The barbarians at the gate

February 20, 2017

Dear Editor,
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), the party which I fully support, made a terrible tactical decision back in 2012, when our operatives erected huge billboards across New Providence which sought to bring attention to the horrific number of alleged homicides perpetuated under the FNM's watch leading up to the general election of that year.
At the time it seemed "cute" and an effective way to highlight the rising trend of serious crimes at that juncture. Mind you, the billboards were just what the doctor may have ordered, but, in hindsight, we, the PLP, made a tactical error of the highest order. Crime and the fear of crime have retarded the growth of our national and personal development.
We are spending tens of millions of dollars on court houses, manpower and other resources, but the results are dismal at best. We are not, I submit, receiving value for money. I am not one to engage in the senseless blame game, which seems to be playing out between society, the police and the politician. There is no one single answer to the plague of crime and there is little, if anything, anyone is able to do to contain the fear of crime. It is what it is.
Many of us are wringing our collective hands and bemoaning the fact that we seem to have lost our fundamental traditions and societal mores. In short, many of our younger people, and some not-too-old ones, have evolved into nasty, brutish beasts with absolutely no regard for God, much less man. This evolution was predicted decades ago by the late, great and indomitable Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling. Many thought that he was talking out of his head, but time has proven him correct.
The barbarians, back in the day at any given time, could have been the Huns or the Germanic tribes, who at various junctures invaded and over-ran Europe and the so-called Western world on a regular basis. They raped, pilfered and destroyed with abandonment. The barbarians, of our own making, are now at our collective gates here in New Providence and parts of Grand Bahama. These are the only two inhabited islands where we seem to have hot spots of crime.
I hate to say it, but bad news should and must always be faced head-on. The bad news is that a large majority of our younger people is anti-social. Many of them are intellectually dumb and are prone to emulate what they consider to be a bling-bling lifestyle with all of the negatives that go with the same. They will lash out to assault someone, be it man, woman, boy or girl, with impunity. It would not be in your best interest to yuck up some of their vexations because you could end up as another homicide stat.
The barbarians are now at the gate, and the question is, how do we stop them? It would be impossible to do so. They have already infiltrated our midst and until they eliminate each other the bloody carnage will go on unabated. It is as simple as that. Political barbarians are also at the gate.
We all remember how Dr. Hubert Minnis ranted and raved against Renward Wells (PLP-Bamboo Town) a few years ago. He (Minnis) demanded answers from Wells and the PLP administration about the letter of intent. One would think that by now Wells would have told Minnis about what went down. Now that Wells is in Minnis' orbit, not a word from either of them. Misleading the electorate? It starts at the top, across the board.
The average law-abiding citizen and resident has very little to fear about crime, and unless one is in the wrong place at the wrong time, it is highly unlikely that you'd become a stat. The prime minister is my political leader and an individual whom I greatly admire. Similarly, Dr. Bernard Nottage (PLP-Bains Town and Grants Town), our minister of national security, is a stand up guy. They are wrong, however, in their assessments on crime and their knee-jerk reactions, with all due respect.
We do not have a "Wild West" in our wonderful country. That was a bad choice of words on the part of my beloved and visionary leader. I am sure that he innocently uttered those words in a moment of speaking off the cuff, which, at this electoral season, conveyed the wrong message to the average Bahamian. Nottage says that he is going to call out the officers of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force to assist in the fight against crime. This is dead wrong along with his suggestions of restricting the free movement of citizens and residents.
Nottage's suggestions, while sounding good, will not solve anything except to create more legal work for hot-shot lawyers, who will challenge such legislation as unconstitutional. In addition, the police or defense force officers cannot possibly cover every square foot of our islands. The commissioner has bad public relations skills and he, too, is prone to dramatics and platitudes. He is "too cute" for his own good, in my opinion.
Now, he and the PM appear to be publicly feuding and talking over each other's heads. This is wrong and can only negatively impact my party, the PLP. The PM should immediately do two things: call a national prayer service in conjunction with the so-called religious leaders and civil society for Fort Charlotte, and call a national conclave with all political parties, stakeholders and other Bahamians of good will to, again, discuss and dissect the causes of crime and come up with workable and, if necessary, draconian adjustments to the Bail Act.
Other than this, the PM, with all due respect, needs to make a guest appearance on Real Talk Live Prime Time sooner rather than later. Yes, the barbarians are at the gate, but in all things, even this, to God be the glory.

- Ortland H. Bodie Jr.

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Spoil the ballot campaign

February 20, 2017

"The power of the ballot we need in sheer defense, else what shall save us from a second slavery?" - W.E.B. Du Bois

History is replete with democratic societies whose social and political developments have been punctuated by decades-long, hard-fought battles to gain the right to vote. This was evident in the case of the British suffragettes, who won the right to vote in the 1830s, their American counterparts who achieved the same right in 1920, African-Americans in the 19th century and our own suffragettes, who won the right to vote for the first time in the 1962 general election.
Recently, several University of The Bahamas professors suggested that Bahamians should consider spoiling their ballots in the upcoming general election. Therefore, this week we would like to Consider this... In the Bahamian context, does it make any sense to spoil our ballots?

What did the professors suggest?
Two prominent University of The Bahamas professors have launched a "spoil your ballot campaign". While they are encouraging people to register to vote, one of the professors maintains that

""there are a lot of people out there who are just so sick of what is going on, they don't want to register at all. You do not have to pick one of the choices that are given to you".
The professor continues: "In a democracy, voting is one part of that, and I think we should take full advantage of that. But I also believe that if we are supposed to make a choice, we should have a valid choice. We should at least be given a valid choice. So, if your subjective opinion is that you do not have a valid choice, our message is don't stay home. Go register, go vote, and vote for nobody.
"The difference between going out and spoiling a vote and staying home and not voting, or not registering to vote at all is that the spoiled vote will be counted."

The fallacies of the arguments
The first fallacy of the argument for spoiling the ballot lies in the false premise about the persons from whom the selection should be made. Their objection is that, at the general election, we should be given a "valid choice". Precisely what does that mean? The fact of the matter is that, on every ballot, valid choices are presented. One may not like the choices, one may not even think those choices are deserving of your vote, but they are the choices, and they are valid inasmuch as they have satisfied the requirements under our laws to have been nominated.
Secondly, if the spoiled ballot supporters are so opposed to the standard-bearers that the parties have advanced, then they should get more actively involved in the electoral process. They should get themselves, or candidates who they believe are more congruent with their thinking, ideology and vision for The Bahamas, nominated to run for office.
Third, the political system that we enjoy here is the only one that we have. It has evolved over many decades and has generally served us well. If those who would have us spoil our ballots are genuinely interested in advancing our democracy, they would be far more effective to the body politic if they would actively participate, instead of taking the intellectually dishonest approach of playing the role of the "all-knowing" Monday morning quarterback. If you don't like the system and really want to change the system, then try rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands and feet into the thick of the challenges that our democracy has to offer.
Fourth, if you spoil your ballot, you have no voice. It is therefore intellectually dishonest and inherently disingenuous to suggest that your voice will be heard by spoiling your ballot.
The most disappointing thing about the proponents of the "spoil your ballot" campaign is that they are teachers of young, impressionable, fertile, enquiring minds of students at the University of The Bahamas. Equally disappointing is that one of the proponents is a female activist who should be encouraging as many persons as possible not only to register to vote, but to vote for the candidate who seems most informed and best poised to move the country forward, without reference to one political party or another.

Honoring our forebears
Millions the world over, have endured much blood, sweat and tears over the centuries to earn the right to vote for all free men and women. Many have died in the journey to universal suffrage because the right to vote was considered so elemental to the development of democratic societies.
Even today, we still hear reports of voter suppression, a practice where those in authority seek to disenfranchise persons in order to influence and control the outcome of an election. We also hear reports of those who are still fighting to remove that kind of suppression and establish voting freedom, the kind we enjoy and, in some cases, take for granted here in The Bahamas.

It is always desirable to find perfection in a candidate, but in reality we, the voter, must often sacrifice our "ideal" candidate for one who may be less than perfect but still possesses some attributes we are looking for in a representative. It is really up to us to stay involved after an election and hold our elected officials accountable to the goals we believe in.
Therefore, we encourage all civic-minded, patriotic persons who want to see an improvement in their country, to register and to vote for the candidate who you believe best represents those ideas and ideals that are more closely aligned to your own. If that means casting your vote for a PLP candidate, then so be it. If you feel that the FNM has the best candidate, then give that candidate your vote. The same is equally true of the DNA candidate. If that person best represents your views on national development, then vote DNA.
It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to spoil your ballot. Spoiled ballots will be counted as that - spoiled ballots - and, in the aggregate, will elect not one single member to Parliament. The spoiled ballot cannot put your case in Parliament. Your voice will vanish and your objections will be obliterated.
It is time for the voices of maturity in this society to do all that they can to elevate the debate. It is time to educate and assist those who are confused, disappointed and disaffected by some of the disappointing and unimpressive candidates who have been selected, to be the standard-bearers of all the political parties.
It is not the time to take the easy path, to stop listening to the debates and cease learning about the issues and the candidates. It is time to exercise our responsibility as citizens, study the choices and decide between those candidates.
And now is definitely not the time to fail our nation by failing to make a choice at the ballot box by marking an X next to a name, thereby living up to our hard-won privilege as citizens who have been entrusted to move this nation forward, onward and upward.

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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Our Bahamaland: Assessing the state of affairs

February 17, 2017

On Friday, February 3, 2017, I had the opportunity to visit Uriah McPhee Primary School. As I entered the school's welcome area, a picture of Uriah McPhee was on the wall.
It reminded me of the days when I walked through the same doors as a student. On the morning of my visit, it was the start of the school's activities for literacy month. Sitting in the assembly hall were many little smiling and eager faces, all dressed in T-shirts and jeans. On the T-shirts was written- "Reading takes you around the world", which reminds us that primary school-goers must gain an appreciation that reading opens one's mind to all possibilities and allows one to dream.
I wondered, how could the students dream when the school does not have a library? That day's event shared the joys and the innocence of the nation's future; there were many smiling faces participating in an interactive learning process with no immediate discerning fears.
As I sat enjoying the presentations I began to think of my three young children, as they are the ages of the students sitting in the assembly hall. As I listened to the guest speaker, I dazed into the future of The Bahamas in 20 years, wondering what will be the state of the nation when these primary school-goers are beginning to start their life's work as adults. I must confess that I was frightened. It seemed that we did not pass to them a solid foundation for the advancement of the nation-state. There were too many dashed dreams and forgotten promises and far too many were saddled below the poverty line. In the midst of the darkness there were signs of optimism in the spirits of some who were willing to demand a better future; the demands were comprehensive, progressive and pragmatic, yet the political directorate was coldly silent.
Truth is, the current political landscape shows a lack of understanding that the decisions made today have serious consequences for the future. No decision is in a vacuum, and no matter what is perceived to be the short-term gain and benefit, there are always long-term effects that must be weighed in the balance. Take for instance the national education policy. It is devoid of any long-term strategic plan and there is no obvious sign of any new methodologies that are currently being introduced to best address the chronic challenges of low literacy and numeracy skills. We bemoan the annual D average, but have yet to design a national strategy to arrest the failing state of the system. With the reality of the constant failures of the educational product, it signals that we are not educating our children to be productive citizens in a new Bahamas.

No matter how successful we deem our nation, there are still far too many persons who are below the poverty line. This is a reality brought on as a direct result of the failed educational policy. For many of us, we can still lament that education was our ticket from the welfare lines. Yet, no serious consideration is given to the shortcomings of a system that has bred young Bahamians who lack socialization, are prone to violence and social dislocation and who see a nation that failed them and their dreams. The categoric correlation between poverty and the attainment of a good education is obvious in our country. One only needs to read the report of the Department of Statistics in its examination of Household Expenditure in its 2013 survey.
In part the survey notes: "The incidence of poverty at the national level is 12.5 percent. In other words, one out of eight residents was living in poverty in 2013. The Family Islands region had the highest poverty rate: 17.2 percent of this population had a level of per capita consumption that is lower than the total poverty line. In New Providence, the poverty rate was almost 12.4 percent, same as the national rate, while in the Grand Bahama region the incidence of poverty was lower than in the other two regions (9.4 percent). Even though the poverty rate is higher in the Family Island region than in the other two regions, the majority of the poor (71.5 percent) are to be found on New Providence, where most of the country's population is located. Although women comprised the majority of the poor (51.8 percent), poverty rates were higher for males (13.2 percent) than for females (12.4 percent). People younger than 20 years were over represented among the poor: while their population share was 33.7 percent, almost half of the poor (49.7 percent) belong to this age group. More specifically, there were only two age groups with poverty rates that were higher than the national rate: children aged zero to nine (18.2 percent) and those aged 10 to 19 (19.3 percent). The 20 to 29 year old group was the one with the poverty rate (13 percent) most similar to the national rate, while the remaining groups were underrepresented among the poor population. The 60 to 69 year old group was the age group with the lowest poverty rate: only 6.5 percent of the people belonging to this group lived in poverty."
It is unacceptable that we have such a high rate of poverty in a country of less than 500,000. It is even more intolerable that it is hardly ever discussed or debated by politicians. What is even more startling and distressing, is that the rate of poverty is high in the age group of those who are at their most productive years, 15-24 and 25-44. The evidence suggests that there is a strong correlation between poverty and educational advancement and scholarship.

There must be a recognition that the current trend is setting a bad recipe for the future. With the economy continuing to show a youth unemployment rate of 30 percent, this suggests that there will be a higher incidence of poverty in the next 20 years. This coupled with some other social indicators - 35 percent of the population three years plus has no access to the Internet; females of 20 years and younger are responsible for 10 percent of total births in the country - are not the right ingredients if we desire as our collective outcome a productive nation in 20 years and beyond.
The evidence is overwhelming that we need a radical change in our national affairs - not a symbolic change of political leaders, for that is only likely to amount to a blind continuation of the old and very tired party-political warfare ushered in the 1950s. What our nation requires is bold, transformative, progressive, broad-based leadership. Men and women who will bring their diverse talents and energies to fixing decades' old problems that have caused our country to fall into a deep, nauseating rot. Citizens whose global experiences can serve as the basis to transform a system of government that is old, tired and dysfunctional. A system that demands a major overhaul, due to its failures to deliver timely and necessary services. We need to abandon the decencies of the colonial past and resort to the best that our experiences have taught us to foster change. Change came about in our nation when we demanded more and agitated for the best for our people. It was never a by-product of maintaining the status quo.
In order to ensure that the little eager faces at Uriah McPhee Primary do not fall in the poverty gap demands an education revolution. We must change the course of our country. We must take sensible and well-thought-out risks. We must try new approaches to how we govern our affairs and we must not be afraid to think boldly.
As a start, our national goals for education must be clear. They should be focused on the introduction of the best conditions for the development of our children's personalities and identities, and must simultaneously promote, enhance and encourage the development of our economic and political life, the preservation of our cultural identity, the respect for minorities and those with disabilities, and must at its core teach the values of citizenship. At the center of the push must be an enduring commitment to foster, develop and augment a national tradition of lifelong learning.
Education is something that all successful nations must manage well. Asian nations are leading all major international measurement tools. The lessons are clear that exceptional education requires a government to place priority on the value that education bears to national life. Ultimately, our commitment must be to create the best school system ever; one that understands how best to reach our students, highlighting the best of our culture and people instead of focusing solely on international competitiveness.
There too must be a national commitment to present a national educational product that raises the bar of standards and that rewards high achievement. We must be demanding of the best, and to do so means that we must recognize that education must be free for all from kindergarten to tertiary level, and that every child at the age of three years must have free access to a computer and the Internet. Our schools must have environs that foster a 21st century learning mentality, focusing on new-age technology and instruction. There must be no excuse for a school to not have at its center a library where reading and comprehension occur at regular intervals during the course of the school experience.
To create a better and more prosperous society demands that we build and define the linkages between education, the economy and the success of our nation. We should commit on average 15 percent of our national GDP to education by a national program of measured results. In defining the new education policy, Andros should be developed to be the technology mecca through international private sector partnerships. And we must rebuild the social capital by effective engagement of all partners to address anti-social behavior and crime and their scourges.
All of us have similar or different ideas as to how our country can serve our children better. We must share our ideas to advance the national conversation of how best to move our country from its lethargic state to a beaming city of citizens basking in the joys of prosperity and a noble heritage. If we continue to fail the young eager faces, we fail our nation. And failure is not an option.
No matter where you are in your journey, one thing is certain, we cannot continue on the present course.

o Raynard Rigby is an attorney and former chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).

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Spoil the ballot campaign is reckless and unimaginative

February 15, 2017

In the summer of 1964, civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney were involved in the "Freedom Summer" campaign, an ambitious effort to register African-American voters in southern states in the U.S.
The idealistic activists worked in Mississippi, a state with one of the worst records of Jim Crow and violence against black Americans. The particularly vicious racism of the state is well documented in lynching, blood and human degradation.
According to Wikipedia: "This registration effort was a part of contesting over 70 years of laws and practices that supported a systematic policy of disenfranchisement of potential black voters by several southern states that began in 1890."
Goodman and Schwerner, white Americans from New York City, and Chaney, an African-American from Mississippi, disappeared during the course of their registration efforts.
After two months their bodies were found. They were "abducted and murdered in an act of racial violence".
During the investigation it emerged that the Philadelphia, Mississippi Police Department, adherents of the local White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the Neshoba County Sheriff's Office were involved in the brutality against the men.
Disgust and outrage over the murders, including the involvement of police officials, helped the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The dramatic expansion of the number of black Americans registered to vote was critical to the organizing strategy of the U.S. Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.
Achieving voting rights was an end in itself. It was also instrumental in the use of political power to force other changes and to help achieve racial equality and social justice.
At a prayer breakfast in 1957 in Washington D.C., Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of the power of the ballot. His remarks were titled "Give Us the Ballot". His refrain: "Give us the ballot and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights ...
"Give us the ballot and we will no longer plead to the federal government for passage of an anti-lynching law ...
"Give us the ballot and we will fill our legislative halls with men of good will ...
"Give us the ballot and we will place judges on the benches of the South who will do justly and love mercy ...
"Give us the ballot and we will quietly and nonviolently, without rancor or bitterness, implement the Supreme Court's decision of May 17, 1954."
In 2017, a small group of Bahamians are crying, "Give us the ballot and let us spoil it because we don't like our choices."

What a profoundly immature response. Many times in a democracy the choices are less than ideal. But this is when we must dig even deeper into a wellspring of possibilities and find creative responses to the times.
King argued: "So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind - it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact - I can only submit to the edict of others."
In possession of such a right and responsibility, arguing for a mass spoiling of the ballot is infra dig for those whose ancestors yearned for such a right.
It is difficult for many to recall that black Americans were once more supportive of the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, and more suspicious of the Democratic Party, particularly Southern Democrats.
During the 1960 presidential election Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested in the South. For a time his whereabouts were unknown. His wife, Coretta Scott King, feared for the worse. She reached out to many political officials, including the Eisenhower administration.
Because of the racial politics of the time, Democratic contender John F. Kennedy gamed how to respond to the call for help. In the event, he and his brother Robert Kennedy reached out to Scott King and lent their assistance to ensuring the safety of King.
Grateful for the assistance, King and other civil rights leaders in turn lent their support to Kennedy's presidential bid. This may have helped to tip the razor-thin contest in favor of Kennedy, who barely beat Republican Richard Nixon.
Voting matters, both as a hard-earned civil right and as a means of political power for the electorate. The ballot is an extraordinary power and instrument of citizenship, representing various democratic values.
It represents and symbolizes the struggle for the right to vote; including by women, the descendants of slaves and outcasts in countries such as India. The right to vote also represents a shared history and common experience for citizens of a nation and for a global citizenry.

A campaign to spoil ballots would make sense in dictatorial regimes like the former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe. But such a campaign is reckless and juvenile in a democracy.
Through the mass spoiling of ballots, we will send a message to those in the world struggling to gain the right to vote that we are taking this right for granted and are prepared to abuse this right in a cavalier manner.
The nominally baked campaign led by a women's rights activist, supported by two professors from The University of the Bahamas, is falling flat and is rightly being roundly criticized.
The campaign is an affront to the memories and sacrifices of civil rights martyrs like Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney. Certainly they did not die so others could engage in a mass campaign to vandalize ballots.
The "spoil the ballot" campaign is intellectually lazy and intellectually pretentious. That it is being touted by educators is sad. They are setting a bad example for their students.
Their arguments smack of a condescending elitism by individuals who appear not to appreciate the hard work of politics and government, and who may deign to believe that by refraining to vote for any of the choices before them, makes them somehow purer and superior.
The leader of the "spoil the ballot" campaign is a women's rights activist. With women's activists around the world arguing forcefully for women to use their votes to advance women's rights, the argument at home to spoil the ballot is, to put it gently, curious and remarkable.
The domestic activist stated: "Our target audience is the group of people that have decided that they will not register to vote because there is no option that appeals to them, there is no candidate or party that they are prepared to support with their 'X'.
"We've chosen that group of people because we want to ensure they still have a voice that they can use and that they can make a statement that says I do care about my country and the direction it takes."
What voice are they having if they spoil their ballot? They will render mute their voices. She further states: "I care enough to tell you the options that you put before me are inadequate. We want to put the power back in the hands of the people, even if they feel powerless."
The supposed reasoning here is illogical. How exactly are people gaining power by spoiling a ballot? By spoiling the ballot they have even less power because their vote will not count.
If the activist and the professors want to offer something profound and transformative they might launch a citizen action network, registering thousands to vote.
The network would publicize the number of members in each constituency. They would insist on candidate forums and debates in as many constituencies as possible, helping to hold candidates and parties more accountable.
The network could insist on issues such as political party reform and better campaign finance laws, among other issues.
As constituencies are often won by small margins, such a network could have a tremendous impact on the election. The network could also use social media to promote certain democratic objectives, while remaining nonpartisan.
Candidates and parties will pay rapt attention to hundreds of voters of such a network in each constituency, who demand to be heard and who can reject or vote for them on election day.
This is how we can begin to improve our democracy and aggressively push the parties in a better direction, instead of wasting energy and time on a nonsensical response which will likely have the opposite effect of what the spoil the ballot advocates may intend.

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

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Dumbfounded by our dialogue about crime

February 15, 2017

If there is one thing that should be clear to us here in The Bahamas it is that crime, in particular, murder, has not responded positively to changes in government over the last 50 years.
In the year the Pindling administration came to office, the year 1968, there were 19 murders, according to police crime stats. In the last full year the Pindling administration spent in office there were 28 murders, a rise of 47 percent. In the year it lost office, 1992, having been the government for about eight months of that year, there were 41 murders, an increase from 1968 of 47 percent. In the years between 1968 and 1992, the murder rate rose and fell but never got higher than 28 in any one year.
In the first full year the Ingraham administration was in office, 1993, the number of murders that occurred was 35. In the last full year it spent in office during its first term, 2002, the number of murders was 48, an increase of 37 percent. In the years between 1992 and 2002, the number of murders rose precipitously, peaking at 74 in the year 2000. In its last full year the Ingraham administration was in office, 2001, the murder rate decreased to 43, a decline from the year 2000 of 23 percent.
In the first full year the Christie administration was in office during its first term, 2003, 50 murders took place. In its last full year during that term, 60 murders occurred, an increase of 20 percent. Only in one of the years of that term did the murder rate fall below 50.
The Ingraham administration found no better success between 2007 and 2012, when it came to office for a third term. The murder rate skyrocketed in the period, going from 73 in its first full year in office, 2008, to 127 in its last full year in office, 2011, a rise of 74 percent. Despite its promise to do better, the Christie administration continues to fall prey to the same dogged increase in the murder rate. In its first full year in office this term, 2013, there were 119 murders, while in 2015 there were 146 murders, an increase of 23 percent.
In point of fact, every decade in our country has seen a higher murder rate at the end of the decade than at the beginning of it, and the increase has not been mild. The rise in the rate from 1963, the first year the murder rate recording was available to this writer, to 1970 was 220 percent; from 1970 to 1980 was 56 percent; from 1980 to 1990 was 80 percent; from 1990 to 2000 was 64 percent; and from 2000 to 2010 was 11 percent.
It should be clear to all of us that crime, as measured by the murder rate, has been on a persistent upward climb for almost 50 years now; its stubborn increase has been seen from decade to decade. Whether the PLP or the FNM was in office was of little consequence; the murder rate rose. Ingraham or Christie as prime minister did not matter. The murder rate rose. Promise after promise of "breaking the back of crime" or taking a "zero tolerance" to crime mattered not. The murder rate rose. Despite marches, prayers, church services, task forces and reports, the murder rate rose. Murders increased in number and hideousness.
It is simply dumbfounding that in the face of the evidence we continue to have such superficial political arguments about the cause and solutions to crime. In opposition, parties lay the blame at the feet of the government, but in office say that its cause is "multifaceted" and requires a "community response". This unfortunate politicking hampers sensible dialogue on this troubling issue. There is much that can be said about the cause and possible solutions to crime, but it is simply the aim of this writing to say that we should look at the facts and see that the angle from which we tackle the issue of violent crime in our nation, the political angle, is woefully inadequate to a proper look at or addressing it.

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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February 13, 2017

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The education mix-up

February 10, 2017

When we speak of education, we have in mind a number of developmental activities linked to institutions and society designed to expose clients to greater knowledge, skills and understanding to enable them to be better human beings, contribute to society's culture and well-being, and provide the strategies necessary to process our experiences and make sense of our environment and the world.
Education is also about thinking creatively, knowing how things connect and influence each other, having a subject base from which we can draw to provide a perspective, and from which we can build on existing knowledge. It is about the search for truth through evidence and having an open mind subject to change when new evidence is presented. Our acquired knowledge has to be refined when faced with practical situations, and we should operate from an ethical framework so that we ensure no harm is done as we process everyday reality.
But the concept of education presented here seems uncomplicated and this is because education is an uncomplicated enterprise. Surprised? You may be, because education as it is practiced in the Caribbean is actually a mixed-up business. My attention was recently drawn to a brilliant commentary in Caribbean News Now by Eve George who speaks about moral decline in her country, examines the social and moral issues and mentions the need to practice decent values, morals and proper living. But is this not what education should be doing as a priority?
Instead, throughout our region education is all mixed-up, so that values, what it is to be really human, our obligations to ourselves and society, are not given the recognition and attention they should by our educational and other public institutions. It means a comprehensive effort should be engaged in to change Caribbean psychology, so that we process and act out our experiences through gentleness, kindness and thoughtfulness. Instead we concentrate on irrelevant education, which does not address our real issues.
Our education is a mish-mash of subjects with no relation to each other and the real world. It consists in most cases of groups of courses with meaningless credits and hours attached to them, divided into semesters with a credential at the end with little meaning or purpose, instead of real programs that meet the needs of clients and the institutions that deliver them. This is the mix-up. Intentions are mixed up, and so are the philosophies of education, the methodologies that deliver them and the thinking and management theories that produce them. Clarity of goals is therefore required.
Our technical and scientific education do not prepare us to think anew and in multiple ways about what is before us and build novel innovations. Our arts and education programs do not encourage creativity, intellectual exploration or teach students to doubt and critique what is presented to them. Instead, education consists of banking information, which in turn is deposited to students, who return it to educators as essays or research papers. But many research papers in the arts and education are guided along a paradigm which is a disincentive to forging what is new and different and contributing to new knowledge.
Staecha Goulbourne in a recent piece in the Jamaica Observer notes how the educational establishment continues to advocate the use of technology and modern teaching styles, but does not provide the tools and equipment the responsibilities entail. Is this a mismatch, and a mix-up where the need is identified, but not realized, and intentions are outmatched by reality? What about innovations on the teacher's part, and the fostering of creativity and flexibility, which exposure to an educational program should be about? Could the teacher have been more enterprising and done more?
Goulbourne further mentions the multiple tasks to be performed, deadline pressures, fixed schedules, and stresses the importance of teachers-in-training getting to know the profession, the roles and responsibilities entrusted to them, and seeing teaching as more than planning lessons and teaching them. The question is, was this teacher professionally prepared for the total job of teaching? What she mentions are actually issues in educational management, and this should have been integral to the professional program. Her difficulties would then have been minimized. Is there a mix-up and mismatch then between what is left out, and what is done? Should not the two be reconciled?
She then stresses the need for institutions to do more to assist student teachers in managing emotional stress, and for students entering the profession to know the real truth about the job for which they will be trained. For me, this is a significant observation. Student teachers need an onboarding program where they are sensitized to what the profession is about, its philosophies and strategies, what is required of them and the kind of educational management tools they need to navigate through the issues successfully as well as knowledge of what constitutes successful teaching. She also notes there is too much emphasis on the instructional approach. What about more attention to the academic subjects that should be in the program?
I get the impression in reading aspects of the Goulbourne article that to avoid mix-ups and mismatches in education, a thorough study is required concerning the purpose, point and philosophy of teacher education. It has to be determined by an educational management expert whether the extra multiple tasks to be performed could not be further refined and replaced by a more effective and accountable system.
Critical questions also need to be asked concerning what the education enterprise should really be about, and how it could be better streamlined to be made fit for purpose without mismatches, mishaps or mix-ups.

o Oliver Mills is a former lecturer of 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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Crime and violence put the brakes on development

February 10, 2017

The traditional logic seemed unassailable: Where there are low levels of development and high levels of poverty and hopelessness, people are more likely to act outside the law and commit criminal and violent acts. And yet, despite the unprecedented levels of economic growth and poverty reduction in Latin America and the Caribbean over the last decade, the region still experiences high levels of crime and violence.
Between 2003 and 2013, the region cut extreme poverty by more than half, to 11.5 percent, and overall poverty decreased dramatically from 42 percent to 24.1 percent in 2013. For the first time in history, the region has more people in the middle class than in poverty, raising expectations for a better life.
Nevertheless, crime and violence continue to be a staggering problem. Between 2005 and 2012, the annual growth rate of homicides was more than three times higher than population growth. Not surprisingly, the number of Latin Americans who mention crime as their top concern tripled during those years. Fear makes people withdraw, hide behind closed doors, and avoid public spaces, weakening interpersonal and social ties that bind a population as a community.
The relationship between development and crime and violence is a two-way street. On the one hand, we cannot say that economic growth and social progress have no impact on reducing crime and violence. The lesson that we should clearly draw from the past decade is that development is necessary but not sufficient to bring it under control. In addition to development, a combination of proven and comprehensive policies need to be put in place to prevent this scourge and bring peace and security to our streets.
On the other hand, crime and violence do take a toll on development. Even though it is practically impossible to put a price tag to this phenomenon, we know for a fact that the region ranks first and second in the world in terms of the percentage of firms that experience crime-related losses or incur security costs, respectively. Based on surveys, it can be estimated that crime and security in the region cost private firms $144 billion in 2010. Overall, a report by the Inter-American Development Bank estimates that the annual costs for the region reach $261 billion.
Insecurity is the result of a combination of many factors, from drug trafficking and organized crime, to weak judicial and law enforcement systems that promote impunity, to the lack of opportunities and support for young people who live in deprived communities.
That is why there is no magic formula. We will not solve this problem only on the basis of greater police action, or further imprisonment, or through more education, or employment alone. We must do all this in a comprehensive way, based on reliable data and proven strategies.
To that end, "Stop the Violence in Latin America: A Look at Prevention from Cradle to Adulthood" is a significant contribution. This report, [to be] released February 7, takes a new look at what has worked - both in Latin America and elsewhere.
From early childhood programs to reduce the likelihood that children will run away from home, to mental health treatment, and more quality employment for young people, a comprehensive approach towards violence prevention is what seems to make policies successful. And, of course, for a preventive approach to work, it needs to take place in a context where institutions such as the police and the justice system are trusted and reliable.
But beyond specific policies, what matters is the social fabric of our countries and communities. After all, despite the unprecedented economic growth and profound social transformation experienced by the region, Latin America and the Caribbean continues to be the most unequal region in the world. So, improving opportunities for all and equity in access to social services will definitely strengthen the social fabric and help prevent violent behavior.
If we want to succeed in the fight against poverty and in boosting shared prosperity, the unrivaled levels of crime and violence in the region need to come to an end.

o Jorge Familiar is World Bank vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Vandalizing democracy with temper tantrums and sophomoric pranks

February 09, 2017

Throughout the 2016 U.S. presidential contest, then President Barack Obama fought not only his political foes, but also those who demonized him and who sought to undermine his legitimacy from the onset of his presidency.
He also battled: complacency; iterations of false equivalencies; the mindless conceit and arrogance by some that voting did not matter; the immaturity of some millennials peeved that because Bernie Sanders did not win the Democratic Party nomination they were not going to vote; and various other sophomoric reasons for abstaining from voting or spoiling the ballot as a form of protest.
A familiar refrain from Obama pleading with his fellow-citizens: "Don't boo, vote!" Obama understands the hard work of politics, that we are often faced with tough choices and that protest should help to build rather than harm or tear down democracy.
His response has always been to play a long game and to remain committed to the democratic process no matter how tough it gets. He would never advocate foolish responses like a mass group of voters engaging in a juvenile campaign of purposefully spoiling their ballots.
Many did not like the choice between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. Driven by a noxious concoction of a false equivalence and a pox on the mentality of both houses, millions of voters decided to stay home.
Had complacent voters in key states voted, the nightmare that is Donald Trump would not now be visited on the United States of America and the global commons. His assault on liberal pluralism in America and a more stable international order could have been prevented.
Those aghast at the gross behavior of this egomaniac, who is now the most powerful individual on the planet, but who did not vote or who spoilt their ballots, bear responsibility for his accession to power.
Those who did not vote, but are now protesting Trump, need to examine their heretofore unreflective consciences and shallow reasoning for not voting.
Tribune Chief Reporter Ava Turnquest reported last week, "An activist and two scholars are campaigning for eligible, but decidedly unregistered Bahamian voters to spoil their election ballots as a form of protest..." The "scholars" are professors at The University of The Bahamas.

A senior Bahamian and statesman involved in the struggle for majority rule and equal access to voting, regardless of race, gender and class, lamented what he views as a reckless and profoundly immature response to our current political situation. He noted, "In 1962 after years of valiant struggle and much sacrifice on the part of men and women of my generation who valued the right to vote, universal adult suffrage was achieved with every adult citizen having the right to cast a ballot in general elections.
"It is distressing and disappointing that more than half a century later, younger, educated Bahamians can seriously encourage citizens to throw away their ballots.
That the descendants of slaves and women would advocate spoiling the ballot is profoundly sad, and an insult to the legacy of those who fought for the right to vote around the world, including those who died in such struggles."
One cannot imagine Dr. Doris Johnson, Georgiana Symonette, Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or U.S. civil rights champion John Lewis, advocating or endorsing mass ballot spoiling as a productive or creative response to disenchantment with the politics of the day.
One cannot imagine serious-minded professors and lecturers at UWI, universities in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., suggesting ballot spoiling as an intelligent way of responding to the challenges of the day in the democratic commons.
The brave citizens of The Gambia, who courageously ousted at the ballot box the former dictator who remained in office for two decades, would find it difficult to understand why those who enjoy the right to vote would spoil their ballots.
Here are some of the arguments of those at home advocating that we spoil our ballots.
In a blog, one of the professors, according to The Tribune story, underscored that the country was facing an 'unmistakable crisis of representation'. He called for the return of credibility to public affairs, and urged ordinary citizens to realize their political power.
"Spoiling the ballot sends the nation and the watching world a clear, unmistakable message that a sizable portion of the country demands better representation and will not settle," the professor noted.

There is an arrogance here. It is the presumption that those who do vote are settling. Most Bahamians want better representation. But most likely do not view spoiling their ballots as a reasonable or intelligent response to the need for better representation.
The professor further stated, "Once the election has passed and the smoke has cleared, then it will be time to plan, organize and agitate forcefully and methodically for the electoral changes we want to see. We have nothing to lose."
Why didn't this individual lead a more forceful campaign for electoral reform over the past five years?
Why didn't he "agitate forcefully and methodically" since the last general election, all of which would have been more responsible than advocating a mass spoiling of the ballot?
Another professor, according to the story, "framed the exercise as 'seeding the revolution', suggesting that spoilt ballots could engender greater accountability in governance and future electoral reform".
This is the same professor who, at the last general election, claimed, falsely, that she heard nothing of substance at political rallies about policies and ideas for the country. Had she bothered to disengage her myopic bias and scotosis, and engage with the reality on the ground, she would not have been so blindingly incorrect, oblivious and ignorant - not enviable traits in a "scholar".
She still has the same false equivalence mentality. Not only has she not matured or grown in her thinking, she has regressed, and now advocates a mass spoiling of the ballot.
The female professor opined, according to The Tribune story, "The less involved in the democratic process the population becomes, the less accountable officials and politicians have to be. And as of this moment, no matter what the turnout, the next government will be elected by a minority of Bahamian citizens. Minority rule, welcome back home".
She continued, "You won't change the outcome of this election if you register and spoil the ballot instead of sitting this one out. But you will send a message to whichever minority government is elected in May. And it's this: We are watching, we will hold you accountable. We reject the bad choices you gave us. Do better".

Her illogic and historical and governmental ignorance is breathtaking. She does not understand the most rudimentary elements of our democratic system, despite holding an earned doctorate.
Her unfamiliarity with such basic information suggests that she cannot be taken seriously when discussing certain topics. Her ignorance about parliamentary democracy is alarming.
Not only is our democracy going through a rough patch, but our national dialogue is weakened when purported public intellectuals blather nonsense.
What does she mean by minority government? In our parliamentary system the party with the most seats forms the government regardless of the popular vote. The PLP is not a minority government, despite not winning the majority of the popular vote.
This is a circumstance that has occurred in many democracies with our system of government. A minority government is one that does not have the majority of the seats in the lower chamber, but that can still form a government.
How can she be so ignorant of such a basic fact? And she expects us to take her seriously?
This professor offered her political analysis: "Voter apathy will send the message that Bahamians don't care what they do. But a spoiled ballot, even if the counts are not released to the public, will tell a very different tale."
This is more than wishful thinking. It is belligerently naive!
If a party wins despite numerous spoiled ballots, they will likely care little about those voters. Political parties would love to appeal only to their base while ignoring independent voters who spoiled their ballots.
And if the number of spoiled ballots is not made public, what would have been the point of the campaign to spoil the ballots?
It would amount to one massive anger fest of arrogance, a temper tantrum, making the campaigners feel good about themselves, but doing little to achieve their stated goals.
The entire exercise would have been like what a friend who used to dive describes as a temporary feel good moment when he is in cold waters in the middle of the ocean; he sometimes relieves himself in his wet suit. He gets a warm tingling sensation. But it quickly passes and he is still in the same predicament as before, except that his wet suit is a great deal messier.
Next week's column will cover more of this topic and offer some ideas for democratic engagement, as opposed to vandalizing the ballot and democracy with sophomoric responses, the kind of maturity and wisdom that Obama, a dedicated student of democracy and political change, advocated both as an activist and as an office-holder.

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

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Where did the VAT money go

February 08, 2017

Minister Michael Halkitis got himself into quite a pickle trying to explain where the more than $1 billion in value-added tax (VAT) revenue the government collected over the last two years went. Truth be told, the answer to where the money went is very simple. First, it went into the Consolidated Fund, as it must. Second, it went to pay the ordinary expenses of the government of The Bahamas, as Parliament directed. It did not go to pay down the country's national debt. It also was not earmarked to fund exclusively any special projects, and it did not.
Our constitution requires there to be a single "Consolidated Fund" into which the government must place "all" revenue it collects. This means that customs duty, departure tax, license fees, VAT and every other revenue must be put into the Consolidated Fund. The constitution then authorizes the minister of finance to make payments from that Consolidated Fund, using the expenditure limits the Parliament approves during the budget process. The Financial Administration and Audit Act, in compliance with the constitution, directs all "accounting officers" of government departments to pay all gross sums of monies collected into the Consolidated Fund, and to spend that money in accordance with the limits set by Parliament.
This being so, all VAT monies had to go into the Consolidated Fund; in fact, Halkitis said as much in his now infamous grilling by Candia Dames on Juan McCartney's show, The Revolution. If all VAT monies went into the Consolidated Fund, co-mingled with all other government revenue, then it, like all the other monies, went to pay the various expenses of the government over the last two years. What, then, is the accounting for the VAT money? Look at the expenditure outturns in 2015/2016 and the 2016/17 budget documents. They will show how VAT and other revenue defrayed the ordinary expenses of the government. Even the prime minister's promised accounting could only show a list of expenditure that would include salaries and personal emoluments; rents and other charges; capital expenses for this project or that project; debt redemption; loan interest payments; subventions to government entities such as Bahamasair, BAIC, Water and Sewerage Corporation; etc. The treasurer of The Bahamas can provide that accounting easily.
Do not look for any extraordinary payment on the debt, resulting in its lowering beyond normal limits. There is none to be found. In fact, the national debt grew over the period since the implementation of VAT. Why? Because as the government collected over a billion dollars in new revenue from VAT, it also increased expenditure over the period by more than that amount.
Where did the VAT money go? The only place it could go, into the Consolidated Fund. How was it used? Just like the customs duty, departure tax, business license fees and every other revenue of the government - to defray the expenses of the government, be it civil servants' salaries, loan payments, social services food cards or vouchers, or contracts for road works.
The real problem that the government has is not accounting for the VAT funds, but explaining why, given the revenue gains from it, the country's fiscal situation has not improved, as the debt to GDP ratio continues on an upward trajectory; thus the national debt itself continues to rise. Yes, the government's annual deficit has decreased since it took office, but the same was bound to do so, since the heavy capital spending, in particular, done during the Great Recession would be curtailed in line with improvements in the economy. Many Bahamians believed, as the Christie administration suggested leading up to the last election, that VAT would largely be used to improve the country's fiscal situation, leading to a reduction in the national debt. So for the most part, the question isn't where did the VAT money go, but rather, why didn't it go where the public believed it would? The answer to that question would be welcomed, I am sure.

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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It's still a matter of trust

February 06, 2017

"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
- Robert McCloskey

There is no question about it: We are getting deeper and deeper into the "silly season" that leads eventually to another general election. Candidate nominations, party conventions, the long-awaited boundary report, the signs are incontrovertible that both the established parties and the newcomers are readying themselves for battle.
There is, however, a very different element in the political fray this time around: the recent fracture of the FNM in the House of Assembly. Therefore, this week we are going to Consider This... Exactly what does that fracture tell the voter about the FNM and its leader that are seeking to be the government and the next prime minister of The Bahamas?

Knowing the candidates
Like any political campaign, the majority of the voters really don't have a chance to meet, much less get to know, the candidates who are asking for their support. The voters are being given reasons, pros and cons, to cast their votes in a certain way and asked to believe that one particular candidate and that person's party have the solutions to all of our problems and are capable of implementing those ideas efficiently and effectively.
We will be exposed to rallies, speeches, commercials and slick publications that seek to introduce the candidates, magnify their good points, convince us that they will work to make all our dreams come true and emphasize how they are so much more qualified to do the job than anyone running against them.
We are also supposed to be impressed by those candidates who have already served in Parliament, as well as those who have spent time as a minister and believe that this kind of experience makes them well suited to be the best representative we could find.
We will be subjected to the testimony of pleased constituents who swear for the representation the incumbents have provided. We will be bombarded by character endorsements for the newcomers who seek our vote beguiled on all sides by promises of solid representation and solicitous care for our collective well-being.
But how well do we know these men and women who offer themselves for election? Do we really know them, or do we just wind up being influenced by what they say and what is being said about them?
Unfortunately, to demonstrate the power of the latter, we all watched as the candidates in the recent American presidential election were demolished by the unflattering and downright nasty nicknames given them by now-President Donald Trump: Little Marco, Low Energy Jeb, Lyin' Ted and Crooked Hillary.
So how do we get to know these people so we can make an informed choice that will be the best for us and our country? In our small nation, many of us have had some kind of interaction, whether social, professional or personal, with some of the candidates. But how well do those casual exchanges reveal the true characters of those who want to make decisions on our behalf for the next five years?
However, this election season, we are fortunate because, through an historic set of circumstances, there is one very obvious and valuable way that we can evaluate the leadership qualities of one person who would very much like to lead not only his party but our nation as well.
There is an old saying that you don't know someone until you work with them. In the Free National Movement's parliamentary group, we have a perfect example of a collection of men and women who have worked together, both in government and opposition, for many years. They have experienced the pressures of governance and the stresses of opposition. They have weathered crises and enjoyed triumphs, shoulder to shoulder. Clearly, they know each other and they have an intimate knowledge of how they function under strain. They are able to judge the leadership values of each other better than anyone.
So, when the voter sees that 70 percent of those members of Parliament do not have any faith or trust in the judgment or ability of the person who is supposed to be leading them, what does that say to those of us who are on the outside? They who know this person in his capacity as leader are saying by their bold and dramatic actions that he is not fit to lead them, much less the country.
As another saying goes, actions do speak louder than words and the actions of these seven MPs should open the eyes of the voter to the fact that this leader is not what he, and all the campaign rhetoric we are hearing and will continue to hear, says he is. If those who work closest with him and for him are saying they do not trust him to lead them, how can he hope to convince the voters that he should be the leader of a full slate of MPs and, more importantly, of our nation?
As Prime Minister Perry Christie put it recently, "Minnis has lost the position as leader of the opposition. Minnis has lost the [FNM] membership in the House of Assembly. He is a minor player in the House of Assembly... He should try his best to keep quiet so that we do not highlight the levels of inadequacy and ineffectiveness that is plaguing him."

Evaluating our options
We, the voters, need to take a long hard look at this historic split of the FNM with its leader in the House. We, the voters, need to evaluate exactly what this split says about this leader. We, the voters, need to assess the competence of someone who cannot even lead those closest to him.
We have a lot of decisions to make when we go to the polls. We don't have to depend upon fiery words and campaign speeches. We don't have to rely on what we are being told about the accomplishments of the various candidates.
This time, we have, right in front of us, actual evidence provided by those who are the closest to him of the leadership qualities of one of the major candidates with which to formulate our evaluation. This time, our decision should be much easier.

As we approach the election campaign season, it is essential that we not only assess the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates who ask us to trust them to lead us for the next five years. We must carefully listen to what each of the leaders say they will do if elected. More importantly, we must watch how the leaders interact with their colleagues.
When listening to the pronouncements of those who seek to hold the highest executive office in the land, we must remember Robert McCloskey's admonition: "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
In the final analysis, we must be able to conclusively determine whether our wannabe leaders can provide effective leadership, inspire trust and, most importantly, whether they command the respect and support of those whom they seek to lead. Failure to accomplish this will prove to be disastrous to themselves, their party and the nation. Because at the end of the day, it's still a matter of trust.

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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The brain drain of the Caribbean-trained nurses

February 03, 2017

Our quiet need
The role of a nurse is equally important as a good doctor, education, clean criminal record and a productive safe community.
These caretakers and medicine-givers are eyes and ears of doctors, from preparing a clean bed to escorting sick and helpless patients, even ones with mental health issues, AIDS to Zika, while providing comfort to families during times of need.
During an emergency hospital stay at a medical center, their presence often allows families to head back to work, or simply get an extra night off from staying overnight on a hard chair.
Despite historians' early account that they were taught Christian values to become good servants, they serve everyone regardless of religious, political or social ideology or values.
Today they are one of society's inseparable communities, hidden treasures from wars to human or natural disasters for centuries.
This function cannot be quantified, but certainly a nation's health, medical system, trust and upward mobility will diminish when they migrate that talent; sadly, especially in the poor and developing countries, and some of the dominant Caribbean countries such as, Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana, where prolonged economic symptoms have crippled major public medical facilities for decades.
Many reports have voiced concerns over the lack of funds, critical new technology, supplies and other equipment to save lives.
These facilities jeopardize both nurses and patients' lives by putting them at a higher risk of an infectious disease.
It also seems that the more nurses speak out they are becoming more powerless under strenuous employment conditions from what appears to be silence of accountability.
Over the next 25-50 years, the aging population will increase over 100 percent in both hospitals and home-based care, according to healthcare professionals and scholars. This field will become more critical to meet the demands.

A troubled ward
One in 25 patients is infected in a medical center, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
Pneumonia is one of the common issues found in surgical sites, the studies have shown. I have also lost a few friends who have had other health issues and died shortly after they contracted pneumonia and other infectious bacteria while being hospitalized. However, this migration is not about pneumonia.
As many scholars have noted, such as Harvard sociology professor Orlando Patterson, "Jamaica for decades has developed a good public health system that has been successful against malaria, tuberculosis and various gastrointestinal diseases."
Later reports have shown that the death rate of children has fallen, according to the World Bank, in the region from birth to age two per 1,000.
However, I believe the region still lacks critical data to systematically monitor home-birthed babies, medical issues and others who self-medicate from cultural beliefs, and other socio-economic and geographic factors that still affect access to healthcare.
Sure, the region has come a long way; however, it seems that the health system has taken a step back, especially in the publicly operated centers.
Recently, as reported in Jamaica, about 18 babies died from klebsiella and serratia, or pseudomonas that have been on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These bacteria and other poor health issues are not new. Today, countless family plots and cemeteries along these shores are still searching for an answer.
Many first line responders remain vulnerable and worried that inadequate supplies and lack of critical tools continue to place them at higher risk of becoming infected.
It seems that customer service continues to decline, and access to a doctor is dictated on one's ability to pay upfront without a diagnosis.
Without the media, those babies would have been just another premature death. This epidemic has forced health officials to admit publicly that something is wrong.
Government leadership seems to have a "pre-existing condition" that is defensive to address poor and unhealthy medical operations.
Telling people not to panic is not a solution. Where is the independent oversight?
If these health ministers have the public's interests, they must speak up for funding, and refrain from the politics and be on the side of supporting all, especially the disadvantaged.
What if these leaders' own families were to be admitted to these poor facilities, or depending on some form of social welfare?
These medical clouds stretch beyond a broken window at a ward, but a broader issue on helping people find jobs, fighting crime and becoming part of a solution.

The next flight
Nursing careers will command excellent salaries, such as one in math, finance, science, or a career in petroleum, especially one in home care, according to several business reports.
Today, these nurses are leaving not because of gender equality, crime or the lack of education; several have enormous student loans. These flights are not an abandonment of their nationality; it is an incremental move for economic opportunities.
Countries such as Bermuda, Cayman, U.S., U.K., Canada and many other developed nations are poised to gain from this flight.
Going back to school to become a nurse, one would hope their service would upgrade the local economy's living standards, but now it seems like a one-way ticket out.
These well-sought-after visas serve rural areas in the U.S., Canada and other places, even if the salaries are lower than the countries' national average. However, it will be better than the local system they are leaving.
Additionally, there is the constant fear of losing their jobs, combined with helplessness of disproportionately seeing poor people waiting on benches for days after an emergency to be admitted, then to be told to return due to lack bed space, or because of the inability to pay upfront.
These nurses' good intention and values sometimes collide with their moral compass, where life and death could be added off-the-record payments to keep a patient alive in making sure that certain basic needs are met while hospitalized.
Medical insecurities seriously undermine ethics in medicine and the integration between the relations with their patients.
Others being over worked and underpaid with little support system to alleviate emotional scars. Vacations are being missed from the fear of losing employment, and that could reset current salary after years of solid service.
"Also, I am not naive of patients being passed through system to incur unnecessary bills because of one's ability to pay."
These migrations also help consultants who reap benefits from the trade as if they are farm workers in the agricultural fields. Decision-making seems to only satisfy the media's concern while the ability to develop a road map for upward mobility and to stymie these migrations, and build trust in the health centers, remains an uphill syndrome.
Beneath these outfits, there is a mom, daughter, sister, son, brother and a father.
Sure, some would love to stay and others have along these warm and beautiful shores and not bracing brutal winters?

Reducing the boarding pass
There are excellent doctors in the region, but most can only be found in private facilities.
Patriotism is not only the love of country when they shine, but making sure that needs are met off camera.
The region has to develop incentives for others to come back who have left to study medicine in countries like Germany, Cuba, the U.S. and other places.
I hope leaders will take some time to visit other medical centers globally and learn something such as when they visit a major sporting events like the 2016 Olympics in Brazil as patriots.
Many of these leaders have access to the best healthcare. They often travel abroad to seek treatment, while avoiding the same centers being dominated by insects from the lack of resources.
The manipulation of the less informed by candidates for higher office, based on likes on Facebook, or because one stops by a local shop the night before an election to play a few dominoes; others hand out a few dollars, sacrifice a pig or a goat, then sell a false sense of community only to be missing until the next election cycle has to stop.
The less-fortunate person has to become as important as the next election, carnival or world sporting event.
Asking for accountability is not attacking the medical industry or its leaders. It is instrumental for a healthier society; but more needs to be done for nurses.
While millions are being spent into selling relaxation on beautiful beaches, when a local person who serves these visitors becomes sick, hopefully, they can return to work from a good healthcare without discrimination from being sick.
Maybe that disgruntled nurse on the ward is not irritated from an overnight long shift, or a patient's vomit, but a cry for better working conditions and wages.
Selling the argument of free healthcare at these public medical facilities should not be a place where one goes to die.
The economic strength of a nation is dependent on how healthy that society is.

o Derrick Miller holds a BS degree in economics and finance, an MBA in global management and a MS in criminal justice leadership and management. He has worked in the U.S. public safety and criminal justice field for over 14 years. He can be contacted at http://www.crijc.org/. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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The many dangers to the region of Secretary Tillerson

February 02, 2017

With the confirmation of former CEO of ExxonMobil Rex Tillerson to the office of secretary of state, the Trump administration is poised to relive the mistakes of the Reagan era foreign policy toward the Caribbean and Latin America in a way that may fundamentally destabilize the region for decades to come.
From the earliest days on the campaign trail, there has been one clear message espoused by Trump that defined how the United States would begin to approach international affairs: "America First." Now, formalized in his first address as president of the United States, "America First" is set to define a new global order that will challenge pre-existing alliances and long-held norms.
Far from reassuring, the confirmation hearing of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state has finally brought into public discourse the Trump administration's full intention to strong arm the region into getting what it wants, a strategy that has failed U.S. presidents for decades.
In his opening statement to the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Tillerson spoke to the new role of the United States as it departs from the Obama administration's foreign policy of promoting cooperation through bilateral and transnational institutions and organizations.
In brief, this position can be summarized by the following declaration that: "To achieve the stability that is fundamental to peace and security in the 21st century, Washington's leadership must not only be renewed, it must be asserted."
From this, Tillerson has effectively espoused a new doctrine of foreign policy that resumes the Reagan Doctrine's acceptance of active interference in the domestic affairs of nations reconstituted under the banner of self-interest, rather than a genuine desire to promote a liberal democratic world order.
To demonstrate this, one only needs to look at the remarks that Tillerson has made with respect to Cuba and Venezuela, and how closely he toes the rhetorical line between regime change and promoting democratization.

In the waning days of his second term, President Barack Obama made substantive efforts to redefine the U.S.-Cuba paradigm through the renormalization of diplomatic ties in hopes that gradual exposure to the population of the United States would bring about a measured transition to a truly democratic civic society.
To accomplish this goal, the Obama administration undertook three forceful actions: the opening of travel to Cuba; the reopening of embassies between the nations; and the ending of the Clinton-era "wet foot, dry foot" policy toward Cuban refugees.
With respect to the opening of diplomatic ties, the resumption of embassy functions in Havana and Washington marked the first formal diplomatic links between the two nations since 1961 when President Eisenhower ended formal connections between the two nations during the heightened tensions of the Cold War. Although heavily criticized by some Republicans and Miami-based Cuban-Americans as well as several prominent Democrats, his actions have been widely welcomed by almost all of Latin America, who stood in solidarity with Havana at the 2012 Summit of the Americas which called for an end to this outdated U.S. foreign policy.
The ending of the "wet foot, dry foot" policy also marked a substantive shift toward opening. With this executive action, Obama removed a special exemption to U.S. immigration policy that allowed any Cuban national who made it to the United States to obtain legal permanent resident status along with all its perks.
This long-standing policy has been widely criticized by those in the U.S. for its lack of application to migrants from other Latin American nations who flee from their country due to lack of economic opportunity, large-scale violence and its status in for the political status quo in the region.
To date, Tillerson has offered only pallid generalities when speaking about how he would advise Trump in order to deal with fast-moving events in Cuba. With a clear vision that he does not support the liberalization or the normalization process begun by Obama, instead preferring a resumption of the traditional heavy-handed approach.
More than just reversing many of the executive orders issued by Obama in his opening statement, Tillerson remarked that he believes the actions of Obama "[served] neither the interest of Cubans or Americans". He has also remarked that he "will press Cuba to meet its pledge to become more democratic and consider the resumption of more generous trade conditions on trade and travel policies to motivate the release of political prisoners".
This method of attempting to force policy reforms, as emblemized by the long-standing U.S. trade and travel embargo against Cuba, has been largely ineffective and has been repeatedly condemned by most nations. That is not to say Tillerson is wrong to suggest that the United States needs to continue to work toward the active promotion of human rights and democracy in Cuba, but his rhetoric suggests an active process that would radically interfere without clear limits as to what would be appropriate conduct in dealing with equally sovereign nations.

With respect to Venezuela, Tillerson has been far more explicit in his denouncement of the Maduro administration and his desire for the United States to play a much more active role in litigating the domestic affairs of the nation. In response to a series of questions posed by Latin America Goes Global, Tillerson wavered between the role foreign actors should play in resolving the ongoing dispute between President Maduro and the National Assembly.
At one point, Tillerson remarked, "The U.S. should continue to support legitimate dialogue to resolve the political crisis between the Maduro government and the opposition that now controls the National Assembly." At another point he asserted, "We will continue to strongly support the efforts of OAS Secretary General Almagro in invoking the Inter-American Democratic Charter to promote the normalization of the situation in Venezuela and restore democratic institutions."
The Inter-American Democratic Charter (IADC) has long been controversial within Latin America since its establishment on September 11, 2001, as seen through the ongoing debate about whether or not the IADC is tantamount to interventionism and a violation of the Organization of American States' (OAS) principle of national sovereignty.
The IADC authorizes the suspension of membership of the OAS as well as the implementation of sanctions against countries whose democracies have been compromised, for which there is no agreed upon definition.
Additionally, as former CEO of ExxonMobil, Tillerson has a storied history with Venezuela, which may impact how he approaches diplomatic relations with the Maduro administration. When Maduro's predecessor, President Hugo Chavez, elected to renationalize the oil industry in 2007, it was Tillerson who led ExxonMobil through the ongoing legal battle over fair compensation for the loss of its assets.
Needless to say, in attempting to address ongoing issues within Venezuela such as human rights abuses, the promotion of democracy, an economic crisis and a migrant crisis, Tillerson is uniquely challenged in his attempt to play an active role in these conversations.
That is not to say he does not recognize where problems exist or he lacks serviceable solutions to some of them, but watchdogs should be actively monitoring his Department of State and how his refusal to completely abstain from decisions concerning ExxonMobil after statutory obligations expire should impact his foreign policy priorities.

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has a longstanding commitment to advocate for the respect of human rights, the promotion of democratic governments and the promotion of rational U.S. foreign policy initiatives toward Latin America. Despite his rhetoric, it is clear that it is the intention of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state to put these values in jeopardy through an active intervention in the domestic affairs of a nation when it is in the best interest of the United States.
The regression back to this historically present conservative foreign policy toward Latin America that views nations not as partners in regional affairs but as liabilities for the United States has every potential to destabilize the region as it did time and time again from President Ronald Reagan to President George W. Bush.
It is imperative to recall that Trump remarked to CIA officers the day following his inauguration, "I am so behind you. I know maybe sometimes you haven't gotten the backing that you've wanted and you're going to get so much backing."
As such, although Tillerson's policy prescriptions have not been blatantly aggressive to date, taken in this context, the liberal democratic order should be constantly concerned about being undermined by both the overt and subversive actions of the current administration with the active consent of Tillerson as the new secretary of state.

o Brandon Capece is a research associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being "one of the nation's most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers". For more information visit www.coha.org or email coha@coha.org. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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The restraint of power and good judgment

February 02, 2017

"O, it is excellent
To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant." - William Shakespeare, "Measure for Measure"

The Crown", the award-winning Netflix series, is a historical drama about the life and times of Queen Elizabeth II. It will reportedly cover six decades and span over six seasons.
Because the drama is so enticing, many Bahamians have binged on the series. Many are quite familiar with the seminal events of the reign of Elizabeth II, and will find many of the details of the mostly historically accurate storyline fascinating.
The well acted and written series, created and written by Peter Morgan, features Claire Foy as the young Elizabeth and John Lithgow as the aging Winston Churchill, the avid and unreconstructed imperialist, who helped to defeat Hitler.
The drama explores power, its reaches, limits and abuses. The young monarch is schooled in the restraint of power by her grandmother, Queen Mary, by Churchill and by her private secretary, a stickler for the ways of the establishment and centuries of convention.
Elizabeth realizes early that because of her constitutional role as head of state, and her role as head of the Church of England, she has to abide by various traditions, conventions, strictures and norms.
She does not simply get to do what she wants to do. One of the greatest lessons she quickly grasps is the restraint of power. Queen Mary famously instructs her granddaughter that doing nothing in a given situation is quite hard and requires discipline.
Elizabeth surrounds herself with advisors and wise counsel who will tell her what she may not want to hear, the proverbial speaking truth to power.
She does not sideline or lock out advice contrary to her own desires or thinking. She learns not to make monumental decisions amidst high emotions, especially anger and unrestrained exuberance.

She understands the difference between impetuousness and foolhardiness on the one hand, and genuine courage on the other. Churchill schools Elizabeth in the realities and restraints of politics.
The first season of The Crown forecasts an Elizabeth who becomes more comfortable with power. She upbraids Churchill and others for not informing her of the true nature of the prime minister's poor health.
Elizabeth learns that the adept use of power and authority comes only after one has learned and practised the restraint of power, much as an artist, dancer or jazz player learns how to innovate only after mastering the basics of their craft.
Those who fail to learn the rules and subtleties of the ancient art of politics soon succumb to the physics of politics, including the force of gravity, which can quickly tumble a politician from a high perch and political favor.
Former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher enjoyed fine political instincts. She took the Conservative Party to three victories and weathered many storms. But her arrogance doomed her and her instincts failed her, catastrophically, when she refused to listen to the advice of her ministers and to the public outcry over a poll tax. The once Iron Lady melted because she became isolated and refused to listen.
U.S. President Donald Trump, an extreme narcissist and egomaniac, is headed down his own path of destruction, which will likely come in ways that even he does not expect.
Trump and his White House enablers are drunk with power. The ban on Muslims from certain countries is just the beginning of an unrestrained president, who has little sense of history and of the tragedies of human nature and politics chronicled by William Shakespeare and the Greek masters.
Trump may believe that he can defy political gravity. But he will be brought low by events of his own making. Hubris plants the seeds and fells the tree grown of its own unrestrained arrogance.
Not only does the gauche and gaudy Trump lack restraint and discipline. Many of his closest advisors have little respect for the U.S. constitution, the separation of powers, the necessary checks on presidential power, domestic and international law and various norms of decency and civility.

Donald Trump is the antithesis of former President Barack Obama, who by instinct of character, by deep reflection and reading, and by experience in the presidency, exercised restraint of power and prudential judgment.
Trump could learn about restraint from a number of U.S. presidents, including John. F. Kennedy Jr.
Kennedy was famously surrounded by a brain trust, including the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and counsellor and wordsmith Ted Sorenson, who lent an economy and discipline of expression to Kennedy's sonorous cadence and fertile imagination.
Whether one considers that JFK's mystique is hyped or romanticized, few doubt that Kennedy's raw political talent and extraordinary charisma helped catapult him to the Oval Office as his country's then youngest elected president.
In his first year in office in the Bay of Pigs Invasion debacle, the successful candidate failed miserably.
He failed in large measure because of the groupthink of his advisors, a closed group with little external input, and driven by hubris and high emotion.
Despite his stellar talent, his brain trust, his coaching and his rapier intellect, Kennedy came to understand that this was a spectacular failure of judgment on his part.
It was a failure that he owned. To dissect his misjudgment, the youthful president invited his predecessor Republican Dwight Eisenhower to Camp David to help him unravel what went wrong.
Kennedy spent much of the 1960 campaign criticizing the outgoing Eisenhower administration. Now he was seeking insight from Ike, in his 70s, the then oldest man to demit the U.S. presidency.
Eisenhower asked Kennedy a basic question about the latter's decision-making process leading up to the Bay of Pigs: Did he make his fateful decisions surrounded by a small group of advisers or with a larger group that might have afforded him greater perspective?

Kennedy, to his peril, had chosen the former. With his vast military experience, Eisenhower was charier of supposedly expert advice from the armed forces and the intelligence services.
The following year during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy confronted an even greater test of his mettle and his judgment. He was determined not to replay similar mistakes.
He consulted more broadly, utilizing back channels and outside advice, studying a considerable amount of briefing material, weighing the recommendations of experts and competing options with his own prudential and informed judgment, tempering strident voices with those he considered more prudent.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, it was Kennedy's judgment which proved pivotal, helping to avert a possible nuclear nightmare.
The current PBS series "Victoria", on the life of Queen Victoria, tells the story of a young monarch coming of age and coming to understand the use of power.
Victoria is at first giddy with her new home at Buckingham Palace, the roar of the crowd and the pleasures and delights of being queen of the then most powerful country on Earth. At times her ego consumes her judgment.
But after a terrible misjudgment Victoria is necessarily rebuked by a dying female courtier who reminds her that the monarchy is not a plaything, that her office is bigger than the person temporarily occupying the throne.
Queen Victoria is reminded that it is an awesome responsibility like all high office, requiring responsible action, seasoned advice, prudential judgment - and restraint.

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

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Hope and the ballot

February 01, 2017

There is a lot more at stake in this upcoming election than the winning of the parliamentary seats of those who now hold them; and the hopes of those desiring to hold them. Rather, the very belief in the efficacy of government itself is at stake. In other words, confidence in our politics may be on the ballot this election.
You see, for at least three generations of Bahamians, life has never seemed more harsh. Grandparents, parents and their millennial children commonly say these days that things have never been worse. Be it the economy, public order or prospects for the future, Bahamians are despondent. It doesn't matter who one blames for this situation; the fact is that the situation prevails, and thousands of Bahamians are looking for it to change for the better.
In the lead-up to the last election, many big promises were made about making the country better. At that time, the economy was sluggish, the murder rate was high and people were restless about the future. Bahamians voted for change, and change they got - the Christie administration replaced the Ingraham administration. Five years later, not much has improved, many would say, and, in fact, things have gotten worse, others would say.
The big political change of 2012 did not live up to its billing. In the lead-up to the elections of 2007, a great deal was promised then to Bahamian voters. At the time, the economy was anaemic, crime was rising, and voters were feeling frustrated about what they thought was an unproductive administration. Bahamians voted for change, and change they got; the Ingraham administration replaced the Christie administration. Five years later, they were ready to make a change again, and change they did.
For 15 years now, Bahamian voters have been electing and firing administrations following one term in office. Their experiment in change for the better appears to have failed. The ballot has been impotent in yielding the returns for which they have looked over the past decade and a half. Frustrated with their failed experiment, voters seem discouraged. Thousands have decided not to register to vote, even. In other words, for the first time in its history, Bahamians seem prepared to join people around the globe in having huge segments of the population abandon any hope that the ballot could make a positive difference in their lives.
Low voter turnout rates around the world include the following: Egypt (28 percent), Romania (42 percent), United States (53 percent), Japan (55 percent), the UK (66 percent) and Canada (68 percent). Voter registration at home now hovers around 52 percent, a historic low for a country whose ordinary voter participation rate exceeds 90 percent. Such a high level of discouragement is not good for our democracy, as it threatens to put critical decisions about who should lead the country in the hands of a smaller segment of the population than is desirable to achieve the best results for our nation.
Extraordinarily high voter turnout has been a hallmark of elections in The Bahamas, and exemplary of democracy, as well as a reason that we have been able to achieve changes in government at critical times to move us forward. The changes in 1967, 1968 and 1992 are all examples of this.
Bahamians' motivation to vote in the past has been tied significantly to their confidence in the leadership of the parties for whom they voted. The late Sir Lynden Pindling was for many years the inspiration that drove thousands upon thousands of Bahamian voters to the polls. His eloquence, charisma, aspirational promises, people skills and general political craft drove voters to the polls to support him and his party. Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham emerged as a new force in the nation's politics and his compelling political skills, bravado in the face of the political juggernaut, Sir Lynden, and practical and pragmatic plan for the country compelled tens of thousands to go to the polls to support him and his party. Perry Christie, following his ascendancy to the leadership of the PLP, seized upon the mood of the country in 2002, and with his people skills and affability moved thousands of voters to go to the polls to vote for him.
Yes, these leaders had the benefit of entrenched political parties with sizable stable support bases, but their particular abilities as politicians did much to keep their supporters motivated and to encourage others to support the cause.
Leadership matters. It matters to the confidence of voters to expend the necessary energy and focus to go to the polls to vote during an election. In the upcoming elections, leadership will matter again. In fact, the lack of enthusiasm among voters might suggest that they are unsure about the ability of the leadership of the various parties to make a difference in their lives. It stands to reason that if the voters of this nation, in the great majority, felt that voting for one or more of these leaders would mean better for them, they would run to the parliamentary registrar to sign up. They are not, and this speaks volumes about what they believe.
This is sad, but it would be sadder still if they finally mustered up the interest to go and register, only to find that, over the five years following the election, life for them would be no better, or even worse. Under such a circumstance, be sure, not only would they be pissed, but low voter turnout might become a staple of the political profile of our nation. That would be truly troubling for our democracy. Perhaps there is a leader or group of leaders who can step up and change this possibility. We shall see.

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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Values, growth and economic globalization

January 31, 2017

In the coming months, it is likely that the way in which governments think about international trade and their fundamental values will evolve rapidly, as the promises and threats that President Donald Trump made on the campaign trail become U.S. policy.
To understand the likely nature of what happens next, contrast the sophisticated and measured remarks made by China's President Xi Jinping at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, with Trump's blunt generalities about "America first".
In Davos, Xi made clear that he believes in interdependence in trade, a view more in tune with global thinking than that of his new counterpart in Washington.
At the World Economic Forum, the Chinese leader delivered a speech of a kind that in the recent past would more likely to have been regarded as the prerogative of the U.S. president, suggesting that China intends taking the high ground on globalization, economic growth, stability and some would say rationality.
This is not to make a political point, but to observe that it is almost as if the U.S. and China have switched sides in terms of their commitment to supporting global growth, with Beijing clearly aspiring to take a position of international leadership when it comes to multilateralism and economic and environmental issues.
In his January 17 speech, the Chinese president made clear that many of the problems troubling the world are not caused by economic globalization.
"Just blaming economic globalization for the world's problems is inconsistent with reality, and it will not help solve the problems", Xi said. "Rather, we should adapt to and guide economic globalization, cushion its negative impact, and deliver its benefits to all countries and all nations."
Xi went on to argue that any attempt to cut off the flow of capital, technologies, products, industries and people between economies is simply not possible, and runs counter to the historical trend.
While his eight-page speech deserves a full reading, the Chinese president made clear that he believed that a fundamental structural reform in the global economy has begun; that new technologies will be the drivers of growth; there is a need for more fair global economic governance; and the benefits of development need to be more equitable.
To address this, he said, there needed to be an innovation-driven growth model that recognizes that the fourth industrial revolution is unfolding at an exponential rather than linear pace; a new development philosophy should emerge that creates employment and restores confidence; and it needs to be recognized when it comes to decision making that countries are mutually dependent, and all nations should be considered equal.
In language almost certainly directed at the U.S., he said that China remained committed to developing global free trade and investment. "Pursuing protectionism is like locking oneself in a dark room. While wind and rain may be kept outside, that dark room will also block light and air. No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war," he observed.
Xi's comments stand in stark contrast to the executive actions, remarks and interviews given by the new U.S. president in his first week in office. Trump, it appears, sees trade as a zero-sum game that must only bring benefit to the U.S., appearing to relish the opportunity for a trade war.
In his first few days as president, he has made clear he would proceed with his uncompromising "America First" approach; has withdrawn the U.S. from the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement; said that he will renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico; has threatened the Mexican government by tweet; confirmed his intention to introduce swingeing tariffs on certain imports; and said that he intends to develop policies that will re-shore U.S. manufacturing, employment and capital.
It is an isolationist policy that seems set to alienate Washington's friends, consolidate China's economic role not just in its own region but globally, and drain America of the soft power advantages it has enjoyed for decades. It is an approach that fails to recognize the economic interdependence that the U.S. has created globally to buttress its own security, not least in relation to much of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Moreover, the new U.S. approach ignores the way in which modern supply chains work, and if U.S. companies are forced to re-shore to a high labor cost environment, seems likely to cause a leap to robotics; an approach that will result in jobless growth, and continuing income inequality for those U.S. workers with low or no skills.
At the heart of what is now happening is a growing tension between national and universal values, trade as a proxy and the unstoppable impact of globalization.
It is having the effect of causing allies to think carefully about how to relate their thinking to each other.
For example, Britain's prime minister, Theresa May, speaking in Philadelphia to members of the Republican Party, while seeking to retain a "special relationship", made clear, that like Xi, she has an inclusive vision when it comes to economic globalization and values.
In the context of Brexit, she spoke about a future that at times seemed significantly at odds with the approach being taken by Trump. Britain, she said, would "step up with confidence to a new, even more internationalist role, where we meet our responsibilities to our friends and allies, champion the international cooperation and partnerships that project our values around the world, and continue to act as one of the strongest and most forceful advocates for business, free markets and free trade anywhere around the globe".
Although the dark transactional picture of relationships that Trump wants to evince may be ameliorated by wiser minds in the U.S. Congress, these are all developments that the nations of the region cannot escape from.
The implication is that the time has come for the countries of the Caribbean, as fragmented as they are, to consider jointly and individually, how, in what way, and on what issues they like Xi and May make clear their values and principles.

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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Downgrading The Bahamas, pt. 3

January 30, 2017

"Progressive economic policies lead to a sustainable economy." - Keith Ellison

Two weeks ago, in part one of this series, we noted that in December 2016 Standard & Poor's Global Ratings (S&P) revised the outlook on its long-term rating on The Commonwealth of The Bahamas to BB+ (speculative or "junk" grade) from BBB- (investment grade). In that article, we examined the major ratings agencies, how sovereign credit ratings are calculated, what Standard & Poor's said about The Bahamas' rating and what the downgrade means for The Bahamas.
This is the first time that The Bahamas has received "junk status" rating from an internationally recognized ratings agency.
Last week, in part two, we reviewed the government's response to the S&P downgrade.
This week, in our final installment of this series, we would like to Consider this... What proactive measures can be taken to reverse the factors that got us to this point? There are several definitive steps that can be taken to accomplish a reversal.

1. Reduce the fiscal deficit
There are three ways to reduce the fiscal deficit. We can increase government revenue, reduce government spending and expand our gross domestic product. Either one of these measures would manifest positive results. Two of them should eliminate the recurrent deficit. If we can accomplish all three simultaneously, we would significantly reduce the national debt.
In the case of government revenue, there are several proactive steps that government can take. First, we need to plug revenue seepage that results from individuals and companies who either under-report or deliberately falsify their import declarations at the border.
Secondly, the state should aggressively prosecute corrupt officials who undermine tax collection by receiving "patronage" from persons and companies that under-report or falsify their import declarations. Furthermore, individuals who intentionally defraud the government should be aggressively prosecuted and severely fined for their nefarious deeds. These actions require resolute political will, which is difficult to achieve where a deeply rooted culture of corruption persists.
Third, there is an urgent need for better and more methodical tax collection administration. For example, there is considerable revenue seepage in the collection of real property tax. Many millions go uncollected annually from this revenue source.
There are also many persons and businesses who do not pay their fair share of business license fees. This is particularly rampant among second homeowners who regularly rent their high-value properties online, but never pay what they should into the public coffers. Some of these same second homeowners also rent cars to persons who rent their homes online. Such persons are not licensed to rent their homes or cars and the public coffers consequently suffer.
Then there are many entrepreneurs who sell new and pre-owned cars without a business licence to do so, thereby robbing the government of legitimate revenues, both in customs duties and value-added taxes.
On the expenditure side of the equation, there is a painful propensity and conclusive correlation between increased public sector spending and commensurate increases in public sector revenue collection.

2. Reduce the national debt
Successive governments have significantly increased the national debt because of government's insatiable inclination to deliver public sector services and provide infrastructural improvements that are necessitated by the archipelagic nature of our nation.
Our commonwealth is spread out over 100,000 square miles, with two dozen largely inhabited islands; therefore, government must expend public funds to construct and maintain roads, bridges, airports, ports and docks, hospitals and clinics, schools and government offices that provide urgently needed public sector services.
One of the most effective methods of reducing the national debt can be achieved by expanding our gross domestic product (GDP), the overall macroeconomic output in the value of goods and services. The greater our GDP, the larger the tax base and hence incremental increase in government revenue which reduces the need for government borrowing.
Another approach to mitigating the need for public sector expenditure is a deliberate, focused sharing of these expenditures by promoting more public-private partnerships.

3. Public-private partnerships
Considerable savings can be achieved if government adopts a progressive policy for public-private partnerships where the cost of infrastructural development is borne by the private sector as an integral part of heads of agreements that are executed by investors seeking development opportunities here.
Whenever concessions are granted to foreign investors, such investors should be required to contribute to the development of the infrastructure that is required to build-out their investments.

4. Council of economic advisors
Government should seriously consider appointing a council of economic advisors whose primary objective is to formulate economic policies that promote a sustainable and progressive economic agenda. The council would provide the government with objective economic analysis and advice on the development and implementation of a wide range of domestic and international economic policy issues.
The council would provide technical advice on policymaking, with a view to replacing our "cyclical model" of the economy with a "growth model". The council would also be charged with setting quantitative targets for the economy, including recognition of the need for greater flexibility and equity in taxation, methods to minimize fiscal drag, reducing the national debt and encouraging full employment.
The council should also be mandated to address the development of a sustainable energy policy, ways and means of increasing public and private sector efficiency and productivity, more sustainable entrepreneurial development and issues related to increasing import substitutes.
Conceptually, the council would consist of a chairman and other members, including an economist, a statistician, bipartisan businessmen, a representative from The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and an academician. We believe that the government would be well served and significantly benefit from the real-world experiences of council members.
Finally, by more fully engaging a council of economic advisors on issues of economic policy, we believe that the council could assist the government by proffering practicable policy proposals, ultimately improving our prospects for addressing the systemic challenges that have contributed to the S&P downgrade.

As we noted earlier, the real test for addressing the downgrade will be the resolve of the political directorate to postpone its propensity for short-term, politically expedient gains. It must also enhance the institutions that inform public sector economic policy and, like the ratings agencies, look at the future and make crucial decisions in the interest of long-term, considered and sustained benefits to our nation and for our way of life.

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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