Opinion

A crisis of confidence

March 26, 2017

Confidence is contagious.
So is lack of confidence.
- Vince Lombardi
Many Bahamians with whom we regularly speak express a disappointing degree of uncertainty and angst about where our nation is headed. There is an uncomfortable and unsettling sense that we are drifting along, day-by-day, without any deliberate determination or decisive direction as to where we are headed. There is a pervasive apprehension that established institutions no longer work in the way that they initially were intended.
Therefore, this week, we would like to Consider this... Why are we experiencing a crisis of confidence in our institutions, and what does this portend for our national development?

Our primary institutions
From the moment of individual awareness, there are primary institutions with which we interact that shape our consciousness, our values and our lives.
Those institutions include our immediate and extended families, our neighbors, communities, churches and schools. We have established other institutions to bring order, individually and collectively, to our lives.
Those institutions include the organs of state, such as the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government; as well as the public service; the uniformed services, including the Royal Bahamas Police and Defence Forces; and our primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions, just to name a few.

Pining for the "good old days"
Today, many persons pine for "the good old days", when children respected their elders, their parents, teachers and our leaders, spiritual and secular. We yearn for a time when citizens appreciated and openly accepted the importance of higher civilian authority, and when we more faithfully adhered to the accepted principle that we were a "Christian nation" that closely cleaved to spiritual values and cherished proper public decorum that we learned at home and in school.
In the "good old days", men of the cloth were revered for their professed devotion and fidelity to spiritual standards. The moral fabric of society was more tightly woven and more closely knitted. Individuals were embarrassed to be publicly chastised or shamefully rebuked for decorum that was deemed to be discourteous.
In the "good old days", if we were disciplined in school, we could count on the punishment that was meted out by our teachers to be delivered again by our disappointed parents, who were embarrassed by our deviant behavior. In the "good old days", the neighborhood was a living organism, where we were truly responsible for and accountable to the extended family of our neighbors.

Things are not working
As previously noted, many of those institutions are not functioning or working as was intended when they were initially established. So where did things go awry?
We believe that there has been an erosion of epic proportions in our culture, our lives and the institutions that were supposed to provide support systems for our well-being. However, the erosion of our national institutions did not occur overnight.
In nature, erosion is the process by which the surface of the earth is worn away over the years by the action of water, glaciers, winds and waves. It is normally a gradual process that is not always evident as it is taking place, but the devastating effects of erosion are more noticeable with the passage of time. So it is with the erosion of many of our national institutions.
It has taken decades for our primary national institutions to lose their impact and importance. The slow, but discernible decline of the nuclear family, the disappearance of neighborhoods and the disintegration of communities have significantly contributed to the breakdown in many of our primary institutions.
This phenomenon has permeated both the secular and the spiritual realms of our existence, where, in the case of the latter, attendance at church on Sunday mornings and afternoon Sunday School were obligatory features of our childhood experiences.
The result of our spiritual erosion, like that of its secular counterpart, is manifested by a national moral fabric that has become tattered and torn. This is revealed by the absence or deterioration of essential values of respect for others. Courteousness, politeness and compromise have been supplanted by disrespect, rudeness and confrontation for our neighbors, higher authority and for the things that are essential to enhance a safe, respectful and peaceful society.
We have also observed an erosion of the institutions that were established to safeguard us. We have witnessed the gradual erosion of the organs of state, which is demonstrated by some members of Parliament who conduct the nation's affairs with contempt. Consequently, many of our citizens view some elected and appointed officials with great disdain.
We have lost respect for the laws that have been established to protect us. We habitually and deliberately ignore street signs with impunity, demonstrating a total disregard and disrespect for other law-abiding citizens.
Respect for the police and our courts has eroded as well, in part because we have developed an attitude that the administration of justice is inequitably, unfairly and disproportionately applied to all citizens.
Many have lost confidence in our schools, once a sanctuary of scholarship, but now incubators for illiteracy and innumeracy. They are also a breeding ground for youthful deviants, who cannot be disciplined without parents accosting teachers and guidance counsellors whose hands are often tied for fear of caustic verbal abuses or physical reprisals by both parents and students.

A crisis of confidence
The crisis of confidence in our institutions has become paralyzing. Virtually every single primary institution appears to be failing. We seem to be enmeshed in a national funk that appears to be irreparably and intractably irreversible, suffocating our growth and severely impeding our progress.
Unless it is reversed, this crisis of confidence in our national institutions will continue to erode our national fabric. Many Bahamians who are paralyzed by this reality are now considering, in greater numbers, leaving their homeland. Increasingly, students are either deciding on their own, or are persuaded by their parents, that there are few reasons to return home after obtaining an education.

Restoring confidence
To restore confidence in our institutions, we must honestly assess and understand the root causes for their dysfunction. In too many instances and in so many places, we have not challenged the persons who are charged with the oversight of our institutions to deliver their best at all times.
In addition, in far too many instances, there is inadequate or no accountability for the services provided by those institutions. Consequently, our institutional leaders are not penalized when they fall short of the mark. There are few, if any, consequences for mediocre performance, gross negligence or incompetence in the execution of their duties.
As citizens who often feel hopeless or helplessly impotent or incapacitated in the face of institutional dysfunction, we opt to be acquiescent, never "rocking the boat", fearful of reprisals if we criticize those who are charged with managing our institutions.
However, the time has come to respectfully, but candidly, purposefully and directly, confront those in whom we have placed our trust. We must not kowtow or cower to them because we are reluctant or afraid to speak truth to power. Above all, we must unite in our efforts to call those who are responsible for this crippling crisis of confidence to account for their stewardship.

Conclusion
The time has come to candidly confront the crises of confidence with our major institutions that we encounter on a daily basis. If we do not, the level of frustration, disappointment and angst that we experience regarding our institutions will remain a national nightmare that continues to haunt us during our waking hours.
Unless and until we arrest this crisis of confidence that we are experiencing in increasing numbers and with greater regularity regarding our failing institutions, prospects for a brighter future and a better country will remain out of reach. Unless we act now with a newfound confidence in what could be, we will continue to suffocate the dream of a Bahamas that can potentially become the best country in the world.

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Character-based leadership: the game changer

March 24, 2017

The idea of leadership has come in for much analysis and discussion recently. It has replaced management as a strategy for organizational and employee development, and has deeper dimensions, including areas such as winning the confidence and commitment of others, and stirring individuals to actions they themselves thought impossible to undertake and succeed in.
When character is encased in leadership, a new ethical and moral dimension comes into being with the term character-based leadership. Here, the actions of the leader are filtered and tempered, so that extremes are avoided, and decisions are even-handed, serving a moral purpose, and doing no harm, while producing the greatest good for the greatest number.
Michael Matthews has written a piece in Psychology Today, titled "Developing Leaders at West Point", in which he discusses how leaders are developed at this august institution, including the character-based aspect of leadership. He states the mission of the institution is to educate, train, and inspire, so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character, committed to values such as duty, honor, and country, and is prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the nation.
Here, according to the writer, the emphasis on character is a fundamental component of leadership, they are intertwined, and there is an honor code. And that cadets are tested each day, with the end being to produce an officer possessing the knowledge and attributes required to lead soldiers in the most trying of circumstances.
I find the mission of the institution intriguing. To educate, to me, implies providing and imparting in a critical manner the knowledge and dispositions that foster good judgment and wise action, along with choices that are proportionate to the steps being taken. To train is to facilitate the acquisition of skills and techniques that could be transferred to particular circumstances and conditions.
And to inspire involves enabling the contexts and settings where the leader being developed can make prudent assessments of what winning strategies will most adequately achieve the objectives to be realized, so that the art of the possible becomes the trigger for achievement.
For me, the values mentioned by Matthews create and enhance a sense of zeal in the accomplishment of the academy's mission. It is interesting and quite novel that country is given as a value. This means the cultivation of patriotism and nationalism, which gives meaning and purpose to character-based leadership, in that leadership and character are not confined only to certain activities, but become an obligation to serve the country as well, by contributing to its development, progress, and security.
And the end game is abundantly clear and noble, which is producing an officer to lead in difficult circumstances. There is a process, leading to a desired result.
Matthews then says that an important piece of the West Point's leader development programme is a required course in Military Leadership, which involves theories and knowledge from individual and social psychology, organizational psychology, management, and sociology that refer to leading and influencing others, and taught in a seminar format, and explores what makes an effective leader.
It requires cadets to reflect on and develop their unique leadership style, assisted by a mentor, and comprises three exercises where cadets meet with their mentor to discuss and reflect on their life experiences to answer the question "who am I?" There is then an individual development plan addressing "where am I now as a leader," and "how do I apply my new knowledge to develop as a leader?" Followed by a leadership philosophy paper that refines their personal leadership philosophy, referring to models of leadership in the context of their individually developed leadership philosophy.
At the culmination of the course, cadets practice the leadership skills and insights they have acquired. In their senior year they complete a course in officership, which expands the concepts learned in the Military Leadership course.
My thinking is that the Military Leadership course, with its base in the social sciences, and which relates to leading and influencing others, and encourages reflection on and developing the cadet's unique leadership style, questioning who they are, and applying new knowledge to develop as a leader, is at the core of character-based leadership. It appears to be thorough, to deliver what it says it would, and the cadet is required to practice the skills learnt, and refine their leadership philosophy, through formulating their own.
The idea of leadership gained is not a regurgitation of what others have said about it, but is specifically that of the cadet. It means showing initiative, creativity and innovativeness, and original thinking. The end result is therefore a new type of leader who can hold his own irrespective of the context he operates in. This breeds confidence, self-assurance, and the respect of others. And the fact that the skills are practiced means they could be further refined to become even more effective.
I agree with Matthews that the idea of developing leaders with character concerns other types of institutions as well, and the West Point model is exemplary, particularly with the use of mentors, and fostering a culture that values character and competence.
I think that the Caribbean education system could gain much from it, particularly where mentoring, philosophical reasoning, and the formulation of a unique character based leadership are concerned. It means ethics becomes central, along with solid subject based training, and the use of discussion triggered by intelligent questioning to think more deeply and broadly, so as to bring out what is best in all of us.
This means a game changer in Caribbean education, and a more aware and critical society.

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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Improving client service in the public service

March 23, 2017

Some years ago a woman in her 80s who was at the Passport Office to get a 10-year passport, exclaimed, "Thank God!" When asked if everything was OK, she replied: "This is the last passport I will ever need to get."
It was not the seemingly interminable wait for the travel document that mostly peppered her annoyance. It was the poor quality of customer service by public officers, whom she found indifferent and sometimes "downright rude".
Many public officers who deal with the public are professional, helpful and mannerly. Yet these officers often seem the exception, like lifeboats in a sea of surliness.
Many public officers have been trained in a certain manner and are loath to change because they are cocooned in a comfort zone of self-satisfaction. Others, who simply are not sure how to change, would do so with guidance and leadership.
Some are frightened by new technologies and others are afraid of incurring the anger of supervisors stuck in the quicksand of bureaucratic inertia: We have always done it this way, why change? Then there are the smug and belligerent ones who lord their authority over the public.
To be sure, a good number of Bahamians, struggling with illiteracy, fill out forms incorrectly or fail to understand instructions. But it is precisely these individuals who especially need help and assistance rather than petulance from public officers.
Change is occurring, such as at the recent changes at the Road Traffic Department, the National Insurance Board and the Department of Social Services, with smart cards for certain benefits.
The rollout of VAT was a leap forward in how taxes are paid. There is an attempt to improve across the board compliance, such as ensuring that a business license applicant has a new NIB card and is paying National Insurance for employees.
Significant improvements have been made at the Customs Department, including telephone service.

Capacity
There remain problems of capacity with the customs computer system, which is often slow and shuts down. Once an entry is processed by the department's computer system, it often takes a while for an officer to act on an entry.
There have been initiatives to improve client service across the board in government. But in the age of smart cards and technology, the Internet, algorithms and new computer and communications technologies, it is taking a long time to institute basic changes to streamline and improve a number of services.
Voter registration is still a laborious process that should have been computerized years ago. Those who have licenses for firearms still use an outdated system utilizing a book for re-registering, instead of using a smart card interfaced with the Internet.
There are still quite a number of immigration officers who are nasty, disgusting and rude to foreigners coming to The Bahamas.
A number of officers are not clear about certain regulations, such as how to properly treat Bahamian citizens who are not ordinarily resident in the country.
There is a need to simplify a number of government forms which now lumber under an accretion of categories requiring information no longer necessary or not the government's business.
Improving client service in government requires more than automation and simplified forms. It is the human component that also often requires marked improvement and better attitudes.
Most Bahamians dread going to or interacting with a government office for a service, such as getting a new business license, a new National Insurance card, a driver's or car license, or any of the many services required as citizens or business people.
Some have remarked that they prefer going to the dentist than having to deal with some government offices. There is often insufficient or improper signage and a lack of clear instructions as to the process to access services in a timely and efficient manner.
The development of new systems for Road Traffic was desperately needed in a department where corruption was rife and millions went missing over the years.

Frustration
The recent rollout for new driver's and car licenses was nightmarish, filled with blunders, fueling anger and frustration for many Bahamians, some of whom had to return over the course of a number of days.
Thankfully, Road Traffic, finally, mostly got its act together. There are roving supervisors who point clients in the direction of where they need to go.
The rollout of the new NIB card has been a disaster in terms of client service. The process to finally get the card in one's hand has frustrated scores of Bahamians.
Many speak of confusion and employees of the NIB milling around. It is often difficult to find someone helpful to speak to about a query or a problem. NIB was simply not ready for the rush of people attempting to get new cards. They are still blundering along, with little improvement.
What made matters worse, was that many had to get a new NIB card before they could get a new car or driver's licence. The frustration of many boiled over, made even more annoying by the rudeness and dismissiveness of some public officers.
IDEO is a well-known, cutting-edge global design company which designs products, services and systems for business, government and non-profits.
The company uses empathy as a primary design strategy. An item on IDEO's web page advises: "This is what empathy is all about. Not just sympathy for someone else's circumstances, but the deep intuition for what it feels like to live their lives...
"If you manage a store, for example, try ringing up customers at the checkout. If you run a logistics center, try working on the warehouse floor. If you manage project teams, sign up to be a regular project team member for a day. Whatever it might be, go experience the day of someone you lead."
To help hospitals better serve clients, IDEO would send in a design team to experience firsthand the process of a patient from entry into the hospital until release.
To improve customer service across the board in the public service a similar process should be utilized. We need to fundamentally redesign client service in government.

Experience
The process would take senior officers, department and unit heads, supervisors and line managers in the public service through the actual experience of accessing services and the daily interactions of Bahamians and residents with government offices, both online and in person.
The TV program "Undercover Boss" shadows company bosses experiencing what employees and customers experience on a daily basis. Many bosses gain a greater appreciation for employees.
The experience is quite revealing for company heads, helping them to improve client service, reduce costs and increase revenue, and improve corporate culture and governance.
It would be helpful for ministers, permanent secretaries, department heads and senior officers to better understand experientially the daily work, rewards and frustrations of subordinates.
Many public officers do not appreciate or experience the realities of accessing government services because they enjoy shortcuts to getting such service.
The retraining of supervisors and those with direct contact with the public would include not just training in new technologies, systems and processes. It would include an extensive period of hands-on and real-time training in human relations and client service.
There are many fine people who have worked in public service over the years. They deserve our respect and gratitude. The public service helps to protect our lives, govern our country, provide for general health and serve us in numerous ways.
Improving such services requires ongoing reform, respect and retraining. We should provide officers opportunities for constant improvement in order for them to better serve the general public and welfare.

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

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Making Minnis the primary target a flawed political strategy

March 22, 2017

Dr. Hubert Minnis, leader of the Free National Movement (FNM), is not a compelling politician. Compared to Hubert Ingraham, his predecessor, he is weak. This might explain why he distanced himself from Ingraham in the first place; he wanted to erase Ingraham's appeal from the memories of the people he had to lead. Minnis' deficiencies notwithstanding, it is a mistake for his opponents to adopt as a strategy making him the primary political target. This election is not principally about the maximum leadership of political parties; rather, it is chiefly about the enduring hardship of thousands of people in this country, and what, rather than who, can change their circumstances. Bahamians want a change in their country for the better, and they may take something, like a change in government, over someone, like a flawed leader, to bring that change, even if they are one and the same.
In the 2012 general election, Bahamians began to place less importance on their love affair with the maximum leader. In that election, the FNM made its mean pitch about leadership, while the PLP, with a less compelling leader, made its primary pitch about its team. Perry Christie, as leader of the opposition, was heavily criticized by the FNM and its team as indecisive, "all talk, no action" and unserious. Heading into the elections, the FNM focused on the strength of Hubert Ingraham, whose leadership of the party since 1990 had paid great dividends for it, with three election victories in four. It did not work. The FNM was soundly defeated by the PLP.
Truth be told, by 2012, both Perry Christie and Hubert Ingraham were less imposing figures, but Ingraham had been at the helm of the country for three terms non-consecutively already, and thus, was more the establishment than Christie. Also, Ingraham's authoritative style, in contrast to the more laisser-faire style of Christie, was wearing on a significant portion of the population. The PLP also helped itself by nominating attractive new and young candidates to appeal to younger voters who had heard the complaining about both the older leaders and the established parties from their parents. These factors, combined with an energetic, fresh DNA with an attractive and charismatic leader in Branville McCartney were the perfect ingredients to unseat the FNM.
In 2012, Christie's deficiencies as a leader were well known, but they did not matter. They were highlighted extensively by the FNM, but the voters ignored all the noise about them. Why? They were not looking anymore for a maximum leader; they were looking for a different life, a better life. The PLP, as a team, promised them that different and better life. They promised thousands of jobs, lower crime, lower national debt and better government. They promised that it was not about the leader, but the team. They promised that rather than be the future, Christie would be a bridge to it. It worked. The PLP won the election and has been governing now for the past five years.
What was true in 2012 is more so in 2017. Even as many voters would have loved to see Hubert Ingraham or a Hubert Ingraham-type at the helm of the FNM party to boost its chance of victory, they are so focused on a different and better life that the deficiencies of Hubert Minnis are not the principal impediment to the party being elected next time. There are voters, including FNMs of longstanding, who do hesitate about voting for the FNM because of Minnis' weaknesses, handling of the party and insecurities, but when viewed against the realities of the Bahamian economy, crime, perceived corruption and government missteps, Minnis' oddities seem less imposing. Minnis is a story in this upcoming election, but not the story. The PLP seems poised to repeat the mistake made by the FNM in 2012, making leadership the issue, when the main story is quite different.
The story of this election will be based on the prevailing sluggishness of our economy and the high unemployment, low business profitability and social dislocation it has caused. This election is grounded in an apparent unabated rise in crime, as reflected by the large number and callous nature of murders that have taken place over the years. This election will tell the story of increased taxes, but a worsened fiscal state. The story of this election will tell the feeling that the country is simply on the wrong track. Making Minnis a principal target does not explain these realities, nor does it provide a prescription for it. The question for voters is 'What will cure this situation for us?'
Invariably voters will blame the PLP for the present state of things. It is the nature of things. You sit at the helm, you take the credit for the good and you get blamed for the bad. Been there, done that and wrote the story. What remains to be seen is how many voters will blame the party, especially those who voted for it last time. The PLP's track record may hinder, but does not have to cripple that party in persuading voters that it can cure the situation. It is a hard case, but not impossible; especially if the FNM and DNA are seen as less persuasive.
This much is certain: the victor in this election will be the party that makes the most compelling case for being able to change the circumstances that voters face today. This is an uphill journey for the PLP as the incumbent. It is a less steep, but steep nonetheless, climb for the FNM; contrary to Minnis' belief, even if he has no history as a non-career politician, the FNM has a history as a mature political party, and it was only removed from office five years ago when he was a senior member of its cabinet. The DNA would have had the easier time of persuading voters, but needs a weightier platform, a leader seen as more substantive and an elevated profile among the electorate.
Focusing on the issues and the people seeking to have them addressed is the strategy that will win this election. Focusing on Minnis is not. That was the mistake the FNM made in 2012 and the one the PLP seems set to make in 2017.

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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Trade options and the Commonwealth

March 21, 2017

Before the end of this month, Britain's prime minister, Theresa May, will invoke article 50 of the European Treaty, starting a process that will lead to the UK leaving the European Union (EU) in 2019.
This is because, irrespective of the informal private conversations that British ministers have had in recent months with all trade and development partners, including the Caribbean, the process has so many inter-dependent political and economic parts that no one can guess the trajectory or outcome of negotiations with any certainty.
Despite this, nothing practically will change in relation to trade with third nations, until either Britain leaves the EU on a negotiated basis or, should the negotiations with the EU27 fail, it decides to walk away.
In both cases, Britain will then have to re-negotiate or roll over its existing trade arrangements, and establish new schedules and commitments at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It is process that a former director general of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, recently told the BBC that he expects to take seven years.
If this is correct, it raises questions about what goods by then the Caribbean will be sending to the UK and what it will require of the United Kingdom as a trade partner, given that the commodities, and not much else that comes from the Caribbean, could be more cost-effectively sourced from nations like Brazil, which the UK is likely to want a deeper trade relationship with.
This is not to suggest that trade will not remain of value, or to downplay the importance to the overall relationship of shared values, similar legal systems, language, security support, and the family ties that continue to make the relationship special.
Rather, it is to ask why, if duty-free and quota-free access to the whole of Europe since 2000 under the Cotonou Convention, and then the 2008 EU-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) failed to create a non-commodity surge in exports, what new trade agreement with the UK would stimulate Caribbean economic growth?
Speaking recently about this in a related context at a conference in London of Commonwealth trade ministers, organised by the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council and the Commonwealth Secretariat, Barbados minister of trade, Donville Inniss, pointed out that what the economies of Barbados and other small states in the Caribbean require today, is not so much access and support in developing their trade in goods, but for their services.
Telling the conference that Barbados and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) as a whole maintains a healthy global surplus with respect to their balance of trade in services, Mr. Inniss went on to make clear that in the majority of Caribbean economies, the services sector comprises the bulk of economic activity and that today it is flows of inward investment that are essential to Barbados and the region's economic well-being.
The minister's point is important, as almost all post-Brexit analysis and dialogue is focussed on trade in goods, and misses the obvious point that whether the new objective is to find plurilateral or other ways to increase trade, any future UK or Commonwealth approach of relevance to the Caribbean has to embrace services.
To be clear, this means finding ways to enable and encourage the cross border provision of services by professionals such as architects and lawyers; help for creative industries such as animation and music to be able to export without constraints; and support for the development of activities relating to tourism, healthcare, retirement homes, and almost everything else that will enable the Caribbean's small, non-oil and gas economies to benefit from a trade relationship with the world's wealthiest economies.
Unfortunately, the public documents emanating from the first conference of Commonwealth trade ministers at which Mr. Inniss spoke, seemed not to reflect this.
This was probably because the event was intended to develop a Commonwealth-wide policy response to Brexit, the Trump administration's protectionist policies, and the opportunities that both may create for enhancing intra-Commonwealth trade.
While the overall initiative is to be welcomed, it is not clear how it might in future relate, other than in general terms, to the Caribbean.
While Australia, India and Canada, for example, have the ability to trade advanced manufactured goods and agricultural produce across the Commonwealth, and there is opportunity for the establishment of some new form of Commonwealth post-Brexit free trade relationship with member nations, including Britain, CARICOM lacks the scale, logistics, proximity and access to finance to be able to benefit significantly from the relatively few goods it produces.
For this reason, a more realistic approach might be the one Shanker Singham from the Legatum Institute suggested to the conference in relation to Brexit: the UK should advance plurilaterally with a like-minded group of Commonwealth countries, by addressing non-tariff barriers and establishing what he described as an "open accession agreement that others can join".
There is still a reluctance to recognise that the value and nature of Caribbean trade with the world has changed, or that, as wealthier nations move to robotics, re-shore their supply chains, and reduce constraints on agricultural production, their citizen's wealth will grow and there will be an ever-increasing demand for the types of services the region is able to provide.
This suggests a more intense regional focus on every aspect of services development, a rapid improvement in education systems to guarantee that the region has the long-term ability to sustain the sector, and the reorientation of agriculture to feed the region's population and visitors.
The Commonwealth remains an important entity, but when it comes to the Caribbean the construction of any new intra-Commonwealth approach cannot just be about trade in goods. Rather, it requires the support of the body's wealthier members to determine, with the Caribbean and the growing number of service sector organisations in similarly structured economies, a 21st century approach that supports their interest in accessing the opportunities that exist in the global economy.

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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Civility and the coming campaign

March 20, 2017

"Civility is not about dousing strongly held views. It's about making sure that people are willing to respect other perspectives." - Jim Leach

The next general elections in The Bahamas will likely be held sometime in May, less than two months away, and people everywhere are beginning to prognosticate about the potential permutations of outcomes that are likely to occur on election day.
This past week, many Bahamians were taken aback, if not completely surprised, by a shocking squabble that spewed forth in the Golden Isles constituency between campaign teams of the two major political parties. Therefore, this week, we would like to Consider this... What can we do to foster and engender greater civility in the coming election campaign?

The temperature is rising!
As the pace of the general election campaign intensifies, so does the rhetorical temperature. If the past is any indication of future political campaign behavior, the name-calling, finger-pointing and blame-gaming is likely to accelerate at an exponential pace. Whatever one political party says is criticized by the other. If one party says that the sky is blue, a press conference is quickly convened to suggest that the correct color is azure. Not to be outdone, the third major political party insists that the correct color is aquamarine. In the meantime, the electorate watches in amazement at all the nonsense that spews from one political spokesman after another. This is not constructive.
We seem to have come to expect our politicians, irrespective of party affiliation, to make the most salacious, acrimonious, sensational and outrageous accusations against their opponents, with a goal of portraying their adversaries in the most negative light.
We all expect that there will be legitimate, deep-seated differences of opinion once the political season heats up, but those differences and objections are usually manifested by attacks on personalities, rather than on policies. If we are going to clearly demonstrate the differences between the policies of the political parties and the programs they seek to implement if elected, then there must be a quantum shift in our political culture.
The important question is, can we do this? Are the candidates who offer for office so bankrupt of ideas that they must resort to ad hominem attacks of their adversaries? Are they so bereft of solutions to the problems that plague our society that it is easier to attack the person, rather than their positions? We believe that the Bahamian people want more; they certainly deserve more. The most effective way to lower the rising political temperature is for the electorate to demand of those who seek to lead us in the next five years, an eloquent explanation of their proposed solutions to the problems that have plagued us for far too long.
They must artfully articulate how they will reduce the intractable scourge of crime and the fear of crime in our society. They must unambiguously announce what they will do to reduce the level of unemployment and poverty that has beset us for too long and how they will address the persistent challenges to our environment.

Challenging election candidates
As we approach the upcoming electoral contest, it is incumbent on responsible citizens to challenge election candidates to explain their positions on important national issues.
What is their vision for The Bahamas? How will their proposed policies resolve the pressing issues facing our nation? Are the candidates informed on national and international issues and developments that could affect us for generations to come? Are their proposed solutions workable and practicable? How will they represent us on the domestic and international stage? Most importantly, what are the direct and unintended consequences of policies that are proffered by the candidates and their political parties?

A schizophrenic reality
Some politicians and wannabes are masters of misdirection, who viciously attack each other in Parliament, in the press and on the campaign trail. And then, after their contentious confrontations with each other, they unabashedly retire to the privacy of each other's homes, restaurants or favorite "drinking holes" to share in collegial convivium and cordial camaraderie that would leave the average citizen confused about whether this Jekyll and Hyde transformation is concocted in the twilight zone.
The electorate should not be fooled by this well-choreographed chicanery that is designed to deflect us from seeking and demanding real solutions to real problems.
Some current Parliamentarians on opposite sides of the political divide and those seeking high office are close, personal friends, some are familial relations, while others are even shareholders in the same companies. The reality is that these same politicians very often are related by marriage and, in other cases, stand as godfathers or godmothers for the children of members opposite, which, in fact, clearly demonstrates a level of confidence in each other to look after their children in case of adversity.
Notwithstanding these close ties, their behavior in Parliament or on the campaign trail would lead us to believe that they are dire enemies, diametrically opposed to each other, determined to demonize, denigrate and destroy one another.

Civility and the coming campaign
The Bahamian electorate should emphasize that, despite the propensity of some persons who are offering for political office to descend to insulting name-calling and defamatory character assassination of their adversaries, we will not tolerate or accept such behavior by those who seek high political office. Recent history has clearly demonstrated that, if they act this way during the campaign, this behavior will continue once elected to office.
We must appreciate that, in the final analysis, we are a very small country where many of us are related in some way or another. And, although we take our politics very seriously, we should never allow our political differences to irreparably divide us. We must never forget that we all love our country and all want the best for it and for our people. Long after the election exercise ends, we must all live here in peace and tranquility.
The only way to ensure that this occurs is to maintain a level of civility in the upcoming general elections. In this way, after all the rallies, after all the speeches, after all the posturing, pontificating and political polemics, we will be able to live in a society where we can always agree to disagree on the issues and not engage in uncivil and vitriolic social intercourse that is destructive to us individually or to our national psyche.
We are, after all the screaming and slogan-shouting is over, Bahamians who must be prepared to stand together and build our country into the kind of place where the generations to come can prosper and thrive, living in civility and peace.

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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Lessons of 1979 Grenada Revolution

March 17, 2017

Thirty-eight years after the Grenada Revolution, what are the lessons learnt? What are the lessons ignored?
If I may borrow an analysis from a comrade and a former captain of the People's Revolutionary Army, we - as a people - must go past the stage of "who for" or "who against" the revolution, and speak to the issues arising out of the revolution; the pros and the cons.
The fact remains, that we had a revolution on March 13, 1979; whether you disagree with the men and women who led the revolution, it does not change the fact that it actually took place. No amount of denying will change that.
I am of the considered view that our national consciousness must be developed sufficiently to seriously teach our students - from as early as primary school - about the March 13th revolution.
"We Move Tonight", written by Joseph Ewart Layne, gives excellent insight as to the inner workings of the revolutionary movement in the making of the 1979 Revolution. This should be a must-read for every Form 1 student, in every secondary school, in the state of Grenada. After all, I read "Emile and the Detectives". It was a good read, but it was set in Germany and it was fiction. Let us give our children an opportunity to read and learn something about themselves in their own society.
Why, as a society, are we so scared to embrace our history? Why? The Americans ensure that their students learn about the American Revolution. What is it about the March 13th revolution that we do not want our children to learn?
We need to have a mature and reasoned approach in understanding the revolution. That should include putting an end to the demonizing of some of the revolutionary leaders and making others saints. They all must take responsibility for the foolishness that took place, and also take credit for the positive things that were done.
The Grenada Revolution, at the end of the day, is much bigger than those who created it. It is much bigger than we, as Grenadians; and, the historical significance of it would not be whittled away by us quarreling and blaming each other. Why allow a fact of history to continue to divide us?
The Grenada Revolution has regional and international significance. It remains an important event in the Cold War era and the ideological struggle between the west and the east, "back in the day". October 1983 will always remain part of the analysis in reviewing the end of the Cold War. In essence, the revolution is beyond us!
William Rievere, the legendary Caribbean historian and scholar, noted in a speech he delivered in New York on March 14, 1984, that because of the Grenada Revolution, "Caribbean revolutionaries take courage in the knowledge that the solutions to our age-old problems are no longer a practical mystery. The all-round, universally acclaimed achievements of the Grenada Revolution during the four-and-a-half years of its existence; it's dramatic successes in the areas of education, health, in agricultural restructuring, in job creation, women's rights, in the protection of labour, in popular democracy."
These are just some of the achievements of what some persons refer to as the "Glorious Revolution" of March 13, 1979. If others acknowledge it, why do some of us continue to deny it?
We can all agree that mistakes were made, so why can't we learn from them and move on?
I have written elsewhere, of the significance of the revolution as part of our tourism product. I am of the considered view that we continue to miss a bonanza by not making that part of our history; as one of the main reasons why persons should visit our shores.
It remains an untapped economic resource. In some respects, maybe the way we view the revolution as a nation prevents us from fully appreciating its economic potential.
It is time that we place the March 13, 1979, revolution firmly on the national agenda and acknowledge it for what it means to us as a people. It deserves much more than a non-governmental organization commemorating our history.

o Lawyer Arley Gill is a magistrate and a former Grenada minister of culture. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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A family, like a nation, is a continuous creation

March 17, 2017

Ernest Renan in his treatise on how to build a good nation could as well preface his essay: how to build a good family. Indeed, Renan implied a nation is like a family where the members are linked by blood and by consent as in the case of the in-laws to worship the past, enjoy the present and build the future for the next generation.
In this era, where families are dislocated by the pressure of globalization and by rogue political regimes, various members of a family are scattered all over a hemispheric region as was done during slavery times, when the husband, the wife and the children were divided according to the whims of the transatlantic slave traders.
In my particular lens from Haiti, (it could be any island from the Caribbean chain or any nation in Africa and in the Middle East) during the past 60 years, families have been uprooted from the ancestor land to the United States, Canada or Europe. It is quite essential that the principles of building a good family be reminded so the members may coalesce and nourish the roots that will maintain a family together and prepare the future for the generations to come.
Watching my father dying at the age of 102 years old, and wanting him to stay a little longer on earth, I realized we all have a very short life span on this earth; our preoccupation should be to enjoy building the future for the children. We could also borrow the metaphor of Christ commanding us to love thy neighbor as thyself as the most secure way of gaining the eternal kingdom.
Transposing Renan's language of a good nation: "a family is a daily plebiscite, a perpetual affirmation of life clearly expressed to continue a common life." It is a small scale solidarity constituted by the feeling of the sacrifices that one has made in the past and of those that one is prepared to make in the future.
The concept of continuing creation indicates the building of the family is not a finishing process that ends with the wedding or the procreation. The mother and the father will bond together for life to nurture the children, and the children will, for life, cherish each other and their parents in a daily struggle where jealousy and egoistical quarrel can threaten at any time the family cohesion.

Who are the members of the family?
Starting with the first principle, a family is made of the mother, the father and the children who worship the same ancestors. It implies knowing who those ancestors are. With the technology of recording through a smart phone, it is today easy to establish an album of the pictures of one's loved ones. It was not as such in the past. I am now trying to painstakingly collect and garner the pictures of my great grandfather and my great grandmother, as well as the pictures of my beloved aunt who acted as a second mother.
We must take time to pass onto the children the stories, the anecdotes and the tidbits that each generation may have gathered so as to create a family ethos that is different -- like the family next door is different from mine. The family is made of the mother and father, the children and the grandparents. It can certainly welcome those who are not originally from the same blood: the adopted members, the in-laws and those who belong to only one side of the couple. They must choose to live as a family with shared family values.
As in a nation, the good family shares the sentiment of appurtenance. Within the family there are no illegitimate children; the legacy belongs to each and all with the view to enrich, embellish and multiply that legacy for the future generation. Of course, there is the question of those children born out of wedlock, do they belong in the family? It will depend on the vision of the ancestors. Have they been brought into the family clan by the mother or father? If not, I would advise keeping them out for the sake of peace and tranquility within the family circle.
Are in-laws a part of the family? This is a difficult question to answer, since the wife or the husband of a kin can at any time divorce himself or herself from the family roots. The answer to this question lies in the foreigner who asks to become a citizen of a given country. Does he or she act like a true citizen, or is he or she just a taker? Does he or she try to impose their values over and upon the family values? The answers to these questions constitute the current query in Europe and in the United States, where the original citizens are demanding whether the large number of immigrants should be admitted into their midst as true citizens with all the rights therein.
It is also the question of multiculturalism versus the original values of a given country. Should the Spanish citizens demand and impose their language on the citizens of the United States, or should the English language be imposed upon the newcomers? These are the questions that are being debated today. My answer, whether controversial for the multiculturalists or not, is that the English language should be imposed on the newcomers. You choose to belong. The values of the adopted country must prevail. It is similar with the husband or wife entering into a family. She must accept the family values to become a part of the family.

The duty to support and ensure that everyone is provided with an excellent education and incubation to self-development
The failed nations are those where the rulers did not understand that each citizen of the country is a jewel that needs to be polished to shine for him and for the nation. The analogy is the same for a family. The duty to provide education to the children falls on the state, but in failing nations like mine, Haiti, it falls on the parents or on one of the most fortunate siblings. Otherwise, the family will have on their hands in the future, a nomad, a beggar; one who cannot care for himself. Reading Oliver Mills recently, I was pleased to discover this thought:
"The interaction with family fosters deeper meaning, and the transformation of our lives. The family, apart from being genetically connected, fosters meaning through a network of support, love, advice, and caring. We find the real essence of this when faced with challenging issues. Although we tend to take things for granted with the family unit, adversity brings out its true meaning when it is the first to be approached, and respond compassionately, irrespective of the quality of the relationship."
The family is the lifeline that is always open for support and encouragement, and cheers when adversity or glory comes along.

The family agrees together without fight or discussion that those in the family who are behind will be incubated to catch up with those who have succeeded
Within the clan there will be no illegitimate children or nieces, nephew or cousins who remain behind. Caucus or conversation will be made that those in the family that remain behind will be pushed by the clan to keep up with the rest of the group. I have often compared failed countries to those where a portion of the nationals have remained behind and it has not been the concern of the government or the civil society. I have often pointed out how in my own country of Haiti, some 85% of the population has been regarded as illegitimate children with no consideration or concern for by the authorities. The attention has only been during election time for a plate of lentils or a disguised care with no attention to true nation-building. The successful family sees each and every member as a jewel that, when polished, will have positive repercussions for the whole clan.

The family seeks and achieves the divine destiny accepted by the ancestors upon that unit
We are all in this world called upon to achieve a divine destiny. We must help God to perfect the world. As such, the family will seek to continue the values and dreams of its ancestors. I have often expressed the thought that Haiti has an emancipatory mission to be the light on the hill for everybody. It has, albeit, failed its mission, but it shall continue to long for this task. The family shall caucus together and come out with the mission set by its grandfathers and grandmothers. It is true we are living in an age where the immediate members are not even known to each other, but building a good family that will lead to a good nation demands this research and this longing to connect.

The family tries to perpetuate itself through the children instructed to continuously build the brand
The members of the family must take into account the issue of numbers. We came into this world for at most a century; we will survive only through our children and our grandchildren. Consequently, the issue of procreation, adoption and inclusion of new members to build the family clan is essential. At the death of both parents, the children must coalesce together to continue building the brand, otherwise it will be a family that has been. It is the same story with nations like Spain, Portugal, Greece, Syria, Egypt or even Haiti; they are great nations that have been. It imposes on the citizens a duty to make those nations become the stars they were meant to be. That is why a family, like a nation, is a continuous creation as illustrated in today's news. Will the Gardere family whose great grandfather came from France in 1862 and built the famed Rum Barbancourt finish with Thierry who died this week at the age of 65? Will his only daughter, Delphine Natalie Gardere, continue the mission and the vision of the ancestors? This story encapsulates the concept that a family is a continuous creation.
In conclusion, a good family is at the origin of a good nation. They are both fabricated with the same building blocks made of the sentiment of appurtenance for and to each one; the support to acquire an excellent education and the formation of all its members; the reaching out to those left behind; the consolidation of the divine mission, as well as teaching the children that the family is a continuous creation. It must be solidified each and every day so it shall last for generations.

o Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD, is a regular contributor to the opinion section of Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at jeanhcharles@aol.com. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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The dangerous consequences of a growing gambling culture

March 15, 2017

The drug era of the 1970s and 80s had a devastating effect on our social culture, effects which are still being felt decades later. Similarly, the rise of a gambling and casino culture fueled by a few business houses will adversely and negatively affect The Bahamas for decades.
The tragedy is that we can see, from the experience of others and from what is already happening, the toll access to 24-7 gambling will have on our social fabric, already tattered by other social problems.
The proliferation of the gambling culture can be seen in the construction of new casinos, the launch of a television station by one gambling enterprise and the aborted attempt to place gambling machines in grocery stores.
Many Family Islands, with limited financial resources and economic opportunities, are being drained of money. Little of this money is ever returned to those communities.
The fun days and giveaways to these communities, and on New Providence, are a patronizing insult to Bahamians. They are marketing schemes intended to flummox and bamboozle, while hyping business.
Unlike most other businesses, gambling offers little except the thrill of gambling itself and a promised reward that rarely materializes. A well-regulated national lottery could have returned considerable rewards to Bahamians.
Many politicians are close to the owners of gambling businesses, reportedly benefitting from the largesse of the gambling barons. How much are certain politicians in the pay of others?
There are multiple games gamblers can play around the clock from home, on their mobile devices or in a gambling and casino establishment. While many buy numbers, spinning is the game of choice for most.
Spinning has a particular psychological effect and one can keep spinning, not having to wait for a number to fall. One can spin oneself into bankruptcy and financial distress, especially at the expense of family and children.

Spinning
Spinning is a highly addictive habit. More women are spinning than men. With women heading most households and being the main breadwinners, this is especially alarming.
As mass gambling penetrates daily life, the sociological effect will be far-reaching in areas such as family life and in the formation of habits like saving money, which is not known to be a vigorous habit for many Bahamians.
For a country desperately in need of financial literacy and education, Bahamians are now bombarded with messages about gambling. The launch of a television station by one gambling baron is alarming.
We are witnessing a vast redistribution of wealth, including from poor Bahamians to a few gambling bosses, who are further enriching themselves and who are giving very little back to the country.
A national lottery could have greatly benefitted a vast number of Bahamians in areas from education and social development, to the arts and culture. Instead, hundreds of millions and more are being gorged at the expense of national development.
This is profoundly inequitable, and an offense to social justice and national progress. Over decades we will see the considerable opportunity cost of allowing a few to live lavishly, while thousands of Bahamians will remain poorly educated.
Some of the considerable profits of the gambling barons could fund universal preschool in The Bahamas.
Investing in preschool education is known to be successful in helping children, especially children from disadvantaged backgrounds. This includes helping children to get a better start in life, helping them with health and nutrition, and brain development.
Preschool helps children to develop early skills in literacy, numeracy and oracy, as well as other basic life skills and human development often missing in many of our children who live in difficult family and social circumstances.
Investing millions in preschool could help in the fight against crime and in the repair of our social culture. Instead, mass gambling may help to fuel more crime and to further damage our social culture.

Sources
The hoarding of wealth from the gambling barons may retard economic growth. International commercial banks and Commonwealth Bank do not presently accept money from the gambling houses because of the questions surrounding the sources of their profits.
Since majority rule and independence there has been a flourishing of the middle class, especially of black Bahamians. In 40 years of independence the country has made great strides in terms of economic empowerment for scores of Bahamians.
Still, there remains much to be done to empower more Bahamians economically, including greater access to capital for entrepreneurs to help stimulate domestic and home-grown investment. A national lottery would be a source of significant capital to help stimulate domestic development.
Today, many in the middle class are struggling with the proverbial Bahamian Dream, especially after the Great Recession of 2008 and the resulting new normal of an economic landscape marked by slower growth and significant challenges in the tourism sector.
Unlike other economic enterprises, those who run the gambling houses and casinos produce nothing of economic value in terms of the numbers business itself.
Instead of allowing these barons to hoard our money for themselves, a public lottery with the bulk of the proceeds being returned to the Bahamian people would be better for the country.
Instead, money pours out of poorer neighborhoods and many Family Island communities into the bank accounts of a few, leaving many of these communities even more impoverished.
These communities do not need Christmas parties and giveaways. They need concentrated economic and social investments partly derived from a national lottery in which money is reinvested in these communities.
Instead of a few tokens to the masses, the Bahamian people should be the majority shareholders and owners of a legalized lottery system, a sort of modern asue that can be used to advance national development, more of which I will touch on next week.
The talk of an IPO by one gambling establishment may be a non-starter. Still, such talk is less about sharing wealth by Bahamians, than it is about getting shareholders whose money can then be transferred into commercial banks, while settling the concerns of bankers and regulators. This may be the real game afoot.
In days of old, slave masters, colonialists and the Old Guard hoarded wealth and rigged the economy to benefit their private interests at the expense of the public good.
How shameful that a New Guard, which came into being to fight such entrenched greed at the expense of the mass of Bahamians, turned its back on the majority of Bahamians in thrall to a wealthy minority interest, making a mockery of much of the struggle for majority rule.
As argued before in this space, Bahamians do not need scraps from the numbers banquet table. The table and the full meal belong to the people, not to a select few.

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

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We need policy, not pandering

March 15, 2017

"Your Free National Movement government will engage and execute a real sale of Baha Mar to a qualified and respectable purchaser who believes in Bahamians; a purchaser who will utilize only Bahamian labor to complete the resort, and will put Bahamians back to work with real jobs as quickly as possible." This statement by Dr. Hubert Minnis, leader of the Free National Movement (FNM), was, simply put, terribly unfortunate and contradicts the FNM chairman's statement that "the leader has never mentioned or hinted at nationalizing" Baha Mar. Minnis' statement was, at best, a terrible attempt to pander and, at worst, an awful policy miscalculation.
The government of The Bahamas does not own Baha Mar Limited; it never did. Sarkis Izmirlian owned Baha Mar Limited. When it went into liquidation, he continued to own it, though the liquidators stood in his stead to make decisions on behalf of the company, subject to court supervision. The liquidators, not the government, sold all the assets of Baha Mar Limited to Perfect Luck Holdings Limited, a privately owned company registered in Hong Kong. So, all those glorious buildings dotting the skyline of Cable Beach that we all associated with Baha Mar were bought by Perfect Luck, and Baha Mar Limited became merely a shell of itself - a company without those assets.
The government - i.e., the Christie administration - merely approved the sale of the assets of Baha Mar to Perfect Luck. It did so as the approver of inward foreign direct investment to the country and not as the owner of Baha Mar. Very likely, the government's approval was subject to certain, now undisclosed, conditions.
Perfect Luck Holdings Limited, in turn, has agreed to sell the assets bought from Baha Mar Limited to Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, which is a Hong Kong conglomerate that recorded revenues of some $8.2 billion in 2015. The government has approved that agreement for the sale, and the sale is now being consummated subject to necessary legal due diligence and execution.
Surely these easily verifiable facts must have been known to the leader of the Free National Movement, a sitting member of Parliament and the former leader of the opposition for most of the last five years. If he does not know these things, it would be an indictment on his execution of his duties these past several years. Knowing these facts, there is no way that Minnis would have or could have said what he said. Why? First, because if he were referring to Baha Mar, the company, he would be engaging someone to buy a worthless shell company that the government did not own. Secondly, if he were referring to those properties owned by Baha Mar, he would be seeking a buyer for properties now owned by a private concern, which he would have to nationalize first in order to sell or direct the sale of. The first point would make him look ridiculous and the second point, if he were taken seriously, would make him look scary.
Any Bahamian or foreign holder of assets in The Bahamas would be frightened by the prospect that a would-be prime minister of The Bahamas could adopt a policy of nationalizing assets so thoughtlessly or, alternatively, unknowingly speaking to the same thoughtlessly. The chairman of the FNM, Sidney Collie, did make an attempt to clean up this mess, which means that the party does understand the seriousness of the blunder made by its leader. Was the chairman's effort sufficient? No, because the chairman further convoluted the matter by suggesting that the leader never "mentioned or hinted at nationalizing". That is simply not so. All that the leader said at the very least hinted at nationalizing. As noted earlier, to sell or direct the sale of any asset of the former Baha Mar would require nationalizing as a first step. That is more than a hint. That is a holler.
It would be wise for the leader of the FNM to come out and expressly say to the country, and to the world, that nationalizing private assets is not a policy of the Free National Movement. It would be wise for him to point out, in fact, that the FNM's history, from which he seems to divorce himself as a "non-career" politician, is quite the opposite; that rather than nationalizing private assets, the party while in office privatized public assets, be they hotels, the telecommunications company, flight services or the airwaves. He needs to be unequivocal on this point, for the damage his statement threatens to do to confidence in governance in this country should he win is profound.
While he is at it, the leader must also divorce himself from the fact that there are people out there who believe that his willingness to make such a reckless statement has something to do with pandering to Sarkis Izmirlian. The notion being touted is that he made the statement to curry favor with Izmirlian, who might stand a chance to regain ownership of the development if once again made available by an FNM administration. As such, the thought is, Izmirlian might be willing to help fund the FNM's bid to win the next election. Rightly or wrongly, this notion is out there, and Minnis would be wise to dispel it. While a policy miscalculation is problematic in itself, the hint of this type of scenario is even more so.
There is a lesson here for the leader of the FNM and all political leaders. That lesson is: People preparing to govern should recognize that thoughtful policy, not pandering, is where you show true leadership. Pandering might be cute. It might even be a winning strategy; but if it is based upon ignorance, folly or lies, it will not win for the people one leads. The people of this country need leadership, sound leadership. That type of leadership knows that if you are going to tweet or post on Facebook, you better be thoughtful. If that leadership is going to bring change, it knows that it better be change that counts and change you can actually make. This is true for the career politician as well as politicians who have now made politics a career. It is true for the would-be prime minister who pulled himself up by his bootstraps, and the one who had someone else pull him up by the bootstraps.

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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Responding to the coming trade disorder

March 13, 2017

A few days ago, an astute observer of the U.S. political scene told me: "Watch what the new administration and Congress does, not what the president tweets. That is the secret of understanding future U.S. policy."
If this is correct, the Caribbean should ignore the noise and think hard about the implications of a nine-page document sent on March 1 to the U.S. Congress by the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). It makes clear the radical ambition of the new administration.
In stark and confrontational terms, it sets out the president and his advisers' zero-sum thinking on trade.
It makes clear that every trade-related action that the U.S. administration intends to take, will "be designed to increase (U.S.) economic growth, promote job creation in the United States, promote reciprocity with our trading partners, strengthen our manufacturing base and our ability to defend ourselves..."
It suggests that all trade relationships will in future be transactional, that geo-political considerations will be set aside, and that bilateral discussions will be prioritized over multilateral trade negotiations.
The document states bluntly that the Trump administration "will aggressively defend American sovereignty... will not tolerate" practices that harm U.S. workers' interests, and "will use all possible leverage to encourage other countries to give U.S. producers fair, reciprocal access to their markets".
When it comes to the WTO, the document, "The President's New Trade Policy Agenda", indicates that the U.S. will cease to comply with dispute settlement rulings that are not in its favor. Observing that such WTO procedures are "not binding or self-executing", it argues that any adverse rulings should not "automatically lead to a change in U.S. law or practice".
Put more simply, the U.S. appears to be about to set aside the WTO's dispute settlement procedures when it does not like the outcome.
It implies that either the U.S. will cease to participate in the present multilateral rules-based approach or, by ignoring negative rulings, cause its relationship with the organization's members to fall into abeyance, and trade disputes to be settled bilaterally.
This is a scenario that does not bode well for the ACP or small states in general.
For the last two decades, on issues from bananas to rum, the WTO has enabled the region to achieve negotiated outcomes that take account of many of its trade concerns. It has also enabled satisfactory final settlements in disputes, although in the case of Antigua's 2004 action on gaming, the U.S. has still to agree a satisfactory outcome.
More generally, the WTO has been able to smooth the process of economic globalization through mechanisms that encourage dialogue and consensus, has provided a forum for often highly technical and slow moving conversations about difficult tariff issues, and has achieved global acceptance that its rulings are binding.
Despite this, few nations have yet been prepared to say plainly how the U.S.'s mercantilist agenda threatens the existing global trade order.
However, in a likely indication of where the lines will be drawn internationally, Cuba recently made clear in a regional context where the new U.S. policy may lead.
Speaking in Caracas on March 5 to a summit of member countries of the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA), President Castro did not mince his words. "The new agenda of the United States government threatens to unleash extreme and egotistical trade protectionism which will impact the competitiveness of our foreign trade; violate environmental agreements to favor transnational revenues; (and to) persecute and deport migrants...." he said.
If taken to its logical conclusion, the new U.S. trade policy will almost certainly create the disorder that Castro described. However, it may also start a process that remakes multilateralism in the longer term, between nations that understand how with adjustments interdependence and economic globalization can enhance global economic and social development.
While the U.S. will remain one of the world's most powerful economic players, other nations, including China, Australia and the countries of Europe, remain committed to multilateralism. This suggests that together they are likely to want to see existing mechanisms remain viable, and to ensure their trade and other ties remain governed by an enforceable rules-based system.
Secondly, the new U.S. policy is driven by populism, the past, by decline, a loss of global status, and a nostalgia for older industries. While such factors are common traits with electorates and politicians in many countries, they are passing. They do not reflect the objective global reality of interdependence in manufacturing and services that, for good and bad, economic globalization has created in recent years. Nor do they relate to the real world of trade, where productivity, efficiency and competitiveness lead inexorably to complex international supply chains, robotics, globally delivered services, and the ability of finance, profit and employment to leap borders.
And thirdly, if U.S. trade policy ceases to be related to U.S. geopolitical imperatives, global economic leadership could change. China, Europe and others may emerge, once the shape of U.S. policy becomes clearer, as the new global champions, drawing nations into new regional and international configurations by gradually reducing tariffs and restrictions on imports of goods and services.
The U.S. administration's desire to have trade policy turn inward to reflect its domestic political objectives is understandable, if unwelcome. However, the reality is that, with a very few exceptions, the world economy has become globally integrated, causing nations to need the balanced multilateralism from which the U.S. now seems to wish to exempt itself.
In the short term and uniquely, the Caribbean, in the short term, can respond bilaterally.
Late last year the U.S. Congress passed, on a bi-partisan basis, The United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016. This offers the Caribbean, unlike any other part of the world, a legislatively binding timetable within which the U.S. government must come up with a clear plan as to how it intends developing a program of support for the region.
The act places the Caribbean squarely on Congress' short-term agenda, requiring evidence of need on issues from trade to climate change that, with U.S. support, might be addressed.
It offers the region, other than Cuba, an opportunity to develop a strong direct, political and functional dialogue with the U.S. Congress, while considering how in the longer term the coming trade disorder may change the global economic landscape.

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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'All Things Considered'

March 12, 2017

Nearly 10 years ago, I began to write a column in The Nassau Guardian almost by accident. Inspired by events going on all around us, I felt compelled to share my thoughts on The Bahamas and the direction it was going in letters to the editors of the local dailies. When The Nassau Guardian's editor suggested that I transform those thoughts into a weekly column, "Consider This..." was born.
For quite some time, several friends have strongly suggested that I collate the articles from the weekly columns into a book. Later this week, I plan to launch such a collection in a book entitled "All Things Considered".
Therefore, this week I would like to Consider this... What were some of the factors that motivated this author to write a weekly column about our beloved country?

The early days
Consider This... first appeared in The Nassau Guardian in the closing months of 2008 after Erica Wells-Cox, managing editor at the time, invited me to write a weekly column about some of the subjects that were covered in various letters to the editor that I had written. I readily accepted, although I did not have any idea that this weekly column would still be going nearly 10 years later. I was driven by an intense desire to chronicle my thoughts about some of the ongoing events in our society, including political, social, economic and general interest situations and developments that caught my attention, and that I hoped would be of interest to the readers of this column.
The column came on the heels of a 15-year parliamentary career, 10 in the Senate and a single term in the House of Assembly as the representative of the great constituency of Englerston, an experience for which I will be eternally grateful.
I entered frontline politics as a member of the Official Opposition. The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) had just lost the general election on August 19, 1992. My first term was perhaps the most challenging, because many of my close friends who supported the newly elected Free National Movement (FNM) government wondered if I had lost my mind by accepting Sir Lynden's invitation to serve as a senator at a time when the environment could best be described as belligerently and vitriolically hostile to PLP supporters and standard-bearers.
But that was understandable. There were many Bahamians who felt, that in the waning years of Sir Lynden's 25-year "reign", some PLP politicians had become disconnected from the average Bahamian, and that it was truly "time for a change", which was the FNM's election battle cry. The Bahamian people agreed, and so said, so done.
While in Parliament, I was privileged to be able to comment on matters of state at a national level. I was always driven by a burning desire to advocate for policies that would improve the common good.
Occasionally, while in opposition, I was criticized for commending the FNM government when, in my opinion, it was deserved and applauded when taking the government to task for policies with which I disagreed.
After serving 15 years in Parliament, from 1992 to 2007, the desire to be engaged in discourse on public policy had not waned simply because I was no longer there. Hence, my thoughts on national matters in letters to the editor, as I indicated, were a precursor to the weekly columns.

'All Things Considered'
Today, after nearly 10 years, the column is still published weekly in The Nassau Guardian. After being encouraged by many persons, especially Sir Arthur Foulkes; Sean McWeeney, QC; Sir Franklyn Wilson and the late John Dean, formerly Fr. Bonaventure Dean (the former prior of St. Augustine's Monastery and headmaster of St. Augustine's College), I finally decided to compile a series of articles into a first volume of "All Things Considered".
I was equally inspired to write the book by the desire to compile a selection of articles that would potentially reach an even larger audience. This first book chronicles 89 selected articles from 2008 to 2012 from a total of approximately 200 articles that were written and published during that period.
Topics in the first volume range from the goals of governance to the fundamental function of the fourth estate; from the behemoth Baha Mar project, which at the time was in its infancy, to the precariousness of politics, policy formulation and national development.
This collection will remind both the regular and the first-time reader of these columns, of the scope of history contained in these years, from the struggles of the third non-consecutive Ingraham administration to the riveting run-up to and astonishing aftermath of the 2012 general election.
Also included in this collection are features about Bahamian history, reflections on what our realities should be for the best Bahamas possible, and commentaries about our leaders, past and present.
This book contains information and opinions about The Bahamas, all shaped by my primary purpose to encourage readers to consider subject matters from alternative perspectives and features illustrations from the "Sideburns" archives of Stan Burnside, which creatively capture in cartoons the essence of the book's 13 chapters.
The book is dedicated to my parents. "All Things Considered" was extensively edited by Patricia Beardsley Roker and formatted and laid out by Sheila Bethel. The foreword was written by His Excellency Sir Arthur Foulkes with an introduction by Sean McWeeney, QC. There are other important persons who have provided critical commentary on various articles throughout the period covered who are acknowledged in the book.

From author to reader
One of the most fascinating experiences that I encountered while reviewing the articles that were selected for the first volume, was the completely different perspective I developed as I found myself transformed from author to reader.
Each week as I prepared to write the column, I reflected on the myriad of factors that impacted the subject matter on which I proposed to write. After much reflection, research and fact-checking, I committed my thoughts to paper. Once completed, rarely did I return to read the pieces unless I received a critical comment that challenged the point that I sought to make or needed clarification from a reader.
However, in the past six months while preparing this volume, I was amazed, and at times even impressed, at how prescient some of the articles were. It was almost as if time stood still, and in some instances, some of my prognostications many years ago came true.

Conclusion
It is a singular honor and privilege to be afforded the opportunity to address the nation, sometimes even reaching far beyond our shores, on a weekly basis. It is a responsibility that I take very seriously. There is an awesome burden to be accurate, fair, objective, balanced and, above all, honest in the views that are proffered each week. I am still amazed by and grateful to the many persons from all walks of life who regularly encouraged me to continue to write.
I would like to publicly thank the publishers of The Nassau Guardian for their continued confidence in this columnist and the many readers who have regularly commented on my submissions. My dedication to contribute to the public discourse each week is truly a labor of love. Invariably, I honestly feel that I have benefited more by thrashing out and mulling over ideas and researching the subjects about which I wrote than those who read the column. Hence, my weekly writing has become, for me, a continuous educational exercise.
In his introduction to "All Things Considered", Sir Arthur Foulkes observes: "The print medium with its professional journalists, editorialists and columnists has played an indispensable role in the development of modern democratic societies." I trust that those who read this book will agree that in some small measure my writing has contributed to the national discourse and can be viewed as eventually assisting in the advancement of our society.

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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Crime and the at-risk Caribbean child

March 11, 2017

The rise in crime in St. Kitts and Nevis is not an unexpected phenomenon. As a matter of fact, it was expected. The Caribbean region is undergoing a massive challenge in the way law enforcement combats crime. An even bigger challenge is that the once docile citizen is now displaying a lack of confidence in those who are sworn to protect and serve.
It is easy to place blame on whatever political party or politician the people dislike most. It is also easy for governments to panic and hire consultants with no public safety background to help quell the issue of crime in their countries. What they end up getting is a large bill and no results, while their crime continues to escalate. Crime went from 29 percent over three years to 50 percent in two years.
According to Nigerian criminologist Dr. Olusola O. Karimu (2015), these governments focus on the controversies of gun ownership, gun violence, and the relationship between guns, drugs, and gangs (Martinez, Mares & Ronsefeld, 2008). What they fail to do is speak directly to those who have been convicted of these crimes to understand the problem from the perspectives and experiences of those who are convicted and therefore directly involved in committing the crime (Kleck and Kovanidick, 2009).
This is something that was done by Dr. Celvin Walwyn, who went to the prison and spoke with the inmates involved in the gang warfare in the Federation and got insights from them on how to reduce crime in the Federation. It is evident that the strategy worked, as the Federation realized an almost 30 percent decline in major crimes during a 36-month term from 2012-2014.
The following is a mix of Karimu's writings and Walwyn's observations as a police commissioner.
The mindset explained by Kleck and Kovandick (2009) is similarly displayed by criminal justice professionals, academics and community advocates who work with offenders involved in gun violence crime and especially communities in general who have been affected by this problem. These groups need to understand the detailed perceptions and experiences of these offenders that they might develop strategies, provide better futures for the offenders and give hope to communities who are greatly affected by their crime. The fact is that there are no known studies that have been carried out among the population of convicted gun violence offenders in St. Kitts-Nevis jails. The following statements are based on Karimu's research.
A qualitative study was conducted by (Bennett and Fraser, 2000) on gun violence among African American males, using the social disorder theory. These social scientists argued that the effectiveness of families in raising children is directly related to the effectiveness of neighborhoods in supporting families. Neighborhoods provide settings that help promote critical developmental processes, which in turn shape a child's sense of well-being and self-efficacy.
Social developmental processes that occur through involvement with parents, teachers and peers are contextually dependent. That is, they are based on webs of strong and weak social ties that provide role models and rewards for pro-social behavior (Fraser, 1996). Bennett and Fraser, noted that these processes are disrupted when fear of victimization, anger and pessimism break down social cohesion.
From this perspective, the nature of the social environment - particularly the neighborhood - affects family functioning. Moreover, it helps to explain collective destructive acts that occur in riots, gang confrontations and other seemingly spontaneous violent events.
Therefore, it is important to note that gun violence and violent crime are neither equally likely to occur in all societies nor randomly spread through a given country. As argued by the social disorganization theorists, violence is a pattern within cities.
Persistently high levels of neighborhood violence and crime rates are due in part to the cultural transmission of deviant/violent values (Vito, Maahs & Homes, 2007). Once crime becomes entrenched in a location, violence becomes a natural part of the cognitive landscape. Gun violence and other types of violent behaviors become a way of life and a means to solve personal and life problems.
This is exemplified by the study of Hochstetler and Copes (2008), which concludes that exposure to violence and other criminal activities in one's neighborhood at a young age, fosters an environment that will lead individuals to rationalize their participation in criminal behavior even when confronted with other viable alternatives.
Similarly, Breetzke (2010) and Fox, Lane, and Akers (2010) have also conducted studies to test and confirm the usefulness of social disorganization theory as an explanation of criminal behavior.
This explains why St. Kitts and Nevis and the rest of the Caribbean are experiencing these challenges. The fundamentals of ensuring that the community invests in the children have been negated. The result is children finding alternatives to their perception of economics, as many are unemployed and face daily challenges of hunger and poverty. A quick fix without the right tools leads to more devastation.
The Federation once had viable alternatives to the gang situation. From 35 murders in 2011 to 21 murders in 2014. Juvenile crime was reduced to almost zero. There were programs in the primary and secondary schools to help curb gang recruitment. The programs reached all the way down to the kindergarteners. This implementation was a suggestion from a gang member who wanted to save the children from recruitment.
Talking about saving the children, saving the economy and preserving life in the Caribbean, comes at a cost to local governments. They can continue paying for unqualified consultants to come and spout theories, or they can go back to the basics and return the programs of MAGIC and TAPS to the schools. They can also return to the courses of annual customer service refresher courses for all police employees (civilians included).
Our police forces are the ambassadors of the government and the local communities. An officer's demeanor when dealing with the public must constantly be kept in check. There is also a need for the government to establish and monitor the philosophy of the police force as it relates to community policing. The police must be perceived to be approachable.
Crime is everyone's business and the police need community participation to solve crimes. Social media programs can help repair the bridge between community and police.
The years 2012 to 2014 saw a decline in major crime in St. Kitts and Nevis. Crime in the schools also was at an all-time low. The St. Kitts government supported programs like the Law Enforcement Explorers Program (LEEP), where at-risk children from the Basseterre and West Basseterre areas would meet at the police training schools every other weekend to learn leadership development in law enforcement. They were given alternatives to drugs, gangs, guns and violence.
This was designed to reach the young men who lived in gang infested neighborhoods. It was working. The instructor was a police-trained PEP worker. The commissioner of police attended every meeting. It worked; so did MAGIC and TAPS. The question then would be one that simply asks, has crime in that Federation increased since 2014? The results were published last week by their police and, from a 29 percent decrease in crime, they rose to a 56 percent increase in crime. What went wrong? Were the factors put in place to reach and divert the juveniles replaced or removed?
Finally, Karimu has strongly expressed that no single theory can adequately explain criminal behavior because of the diverse nature of the etiology of criminal behavior. Karimu also suggested that to be effective in crime-fighting we should ask three questions:
1. Do the same neighborhood characteristics that are associated with elevated levels of crime also explain the relationship between gun violence and the urban neighborhoods?
2. Does social disorganization explain the relationship between the condition of a neighborhood and crimes involving gun violence?
3. What is the life experience of the convicted gun violence offenders of Her Majesty's Prison and how is it related to gun violence?
As we ponder these questions, may the leadership of the Caribbean look, listen and learn as they prepare to face the challenges ahead. The crime in their regions has the potential to increase, especially as the new U.S. immigration policies go into effect.

o Dr. Olusola O. Karimu, a U.S.-trained criminal justice professional and international police consultant, teaches at a university in Nigeria and can be reached on Twitter at @olusok. Dr. Celvin G. Walwyn, a career U.S. law enforcement official, served as a Texas police chief and Caribbean commissioner of police. He is now an international police consultant and also serves as an adjunct professor at a major Texas university. He can be reached at info@walwyn.com or at @drwalwyn on Twitter. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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The vainglorious and self-absorbed Branville McCartney

March 09, 2017

DNA Leader Branville McCartney is a political charlatan. The self-absorbed celebrity hides behind supposed high-minded principle but is really an egotist more wedded to his self-advancement than the good of the country.
McCartney's split with the FNM and subsequent launch of his vanity party helped the PLP to win the 2012 general election, without winning a majority of the popular vote. The PLP win has proven disastrous for the country, resulting in massive corruption, dramatic economic decline and the worst government since the drug era PLP.
Despite this abysmal record, McCartney seems hell-bent on splitting the opposition vote again, and helping the PLP to win re-election, despite his protestations of wanting a change of government.
The DNA will not win the 2017 general election. As in 2012, it is highly unlikely that it will win any seats. Clearly, McCartney would prefer that Christie and the PLP return to office than an FNM victory.
In a statement after he recently resigned from the Senate, McCartney stated that he wants: an "end to this corruption that pollutes and perverts governance in our country; ... real accountability for where in the world our billions of tax dollars have been funneled without our knowledge; ... a government that stands for you and will return power and prosperity to the rightful owners of The Bahamas..."
Given his supposed outrage at the PLP, and that the DNA has no chance of winning the next election, it is McCartney who is a farce. His actions and that of the DNA may ensure five more years of Christie and the PLP.
If the DNA helps the PLP to win the next election, it will bear some responsibility for the downward spiral of the country.
McCartney is like a spoiled privileged child when he can't get his peevish way. Just as he stormed out of the FNM under then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, he would prefer an FNM loss if he cannot get what he thinks he deserves from the party that he hurt at the last election. He is a pampered crybaby.

Fixated
McCartney is not truly concerned about the country. He is fixated on his overblown ego, inflated sense of self and desire to become prime minister. He is prepared to see the country go to hell for the sake of his vainglory and ambition.
DNA supporters and senior members should not trust McCartney. Was he prepared to see the collapse of the DNA if he were given a special deal by the FNM?
Just as he betrayed Hubert Ingraham and Opposition Leader Loretta Butler-Turner, McCartney could betray his DNA colleagues.
FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis revealed that McCartney's high price for a coalition with the FNM was 16 of the seats the opposition stands the best chance of winning.
It is blazing arrogance that the fledgling DNA, with no seats in the House of Assembly, wanted an established major party, with four decades in existence and an impressive record in office, to roll over and allow McCartney's vanity party to potentially win such a high number of seats.
Had the FNM agreed to such a laughable, skewed deal, and had the DNA won those seats, McCartney would have been in the driver's seat.
McCartney is not a man of loyalty. Elected to the House of Assembly for the first time in 2007 under the FNM banner, he betrayed Ingraham and the FNM because he was incensed that he was not made a substantive minister at the same time as the late Charles Maynard, who was named minister of youth, sports and culture.
McCartney was fortunate to be made a minister of state so quickly. Others waited years before being made a state minister. But McCartney believed that he was special, the cat's meow.
Even during his initial days as a state minister, which he spent at the Ministry of Tourism, he chaffed that he did not have his own ministry, that he was not in charge, that his supposed stellar gifts were not being fully utilized.
By stellar gifts, McCartney must have meant his penchant for public relations, his perfumed appearance and love of fashion, and his stylized smug speaking style in which he attempts to give the impression of a student of policy with the patina of a serious leader.
This is all show with little substance. Many of McCartney's Cabinet colleagues viewed him as a man of little substance, who had little to say around the Cabinet table.

Judgement
McCartney was no Charlie Maynard, who was a hard worker, a man of humility, who was loyal to his party, and who had tremendous substance, and good policy and political judgement.
Maynard took his time learning the system and was working himself up the political ladder. His premature death is a loss to the country.
After becoming Leader of the Official Opposition, Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner appointed McCartney leader of government business in the Senate. With light year speed McCartney betrayed Butler-Turner.
There appeared to be more of a political arrangement between the two than McCartney will publicly admit. Soon after the appointment hell broke loose among many DNA supporters opposed to the appointment.
"Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and caldron bubble". McCartney was in political hot water of his own making. Enraged DNA supporters vented their volcanic anger toward him.
Within months, the preening McCartney resigned from the Senate, which made his statement after his abrupt resignation curious, telling and unconvincing.
McCartney stated: "Every decision I have made since entering frontline politics has not been made lightly.
"Whether it was to leave the FNM, to lead the DNA, or most recently, to accept the post as leader of opposition business in the Senate, I have carefully and prayerfully considered my moves as a public figure.
"It was no different when accepting the appointment as leader of opposition business in the Senate...
"It was an honor to once again represent the Bahamian people, however briefly, but it is clear the Bahamian people will be better served by a DNA not complicit in the dysfunction that hobbles Parliament at this time."

Sanctimonious
The statement is drenched in sanctimonious smugness, ridiculous rationalizations and cynical cant.
If McCartney had to resign so quickly, clearly he did not fully consider his actions before accepting the Senate appointment. He clearly threw Butler-Turner under the proverbial bus.
McCartney got bludgeoned from within for accepting the appointment. He was bound to make an exit from the Senate at the most convenient time.
The appointment was never about serving the Bahamian people or using it as a platform to address public policy and governance. It was just another platform for the self-absorbed and vainglorious celebrity more interested in performance art, profiling and public relations.
In his self-serving dribble of a statement McCartney noted: "Let the record reflect that when the electorate called for a more pragmatic opposition, the DNA was the first and only party to answer."
This is pure malarkey, a euphemism for a word that can't be used in this space. Others have sought pragmatic accommodation, which McCartney and the DNA scuttled because of their unreasonable and arrogant demands.
The only reasonable accommodation in McCartney's fairy tale world is for him to become prime minister, because, gosh darn it, when he looks in the mirror, he sees the fairest of them all, with a manicured persona better suited for reality television than the realities of serious politics and the hard work of government.

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

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Our corporate strategy is crucial

March 08, 2017

Look to government if you want; the future prosperity of The Bahamas rests more in the corporate boardrooms of this nation than in the Cabinet room.
When entrepreneurs pursue new opportunities to make money, they create jobs and new spinoff business. When existing businesses see opportunities to expand, they create new jobs and new spinoff business. When international investors see new opportunities to make profits in The Bahamas and from within The Bahamas, they create jobs and new spinoff business. New jobs and new spinoff business means economic expansion for our country and prosperity for our people.
Seeing and seizing those opportunities depends on corporate strategy, not government largess. Yes some corporate strategies recognize government facilitation through public projects, policies or laws, but they seldom depend entirely upon it. There is simply no expansion, enhancement or diversification of our economy to come without Bahamian companies having strategies that produce the same in the present and emerging global economic environment.
Strategy is about winning and winning is about a company finding its unique place and space in the market place. Strategy enables a company to determine the competitive environment in which it operates and how best to offer value to customers in that environment. Strategy allows an organization to leverage its core competencies to ensure that it is essentially competing against itself. When a company has strategy, it employs innovation effectively to offer continuously increasing value to its customers. In the boardrooms of effective companies, strategy is the thread that runs through all decisions, from hiring the CEO to training the janitors. If a company does not have a strategy, it is trading on luck and transacting on chance.
The operating environment of the Bahamian economy is fiercely competitive. It is demanding as hell. Our main business is service, provided in forms of tourism and finance. Like it or not, our wholesale and retail trade, agriculture, fisheries and the like, only thrive when our service to our tourism and finance customers thrive. This is our present reality. Even financing our public services depends on the health of our tourism and financial services sectors. With the exception of Grand Bahama's container transshipment, ship repair, oil bunkering and pharmaceutical manufacturing businesses, virtually every other business in our nation goes where our tourism and financial services business goes. So corporate strategy in tourism and financial services is key, and the strategies of those who depend on them, must tie in.
We need to examine our corporate strategy, individually and as a matter of collective economic impact. Over the last 20 years, competitive rivalry in tourism has increased substantially. Practically all countries in the world have taken tourism seriously and are now competing for tourists. In federal states, individual states are competing for the residents of other states and international visitors. There has been an explosion of new entrants into the marketplace and the cost of shifting destinations to visit has decreased under competitive pressures. Operating on no strategy or a strategy not consistent with this reality means losing the game. We are losing the game because we have lost too much in air visitors versus cruise visitors. Our strategy must not be to get one versus the other, but to get more of both. Doing this requires a synchronized strategy in the corporate boardrooms of this nation as well as the Cabinet room.
Financial services has suffered intensely increased competition from individual corporate entities as well as countries seeking to build their centers. In addition, governments in developed countries from where the customers of the offshore financial services sectors come have applied intense pressure to ensure that offshore funds return home, and stop leaving in the first place. Again, the strategy of financial services companies in tandem with the nation's public policy strategy must comport with these realities.
I have no doubt that there are many great strategists in our corporate boardrooms. I believe that, for any number of reasons, effective strategy in our Cabinet room may be less so but possible, especially when it comes to financial, business and economic strategy. I do know this much: Whether it is in the boardroom or in the Cabinet room, if strategy is deficient and strategists not available, we need to purchase the same whenever we can and do so as a matter of urgency. The Bahamas is going downhill economically, and its decline is not a matter of party politics; it's a matter of fundamental economic strategy. If the expertise exists at home to find, develop and execute effective corporate and economic strategies for us, then let's pay the money to obtain it. If we have to go to Timbuktu to get those strategies, let's go online, book our flights and be on our way. The broad platitudes of manifestos and agendas or contracts are not strategy. Strategy is strategy, and no strategy is more critical in this hour than that which prevails in corporate Bahamas.

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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Has Caribbean sugar a future

March 07, 2017

Unless the sugar industry in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) can develop in the coming months a coordinated and concerted plan of action, it is quite possible that in a few years' time there will be little left of an industry that, for evil and good, has played a central role in the making of the Caribbean.
This is because this year will see two tsunami-like events occur, both of which threaten the survival of the industry in its present form.
The first relates to the changes that will take place this October in the EU's sugar regime. Then, as a long-planned domestic measure, the EU will abolish national sugar production quotas in Europe. This will have the effect of reducing the price paid for Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) sugar, while also causing the overall volume of EU sugar imports to fall as Europe becomes self-sufficient.
The measure, according to the European Commission's late 2015 report "EU Agricultural Outlook 2015 - 2025", is likely to see the EU sugar price declining to something approaching the already low world market price, forcing the EU sugar sector "to become more competitive", and "reducing the incentive for trade partners to export to the EU".
For high cost, Caribbean producers - Guyana, Barbados, Belize and Jamaica - and almost all smaller cane producers in the ACP, this potentially spells the end of the EU market, as previously quota-restrained EU beet farmers expand production, taking advantage of much improved yields and industry consolidation, to sell without restriction across Europe and to export.
The second challenge arises out of the UK's 2016 decision to leave the EU. Britain is expected to notify formally the EU of this later this month, triggering years of uncertainty for all of Britain's trade partners as they negotiate new arrangements.
For the region, which still exports much of its sugar to the UK for refining, the timing is complicated. Not only will the new EU sugar regime apply to the UK until it formally separates in 2019 at the earliest, but this means that Britain is unlikely, for some time yet, to be able to reconcile politically, how it will address the sugar issue.
This arises because any UK government is going to have to determine how to balance and resolve the competing post-Brexit interests of its domestic sugar producers; its cane sugar refiners; desired trade deals with major cane sugar and by-product producers like Brazil; and ACP development, probably in that order.
It is already clear that the British Sugar Corporation, which represents British beet growers is preparing for a monumental fight. They make the case that because they are efficient and make a significant economic contribution to the UK economy, they offer Britain the opportunity to protect the UK from imports of cane and beet sugar from producers wherever they may be.
Unfortunately, the industry in CARICOM must address both challenges at a time when the sugar sector still has many fundamental, unresolved issues.
While progress is being made in Belize and Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic has a viable privatized industry, there remain problems across CARICOM arising from the persistently high cost of production, poor labor relations and inefficiencies.
More significantly, despite years of discussion and external support, governments and the industry have not so far been able to undertake the type of reforms underway elsewhere in the ACP that could viably link sugar production to sugar refining, to the rum and ethanol industries, and to power generation and food production.
What is now happening in Europe, however, goes further, raising existential questions requiring a regional consensus and response.
In this context, a High Level Caribbean Sugar Policy Workshop planned for Kingston, Jamaica, on March 23-24, is of potentially great importance. Organized jointly by the Sugar Association of the Caribbean, CARICOM and other partners from inside and beyond the region, it involves ministers, officials and most importantly a wide range of industry partners, whose future governments now hold in their hands.
Although the agenda is still being set, some possible approaches to the discussion were contained in an ACP-endorsed study produced last year by Cardno/LMC International. This set out the risks facing ACP sugar producers from changes to the EU sugar regime, reviewed the situation in each ACP sugar producing nation and suggested possible mitigating actions.
It recommended, in part, that the regional integration of ACP sugar industries should be a priority. In this context, it noted that while governments were free to support their industries by raising tariffs, co-ordination within free trade areas would be required if producers were to gain.
It is an idea that in a Caribbean context would mean not just a greater emphasis on CARICOM sugar production for the regional market, but an adjustment to the Common External Tariff to protect the industry while it adapts to new market conditions.
Although any measure that sustains sugar prices through inter-regional preference may prove controversial, securing a viable future for the sugar industry is important for the region.
Even if the industry now only accounts for less than two percent of regional GDP - a figure that pales in comparison to tourism - it is still a significant employer of labor; supports rural communities; provides a range of social services; preserves the environment and contributes to carbon reduction; and indirectly halts urban drift and the associated problems of crime.
What transpires at the Kingston conference remains to be seen, but already there are ideas in circulation aimed at trying to identify a more secure future for the industry. Tariffs apart, these include possible joint arrangements for inter-regional and international marketing, creating a definition of Caribbean originating sugar, improving efficiency through privatization and identifying sources of finance to achieve this.
Within 10 years the EU market for raw sugar from the Caribbean will most likely be all but a matter of history. While sugar production in CARICOM is unlikely to cease, hopefully by then what is left will be very different, reoriented, efficient and a part of a broader cane-based industrial sector.

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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Reforming our electoral process, pt. 2

March 05, 2017

"Nothing is more unreliable than the populace, nothing more obscure than human intentions, nothing more deceptive than the whole electoral system."
- Marcus Tullius Cicero

As we observed last week, every five years Bahamians go to the polls in impressive numbers to determine which political party should govern the country for the ensuing five years.
We specifically addressed how candidates for Parliament are selected by the major political parties. We suggested that one reform that is needed is greater participation of constituents in selecting their candidates if the latter are going to be accepted by and gain the cooperation of the former.
We also examined the criteria that should be considered in selecting candidates, another area for reform.
This week, we would like to continue our discussion of electoral reform and to Consider this... In what other areas are electoral reforms needed?
We will examine what reforms are needed in determining constituency boundaries prior to an election, how we can improve the voter registration process and how we can create a more efficient electoral system, especially on election day.

Drawing constituency boundaries
In virtually every election cycle, the incumbent political party has a perceived advantage because of the composition of the Boundaries Commission, which is mandated to determine the constituency boundaries. The commission is comprised of the speaker of the House of Assembly, a Supreme Court justice, two members of Parliament chosen from the governing party and one from the opposition. Because of the composition of the commission, there is a perception that the governing party has an advantage because three of the five members come from that party.
There is also a perception that the Supreme Court justice will bring a level of objectivity and impartiality to the determination of the boundaries that will be drawn. Of course, there is also a view that the sole opposition member on the commission will be overwhelmed, outvoted and out-maneuvered by his parliamentary colleagues opposite.
A further anomaly regarding the determination of constituency boundaries is that the prime minister has the final say over the recommendations of the commission.
The result of this arrangement is that the opposition always feels that it is disadvantaged by the will of the governing party. What then is the solution? It is quite simple, in theory, if not in reality. The negative perceptions regarding the current system of determining constituency boundaries could only be overcome if the commission were truly independent of the political directorate, and devoid of any participation of any of the sitting members of Parliament. In the absence of such an independent commission, the opposition will always feel disadvantaged by the majority and will always make the case that the governing party has gerrymandered the recommendations of the commission.
We observed that this solution is quite simple, except that it can only be accomplished by a change in the existing constitutional arrangements, which will require a referendum, and we all know what the outcomes of such plebiscites have been in the past two decades.
Nevertheless, it is incumbent on all political parties to come together and unite on this one idea that, unless and until there is unanimity between the political parties, there will always be a sense that the system of setting constituency boundaries favors one party over the other.

Voter registration
For decades, we have operated under an archaic, albeit effective, voter registration process. Depending upon who is in charge of voter registration, the registration protocols can greatly vary, from what documents are required to register to what is considered to be the appropriate dress code when registering to vote. Notwithstanding certain tangential anomalies, generally, voters in The Bahamas who are eligible to vote are afforded that right.
Because of the ambiguity of clearly defined, universally accepted registration protocols, it might appear to the casual observer and to some persons seeking to register that (a) the voter registration process could be a frustrating exercise, or (b) claims of voter suppression could be leveled against the parliamentary commissioner's office and by extension the government. Neither perception is constructive for a thriving democracy. Not only must the electoral system be fair, it must be viewed or seen to be fair to all, without preference to anyone.
A more fundamental question that needs to be addressed is whether the present system of requiring voters to re-register every five years is the most effective, efficient and judicious approach.
Perhaps the time has come for us to examine how voter registration is executed in other democratic countries. An assessment of different jurisdictions demonstrates that the process varies.
In the United States, for example, some voters can take advantage of same-day registration when they arrive at the polls. The Bahamas has a long way to go before this practice can be feasibly adapted.
In Australia, voter registration, called "enrolment", is mandatory by law for all citizens, and failure to register to vote, as well as to actually vote, can result in being fined. Similarly, if a change of address causes an individual to move to another constituency, they are legally obliged to notify the Electoral Commission within eight weeks of such a change.
In Canada, voters indicate their consent to be added to the national voters' register on their annual income tax returns. The register is updated from numerous other sources, including provincial and territorial motor vehicle registrars, Canada Revenue Agency and other Canadian government agencies. Same-day registration is also permitted in Canada.
Denmark, Germany and Finland all use national identification numbers, and all citizens are accordingly added to the voter registers using such numbers. In each country, voters are legally required to notify the authorities of changes in addresses. Voters receive a voter's card in the mail before each election which reflects the date, time and local polling place.
The point is that we should assess how voter registration is conducted in the advanced democracies and determine whether we should indigenize some of the strengths of those systems for our purposes, in order to improve and streamline our voter registration process.

Avoiding election-day fiascos
After all the campaigning is completed, after all the rallies have run their course, after all the door to door canvassing has been exhausted, voting in The Bahamas boils down to 10 all-important hours, from 8 a.m., when the polls first open, to 6 p.m., when voting ceases. Then the excitement really begins, as virtually every ear is glued to the radio and every eye is fastened on the televised returns as the poll results slowly make their way from election returning officers, to the parliamentary commissioner's office and then to the radio and TV stations.
Vote counting can be a protracted, arduous and tedious process as each ballot is counted in the polling divisions, closely scrutinized to determine the voter's real intention. Occasionally, this process requires the repeated laborious, monotonous recounting exercise that often tests the patience and judgment of the presiding and returning officers, as well as the candidates who are seeking election.
One possible reform that should be seriously considered is the use of electronic voting machines which can, in many cases, rapidly and accurately determine the election results. Notwithstanding occasional election-day fiascos that have been periodically experienced in other countries, electronic voting machines are generally accepted as being reliable, dependable and efficient. Therefore, we should consider whether the time has come for us to modernize our electoral process with the introduction of electronic voting machines.

Conclusion
We believe that there is considerable room for improving our electoral processes. We should continue to examine decades-old election methods and critically assess whether there is a better, more modern and efficient way of achieving our election results.
By critically challenging and examining our boundaries selection, voter registration and actual voting practices, we can begin to implement improvements that could really deepen and enrich our democracy in ways that were previously unimagined.
In addition to modernizing our electoral process, we might realize the added dividends that such electoral reforms could greatly alleviate the apathy that has been gradually seeping into the body politic. These changes and improvements could make our democracy a more fully functioning, fully participatory exercise, embracing all and allowing everyone a more vibrant voice in choosing leaders who would further develop and strengthen our nation and its future.

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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