Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The difference between Perry Christie and Hubert Ingraham: Christie talks... and Ingraham acts

tribune242 editorial

WHILE Prime Minister Ingraham was still out in a helicopter last night -- landing in Nassau at 9.45pm-- after touring various settlements in Abaco, Opposition leader Perry Christie was in Nassau talking -- rather complaining about government's disaster strategy.

At a press conference yesterday PLP officials directed our attention to government's "mistakes" and "failures" in response to Hurricane Irene. We always take these directions as an invitation to go a step further. For us it is a temptation to open the PLP files on their administration's handling of the back-to-back Hurricanes Jeanne and Frances in 2004, and the NEMA disaster funds for which -- if memory serves -- Bahamians are yet to be given an accounting for that period. Sir Jack Hayward certainly made enough noise over his million dollar donation, which was not used for the hurricane repairs for which he intended them.

On Saturday a 72-year-old lady from Eight Mile Rock said that she realised that many of our islands had been badly damaged by Hurricane Irene. "But thank God that the FNM are in power this time," she added. She said she would never want anyone to experience what they had to experience under the PLP after the 2004 hurricanes. She knew the FNM would be fair. This speaks volumes, and our files of that period will support her words.

What went on today just illustrates the difference between the two leaders - Ingraham and Christie - and their administrations. One talks... the other acts. And when election day comes, Bahamians will have to decide which man they would prefer to administer their affairs - the one landing back in Nassau last night in a helicopter amidst rolling thunder after visiting his constituents, or the one in the safety of the capital complaining to the press.

Mr Christie thought that Prime Minister Ingraham's post hurricane assessment was insensitive to victims whose livelihood had been severely affected.

"When the leader of the country enters into a debate on a matter of a distaste and the impact of it, he has to exercise greater care than (Mr Ingraham) exercised in speaking."

We presume that Mr Christie was referring to Mr Ingraham being disturbed that a newspaper chose the word "devastated" to describe the affect of Irene on these islands. Ever a positive man of action, the word "devastated" conveyed to Mr Ingraham that our islands were down and out for the count. This is a position that he accepts in nothing -- damaged, yes, but down and out, no.

He saw the people's suffering. He felt it deeply. He knew many had lost everything, but he was on a tireless mission to see that they were helped to their feet as quickly as possible. He, like everyone else, was lamenting the destruction, he was not minimising or "making light" of something that was incredibly serious. But, he knew that sitting down crying over a disaster would not get anyone anywhere quickly -- and so he moved on from island to island, discovering the damage for himself and deciding how quickly it could be repaired.

He is leaving the walking and talking and touching and looking into people's eyes to see their hurt and pain -- as expressed at the press conference by MICAL MP Alfred Grey -- to Mr Grey and Mr Christie. While they are "pressing flesh", he will be getting the material to put a roof of people's heads.

"Brave" Davis, Cat Island MP, who hurried to his district right after the hurricane, suggested that Mr Ingraham consider waiving the duty on appliances for affected persons. While Mr Davis was suggesting, Mr Ingraham was doing. He had already announced that government will allow Cat Island's eligible residents to import building and electrical materials and agricultural supplies duty free.

Before leaving for Abaco yesterday to inspect the damage there, Mr Ingraham said: "Cat Island seems to be the most affected so they will have the longest period of duty exemption." He added that he thought a case could be made for Acklins and Mayaguana. However, he thought that Acklins and Cat Island were "at the top of the pile."

While Mr Davis was talking, HMBS Nassau was in Smith's Bay, Cat Island, delivering a team of Defence Force officers to distribute food, water and tarpaulin and other items to Cat Island residents who lost homes and possessions.

The officers will also help clean up the island. Mr Ingraham's government is also arranging to set up a reverse osmosis plant and generators in Cat Island.

This is hardly the behaviour of a man who fails to understand a people's tremendous loss and personal tragedy. We are confident that these stricken Bahamians would prefer what Mr Ingraham and his government are trying to do for them.

If Mr Gray thinks that what the Ingraham government is doing is "fast and inadequate," we leave it to Mr Gray to "walk and talk and touch and look in people's eyes and see the hurt and pain." People will quickly realise that these walks, talks, touching and eye contact will not put bread on their tables or a roof over their heads.

So, Bahamians, take your pick.

August 30, 2011

tribune242 editorial

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Preparation for Irene began 19 years ago after Hurricane Andrew wreaked havoc on The Bahamas

Hurricane Irene and being prepared

Front Porch

By Simon

If Hurricane Irene imagined she would meet The Bahamas unprepared, she was mistaken.  Having swamped virtually the entire archipelago, the massive, powerful and slow-moving storm met the country generally prepared for her assault.  In her wake there is a spirit of gratitude by many, especially that there was no loss of life.

Still, Irene left behind significant damage to homes, businesses and other private property, government offices and vegetation, devastating some Family Island settlements.  Cat Island, Acklins and Crooked Island, Mayaguana, Long Island and parts of San Salvador, Rum Cay, Exuma, Eleuthera and Abaco have been adversely impacted.

Foreign observers tracking Irene’s path through The Bahamas may have learned a few lessons about Bahamian geography and why it took the hurricane several days to traverse the country.  They may have learned about an archipelago of many island groups, an expanse approximately equal to that on size of the distance from Puerto Rico to Trinidad and Tobago.

The Weather Channel and weatherman Al Roker, with Bahamian roots, gave television viewers a tour through the Islands of The Bahamas as Irene’s fury battered the various island groups.

Fortuitously, the hurricane’s easterly turn mostly spared the country’s larger population centers of New Providence and Grand Bahama.  A direct hit on the former would have more adversely impacted the country and its capacity to respond to the needs of other islands.  Grand Bahama, still struggling with the aftermath of natural and economic storms, avoided another blow it could ill afford.

Preparation for Irene began 19 years ago after Hurricane Andrew wreaked havoc on the country, causing devastation in some Family Islands.  Andrew was a wake-up call from the complacency and somewhat false sense of security into which The Bahamas was lulled after avoiding major hurricanes for some years.

Irene’s assault coincided with the anniversary of Andrew’s onslaught on the country soon after the FNM and Hubert Ingraham won office in 1992.  Nineteen years later, the country is better prepared for such natural disasters because of pivotal decisions made back then.  One of the more consequential was the creation of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

The creation of NEMA spurred a significantly improved culture of disaster preparedness by government and non-governmental organizations.  Despite some glitches, the timely and professional response by many government agencies and NGOs was greatly in evidence when tested by Irene.


In broadcast statements before and after Irene hit, the prime minister assured Bahamians, residents and visitors, that the government’s preparedness and response mechanisms were fully in place.  Following the hurricane, Ingraham briefed the country on the multiple teams dispatched throughout the country to assess the damage and recovery needs.

The prime minister also thanked various agencies.

“I want, in particular, to commend the Department of Meteorology for the timeliness of its weather information; the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force for their continuous presence throughout the storm; and, our emergency health teams who commenced emergency operation on Wednesday ahead of the arrival of the hurricane and who remained on duty throughout,” he said.

“The Ministry of Health has given every assurance that all community health clinics around the country have adequate supplies of medications and that they will continue to be properly and adequately supplied in the weeks and months ahead.”

He continued: “Reaction teams from the Ministry of Public Works, the Department of Environmental Health Services, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, the Royal Bahamas Police Force and Royal Bahamas Defence Force moved expeditiously to clear main public thoroughfares in New Providence even before the ‘all clear’ was given by the Department of Meteorology – and they are especially thanked.

“The Department of Environmental Health Services mobilized 20 garbage trucks on New Providence in advance of the hurricane to collect household garbage.  An additional 12 independent truckers were also engaged to collect bulk waste throughout the island of New Providence.

“I am advised that the team re-mobilized at 2 p.m. on Thursday, providing assistance to road-clearing exercises.  The team also responded to individual calls where roofs of homes were damaged as a result of trees falling.  Today, 40 teams were mobilized to continue clearing the main road arteries in Fox Hill, Bain and Grants Towns, Kennedy, Malcolm Road and in the city.”

The archipelagic nature of the country means that the logistical and organizational demands of disaster preparedness and response are unique and more complex than that of a single land mass such as Barbados.  Yet, the central government in Nassau has to respond to the challenges posed by urban centers and Family Island settlements.

These logistical and organizational challenges play to the incumbent prime minister’s strengths as demonstrated in his effective management during various hurricanes, including in lessons learned and responses implemented.

Prime Minister Ingraham has spoken of how global warming may spawn more intense storms and hurricanes, and rising sea levels especially in low-lying countries such as ours.  These things all pose complex challenges in terms of hurricane preparedness and mitigation efforts.


Towards this end, in addition to providing NEMA with various technological and other resources, the Ingraham administration is nearing the completion of a state-of-the-art command center for the agency on Gladstone Road.

There is a three-pronged strategy to provide the northern, central and southern Bahamas with warehouses storing emergency supplies that can be made quickly available to these sectors of the country.  New Providence already has such a facility, with others planned for Grand Bahama and Inagua.

Improvements to the defence force base in Inagua and the creation of a new base in Ragged Island augment the capacity to respond to major storms and hurricanes; so will infrastructural improvements such as the installation of extensive drainage systems in parts of New Providence, especially in flood-prone areas.

Irene’s dismantling of the temporary tent housing the downtown straw market offers some lessons.  Among them: be prepared.

Some vendors who complained of the destruction of their goods left in the market during the hurricane wondered what the government might do to compensate their loss.  This included a potential loss of sales because some vendors indicated that they could not afford to miss a day’s work as a result of goods damaged or destroyed.  In essence, taxpayers should finance their irresponsibility.

A fellow straw vendor offered a to the point response noting that not only did vendors have enough time to move their goods, she also suggested that they should have been prepared for a rainy day.  Fortunately, straw vendors will soon have a new market.  Yet, many of them will continue to moan and complain because of new guidelines that will be put in place for the market.

And many who have whined incessantly about certain roadworks may get a better sense of why such extensive drainage systems are being put in place along with placing various utilities underground.  It’s not just the surface of the new roads that will enhance the quality of life of Bahamians and residents: so will the upgraded potable water system, bringing with it significantly enhanced water pressure through the extensive piping underground.

Even in the midst of significant national challenges and having weathered a major hurricane, there are many things we should be grateful for.  More of us might remember this the next time we overindulge our knee-jerk appetite to whine and complain while ignoring positive developments.

Those developments will prepare us for other hurricanes as well as the future just as the creation of NEMA left us better prepared when Irene threatened virtually the entire archipelago.  With lessons learned, we can continue to improve our disaster preparedness and response systems.  With a twist on an aphorism of Louis Pasteur, “Fortune favors the prepared country.”

Aug 30, 2011


Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene lessons... So what have we learned for the future should we be faced with another storm?


tribune242 editorial Insight

THERE is no doubt that The Bahamas was facing a threat of devastating proportions as Category 4 Hurricane Irene with winds of 135 mph, storm surges of immense proportions and torrential rain prepared to plow its way up through the entire length of our archipelago. Miraculously we were spared such a fate and suffered minimal damage with no reported loss of life.

Having had the opportunity to travel with the Prime Minister and members of his government as they assessed the damage from Hurricane Irene first hand in various Family Island communities over the last three days what immediately was apparent was Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham was there to make decisions. There was going to be no sending out of assessment teams before anything was done as in the past. The Family Island Administrators had made their reports by satellite phones, updated the various Ministers about what needed to be done. Mr Ingraham was there firsthand to learn, apply his vast knowledge and experience and make decisions to ensure that his government was accountable to the people it served.

While not wanting to minimise any damage suffered by any fellow Bahamians as trivial, because any loss no matter how small, is devastating, however contrary to reports in another daily newspaper Eleuthera was not "devastated" in the sense in which that word was being used. In fact, having been there after four hurricanes since Andrew in 1992, given the strength of the Hurricane Irene we were amazed to see how well the islands, people and communities withstood its onslaught compared to Andrew, Floyd and Jeanne. Of course, there were homes that suffered great damage, communities such as Arthur's Town, James Cistern, Green Turtle Cay, Knowles, Governor's Harbour southern Cat Island, Chesters and Lovely Bay that also suffered (see our photos), but there was nothing to suggest that there was devastation and between those areas in some cases there was no sign of a storm. As the Prime Minister clearly told the press, the words "relieved" or "spared" could have been so much better.

In 1992 and again with Hurricane Floyd, the Current, for example, suffered extensive damage so much so that only two structures were left standing. On Friday from the helicopter hovering at 100ft, no structure was destroyed and no roofs were completely damaged. In fact it appeared that the residents' immediate needs were shingles and plywood. Valentine's dock, another usual fatality that anyone would be a fool to go into a "web shop" to bet that it would survive, beat the odds. There, standing proud with only a few pieces of wood missing on its outer docks, was Valentine's dock. We were all amazed. The seawalls that had been installed in 1992 and 1999 were in all cases - from Eleuthera to Exuma to Cat Island -- a tremendous success and a good investment of the people's taxes. Not a single road that was protected by these walls had been washed away, nor were they in need of anything but a few very minor cosmetic repairs. Roads that were not protected such as in Knowles' or Smith's Bay were washed away.

So what have we learned for the future should we be faced with another storm? Well three things:

First and foremost BEC needs to be managed and held accountable to a much higher standard. The light poles - 48 of them that we counted on our tour of Cat Island- were down, not because of hurricane force winds, but because of shoddy installation and lack of planning. In all cases had the poles been drilled to the accurate depth and/or inspected afterwards perhaps the communities would not be without power today and having to wait, we are told, two to three weeks to have these poles replaced. That the power plant in Bluff, Eleuthera, a lovely modern showpiece, is without fuel to produce power is baffling. The key ingredient of a power plant for generators is oil. We understand that the government was told that the plant had enough oil to last to September 6th. We have learned that the oil is on the island, but not at the plant. BEC needs to be accountable and a public investigation needs to be initiated.

If BTC is to have the tremendous privilege of holding an exclusive cellular service within our Commonwealth then with that immense gift comes fiduciary responsibilities that the government will have to enforce. That BTC cell sites do not have their own generation facilities is shortsighted.

Marlon Johnson, VP of Sales and Marketing, made a statement to the press that the communications failure is "not our fault this time" as BEC is off. Well, yes, it is! BTC should not have to rely on the unreliable power of BEC because then they are only as reliable as something in which they have no vested interest and over which they have no control. Furthermore, having been given an exclusive cellular service in 2011 how on earth are people supposed to communicate in such dire circumstances when BEC's policy is to turn off the grid before the storm to protect its equipment and people's lives? BTC must install generators at key cell sites -- which, other than the tower in Eleuthera, appears to have suffered no damage. Are we being plunged back into the stone age to communicate by carrier pigeon all for the sake of a few generators?

The most important lesson as a country that has to be faced is that global warming, increasing violent hurricane seasons and other variables outside of our control will be a part of our future. In other words we have to accept that some of our communities are geographically unsustainable in terms of protection. The FNM and PLP also need to start a national political discussion without the usual bickering on the sustainability of having such far flung settlements inhabited by so few people, with declining populations instead of building one or two super settlements in various islands. We as a country must accept the fact that we can no longer afford to invest millions of dollars for capital projects for 72 people in any settlement. when the demands of our young and increasing population and other social infrastructure improvements go unchecked.

The media also has to play its role. It is not fair to report fiction, or to create public panic by innuendo. As the publisher of this newspaper always insists: "When in doubt, leave out!" And as the Prime Minister stated: "The clinic of Smith's Bay was not completely destroyed" as reported, although it did lose all the shingles on its roof. In fact, upon entering the facility the drop ceiling had been cleaned up and this clinic would be in good shape in a matter of days.

The Bahamian people and our media can take great reassurance from a recent article in Businessweek magazine, written by Jeff McMahon, that showed that Bahamians are nowhere near the bottom of the pile.

"Hurricane Irene is swirling around me right now," he wrote, "slamming gates, lashing shutters with wind and rain, bending coconut palms, and sweeping from these low, sandy islands anything that's not been tied down.

"In the hours leading to this moment, two distinct kinds of humans could be observed here: panicked Americans and calm Bahamians.

"American tourists crowded hotel reception desks and taxi stands yesterday, rushing to escape to the more besieged airport, while Bahamians took in stride the necessity of additional work: screwing plywood over windows, stacking deck chairs and tossing them into hotel pools to keep them from becoming airborne in the coming winds.

"Why such a difference in attitude between Bahamians and Americans? Here's what one native Bahamian told me: 'I have lived through many hurricanes in the Bahamas. You just need a place to stay out of the rain and relax until it's over."

Meanwhile, the American news channels, CNN and The Weather Channel, have been hawking danger and devastation for these islands and for 55 million people on the American East Coast. "You need to have a survival kit!" one televised expert insisted. "After 9-11 people found themselves without goggles and gas masks."

How will a gas mask help in this hurricane? Let's hope lessons learned beget lives saved.

August 29, 2011

tribune242 editorial Insight

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bahamians are too damn ungrateful!

By Dennis Dames

Hurricane Irene has passed through the islands of The Bahamas leaving all life intact. Thank God for that; yet people are complaining about this little thing or that insignificant matter.

Why do we find fault so much, even in time of great blessings?

The electricity is a typical example. We have life and we are in good health; yet we grumble about the power being off as if we are entitled to an eternal and uninterrupted electricity source.

Not even the mighty USA could afford to have the lights on when a violent storm is passing through; and sometimes the power is off for days or weeks before restoration - as a result of storm damage.

Most of the citizens of this world don’t have electricity, or a bowl to sit on to enjoy a good pass. Most inhabitants of the earth don’t have a food store or a shopping center to shop for the essentials of life before a threatening tempest.

Most people don’t have radios, satellites or any communication devices; nor do they have a dependable roof over their heads.

We in The Bahamas have access to all the conveniences of daily living, but we whine nonetheless – even when there is nothing to nitpick about. It’s a culture of ungratefulness and self-inflected wretchedness.

We are too damn ungrateful!

My brothers and sisters, we need to do better as God is not pleased with us just now.

Caribbean Blog International

Downtown Nassau straw vendors want government assistance following damage to the temporary straw market by Hurricane Irene

Vendors want govt assistance following damage to temporary market

Vaughnique Toote
Guardian Staff Reporter

Downtown straw vendors are pleading with the government to provide them with some sort of assistance in the wake of Hurricane Irene, which wrecked the temporary market they have worked in for more than a decade.

Straw vendors were shocked when they visited their workplace Friday morning and discovered that intense winds had blown the roof off.

A number of stalls were damaged as well.

“When I heard on the news that it was destroyed, I was very upset because this is my bread and butter,” said vendor Anne Green.  “I don’t know what the government is going to do, I don’t know if they’re going to assist us.  It’s very bad because I have four children in school and you have your bills.”

Green estimates she will lose about 100 dollars each day the market is closed.

Elaine Williams questioned how long she and her colleagues would be out of work.

“What I’d like to know is how long we have to stay home and if the government will help us,” she said.  “Because it would not be right staying home for weeks with nothing at all.  I need some money to pay my lil’ bills.”

Scores of vendors tried to access the market to check their stalls and see the extent of the damage firsthand.  However, police officers blocked the entrances for safety purposes.

From the outside of the tent, damaged goods could be seen on the ground.

While the majority of straw vendors cleared their stalls before the storm, others left their products in plastic bags on tables in the market.

Vendor Ellen Russell said she lost most of her goods.

“I was on vacation so I left everything.  I just got back on the island late Wednesday and had to prepare my home,” she said.

“I have to replace what I had in there so I don’t have the stuff to sell even when we have a place to sell it in.”

Yesterday Minister of Public Works Neko Grant said the government has not yet decided what will happen to the temporary market.

Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette and his wife Robin took a look at the damage while on a personal tour of the area on Thursday.

“There is some good and some bad,” Symonette said.

“Hopefully it will speed up the completion of the new market.  Also as September comes it is traditionally a slow season for tourism.  So, hopefully we will be able make some adjustments and get towards the new market.”

Like many of her fellow straw vendors, Sharon Carey said she is anxious to hear from government officials on the way forward.  She added she is grateful to God because their situation could have been much worse.

“As I stand here, I can honestly say I am happy, and to God be the glory for the great and marvelous things he has done,” Carey said with a big smile on her face.

“We don’t have a roof, but we have our booths.  We’ll see what the prime minister does, if we get to stay here or we get to go into the new market.”

Aug 27, 2011


Saturday, August 27, 2011 was 'truly remarkable' that no one was seriously injured or killed as a result of Hurricane Irene - says Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham

PM says it is 'truly remarkable' that no lives were lost in Irene


8pm - Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said it was 'truly remarkable' that no one was seriously injured or killed as a result of Hurricane Irene.

He addressed the nation in a taped television address at 8pm Friday evening to provide information regarding the storm damage and advise on what efforts will be taken to help those most affected by the dangerous storm.

In all, he advised that 1,016 people spent the storm in hurricane shelters. 156 of them in New Providence, 860 elsewhere in the country.

Assessment teams comprising Cabinet Ministers and public officers are being dispatched to all affected communities Saturday.

"The first of those departing for Cat Island tomorrow will, in addition to Ministers, include representatives from NEMA, the Department of Social Services, the Ministry of Public Works, the Ministry of Health, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), The Water and Sewerage Corporation, Bahamas Electricity Corporation, Bahamas Telecommunications Company, Bahamas National Geographic Information System (BNGIS) Unit, the Department of Meteorology and members of the Royal Bahamas Police and Royal Bahamas Defence Forces," said Mr Ingraham.

A flight will also take three Defence Force officers to Cat Island, Acklins and Crooked Island Saturday morning laden down with food, blankets, sheets, pots and tarps.

He intends to personally visit affected Family Islands starting Saturday, including Grand Cay, Green Turtle Cay and Murphy Town, Abaco as well as Cat Island, Exuma, Inagua and other islands in the Southern Bahamas where he expects to spend at least two days.

In New Providence, where most of the damage was limited to fallen trees, branches and other debris, 40 teams from the Department of Environmental Health Services were mobilised on Friday to clear major arteries that were blocked.

Both DEHS and Ministry of Works also sent out crews on Thursday even before the all clear was given. Most of the clearing work should be completed by the end of Saturday and the verges will be cleared by Monday.

"Preliminary indications are that serious structural damage was sustained by Government offices, clinics, schools, police stations, and other infrastructure facilities including public docks in Coopers Town and Moores Island, Abaco and in George Town Exuma as well as to private dwellings and businesses in some Family Islands notably in Acklins, Crooked Island, Cat Island, Mayaguana, Exuma and some communities in Abaco.

"Most other island communities have reported varying degrees of damage to private homes, businesses, farms, fishing boats and churches. Roofs of homes, and other building sustained damage in Mayaguana, Rum Cay, San Salvador, Cat Island, Long Island, Eleuthera, Spanish Wells and Harbour Island, Exuma, Abaco, Grand Bahama and New Providence."

Some hotels and beaches in Exuma were damaged and hotel properties in New Providence and Paradise Island also experienced some minor damage.

The Prime Minister said there were reports of flooding in parts of Cat Island, Exuma, Mayaguana, San Salvador, South Eleuthera, North Long Island, Freeport at Queen’s Cove, the Fishing Hole Road and West End, Rum Cay, Central Abaco (Murphy Town) and "in low lying areas of New Providence, in particular at Lady Slipper Avenue off Soldier Rd and at Trinidad Avenue in Elizabeth Estates and to a lesser extent at the usual places prone to flooding."

The Bahamas has not been left alone to finance all the repairs that are going to be necessary. "Even before the storm had departed our waters offers of assistance have been received from the Government of the United States of America, from private sector friends of The Bahamas around the United States and from our sister Caribbean state, Jamaica whose Defence Force will fly a reconnaissance flight over Inagua tomorrow," he said, "The Caribbean Development Bank today advised of availability of an Emergency Relief Grant of up to US $200,000 and soft loans if required."

The Prime Minister advised that the storm will likely create some financial setbacks for the country, but he said the Government will focus on "on creating every opportunity for greater economic recovery, with particular emphasis on job creation. We will continue to provide social support where necessary, so that those most affected can receive the relief they need"

August 26, 2011


Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Irene wreaks havoc in The Islands

Irene wreaks havoc

Guardian Staff Reporter

Hurricane Irene started its exit from The Bahamas last night, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

While New Providence and Grand Bahama were spared the full force of the storm, many Family Islands, particularly the southeastern and central islands, were pummelled, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) reported.

The center of the storm passed over Eleuthera and Abaco for much of yesterday.

Power lines and telecommunications lines went down in some islands as the category three storm roared across the archipelago.

But no loss of life or injuries were reported.

Damage on Cat Island, Rum Cay, Crooked Island, Acklins and Mayaguana is expected to be in the millions of dollars, as hundreds of homes, churches, other buildings and infrastructure were either damaged or destroyed.

According to NEMA reports, all the islands were impacted in some way.

In New Providence, fallen trees and damaged roofs constituted most of the damage.

In Lovely Bay, Acklins, 90 percent of the settlement is reportedly gone, according to NEMA.

“House roofs and several homes [were] blown away.  Power lines and trees went down in the roads, and the shelter’s population increased,” said a NEMA statement.

Communication on that island was limited yesterday.

Meteorologist Godfrey Burnside said the Automatic Weather Station in Arthur’s Town, Cat Island, recorded gusts of 140 miles per hour around 2 a.m. yesterday, and Moss Town, Exuma, recorded gusts up to 127 miles per hour.

“That is significant and that is why you hear all the damage taking place,” Burnside said.

Just over two inches of rain had fallen at Lynden Pindling International Airport at 9 a.m. yesterday, and more was expected.

NEMA said it received reports that 40 houses received major damage in the communities of Betsy Bay, Pirate Wells and Abraham’s Bay on Mayaguana.

Concerns were also expressed by the Assistant Commissioner of Police John Ferguson in reference to three people detained at a police station there, NEMA said.

On Cat Island, hurricane force winds brought down scores of power lines and left the island without any form of telecommunication, NEMA reported.

NEMA also received reports that the administrator’s home in north Cat Island lost its roof.

Areas in Arthur’s Town and Dumfries flooded.  The roof of the police station in Arthur’s Town was blown off and police vehicles were flooded.  St. Andrew’s Church also lost its roof, NEMA reported.

In Rum Cay, which is home to about 100 people, NEMA received a report that homes have major damage, roads are impassable due to fallen trees and the bridge in Port Nelson is lost.

According to the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), residents in most islands with the exception of Inagua — where power was restored to the majority of customers — continued to experience outages up to last night due to controlled power station shut downs or downed power lines.

NEMA said at least one school was damaged on Crooked Island.

The school in Colonel Hill lost its roof and two classroom blocks.  Additionally, St. John’s Baptist Church and several other buildings also lost their roofs.

That island experienced winds around 120 miles per hour, according to NEMA.

Long Island Administrator Jordan Ritchie said the main concern was flooding in Clarence Town.

However, a number of homes and St. Paul’s Anglican Church received roof damage.

Meantime, Central Eleuthera Administrator Chrisfield Johnson said based on initial reports, Eleuthera fared relatively well.

“So far we haven’t had loss of life.  There is some structural damage to buildings but we haven’t done an assessment so we don’t know the extent,” he told The Nassau Guardian yesterday evening.

It was still too dangerous to go out, he said.

“The only thing that remains is to do an assessment of the environment,” Johnson said.

“There is a tremendous amount of debris on the roads.  Our first priority is to clear the streets, so we’re putting together a team of workers to clear the streets to give us access.”

He said he would determine the severity of the impact of Irene sometime today, when he expects to be able to conduct a door-to-door assessment.

NEMA Director Captain Stephen Russell said NEMA is still determining how it will access the affected islands, as transportation may be limited over the next few days.

NEMA is expected to release a more detailed statement on the damage caused by Irene sometime today.

Aug 26, 2011


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dengue fever and hurricane Irene

Dengue fever and the hurricane

thenassauguardian editorial

Based on the forecasted track yesterday, it seems certain that Hurricane Irene will hit some parts of The Bahamas.  If the eye of the system passes over New Providence, the heavy rainfall associated with the storm could add to the dengue fever problem we already have on our main island.

The Ministry of Health last week confirmed that there have been more than 3,000 cases of dengue fever in The Bahamas since the recent outbreak began.  There has also been a confirmed death from the virus.  The middle-aged woman’s death was one of four deaths the Ministry of Health was investigating last week.  However, it is assumed that there have been more cases and deaths than have been reported.

The outbreak has been so bad that the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) has asked all individuals experiencing dengue fever symptoms to contact its hotline to speak with a healthcare professional in order to obtain the relevant information before coming to hospital.

Irregular garbage collection and inadequate fogging by the Department of Environmental Health Services have been suggested by some as contributing factors behind the outbreak.  The virus is spread by the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

New Providence has long had a poor drainage system that is inadequately maintained.  Any rain causes flooding in the most developed island in the country.

The Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of the Environment need to prepare for what is to come.  Those drains that have not been serviced in a while need to be cleared in the short time we have left before the storm hits.

We also need to ensure that fogging is increased, considering that as a result of the storm there will be more standing water on the island that mosquitoes could breed in.

This dengue fever outbreak has taken a toll.  It has harmed and killed Bahamians, reduced productivity at businesses due to staff illness and it has been a burden on the health care system and insurance companies.

An expansion of the outbreak could lead to problems with our tourism industry.  The United States has already warned its citizens about the outbreak.

The government has urged residents to do their part to help with the problem.  We agree that residents should ensure that outdoor containers that could store water should be removed, or regularly emptied, to eliminate breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

These micro-level activities are essential.  However, the government also has to ensure that those necessary macro-level preventative measures are done to minimize the likelihood of a further expansion of the outbreak.

Aug 23, 2011

thenassauguardian editorial

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wikileaks - US Embassy Nassau cables: Fred Mitchell criticizes the decision-making process in Perry Christie's Cabinet

Wikileaks reveals Mitchell 'criticism' of Christie cabinet


CRITICISM of the decision-making process in Perry Christie's Cabinet made by then Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell have been revealed in the latest US Embassy cables released by Wikileaks.

During a lunchtime meeting hosted by US Charge Robert Witajewski for Mr Mitchell and then Permanent Secretary for the US Foreign Ministry Patricia Rodgers on March 29, 2004, Mr Mitchell complained of prolonged Cabinet debate, according to the newly-released cable about the 'Bahamian perspective on Caricom and Haiti'.

In response, inquiries from the US envoy about the status of ratification of the comprehensive maritime agreement (CMA), which had been negotiated over 18 months, Mr Mitchell said it had been decided there would be a formal briefing to the Cabinet about the document because of its significance and complexity.

"Optimistically, Mitchell thought that this could be completed in two Cabinet sessions over a two-week period," Mr Witajewski reported in the cable.

"What is essentially a codification and rationalisation of existing agreements, Mitchell again wistfully mused about how the Bahamian decision-making process might be improved.

"He related that he had learned as a result of his Caricom attendance that in other Commonwealth countries, debate and intervention on issues in the Cabinet is restricted to their ministers whose portfolios are directly impacted by the issue, or ministers that assert fundamental issues of principle.

"In contrast, Mitchell intimated, in the Christie Cabinet of the Bahamas operates much less efficiently since any minister can intervene and express a view on any issue before the government."

When contacted by The Tribune yesterday, Mr Mitchell said: "I didn't say that, I dont think I said that at all. I just don't see myself engaging in that kind of dialogue with a US diplomat."

But according to the cable, the then Foreign Minister also complained about Caricom's "cumbersome" decision-making style and said too much time was wasted by the ceremonial opening and closing of the sessions at the latest meeting of Caricom heads of government in St Kitts.

He said if each government had not insisted "on getting their own paragraph" into the final declaration, "they might have both accomplished more and not have been forced to hold their closing press conference at 2am," according to the cable.

Caricom-US relations were also discussed during the meeting, as the status of ex-Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide, and Caricom's request for a UN investigation of the events related to Aristide's resignation and departure from Haiti, also came under discussion.

Mr Witajewski reported that Mr Mitchell described a 'north-south' division within Caricom on Haiti, as northern Caribbean countries are more careful to balance their interests with Caricom and the US, being cognisant of the importance of their relations with the US, while the southern Caribbean nations are, "guided by political agendas".

Mr Mitchell warned the US not to "overreact" to Jamaica's offer to take in ex-President Aristide as he insisted the US should not be concerned with or opposed to Aristide's presence in the Caribbean.

And he, "argued that a perceived 'banishing policy' has racial and historical overtones in the Caribbean that reminds inhabitants of the region of slavery and past abuse."

The former Minister also insisted the US should not be concerned with Aristide meddling in Haiti's internal affairs from Jamaica, and was, "emphatic that Jamaica will not allow Aristide to play such an intrusive role and would 'deal' with Aristide if such a situation were to arise."

In his comments on the meeting, Mr Witajewski commented on Mr Mitchell's character.

He said: "Foreign Minister Mitchell was his usual business-like self during lunch as he pursued his agenda of downplaying the consequences of a division between Caricom and the United States on Haiti.

"Underlying many of Mitchell's arguments was the premise that Caricom/The Bahamas as small countries take (and are entitled to take) principled stands while the US necessarily engages in real politick.

"Despite a life-long career as a politician in a country where politics is personalised to the extreme, neither kissing babies nor making small talk comes naturally to Fred Mitchell.

"He prefers to deal with agendas expeditiously and then engage in philosophical discussions or reviews of international relations drawing on his seminar's at Harvard's Kennedy School.

"Holding two time-consuming portfolios, managing the civicl service and foreign policy, is also taking its toll on Mitchell's private time.

"Mitchell told Charge a year ago that he hoped to write a 12 chapter book combining policy, history and personal ideology to be published on his 51st birthday. Ruefully, he admitted he hasn't progressed beyond chapter four."

Although he published a third edition of his book 'Great moments in PLP history' last year, including a previously unpublished essay entitle 'Pindling and Me', Mr Mitchell has not yet completed the project he spoke of seven years ago.

As he approaches his 58th birthday on October 5, Mr Mitchell said he still plans to write his book, before he retires, but it has taken longer than he anticipated.

"It's a combination of allocating the time to do it and putting retrospective notes in order, with the difficulty being that I am an active politician," Mr Mitchell said.

"But I am hoping to do it before I retire."

August 22, 2011


Monday, August 22, 2011

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham appeals to all Bahamians to assist in the crime fight... says the government is resolute in its effort to reduce the level of criminality

Ingraham: All Bahamians must assist in crime fight

By Krystel Rolle
Guardian Staff Reporter

Acknowledging that crime is unacceptably high, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham yesterday appealed to all Bahamians to assist in the crime fight, adding that the government is resolute in its effort to reduce the level of criminality.

“On the issue of violent crime I use this occasion to appeal to all citizens and sectors of society -- schools, churches, civic organizations, the business community and others -- to support efforts to combat crime and its causes,” Ingraham said during the Free National Movement’s Anniversary Service of Thanksgiving at the Cousin McPhee AME Church on Carmichael Road.

“And I appeal to all sectors of society, including those in politics, to refrain from associating with and from making statements that excuse criminality or give comfort to criminals.  Together we can defeat those who seek to destroy our peace, tranquillity and economic well-being.  They are a small minority and we must determine, as the majority, not to allow the small number of bad apples among us to poison our environment.”

Ingraham said statistics show that crimes are being committed by persons from all walks of life, including those who come from good family backgrounds.  He added that the country is “challenged” by violent crime and unemployment. “We are best able to tackle both,” he said.

Ingraham noted that his government brought the country out of troubles before and is prepared to do it again.

“By our deeds, we and others are known.  Others governed during a time with violent crime and murder spiralled to unprecedented levels, unchecked drug trafficking and related crime changed the mores and behavior of far too many of our people and unemployment reached historic highs.  We brought our country back from those terrible lows and we are working diligently now to stop and reverse the threats to the quality of life of our people,” he continued.

His statement came one day after the 92nd murder was committed in the country.  A Haitian man was killed in his store on Palm Tree Avenue on Saturday evening.  He was shot in his neck during what is believed to be an attempted robbery.

The unemployment rate in New Providence dropped slightly from 14 percent to 13.2 percent.  Grand Bahama’s unemployment rate dropped from 17.4 percent to 15.4 percent. However, the number of people who are no longer looking for work (discouraged workers) also dramatically increased by 34.8 percent.

But despite those challenges Ingraham said the country has much to celebrate. “We also have significant national accomplishments, and are nowadays respected the world over.  It is in our power, with God’s help, to raise levels of civility and common accord between citizens and to win greater peace in our communities,” he said.

Ingraham, who is serving his third non-consecutive year as prime minister, noted some of the national accomplishments his government made over the years.

He said his government improved and extended telephone services, including cellular phone service to the most remote settlements of the country, and made the introduction of cable television and internet services throughout the country possible.

Additionally, he said the government made it possible for the further expansion of the broadcast industry.

“Now every Tom, Dick, and Harry can call radio stations and say what the Lord put in their hearts or what the devil put in their heads,” Ingraham said.

Meantime Dr. Ranford Patterson, pastor of Cousin McPhee Church, called on FNM’s to help restore the nation. He said it will take people who are willing to stand for righteousness.

“This is still the greatest nation,” he said, adding that Bahamians must return to the ideals of the past.

“We must become caring again,” Patterson added.

Aug 22, 2011


Saturday, August 20, 2011

The petroleum dealers in New Providence have no legitimate case for fuel price increase; in fact – they are among the highest paid entrepreneurs in the country

By Dennis Dames

The decision to not approve margin increases for petroleum retailers is a prudent and wise one on the part of the prime minister and government of The Bahamas.

I have been in the business for three years working closely with one Mr. Godfrey Clark - dealer. We were operating three Shell service stations: Thompson Boulevard, East Bay Street, and Robinson and Blue Hill Roads.

They were among the lowest volume stations on the Island; yet we were able to survive with profits for the stated period.

The East Bay location was the slowest of the lot, but the shop was able to keep that station afloat.

There are petroleum dealers in New Providence who are making big profits, because they have the volume, and their shops are very profitable. If a dealer is pumping 100,000 gallons of gasoline a month at forty-four cents ($ 0.44) profit a gallon; he makes $44,000.00 dollars – exclusive of the shop earnings.

There are a significant number of service stations on the island that have volume of 100,000 gallons of gasoline a month, and the respective dealers of them are taking home more than $10,000.00 profit monthly.

How much more money is it that they want to take home?

The following stations in New Providence among others are doing more than 100,000 gallons of gasoline a month in my opinion: Shell Saunders Beach, Shell Oakes Field, Shell Harold Road, Texaco West Bay, Esso Wulff Road and Montrose Avenue, Texaco Blue Hill Road and Independence Highway, Texaco Faith Avenue and Fire Trail Road, and all of the On The Run Stations, and Heastie Esso Blue Hill.

I have deliberately left out the diesel and shop sales.

The petroleum dealers in New Providence have no legitimate case for fuel price increase; in fact – they are among the highest paid entrepreneurs in the country.

The island could be saturated with service stations - and that might be the reason why some dealers are not making money; and so they are crying for price increases. That’s not a consumer or political problem; thus - the people should not suffer higher fuel prices for this situation, nor should the government give in to blackmail on the part of petroleum dealers.

Caribbean Blog International

Friday, August 19, 2011

Urban Renewal Facts

Stating the ‘facts’ on urban renewal

Dear Editor,

The Ministry of Labour and Social Development, which has responsibility for the urban renewal program, has taken note of the references to the urban renewal program in a press release by the Progressive Liberal Party issued on August 17, 2011 under the caption, "FNM not in control of crime, failed to fund urban renewal," and in the stories in the print and electronic media, and it issues the following statement in response.

Firstly, the ministry wishes to inform the public that in New Providence, eight urban renewal centers were operational under the former government in the following communities: Fox Hill, Kemp Road, Nassau Village, Englerston, St. Cecilia, Farm Road, Bain and Grants Town and Fort Charlotte.  None of these centers were closed by the government and six, including the Nassau Village center, continue to operate from the same location as they did under the former government.  A ninth center was opened in Pinewood Gardens in 2008.

In Grand Bahama, six centers were operational under the former government, all of which are still open and four continue to operate from the same location as they did under the former government.  A seventh center was opened in Seahorse Village in 2008.

Secondly, there has never been any failure by the government to fund urban renewal.  Funds for the program have been allocated on a annual basis since 2007 as follows:

• 2006/2007 - $2,450,000

• 2007/2008 - $2,500,000

• 2008/2009 - $3,000,000

• 2009/2010 - $2,800,000

• 2010/2011 & 2011/2012 - $2,301,822.

The current allocation was based on the pattern of expenditure over the previous years.

The urban renewal program continues to operate a number of community based programs.

As has been the case for the past three years, all of the centers in New Providence held a summer program for children in July 2011 at a public school in the community where the center is located.   Almost two full pages of photographs of some of the activities of the camps were recently featured in the print media.  In Grand Bahama, the camps were held for two weeks during the month of July 2011.

All centers in New Providence and Grand Bahama continue to operate afterschool programs during the school year, and since May 2011 a number of teachers have been engaged as tutors in an effort to enhance the quality of instruction.

Similarly, a number of qualified musicians have been engaged as band instructors for New Providence and Grand Bahama to enhance the competence of band members.  In Grand Bahama, the Royal Bahamas Police Force still provides assistance with the bands.

In Grand Bahama, as an extension of the urban renewal sewing program, a school uniform sewing workshop was introduced in August 2010 to provide instruction to persons in the making of school uniforms under the direction of a trained seamstress.

The workshop was a tremendous success and the 2011 workshop is currently in progress.  In Grand Bahama, an employability skills program is also offered, which provides instruction for unemployed persons in a number of areas, including office procedures and computer applications.

The urban renewal program continues to partner with other government agencies, including the Department of Social Services, the Department of Environmental Health Services and the Royal Bahamas Police Force for the delivery of services and the operation of programs.  Joint activities include, community walkabouts to identify problems and the means by which they can be addressed.

The program also continues to partner with community based organizations.  For the past several years, a church in Nassau Village has served as a home base for the band as is the case with Ft. Charlotte.  A number of churches also serve as meeting places for the senior citizen's associations.  The ministry wishes to remind the public that a comprehensive report on the urban renewal program was tabled in Parliament in October 2009.

The ministry acknowledges with appreciation the continued support of communities where urban renewal centers are located for the program and the public and private sector partners who assist with the implementation of programs.


Yours, etc.,

The Ministry of Labour and Social Development

Aug 19, 2011


Thursday, August 18, 2011

To Messrs Keith Bell and Dion Smith, Mrs. Hope Strachan and company: Urban Renewal 1.0 is still live until the public is fully appraised about its dirty secrets under the Perry Christie administration of 2002-2007

By Dennis Dames

If Urban Renewal was so great, wonderful and rewarding under the Christie administration – [2002-2007], why did the respective communities and their so call concerned residents, business owners and pastors abruptly ceased to be active and kind after the PLP lost in 2007?

The award winning programme under the Christie government has proven itself to be an elaborate gravy train and a hoax.

I have been with the government’s Urban Renewal Programme since 2008, and I have found out that in the respective districts of which we serve, they are filled with people who are chronically dependent on the administration for their every need. They are not interested in togetherness, and doing excellent things for themselves and their neighbors.

Divisiveness is the order of the day, and politics is the official religion and driving force in the lives of dwellers in the respect Urban districts.

Pastors are too political to notice that their constituencies and flock need them; and residents are too occupied with messing-up one another, instead of being industrious and considerate citizens.

We in the Urban Renewal Programme are essentially community facilitators. We are in the particular areas to help residents to better themselves and their surroundings. We are not room service waiters; nor do we subscribe to the notion that Bahamians must be spoon fed by their Members of Parliament and government.

Our vision is to make a lasting impact on those to whom we serve, and to motivate them to be enduring citizens of the peace and prosperity. When we would have moved on, our desire is to leave in place durable programs like the after school initiative, the seniors association, the employment assistance scheme and others that are eternally embraced by the various communities, and their motivated and useful residents.

When the PLP lost the general election of 2007, almost everyone involved with Urban Renewal, and helping their communities in a so called positive light just vanished in the thin air.

It’s wickedness and corruption on the part of those individuals; especially pastors!

This is the reason why the country is in its deplorable state; people today are not genuine and most of us are only concerned about ourselves period.

Now, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) is talking about Urban Renewal 2.0 if they win the next general election. Not so fast Messrs. Keith Bell and Dion Smith, Mrs. Hope Strachan and company.

We have not finished talking about Urban Renewal 1.0 yet.

Why is it for example, that certain police officers were given their walking-papers after the Free National Movement (FNM) won the 2007 general election for their unacceptably corrupt contributions to the Christie award winning Urban Renewal Programme?

Why is it that every bank account concerning the award winning Urban Renewal Programme was closed by May 03, 2007 by crooked operatives? How much money was involved and what happen to those funds?

Yes, Urban Renewal 1.0 is still live until the public is fully appraised about its dirty secrets under the Perry Christie administration of 2002-2007.

Caribbean Blog International

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wake up good men of The Bahamas!

By Dennis Dames

Evil prevails when good men do nothing is indeed a fact of life. In The Bahamas - we could see, hear, smell, touch and taste the wickedness which surrounds us; yet good men are numbed on the sidelines.

Good men have been out of commission for a while in our nation. The mounting murder rate is an example; it is a symptom of a sick and decomposing society – and the good people appear paralyzed to bring about relief to a suffering homeland.

There are killings on the domestic and criminal front, and life is becoming cheaper than expired food selling below market value on a grocery store’s shelf.

Human, gun and drug smuggling are big business in which no government to date has been able to get a handle on; and corrupt civil servants and other crooked citizens are living big-time on their proceeds – and nothing fruitful is being done to really stop such illegal activities which are destroying the moral fabric of our beloved country.

Good men are in a deep sleep in The Bahamas.

Selfishness is the order of the day, and black people seem to be the new oppressors of black Bahamians. We talk to each other with the greatest of disrespect; and hate, jealousy and envy look to be the prevailing culture.

We pass each other by without opening our mouths to say something constructive, and we treat God’s breath as if we are in control. We love our cars and other possessions more than we value our brothers and sisters.

We abandon our elderly folks without mercy, and we don’t give a damn about their welfare.

We allow illicit drugs to poison our children, and the drug dealer is still considered in higher regard than pastors, policemen, politicians and the law.

We invite the guns in to our communities, and when people are killed by them – we become dreadfully outraged.

Children are being nurtured by a diet of television, computer games and the Internet; and we see it as the ideal way to show our love for them.

Many Bahamian youngsters are literally on their own from birth, and we are shockingly surprised and disappointed when they would have committed serious offenses in their youth, or become a murder statistic because of their underworld dealings.

Wake up good men.

Bahamian males are abandoning their children in mass numbers, and although they don’t know if their offspring is dead or alive, hungry or starving – they brag about the amount of children that they have with the various women, whenever the topic is up for discussion by their buddies of like minds.

Our national grade point average along with about 50% of our students leaving school without diplomas is reflective of the youths’ desire to be mediocre and careless citizens, thereby jeopardizing their future and that of the country. Good men remain silent while decay sets in to a people in crisis.

Let’s do something now to turn things around for the better, good men of The Bahamas.

Caribbean Blog International

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It will be difficult for Branville McCartney's Democratic National Alliance (DNA) to win the next general election... The country has been locked in a political duopoly for some time... The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the Free National Movement (FNM) are the only parties many would consider voting for

Pondering third party success

thenassauguardian editorial

We are nearing our next general election. Thus far the opposition parties have been active agitating and campaigning. The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) is attempting to make a mark its first time out. From his public proclamations, DNA leader Branville McCartney thinks he has a real shot at being the next prime minister of The Bahamas.

It will be difficult for McCartney to win. The country has been locked in a political duopoly for some time. The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the Free National Movement (FNM) are the only parties many would consider voting for.

It is necessary, though, to explore the options if by some magic the DNA does well.

There are currently 41 seats in the House of Assembly. A party would need to win at least 21 seats to have a majority government. If the DNA wins a chunk of seats along with the two main parties, other type of governments would have to be considered.

Most Bahamians are familiar with coalition governance – as currently exists in the United Kingdom. Under this form of government parties with seats come together to form a majority government with the party or parties with fewer seats receiving a negotiated number of cabinet posts and other appointed posts in exchange for adding support to the main party or group of parties.

Assuming the PLP and FNM have more seats, McCartney would be courted aggressively and offered the world by each party for his support.

The other possibility would be for a minority government to be formed. In this scenario one of the parties that won a large number of seats, but not a majority, would have to convince the governor general that it could govern. The convention usually is that the party with the largest number of seats without a majority gets the first chance to form a minority government.

What then happens is that the minority government has to govern by consensus. At each confidence vote in the elected chamber of the Parliament, that government could be defeated because the combined opposition would have a majority. However, minority governments make accommodations on each confidence bill, ensuring that enough of the opposition supports the measure. This prevents the government from being toppled.

Negotiation is crucial in minority government situations. These government, though, are unstable and usually short-lived. In Canada minority governments last on average around a year and a half. Canada had minority governments from 2004 up to earlier this year when the Conservative Party won a majority.

If the DNA can win some seats, McCartney will have some tough choices to make. In such a situation it would probably be wise for him not to align himself with either of the two old parties. If many Bahamians take the leap of faith and ‘go green’ at the next general election all of the followers who wanted to vote for the DNA, but were too scared to, would likely come on board at the following election.

Getting into bed with the PLP or FNM would damage McCartney’s message. How could he be different or represent change by either returning to Hubert Ingraham or embracing Perry Christie?

If the people support this third party in any meaningful way Bahamian politics will be forever changed. McCartney does not need to come anywhere near to a majority to become, at least for a few days, the most powerful man in the country.

Aug 15, 2011

thenassauguardian editorial

Monday, August 15, 2011

The reason your power goes off so frequently is that Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) — not too long ago a profit-making corporation that came to the brink of financial collapse last year — has been repeatedly subjected to the poor policy-making decisions of previous government administrations

Why the lights go out

By Juan McCartney
Guardian Senior Reporter

At a press conference earlier this year, Bahamas Electricity Corporation officials said they expected no load shedding to take place this summer.

After the hottest summer in recent memory, and the failure of BEC to prevent repeated instances of prolonged load shedding, many people now look skeptically at anything uttered by management at BEC.

The blackouts have also left Bahamians calling for the head of BEC general manager Kevin Basden. But Basden, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical power from Oklahoma State University, and has worked at BEC for 30 years, is not to blame.

At least, not for what happened this summer.

If one wishes to attribute the state of BEC, which up until a few months ago was flat broke and near failing, to anyone in particular, then one need look no further than the usual suspects involved in floundering state enterprises — the politicians and their appointees.

The reason your power goes off so frequently is that BEC — not too long ago a profit-making corporation that came to the brink of financial collapse last year — has been repeatedly subjected to the poor policy-making decisions of previous government administrations.

Why so many blackouts?

Without money, BEC was unable to stick to its maintenance schedule and overhaul the nine diesel generators at its Clifton Pier plant and the seven gas turbines at its Blue Hills plant before summer began.

Without proper maintenance, some of the generators — as most mechanical equipment tend to do — eventually failed.

BEC was unable to meet the demand for electricity, and on more occasions than many would care to remember, had to institute a systematic shutdown of certain areas of New Providence for several hours. These shutdowns are also called ‘rolling blackouts’.

BEC officials have estimated the cost of servicing the generators at the Clifton Pier and Blue Hills plants at $30 million.

All the generators that have failed are located at the Clifton Pier plant.

The diesel generators require overhauling each year, according to BEC general manager Basden, who also told National Review that they have not been properly serviced in four years.

Basden said that the gas turbines require servicing every three to four years. He said they had also not been serviced in four years.

BEC was $30 million in the hole when its fiscal year ended at the beginning of October last year.

The majority of parts required for an overhaul must be ordered 12 months in advance.

BEC was so broke at the end of its last fiscal year and had such a dismal track record, that the companies that make these parts insisted on payment up front. BEC simply did not have the money.
Many of the parts for the overhaul of the diesel generators will arrive in August, according to BEC executive chairman Michael Moss.

He also said that parts for the overhaul of the gas turbines would continue coming in up to the end of December.

Moss pointed out that some of the overhauls at Clifton Pier have begun, but the technicians who service these generators would not begin work until all the parts were on site.

Why is BEC broke?

Progressive Liberal Party chairman Bradley Roberts has promised that if his party should form the next government, there will be a commission of inquiry launched into why the Bahamas Electricity Corporation is in its current financial state.

The PLP would do well to save taxpayers’ time and money by admitting the obvious, which is that for the past 50 years politicians have meddled in BEC’s affairs to the point that the state-run power provider can barely function on its own.

And both the PLP and the Free National Movement are culpable.

BEC’s decline really started in 1993, when the then Ingraham administration decided to stop paying BEC for streetlights and made the corporation absorb that cost.

Then in 1994, the Ingraham administration imposed what amounts to a 10 percent tax on fuel BEC imports.

Making a bad situation worse was the FNM government’s decision to not allow BEC to pass that cost on to customers.

The Ingraham administration also imposed a seven percent stamp tax on fuel imports. BEC is allowed to pass that on to the customer.

BEC’s profits took a serious hit because of those decisions and the corporation steadily made less money.

That move set the corporation up for the knockout which came in 2004 when electricity rates were reduced across the board and the way BEC was allowed to charge customers was fundamentally changed by the Christie administration.

Roberts and then BEC chairman Al Jarrett have repeatedly denied that the rate reduction negatively impacted the corporation’s finances, but the data proves them wrong.

In 2004, the Christie administration decreased some residential customers' rates by 10.4 percent and other residential and small commercial consumers' rates by five percent.

That same reduction exercise also reduced large commercial customers' rates by seven percent.
BEC claims that not only did the rate changes affect its bottom line, but two other government decisions also cut heavily into its profits.

Prior to 2004, BEC was able to charge the highest maximum demand recorded by a commercial customer in a particular month for a period of 11 months after that month.

During that reduction exercise the number of months BEC could charge that high demand figure was scaled down to six.

In addition, the 2004 exercise required BEC to pay a three percent interest rate on all deposits, but the corporation was not given the power to penalize customers for late payment by withholding that interest, as is the case with many other utilities in the region.

In 2004, BEC was still a viable operation when it earned a profit of $14.16 million.

BEC's records show that in 2005 it made a profit of $15.306 million.

But $14 million of that profit came from the sale of BEC’s shares in Cable Bahamas.

In 2005, BEC only made $1.306 million profit from its operations.

BEC actually lost $2.916 million in 2006.

In 2007, the corporation lost $21.23 million

In 2008, BEC lost $16.015 million

In 2009, BEC lost $26 million.

In 2010, BEC lost more than $28 million.

Last year, BEC raised rates by about 5.25 percent across the board and stopped paying the government for street lights.

Those two moves were expected to generate about $24 million for the corporation.

BEC also started passing the extra 10 percent fuel tax on to customers.

Moss said the corporation is now on track to make $7 million profit when its fiscal year ends in October.

That is just a general overview of the state of BEC’s finances. There are hundreds of millions of dollars behind this picture that have been shifted, begged and borrowed to keep the corporation afloat.

BEC moving forward

Moss and Basden claim that a generation assistance plan which asks businesses that use a large amount of electricity during peak hours will remain in effect until rental generation units can be installed.

The fact that the rental units were not installed sooner as was promised, is mainly the fault of management but could be also due to BEC’s bad credit.

The owners of these units wanted to be paid upfront and insisted on guarantees from European financial institutions before they would ship them.

But that doesn’t change the fact that rental units could have been ordered earlier.

Moss and Basden have made promises that the situation will improve — promises they have both made before.

While there have been some critically good decisions made by the government regarding BEC, there are several decisions the current Ingraham administration has made in running the corporation that have been a complete waste of taxpayer dollars.

The most glaring would be the repeated decisions to have mass reconnections for thousands of disconnected customers.

These moves tug at the heartstrings and make for good political fodder, but are impractical and costly.

For now, Bahamians must accept the fact that electricity rates will remain high in The Bahamas.
The country has no coal and does not drill for oil or natural gas.

There is no nuclear or hydroelectric power in The Bahamas, and the cost of solar power on the level that BEC would need to implement it is prohibitive.

Wave generation and wind technology could be explored, but that will take time, and of course, money.

That means that the country is stuck importing Bunker C diesel fuel — one of the most toxic types of fuel on earth.

More Bahamians would do well to learn better conservation techniques. Simple things like not running your water heater all day and replacing traditional light bulbs with energy-saving ones are a start.

Also, BEC conducts free energy audits on homes. People should seek to take advantage of this.
And for those who can afford it, installing solar panels on homes is also a good idea.

As far as the future of BEC, the Ingraham administration appears to have saved the corporation from doom for the time being. We will see how this plays out over the next few years.

If the PLP returns to power it will hopefully give the corporation some time to heal before it starts meddling again. But if history is any indicator, that is a doubtful prospect.

However, if any government is really serious about BEC, it will do what it knows needs to be done and privatize it.

After all, governments should regulate corporations not run them.

Aug 15, 2011


Sunday, August 14, 2011

...the positive assessment by the IMF of The Bahamas' economy came as a breeze of fresh air in the fug created by recently depressing world economic events

Bravo for business


Res Socius

THE news of the positive assessment by the IMF of the Bahamas economy in The Tribune on August 8, came as a breeze of fresh air in the fug created by recently depressing world economic events. I for one must admit to being decidedly unimpressed by the American President's snide remarks directed towards Standard and Poor who had been warning him for months.

From where I sit, Barack Obama almost sounded like a Republican himself. He appeared disinterested in the fact that at least some Americans are questioning their country's credit worthiness, and unconcerned with the way the markets went into free-fall when it turned out that America the Free no longer has an open-ended budget.

All feedback works the same way in terms of what might be done with it. One can learn from it, reject it, or put it into one's metaphorical pocket to think about it later. Perhaps the President of the World's richest nation will think again about the "poor" assessment his country just received? Perhaps he won't? Time will tell, as it invariably does.

I personally think America woke up to a whole new world this week. It no longer has an unlimited credit card, and its Asian creditors are no doubt seeing it in a whole new light too. Given that Republicans in power are unlikely to tax the companies more that contribute to campaign funds, they will remain more inclined to cut back on expenses. Obama has blocked meaningful domestic cuts. To my way of thinking, this leaves the option of cutting back on America's paternalistic role beyond its borders, no doubt to the delight of some.

Fortunately for the Bahamas we are reasonably well-insulated from the current mess, and for this we have to thank Hubert Ingraham for his foresight (for the record I am a political atheist). Our plans to jump-start our island economy are funded by improving fiscal revenues, as opposed to American handouts with proverbial stings often in their tails.

But America may also cease receiving the free lunches that the western world has been serving it. We have perhaps been too long prepared to follow its lead wherever it would go, and to jump as high as it required. This is good news in the sense that for long-lasting world stability, no single nation should be too powerful. Think of the chaos when the USSR imploded. If the American economy is on the wane, it needs to be let down gingerly.

I wrote this controversial column not to knock America or Americans for whom I have the greatest respect. I wrote it to point out that our island nation's glass is at least half full, and I guestimate far more than that. We are on the right track as the IMF has said. As a businessman I say bravo for the business opportunities that must follow.

Res Socius was founded by Simon Cooper in 2009, and is a Business Brokerage authorised by the Bahamas Investment Authority. He has extensive private and public SME experience, and was formerly chief executive of a publicly traded investment company.

He was awarded an MBA with distinction by Liverpool University in 2005.

Contact him on 636-8831 or write to

August 12, 2011


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Erin Greene - human rights activist: It is important for me to educate people about the constitution and the citizen’s constitutional obligation to the country... and to other citizens and people resident or present in The Bahamas

Profile: Erin Greene

NG National Correspondent

For Erin Greene, human rights activism is a way of life. Though she is often called upon to comment on gay rights issues, what most may not realize is that she fights for many who struggle for their voice to be heard in The Bahamas—including, but not limited to, women, immigrants, children, the disabled and the incarcerated.

“I use the title human rights activist the most because the principle behind it is you have to acknowledge that my rights don’t exist without your rights,” she explains. “We can’t talk about animal rights if we are not talking about women’s rights—our rights are the foundation upon which all rights are granted.”

This is reflected in the amount of NGO organizations she has contributed to, including the Rainbow Alliance of The Bahamas; Pride Bahamas; CARIFLAG Bahamas (Caribbean Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals and Gays); Bahamian-Haitian Solidarity for immigration rights; and the Bahamas Human Rights Network.

Her interest in this spans beyond simply their individual agendas—it settles instead upon teaching people about tolerance in their communities.

“It is important for me to educate people about the constitution and the citizen’s constitutional obligation to the country and to other citizens and people resident or present in The Bahamas,” she says.

However, gaining justice for these marginalized groups, she points out, requires open-mindedness, which can only be gained through education—which is exactly what she does. Erin is a big believer in educating oneself about social issues as a way of debating them—an appreciation she developed from her upbringing.

“For my mother’s peers and that generation and generations before that, education was important. Whether you went to college or not, you were always learning,” she explains. “I was entrenched in a culture of appreciation for education. So I think as a culture and as individual community, we have stopped emphasizing the importance of education, so we have lost the idea of education as empowerment and we simply see education as a requirement for a job.”

The problem arises, she says, when one believes they can hold a debate about serious human rights issues when they know simply a fraction of the language and information. They forego book leaning, and by doing so, devalue themselves and their cultural development.

“The one book that is in every Bahamian household is the bible, and Bahamians know it inside out, they reference it, they’ve memorized it,” she points out. “So we are not a people incapable of learning, but we are a shallow people, and you have a group of people who think they have the ability and academic or scholarly authority to interpret the bible, and they don’t engage the actual academic education.”

“Likewise, they read a paragraph of a book in a field of many books and they believe they have the scholarly authority to interpret that information without any other information in that field, without even speaking to another person in that field—they just know what it is,” she continues.

Yet the unfortunate state of education has come to be due to a large and seemingly unmanageable series of events and cultural norms that Erin believes we must examine closely. Factors such as lazy parenting whereby we discourage curiosity and a culture where we discourage public critique, breed children who don’t know how to learn, and coincidentally adopt passionate standings on social issues that were realized through ignorance and partial research.

The responsibility falls not only to the government but to the community to bring back that appreciation of education and culture of learning in order to hold significant debates about issues pertaining to our humanity.

“Civil society has not invested enough in institutions of learning, education and empowerment,” she points out. “We need a tax right away, we need to legalize a national lottery right away if not only to create a special ACE (Arts, Culture and Education) tax and we as a people need to put our money where our mouths are and really fund, because the books aren’t there, the resources aren’t there.”

It is in this larger framework of shortcomings that Erin hopes to step in and individually help educate people completely in a subject—whether it is immigration rights, women’s rights, gay rights, or disabled rights. Justice and equal footing can only begin with understanding and compassion, and so she practices these in her daily interactions as a mouthpiece for those who desperately need one in a culture of ignorance—whether the people listening are ready to accept the realities of their world or not.

“People will do what they want. That’s what makes the world work,” she points out. “I think as part of the human experience, if you can respect that and honor that, when you can wrap your ego around that, then you can begin to learn about a world where everybody deserves rights, and there’s no question about whether people deserve rights or not. Even within that, you can’t force that realization upon anybody. It’s that’s a thing that people come to themselves at different times in their lives.”

It’s a tough path for anyone to take, battling against what can be at times outward hatred to dispel stereotypes and encourage understanding, but again her upbringing taught her about education as the key to helping people.

“I was raised in a culture of volunteerism and community awareness,” she says, and indeed, Erin’s work as a teenage councilor in the Methodist Youth Summer Camp, Bible Schools and the Police Force Summer Youth Program helped her gain awareness and appreciation for teaching people interesting and relevant life skills and understanding.

But it wasn’t until she came back from her college studies and identified as gay, becoming part of Pride Bahamas, that she became a spokesperson for gay rights issues through that group—which soon expanded to include human rights in all of its forms.

“It all spiraled out of control from there,” she laughs. “I’m at the point now that everything I do now has some form or level of activism in it. But I think it’s because I’ve learned that as an activist, as an artist, and an entrepreneur, whatever you do in The Bahamas, you’re doing that work and you’re also doing the work of building a culture of appreciation for what you do. So if I’m doing gay rights work, or if you’re doing animal rights now or environmental work, half of your work is building a culture of appreciation for human rights.”

Two major ways she is able to build this appreciation is by way of her work as an artist and through her well-known humor. Her artwork, such as the fringed tie Junkanoo objects in her exhibition “Jux-Tie-Position” examine our relationships to culture and sexuality, and emphasizes cultural discourse as a means to social activism.

Yet Erin is truly able to create a culture of open-mindedness and appreciation for human rights by educating people through her use of humor. She used to perform stand-up pieces during the open-mic nights Express Yourself, and for four years has been involved in the improv troupe Da SPOT for about four years now, which in itself is a social commentary-based sketch group. She also runs the radio show “The Culture of Things” which is now in its second season. Humor is a powerful tool for Erin to use because it dissipates any passionate situation, and makes serious issues relatable.

“Humor is one of those necessary attributes that allows you to see, that rewires the brain to be able to see without getting mad or upset,” she says. “It’s subversive. It is an act of civil disobedience. Because people don’t realize you’re talking about serious stuff and their radar is down, their force field is down, and you’re able to put it into their heads and when they’re at home and in a more comfortable space, they’re able to really think about it.”

In the end, just as she proclaims, all of Erin’s efforts go towards developing some sort of social consciousness. To Erin, The Bahamas has moved forward rapidly with the world but has done little growing consciously. She hopes that by continuing to compassionately, honestly and otherwise hilariously educate those willing to listen, The Bahamas can become a community and part of a world that creates safe spaces for those who are part of a vulnerable community.

“People deserve rights because they are human beings. We all deserve rights. Its not even that we deserve them—we have them— it just that we deserve the respect of those rights,” she explains. “I wish us the wisdom to look back to the past, the courage to stretch our arms out to the future and the compassion to share the present with everybody around us.”

Aug 08, 2011


Friday, August 12, 2011

Although the public is clamouring for government to start hanging those now on death row, the law has to be followed and so far the Privy Council rulings are almost cutting down the hangman's noose

tribune242 editorial

WE AGREE with Security Minister Tommy Turnquest that it is going to become increasingly more difficult to hang convicted murderers.

Although the public is clamouring for government to start hanging those now on death row, the law has to be followed and so far Privy Council rulings are almost cutting down the hangman's noose.

In 1993 the Bahamas discovered that a hanging could not be carried out because the Privy Council had earlier ruled in a Jamaican case that it was inhumane for a prisoner to wait more than five years on death row for their sentences to be carried out. After five years a death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Ever since then clever lawyers have protected their clients by court delays stretching past the five year limit.

Then in 2006 the Privy Council ruled that mandatory death sentences were unconstitutional. Each case had to be considered on its individual merits before sentence could be passed.

However, the Privy Council decision in the Max Tido case, in which 16-year-old Donnell Conover was brutally murdered, has almost ended capital punishment in the Bahamas. The Privy Council sent Tido's case back to the Bahamas appeals court saying that it was not a murder that warranted the most extreme punishment of death. It was returned "for the imposition of an appropriate sentence." The angry reaction here from both religious and civic organisations was to give the boot to the Privy Council, and do it our way -- "hang 'em high."

However, despite the Privy Council ruling the government is working on draft legislation that will target prolific and repeat offenders and outline specific categories of murders.

Nevertheless, it was Mr Turnquest's view that whether it be the Privy Council in London or the judges in the Caribbean "more and more jurists are going to find more and more obstacles to put in the way of governments from carrying out capital punishment." That, he added, is the "reality of life."

Therefore, he said, the concentration should be to get "those prolific killers, those prolific offenders, behind bars and off our streets." In the case of murderers, life imprisonment should mean "life until death do us part."

As we have already suggested in this column those who have a life sentence should be turned into useful citizens -- even though they are behind prison walls. A large acreage of Crown land should be opened for them to farm, thus allowing them to make a contribution to this country's food supply. Between our local farmers and the prisoners this country could be almost self sufficient in fruits and vegetables. This would certainly take some of the burden off our foreign reserves.

However, there has recently been a turn of events in England with regard to capital punishment that is worth watching. And it will probably get more traction now that young hoodlums are thumbing their noses at police and setting London and other regions on fire just for the hell of it. The British are fed up with lax laws and are demanding more punishment for law breakers.

The British government -- in a move to bring democracy directly to the people -- has installed a new site for e-petitions allowing the public to have their issues debated in Parliament provided they get enough support online to do so. Restoration of the death penalty is now a burning issue. The traffic on the site was so high on this subject -- more than 1,000 people a minute -- that the site broke down. It was not designed for such heavy traffic.

"We are getting 1000 unique visits a minute - this is equivalent to nearly 1.5 million visits a day and is far more than the old ePetitions site on Number 10 ever received," said a government spokesman in apologising for the breakdown.

The restoration of capital punishment now looks as though it is going to be one of the first items for debate on the Commons' agenda. It will be the first Commons vote on capital punishment since 1998. The last hangings in Britain were in 1964.

Although British Prime Minister David Cameron does not think that "in a civilised society like ours that you can have the death penalty any more," Priti Patel, MP for Witham in Essex, felt that such a debate would "provide a good opportunity to talk about the failings of our existing criminal justice system." So many victims of the "most horrendous and heinous crimes," he said, "have no sense of justice."

He echoes the words of Donnell Conover's father who on hearing the Privy Council's decision on Tido's future said: "It is really sickening -- I feel as if there is no justice in the world for a victim's family."

August 10, 2011

tribune242 editorial

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rethinking the modern welfare state in The Bahamas...

Rethinking the modern welfare state by whatever name

thenassauguardian editorial

Bahamians should monitor closely the economic events in Europe and the United States. Several European countries such as Spain, Portugal and Italy are having trouble managing their debts. Other European economies such as Ireland and Greece have already been bailed out; but may still need additional help again soon.

There are fears that a European debt crisis could emerge creating conditions similar to the financial crisis of 2008, which led to the most significant recession since the Great Depression.

As Europe tries to fix itself, and there is no easy solution, a bitter debate in the United States over debt and spending rages. The U.S. has a debt to GDP ratio of around 100 percent that is growing. Conservatives want to see deep cuts to entitlement spending. Liberals want to maintain the social programs they think support a just society

The U.S. and Western European countries had high levels of debt before the financial crisis. The amount of money states used to support their economies after the crisis, however, significantly increased those debt levels. Now, tough decisions have to be made. The old levels of spending can no longer be supported. If they are maintained, collapse will eventually be the result.

The problem is that in modern states people have come to believe that they have the right to every benefit under the sun. Many think they should have free health care, free education, unemployment benefits, pensions, etc. In previous good times when these things could be afforded, politicians kept piling on benefits and giving subsidies to appease voters and financiers.

The time has now come in the Western World to roll back these ‘gifts’ and rethink the role of government.

In truth, people do not have the right to any benefit or gift from the state. The whole idea of rights is too based on religious thinking and assumptions on what ought to be bestowed to humans by a mysterious divine source.

Countries, communities and social groups can only provide the level of entitlements that can be afforded. Governments can and ought to act as back stops for the downtrodden if they can afford to so do, and not otherwise. So, if you live in oil rich Norway, then the sky is the limit. That state can afford to spoil its citizens.

When you live in a developing society with a debt to GDP ratio approaching 100 percent, there is little the state can do for you.

Government should function first and foremost as a regulator. Its job should be to ensure that fair and open marketplaces exist, through which citizens can make a living. Government should also work to ensure the safety of the common area from internal and external threats.

Beyond this, all the other benefits a state could offer should be based on the resources at its disposal, after consultation with the people.

Under this mindset, it becomes easy for a country to make decisions as to the cuts necessary for growth in the economy to return. Wasteful programs and subsidies, to the poor, as well as to the rich, must be cut across the board in the West in order for taxes to be reduced and for the private sector to have more space to expand. Unnecessary and onerous regulations also need to be removed, creating a more favorable atmosphere for entrepreneurs to take risks.

Here in The Bahamas we are burdened by more and more regulations and by a large and inefficient public service. Our solution, it seems, to the down times is to continue to impose more regulations and to pay the public sector come what may and to borrow and borrow to so do. We cannot keep this up forever.

It is obvious what needs to be done. But it will not be done until people here abandon the idea that a welfare state, by what ever name, is the answer.

Aug 10, 2011

thenassauguardian editorial