Saturday, August 31, 2013

What will be the impact of Value-added tax (VAT) on the cost of goods and services in The Bahamas?

Preparing for VAT


The Nassau Guardian Editorial


The government has set July 1, 2014 as the date for the biggest change to the Bahamian tax system in recent memory. It plans to bring forward a value-added tax (VAT), to create a central revenue service and to cut many customs duty rates.

To inform the people of what will take place the government has published a white paper on VAT that is available for all to see on its website. The government has also pledged a significant public relations campaign to help educate the Bahamian people on the proposed new tax.

The government will have challenges with this education effort. In its white paper, it admits that VAT is one of the more complicated taxes. It involves multi level taxation up the chain of production and distribution and it also includes rebates for some.

The Bahamas has challenges with education. The public school system in New Providence has an average in the national exams somewhere not too far from an F. The technical language of the white paper is inaccessible to the overwhelming majority of our population.

Sweeping tax reform requires the understanding and consent of the people. If the people think something they don’t understand is being forced on them, and it leads to a higher cost of living, the political party that did the deed will pay at the polls. The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration should know this.

While one challenge for the administration will simply be breaking VAT down for regular Bahamians to understand, there are some fundamental questions that will be asked by those who do understand. These are questions the white paper does not answer.

It remains unclear how the imposition of VAT will impact the cost of goods and services across the board.

In fact, the white paper acknowledges that the government is unable at this time to indicate comprehensively either way.

“The effect of VAT on prices will vary as between goods and services and, within the goods category, the effect will depend on the current taxation of individual goods.

The final impact on the price of goods will depend on the extent of reductions in import tariff rates flowing from accession to the WTO,” according to the white paper.

The government attempts to reassure the public by saying that agricultural, food and certain other products that currently benefit from duty free status under the Tariff Act will also be exempt from VAT.

“Similarly, the services also proposed to be exempt from VAT, such as health and education services, etc., should experience no direct change in price under a VAT system,” the white paper adds.

However, Bahamians will simply want to know how much more expensive items at the grocery store will be as a result of this proposed change. How much more expensive will clothing and electronics be? Is there a tax for using the already expensive services of lawyers? Will there be a 15 percent tax at restaurants on top of the 15 percent charged for gratuity?

To answer some of these questions, the government would have to announce its full range of cuts to customs duties. Other answers may be so unacceptable to the people that the government may have to alter its position.

When the official education campaign begins, business owners and professionals will have many questions for the government and its representatives, as will concerned citizens who can understand the magnitude of the change. It is necessary for the government to ensure that it works out the answers to the obvious questions Bahamians will ask before it starts the talking and education tour.

Prime Minister Perry Christie led the government’s communications effort on gambling. He was not well versed on the subject. He confused the issue and said things that were contradictory. The people noticed and rejected the referendum – an initiative the governing party hoped Bahamians would support.

Government bureaucrats and the PLP should not just assume Bahamians will accept VAT because international advisory agencies said we should try it. The people have to think it is better for them and the country. They know little of the details of this move now. If this tax reform is to succeed they must know more and agree to it by the implementation date.

August 31, 2013

thenassauguardian

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Peter Nygard has unlawfully “trespassed” on Crown Land through his construction activities at Simms Point/Nygard Cay

Government Proposed 21-Year Lease Of Reclaimed Crown Land To Peter Nygard




By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
nhartnell@tribunemedia.net


The Government proposed a 21-year lease of reclaimed Crown Land at Nygard Cay to its fashion mogul owner, with an annual rental rate pegged at $25,000.

Documents obtained by Tribune Business reveal that the Christie administration sought to justify the lease on the grounds that it was needed to support an “estimated $50 million touristic development” at Nygard Cay.

The August 3, 2012, letter from Richard Hardy, the Department of Lands and Surveys’ acting director, provides the first concrete confirmation that the Government was assessing its options for granting a Crown Land lease - the issue at the heart of recently-launched Judicial Review proceedings.

The letter, described as a Memorandum, does not go into detail about the nature of the tourism project proposed by Peter Nygard for his Lyford Cay property.

However, the $50 million sum referred to matches the figure discussed at a meeting between Mr Nygard and Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) officials, which was held two months’ prior to Mr Hardy’s letter.

Previously obtained notes of that June 2012 meeting revealed that Mr Nygard was proposing a $25-$30 million investment to rebuild his fire-destroyed Nygard Cay home, with the balance earmarked for a stem cell research and treatment facility targeted at medical tourism. It would thus appear this proposal is what Mr Hardy is referring to.

Mr Hardy’s memorandum, addressed to the permanent secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, and which bears the director of investments’ (Joy Jibrilu) stamp, dated August 15, 2012, is headed: ‘ Proposed Lease of Land at Nygard Cay for a proposed touristic development’.

Referring to an August 1, 2012, missive he had received, containing two proposed “plans”, Mr Hardy disclosed that the minister responsible for Crown Lands - who is Prime Minister Perry Christie - had decided to lease a portion of the reclaimed seabed at Nygard Cay to Mr Nygard.

“It is noted in your second paragraph that the Minister Responsible for Crown Land has determined that appropriate acreage should be leased to Mr Peter Nygard to facilitate the proposed estimated $50 million touristic development,” Mr Hardy wrote.

Referring to one of the lease options presented to him, Mr Hardy said the “area coloured red is recommended on a 21 years renewable lease basis, at an annual rental of $25,000, (with reviews after seven and 14 years)”.

The Lands and Surveys acting director then effectively confirmed the acreage involved was Crown Land reclaimed from the sea.

He added: “In effect, this recommendation is in respect of the property between the December 1984 high water mark and the June high water mark.

“It does not include those areas..... which are covered by water (other than the northern lagoon) and are tidal, i.e. (4.779 acres minus tidal, non-lagoon, areas).”

A handwritten note at the bottom of Mr Hardy’s letter says a proposal was expected imminently, and that all these details “should factor into Cabinet/National Economic Council papers”.

While there is no evidence to suggest that the Nygard Cay lease was a ‘done deal’, the contents of Mr Hardy’s letter are likely to reignite the controversy surrounding its Canadian owner’s construction endeavours.

This is because the Save the Bays coalition, in its Judicial Review action, is challenging the Government’s alleged failure to prevent “unauthorised development” at Nygard Cay - the same development it claims has resulted in the seabed reclamation subject to the Crown Land lease.

In effect, if the coalition’s allegations are correct, the Christie administration’s plan to lease the reclaimed Crown Land to Mr Nygard, under cover of facilitating a tourism development, would be tantamount to legitimising/sanctioning wrongdoing.

Mr Nygard has argued that his Simms Point property has expanded through natural accretion, but this has been dismissed by both Save the Bays and the former Ingraham administration.

In the Attorney General’s draft defence and counterclaim, filed in response to a legal action initiated by Mr Nygard, the former government sought a court declaration that the Canadian fashion mogul had unlawfully “trespassed” on Crown Land through his construction activities.

Implying that Mr Nygard lacked the relevant permits and approvals, the Attorney General’s Office had also sought a court Order requiring Nygard Cay’s owner to remove - at his own expense - all the groins, docks and seabed infilling he has allegedly carried out, thus returning the coastline to its original 1984 boundaries.

The Christie administration’s Crown Land lease proposals thus represent a stunning U-turn on the position taken by its predecessor within three months of the 2012 general election. The $25,000 annual lease payment, which over 21 years would amount to a collective $525,000, also pales into insignificance alongside both the Government’s fiscal deficit and the alleged $25-$30 million valuation Save the Bays has placed on Mr Nygard’s reclaimed Crown Land.

And the coalition had previously warned that granting Nygard Cay’s owner his much-desired lease would set a bad precedent, sending signals to Bahamian and other foreign landowners that they could ‘do as they pleased’ with respect to developing their properties without reference to existing laws and regulations.

Further evidence that the Government was contemplating a Crown Land lease to Mr Nygard is contained in the August 16, 2013, affidavit by Hyacinth Smith, an attorney in the Attorney General’s Office.

The affidavit, sworn in support of the Government’s bid to have Save the Bays’ Judicial Review action thrown out, refers to “the consideration of any lease options by the Government” in relation to Nygard Cay.

Other documents filed in support of the Government’s application, though, have also revealed previously unknown facts related to the Nygard Cay situation.
  • The former Ingraham administration obtained two $2.7 million-plus bids from construction firms to return Nygard Cay’s size, and coastline, to 1984 conditions. The work, it told Mr Nygard, would have to be paid by himself.

  • The Christie administration issued Mr Nygard an annual dredging permit, via the Department of Lands and Surveys, for the period June 13, 2012, to March 12, 2013. The issuance came just six weeks after the general election.
A transcript of the court hearing at which Save the Bays obtained permission to file its Judicial Review action saw its attorney, Fred Smith QC, disclose the contents of a January 9, 2009, letter sent by the then-government to Mr Nygard.

Referring to talks with the fashion mogul’s then-attorney, Sidney Collie, the Government said it was its “intention to cause the coastline at Simms Point... to be reinstated”.

It added: “The Government has sought and obtained bids from two suitably qualified firms, Tycoon Management and Bahamas Marine Construction, in the amount of $2.75 million and $2.73 million respectively, to undertake the proposed reinstatement work.

“The two bids are being reviewed, and you will be advised of the successful bid shortly. It is the Government’s determination that the full cost of the work be borne by you.”

Tycoon Management is headed by James Curling, while Bahamas Marine is part of the Mosko Group of Companies.

Ms Smith’s affidavit for the Government, though, questions the “bona fides” behind the Save the Bays’ Judicial Review claim.

She alleges that the action is nothing more than the latest extension of the battle between Mr Nygard and his Lyford Cay neighbour, hedge fund billionaire Louis Bacon, who is a prominent member of Save the Bays.

This, she added, “throws doubts on the bona fides of the Judicial Review claim”. And the application’s reference to the Bahamas Investment Authority meeting “speak clearly to the collateral interest of the coalition in opposing the consideration of any lease options by government with respect to the Nygard Cay matter, and a stem cell facility connected to Mr Nygard”.

All three of the Government, Mr Nygard and the latter’s attorney, Keod Smith, are seeking to have the Judicial Review action dismissed on legal technicalities.

For example, the Attorney General’s Office and Mr Smith are alleging that in obtaining leave to file its Judicial Review action at a hearing where only it was present, Save the Bays and its attorneys failed to properly disclose all material facts relevant to the case.

Indeed, Mr Smith’s summons blasted those behind the Judicial Review action as “busybodies with misguided complaints”.

Mr Nygard, for his part, wants the injunction halting all further construction works at Nygard Cay thrown out on the grounds that he is not a public official or body subject to Judicial Review. He is also seeking damages for the injunction.

And the Attorney General’s Office has blasted the document discovery order imposed on the Government as a “fishing expedition”.

April 26, 2013


Thursday, August 22, 2013

...it seems that there is an effort on the part of various South Florida Cuban interest groups ...and their political leaders ...to force The Bahamas to become a conduit for illegal Cuban immigrants seeking entry to the U.S.

Cuban migrants: Testing Bahamian foreign policy


By Simon


The strategic location of The Bahamas archipelago, sharing maritime borders with the U.S. and Cuba, has posed a particular test for Bahamian foreign policy since independence.

We are geographically bracketed between the two countries. We are also of necessity keen observers of decades of an acrimonious history between our immediate southern and northern neighbors.

As a much smaller country, we are sometimes caught in the whirlwind that is the U.S.-Cuban relationship. Still, though we are a small country, we have not been devoid of certain diplomatic tools.

Successive Bahamian governments have maintained a diplomatic posture enabling us to brace and defend ourselves when category-five-like hurricane winds blow back and forth between our immediate neighbors, threatening our good relations with both.

To buffet ourselves while maintaining our balance within our immediate neighborhood, we have adhered to two ballasts that have proved foundational and stabilizing, namely Bahamian national interests and international law.

Necessity has proven to be the mother of invention and neighborliness in our relations with Cuba and the U.S. We are good neighbors to both even as we insist on the inviolability of Bahamian sovereignty as do our American and Cuban friends of their sovereignty.

Our Bahamian national interests, which are often of mutual interest to our neighbors, include bilateral issues ranging from commercial ties to matters pertaining to the law of the sea.

The video

The latest test of our long-established policy foundations, diplomacy and good neighbor policy was a well-circulated video purporting to show the abuse of Cuban inmates at the detention center.

Without benefit of an official investigation most Bahamians who saw the video dismissed it as a hoax. Yet it was used as a pretext to launch a well-publicized attack on The Bahamas.

Given the specious nature of the video, many Bahamians were shocked and angered by the vicious attack on their country by a group of Cuban exiles in Miami calling themselves the Democracy Movement, an ironic name given their seeming contempt for our Bahamian democracy.

As a hypocritical aside: Think of the number of Cuban Americans supportive of the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba who have used the good graces of The Bahamas to travel to Cuba or to send money and messages to loved ones there.

The Florida-based mob accusing The Bahamas of the abuse and torture of inmates at the detention center in Nassau, and of cover-up, made it clear that they intended to inflict maximum damage on our tourism industry by calling on Americans not to visit The Bahamas.

There were shrill demonstrations in Florida lambasting The Bahamas, with all manner of nasty and hysterical signs including, reportedly, signage attacking Prime Minister Perry Christie.

When warranted, Bahamians, including this columnist, have not been reserved in criticizing the prime minister. But those who have sought to inflict harm on our country, and who have attacked our prime minister, need not be confused.

On this issue, the overwhelming majority of Bahamians stand behind our country, and just to emphasize, and in lieu of language unacceptable in a family newspaper: Don’t screw with our prime minister!

While the opposition is rightly justified in criticizing various elements of the government’s foreign policy, there should be no disagreement on the basic policy in question.

If there was a credible allegation of abuse, those demonstrating in Miami would be justified in calling for an investigation, not launching a damaging attack on a small, friendly nation.

Blackmail

But even with the most serious doubts being cast on the video allegations, many continued with their program of intimidation and attempt of blackmail against The Bahamas.

What arrogance and hubris by those who seek to inflict damage on our economy, while eagerly chasing the approximately $1 billion Bahamians spend annually in Florida.

They are a vocal minority who should be isolated as surely merchants in South Florida and local and state officials in Florida must be as alarmed and disgusted by these suggestions as are Bahamians.

Indeed, Cubans in South Florida particularly and Florida generally should not be lumped into a single cohort. Cuban-Americans are an increasingly diverse group, and an evolving demographic. Today, younger Cubans are tending towards greater liberalization of U.S. foreign policy towards Cuba.

Yet there remain prominent Cuban-American politicians at the municipal, state and federal levels in the U.S. who make common cause with those opposed to the fuller liberalization U.S. policy towards Cuba.

Many of these same politicians have often sought to run roughshod over Bahamian sovereignty, seeking to have U.S. immigration policy adopted in The Bahamas for Cubans – certainly not for Haitians – as if we are a mere appendage of the U.S.

Still, despite their outlandish rhetoric, various Cuban-American politicians know full well that The Bahamas is a democracy and that it has never been the policy of any government of whatever political stripe to practice or condone abuse and torture of detainees.

They know that in The Bahamas we are committed to the rule of law. They also know that despite the best efforts of any government in the world, including their own, abuses are likely to occur in institutions of incarceration, as they do regularly in the U.S.

They know too that The Bahamas has maintained the most cordial relations with the U.S. and has, indeed, cooperated with the U.S. in many ways for their mutual benefit including joint efforts against drug interdiction and illegal immigration.

The Bahamas must not allow a group of rabble-rousers pressing their interest to upend our good relations with the American government and the American people, including the good citizens of Florida.

Moderated

Meanwhile, despite the efforts of various prominent Cuban-American politicians, the American government moderated its open door policy to Cuba in an effort to stem the unregulated influx of immigrants from that country with the so-called “wet-foot dry-foot” policy.

Now, it seems there is an effort on the part of various South Florida Cuban interest groups and their political leaders to force The Bahamas to become a conduit for immigrants seeking entry to the U.S.

For our part, all illegal immigrants and all persons claiming political asylum of whatever nationality or racial or ethnic origin must be treated the same under Bahamian law.

As it continues to handle this test of the consistency of Bahamian foreign policy, the Christie administration should keep the domestic public informed while briefing our Caribbean sister states and others of the issues in play.

The government is rightly insistent that its talks are with the government of the United States of America, not a group of private citizens in Florida. We should talk also with friends in the U.S. Congress, including those from Florida.

If the government is to be faulted in this matter, it has to do with the matter of tone, and of its appointment fiasco of an ambassador to the U.S.

At times, Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell, who is understandably under a great deal of pressure, has struck the wrong tone. He should not allow himself to be seen to be rattled, and needs to be more tempered in some of his remarks. There are things best said by surrogates rather than a foreign minister.

As a small country, one of our strongest diplomatic tools is the quality of our diplomats. Capable diplomats are able to express energetically and articulately the country’s views on a given matter. With one or two exceptions, the diplomats appointed by the Christie administration are notably poor choices.

Had there not been a screw-up in the appointment of an ambassador to the U.S., there would have been someone in the chair to help shoulder the issue at hand.

Further, having Dr. Elliston Rahming remain as permanent representative to the OAS, while serving at the UN is a mistake which the government should quickly rescind.

This dual appointment will leave Rahming bouncing back and forth between New York City and Washington, D.C., with all manner of scheduling conflicts and unnecessary expense.

Our ambassador to the U.S., Dr. Eugene Newry, should be made ambassador to the OAS, which is resident in Washington, D.C., allowing for better policy coordination especially with our CARICOM partners.

In its WikiLeaks series, this journal noted comments reportedly made by Christie in his previous term that made it appear that he had basically ceded foreign policy to his foreign minister.

No prime minister should ever make such a statement to foreign diplomats as such an admission may be an invitation to mischief and manipulation by those diplomats.

But more importantly, a nation’s leader is potentially one of the most valuable assets in a country’s foreign policy. Before and now we are paying a price for Christie’s incuriosity and clear lack of understanding of the intricacies of foreign policy and diplomacy.

There are more diplomatic tests to come. There always are. To up our game we need the strongest possible team, including able personnel at Foreign Affairs, good diplomats in the field – and a prime minister more serious about and engaged in matters of foreign policy.

August 22, 2013

thenassauguardian

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fire Fred Mitchell, says Opposition Leader Hubert Minnis call to Prime Minister Perry Christie

Minnis Calls For Christie To Fire Fred Mitchell Over Issue Of Cuban Detainees



Tribune242


OPPOSITION Leader Hubert Minnis has this afternoon called for Prime Minister Perry Christie to fire Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell from his Cabinet.
 
Speaking at a press conference at FNM Headquarters, Mr Minnis said: “It has become clear that Minister Mitchell has exhausted every ounce of credibility as Minister of Foreign Affairs.”
 
He called on the government to release a ‘full and unedited’ report of all investigations that have been conducted to date into Cuban detainees at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.
 
He said: “The Minister of Foreign Affairs has not given a full and honest account of what took place at the detention centre on May 20, 2013.
 
“The FNM has been advised that several senior government officials and ministers became aware fairly early that a major instance of abuse had taken place.”
 
August 21, 2013
 
 
 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Free National Movement (FNM), Peter Nygard, stem cell and the stem cell legislation

FNM Focused on Stem Cell, Not Nygard


By The Bahama Journal



Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Darron Cash doesn’t believe the party focused more on the controversy surrounding Peter Nygard, instead of the actual stem cell legislation.

The chairman said this while speaking to Jones and Co. host Wendall Jones during his appearance on the programme.

Mr. Cash said despite people only seeing the ‘blow-up’ over Canadian fashion designer Peter Nygard’s interest in stem cell research being done in The Bahamas, FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis actually gave detailed reasons as to why the party disagrees with passing legislation for the medical practice.

“In reality, the leader of the opposition essentially said it is supported. But what he did was speak to the question of how to educate people,” he said.

“He spoke to the fact that there are many deficiencies, in terms of how to oversee the structure, how to answer the broader questions like The Bahamas’ position in the international community as a good, safe and reputable place for researchers to do business. He said he’s not comfortable that that structure had already existed.”

“So the government ought to facilitate a broader discussion and analysis. Bring the bill forward and put it to a committee so that they can be an appropriate framework for all of these questions to be answered.”

The FNM leader was suspended from the House of Assembly for two sittings on August 7th after he refused to apologize and withdraw a statement he made concerning Mr. Nygard’s and the prime minister’s relationship.

Since then, members of the government have taken the Opposition to task over the debacle surrounding Mr. Nygard.

Both the FNM’s deputy leader and chairman have openly supported the legislation, which was eventually passed that same day.

FNM Deputy Chairman Brensil Rolle defended the party saying that they never brought Mr. Nygard in the discussion, but that he allowed the PLP government to drag him in it.

“The FNM never deflected to Nygard,” he said.

“Mr. Nygard himself and the PLP government allowed Mr. Nygard to inject himself into the discussion.”

“The FNM doesn’t have any difficulty with stem cell or stem cell legislation. What the FNM and hundreds of Bahamians were offended by was the fact that a non-Bahamian was giving an impression to people that this was for him.”

Mr. Christie made the announcement that Mr. Nygard was helping the government with bringing stem cell researchers to The Bahamas while making remarks at the Jones Communication Network’s ’40 Under 40’ awards.

19 August, 2013

Jones Bahamas

Sunday, August 18, 2013

...the dismal results of the 2013 Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) and Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) exams; incompetents leaving school ...and The Bahamas' draconian Immigration laws

Results Do Not Augur Well For The Future


Tribune242 Editorial:




DESPITE the government’s increased spending on education, public schools continue to release more students into the community without the required skills in reading, writing and arithmetic.
 
It is true that there is high unemployment, but it is also true that jobs exist that can’t be filled by many of those unemployed because they do not have the required skills.
 
Today, the government released the dismal results of the 2013 BJC and BGCSE results. In the past several years, embarrassed by the dropping grades, the government has refused to release the national grade average. However, we were told that those amazing grades were still hovering between D and D-.
 
Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald seemed desperate to find at least one spark of hope, but the best he could do was note a few subjects that inched up from C- to C or D to D+. Not good enough to sustain a growing country, crying out for qualified Bahamians.
 
Although Mr Fitzgerald was not concerned about the national average, he was concerned that youth leaving grade 12 were not “functionally literate or numerate”.
 
Mr Fitzgerald said that such a situation was a major concern to him, and his ministry. Of more importance, however, is the major concern for this country.
 
With incompetents leaving school, and draconian Immigration laws, government can talk about major investors coming in, but how are they to operate without a qualified labour force? Is the Bahamas to tread water until its citizens measure up, or is someone going to make the Immigration Ministry aware of the realities of its labour force, and the urgent need to supplement it with more qualified people of whatever nationality. The private schools cannot keep businesses supplied with the staff they need, public schools will have to start pulling their weight.
 
“Our concern,” said the Education Minister, “is that 30 per cent continue to fall through the cracks and not do well – that’s at the BJC level. By the time they get to the BGCSE level, we have, what we know, is almost 50 per cent of students who leave only with a leaving certificate – which means they don’t meet the requirement to graduate.”
 
All this certificate means is that each morning they walk through the front door, shout “present” when their name is called, and each afternoon they leave through the back door. In the interim, they fail to take any education with them. In other words, that certificate is only their attendance record.
 
These are the young people the country should worry about. They apply for a job, a worthless certificate in hand, as proof of qualifications. When turned down, they complain that they are being discriminated against — a foreigner is filling the post. The tragedy is that these students believe that this worthless piece of paper is a door opener to any job they might desire. It seems they are the only ones who don’t know that it might have been smarter to have left their certificate at home, and try to charm their way through an office door on “mother’s wit”.
 
At one time, we had good teachers — both Bahamian and foreign, but more foreign, because in certain subjects there were not enough Bahamians — sometimes there were none.
 
And then the Immigration crunch came. Foreign teachers were no longer recruited so that Bahamians who were qualifying in education could be accommodated. Some of these were good, some were mediocre, but others, as in all walks of life, just did not cut the mustard. Regardless, however, they entered the classroom.
 
With these unacceptable results, the first consideration has to be the teachers. Are they of the calibre to inspire the children to learn? Are they truly dedicated teachers who have a real interest in the success of their students, or are they clock watchers who are just treading water?
 
Then one has to look at the size of the classroom and the calibre of students being mixed together. Are the academic students being held back by others who would prefer learning a trade? If so, then these classes in fairness to both types of students should be divided — one concentrating on academics, the other on whichever skills a student might have a bent for.
 
The curriculum has also to be studied to make certain that it is wide enough to graduate an educated person. Reading, reading and more reading on a variety of subjects – including the history of these islands – should be encouraged. And high on the list, Ethics should be taught in all schools, as well as the duty of a good citizen.
 
And finally, those who make immigration decisions for schools and businesses have to be more realistic and not hold the country back to accommodate their idealistic dreams of what the work force should be, but is not.
 
Between poor school results and an immigration department out of tune with the needs of the country, the Bahamas faces an uphill struggle.
 
August 16, 2013
 
 
 

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) 2013 exam results show notable decline in grades...

National exam results worsen

Math, English scores decline


By Taneka Thompson
Guardian Senior Reporter
taneka@nasguard.com


Math and English test scores for the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) exams fell this year compared to 2012, according to data released by the Ministry of Education yesterday.

The average math grade is an E and the average English grade is a D.

The subjects are among 16 that showed a decline in grade point average (GPA) scores.

Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald said he is not satisfied with students’ declining scores, particularly in Math.

While the 2013 BGCSE English score remained at a D letter grade the subject saw a decline in GPA.

BGCSE math scores fell from E+ to E.

“We are concerned about the results in mathematics examinations,” Fitzgerald said at a press conference at the Ministry of Education.

“Our focus, we feel, or I feel to a large extent, has been on literacy. And as a result we have continued to see a steady increase in our English language results.

“In the Department of Education we must accept some responsibility for the deficiencies in our mathematics results and our ministry’s failure to implement required strategies to improve not only teaching but also our results in this area.”

Only 996 out of 7,140 students who took the BGCSE exams — or 13.9 percent — scored a C or above in five or more subjects.

This is a 5.17 percent increase compared to the 947 students who achieved this in the 2012 BGCSEs.

This year, 1,626 candidates got at least a D in five or more subjects. This is an increase of 2.01 percent over 2012, which saw 1,594 students achieve this.

The ministry’s report on the exams noted that 561 students got at least a C or above in English, math and a science subject.

This is a 4.75 percent decrease compared to 2012, which saw 589 students meet this achievement.

The data shows that the highest percentage of overall grades awarded — 28.76 — were in the C category. The results show that 7,776 C grades were scored.

“A cumulative percentage of grades awarded to A and C is slightly higher than 2012 where it increased from 47.76 percent to 48.57 percent,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said there is a concern over the increase in the number of grades awarded at the G and U level.

The total number of G grades given for the 2013 BGCSEs were 1,357 compared to 1,238 last year. Students received 931 U grades this year compared to 747 in 2012.

The ministry’s data shows that 11 subjects saw improvement in grade point average scores: biology; chemistry; commerce; economics; food and nutrition; history; music; office procedures; religious studies; Spanish and keyboarding.

Four subjects improved by a letter grade compared to 2012 scores: commerce rose to C- from D+; history rose to C from C-; music rose to C+ from C and religious studies rose to C from C-.

The data shows that out of the 27 subjects offered, 16 subjects saw a decrease in grade point average compared to 2012.

These are math; physics; English; French; geography; graphical communication; literature; art & design A; art & design B; art & design C; auto mechanics; bookkeeping/accounts; carpentry & joinery; clothing construction; combined science; and electrical installation.

Twelve subjects fell by a letter grade compared to last year: art & design A dropped to C from C+; art & design B fell to C+ from B-; art & design C fell to C- from C; auto mechanics fell to C- from C+; accounts fell to E+ from D; carpentry fell to C- from C.

Clothing construction fell to D from D+; combined science fell to D+ from C-; electrical installation fell to D from D+; French fell C- from C; graphical communication fell to C- from C and math fell to E from E+.

The ministry stopped issuing a national average four years ago. Officials said such a score did not accurately reflect test results because every student does not sit the same exams.

Fitzgerald said the ministry is focused on subject analysis based on test scores.

August 16, 2013

thenassauguardian

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Prime Minister Perry Christie is out of his depth when it comes to the environment

Local Attorney Says Prime Minister Is 'Out Of Touch' On Environment



Tribune242


Environmental attorney and consultant Romauld ‘Romi’ Ferreira took to the airwaves recently to express concern over what he called “out of date” thinking by Prime Minister Perry Christie who, he said, called concerns with the environment “foolishness.”

Ferreira and environmental activist Joseph Darville appeared on Ortland Bodie’s ‘Real Talk Live’ show on More 94.9 recently urging Bahamians to sign the Save The Bays petition calling for an Environmental Protection Act, Freedom of Information Act and an end to unregulated development. Mr Ferreira, responded to Prime Minister Christie’s recent dismissal of environmental concerns at Clifton Bay as ‘foolishness,’ labeling those remarks as ‘out of touch’ and reflective of an outdated mode of thinking in The Bahamas.

“It is very regrettable when the Prime Minister of a country can utter a statement like ‘environmental concerns are foolishness’,” says Mr. Ferreira. “This is why this is the fight of our generation. We can’t expect the politicians of yesteryear who regard environmental issues as foolishness to fully appreciate and be cognizant of the issues. We thank Mr. Christie for all of his contributions - he is the longest serving Member of Parliament and he has done wonders, but clearly he is out of his depth when it comes to the environment.”

“Apparently, we’re talking foolishness when we say they (developers) are building in the Marine Protected Area that was proposed (in Bimini), we’re talking foolishness when we say that they’re building the dock on top of the coral reef and we’re talking foolishness when we say the law requires an Environmental Impact Assessment.”

Ferreira, one of several guests on the popular morning talk show, is a leading environmental attorney and consultant who was selected earlier this year by CARICOM to create model legislation for the energy sector for the Caribbean. “This is all the more reason why it takes persons and organizations to show him and elucidate to him that what he may consider foolishness, there are tens of thousands of people in The Bahamas and around the world that don’t think that it is foolishness,” he noted. “We’re not talking foolishness, they’re doing foolishness. I call on every right thinking Bahamian to open their eyes and see what’s happening.”

Also appearing on the show was fellow director of Save The Bays, Joseph Darville, who echoed the sentiment that the environment must be protected and unregulated development checked. “These developers are flocking to us like bees to honey because of what we have to offer as a nation,” said Darville, a retired high school principal and human rights and environmental activist. “What they are foisting on the Bahamian people is totally reprehensible. We are being enslaved by our own people.”

Mr Darville pointed out that organizations like Save The Bays are concerned primarily about the sustainable development of the Bahamas and the preservation of natural resources for generations to come - issues that are relevant to all Bahamians. He encouraged concerned members of the public to go online to www.savethebays.org to sign the organization’s petition to Prime Minister Christie, which has garnered nearly 5,000 signatures to address vital issues such as the lack of an Environmental Protection Act and the implementation of a Freedom of Information Act.

August 12, 2013


Saturday, August 10, 2013

...nearly three-quarters of deaths in The Bahamas are caused by cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis

74% of Deaths Caused by 3 Diseases



The Bahama Journal



According to the World Health Organisation, nearly three-quarters of deaths in The Bahamas are caused by cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis.

Local nutritionist Donovan Ingraham said this much while addressing the Rotary Club of Nassau West yesterday.

Mr. Ingraham, who has several years of experience under his belt and is registered with the United Kingdom’s registry of Voluntary Nutritionists said Bahamians need to start eating healthier and exercising a bit more, as it could be the key to a longer life.

“Scientific studies have shown that the epidemic of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, type-2 diabetes, osteoporosis and even obesity are related to the fact that we are not consuming the proper meals that we should be,” he said.

“The WHO diagnosed in 2008 that the world obesity population was over 1 billion people and of that figure, 200 to 300 of those individuals were overweight. Scientific studies have shown a direct relationship between obesity and non-communicable diseases the ones I mentioned and all other ailments related to non-communicable.”

“With this severe number being so high, we need to not only educate ourselves, but the generations behind us on how to change the epidemic of what’s happening in this country.”

Scharad Johnson, a certified clinical exercise physiologist, meantime urges Bahamians to take the risks of obesity very seriously as it will soon be diagnosed as a chronic disease.

The physiologist pointed to the standard lifestyle Bahamians have adapted of eating a lot of starchy foods and mixing it with very little exercise, even in children.

“We’ve seen a number of children, not only are they not playing outside anymore, but they’re not getting hurt and they’re not socialising with friends, but they’re on video games and computers and socialising that way,” he said.

“Obesity has been a pig epidemic around the world and here in The Bahamas. We see now that at the age of 40, we’re having major heart attacks, family members are dropping down dead and we’re being diagnosed with diabetes or hypertension. Studies have shown that exercise not only works as a way to train for sports or to get muscular. But it’s also used to treat all kinds of non-communicable diseases.”

Mr. Ingraham studied in both the UK and Canada and works along with Mr. Johnson, who has experience in cardiac, pulmonary and orthopedic conditioning at the Bahamas Medical Center.
It’s there that they provide proper nutrition consultation and training for dieting and exercise.

09 August, 2013

Jones Bahamas

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The governing majority has failed us on the Stem Cell Research and Therapy debate ...and so has the official opposition

Talking Sense: Political Hyperbole On The Medical Frontier



By NOELLE NICOLLS
khalilanicolls@gmail.com



WHEN politicians train to be politicians, one of the first lessons they learn is about the use of hyperbole, the art of using obvious and intentional exaggeration to make a point. It is a political tool that Bahamian politicians are very familiar with and use with great frequency (Full disclosure: the media profession is no novice when it comes to the art either)!

With true hyperbole, however, the extravagant statements are not intended to be taken literally; they are intended to make a point.

Trouble is, listening ears often miss the point, and instead come away believing the exaggeration. While talking heads, on the other hand, sometimes buy into their own hype, and use intentional exaggeration to get away with spreading outright lies. Too much hyperbole can really create one messy affair.

Needless to say, one has to be astute to weed through the mess. Let us take, for example, the Stem Cell Research and Therapy Bill, currently being debated in the House of Assembly, which has been painted as “revolutionary” by its proponents.

Much has been said about the benefits that stem cell research will bring to the Bahamas: $100 million annually, new jobs, spillover effects on all areas of the economy, lead scientists who will relocate to the Bahamas and create institutions and centres of excellence, and new medical treatments for Bahamians. The impressive list goes on.

The way in which this adventure is being trumped up has certainly made me weary. For one simple reason: Our politicians have a knack for trumpeting revolutionary projects that never live up to their promise. And I would hate for us to venture into another one of those limp experiments at the expense of matters of real national importance.

Let us not forget, a few years ago, telemedicine was the revolutionary technology that was supposed to transform health care in the Bahamas, “bridging the islands of the Bahamas medically”. The Bahamas was supposed to become a nerve centre for the Caribbean, using the success of connecting the Family Islands as the launch pad for a worldwide breakthrough in the developing world.

The Free National Movement government launched a tele-radiology pilot project in two community-based clinics: The South Beach Clinic in New Providence and Eight-Mile Rock Clinic in Grand Bahama. Radiologists at Princess Margaret Hospital or Rand Memorial Hospital consulted regularly with technicians and patients at the two clinics. They used a Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) to store, share and archive imaging data.

The idea was to link the entire Bahamas into the PACS system. International partners could also be plugged in, so a doctor in Nassau would be able to consult with a radiologist at the University of Miami. The government was hoping to use the technology to provide other long-distance services like pre-natal ultrasounds.

The government also launched a virtual skin clinic in Abaco, which treated 42 patients in its first month of operation. The government eventually rolled out the programme in Andros, and had plans to replicate the skin clinic model with paediatric clinics.

The government made some positive inroads with telemedicine, but whatever happened to the promised renaissance?

Recently, a $100,000 telemedicine lecture lab was launched in the oncology centre of PMH thanks to a donation from the Bahamas Telecommunications Company, evidence that the telemedicine dream is still alive, but not evidence of a revolution.

When telemedicine was the hot topic, Dr Hubert Minnis, the Minister of Health at the time, promoted it as a forward thinking project by a visionary government.

“(Telemedicine) is extremely futuristic; that is what this Government is all about. It is not just about today, but it is about tomorrow and tomorrow we will be able to expand that so that not only will we be taking the Emergency Room to the Family Islands, but we will be able to expand the service so that we will be in a position to also take Intensive Care Unit and other facilities to the Family Islands,” said Dr Minnis in 2007, on the occasion of the pilot project launch.

Unsurprisingly, the Progressive Liberal Party government is now framing its interest in stem cell research in the same light, as catching the wave of the future.

Oncologist Dr Arthur Porter, former head of the government’s stem cell task force, predicted a global “renaissance” in the use of stem cell therapy “over the next ten years”. He positioned the government as being forward thinking by getting ahead of the curve.

However, Dr Porter did not predict he would be embroiled in an international scandal just six months after his stem cell prophesy. He is currently being held on an international arrest warrant in connection with an alleged million dollar kickback scheme in Canada, where he faces charges of fraud, conspiracy to commit government fraud, abuse of trust, secret commissions and laundering the proceeds of a crime. Dr Porter denies all of the charges against him.

Nowadays it is hard to take the government seriously, when political leaders have such a loaded track record of rhetorical dishonesty. And it is almost impossible to take the government at its word, when it keeps dangling carrot sticks of some awe-inspiring future that is likely to have no impact whatsoever on the quality of life for the average Bahamian.

During debates in the House, Minister of Health Dr Perry Gomez boasted about the story of an infant born in Italy, who was recently treated successfully using stem cell therapy. What Dr Gomez did not say is that tracheomalacia, the condition that afflicted the child causing her to need a new trachea, is a very rare condition. The story is touching, but how relevant is it for the average Bahamian?

Bahamians are afflicted with common diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, kidney disease. All of these are top contenders for potential stem cell therapies. However, stem cell medicine is still in its infancy, from commercial and scientific points of view.

In 2011, the company that conducted the world’s first Federal Drug Administration approved clinical trial using human embryonic stem cells on spinal cord patients aborted the experiment and left the stem cell business entirely. Geron, the leading Silicon Valley biotech company in question, directed its resources towards experimental cancer drugs, which were much more advanced in their development.

The company was awarded a $25 million loan from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine for the trail, but it returned the money: $6.5 million, the amount it had borrowed so far, plus interest.

The company determined it did not have sufficient financing to continue its experiments with stem cells and cancer treatments at the same time. And despite having spent $150 million over 15 years investing in its stem cell treatments, it chose to go with its cancer research.

There may obviously be other factors at play here, but one conclusion that can be drawn at face value is that stem cell medicine is a bad bet for Bahamians hoping for a cancer treatment in this generation.

At best, researchers “estimate that the time lag between research expenditure and eventual health benefits is around 17 years”, according to a report by the Welcome Trust, a UK based biomedical research and the medical humanities firm.

Of course, anything is possible. At the end of the day, treatment is not the same as a cure. The promise of stem cell therapy is a cure for disease.

Either way, stem cell medicine is a highly specialised niche market in the medical field and will likely be so for years to come. It seems doubtful that stem cell treatments for common conditions will become mass market in the near future, based on reports about the industry. At some point, they will be available to an exclusive few by virtue of their cost. And now, they are available to an exclusive few because patients have to meet “a very strict set of criteria” to qualify for treatment, based on rigid clinical research trial protocols.

Last year, when the Bahamas Heart Centre (BHC) in conjunction with Advanced Innovative Medicine Inc of Orlando, Florida, conducted the Bahamas’ first cardiac stem cell implantation, Dr Conville Brown, BHC director and CEO said: “The expansion of the patient’s stem cells is a procedure that generally attracts a price in the region of $20-30,000 just for the cells. And nobody has put them in yet and nobody has taken them from the patient yet, so the general price is somewhere easily around the $40-50,000 range.”

The 62-year-old cardiac patient, who was a medical tourist, had advanced coronary artery disease. He had already undergone bypass surgery on a number of occasions, after his first heart attack in 1989. The stem cell treatment was considered a “last option” before considering a heart transplant.

Stem cell research is not your average field of study. It would be irresponsible to mislead people by hyper inflating the benefits they are likely to reap with rosy portraits of an uncertain possible future.

There is another important aspect of the stem cell debate that needs to be explored. Let us look at our national healthcare needs. If the Bahamas was to aspire to global dominance in any area of medical research, it would seem more prudent to fix our eyes on area of medicine that was a) of great relevance to the Bahamian people, and b) best served by our natural resources, national infrastructure and areas of technical expertise.

An obvious example comes to mind: breast cancer research, considering Bahamian women suffer from the disease at disproportional rates to the rest of the world.

In the government’s speech from the throne, which established its legislative agenda, it committed itself to “facilitating the Public Hospital Authority’s acquisition of new cancer screening technology to ensure that Bahamian women have access to-state-of the art mammogram machines”. Makes sense.

Telemedicine is another good example. It was in fact a good idea (even if oversold), considering we desperately need ways to bring basic and advanced medical services to the remote corners of our archipelago.

Let us examine another healthcare example, an overlooked area of need. There are two main government entities responsible for delivering health care services in the Bahamas: the Public Hospital Authority (PHA), which manages the hospitals and the Department of Public Health (DPH), which manages a network of 55 health centres and 59 satellite clinics across the archipelago.

Every year, we have a flood of young doctors graduating from institutions such as the University of the West Indies (UWI) entering the professional ranks in the Bahamas. And yet, the Department of Public Health is still chronically short on doctors. It has to import doctors from around the world to work in the Bahamas.

How is it that we have so many people entering the medical profession in the Bahamas and yet we still have to import doctors? Here is a problem the government might want to invest some time and money into solving.

Junior doctors, particularly those coming out of the UWI system, are required to participate in a mandatory internship programme with the PHA. Many of them are scooped up by the PHA at the end of their internships and choose to remain in the hospital system, because they are able to continue understudying experienced doctors and develop new skills in areas of specialisation.

If they were employed to the DPH, they would be limited to practising general medicine, for the most part, and have to take up Family Island posts, where they would serve as resident experts unto their own.

Here is a problem that affects the day-to-day lives of Bahamians in an area of critical need. Our medical professionals, particularly young professionals, need greater access to training and more incentives to enter the Department of Public Health’s system.

There, government has a buffet of healthcare needs to choose from: a shortage of doctors in public health, a shortage of surgeons and specialists in the medical profession generally, a breast cancer rate that is out of control, high rates of prostate cancer in our male population, and a long awaited national health insurance scheme, among other immediate concerns. A responsible government would channel its resources and build human resource capacity in areas of true need for its people.

Sadly, none of this logic seems to matter because stem cell research in the Bahamas has a celebrity champion with money to spend.

I am reminded of the research I did last year about the funeral services industry. For decades, the government has failed to enact regulations to bring the industry in order. It is the wild wild west in funeral services in the Bahamas.

The lax regulation of sanitation standards, for example, is having a serious impact on public health. The nonexistent regulation of funeral service practitioners has given birth to players who employ embalming and burial practices that dishonour the dead.

The government has turned a blind eye. Meanwhile, families, according to members of the industry itself, are “being bamboozled” by the system, and our dead are being habitually dishonoured. The government has no shortage of excuses for its failure to act. Apparently, it is waiting on the industry to come forward with its own draft regulations.

The whole matter forces us to ask serious questions about how the government establishes its legislative priorities. Perhaps the funeral services industry needs to get itself a celebrity backer. Because stem cell medicine, a priority only for a few private medical companies prior to 2012, has managed to become a front burner issue for the government when it was never on the legislative agenda to begin with.

When the Stem Cell Research and Therapy Bill becomes law, the obvious question will be how is the government going to set its budgetary priorities in the health sector?

The government recently announced a possible new partnership with the University of Miami, who might help the government with its regulation of the industry. I am curious to know what kind of government resources will be allocated to the regulation and oversight of this industry, and sustaining a relationship with the University of Miami. Will the taxes associated with the industry sufficiently cover all of the government’s incurred expenses?

What frustrates me about how the stem cell debate has evolved is that our foray into the industry could have gone down without much fanfare or controversy, with sobriety and restraint, had it been a side project for which the government was only obligated to get involved in from a regulatory point of view to ensure public safety and the rule of law.

But no, the project has become a side show, having been trumpeted as “ground zero” for the next medical revolution in the Bahamas, based on claims that have not been sufficiently substantiated.

Stem cell technology might be revolutionary in the field of medical science, but it is not at this juncture the revolutionary answer to our healthcare needs or our economic woes.

The governing majority has failed us in this debate and so has the opposition. Both have wasted the people’s time overplaying their hands, proffering base arguments that have caused more confusion than clarity, more petty squabbling than true debate.

I hope discussion ends on this bill quickly, so the government can proceed to matters of true concern. And I hope any expense incurred by the people on this stem cell adventure is offset by fees and taxes paid by those who have the real vested interests.

• Noelle Nicolls is the Tribune’s Features Editor. She is also a travel writer, women’s activist and entrepreneur. Follow her on Twitter @noelle_elleon. For questions or comments, email khalilanicolls@gmail.com.

August 06, 2013


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Our shared values are enough to unite us ...and make true emancipation a reality in our Commonwealth of The Bahamas

The journey toward true emancipation


BY ARINTHIA S. KOMOLAFE


The United Kingdom passed an act abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire 180 years ago.  The act effectively ended slavery on August 1, 1834; however, due to the apprenticeship program, full freedom never came until 1838, during which time slave masters were required to teach slaves how to work and survive for themselves.  This period was intended to ensure a smooth transition for the freed slaves allowing them to adapt to a life of independence.  The magnitude of this event explains the fact that Emancipation Day is widely commemorated throughout the Caribbean annually.

 Confronting the shackles on our minds

The phrase “emancipate yourself from mental slavery” was coined by pan-Africanist Marcus Mosiah Garvey and later popularized by Jamaican artist Bob Marley in his rendition of the track “Redemption Song”.  Through his words, Garvey articulates the notion that human beings are responsible for freeing their own minds from mental bondage despite having been physically freed by their oppressors.  Implicitly, his words admonish us to think for ourselves, take stock of our own reality and draw conclusions on how we can best achieve positive, fruitful and productive results.

In today’s society, the media plays a major role in shaping our thought process through music, dance, film, the Internet and other news outlets.  Regrettably, the convenience offered by the media and technology appears to have stifled the exercise of our beautiful and indomitable minds resulting in the average human being unwilling to think for himself or herself.  In the workplace, some have become comfortable and complacent in deferring to their bosses to think on their behalf.  Congregants in religious establishments have in some cases also abdicated their prerogative to think or study to their leaders while the populace seems to be content with the responsibility for government policy and national development being vested solely in our political leaders with little or no input from the people most impacted by the same.

The path to full liberty

The freedom from physical shackles is but a first step towards true emancipation.  Indeed, true emancipation is nothing more than an illusion without the emancipation of our minds; and mental liberty will only come with a paradigm shift in our thinking.  The famous quote that “knowledge is power” holds much message in our quest because the acquisition of knowledge enables us to discern for ourselves and sets us on the path for true emancipation.  Further, love for ourselves and clear understanding of our true calling and purpose in life positions us for a fulfilling destiny and an opportunity to achieve set goals through focus, ambition and determination.

It is true that of all the things that men can acquire in this world, there is no guarantee that they will not lose them at some point in time.  However, knowledge attained stays with one forever and despite life’s ups and downs and the challenges and losses that we may face, the same knowledge that we attained to achieve some lost possessions can be retrieved once more by applying our knowledge through lessons learned in life either formally or informally.  This reality is embodied in the following words of Henry Ford: “If money is your hope for independence, you will never have it.  The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability.”

Adopted philosophies and boundaries

The passage of the Abolition of Slavery Act paved the way for our physical freedom, a first step in the process of revealing to us that we were not less than our masters, but that we deserved equality.  Truly, this is one of the major desires of mankind – equality in all that we do.  About 120 years after the abolition of slavery, the journey toward majority rule in The Bahamas commenced.  This journey filled with all of its struggles took several decades but ultimately set the foundation for both political and economic freedom.  This journey continued until the Bahamian people experienced the rebirth of our nation with the attainment of political independence in 1973.  Alas, economic freedom still evades us albeit we continue our voyage as a people towards this goal.

As we celebrate the 180th anniversary of the passage of the aforesaid act, one cannot help but wonder whether we the Bahamian people are enslaved to another’s mind-set.  Garvey had rightly postulated that “the man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind”.  The next chapter of our history must be written with greater participation of every one of us using the gift of our minds to pull ourselves from a dependent society to trailblazing and independent powerhouses.

The positioning of Bahamians

The next era in our existence requires a sense of pride in being a Bahamian.

Entrenched in this pride is appreciating all things Bahamian and understanding that we are capable of ruling ourselves in all forms and on all levels – that we ourselves are the masters and rulers of our own destiny.

The term ‘Bahamians First’ must not only be a proclamation, but also a fact and should be evidenced in our policies and programs without destroying the essence of capitalism.  This is bearing in mind that there is no other place on earth where Bahamians can be kings and queens other than in The Bahamas.  In this sense, we as the people of this land and our leaders must work together to renew the minds and shape the destiny and future of successive generations of Bahamians.

The concessions granted to investors should promote economic development and the empowerment of Bahamians.  As Bahamians begin to stretch their minds and broaden their thinking, the government must roll out the red carpet to accommodate our ideas and dreams.  The government and private sector in partnership will determine the content of our scorecard on economic empowerment over the next 40 years.  The Bahamian people have built these walls with their sweat and tears with minimal ownership thereof; the time to possess has come.

One common purpose

The clarion call to begin the process to free our minds is a general one.  However, while we all must play a part in this metamorphosis, our political leaders must be a driving force of this paradigm shift and new environment.  The government must effectively communicate its plan to advance the economy, working with the private sector and other stakeholders.  Our economic policies and national institutions must be conducive to the average Bahamian progressing and being all that he or she can be.  Then and only then will more Bahamians be able to live the Bahamian Dream.

The major feats accomplished in our existence as a nation have been made possible due to the cooperation and working together of people of diverse races, backgrounds, political affiliations and social status.  Political leaders have also been a part of our past struggles.  Hence, the meeting of minds and unity of purpose is important to drive the emancipation from mental slavery and the achievement of economic empowerment for all Bahamians.  In the final analysis, we share a common purpose for justice, equity, education, security and equal opportunity for our people.  Our shared values are enough to unite us and make true emancipation a reality in our commonwealth.  Happy Emancipation Day!

 

• Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law.  Comments can be directed at commentary@komolafelaw.com.

August 06, 2013

thenassauguardian

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Homosexuality - Spiritual AIDS

By Lambert Sands
Marriage Mechanics Ministries



Several days ago, national media organizations carried a breaking news story of the changing position of the Roman Catholic Church toward homosexuality. Whereas, it was nothing more than an embellishment of impromptu and ill-advised remarks made by the Pope, it showcased the ambition and drive of the homosexual agenda to promote the acceptance of the vile and heinous sin of homosexuality throughout the world.

Without doubt, recently, there has been an avalanche of homosexual stories in the media. Many of the stories are exaggerations, misinformation, and sometime very morbid and crude untruths meant to show homosexuality as a natural and viable lifestyle. People are told homosexuality can be found among various species of animals, so humans, being primates, are perfectly normal if they are homosexuals. Professional players are being reprimanded for inappropriate homosexual comments. Then, the wife of President of the United States, called a homosexual person to congratulate him for “coming out” or openly letting everyone know that he was a homosexual, and the list goes on.

Sadly, most people are not even aware of impact and the significance of this torrent of homosexual information passed on as being normal and innocuous. The media, especially in America and the UK, show a decided bias never allowing stories about the opposite point of view to be told or showcased (I guess it would be considered hate speech or some form of phobia). Thus, the avalanche continues unabated, with younger people and a new generation who have no fundamental religious upbringing or teaching, destined to accept and embrace homosexual doctrine. They are unsuspectingly being infected with the spiritual HIV virus.

During the 1980s was our first encounter with the dreaded HIV virus which struck first at the homosexual community. The virus immobilizes and destroys the human immune system. The resulting condition and disease is called AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The disease doesn’t kill you; however, it leaves the body defenseless to the ravages of all other diseases including the common cold. People who contracted AIDS during the 1980s died quick and untimely deaths causing much fear and trepidation among various communities.

Similarly and spiritually, homosexuality has the appearance of toleration; live and let live: and we have a right as consenting adults to do whatever we desire; but it’s a mirage and teaser for greater and more profound wickedness and debauchery leading to the end of civilization. Male and female represent the foundation of civilization. If we recognize and accept a man pretending to be a woman or a woman pretending to be a man as normal, we then endorse Satan’s greatest and most vile deception…isn’t it a deception for someone to pretend to be something that they are not???? Like Satan pretends to be God??? You see, if you accept homosexuality, a man having sexual relations with another man or a woman having sexual relations with another woman, then, what about polygamy; what about bestiality (apparently now on the rise), what about lowering the age of sexual consent; what about a man and his daughter, mother and son; and the devilish list can go on? Evil then multiplies exponentially, thus, the “AIDS” effect of homosexuality. Wow!

My friend, homosexuality is not a new phenomenon. It’s an old, very old perverse sin and spiritual disease that led to the utter destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This is true! This is real! This has happened! “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)” (2 Peter 2:6-8)

We, the human race, are known for this one thing: repeating mistakes! We love doing the same things over and over again hoping for a different result. We get smart; we invent stuff; we feel enlightened; we have money; then, we become prideful and stupid. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, …For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;” ( Romans 1:26-28)

Then, God has to step in and clean it all up like Sodom and Gomorrah and in Noah’s time. “And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:26-27) “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.” (Luke 17:28-30)

Homosexuality signals judgment! We are headed in this direction with-I may add-speed! The Lord continues to warn us, especially the spiritual leaders in America and the western world who love to point fingers at the government to create a smokescreen for their own wickedness. You see, if there is no revival, and the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ does not travail in prayer and revival, the Lord himself will judge. This generation will not pass away until everything is fulfilled. That means dire judgment!!! Remember Sodom and Gomorrah! Remember Noah! Lot waited until it was too late before running around like a chicken with his head chopped off telling everyone about the impending doom. The present church is no different. Living lavishly in the present world, we are that Laodicea church, rich in goods and believe we have need of nothing. (no real evangelism) (Revelations 3:14-22) Yet, we are divorced, selfish, self-centered and without spiritual illumination. God help us!!

We are the light of the world. We are the salt of the earth. We have a job to tell our neighbors about the Living Christ and the God who can save any one. We are to share God’s love with the world. Before my wife passed away, she did this: There was a young man who was a homosexual that worked at a large department store where I live. When we visited the store, he seemed to vault his homosexual behavior. He would throw his hips. He would act real feminine and the like. One day, my wife witnessed to him telling him about the love of Jesus and praying with him. About two weeks later, when I visited the store, he ran up to me to tell me about his new found relationship with Jesus Christ. He was simply ecstatic! He didn't have religion, no, he had a real relationship with the man called Christ! He recounted to me how he found Christ and his new devotion to witnessing and telling others about Christ. God is still in the saving business…let’s get busy and put a stop to the AIDS disease!

Lambert Sands

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Archbishop of Nassau, the Most Reverend Patrick C. Pinder on Pope Francis' question: ...“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Archbishop Pinder: Pope Francis’ comments on gays ‘refreshing’

Catholic teaching calls for homosexuals to be treated with dignity and not marginalized


BY SHAVAUGHN MOSS
Guardian Lifestyles Editor
shavaughn@nasguard.com


Pope Francis struck a conciliatory stance towards gays when he asked: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” And that people should not be marginalized for their sexual orientation. He said “they must be integrated into society” during an extraordinary 82-minute exchange with reporters aboard his plane returning from his first papal trip to celebrate World Youth Day in Brazil.

It’s a sentiment Archbishop of Nassau Patrick Pinder says is a “refreshing one”, but that it should be noted that the pope prefaced his statement by saying the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the official statement of the church’s teaching is very clear about what it has to say. Catholic teaching calls for homosexuals to be treated with dignity and not marginalized.

“I think he emphasized that these people should not be marginalized,” said Pinder. “And I think that has been pretty much the theme of his pontificate so far that nobody is to be marginalized. And I think in terms of an approach, it’s certainly a refreshing one.”

While the comments did not signal a change in Catholic teaching that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered”, they indicated a shift in tone under Francis’ young papacy and an emphasis on a church that is more inclusive and merciful rather than critical and disciplinary.

Francis’ stance contrasts markedly with that of Benedict who signed a document in 2005 that said men who had deep-rooted sexual tendencies should not be priests.

Gay leaders around the world were reportedly buoyed by Francis’ approach saying the change in tone was progress in itself, although for some the encouragement was tempered by Francis’ talk of gay clergy’s “sins”.

Pinder said he had not gotten a lot of reaction at home to the pope’s statement but he believes people understand his statement in its context.

“This is not any kind of earth-shaking change in the church’s position,” he said. “It’s basically a whole new approach … and I think it’s warm, it’s welcoming, it’s inviting. What he (pope) has really been saying is there are options and ways in which we can approach our ministry that are open to us without in any way being any radical disjuncture from what we firmly believe. And I think that’s what he’s seeking to do, and what he’s done very well, and it’s been good. And I think that has been pretty much the theme of his pontificate so far – that nobody is to be marginalized. And I think in terms of its approach, it’s certainly a refreshing one.”

Francis’ comments came during his first news conference as pope. And they were wide-ranging and open, touching on everything from the greater role he believes women should have in the Catholic Church to the troubled Vatican Bank. Francis did not dodge a single query.

He said he wanted a greater role for women in the church, though he insisted “the door is closed” to ordaining them as priests.

Asked about his thoughts on the theology of women’s role in the Catholic Church, Pinder said that he could never say anything contrary to the Holy Father and agreed that no one baptized is to be alienated from the life of the church. He said that was the underlying emphasis of Francis’ ministry has been good.

Many people around the world are viewing Francis as someone who is restoring the credibility of Catholicism with his openness, and displays of simplicity like boarding a plane carrying his own black bag, an unusual break with Vatican protocol and a style that separates him from previous pontiffs.

“His (Francis’) papacy has been good so far, but I think it will take more than just a couple of months for the papacy to restore what you may refer to as credibility. I believe the measure of his papacy will have to be over a longer period. But I think he has brought a whole new style to the exercise of the ministry,” said the archbishop.

Pinder said the new and engaging style that Francis has brought with him to the office has been wonderful, and that because of the pope’s actions and words, the world has become infatuated with him.

He (Pope) has brought a whole new and engaging exercise to the office, and I think that’s all for the good, and I think that’s wonderful. He has a very warm and endearing style [and] you’ve seen that in so many of his actions and words and I think that’s very important to seek to get people to understand that the message of the Gospel is something that’s warm; that’s inviting,” he said.

Pinder, who has yet to meet the Holy Father as yet, said he is looking forward to the official visit he will have with him next year when he visits Vatican City.

August 01, 2013

thenassauguardian