Wednesday, April 24, 2019

...part and parcel of developing a Green Economy in The Bahamas

The Bahamas must police its own waters

By Frederick Smith, QC

• Cruise dumping highlights urgent need for Environmental Protection Act

• Penalties imposed on Carnival demonstrate way forward in maritime oversight

• Hefty fine shows potential to raise substantial funds for environmental protection

Revelations of the dumping of sewage and food waste by cruise ships within our maritime borders is a clear sign of the urgent need for the Bahamas to police its own waters. We can no longer leave it up to the United States or international bodies to ensure that our environment is protected. In order to do this, however, the government must immediately pass a comprehensive Environmental Protection Act applicable to all marine and terrestrial operations, ventures, developments etc. that take place within this jurisdiction. This was a promise made by the FNM while in opposition, which they seem to have conveniently forgotten in the two years since coming to office.

I again emphasize that under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement and under the Freeport Act, the Grand Bahama Port Authority has been begging the government to implement environmental bylaws for Freeport since the 1993 as they were required to do.

 While I absolutely share the grave concerns of other environmentalists over the 2017 dumping incidents, I believe it is also important to highlight the appropriacy of the response by the US courts and the opportunity it reveals for the Bahamas in our own efforts to protect the marine environment from pollution and other major environmental pressures. The courts found that the dumping was the result of individual cases of human error, not any plan or policy on the part of Carnival, and imposed a $40 million, which the company has paid. The incidents came to light because in 2016, the courts had ordered that Carnival assign, at their own cost, environmental compliance officers to each and every ship who would report to the court on a regular basis.

Here, we have what I believe is a perfect model for our own legislative regime of cruise ship oversight – continuous monitoring with hefty fines and penalties. In fact, if the government had moved swiftly on its promise to pass an Environmental Protection Act, we could have already had our own environmental officers on each and every ship that passes through our waters, funded by the cruise companies, and the $40 million paid by Carnival to the US courts could have been collected into our own special fund for use in environmental protection initiatives.

This is part and parcel of developing a Green Economy. Just imagine how many jobs would be created for Bahamian environmental compliance regulators and officers. Indeed Carnival have emphasized repeatedly in their public meetings on the Carnival Grand Cruise Port Project that they have gone from “compliance“ to “commitment“ and intend to exceed regulatory standards. This event creates an ideal opportunity for the Bahamas to urgently develop respect and protection for our environmental resources.

If we respect ourselves, then all of our investment guests will also respect our home. We have huge land and sea projects that are on the table over the coming years in the Bahamas, and particularly in Freeport. It is time that the government brought into force, the environmental bylaws which the Grand Bahama Port Authority prepared nearly 20 years ago and has been begging the government to implement so that protecting the environment can have regulatory teeth within Freeport for all residents and licensees. The Bahamas must stop being “reactive” and become regulatory “proactive” on the environment and development.

We have had thousands of cruise ships plowing the Bahamian waters Over the years. Why must we wait until there is a maritime crisis and or an American court polices issue before we react.

We can no longer sit back and hope that cruise ships will police themselves or that some outside authority will act in our best interests. We must take hold of the reins when it comes to protecting our own natural resources, think outside the box, act boldly and remember that every crisis contains the seeds of an opportunity.

• I say the preceding in my capacity as an environmental advocate of long standing and not in any way as a spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Lines or Carnival Corporation. Though my firm does act for Carnival in other areas, we have not been asked to represent them in relation to the dumping matter or the government’s subsequent investigation.


Thursday, April 4, 2019

Local Government Trends in The Bahamas

Senator Ranard Eric Henfield on Local Government

at a Freetown Constituency Meeting:

Thank you and Good Evening. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the MP for Freetown and the organizers for this evening and express my gratitude for being invited to learn from and share with you on this issue of empowering residents in communities to be in a position to improve their quality of life. The mere fact that those of you present saw it fit to come out reaffirms my belief that there are persons in the various communities that have something to contribute to the development of our communities and island.

--- With that said, I wish to speak with you tonight on four topics that have formed the framework for the Advisory Committee’s proposal on a strong local government system.

But first, I’ll address why we are even considering local government, then the following:

1. Local Government Theories and Trends

2. Effects of the information revolution on Local Government

3. Characteristics of a well-functioning local government system

4. A new vision for local governance and empowering residents to make decisions and implement them.

One of the tests for great leaders is to see if they set out to continue to increase their followers or if they set out to inspire new leaders. We have national leaders that we elect every five years to address the bigger picture and not the community canvass.

When we travel to the US, we experience local government, state government and federal government – which are the different layers of government. Each has a purpose and function.

The president and his Cabinet are not focused on or bothered with the collection of garbage on 103rd Street MIAMI. They are not focused on or bothered with the issuance of traffic tickets in Richmond Heights or along Sunrise Boulevard. They are not focused on or bothered with repairing potholes, loud and obscene music after hours, groups of young men sitting on the blocks etc. They are not concerned with whether the parks have exercise programs, functioning toilets, if the lawn was cut on Sunday evening. WHY, BECAUSE THESE OFFICIALS ARE ELECTED OR APPOINTED TO ADDRESS NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL ISSUES – NOT COMMUNITY ISSUES.

Local governments are elected to ensure that communities are clean, safe, prosperous, services are delivered pursuant to the needs of the residents by councils made up of the residents. In 1996, former Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Hubert Alexander Ingraham, introduced local government in the Family Islands.

The family island residents elect their MPs to come to Nassau and address National and International issues while the Local Government Council and the Family Island Administrators are concerned with community matters like garbage collection, upkeep of schools and clinics, parks, the weekly roadside landscaping, libraries etc.

Obviously, Family Island MPs get to focus on and debate national issues in Parliament and steer Ministries while their Local Governments address community issues that affect the day to day quality of life of the residents. WHY DO WE NEED LOCAL GOVERNMENT?

Because it creates an avenue for those of you that are community minded and passionate about your communities to get involved in the decision-making process and the implementation of the ideas you have rather than waiting for me in the Senate or Minister D’Aguilar to raise the community issue on the national stage.

Surely you don’t believe that the 55 parliamentarians are the only ones with ideas. Surely the thousands of you that live here, know your communities better than 55 of us.

Local Government also introduces community coordination and cooperation with a view to return us to the ‘village concept’ that worked so well. ---

Local Government Theories & Trends:

I would like to begin this topic by sharing the oath of office required of local government facilitators in the ancient city of Athens. “we will strive increasingly to quicken the public sense of public duty… we will transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us”.

Local government is as ancient as King Hammer and Hatchet – AS IS the expected commitment to constantly improve local government. --- Several accepted theories provide a strong rational for decentralized decision making and a strong role for local governments on the grounds of efficiency, accountability, manageability and autonomy.

One theorist, Stigler 1957, proposed that the closer a representative government is to the people, the better it works. In essence, the decisions for a region or community should be made at the lowest level of government.

Another theorist, Oates 1972, pushed the Decentralization Theorem. According to Oates, local governments understand the concern of residents. It enhances interjurisdictional competition and innovation.

Another theorist, a Pope actually, as far back as 1891, addressed the subsidiarity principle. According to this view, taxing, spending and regulating functions should be exercised by the lower levels of government unless a convincing case can be made for assigning them to higher levels of government. ---

Let’s turn to the Local Government Trends Firstly, legal the basis of local governments:

In many jurisdictions, Local Governments have been entrenched in the national constitution – as in France, Italy, Denmark, Japan, Sweden and India. I would point out here that Jamaica’s advisory Committee has proposed that Jamaica’s parliament entrench local government in their constitution.

In other jurisdictions, its merely in an Act of Parliament with its full capabilities limited by the government of the day. Rather than unleashing the residents to address their vexing community issues.

In other jurisdictions, it’s in a state’s or province’s constitution – like the US and Australia [New South Wales has an impressive model for LG which the AC placed a lot of emphasis on].


In most jurisdictions, Local Government is itself, a substantive ministry which enjoys constant attention of the Cabinet and respect from the citizenry. In other jurisdictions, its barely hitched on to passing Ministries as governments of the day change and their lack of appreciation for your sacrifice and passion is passed around.


In most jurisdictions, it raises and retains a percentage of revenue thus increasing central government’s collection of revenue as many citizens would pay their fair share of taxes and fees if they could see where their hard-earned dollars are being spent to improve/develop their communities.

In other jurisdictions, Local Governments are still waiting for an allowance that’s already allocated before it even arrives. Central government already allocates money for garbage collection, parks, road repairs, social services etc. Those funds can be re-allocated to the local government level to administer.

We can do more and spend less because when service providers know that request for proposals is coming from central government the price goes up. If the contract for maintaining the parks ‘must go to a resident of the community’ the price will be less and the park will be cleaner – consistently. ---


In many jurisdictions, emphasis has been placed on electing quality practitioners, educating the residents on community development and ensuring that candidates have a passion for communities, an ability to inspire and bring people together and a track record of resolving local issues or at least being innovative in community organization.

These jurisdictions have campaign finance reform, recall systems and debates leading up to elections. In other jurisdictions, candidates tom, dick and harry just want the title of Local Government practitioner - and they are able to spend as much money as they want to secure that title. ---


In many jurisdictions, all stakeholders are well-versed in the Local Government Act or their Constitution as it relates to Local Government. The stakeholders are following the best practices from around the world. They are attending capacity building workshops and conferences abroad [Canada, New South Wales, UK, Trinidad and Jamaica.

In other jurisdictions, the stakeholders are left to fend for themselves or to phone a friend.

Effects of the information revolution:

I invite you now, to consider the effect of the information revolution.

An ever-growing number of our citizenry have begun travelling since 1996 not to mention utilizing the internet. They have travelled to Canada, the US, Europe, throughout the Caribbean and the Latin Americas and they’re experiencing cities and communities with high-performing Local Governments.

Thriving economies, clean, orderly, safe and innovative cities. They are experiencing the results of how high-performance local governments work. They see the:

- commitment and passion of local government practitioners in other jurisdictions

- citizen-centered governance approach by the local governments

- that the central governments respect this second layer and has gladly assigned responsibility to it for any number of things.

- How local governments have embraced partnerships with the private sector, MPs, Ministers and CSOs.

Some of these Bahamians that have been exposed to other local governments are practitioners and government officials and they, actually we, share the view that our 1996 system needs some serious attention and strengthening. As such, some are agitating for a reevaluation of the roles and structure of various levels of government.

Characteristics of a well-functioning local government system:

Some of the characteristics of well-functioning local government systems are:

- A system with clearly defined roles [for not only Councilors, but Administrators and Members of Parliament]

- A system where stakeholders are familiar with or well-versed in public administration and their governing Act and procedures

- A system with checks and balances at every level for all stakeholders

- A system that embraces technology to ascertain the needs, wishes and recommendations of the residents

- A system that has the authority to raise, collect, retain and spend revenue pursuant to its budgetary priorities which are consistent with its residents’ needs

- A system that adheres to the principle of subsidiarity [decisions on taxation and spending are made by the people to be affected by those decisions]

- A system with a focus on service delivery that is consistent with citizen preferences

- A system that promotes responsive governance [works to provide a better quality of life for residents] - Has libraries and internet access [like our committee saw in North Eleuthera] - Has park and recreational programs - Has noise-free and preserved environments

- A system that promotes responsible governance [works better and costs less] follows due process fiscally prudent innovative earns trust [professional stakeholders, integrity of staff, participatory budgeting

- A system that promotes accountable governance [service above self] budgetary proposals and quarterly reports posted online and/or printed open information [to show value for money] all decisions posted online and/or printed if necessary provisions for popular initiatives and recall of public officials

All of these lend to the citizen-centered governance model according to ANDREWS & SHAH 2005 – which is, in my humble opinion, the future of democracy!

A new vision of local governance:

Finally, the way forward. As I’ve eluded to in the three previous topics, good local government systems have at the core:

- innovation, productivity and accountability clearly defined roles

- an emphasis on quality candidates wide citizen participation/engagement

- is responsive

– improves quality of life

- is responsible

– works better with less wastage

- is comprised of accountable practitioners at all levels

– who put service above self

- has constant or mandatory capacity building opportunities

- consists of practitioners who exude commitment and passion for communities.

Ranard Eric Henfield