticated, intellectual thought happy to rely on a sub-culture of gangsterism and systematic corruption. These are the shadows peering into the mirror when an honest analysis is made of the scales of the revolution.
The next 50 years therefore must be an aggressive attack on the failures and unfinished agenda of the original revolutionaries.
To achieve a restart and reset of that magnificent journey we are called to a truth that is undeniable: It must be a movement that has no barrier of class, color, gender and creed. The new chapter of the revolution must be a national one led by each of us in our individual and corporate existences.
In defining the hallmarks of our nation's next chapter, we must be bold and progressive in our thinking.
Our national goals must be designed to create a nation beyond the current imagination of its leaders and people.
We must define this era of the journey by a loud, overarching call to restore the best of the old-fashioned values and norms of our foreparents; grounded in a communal respect for each other, industry and brotherly love.
We must give clear focus to the fulfilment of a mission to create a society whose pillars are the fruits of a shared and broad-based prosperity, supported by a new dynamic system of governance which complements our values; the eradication of poverty and hunger in all forms and the restoration of order and decency as hallmarks of everyday existence.
We have to dream and work hard to create a society that is the product of our values, which stands as the beacon of modern civilization. We have to be bold and courageous in our pursuit of a new vision for these Islands.
To achieve the ends of the next era of the revolution demand the creation of a new class of national leadership that places the needs of the people far beyond a personal quest for brazen power.
It beckons a comprehensive reconstruction of the existing colonial-based educational system and its replacement with a multi-faceted Bahamian-tailored approach that rewards meritocracy and creativity and that at its core is inspiring.
A human-dignifying wage for an honest day's work; a culture of tolerance and assimilation for all who call these Islands home; and a modern state of the art infrastructure that links us together beyond the sparseness of the waters that define our physical separation.
All Bahamians should pause to reflect on the events that led to 1967. Those that are old enough to appreciate the strides that were achieved to get us to that incredible day of January 14, 1967 must reflect on the achievements and they must bemoan the shortcomings.
They must tell the story of the movement so that there is a common understanding that the movement was radical in thought and ideas; but that it was the leaders of the movement trusted to carry on the revolution that did so with an ultra-conservative and self-interested definition.
No matter one's age or station in life, an inner reflection should lead to a recognition that the governments prior to 1967 created a foundation that was passed to the Pindling Cabinet at the swearing in which required further development for the greater good.
No truer is this fact that the change that many expected to come the days and months in 1967 was for some not sufficiently radical or revolutionary.
There is no doubt that the series of events which took place 133 years after the abolition of slavery manifested in the lowering of one flag and the hoisting of another.
It is clear therefore that the emergent elements of our nation state were ever present on that night on January 10, 1967 when many Bahamians were glued to their radios and in the streets to wait for the sound if it was Fawkes or Pindling all the way.

o Raynard Rigby was born in 1969 and is a product of the revolution. He is a practising attorney and a nationalist. Visit www.blueprintbahamas.com for some of his earlier views on national development.

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The Caribbean must help erase and correct the colossal Columbus lie

January 06, 2017

As they've always done for as long as all alive can remember, Saint Lucians on December 13 celebrated a dubious "National Day" holiday on a date with no place in the island's history.
For centuries, December 13 was celebrated here as "Discovery Day", following taught belief that Christopher Columbus "discovered" the island on that date in 1502.
That also being the date of the Feast of Saint Lucy (the Catholic patron saint for the blind), Columbus was said to have named the island after her.
But Columbus' own diaries have proven he never saw Saint Lucia, as they recorded him as being somewhere else on that date - closer to 'El Dorado' (Guyana) on the South American mainland than the small island's majestic twin peaks, The Pitons.
His own accounts showed that Columbus lied - or was lied about. But rather than dispense with the traditional holiday when it became known that it had no root purpose, the Saint Lucia government instead rechristened it "National Day".
Saint Lucia now has the dubious title of the only country in the world to have both a National Day, followed soon after by an Independence Day (February 22).
But just as the island has been reluctant to come to terms with correcting or erasing a historical lie, so too is all of Latin America and the Caribbean on the threshold of possibly having to wake up soon to the fact that the entire region may also have been living another Columbus lie - and for even longer.
As it turns out, a recent major media event in South America can now set the stage for perhaps the biggest Columbus lie to be erased - and corrected.

Media summit
Two dozen journalists and media managers from nine CARICOM nations were among over 100 participants in the first China-Latin America Media Summit held in Chile's capital, Santiago, on November 22 and 23.
The Chinese and South Americans in the conference hall at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) had never met. But this was hardly the first encounter between China and South America.
China has today surpassed the USA and the European Union (EU) as the biggest trading partner of its South American allies. Trade with the region increased by 20 times in the past decade, reaching US$236.5 billion in 2015.
China is also now the second largest trading partner and third largest investment source in Latin America, while South America is China's seventh largest trading partner.
During the Chinese president's three-nation November trip to Chile, Ecuador and Peru, he also announced several new measures to share China's development opportunities with Latin American (and Caribbean) countries.

Before Columbus
But if history now being unfolded proves true, the current quick pace and growing volume of Chinese exchanges with The Americas is the eventual natural outcome of much earlier encounters that are barely recorded - and only now being disclosed.
Documents and maps on hand in China and Europe claim that Chinese navigators passed through South America and the Caribbean much earlier than the Europeans. They show what their owners say is irrefutable evidence that the Chinese arrived in "The Americas" in 1421 - all of seven decades before Christopher Columbus.
Liu Gang, a Chinese corporate lawyer, has for 15 years been showing around a 1763 map copied from an earlier one dated 1421. The inscription by the original author said it was "a sketch of the world made during the 16th year of the reign of Yong of the Ming Dynasty (1418)..."

'Clear evidence'
Liu's map was the first of its time to show the Earth as being round. Its main features of the continents are detailed with near-accurate precision.
He thus confidently told the China Today newspaper in Beijing in 2005: "This map proves that Zheng He (1371-1433), commander of the Ming fleet, discovered America, the North Pole and the South Pole, and sailed around the world before 1418."
In August 2005, an exhibition was held at the National Museum of Beijing for Zheng He, the then admiral of China's Imperial Fleet, displaying the great expeditions he led.
Each trip, made between 1404 and 1433, lasted two years; and each comprised up to 100 ships and more than 20,000 men. His expeditions eventually toured 35 countries in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
In 2005, Liu was bolstered in his claim after he read a book entitled "1421 - The Year China Discovered the World" by Gavin Menzies - and from its contents he confirmed his conviction that his map is the real deal.
In his book - launched two years earlier in 2003 - Menzies, a former British Royal Navy submarine captain and an astrologer with a world of experience crossing the said oceans underwater and by the stars, provides what he says is clear evidence that Chinese navigators indeed landed in The Americas in 1421, while circumnavigating the world.
Like Liu, Menzies also has an earlier map of the world -- from Venice and dated 1424 -- showing geographical data, including islands, territories and profiles of the eastern American coasts.
Based on the maps and his long years of research, Menzies' thesis is that Zheng He's fleet crossed into the Atlantic Ocean from the Horn of Africa and split in two groups: one was sent to The Antilles and the other crossed the Magellan Strait to explore the western coast of The Americas.

Distinct possibilities
In 2006, 500 years after Columbus died, the maps and documents in Liu and Menzies' hands revealed what both insisted are clear and distinct possibilities that it was not the Italian explorer, or his European successors, who led the expeditions that drew the earliest maps of the world.
Liu's claims had not fallen on deaf ears.
According to Michael Porcheron in an article in the May 7, 2006, issue of Cuba's Granma newspaper entitled "500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus, unless...", "The Chinese armada was at that time the most powerful in the world, due to the number and size of its ships, the number of its sailors and the modernity of the technology employed."
The early Chinese explorers were mainly interested in drawing maps for new lands. Zheng He had been ordered by the imperial rulers to, "travel to the end of the Earth and back". They therefore came, saw, landed, exchanged gifts, panted plants, left birds and animals, drew maps - and moved on.
The later Europeans, however, forcibly destroyed the advanced civilizations they found and brutally converted native people and cultures into their own images and likeness.
For five centuries, the Europeans transformed the so-called "new world" into fountains of fortune to feed and build their empires.
Caribbean people of African and Indian descent today have largely accepted that they were transplanted from their homes to faraway lands and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is jointly seeking reparations for slavery and native genocide from Britain and the European states that designed, implemented and benefited from the slave trade.
But Afro and Indo-Caribbean citizens also still largely believe - as they were (and are still being) taught at school: that Christopher Columbus "discovered the New World" when he and his later followers first landed in "The Americas" and "The West Indies".
Some 510 years after their recorded first encounter, China and The Americas have again re-connected big-time! But, truth be told, neither side seems sufficiently aware of the treasures in Liu and Menzies' hands and the startling illustrations and historical truths being offered in the British naval submarine captain and astrologer's detailed and lengthy bestselling book.

History written to suit
The Europeans wrote world history to suit Europe. But China and The Americas have also shaped and written their own history, in their own image and likeness - and these untold stories too, must also be sought and found, told and shared.
The press and media of all three sides of this New Triangle - China, Latin America and the Caribbean - can indeed seek and find, tell and share the many untold stories in this big ongoing and constantly unfolding story.
If Liu's and Menzies' maps and the facts are true, then China's historic first engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean is approaching 600 years.
That would also mean that the narrative about the China-LAC connection today must be changed. Headlines will always be found. But despite the many road maps left by history, the related and untold stories waiting to be researched, discovered and told, are countless.

Not waiting
The media in China, Latin America and the Caribbean can use the next five years leading to the 600th anniversary of China's first encounter with The Americas (in 2021) to help the rest of the world learn more about what it has not known for close to six centuries.
This is a new opportunity for the press in China, Latin America and the Caribbean to engage actively in the possible discovery of hitherto unknown facts about the true history of the world.
Europe is dead silent on their claims and most unlikely wouldn't want to see Liu's and Menzies' claims proven true. But those with the evidence are not sitting back and waiting,
Menzies and Liu have together developed a joint "media" plan of action that have already drawn the attention of thousands of Chinese, European and Latin American counterpart naval historians, cartographers and astrologers, researchers and archivists. But while their works still are widely unknown across Latin America and the Caribbean, others elsewhere are indeed taking note.
According to their plan, Liu started showing his map around in Beijing 10 years ago (January 2006) and a week later at Britain's National Navy Museum in Greenwich. Also that same month, the complete history of the map was revealed in The Economist magazine in an article indicating the matter should be taken seriously.
Menzies has also taken the issue to the Internet and all the facts are on his website (in English, Spanish, Chinese and Polish).
According to the China Daily, "This controversial but appealing theory has gained credibility with the presentation of the map."
A process of international verification of Liu's and Menzies' maps slowly got under way (a decade ago) after they started gaining attention of thousands of scholars and historians, astronomers, cartographers and naval experts worldwide.
Expectedly, the process is not only proceeding dead slow, but also without end.
However, 510 years after Columbus died, Caribbean, Latin American and Chinese journalists can draw-up an equally appropriate action plan and road map, for and to, what -- in five short years -- can very well be the 600th anniversary of China's first encounter with Latin America and the Caribbean.

Trilateral media cooperation
This necessary campaign must be initiated and concluded between now and 2021, to ensure, for the benefit of the whole world, the telling of the whole truth of who had the first encounter with South America -- Zheng He, with his 100-strong fleet in 1421, or Christopher Columbus, with his three ships in 1492?
If and when finally authenticated, Liu's and Menzies' maps and documents will shake the very foundations of Europe's universally accepted accounts of world history. Thus, actual verification of what is obviously an uncomfortable truth could very well be the subject of calculatedly interminable institutional delays.
The year "1421" can be the basis for all-round trilateral and multilateral media cooperation in pursuit of the real truth by the world's press.
Saint Lucia is still reluctant to swallow its sour bit. But like the rest of the Caribbean, it also has particular interest in determining whether the whole basis for Columbus' historical fame for the past five centuries has just been an entire colossal lie.
Indeed, the entire world - and not only the press - has a stake in pursuit of this particular historical truth!

o Earl Bousquet is editor-at-large of The Diplomatic Courier and author of the regional newspaper column entitled Chronicles of a Chronic Caribbean Chronicler. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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A moment for careful reflection

January 06, 2017

Few people understand how great the daily pressures are on a prime minister or president. Instead they mostly observe the public persona, see their leaders in the context of tribal politics and are variously entertained or exercised by the media coverage of what is said, done or ignored.
Irrespective, as holders of high office, all heads of government are required to consider and take decisions that are likely to affect a country and its citizens' well-being for years or even decades ahead. They are expected to respond with wisdom and judgment to events at all hours, and have a view on everything from the banal to the very serious.
So challenging is this responsibility that, for example, a senior figure in Washington told me just months after President Obama took office in 2008 that the president - who she and her husband knew well - was prematurely becoming grey haired, because of the pressure and responsibility.
In this context, 2017 is likely to be among the most strategically challenging that Caribbean leaders and senior ministers responsible for more than domestic policy will have faced since independence or the U.S. intervention/invasion of Grenada.
This is because the global order that emerged after the second world war and at the end of the Cold War is about to be upended, and despite objections, consigned to history.
This is not only because of the radically different thinking of the incoming U.S. president and those he is appointing, or the changes in Europe that will follow the U.K. electorate's decision to leave the E.U., but also for reasons of the political and economic repositioning now taking place globally. These include the internationally assertive and mediatory role that Russia is pursuing, the emergence of China as a global economic and military power to rival the U.S., its rejection by the new U.S. administration, and likely realignments and confrontations in the Middle East and East Asia.
In this process and its uncertain outcome, there will likely also be a rapid reorientation of thinking about future relations with the Americas by nations from Canada to Japan and Taiwan, as they too seek to rebalance their alliances and influence in the context of wider change.
As history has demonstrated, the nations of the Caribbean and Central America are located at a critical strategic crossroads for every major power, implying that the region is unlikely to escape future tension or taking sides.
This suggests that in the coming months every nation in the Americas will need to reassess how their core concerns at a national and region level should best be prosecuted as international relationships change.
Finding responses will be far from easy, not least because of the ambiguity - possibly intentional - of the president-elect's seemingly viscerally driven pronouncements, and the absence of any detail on how the incoming U.S. administration and Congress intend to reconcile the contradictions.
That said, there is much that can be done to prepare and to achieve a better understanding of the ideas and concerns that will drive events.
A good starting point is a short paper by Dr. Evan Ellis, published by the U.S. Strategic Studies Institute, where he is a respected research professor of Latin American studies. The paper, "Strategic Insights: Thinking Strategically About Latin America and the Caribbean", looks at the importance of the Caribbean Basin to the U.S., raises important questions about the implications of its potential adversaries' presence in the region and makes suggestions as to how future U.S. policy might be adapted.
Another would be to explore in Washington, through political friends and its many think tanks, the implications of Donald Trump's prepared remarks in Mexico City at the end of August 2016 after he had met with the Mexican president.
Then, Trump appeared to indicate an interest in an economic agenda for the Americas. He said that one of the goals he wishes to share will be to "keep manufacturing wealth in our hemisphere". "When jobs leave Mexico, the U.S. or Central America, and go overseas, it increases poverty and pressure on social services as well as pressures on cross-border migration," he observed. Elsewhere in his remarks, he said that Mexico and the U.S. "have tremendous competition from China and from all over the world. Keep it in our hemisphere".
A third would be to consider those who have most influenced the thinking of President Putin and the impact this has had on the neo-conservatives and others around Trump who embrace the idea of a grand bargain with Russia on a new global balance, and the creation of spheres of influence.
In this, the thinking of the late Russian historian and anthropologist, Lev Gumilev, is particularly significant, as it speaks to the new Russian nationalism and revanchism. Over simplified, his theory of "passionarnost" involves a belief that each nation has the ability to make and create history and that any simplification to fit some predetermined conclusion leads to its distortion. Or, in Putin's referenced interpretation in 2012: "Who will take the lead, and who will remain on the periphery and inevitably lose their independence will depend not only on the economic potential but primarily on the will of each nation, on its inner energy."
Other avenues would be to study China's recent new policy paper on Latin America; the earlier published writings of some of Trump's appointees, whose views are little changed on issues from climate change, to Cuba, Venezuela and financial regulation; and, as bizarre as it may seem, to consider cautiously what is being said by Breitbart News, the online publication previously controlled by Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
More immediately, there are many well-informed diplomats in the region able not just to reflect on their own countries' thinking on some of these issues, but also able in private to interpret the regional implications of the possible actions of others on the basis of realpolitik.
None of this is intended to be pessimistic. Rather it is to express the hope that those in the Caribbean who steer governments, who are in opposition, in business and academia, will use a little of the normally quiet month of January to try to understand better not only the thinking and motivations of a world in which international relationships may change rapidly, but also to consider how the region might adjust to the new global equation.

o David Jessop is a consultant to the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at david.jessop@caribbean-council.org. Previous columns can be found at www.caribbean-council.org. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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Christie and PLP responsible for looming economic disaster

January 04, 2017

Perry Christie has been a supreme disaster as prime minister, a job he covets with all his being, but for which he has conclusively proven he is woefully out of his depth.
He is the worst head of government since the advent of internal self-rule, a man with little depth of understanding of finance and economics, bereft of an economic vision, given instead to platitudes.
The political, economic and social tests of the PLP's last five years are simple and conclusive: most Bahamians are and The Bahamas is considerably worse off than five years ago!
Economic growth is pathetic, with no strategy for growth or the re-thinking and transformation of tourism or a sensible strategy for diversification within our leading industry and other industries.
Unemployment has reached chronic levels. Corruption in high places is epidemic, further destroying our economy while certain PLP fat cats lavish themselves in a cesspool of greed that knows few to no bounds.
There is excessive and spectacular waste, flowing endlessly and ferociously like Niagara Falls, with no end in sight.
From lavish travel for senior officials with their hangers-on and retinues to wasteful contracts, the PLP has wasted vast millions.
The tacky and ugly Christmas decorations done at considerable and wasted cost by a PLP crony is but one glaring example of the extraordinary waste of public funds.
That the PLP continues to justify the waste on carnival shows its contempt for fiscal discipline and its determination to waste many millions on unjustifiable expenses.
This is undoubtedly the most wasteful government in the modern Bahamas.
While the country goes to hell many of the mandarins are living a heavenly lifestyle at the expense of the poor and middle class.
A dear friend observes that even though we know about some of the scandals and corruption and abuses of power in the current PLP term, there is no accountability. Many can do whatever they want with no penalty or responsibility.

Shallow
Christie's vision for economic development is shallow, hackneyed and amateurish as evidenced by the disaster of Baha Mar from its inception to its collapse to deciding to push it into liquidation and at the mercy of certain foreign interests, to his failure to get the megaresort open.
At every stage of its development Christie and the PLP have proven a monumental failure.
Despite the latest round of delusion and hype, Baha Mar may not open in a substantial or meaningful way until later in the year, making another downgrade by an international agency quite possible.
We still do not know the details of the latest deal and how much of the bill taxpayers will foot for its eventual opening.
Christie and his current administration have not only failed to advance the common good, advancing instead the narrow interests of a coterie of cronies. They are also destroying the Bahamian dream and pushing the country to the brink of economic disaster.
Five more years of Perry Christie and the PLP will result in The Bahamas heading toward the economic nightmare visited on Jamaica because of economic mismanagement in our Caribbean neighbor decades ago.
Some Bahamians are moving their money out of the country. Combined with the government's likely having to borrow more from local banks at higher rates, liquidity may become a problem, with the interest payments on loans for individuals and businesses going up.
Five more years of the PLP will result in a downward spiral from which a once golden Bahamas economy may not recover for decades.

Straightjacket
The PLP is a straightjacket on the economy and on the dreams and aspirations of the Bahamian people. With another term for the PLP, young people, with their enterprise, energy and entrepreneurial spirit will abandon the country in droves.
The exodus of Bahamians has begun. On the eve of 50 years of majority rule, the party that helped to usher in this milestone is now one of the most destructive forces in the nation's history.
They have destroyed dreams and hopes. They are destroying our future. The PLP is now the most compelling threat to our national survival.
Perry Gladstone Christie and today's PLP are an embarrassment to the ideals and legacy of majority rule.
Christie lauds the government's National Development Plan, which is just that: a plan. But such a plan will remain just that because our public finances may be in a shambles, with a vast sum of government revenue going to increasing and paralysing interest payments on the debt.
The recent downgrade by Standard and Poor's has been described as the first major domino to fall. We are quickly moving away from the investment grade we once enjoyed.
Clearly, the rating agency no longer believes the economic spin and baloney manufactured and spewed by Christie and the PLP.
What is galling and vomit-inducing is Christie's asinine excuses for the recent downgrade including: because of an act of God (Hurricane Matthew) and because of his supposed love for the poor.

Mindless
Once given the moniker "Lord Bull", because of his capacity for excessive bull crap, a euphemism, we now all need boots and wet suits to wade through the level of mindless excuses and bull that is many feet deep and continues to exude from a prime minister who accepts responsibility for nothing.
The load of bull now requires public health experts to issue warnings about the effects of the sewer of crap generated by Christie and the PLP.
One senior political observer insists that the Christie administration is not levelling with the Bahamian people about the true desperate state of public finances, including a chronic cash flow problem, despite higher than expected VAT receipts of which the government brags.
Since its inception the government has netted approximately "$852 million in gross VAT receipts for the 18 months to end-June 2016", according to one of the dailies, which is approaching one-tenth of our GDP.
How much more has been collected from June to December 2016 and how is this money being spent? The revenue collected from VAT may be approaching $1 billion. Yet the PLP has little to nothing to show for this nor for the vast sums of money borrowed over the last five years, which is now approximately over a billion dollars.
If we are downgraded next year by Moody's to junk status, the cost of government borrowing will increase significantly and the country will be headed to economic hell thanks to the PLP and Christie.

Bailout
More dominoes will follow in the years to come. It is conceivable that five more years of Christie could eventually result in the need for an economic bailout and the devaluation of our currency.
None of this was inevitable. Most of it has to do with the arrogance, recklessness, incompetence and economic mismanagement of Christie and the PLP, who have wrecked our economy with record speed in a relatively short period.
To purportedly help advance the dreams of tens of thousands of Bahamians for a better life the PLP promised: National Health Insurance, mortgage relief, doubling the national investment in education, a dramatic increase in jobs - including 10,000 in their first year in office - and other unfulfilled promises.
Their failure to fulfil these promises is spectacular. Worse, they have presided over more Bahamians falling behind, a declining middle class, the increasing exodus of Bahamian professionals, more joblessness and hopelessness and thousands disconnected from electricity.
Yet many in Christie's court and the mandarins in the PLP oligarchy have never had it so good.
Meanwhile, government spending is out of control, with an undisciplined finance minister incapable of reining in spending.
Scores of lucrative contracts and consultancies have flowed to PLP beneficiaries, costing the country many millions.
There are reports of significant hiring at various entities though there is no office space or work for many of these hires.
Despite bringing the country to its knees, Christie and the PLP want five more years to complete their destruction, not giving a damn, as long as they reign in comfort.
But for what they have done to wreck our common dreams and common good, they deserve neither our trust nor our respect nor our hopes and dreams.
Perry Christie and the PLP must be defeated for the very survival of the country that we love but is now on the brink of a downward spiral from which our grandchildren may not recover, that is, those who are still left in the country.

o frontporchguardian@gmail.com, www.bahamapundit.com.

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The unfortunate politics of SP downgrades, pt. 2

January 04, 2017

Since 2008, credit ratings agencies have downgraded The Bahamas some six times, twice under the Ingraham administration and four times under the Christie administration. What could the administrations have done to avoid these downgrades?
This is not a simple question to answer because credit ratings agencies are independent and make decisions as they please; sometimes justifiably and sometimes not. At times, their decisions merely reflect a change in methodology rather than country circumstance, as was the case in 2011. This notwithstanding, The Bahamas' economy and government finances deteriorated significantly since the 2008 recession; and with it, our creditworthiness in the eyes of S&P and Moody's.
Prior to 2008, The Bahamas' debt-to-GDP ratio was 39 percent; today, it is 85 percent. Prior to 2008, our GFS deficit ran about two to three percent; today, that deficit runs between three and five percent. Prior to 2008, our economy was growing at an average of 1.4 percent per annum; today, the average is less than one percent. This decline in our economic and fiscal situation was not because of the credit rating agencies; it was what they saw when they decided to downgrade us. Prior to 2008, Standard and Poor's gave us a credit rating of A- and Moody's gave a rating of A3, both of which were investment grade and about three notches above junk status. Today, S&P has us at junk status; that is at BB. But The Bahamas was not the only country downgraded in this period.
In 2011, Barbados' credit rating, according to S&P, was BB+ (the junk bond status that The Bahamas now has) and its outlook stable. Today, it is B- and its outlook is negative. Trinidad in 2011 was A, and stable, and today it is A- and negative. Belize has gone from CCC+ and negative to CC and negative. Brazil, one of the fastest growing economies for many years, has declined from BBB and stable to BB and negative. Even the U.S. has experienced a downgrade since 2008, moving from AAA and stable to AA and negative in 2011. Jamaica has had a slight improvement from B- and negative to B and stable. The Great Recession was and remained a significant blow to the economic growth of countries, but for politics' sake too many people seemed to ignore this fact. In the process, they failed to help their populations see the underlying factor impacting creditworthiness, which was and remains generating strong economic growth.
It needs to be stated here loudly, clearly and unequivocally that prior to the Great Recession, which reached its apex in 2008, The Bahamas had a stellar credit rating, reflecting a low debt-to-GDP ratio and reasonable economic outlook. Its credit rating was investment grade and remained unchanged since the Ingraham administration first applied for country's assessment in 1993. The Bahamas did not cause the 2008 global economic recession, but like almost every country in the world suffered significantly because of it. Tourism and financial services depend on the global economy, and when it falters, so does our economy. No government administration, I repeat, no government administration could have prevented the serious impact that the recession had on the nation's revenue and economy at large. What an administration could do was respond to that impact. So the real question is: What could the Bahamian administrations have done in the face of the recession, and could their responses have prevented the downgrades experienced since 2008?
The 2011 downgrade could not be avoided, as it was the result of a change in S&P's assessment methodology rather than The Bahamas' economic circumstances. We were the same economy, just viewed less favorable due to a different emphasis by S&P in light of the recession. What about the subsequent downgrades? Well let's look at the options facing the government, both under Ingraham and Christie. In the face of harsh global economic conditions, these options included the following: (1) drastically decrease spending to match revenues; and/or (2) significantly increase taxes to match spending; and (3) grow the economy. Each of these options came with both consequences and limitations.
If the government drastically decreased spending, given hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue, it would mean doing any, all or some combination of the following: laying off government workers; eliminating some government programs; dropping some government ministries or departments; or ceasing some government contracts or infrastructural projects. In a bad economy, the prevailing wisdom is that government should boost spending rather than decrease it, so-called "counter cyclical fiscal measures". The thinking is that with private sector spending down, a decrease in government spending would further shrink the economy, resulting in additional hardship for Bahamians. The Ingraham administration followed that wisdom, and the natural consequence, in the absence of any tax increases in the first instance, was a sharp increase in the government's deficit, and debt-to-GDP-ratio.
By the end of the Ingraham term, the debt-to-GDP ratio grew from 39 percent to 55 percent, a 16 percentage point increase. For much of its five years, the Christie administration either increased spending, or held it steady at levels left by the Ingraham administration. It certainly did not decrease it. So both the debt and the debt-to-GDP ratio continued to grow. By the end of the Christie administration's term, the debt-to-GDP ratio will have swollen from 55 percent to 85 percent, a 30 percentage point increase. Was either administration wrong to increase spending? This will be debated for a long time. I do not think so; though, I do believe that the increase could have been less and that some of the increase in spending was driven more by politics than economic expedience.
If the government increased taxes, which both the Ingraham and Christie administrations did do, it would and did result in greater hardship on taxpayers and possible additional shrinkage of the economy, as Bahamians found themselves further squeezed in paying new taxes. This, like a decrease in spending, has been tough and unpopular. The Christie administration's tax increase through the value-added tax (VAT) was by far more significant. Was either administration wrong to raise taxes, especially given the continuing weakness in the economy during their tenures? This question will be debated also for a long time. For my part, I believe that some level of tax increase was unavoidable in the circumstances. However, I believe we might have looked at more progressive options than the measures taken. Again, both the FNM and PLP administrations increased taxes, were severely criticized by the public and still experienced downgrades. Why? Because the economy remained very weak.
As indicated earlier, since 2008, the Bahamian economy has remained anaemic. Growth is slow with limited prospects for increase; unemployment is high and wages are stagnant. Present and future economic growth best determine ability to pay debts. Since 2008, The Bahamas has been woefully wanting in this area. While the government can cut spending or raise taxes, albeit with serious consequences, at will, it cannot singlehandedly make the economy grow. If it could, no administration would likely lose office.
Yes, politicians and political parties love to promise to grow the economy and always take credit when it does, but truth be told, this is more apparent than real. What is more likely is that a government maintains policies, programs and projects that, at the very least, stay out of the way of private sector activity that generates growth; and at best, encourage private sector growth producing activities. In the period 1993 to 1999, this was clearly the case and the economy flourished with high growth, low unemployment and GFS deficits that were historically low. This was less so from 2000 to 2007, much less so between 2008 and 2012, and now 2012 to 2016.
Could the administrations have avoided downgrades? Yes, but not without serious implications for our way of life in this country. Additionally, the continuing central issue of a weak economy is beyond the government's absolute control. Global economic conditions remain limiting. There are things that we could do to greatly boost our economic prospects, but they do have serious implications for the way we do things in our country.
Rather than focus on the politics of our downgrades, we need to focus on prospects for economic growth, and prosperity. We need fast, broad-based, quality economic growth, and we need it now. Nothing short of this will improve our creditworthiness. We need this growth, not to get a better rating from S&P, Moody's or Fitch. We need prosperity to lift our people and our country out of the spiralling impoverishment it is in. We need this growth to enable our citizens to finance their hopes, dreams and aspirations, and feel better about the country we call home. We need this growth to fill our young people with a hope that will encourage them to stay home rather than abroad.
No opposition, past or present, is serious about the development of our country that oversimplifies downgrades, using them merely as political fodder. The stakes are so high that, be it friend or foe, no such shallow rantings should catch the attention of right-thinking Bahamians desiring better for their nation. What should catch our attention are doable solutions to the problem. In this, there is leadership. In this, there is hope. For this, there should be support. This column has put forth some of those solutions before and will look at them again soon.

o Zhivargo Laing is a Bahamian economic consultant and former Cabinet minister who represented the Marco City constituency in the House of Assembly.

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Christie's push to improve healthcare for all Bahamians

January 04, 2017

Early in his career, he recalled a personal experience that shaped his commitment to improving the accessibility of healthcare to all Bahamians. It is a story sewn deeply into his journey in public life captured in the reality of a 14-year-old girl and an old friend both having renal failure. Early on before our progress in modernizing the healthcare industry of The Bahamas there were daunting realities regarding the inefficiencies of the public health services.
Serving in the capacity as a former minister of health in the country at that time, there were only two dialysis machines to serve the essential health needs of Bahamians. He was challenged with a discomforting discretion of whether a young girl or an elderly male received access to this dialysis machine. At the time, the policy articulated that children were to be given first preference, and this subsequently resulted in his friend passing away.
Just over five months ago, our Parliament passed legislation to pave the way for National Health Insurance for all Bahamians. Our modernization efforts to tackle the urgent challenge of providing healthcare for all Bahamians continue unabated. Prime Minister Perry Christie is introducing an array of initiatives, many of them are resulting in the transformation of our healthcare system, enabling the provision of modern, affordable and accessible healthcare for our people and the future of our nation.
One of the greatest challenges we have had in The Bahamas is the unbelievably high cost of healthcare. Our healthcare system simply cannot be sustained on its present path. There are over 200,000 Bahamians who cannot afford health insurance; nor do they have a range of health services available to them.
The Christie administration introduced National Health Insurance Bahamas to address the twin issues of cost and accessibility so that no Bahamian can ever be denied healthcare. The next phase of NHI Bahamas will be enrollment, the selection of your primary healthcare doctor, followed by the commencement of primary healthcare coverage. With NHI Bahamas, primary healthcare coverage will be free of charge to all Bahamians at private and public facilities. In this regard, they will no longer have to postpone seeking necessary healthcare. Delays in access to primary healthcare services often mean many persons will most likely go on to suffer from illnesses that could have been prevented.
To adequately serve the needs of Bahamians and to transform our healthcare system requires an investment. Christie will invest almost $200 million in hospital expansion and upgrades. The renovations to the Accident and Emergency Department and Maternity Ward at PMH, coupled with renovations at the Rand Memorial Hospital are very real examples of our commitment to giving the Bahamian people the modern healthcare system that they deserve.
The government is already going ahead with the $1.3 million renovation to the clinic at West End, Grand Bahama. That clinic, when completed, will for the first time in its history offer 24-hour ambulance services to the residents of West Grand Bahama. Grand Bahama is also poised to become the benefactor of the new modern state-of-the-art Freeport Community Clinic. Ground will be broken at the 50-acre Greenfield site, as early as November this year.
The new 61-,000- square-foot facility, which boasts general practice and family medicine clinics; maternal and child health clinics; and mental health, adolescent and school health services, will be the first community clinic in the nation's second city.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the new state-of-the-art Child and Adolescent Robert Smith Special Education Complex at Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre. The complex, which has increased bed capacity and extended services to outpatient care, is tangible proof of the Christie government's commitment to goal number five of the 2010-2020 National Health Services Strategic Plan.
As part of our systematic approach to the transformation of healthcare, the government has also undertaken the modernization of the country's medical record keeping system with the purchase of the universal iHIMS or Integrated Health Information Management System, which will result in public hospitals and clinics across the country moving from paper files to an electronic medical record system.
This system iHIMS procured through the Public Hospitals Authority from global market leader Allscripts and its strategic partner Infor Lawson, is set to go live in October 2017. It is an efficient, transformative and highly confidential option to medical records keeping, and will result in the entire public healthcare network, which includes hospitals and community clinics across the country, from Grand Bahama in the north to Inagua in the south, to have a one patient, one record system.
What this translates into is that your medical record will follow you wherever you go and, more importantly, only those healthcare providers who have the right to see your information will be given secure access to your medical record.
The purchase of some $7.5 million state-of-the-art imaging and radiology equipment for Princess Margaret Hospital and Rand Memorial Hospital by the government in February of this year will place the services at these facilities among the most advanced in the Caribbean, and will result in the full digitization of both PMH and the RAND.
Transforming healthcare in The Bahamas has also meant finding ways to allow access to care beyond traditional guidelines. It is against this backdrop that the government has extended the hours of operation in community clinics in order to ease the pressure on our hospitals. These infrastructural upgrades will complement the ongoing projects throughout the Family Islands.
The government will continue to ensure that trained health professionals are deployed throughout all the main islands of our country. The deployment of trained health professionals will continue to be done to meet the needs of our people. These health professionals are being equipped to carry out their mission to provide healthcare and accessibility to that care system.
Many of us have had or heard of the experiences of family and friends who suffered severe health challenges, made worse because they could not afford the care they needed. Far too many children have been deprived of precious memories of grandparents whom they loved because their grandparents could not afford the healthcare that they needed.
There should be no need for healthcare to be out of the reach of any Bahamian. History will show that the people of The Bahamas will be better off because of the courage and commitment of Christie to create a modern, affordable and accessible healthcare system. There are those detractors who will oppose the progress towards modernization of our healthcare system no matter what. But there is a clear reassurance that no opposition will stop the Christie administration's progress toward introducing policies and initiatives that change the livelihoods of our citizens for the better, and for the good.
And so, I wish to bring comfort all Bahamians: Christie has heard your stories, and is answering your call for the provision and accessibility to a transformed and modern healthcare system. The National Health Insurance Bahamas plan will bring an end to the current system, which has overwhelmed our people financially for so long. Our seniors, our children and those among us who are struggling to make ends meet will feel the most benefit. We are entering a new phase in our country's history, one that will be marked by modern, affordable, accessible, universal healthcare for everyone.
Christie continues his cause as a government for the people of The Bahamas. Finally, we strengthen our history. Finally, we are making The Bahamas a little more socially and economically equal. Finally, we tackle the urgent challenges relating to healthcare in our country.

o Latrae Rahming is the press secretary in the Office of The Prime Minister.

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Seven things to watch in 2017

January 03, 2017

Two thousand and sixteen is now behind us and the dawn of a new year was marked by the rising of the sun all across our Bahama islands. In the words of the popular Christian hymn, through many dangers, toils and snares we have already come. In spite of the many challenges we face and the proverbial overcast skies hovering over our nation, we look forward to 2017 with optimism and hope.
The title of this piece could very well have been 17 things to watch in 2017, because there are several issues that we must confront in this year. Indeed, some of these issues have the potential to either make or break us as a nation with significant implications for our commonwealth and generations yet unborn. We are at a crossroads and the stakes have never been higher in a nation that prides itself as the jewel of the Caribbean. Arguably, there has not been a time in our nation's history that decisions made by the political directorate and policymakers have carried more weight than the moment in which we live.

General election
The 2017 general election will be one of the most highly contested and unpredictable elections in the history of The Bahamas. The turmoil within the political landscape over the last four years will reach a crescendo as the bell rings and the people are called upon to assess the performance of the current administration. The power of the people will be on full display as we decide who should be fired and hired to administer our affairs for the next five years.
Despite the rhetoric and talking points, the truth is that there is no political party with a clear advantage going into the next general election. It is a well-known fact that governments and political parties are normally voted out of, rather than voted into, office. The months ahead will show whether the level of voter apathy in our country will decrease and if voter registration will pick up. Additionally, all eyes will also be on actual voter turnout in the general election, which has been historically high in The Bahamas.
Ultimately, the outcome of the election will be based on how the majority of voters answer these fundamental questions: Are we better off in 2017 than we were in 2012? Did we approve of the policies of the current government over the past five years? Has the current administration been a good steward of the people's funds and affairs? Do we want to remain on the current track, or is it time to change course?

Economy
Standard & Poor's provided The Bahamas with an unsolicited and unexpected Christmas gift in the form of a downgrade of our sovereign rating to junk bond status in December 2016. This downgrade followed multiple downgrades of our sovereign rating by Moody's and S&P over the last five years. The economic challenges we face could be summed up in the two consecutive years of negative growth experienced by The Bahamas in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
The implementation of value-added tax (VAT) helped the government achieve its objective of boosting revenue, but also had the effect of transferring money from the private sector into the consolidated fund. While there have been reductions in the unemployment rate, the decreases were often attributed to extraordinary events such as Junkanoo Carnival and more recently Hurricane Matthew. Unemployment among the youth remains very high when compared to other groupings.
Small and medium-sized enterprises are struggling in a system that does not provide the requisite framework, infrastructure, funding and resources that will enable them to thrive. International and local observers will be watching the Bahamian economy in 2017 to see whether there will be marked improvements in macroeconomic indicators. Will Baha Mar and The Pointe provide the impetus for a resurgence of our economy in 2017? Has the government revived the panacea for our economic woes by getting Baha Mar back on track? Will we get a Fiscal Responsibility Act in 2017? Is there a possibility that the government will begin to seriously consider curbing spending and practicing real fiscal prudence?

Baha Mar
The Baha Mar saga rocked our country like no other development in our history with several twists and turns. The verdict is still out as to whether the government has made the right decisions in relation to this multi-billion dollar project. There have been payouts to persons owed and it has been reported that remobilization has commenced at the resort.
The differing views on the approach that should have been adopted in ensuring the completion and opening of Baha Mar will persist. The appropriateness of the Chapter 11 route and treatment of the original developer will continue to attract much debate. However, the main question will be whether the resort will open in 2017 as stated, and if it will live up to its promise for The Bahamas. The Bahamian people will also be watching to see whether the documents relating to the Baha Mar deal will be unsealed and tabled in the House of Assembly.

Crime
Our sons and daughters continue to be slain on the streets of a nation that is seen as a paradise by the world. The year has barely begun and reports of bloodshed have started to trickle in. Many Bahamians will agree that we have very hardworking professionals in our police and defense forces. While there was a notable decrease in the number of homicides in 2016 when compared to 2015 (which was the bloodiest in our nation's history), crime remains a vexing problem for a nation of our size.
Crime and the fear of crime have gripped the inhabitants of our Bahamaland and threaten the freedom that our ancestors fought so hard to secure. Residents are reluctant to socialize or engage in routine activities for fear of being harassed, assaulted, robbed or murdered. It has become apparent that crime knows no gender, colors, political affiliation or social class. In an election year, the government has an enormous task of reassuring the populace that it has a crime-fighting plan that works and has a handle on this menace.

NHI
After much criticism of its lack of public relations and inadequate consultation with stakeholders, the government seems to have made some amends. The government's decision to scale back from its overly ambitious rollout schedule and benefits package may very well have saved The Bahamas from financial ruin. The implementation of a program that ensures that Bahamians and residents have access to affordable and quality healthcare has had the support of all, even though the insertion of politics into the discourse has introduced shenanigans and unnecessary conflict into the debate. Bahamians should not be scared of being admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital and should not suffer due to inadequate infrastructure or lack of a proper maintenance of healthcare facilities.
The government has decided to expand the public sector with the introduction of NHI in 2017 after several missed deadlines. The implementation of NHI will bring about the evolution of the health insurance sector, but will also impact the provision of healthcare services in The Bahamas. In recent times, the proposed fee structure for medical professionals has attracted much media coverage with concerns raised on the significant pay cut for doctors. The pharmaceutical industry has also been vocal insofar as it anticipates a major change in its business post NHI. Will we witness significant job losses in the private healthcare sector with the introduction of NHI? Will NHI exacerbate the brain drain that we are currently experiencing, particularly in the healthcare sector? How will NHI impact the quality of care in The Bahamas? Can the government properly secure and manage healthcare data of the citizenry? Will the government be able to bring all the parties together in time to implement a decent healthcare program in 2017?

BEC/BPL
Residents endured days and nights of blackouts during 2016 as we have done in years past. While we appreciated the need for investments in BPL in order to replace or upgrade the old and obsolete equipment, the Bahamian people wanted to be informed on the overall plan to turn the utility's fortunes around. The enigma that is the business plan for BPL remains unavailable to the populace and hence there is much impatience and intolerance for the erratic power supply by BPL.
The episodes of power failure on New Providence and the high cost of electricity have impacted commerce in general, and businesses in particular. We cannot expect to have a thriving economy in a country in which power supply is unreliable. Individuals and families have not been spared as their losses have gone beyond inconvenience or discomfort to damage to property and possessions. Will the Bahamian people see a turnaround and improvement in electricity supply in 2017? Will there be less political interference in BPL and can we expect that the new management team will be allowed to perform? How will the funds required to fix our electricity woes in 2017 be found?

The others
As indicated earlier, there are just too many items to keep an eye on in 2017. This is why number seven will seek to capture the other developments that will attract attention this year. What will become of the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI), and when will reconstruction of the dormitory begin? Will the Freedom of Information Act live up to its name and the people's expectations when it is finally passed in Parliament? Is there a chance that our political leaders will finally realize that the populace is no longer into their empty rhetoric in 2017?
The legislation that enables The Bahamas to implement the Common Reporting Standard was passed in the House of Assembly at the end of 2016. There is much work to be done to ensure that we meet our international obligations in relation to tax information exchange and cooperation. Multilateral organizations, the G-20 and industry participants will be watching with interest to see how much progress is made in negotiating and executing the requisite bilateral agreements in 2017. Still on financial services, will the loss of jobs and shrinking of the sector continue in 2017?
Finally, will the NIA legislation be tabled and passed in 2017? One thing is certain: there is much to watch in 2017 and the writing on the pages of chapter 2017 of our history has started. Happy New Year!

o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to a.s.komolafe510@gmail.com.

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The way we think and feel about others

December 30, 2016

Caribbean society is an integral link in the global network of nations, although some of us, despite the development of technology, still feel less inclusive in our dealing with others. Global society seems to have presented greater challenges to our sense of identity, and dampened our self-confidence. It has not made us psychologically secure, and most Caribbean citizens continue to want to travel or seek status in North America and Europe, giving the impression they are the preferred society, rather than seek to remake their own societies.
This is the challenge, since our societal experiences and the pressures of an international community weigh heavily on how we think and feel about others, including our own citizens.
We still tend to think that people want to invest in our countries because we have what they want. We do not see investment and development as a mutual arrangement. And we always feel inward investment is always powerful, and will dictate its terms to us unfairly and, since our government wants the capital, we are helpless to do anything about it.
This thinking leads to a negative approach and behavior towards those genuinely interested in playing a positive role in our economy. We therefore need to change our thoughts and the way we feel about others, since we might be mistaken in our assessment of them. And when we change the way we think and look at the situation differently, it will change as well.
Even in our interpersonal relations, we build up feelings about others that cause us to think of them in sometimes unhealthy ways. This causes unnecessary tensions, which negatively affect our own mental health. We might see certain persons in different social contexts and surmise what they are up to, when these fellow travelers are quietly going about their affairs.
Sometimes our negative thinking of others is based on their financial and social capital, or the schools they have attended, since we feel that attending particular institutions, or working in particular organizations, confers status. This translates into animosity. But when we process our thoughts differently, it enables us to temper our feelings, and come to conclusions that work for our mutual good.
Caribbean politics creates its own pattern of thinking about others and our institutions that shapes our feelings and reactions. Our politics is not competitive in the sense of a market place of ideas, from which we choose freely at designated periods. It is a dangerous sport, with the consequences that accompany it, although some mellowing has taken place.
Many see politics as their meal ticket, and will go to extremes to keep it so. But when severe challenges arise, it affects our thinking towards the system and others we feel are bent on reducing our share of what's left of the pie, particularly when those opposing our political party win. These "others" become the "enemy", resulting sometimes in unnecessary casualties. All this emerges from how we think about our survival, which governs our feelings about how to protect and preserve it.
Our entire psychology revolves around survival because of the fragile nature of our economy, and the traditions and dispositions of our people. Our history and culture determine how we think and feel. Also false prophets of every stripe muddle our thinking about who and what we are, and what we could become. Rhetoric for many is fact, and reasoning is an alien in Caribbean society. We therefore need to reform our education system so that it produces critical thinkers, and people who doubt everything until sound arguments and objective evidence reveal the true nature of things.
Thought purification is the antidote to dysfunctional thinking, producing a transformation in the way we feel towards others and ourselves. It also leads us to discover what's best for our societies. And in politics, it causes us to see clearly the difference between a campaign device used on the political trail, versus what a campaign promise is, and not confuse them causing false expectations to arise.
More profoundly, we can stay on the high road and fight at the same time to change what needs changing, rather than going high, avoiding the conflicts below. The way we think and feel about others, ourselves and situations, therefore undergo a renewal, and a healthy transformation.

o Oliver Mills is a former lecturer in education at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus. He holds an M.Ed degree from Dalhousie University in Canada, an MA from the University of London and a post-graduate diploma in HRM and training, University of Leicester. He is a past permanent secretary in education with the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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