Thursday, June 28, 2012

Daily routines of many women affected by the threat of crime in The Bahamas

Living in fear

Taneka Thompson
Guardian Senior Reporter

Every time Kayla Sands comes home she checks under the bed and looks in the closet for signs of an intruder.

Her fear of being surprised by an attacker interferes with daily errands, keeps her anxious and constantly on guard. Sands, whose name has been changed because she did not want her identity disclosed, considers herself ‘paranoid’ but said her fear is justified. A man held her up at gunpoint one afternoon last year as she picked up lunch at a popular restaurant.

Sands believed the gunman, who threatened to kidnap her and eventually stole her car, was going to kill her. Luckily she escaped the holdup alive, but in the months after the incident her anxiety over future attacks has intensified.

“I can’t even open my door to take out my garbage or sometimes even go to the bank to withdraw money by myself,” said Sands.

“I keep looking over my shoulder because of my fear that someone is going to follow me home. When I get home I look in the closets and check under the beds. It makes me very uncomfortable doing my daily routine.”

Her fear has grown after news broke Monday that over the past few months numerous women in New Providence have reportedly been raped during home invasions.

“I want a gun now. I want to be locked and loaded - I want two. [My fear] is amplified now. I didn’t even know a rapist was on the loose,” Sands told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.

She is not the only woman in New Providence who now wants to arm herself against potential rapists and other would-be attackers.

“This makes me want to go and buy a gun,” Rochelle Wells, whose name has also been changed, said yesterday, referring to the reported rapes. “It’s one thing to get robbed and even killed but I think getting raped - I can’t imagine that not being the greatest fear for any woman.”

Wells said she was the victim of a gun attack on a night in 2010. She said two armed men robbed her and her boyfriend as they pulled up to her home in eastern New Providence. The attackers shot at her car and made off with her purse.

Wells, an avid runner, is now thinking about adjusting her exercise schedule to make herself less vulnerable to attackers.

Karen Davis, who also did not want her real name disclosed, said she found out about the rapes through Facebook long before the reports made the news. She said the police should have warned the public earlier.

“We live in an Internet age and it is common to find out information from the Internet before anywhere else,” Davis said. “When you read something on the Internet, you are not sure if it is true or if the story is being exaggerated but once it was in the news, I took it more seriously.”

She said the fear of crime has not altered her life too much but she is vigilant when driving home at night.

“I do take the extra time to check the windows and doors and my surroundings before I go outside or when coming home,” Davis said.

On Monday, Assistant Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson said four alleged victims who live in eastern New Providence, reported sexual assaults over the past few weeks. This led police to increase patrols in undisclosed areas.

Four more alleged rapes occurred in western New Providence over the past few months, Ferguson said.

He added that police have received reports of one or two men breaking into homes in quiet communities and holding residents at gunpoint between 2 a.m and 6 a.m. to steal jewelery, cash and sometimes rape women.

Jun 27, 2012


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Bahamas is a major smuggling zone for people and narcotics to the United States from South America and the Caribbean... However, there are usually no prosecutions for human smuggling for some reason

Changing how we respond to human smuggling

thenassauguardian editorial

At least 11 people are dead as a result of a suspected human smuggling operation gone wrong off Abaco a few weeks ago.  Authorities fear 10 other passengers, who remain unaccounted form the vessel ‘Cosy Time’, are dead.

Twenty-eight passengers were reportedly onboard the vessel and seven people survived.  The victims are all thought to be of Haitian descent.

National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage has told the House of Assembly that one of the survivors, a man of Bahamian-Haitian descent, said he boarded the boat because his mother insisted he go to the United States on the vessel.

“The gentleman further stated that he believed each person paid a total of $5,000 a head for the journey,” Dr. Nottage said.

The Bahamas is a major smuggling zone for people and narcotics to the United States from South America and the Caribbean.  However, there are usually no prosecutions for human smuggling for some reason.

Most of the people smuggled here are Haitians and many die trying to escape the poorest country in the hemisphere.

Thus far one person has been charged in connection with the deaths in Abaco.  Several others have been taken in to custody for questioning.  The man who has been charged is innocent until proven guilty in a court.  We make no comment on his guilt or innocence, but we commend the government for this time investigating this matter seriously and seeking to bring before the court those it suspects responsible so that a jury could decide their fates.

One of the ways to slow human smuggling is to aggressively prosecute those involved.  When migrants are killed in human smuggling operations those who organized the operations and those who command the vessels are criminally responsible for those deaths.  Manslaughter charges should be leveled against smugglers who survive these tragic occurrences.

If we do not get tough with this heinous crime it will continue and more desperate people will lose their lives seeking better lives away from their economically challenged homelands.

The witness told police one of the boat’s engines kept cutting off, which slowed it down.

“He reported that the seas were very rough and the vessel began to take on water,” Dr. Nottage said.

“The vessel eventually capsized and everyone began to scramble to save their lives.  He reported that he did his best to save other persons, but the sea was too rough, so he had to save his own life.”

We must not just view this situation as tragic.  The Bahamas should use it as an opportunity to change how we deal with human smugglers.  They prey on the desperation of poor people.

Jun 25, 2012

thenassauguardian editorial

Saturday, June 23, 2012 a society we should not put our confidence in the legalization of gambling for Bahamians ... we should rather rely on our abilities, discipline and hard work ...and appropriate public policy to improve our circumstance

Put not your confidence in gambling

By Phillip P. Sands

The Progressive Liberal Party’s pledge to conduct a referendum on aspects of gambling is the right thing to do in light of the sustained public debate on the issue.  Political parties should refrain from politicizing this matter as occurred in the 2002 referendum.  Civil society and individuals should lead the debate.

I oppose the government endorsing gambling by Bahamians in The Bahamas not because of any religious piety on my part, but due to my increasingly strong conviction that the arguments advanced by those in support of gambling are faulty, misguided and short-sighted.

Three main arguments are advanced to support allowing Bahamians to gamble in The Bahamas namely: constitutional discrimination; unenforceable laws; and enhancement of state revenues.   However, each of these arguments is fundamentally flawed and/or lacking sufficient objective evidence to support claims made.

Constitutional discrimination

It is clear that casino gambling in The Bahamas is discriminatory, but this does not violate the constitution.  The principal purpose of the constitution is to outline the fundamental rights and responsibilities of the country’s residents.  Bahamians cannot gamble and tourists can, but tourists are unable to engage many of the constitutional rights and responsibilities (like voting and employment rights) reserved for residents.  So, the constitution is discriminatory, but this does not make it self-violating and neither under the letter or spirit of the constitution can gambling be considered a right or responsibility.  Even if this were a constitutional matter, the right action to take would be to have the tourists conform to the current standard set for Bahamians and not vice versa.

Unenforceable laws

There is little doubt that it has been virtually impossible for law enforcement agencies to “break” gambling activities among Bahamians in The Bahamas.  However, a similar fate befalls the police in their attempts to stamp out strip clubs, the drug and firearms trades and prostitution.  Therefore, does this mean that the current inability of the police to tackle these problems should lead to their acceptance?

Using the premise that difficult to enforce laws should be abandoned, why not decriminalize the marijuana trade?  It also involves a large proportion of the population and, despite the high public expenditure devoted to its eradication, many of its users are never caught.  Of those who are imprisoned, thousands of dollars are spent to warehouse them in an overcrowded prison environment which, many argue, does little to rehabilitate and more to create hardened criminals of its inmates.

Families also pay a tremendous monetary and emotional price during and after the incarceration of their sons and fathers who often struggle to re-integrate into society, including the labor market, as they are saddled with a criminal record and the stigma of having been to prison.  Because of this, ex-cons seemingly are never able to repay their debts to society – some just for smoking a marijuana cigarette.  Yet, as a society, we have decided rightly that marijuana is contraband and its use is not permitted.  So, if we hold firm on this, why should our position be any different in relation to illegal gambling?  Decisions like this should be taken on principle, not on a whim.

Finally, if it is impossible to control web shops now that gambling for Bahamians is illegal, why do some of us think that the government would be able to regulate (including collecting all taxes due) these establishments which have become skilled at circumventing and defying laws, rules and regulations?

Enhanced state revenues

According to the May 24, 2012 edition of The Tribune, a national lottery could generate $190 million.  This money, unlike that gained from casino gambling, is money already in the local economy.  Yes, there will be some multiplier effects, but not anything more than if the money were used on some other forms of recreation (e.g., going to the movies and the bowling alley).

While prime minister, Hubert Ingraham projected the government collecting $30-40 million in taxes, which would represent about two percent of government expenditure, currently at $1.8 billion per year.  But, for the sake of argument, let’s be generous and project that the government would receive 40 percent of the $190 million.  This would total $76 million, or about four percent of the current government expenditure.

With average annual household income equaling $30,318 in 2008, a significant portion of household income would have to be devoted to gambling as reflected below in the chart.

According to the Bahamas Living Conditions Survey Report, the average Bahamian household spent 12.6 percent of its income in 2001 on personal care, clothing, footwear and entertainment collectively.  So, if 70 percent of Bahamian households participated in gambling, they would need to spend two-thirds of the money that they should be spending on these items ($2,592.17) on gambling alone.

Since lotteries, like any business, advertise and try to convince and entice people to buy their product, if the government facilitates Bahamians gambling, it would become party to encouraging its citizens in irresponsible behavior.  When families make poor money management decisions and neglect their responsibilities (i.e., housing, utilities, etc.) then the government too will be partially at fault – all for a mere four percent of its income.

The nature of the game

Moreover, gambling is a zero sum game and for every winner, there must be losers.  In fact, for every winner there are many losers.  If one spends $1 and wins $600 playing the numbers, I estimate that at least another 999 people must lose (assuming they spent $1 each).  State-sponsored gambling is a tax.  We already have an unjust regressive taxation regime which disproportionately burdens the poor.  What Bahamians should really be calling on their government to do is to restructure the system of taxation where the upper middle and wealthy classes “man-up”, embrace “the Buffet Rule” and take on a greater share of the tax burden.

Yes, many Bahamians currently gamble and there is a loud call for its legalization.  However, under scrutiny the justifications offered for the legalization of gambling are fatally flawed.  It may be true that currently there is little that the state can do to stamp out the illegal gambling which takes place in the country; and even if the majority of citizens voted against it, thousands of Bahamians will continue to gamble in The Bahamas.

So, the real issue is not whether or not our laws vis-à-vis gambling are discriminatory or that the government cannot enforce its current prohibition related to Bahamians gambling, or even that the proceeds from gambling can supplement government revenue.   The real issue is whether or not the society and government, without strong justification, should endorse gambling, which is likely to create other more fundamental policy and moral dilemmas and problems.

I say as a society we should not put our confidence in the legalization of gambling for Bahamians, but rather we should rely on our abilities, discipline and hard work and appropriate public policy to improve our circumstance.

Jun 22, 2012


Friday, June 22, 2012

Downtown Nassau Partnership (DNP) co-chairman - Charles Klonaris says: ...The cost of borrowing in the Bahamas is a major deterrent to persons looking to start up developments or small business

Dnp Co-Chairman: Country's High Interest Rates Major Deterrent For New Businesses

Tribune Business Reporter

THE cost of borrowing in the Bahamas is a major deterrent to persons looking to start up developments or small business according to the Downtown Nassau Partnership's (DNP) co-chairman Charles Klonaris.

He told Tribune Business yesterday that the country's high interest rates were contrary to trends in some of the world's largest economies.

Speaking with Tribune Business following a forum hosted by The Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers' Confederation (BCCEC) on local business incentives, Mr Klonaris said: "To do developments or to get into business in the Bahamas is expensive so we welcome legislation like the Revitilisation Act. Borrowing costs and energy costs are two big issues that need to be addressed. To get into the retail business is expensive. The borrowing costs are high. You are talking a minimum of seven per cent or higher."

Mr Klonaris added: "When you look around at what's happening in Europe and the United States, money is very inexpensive and that's purposely done to encourage someone to get into business. This is an issue that needs to be addressed. I don't know the reason why it is so expensive. It seems contrary to what is taking place world wide, that we still have these high interest rates when in the rest of the world money is practically free."

Mr Klonaris referred to the cost of electricity that persons interested in starting a development or business have to grapple with. "The cost of electricity is very high. This not only applies to the business person but also to the consumer. By the time he pays his electricity cost, food and gas, he doesn't have a disposable income. There is nothing left for him to go out and shop with. We are in some very serious and very difficult times and these are some of the issues the country needs to look into."

Mr Klonaris also suggested yesterday that tax exemptions provided under the City of Nassau Revitilisation Act start once the developer receives their certificate of occupancy. Mr Klonaris said: "If you are doing a major development it can go on for a long time. A small development could be a year, two years or five years. According to the Act you are exempt on bringing in materials as well as they give you a five year real property tax exemption but that starts once you make the application. To make the application you sit with your architect, sit with the contractor and fill out all the materials you are going to bring in and give it to the Ministry of Finance. It starts then even before construction starts and I'm suggesting that it should start once you receive the certificate of occupancy and I think it fair for everybody."

June 22, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

....the Bahamian government's failure to prosecute a single human trafficking case – has led the Bahamas to be classified as a “Tier 2 Watch List” on the State Department’s 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report for the second year in a row

Us Alert On Trafficking


THE alleged lack of “freedom of movement” for Chinese workers is an indication that human trafficking may be taking place at a large-scale construction site in the Bahamas, according to a new report from the US State Department.

This, among other factors – including the government failure to prosecute a single human trafficking case – has led the Bahamas to be classified as a “Tier 2 Watch List” on the State Department’s 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report for the second year in a row.

“Media outlets have reported that Chinese workers in a large-scale Chinese construction project in The Bahamas do not have freedom of movement – a human trafficking indicator,” the report said.

It does not specify what “large-scale Chinese construction project” it is referring to, but the Thomas A Robinson national stadium, the Baha Mar resort, the Chinese Embassy, and various road projects in the family islands could all be described as large-scale construction projects with employed Chinese workers.

When reached for comment, Baha Mar senior vice president of administration and external affairs, Robert Sands firmly stated that the US could not be referring to their project.

“It doesn’t apply to us because our persons have freedom of movement,” Mr Sands said, before pointing out: “Baha Mar is not the only construction project going on in The Bahamas where Chinese workers are employed.”

Representatives for the Chinese Embassy, meanwhile, could not be reached for comment up to press time.

The State Department’s report continued to describe the Bahamas as “a destination, source, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking”.

“Undocumented migrants, particularly the estimated 30,000 Haitians who largely arrive in The Bahamas voluntarily, are vulnerable to forced labour, especially in domestic servitude and in the agriculture sector,” it read. “Experts also have raised concerns that some workers from Jamaica could be vulnerable to involuntary servitude.”

Groups “especially vulnerable” to sex trafficking in the Bahamas include foreign citizens in prostitution and “local children engaging in sex with men” for basics such as food, transportation, or material goods, the State Department stated.

“The Government of The Bahamas does not comply fully with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so,” the report said. “Despite these efforts – most notably the establishment of a high-level interagency committee and continued statements of commitment to address human trafficking – the government has not identified or assisted any victims of trafficking or initiated any forced labour or sex trafficking prosecutions; therefore, The Bahamas is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year.”

However, the State Department did name a “positive development” as the government’s March announcement of the establishment of a “working level interagency task force” set to handle “specific allegations of human trafficking and a protocol to guide officials in handling trafficking cases.”

The State Department also praised the government for holding a trafficking awareness event in March.

The entire Trafficking in Persons Report can be read online at the State Department’s official website –

June 20, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dr. Sandra Dean-Patterson - Director of the Bahamas Crisis Centre says: ... Convicted sex offenders, and pedophiles in particular, will likely reoffend once released ...if not subjected to targeted treatment while incarcerated

Call for treatment of sex offenders

By Royston Jones Jr.
Guardian Staff Reporter

Convicted sex offenders, and pedophiles in particular, will likely reoffend once released if not subjected to targeted treatment while incarcerated, said Director of the Bahamas Crisis Centre Dr. Sandra Dean-Patterson yesterday.

She told The Nassau Guardian that the Crisis Centre has been calling for such a program to be implemented for years, and it needs “to be taken seriously”.

According to Dean-Patterson, sex offenders are highly likely to pursue deviant behavior if the arousal connection is not changed, despite having served long sentences.

“We need to break through that connection so that they are no longer aroused by seeing a littler boy or girl in a swimsuit,” Dean-Patterson said. “Our mental health and prison agencies have to come to together to put a system in place.

“If someone goes to jail for five years, or even 10 years for sexual assault he is still highly, highly likely to do so again.”

However, she admitted that research shows that many perpetrators benefit from this kind of treatment, but some do not.

Dean-Patterson said the low conviction rate in sexual offense and domestic violence cases contributes to offenders thinking they can rape, molest and batter without consequence.

Dean-Patterson added that in order for the Crisis Center to expand its services and become more involved in aiding victims of abuse, its annual $30,000 government grant needs to be increased to around $200,000.

This would facilitate more permanent administrators and advocates, as the non-profit organization relies upon volunteers, she said.

Jun 20, 2012


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rev. Fr. Sebastian Campbell - Chairman of the National Heroes Committee says: ...parliamentarians are “lazy” in the naming of national heroes in The Bahamas throughout the years

Campbell: Parliament “lazy” in naming nat’l heroes

Travis Cartwright-Carroll
Guardian Staff Reporter

Chairman of the National Heroes Committee Rev. Fr. Sebastian Campbell blasted parliamentarians for being “lazy” in the naming of national heroes in The Bahamas throughout the years.

Campbell spoke at a state-recognized funeral for Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) co-founder William ‘Bill’ Cartwright at St. Gregory’s Anglican Church on Carmichael Road yesterday.

Campbell said he met with the Cabinet last week to discuss the funeral and proposed that Cartwright be referred to as the “honorable William Wilton Jose Cartwright, national hero”.

“Some around the table almost had my head,” he said.  “I was told that only Parliament could give such a designation. I told them under my breath ‘that’s nonsense’.

“On the January 10, 2007, the National Heroes Committee designated William ‘Bill’ Cartwright as honorable for life on behalf of the Bahamian people who are the true sovereign of any country.

“Parliament of The Bahamas has been extremely lazy in this regard. To date only one person, I believe, the late Sir Milo B. Butler, has been declared a national hero by Parliament.

“We wait patiently for people of the stature of ‘Bill’ Cartwright to die then we flirt with the term national hero of the first order. This is our national character on which we seem not to be ashamed.”

Campbell noted that people of “lesser pedigree” than Cartwright overshadow him in accolades.

“Those who sacrificed nothing, gave up nothing, now have roadways and superstructures named in their honor,” Campbell said.

He continued: “And many of today’s players in the political platform know nothing about William ‘Bill’ Cartwright, Cyril Stevenson and [Sir] H.M. Taylor. No wonder tributes paid in recent days to Cartwright lack so much substance.”

The men founded the PLP in 1953.

Cartwright died at 89.

He spent the last two years of his life in an old folks home, before being taken to hospital in the days before his death.

Cartwright, a native of Long Island, represented Cat Island in Parliament for seven of the 20 years he devoted to public life.

PLP Deputy Leader Philip Brave Davis said at Cartwright’s memorial on Friday that The Bahamas failed Cartwright.

At the funeral yesterday, Prime Minister Perry Christie agreed with Campbell that Cartwright deserves special recognition.

Christie said the government would allow The College of The Bahamas to begin immediately to record the history of the country to “fill in the gaps that have been left by those who have offered their own experiences”.

“We have an obligation as a country to do something about this deficit that the Rev Fr. spoke about, and quickly,” Christie said.

“To the family...I have indicated as the leader of the PLP on the one hand that I would move to ensure the upliftment of the names of those who are a part of the original visionaries and [their] name in the annals of our party, so that henceforth we will no longer have to guess, but will be properly lifted and institutionalized.

“So from a party perspective the history will be complete.”

Jun 19, 2012


The Bahamas nears " the ranks of 'Third World' nations via the rapid rise in the national debt... ...with an International Monetary Fund (IMF) report warning that our nation's 57.6 per cent debt-to-GDP ratio has passed the threshold at which it will act as "a drag" on its economic growth

Debt 'Pushing Bahamas' Deeper Into Third World

Tribune Business Editor

THE Bahamas has "pushed ourselves further into" the ranks of 'Third World' nations via the rapid rise in the national debt, with an International Monetary Fund (IMF) report warning this nation's 57.6 per cent debt-to-GDP ratio has passed the threshold at which it will act as "a drag" on its economic growth.

James Smith, a former Central Bank governor and now-Ministry of Finance consultant, told Tribune Business that the Bahamas had "dug ourselves a hole" with a national debt projected to hit $4.613 billion by end-June 2012, adding that its fiscal woes were begin to resemble "more and more" those of its many troubled Caribbean neighbours.

As he acknowledged that it would be "very difficult" to get the Bahamas' fiscal deficit and national debt back on to a sustainable trajectory, Mr Smith's comments were given further credence by an IMF paper, published on Friday, which showed this nation's debt-to-GDP ratio was now likely to 'drag down' its economic growth.

The paper, Threshold Effects of Sovereign Debt: Evidence from the Caribbean, analysed the Bahamas and 12 other regional nations, and found that above a 55-56 per cent debt-to-GDP level, any further increase in that ratio would impede economic growth.

The Bahamas, which is projected to have a total debt-to-GDP ratio of 57.6 per cent by month's end, according to government statistics, has already breached that barrier.

"The main finding is that there exists a threshold debt to GDP (GDP) ratio of 55-56 per cent," the four authors of the IMF paper found. "Moreover, the debt dynamics begin changing well before this threshold is reached.

"Specifically, at debt levels lower than 30 per cent of GDP, increases in the debt-to-GDP ratio are associated with faster economic growth. However, as debt rises beyond 30 per cent, the effects on economic growth diminish rapidly.

"And, at debt levels reaching 55-56 per cent of GDP, the growth impacts switch from positive to negative. Thus, beyond this threshold, the debt becomes a drag on growth."

Tackling the rapid rate of increase in the Bahamas' fiscal deficit, projected to hit a record $550 million under the GFS measurement during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, and the national debt could arguably be the Christie administration's greatest challenge over the next five years.

But, beyond some revenue enhancement measures largely left in place by the former Ingraham administration, pledges of tax reform and efforts to get the private sector going, it has yet to lay out a clear strategy for containing the fiscal deficit and national debt.

"The trend is still very worrisome," Mr Smith conceded, "because it's very difficult once you've let the horse out of the barn. It's very difficult to get it back".

He argued that the projected $550 million fiscal deficit for 2012-2013 was largely "a catch up from all the expenditure that has taken place", meaning it has resulted from extra debt servicing and spending commitments made by the former Ingraham administration.

"You couldn't even roll it back," Mr Smith added. "If you stopped everything, it would be more costly and would put a brake on what little growth there is.

"There's going to be no quick turnaround, as the world economy is still sluggish. By and large we have dug a hole for ourselves."

The former finance minister and Central Bank governor told Tribune Business that it was "a fair assessment" to argue that the Bahamas' fiscal predicament was due more to spending increases, particularly on the Government's recurrent or fixed costs, as opposed to the revenue side of the equation.

"In the last year or so we seemingly outspent the fall off in revenues, and from a policy perspective we should have been holding back when we realised we were not emerging from recession, at least not at the pace the US was," Mr Smith said.

A report by the United Nations' Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean (ECLAC), released on Friday, blamed the Bahamas' 2010-2011 nominal fiscal deficit of 4.7 per cent on spending increases that outstripped a 10 per cent rise in revenues to a sum equivalent to 17.7 per cent of GDP.

"The improved revenue was offset by a substantial nominal rise in expenditure to 22.9 per cent of GDP," the ECLAC report noted.

"Current expenditure reflected a sharp increase in payments for goods and services, and higher debt interest payments as government borrowing mounted. Growth in capital expenditure more than doubled with major investments in road infrastructure and in the airport expansion project."

Mr Smith, meanwhile, told Tribune Business that the Bahamas effectively needed an 'out of the box' game changer, something not associated with its traditional industries, to reverse the decline.

"We need some kind of external something we didn't plan for to get us quickly out of this," he added. "The things that we can predict, nothing seems to give us the sufficient impetus that we need in the short-medium term.

"We're beginning to look more and more like the rest of the Caribbean," Mr Smith told Tribune Business, referring to the likes of Barbados, Jamaica and St Lucia, all with debt-to-GDP ratios of around - or above - 100 per cent.

"We've been trying to pull ourselves so hard out of the Third World, but seem to have pushed ourselves further in. It's really going to take a combined effort - the labour has got to become more productive, the investment support machinery has got to be more efficient. We've simply got to work a lot harder as a country. It's not business as usual."

The bulk of Bahamian GDP was derived from tourist spending, but Mr Smith questioned whether US visitors - who still account for over 80 per cent of stopovers - would return to pre-recession spending levels even if there was recovery at home.

"We don't have the level of tourist expenditure needed to support increased GDP growth," he added. "To the extent that we are using subsidies to the tourism sector in terms of assisting the hotel industry, the likes of Companion Fly Free, we are actually getting less spending per tourist dollar, as we are actually paying to get them here. We're not getting the same bang for the buck."

The authors of the IMF paper urged the Bahamas and others above the 55 per cent debt-to-GDP mark to "adopt policies that do not impede growth" by setting the ratio on a downward trend.

Acknowledging that it was difficult for the Caribbean to embark on fiscal consolidation, given the recession's hangover and high unemployment levels, the IMF paper urged governments to combine with the private sector to "present more innovative ideas, and rehash some of the current policies for the region:".

The authors, for instance, called for "greater progress" in sectors such as information technology and renewable energy.

June 18, 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012

We all agree that Bahamians with qualifications should not be overlooked... but we also agree with Mr Chester Cooper of the Chamber of Commerce that "'Bahamian First' must not mean 'Bahamian First at any cost' ...We clearly need to perform at international standards to keep the Bahamas competitive"

Bahamians First, 'But Not At Any Cost'


IN THIS column yesterday, we published a warning from the World Bank that fears about the eurozone had reduced investors' tolerance for risk. The bank urged poorer economies -- and this includes the Bahamas - to protect themselves by reducing their debts.

The world's fear of a prolonged -- much longer than originally predicted -- economic crisis greatly threatens our islands because of the nature of our two major industries -- tourism and finance. Of course, to hear the blustering of the PLP on the campaign trail, the Bahamas' unique economy has in no way been affected by this crisis. Although on one occasion Prime Minister Christie, while still in opposition, did concede that even if it had, during Prime Minister Ingraham's administration, Mr Ingraham had made the situation worse. Despite the fact that Mr Ingraham was doing a yeoman's job of managing the Bahamas' affairs so that the suffering here has not been as great as in other countries, the PLP refused to give him any credit. And so, during their five years, we hope never to hear any of them blame the difficult times that we might still have to face on the world's economy -- as far as they are concerned it does not exist. Too many Bahamians believed them -- so for them whatever goes wrong will be the fault of the new government - don't look outside for excuses.

However, like it or not, the stark facts are: The Bahamas' bread and butter comes from tourism and investment. Tourists travel when they have a small nest egg set aside for their vacations. To hear the world's economists talk, in the next year or so this will be greatly curtailed because that nest egg will have to go to pay mortgages, school fees, etc -- savings, savings and more savings will be the name of the game.

Therefore, a place like the Bahamas, which has almost priced itself out of the market with, among other things, its high utility costs, will have to cater to the rich who will be the only ones with the surplus cash to live like kings -- and travel to places like the Bahamas.

Mr Ingraham, in trying to create jobs during this difficult period, decided to improve the country's infrastructure to raise standards that would attract the wealthy -- at the same time putting Bahamians to work. He was criticised for this. But, like it or not, the Bahamas has to have a standard that would encourage a wealthy man -- as happened a few weeks ago -- to take over an entire hotel, turn the centre court into a tropical pool and create on the remaining courts an Arabian Nights setting for his daughter's multi-million dollar wedding. These are the people that this country will need for their survival -- the average citizen will no longer be able to afford "a short trip over". So whatever, the new government is thinking, we hope they will widen their vision and continue the improvement of the island's infrastructure now under contract.

As for the financial side of our economy and the need for investors, the attitude -- that we heard expressed on the floor of the House many years ago -- of "bring 'em in, suck 'em dry, and throw away the husks" just will not work. Just as Shane Gibson's blustering over work permits certainly will close the door to many potential investors.

We all agree that no Bahamian should be without a job if his credentials -- and work ethic -- fully qualifies him for a position.

However, what Mr Gibson must accept is that it is the owner of the business who decides the standard of the person he wants on his staff -- not Mr Gibson's Immigration Department.

Any investor coming in will want around him persons who have worked with him for years -- one of whom will be his accountant. If they are not given some consideration, then they just won't invest.

Many are concerned by Mr Gibson's putting employer's "on notice" that the issuing of labour certificates will no longer be "business as usual."

He said companies that hire foreigners must send "justification" for every employee that they have on work permits to the government.

Employers, who The Tribune interviewed, want to know what his plans are as they already justify every work permit application. These employers maintain that they have measured up to all of Immigration's requirements. They now want to know what Mr Gibson is planning.

At a time when we need all the foreign investment that we can get, Mr Gibson's intemperate threats will certainly not bring them in.

We all agree that Bahamians with qualifications should not be overlooked, but we also agree with Mr Chester Cooper of the Chamber of Commerce that "'Bahamian First' must not mean 'Bahamian First at any cost'. We clearly need to perform at international standards to keep the Bahamas competitive".

June 14, 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

...if the Bahamian economy were to grow at a level of six to eight percent ...we would not be talking about government debt... ...The reason why we should prioritize economic growth over debt reduction is because greater economic activity generates greater revenue for government... ...Greater revenue reduces reliance on borrowing and so, debt would fall over time... ...Further, higher levels of growth usually lead to lower levels of unemployment, more opportunities for individuals to make money in order to pay their mortgages, to pay for college, or to start new businesses... ...But, in order to achieve such levels of growth, we need a plan

A call for a national economic plan

By David Frazer

In the 1960s, Germany experienced one of the world’s most impressive examples of economic growth and development that raised the standard of living for the Germans exponentially.  Its success was due to a number of factors, not least of which was its ability to organize its industries, plan for the future and engage stakeholders at all levels in the work of economic growth.  If one posed the question today where is the economy of The Bahamas headed in the next five to 25 years, it would be difficult to provide a viable answer partly because of the lack of direction in state policy.

The recently published budget and budgets of past governments confirm this notion.  The 2012-2013 budget proposes short-term bandages on an economic wound that runs deep through society, addressing symptoms of a much larger structural problem.  It is now time to focus our energies and resources on a cure to our economic illness.  It is time for a national economic plan.

Highlights of the government’s 2012-2013 budget

• Expanding the role of the Bahamas Development Bank and the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation to go beyond lending money to provide equity, credit guarantees and marketing/accounting support is a promising move to support small business and Bahamian entrepreneurship.

• Tax reform was four pronged.  The government will establish a central tax agency to improve its ability to collect taxes.  It will reform the property tax system including a cap on property taxes.  It will look to reducing leakages in the tax system and to charge international fees for aircraft passing through the country’s airspace.  This effort to raise government revenue is commendable but insufficient; the expected revenue which incorporates these ideas would still leave the country with a massive expenditure-revenue gap of nearly $300 million.

• A debt management committee will be developed to implement a debt management strategy.

• A plan to rescue Grand Bahama includes tax reduction and a Ministry of Grand Bahama.

• The jobs program of the previous government has not been continued.  Described by the current government as “lacking focus”, the jobs program attempted to alleviate the unemployment situation particularly for youth.  The problem is that the new government has not proposed an alternative to reducing youth unemployment.

• A mortgage relief effort aimed at reducing loan payments for distressed mortgage holders has received scathing international criticism.  Standard & Poor’s, a reputable rating agency, responded to the government’s promise to help mortgage holders by suggesting that the government may face lower credit ratings if it continues to spend more than it earns.

• Tax concessions laced the budget and there was an explicit promise not to raise taxes for Bahamians.  This combination of tax reduction and mortgage relief spending has cast doubt on the “government priority” to reduce national debt.

Let’s be smart about debt reduction: Focus on growth

Given the extent of the global economic recession, the government has been forced to play a greater role in economic activity.  As in the United States, government spending grew to supplant the lost economic activity after the recession.  While we must reduce the level of government debt, we must be careful not to damage the economy while doing so.  One can look to Europe for an example of how austerity soon after a recession can be detrimental to economic growth.

At the same time, government must not be frivolous in its spending.  Promises in the budget to help individuals make home repairs on top of aforementioned mortgage relief may be politically successful but do not spur further economic growth.

We hope that political leaders will go through the budget, line by line, and re-allocate/reduce unnecessary expenditure.  As much as is possible, government spending should be guided by the principle that every dollar spent directly increases the Bahamian GDP by more than a dollar and/or increases productivity.  Under this principle, unnecessary spending may be brought to light.

Hypothetically speaking, if the Bahamian economy were to grow at a level of six to eight percent, we would not be talking about government debt.  The reason why we should prioritize economic growth over debt reduction is because greater economic activity generates greater revenue for government.  Greater revenue reduces reliance on borrowing and so, debt would fall over time.  Further, higher levels of growth usually lead to lower levels of unemployment, more opportunities for individuals to make money in order to pay their mortgages, to pay for college, or to start new businesses.   But, in order to achieve such levels of growth, we need a plan.

The need for a national economic plan

Just over 26,000 Bahamians searching for work are unable to find it; thousands more have given up and left the labor force; unimpressive growth levels in the U.S. may dampen growth of tourist arrivals in the foreseeable future, and our own growth projection is stifled at less than three percent for the next few years.  These facts underscore a structural issue in the economy.  In essence, overreliance on tourism has limited the scope of economic growth.  We have failed to use the resources tourism has afforded us to develop other industries as a means to secure future growth.

We should get the largest stakeholders and experts in one room – business leaders, academics, government officials and local/international investors – to search for and implement a national economic plan with an aim to secure high levels of growth into the future.  Such a plan should be medium to long-term in focus and grounded in rigorous research on the potential for local business expansion, export of Bahamian franchises, products and services, and diversification within and across industries.

A plan of such magnitude is important because it provides an industrial framework for growth and will provide a sense of security for local business owners who would be able to plan the development of their own enterprises as a result.  A plan could create a momentum for the growth of certain projects and industries.  Finally, it would enable government to plan other areas of society such as new education and training initiatives, infrastructural projects and immigration policies that correspond with the national plan.

Our current economic realities call on us to make big decisions to secure a prosperous future.  Let us plan our way to economic vitality and growth.


• David Geraldo Frazer is a master’s degree candidate at Johns Hopkins University studying international economics and international relations with a bachelor’s degree in economics and business.  He is also a free lance consultant and can be contacted at:

Jun 13, 2012


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Opposition Leader - Dr Hubert Minnis says: ...senior police officers are alarmed at the appointment of newly sworn in State Minister for National Security Keith Bell and fear operational interference

Police Alarm Over Bell Appointment


A NUMBER of senior police officers are alarmed at the appointment of newly sworn in State Minister for National Security Keith Bell and fear operational interference, Opposition Leader Dr Hubert Minnis said yesterday.

Dr Minnis made the remarks during his House of Assembly contribution.

The session not only rehashed the previous Ingraham administration's work while in office, but continued with proposals for the 2012/2013 budget.

Speaking of the reform brought to the Royal Bahamas Police Force by the FNM, Dr Minnis said his government had worked hard to revitalise the force from 2007 until the PLP won the general election on May 7.

"As I speak," he said, "a former officer who acted in an extraordinary and partisan political manner during the election campaign is now Minister of State in National Security. I hope we do not see one of the worst periods of politicisation of the police force in its history.

"I understand that a number of senior officers are alarmed at the appointment and fear operational interference."

Dr Minnis pointed out that when in opposition the PLP blamed every criminal incident on former National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest.

But, he said, this was unfair as crime is a societal problem and politicians on both sides are "in this together".

For this reason, Dr Minnis said, the FNM will not blame every criminal act on the new Minister of National Security, Dr Bernard Nottage.

However, he did warn that the Bahamian people will not forget the PLP's promise that Urban Renewal 2.0 will be the cure for all crime.

The public is watching the new government, he said.

"We in the FNM support any crime fighting initiatives that are constructive and curb the senseless bloodshed, but, Mr Speaker, we want accountability. We want to see the logic and tangibles that come with launching such a programme."

From the opposite end of the spectrum, Dr Minnis urged the government to return to the basics of crime fighting on the streets of New Providence.

"We can't talk about zero tolerance when individuals are breaking the traffic laws; when individuals in the west have problems sleeping because of noise pollution, because of licenses given to homes and business that have excessive noise.

"When we close an eye to that we close an eye to the criminals who feel that they have the right to proceed," Dr Minnis said.

June 13, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Does the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration’s budgetary provisions remain true to its pledges to an impatient and hurting populace whose expectations for relief and renewal are extremely high... and to what extent does the 2012/13 national budget meet those high expectations?

The Budget: Part II

Consider this

By Philip C. Galanis

Last week, we invited our readers to consider whether the national budget for fiscal 2012/13 as presented by the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister and Minister of Finance addresses the important promises that were made during the general election campaign.  In answering that question, we reviewed the fiscal environment that the PLP Administration inherited on May 7, 2012 and the attendant limitations and constraints for the nation’s first budget for Mr. Christie’s second non-consecutive term in office.

This week, we would like to continue to Consider This… Do the PLP administration’s budgetary provisions remain true to its pledges to an impatient and hurting populace whose expectations for relief and renewal are extremely high, and to what extent does the 2012/13 national budget meet those high expectations?

The macro view

The government anticipates that it will incur a total deficit of $570 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012 and a Government Finance Statistics (GFS) deficit of $504 million for that period. This represents an increased GFS deficit of $256 million or 103 percent more than was originally approved by Parliament for fiscal 2011/2012. The GFS deficit as a percent of GDP will be 6.3 percent — a new record for The Bahamas — more than a doubling of that figure of three percent in the preceding year.  The increased GFS deficit will be financed by additional borrowings which will push the national debt from $4.3 billion at December 31, 2011 to $4.8 billion a year later, rapidly approaching 60 percent of GDP, also a new record — and not in a good way.

Similarly, the GFS deficit for 2012/13 will be $550 million which, as a percent of GDP, will be 6.5 percent — another new record for The Bahamas.  By the end of fiscal 2013, the national debt will exceed $5.3 billion, more than 60 percent of GDP.

Recurrent revenue measures

The recurrent budgeted revenues of $1.55 billion for the next fiscal year are anticipated to increase by only $100 million or seven percent over the actual outturn of the preceding fiscal year.  This compares to an increase of $435 million or five percent in the gross domestic product (GDP) for the same period.

At first glance, the projected recurrent revenue appears to be overly optimistic for several reasons. First, recurrent revenue is projected to exceed the increased GDP rate of growth by two percent.  Secondly, last year’s budgeted revenue of $1.514 billion was not achieved.  The actual, revised projected revenue came in at $1.45 billion or $64 million less than was originally budgeted.

The third and most compelling reason that we believe that the projected recurrent revenue is overly optimistic is that over the past five years, the average increase in recurrent revenue was three percent. To suggest that we will achieve more than a doubling of that amount to seven percent next year is questionable.  The government anticipates that it will collect an additional $148 million more in excise taxes in the next fiscal period than it did last year, although at the same time it foreshadows a reduction in almost every other category of tax revenue over the preceding year, except for tourism taxes which are expected to increase by $8 million.

Capital revenue

The government expects to receive no capital revenue for the ensuing year as compared to $86 million last year.

Recurrent expenditures

The recurrent expenditures for 2012 will end at $1.7 billion, $27 million or two percent more than the $1.68 billion that was originally approved by Parliament for fiscal 2011/2012.  For 2012/13, recurrent expenditures are forecast at $1.82 billion, an increase of $114 million or six percent over the preceding year.

Several recurrent expenditure allocations have been made to address specific campaign promises.  There is an allocation of $4.4 million for the re-established Ministry of Financial Services and $3.2 million for the establishment of the Ministry for Grand Bahama, both campaign pledges.  Thirdly, the government has provided $15 million “for the implementation of early initiatives in the Charter [for Governance], such as the introduction of Urban Renewal 2.0.”

Several other items are noteworthy relative to budgeted recurrent expenditures. These include significant subventions for the following ministries and departments:

Department of Public Service, $187 million – an increase of $13 million;

Royal Bahamas Police Force, $132.2 million – an increase of $5.6 million;

Royal Bahamas Defence Force, $54.7 million – an increase of $3 million;

Department of Education, $202 million – an increase of $5.4 million;

Ministry of Education, Science & Technology, $49 million – an increase of $3.7 million;

Department of Social Services, $40 million – an increase of $5.9 million;

Public Hospitals Authority, $199 million – an increase of $13.2 million.

These allocations demonstrate the government’s commitment to essential areas of our economy and society that require urgent attention.  Moreover, the increases reflect many of the areas that the PLP consistently promised the electorate they would address once they were returned to office.

The increases for the Public Service and Social Services demonstrate the government’s stated intentions to improve the conditions of the average Bahamian, whether working or in need.  Enhanced subventions to the Public Hospitals Authority reflect that healthcare is a priority issue and those to the Department of Education and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology confirm the government’s oft-stated intentions to address the deficiencies in education as a method of creating a better future for young Bahamians.  The increases to the Royal Bahamas Police and Defense Forces confirm the government’s determination, as spoken about at every rally, to break the back of crime and to address the problem of our porous borders, with regard to illegal migration, poaching and gun-running.

A substantial percentage of recurrent expenditure, 18 percent, is allocated to servicing the national debt.  The interest on the public debt alone is budgeted at $207 million along with debt redemption of $121 million, which in the aggregate represents $66 million more than the preceding year.

Capital expenditure

Total capital expenditure for 2012/13 is budgeted at $400 million. The two largest items in this category are for the Ministry of Works & Urban Development for $229 million and Sundry Capital Expenditures for $132 million.  In the Ministry of Works, the largest expenditures have been allocated for road construction, highways, streets and bridges in the aggregate of $175 million. Sundry Capital Expenditures include provisions for the Baha Mar Road Development for $48 million, as well as subventions for Capital Subscriptions to International Agencies, the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas, Bahamasair Holdings Ltd. and the Water and Sewerage Corporation in the amounts of $12 million, $5.5 million, $18 million and $20 million, respectively.


Within a very short period, the Christie administration has quickly sought to address the fiscal realities left by the former administration, while simultaneously attempting to honor some of its election campaign pledges.  In this first budget, the government has made a commendable attempt to balance the scales by holding off increasing taxes on Bahamians, while concurrently seeking to allocate its limited resources in an economically anemic environment.

However, the government would be wise to remember that this is a Bahamian public with great needs and little patience. As understanding as the people may be with this 2012/2013 budget, which is a hybrid of the outgoing Ingraham regime and the fledgling Christie administration, that understanding will only go so far before the expectations that were raised so high during the campaign need to be not only met but exceeded and the country put back on steadier, more fiscally secure ground to ensure the glowing future that was promised by the PLP.

Jun 11, 2012


The Budget: Part I

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dr Duane Sands, the former chairman of Bahamas Mortgage Corporation (BMC) says: ...the newly-elected Christie administration's goal of building 1,300 new houses over its five-year term was "probably unachievable"... ...suggesting it should instead focus on continuing to reduce the Corporation's 35 per cent loan arrears rate

Gov't's 1300 Housing Goal 'Unachievable'

Tribune Business Reporter

THE former Bahamas Mortgage Corporation (BMC) chairman yesterday said the newly-elected Christie administration's goal of building 1,300 new houses over its five-year term was "probably unachievable", suggesting it should instead focus on continuing to reduce the Corporation's 35 per cent loan arrears rate.

Dr Duane Sands told Tribune Business he was doubtful the BMC would be able to finance the aggressive housing initiative proposed by the newly appointed-housing minister, Kenred Dorsett, questioning: "Where is the money going to come from?"

Mr Dorsett, the minister of the environment and housing, recently said more than 1,300 government homes were expected to be built over the next five years.

But Dr Sands told Tribune Business that while the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation's financial standing had improved, he was doubtful it would be able to finance that many homes.

He explained: "It is difficult to imagine where the money is going to come from, because the Mortgage Corporation's financial standing - while improved - is not likely going to be strong enough to sustain that degree of new debt.

"If you have a deficit in the national Budget of $500-plus million in just this year alone, the likelihood that we are going to be able to afford any additional spending is going to be unlikely. I find it to be a very aggressive, ambitious and probably unachievable goal."

Dr Sands added: "I don't know where the money will come from. Floating more bonds means now that you have more guaranteed government debt. Unless they talk out of both sides of their mouth, talking about no new taxes and, at the same time, extending the government debt by new spending, I don't see how it is possible."

Dr Sands noted that the Mortgage Corporation's sinking fund is underfunded by millions of dollars. He said: "Serving that bond interest debt and bond maturity debt requires more money than the Mortgage Corporation takes in.

"The money is going to have to come from somewhere, and most likely the money is going to come from the taxpayers in some form or fashion, because the mortgage guarantee fund simply doesn't have enough money in it."

He added: "I have gone on record as saying he 2002-2007 programme was the most irresponsible use of money in the Mortgage Corporation's history. If you want to repeat that now, simply to say you have built so many houses, is unreasonable. Who is going to pay the bill?

"I would encourage them to continue to strengthen the position of the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation by aggressively pursuing some of the policies that have been shown to be effective, and which have reduced the arrears from 40 per cent to 35 per cent, as opposed to throwing caution to the wind."

Attempts to contact Mr Dorsett were unsuccessful up to press time.

June 08, 2012

Saturday, June 9, 2012

It is regrettable that a Bahamian national hero like William “Bill” Cartwright - the originator of the idea of party politics in The Bahamas... and a founder of the nation’s first major political party in 1953 - the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) - is not more fully recognized during their lifetime... ...Despite this repeated notion, we too often fail to live up to our words about recognizing and appreciating those who so generously contributed to nation-building

Honoring William ‘Bill’ Cartwright

thenassauguardian editorial

We mourn the passing of William “Bill” Cartwright, who though little known by many Bahamians today was a consequential figure in the life of the modern Bahamas.  We offer our condolences to his family.

William Cartwright was involved in various aspects of Bahamian life, including as the publisher of a magazine that enjoyed some success. We salute him for his contributions to the print media.

For those who are often tempted to use politicians as scapegoats for our collective national failures, we note that a national hero like Mr. Cartwright was a politician. Those who speak often of honoring our national heroes should remember that many of them made their contributions through politics and government.

Indeed, William Cartwright was a founder of the nation’s first major political party in 1953.  Along with the late Cyril Stevenson and the late Sir Henry Taylor, he helped to found the Progressive Liberal Party.  He served for a time as a representative in the House of Assembly for Cat Island.

Though his role in the PLP waned, he will go down in Bahamian history as the originator of the idea of party politics. This was a major advancement in our democratic experience.

It was through party politics that majority rule and independence were achieved. It was through party politics that democracy was secured. It was through party politics that we became a vibrant stable democracy.

Some months back, we ran a story on the visit of Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes to Bill Cartwright to celebrate the latter’s birthday.  As founders of our modern Bahamas, these men remember well the sacrifices made in the struggle for racial, social and economic justice.

What concerns us is how increasingly fewer people appreciate this history.  It is incumbent on the press and others to more fully tell the story of men such as William Cartwright.

It is also incumbent on public officials to ensure greater appreciation for the nation’s founders as well as others who make significant contributions to national life and development.

The naming of public buildings in honor of such individuals is a welcome and important aspect of such appreciation. So, too will be the mounting of permanent and temporary exhibits in the eventual opening of a national museum.

Additionally, it would be good to record through audiovisual media the voices and images of historic figures.  Some of this is done through current television programs.  But we need a more extensive record by those trained in areas like history and various social sciences.

It is regrettable that individuals like Mr. Cartwright are not more fully recognized during their lifetime.  Despite this repeated notion, we too often fail to live up to our words about recognizing and appreciating those who so generously contributed to nation-building.

It is a sign of ingratitude that we have not been as fulsome in our praise and recognition of citizens like William “Bill” Cartwright.

While a state-recognized funeral is welcome for Mr. Cartwright, when will we stop making speeches about honoring such individuals during their lifetime, and actually start doing so more fully.

In this we all share some blame and the responsibility to do better. A man like William “Bill” Cartwright and others deserve much better.

Jun 08, 2012

thenassauguardian editorial

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Decades after the implementation of the Bahamianization policy and faced with a globalized world that promotes free enterprise and trade, The Bahamas still finds itself in an economic enigma ...whereby its people appear to be regressing rather than progressing

A revived social contract: Bahamians First

By Arinthia S. Komolafe

“Bahamians First”, the campaign slogan adopted by the newly-elected Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), is a pledge by the PLP to put the interests of Bahamians above all others in The Bahamas. It is also a call to Bahamians to believe in The Bahamas and consequently themselves. A post-election analysis seems to confirm that the message resonated among the Bahamian people, resulting in a landslide victory for the PLP on May 7, 2012.

The Bahamianization policy

The concept denoted by the slogan represents a social contract with the Bahamian people – a revived one and arguably an updated version of the Bahamianization policy penned by the Lynden Pindling administration during the 70s. The Bahamianization policy seems to have been misinterpreted since its inception and throughout the years. Arguably, the policy has benefitted a vast majority and been abused by a few. While many believed that the policy promotes “Bahamians only”, the intent when construed properly was always to put “Bahamians First”. In a nutshell, Bahamianization sought to foster economic prosperity and independence through greater participation in business, finance and commerce by Bahamians, the protection of Bahamian assets for the benefit of Bahamians, whether through land or sustenance of state-owned enterprises and a more strict policy regarding the granting of Bahamian citizenship.

It is fair to suggest that at the time of its creation, the policy was implemented through a series of initiatives that promoted among other things encouraging the attainment of managerial positions in the tourism and financial services sectors, creation of opportunities for Bahamians to obtain tertiary education and the expansion of the housing program to provide home ownership opportunities for more Bahamians. Additionally, work permits were only granted in areas where there were no suitably qualified Bahamians and/or in instances that Bahamians were unwilling to undertake certain jobs.

Consequences of Bahamianization

Critics of the Bahamianization policy assert that the Pindling administration ran a socialist type government that was primarily opposed to the free market economy. For the most part and prior to the implementation of the policy, Bahamians were unable to afford participation in the economic structure of The Bahamas due to poverty, poor education or lack of skills among other things. Consequently, the government ran state-owned enterprises for decades – even at deficit levels and continued subsidizing the same from year to year. The government remained by far the largest employer for decades, while the tourism and financial services sectors provided the second and third highest rates of employment respectively.

Bahamians First in reality

Decades after the implementation of the Bahamianization policy and faced with a globalized world that promotes free enterprise and trade, The Bahamas still finds itself in an economic enigma whereby its people appear to be regressing rather than progressing. While it was a major feat yesterday for Bahamians to attain managerial status in the tourism and financial services sector, today such accomplishments are generally common although there is much ground to be covered in other sectors of the economy. It is disheartening however, that about three decades after the implementation of the Bahamianization policy, we have yet to accomplish substantial feats of economic ownership, particularly within the dominant twin pillar industries of tourism and financial services.

The reality is that successive governments through their fiscal and economic policies have failed to put “Bahamians First”. By these governments’ very actions, the foreign investor has been given priority over and above Bahamians owing to heavy reliance on foreign direct investment while the majority of Bahamians have been forced to take the crumbs. In essence, more jobs (which are arguably unsustainable due to their cyclical and/or fragile nature in the two main nationals industries) have been created rather than opportunities for increased ownership.

Bahamians First: Fiscal policy

The tax system in our country has been in place for years. While our politicians concede that the system of taxation is regressive and inequitable, successive administrations have made insignificant movement toward implementation of a progressive form of taxation. Many have gone as far as committing to no income tax which is arguably the most progressive and equitable form of taxation. It is noteworthy to state that we are far behind our regional counterparts who have long since implemented multiple progressive tax structures. Our failure to do so, obviously panders to special interest groups both domestic and foreign who are comfortable with the status quo and prefer to pay neither income nor corporate tax. The pledge we must remember is Bahamians First.

Bahamians First: Banking sector

The entry barriers within the banking sector exclude the majority of Bahamians from the ownership of banks. These barriers include capital requirements which are not tiered enough to allow average Bahamians to establish small banks with limitations on deposits and/or their operations. The commercial banking sector has predominantly been governed by three Canadian banks and in recent decades Bahamian owned and state-owned entities. It is therefore not surprising that having enjoyed the patronage of Bahamians; the former have repatriated billions of dollars in profits outside of our shores over the years. These entities are not to blame as they are in business to make profits. However, successive governments have not created an economic environment that allows more Bahamians to enjoy the same levels of success. The government’s failure to facilitate the establishment of a Credit Bureau, Consumer Protection Agency and foreclosure laws have further allowed Bahamians to be exploited by the system.

Bahamians First: Home ownership and entrepreneurship

The cost of real estate in The Bahamians makes it difficult for quite a number of Bahamians to qualify for a home either because they are underpaid, unemployed or lack the necessary skills to attain a higher paying job. The small to medium sized enterprise sector, which is the engine of an economy, is challenged and growing at a slow pace due to what is seen as neglect by successive governments. The financial crisis, global economic downturn and ill-advised policies of the former administration have no doubt dealt a major setback to this vital sector. These factors coupled with the high cost of energy and other overhead costs have resulted in business closures and challenged the Bahamian entrepreneurial spirit.

Honoring the contract

A government that is truly about “Bahamians First” will address these inequities that have persisted and lingered within our society for far too long. It seems fair to suggest that Bahamians will continue to vote successive administrations out of office following one term of governance until it finds one that will finally speak their language and truly place “Bahamians First”. The task of this Christie administration is to implement policies that will start and end with the average Bahamian in mind. The Christie administration must honor its part of the contract to maintain the confidence of the people.

Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed at:

Jun 07, 2012


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Urban Renewal 2.0 is a direct response to past and current problems facing a number of inner city communities in The Bahamas ...such as crime, poor housing conditions, joblessness, illiteracy, homelessness, and other social ills that contribute to crime and anti-social behavior

What Urban Renewal 2.0 Will Mean For The Bahamas

The commissioner of police's statement on Urban Renewal:

THE flagship Urban Renewal 2.0 Programme is a direct response to past and current problems facing a number of inner city communities in the Bahamas such as crime, poor housing conditions, joblessness, illiteracy, homelessness, and other social ills that contribute to crime and anti-social behavior.

The project is the brainchild of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas Perry Gladstone Christie and it has the full support of the commissioner of police, the executive management team, and all members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force.

The tenets of Urban Renewal 2.0 are included in the Commissioner's Policing Plan for 2012 and are clearly delineated under priorities one, two and three.

The Urban renewal Community Based Policing programme is one of the most ambitious crime prevention programmes in the Bahamas.

It is a comprehensive approach to crime, antisocial behavior, and community safety.

It emphasises both innovation and integration of efforts and resources by a wide range of agencies and the community at large.

Objectives of the Urban Renewal Project
  • To prevent crime and reduce the fear of crime in the community.

  • To identify and tackle the main causes of the social conditions which promote the occurrence of crime and deviant behavior.

  • To examine and improve the quality of life and the social and environmental conditions of high crime communities.

  • To involve the community in problem-solving and empower citizens to play an active role in their communities.

  • To identify the problems facing our young people and to engage them in positive activities and programmes geared toward making them productive citizens.

A brief history of the Urban Renewal Pilot Project

Urban Renewal was first launched as a pilot project in the constituency of Prime Minister Perry Christie, called Farm Road, in June 2002.

The community was identified as the pilot area because it showed trends that were prevalent in other communities in the Bahamas such as crime, social ills and urban decay.

Within just six short weeks of its inception, police officers assigned to the Farm Road Project visited every household and business establishment in the community.

They collected data and intelligence on environmental concerns, health issues, housing problems and criminal activities.

The police team was later joined by representatives from the Department of Social Services, the Ministry of Housing, Health Services and the Ministry of Works.

The team removed derelict vehicles, organised the demolition of abandoned buildings, dismantled street drug peddling groups, and arrested a number of prolific offenders. These initiatives resulted in a significant reduction in crime.

Within one year of the project's inception, the team established computer literacy centres, a youth marching band, a community development association and the national Urban Renewal Commission.

It also set up similar projects in eight other areas of New Providence, five in Grand Bahama and one in Abaco.

The team was awarded the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police Motorola Community Policing Award in May 2003 and won two other community policing awards from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).

Role of the police in Urban Renewal

Members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force who are assigned to the Urban Renewal 2.0 Programme have an expanded scope of police work which includes crime, the fear of crime, quality of life offences, social and physical disorder, and community decay.

These officers are expected to use a full range of talents, skills and abilities to not only prevent and interdict crime, but to also enlarge their role and become community problem-solvers.

About community policing

Community policing focuses on bringing the police and citizens together to prevent crime and solve neighborhood problems. In community policing, the emphasis is on preventing crime.

Preventing crime is a big job. The police are more effective when they can depend on residents for help.

Community policing calls for a commitment to improving the quality of life in neighborhoods. Community Resource Officers (CRO) look to residents for help in solving neighborhood problems.

In essence, community policing gives citizens more control over the quality of life in their community.

General duties and activities of the police under the programme

  • Directed patrol - patrols are specific and intelligence driven, designed to deal with existing and emerging problems in the community. These patrols can be done on foot or in vehicles to facilitate communication and the building of relationships between the officers and community members.

  • Community involvement - Urban Renewal officers must build trusting relationships and partnerships with community members to address their specific problems.

  • Identifying and prioritising problems - community members are encouraged provide officers with information about the problems they face and work with them prioritise issues and problems.

  • Reporting - the Urban Renewal officer must share information with other police officers as well as the RBPF generally and with special sections (DEU, CDU, CIB, SIB, et cetera) about the specifics of his community.

  • Organising - organising activities oriented to specific problems and working to enhance the overall quality of life in the community.

  • Communicating - there are both formal and informal sessions aimed at educating people about crime prevention and other issues as well as managing communication with the media.

  • Conflict resolution - the Urban Renewal officer mediates, negotiates and resolves conflicts formally and informally (and challenges people to begin resolving problems on their own).
  • Referrals - the officer refers problems to specialised agencies.

  • Visiting - Urban Renewal officers make frequent visits to homes and businesses to recruit help and to educate.

  • Recruiting and supervising volunteers - the Urban Renewal officer works with volunteers to address social problems affecting the community.

  • Proactive projects - the Urban Renewal officer works along with the community to solve both long-term and short-term problems aimed at improving the quality of life.

  • Targeting special groups - Urban Renewal police officers will focus on special groups in the community such as the elderly, youth, women, physically challenged persons and the homeless.

  • Targeting disorder - Urban Renewal officers place specific emphasis on social and physical disorders and the degradation of neighbourhoods.

  • Networking with the private sector - the Urban Renewal officer actively communicates with and solicits the assistance of the business community for services and volunteer work.

  • Get to know people - the Urban Renewal officers form relationships with residents so as to learn about their concerns and to build confidence and trust between citizens and the police.

  • June 05, 2012

Post Mortem of the 2012 General Election

By Dennis Dames

We have had two one-term governments in a row; which is a reflection of the shifting political times in The Bahamas - in my view. The Bahamian electorate is clearly more aware and wiser, and we hold those who seek to represent us to a higher standard than yesteryear.

This is no longer about Puppy love for the FNM or PLP, or the irrational support for any other; rather, the people simply want good governance and a healthy and prosperous future for themselves, their children and country.

The new Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government should not allow their recent landslide victory to cloud the genuine wishes of the masses. We demand an environment where we could support ourselves and family, as the majority of us are not for hand-outs or political charity.

It’s all about pleasing the employer before another general election season comes. Delivering a strong and all-around job environment is absolutely essential to the present government’s possible second term success; and so is the significant reduction in crime.

Indeed, low unemployment numbers and a much more peaceful and respectable environment are totally necessary for the politically ambitious Bahamian today.

Time will reveal if the Perry Christie PLP administration is up to the task of delivering for the Bahamian boss people who are really serious about a better Bahamas for all citizens.

Monday, June 4, 2012

...does the national budget for fiscal year 2012/13 address the important promises that were made during the recently completed general election campaign?

The Budget: Part I

Consider this

By Philip C. Galanis

On Wednesday past, May 30, the prime minister and minister of finance presented his much-anticipated first budget of the new administration that was elected only two weeks ago.  This week, we would like to Consider This… does the national budget for fiscal year 2012/13 address the important promises that were made during the recently completed general election campaign?

The short answer is that it begins to do so.  However, the extent to which it does is severely constrained by the distressing state of public finances that the Christie administration inherited from the former administration.  In addition, there is a time constraint challenge that significantly factors into what was contained in Prime Minister Christie’s recent Budget Communication.

For the past few terms, when general elections were held in early May of 2002, 2007 and 2012, the usual mid-May budgetary process has been punctuated by a change of government which imposed severe restrictions on the victor because of the very narrow time line between the elections and the required presentation of the national budget.  Therefore, in the absence of a predetermined fixed election date, successive governments should make a deliberate effort to avoid holding general elections in May because of the constraints that this event places on the implementation of a national budget designed to address the victor’s national agenda.  More about that at another time.

The state of public finances

It is now becoming increasingly evident that the former FNM administration that has always claimed to be a government of accountability and transparency has been neither. An early indication of this was first observed in the Ingraham Administration’s deliberate negligence to submit its customary and much anticipated mid-year budget report earlier this year.  It can be reasonably surmised that the former prime minister and minister of finance consciously decided to forego this practice in 2012, which he himself introduced with much fanfare and consistent conformity, for purely political reasons.

The former prime minister and his Cabinet clearly realized that if they honestly reported the state of public finances at mid-year, their deplorable financial performance would have been received with shock and awe by the Bahamian citizenry.  In the run up to elections, an honest report would likely have brought about an even more devastating outcome at the polls, and therefore, presumably, the FNM government took a conscious decision to withhold such reporting from the public, hoping that the public would place the lack of a report in the “no news is good news” category.

Another example of the FNM government’s willful refusal to report on the true state of public finances pertained to the New Providence road works, which the Public Accounts Committee, under the chairmanship of the Hon. Dr. Bernard Nottage, revealed had incurred a budget overrun of nearly $100 million.

A third instance of the FNM government’s lack of accountability regarding public finances was exposed in the current prime minister’s communication last week when the latter reported the horrendously high and historically unprecedented total deficit for 2011/2012 which rose to a record level of $570 million versus an approved total deficit of $314 million, an increase of $256 million or 82 percent more than was originally anticipated.  In line with the International Monetary Fund Government Finance Statistics (GFS) concept, the GFS deficit, which is the total deficit less debt redemption, for 2011/12 is projected to result in $504 million or 6.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). This is double the 3.0 percent that was presented by Mr. Ingraham as the forecast in last year’s Budget Communication.

Finally, the FNM government’s legacy to the national debt is equally disappointing and extraordinarily dismaying.  The national debt increased from $3 billion to $4.3 billion during its term in office from 2007 to 2012, an increase of 40 percent in five years.  This represents an historically high debt to GDP ratio of 56 percent.  Because of this inherited unparalleled GFS budget deficit of $504 million for 2012, the Christie administration will have to borrow an additional $504 million in order to pay off the financial excesses of the Ingraham administration.

The national debt will therefore increase to $4.8 billion by the end of the next fiscal year. But it gets worse. Again, because of the excessive commitments and spending of the Ingraham administration, all things being equal, and barring any unforeseen catastrophic developments over the next two years, given a projected record GFS deficit of $550 million for fiscal year 2013/14, is anticipated that the national debt will increase to well over $5.4 billion by 2014. This will represent a disastrously high debt to GDP ratio in excess of 60 percent.

All these unmatched and unequalled negative performance measures that the government inherited were incurred by an FNM government that frequently and triumphantly trumpeted its commitment to good governance, fiscal prudence, sound financial management, accountability and transparency in public finances.

It is fair to say that so-called good governance, fiscal prudence, sound financial management, accountability and transparency in public finances notwithstanding, Mr. Ingraham and his FNM Government have unquestionably left Mr. Christie and his government in a financial pickle.

Promises to keep

In spite of the alarming news, the Christie administration is still very determined to implement its agenda as articulated in its 100 day promises, the Charter for Governance, the Speech from the Throne and the Budget Communication.  While it will be enormously constrained by the fiscal realities that it has inherited, the new government has set about delivering on the social contract that serves as a basis of the mandate it was given on May 7.

It will be important for the new government to regularly give the Bahamian people an open and candid account of its stewardship over the next five years if it hopes to break the recent trend of one-term governments.


Next week, we will examine how the new administration’s budgetary provisions plan to remain true to its pledges to an impatient and hurting populace whose expectations for relief and renewal are extremely high and to what extent the national budget for 2012/13 will seek to meet those high expectations.

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

Jun 04, 2012


The Budget: Part II