Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Bahamas: Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said capital punishment will probably not be a reality in the Islands in the near future...
By SANCHESKA BROWN
Nassau, The Bahamas
DESPITE calls for murderers to be executed, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said capital punishment will probably not be a reality in the near future.
Instead, the government is considering the possibility of a "life" sentence being changed to actually mean "for life."
The Prime Minister said he knows people are frustrated with the high level of crime in the Bahamas. He says this is a frustration shared by most of the Caribbean. However, Mr Ingraham said swift executions is something that probably will not be a reality anytime soon.
"This is a country about the rule of law, and we have to abide by decisions made by our courts, even if we don't agree with them. Sometimes to the extent where we have to swallow it and accept it as reality," he said.
"The government cannot execute someone without the court certifying that all things were done properly, otherwise the government itself is committing murder and unlawful killing. Even if we change the law, it will take some time for that law to be able to be applied to persons who are convicted, and so there are several other things the society ought to consider in the interim rather than to expect something that is not likely to happen."
One of the suggestions made by the Prime Minister is to change the current life sentence from 25 years to actual life imprisonment.
"We may have to determine that life imprisonment means life in prison, your natural life in prison, you won't come out anymore," he said.
"We will have to categorise murders to determine that some cases should warrant the death penalty, while others may warrant imprisonment for life, their natural life and others for a lesser period of time. So that's what we are seeking to do."
The government was scheduled to debate the death penalty bill before they adjourned for the summer. However, when the House adjourned the bill was still not ready for presentation.
The proposed legislation will outline specific categories of murder. It is still unclear if the government will bring the bill when Parliament resumes on October 5.
Opposition leader Perry Christie said in his national address if the Progressive Liberal Party is elected to government his party will carry out the law as it relates to hanging.
Mr Ingraham declined to comment on Mr Christie's statement but did say he was pleased Mr Christie was able to address the nation on national television.
"When I was in opposition it was not possible for me to do so. With one radio station I couldn't buy time to be able to address the nation. He has a right to do so and I applaud him for doing so. I also want to point out that while he was prime minister I found no record of a national address by him in his five years in office."
No hangings were carried out under the PLP administration. The last time a convicted murderer was hanged was on January 6, 2000.
August 30, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Brazil’s leadership in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) may be coming to its end. The newly-appointed defense minister, Celso Amorin (most recently he served as foreign affairs minister from 2003 to 2011) recently declared to the Brazilian media that he “supports the withdrawal of Brazilian troops from Haiti.” Should this happen, it would be a major departure from the status quo, and would greatly affect MINUSTAH’s operations, as well as jolt Brazil’s role as the Caribbean’s major arbiter of security. Furthermore, Brasilia’s quest for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has been partially based on its role in MINUSTAH as an example of its readiness for a UN seat, which may now be called into question.
Brazil’s role in Haiti
Brasilia racked up a huge leadership role in MINUSTAH, which had as its mission to aid the transitional government that gained control of Haiti (via the UNSC’s resolution 1542) after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in early 2004. The mission was controversial at the time and drew heavy criticism from its inception as it was regarded as a type of colonial government by the UN in the wake of Aristide’s abrupt forced departure from power, following major national protests and violence. At the time, there were persistent accusations that the U.S., Canada and France had a role in the Haitian head of state’s ouster.
Brazil has provided the military commanders for MINUSTAH along with a significant number of its forces over the past seven years. Brasilia has reportedly deployed 1,266 army and navy troops to MINUSTAH, but, in the aftermath of the massive January 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti, the Brazilian Congress approved a request to send 1,300 additional troops to the Caribbean country to help with relief operations.
In January 2006, there was a bizarre incident in which MINUSTAH’s commander, Lieutenant General Urano Teixeira da Matta, committed suicide while in his hotel room in Port-au-Prince. In cables published by Wikileaks, Dominican President Leonel Fernandez told State Department Assistant Secretary Patrick Duddy that he suspected that Teixeira had been assassinated by a paramilitary group, possibly led by Guy Philippe, a renowned Haitian cutpurse and rebel leader with a good deal of political clout. MINUSTAH’s current commander is Major General Luiz Eduardo Ramos Pereira, also from Brazil.
According to MINUSTAH’s official website, the mission’s current strength (as of June 30, 2011) totals 12,261 uniformed personnel, not including volunteers as well as international and local civilian personnel. Since its inception, the mission has suffered 164 fatalities, 66 of which were military personnel. Twenty UN Brazilian soldiers were killed in the January 2010 earthquake.
Brazil Inside and Out
Dilma Rousseff’s first year as president of Brazil has been far from ideal as a number of senior and high-profile members of her cabinet have resigned. The list includes: Agriculture Minister Wagner Rossi, Defense Minister Nelson Jobim, Transportation Minister Alfredo Nascimento, as well as President Rousseff’s chief of staff, Antonio Palocci. Should the Brazilian head of state decide to maintain her troops in Haiti despite the defense minister’s opinion to the contrary, this may put Rousseff at odds with other key members of her cabinet, as well as with the military’s leadership. Furthermore, a recent letter to the Brazilian President was signed by a number of legislators, like Markus Sokol of the PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores – Worker’s Party) National Directorate, representatives of the CUT (Central Única dos Trabalhadores – Unified Worker’s Central) and the MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – Landless Workers’ Movement) , as well as others. The open letter states: “we must end Brazil’s participation in a military operation that is repudiated by the vast majority of the Haitian people … this occupation has only deepened the plight of the people and has denied them their sovereignty.”
It is worth noting that some influential Brazilians do support a continued presence in Haiti. Geraldo Cavagnari, member of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Campinas (Unicamp) has declared that “the troops should stay put because there is no risk, and there are many things in play.” The other “many things” most likely include Brazil’s hardly concealed quest for a permanent UNSC seat.
Another factor that may influence the future role of Brazil in Haiti may be budgetary issues. An August 15, 2011 article entitled “Bye Bye MINUSTAH” published by the Canada Haiti Action Network, explains that since 2004, Brazil’s taxpayers have spent over R$ 1 billion on MINUSTAH. Last year alone, maintenance of the Brazilian troops in Haiti cost R$ 426 million: R$ 140 million for annual costs and other expenditures, plus R$ 286 million for humanitarian aid sent after the 2010 earthquake. The analysis goes on to argue that in principle, the UN should reimburse these expenses, but in recent years the reimbursements have amounted to only 16% of the payments made by the Brazilian government. The article finally adds that, in addition, the salaries of Brazil’s MINUSTAH troops have, in fact, exceeded R$ 41 million per year, but these costs are excluded from Brazil’s expenses on the mission because these individuals would be entitled to their pay even if they were in Brazil. The Portuguese-speaking nation is currently enjoying an economic boom, but this will most likely not last, in part because the Brazilian currency, the real, is showing signs of being overvalued. If a period of economic austerity appears, the Brazilian government may be forced to rethink some of its peacekeeping operations and other major military commitments.
An official interviewed by the author, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that Brazil as well as several other states have desired to leave Haiti for some time and they argue that there is already some kind of, at least superficial, political stability in the Caribbean state. It would seem that the recent Haitian presidential elections, as dubious and controversial as they were, may serve as part of Brazil’s “exit strategy” for leaving MINUSTAH.
An Unsuccessful Departure?
Brazil’s military has been involved in Haiti since 2004 but, unfortunately, few positive developments have stemmed from Brazil’s limited interactions in the small Caribbean nation. MINUSTAH operations managed to pacify most violent neighborhoods, like Cite Soleil in 2005, but they also were responsible for carrying out human rights abuses that have been well- documented, which gained further criticism of the UN operation.
A critical moment occurred on January 12, 2010, when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed most infrastructure in Port- au-Prince as well as other Haitian towns across the country. A recent report by the U.S. Agency for International Development, obtained by the Miami Herald, states that between 46,190 and 86,961 people died and less than 66,625 quake victims are living in hundreds of camps scattered around the capital. In the aftermath of the disaster, dozens of international governments agencies and relief organizations have poured into the country to help with search operations and to take care of the thousands of Haitians that were left homeless and with very little food and shelter. MINUSTAH was not spared of some of these losses. This was particularly the case as the mission’s headquarters in Haiti collapsed killing several UN employees; however the body did continue to carry out relief operations. A February 2010 UN report praised MINUSTAH’s emergency response, explaining that “MINUSTAH, despite its own losses, acted as a crucial first responder, opening the major arterial road from the Port-au-Prince airport to the town centre, re-establishing communications and opening its medical facilities to victims.” The Security Reform Resource Centre adds that:
“In the months following the earthquake, MINUSTAH made significant contributions providing logistical and administrative support to relief efforts. MINUSTAH supplied security assistance for humanitarian operations, operational support to the Haitian National Police (HNP), provided technical advice and support to state institutions at the sub-national level, assisted in repairing the damage to critical infrastructure of the judiciary, and coordinated a large-scale public information campaign.”
In any case, the praise MINUSTAH received for its operations in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake proved to be short-lived. In October 2010, MINUSTAH troops apparently introduced a cholera epidemic in Haiti by dumping fecal matter into the country’s rivers. Over 5,000 individuals have died due to the cholera outbreak and thousands more are infected. A March 2011 report by the BBC highlights the variety of estimates of how many Haitians currently are, and could possibly become, infected, with numbers ranging from 400,000 to a possible 779,000 by November of this year. A July 2011 article in the Los Angeles Times reported that “the [Haitian] Health Ministry reported more than 1,000 new cholera cases a day last month [June].” There were several protests against MINUSTAH when the local population realized how the epidemic started. It is important to clarify that it seems that UN peacekeepers from Nepal most likely started the cholera epidemic, not personnel coming from Brazil.
Furthermore, it is necessary to note that a possible Brazilian withdrawal from MINUSTAH is just an option for the moment, and it would take time for the minister Amorin’s proposal to become an official government-sanctioned plan, if it does at all. Even more time would be needed to arrange the logistics for the Brazilian troops to actually leave Haiti; hence any Brazilian departure will not likely occur anytime soon.
MINUSTAH without Brazil?
Should Brasilia decide to pull all of its troops from the Caribbean nation, the future of MINUSTAH may be called into question. Can the mission survive without the major donor of its troops, and the one with the most zeal to do so? Possibly yes, but the UN will face several new problems, like finding replacement troops from other nations to make up for the departure of the Brazilians. In addition, if Brazil does depart, other states that supply troops to MINUSTAH, may decide to leave the operation as well. As previously mentioned, some states, besides Haiti, may already be looking for an exit strategy to leave that country. In an extreme scenario, MINUSTAH may end up with a reduced force and a more limited ability to carry out its operations.
A final critical factor that may affect MINUSTAH’s future will be the Haitian government, which now has a new president, if highly problematic, former singer Michel Martelly. As part of his campaign promises, the new head of state has declared his interest in reforming the controversial Haitian army to help improve internal security. The country’s military was disbanded in 1995 by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, after he was deposed in a coup and then restored to power with the help of U.N. forces. Historically the Haitian army has been known for its violent acts and lack of political neutrality, particularly under the Duvalier dictatorships. An April 2011 article in the Washington Post quotes Martelly as saying that “the new armed forces wouldn’t be known for brutality, as their predecessors were.” The Haitian leader may be looking to replace MINUSTAH, which it cannot control, with local security forces sworn to comply with his orders.
If Brazil leaves, what role should the US play?
A 2008 State Department document made public by Wikileaks, explains that “the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti is an indispensable tool in realizing core USG [U.S. government] policy interests in [that country].” The disclosed report then adds “paying one-quarter of MINUSTAH’s budget through our DPKO [department of peace keeping operations] assessment, the U.S. reaps the security and stabilization benefits of a 9,000-person international military and civilian stabilization mission in the hemisphere’s most troubled country. […] in the current context of our military commitments elsewhere, the U.S. alone could not replace this mission.” With military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and, for the time being, in Libya, embarking on a series of new military challenges, even if it’s under an UN-peacekeeping mantle, may prove too costly for Washington and particularly the Barack Obama administration, which will have to face re-elections in 2012.
MINUSTAH has been controversial since its origins, and a more visible U.S. involvement in Haiti would be cumbersome and would add to a long list of lamentable military involvement in that country. U.S.-Haitian relations have been historically problematic, as they mostly revolve around American military operations in that island, including from 1914-1934, in 1994 and, most recently, in 2004 when Aristide was ousted. It is necessary to note that Washington did deploy the carrier USS Carl Vinson  along with the USNS Comfort and thousands of military personnel to provide help in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.
Deploying American troops in Haitian territory is a questionable practice, and it’s highly unlikely that it will happen; nevertheless it would be helpful for Washington’s national interests to continue working with the UN and the Haitian government so that the Caribbean nation avoids becoming a failed state.
Regarding Brazil, one can see the reasons for leaving the mission, including its unpopularity, lack of major successes and financial costs. With that said, it is illogical to think that any departure would occur quickly. If Brasilia does decide to leave MINUSTAH, at the very least it should have a responsible exchange of power and responsibilities to other UN personnel or Haitian security forces. As a recommendation, we can observe that while most of Brazilian military personnel will ultimately leave Haiti, some senior officers should stay in a consultancy basis, particularly in order to keep training the Haitian police. In spite of MINUSTAH’s controversial origins, we cannot forget Haiti’s internal problems (some of which were collectively caused by foreign powers); the international community hopefully should leave the country in better shape than when it entered it.
Alex Sanchez, a COHA research fellow, recently published an article discussing Brazil’s UN ambitions and its role in MINUSTAH: W. Alex Sanchez, “An Easy Way to Improve U.S.-Latin American Relations” (Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, July 28, 2011). Available: http://bit.ly/qXB41y. In addition, an article that discusses Brazil’s role in MINUSTAH and the UN mission in East Timor will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Globalizations. His personal blog can be found here.
References for this article can be found here.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being "one of the nation's most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers." For more information, visit www.coha.org or email email@example.com
August 30, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
Do you know it is vogue to be an atheist on university campuses? Do you know that every young person finds it interesting, modern and attractive when a professor or student says, "I don't believe in God" or "God doesn't matter." There is only one God, whether we be Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, animist. "God is the same for all religions and, therefore, Christianity is neither here nor there," our modern intellectuals would say.
There is also a popular sophisticated agnosticism which says, "I don't know if there is a God or not; it doesn't matter, we just need to live our lives passionately."
How can I deny an inner yearning, a deep desire, sometimes a desperate desire to kneel and bow before the almighty God and simply cry out: "I place myself before you, Almighty God. I know that I am nothing." Sometimes in exultation, sometimes in desperation, but always we want to submit ourselves to the almighty God as sinners, or, as someone yearning deeply for meaning. There are times we feel empty in this lonely and selfish world of ours, but better that than giving into the world.
Christ shows the way
Christ, the incarnate God, revealing the Father's will in the flesh, serving others, forgiving sins, performing miracles, dying on the cross, restoring the brokenness of our nature, loving us and calling us to repentance and to His heavenly Kingdom, suffered rejection and death as he fixed his attention on us, of His infinite love. He shows the way in an absolute world of absurdity, while we journey to the light and everlasting life.
There is a rebellion against the Church and Christianity in our modern times. We are like sheep who have gone astray. Many of us, pastors and shepherds, have lost the central focus of life, which is Christ.
There is also the media's lack of respect and its infinite variety of pagan values and pleasures. This flesh is always crying out to be satisfied. The vulgar part of us wants everything for me, my flesh, my popularity, position and prestige, rather than the spiritual desire to be one with the eternal God.
We no longer believe in the divine, the transcendence of God, and the longing of our spirit, our souls, to go beyond ourselves. Our materialistic and hedonistic flesh wants no moral mandates or restrictions. We want to be free, we want to be on our own, we want to do what pleases us.
Happy with atheism
Christianity - and its call (if it is the true brand of Christianity) - do not go along with the craving for self-fulfilment of every appetite. The market, or the world, is happy with atheism, individualism, and self-satisfaction. Thus, it needs to destroy Christianity and free us to live a hedonistic life.
We cannot continue feeding this valley of the flesh that Europe and North America seem to be encouraging all over the world, taking advantage of the poor countries and their naïve trust of rich countries which propose self-indulgent ways of living to be progressive.
The restlessness of our worldly appetites will only bring about death. We want to destroy the babies in the wombs, the old people, the people who are defective (by some people's definition), the poor and the non-productive people our world.
Wealthy, advanced persons of our world haven't been able to solve the problem of poverty. The rich must kill off the poor in order to eliminate conscience problems.
Yet, the call to self-sacrifice and service shall not stop. Christ, the crucified one, the one true God, the only God of all gods, who lived, suffered, and died for us remains indelibly on our souls, an everlasting image stamped in the very depth of ourselves, forever and ever.
The atheistic, materialistic world finds Christ dangerous. Today, He is ridiculed and mocked in movies, the general media, and the fuzzy-headed arguments at the universities and in our homes. But His word and His ways are firm: "I am the living bread of life: without me you will die."
We might rebel for a while but, finally, we must face up to the truth: "I am the way, the truth, and the life."
Father Richard Ho Lung is founder of Missionaries of the Poor Jesuit charity.
August 29, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
As the Gaddafi regime appears set to crumble in Libya, perhaps now is as good a time as any to reflect on Latin America's last remaining dictatorship - Cuba.
There are more than a few similarities between the two regimes. Both are led by highly charismatic - some may say deluded - personalities in the form of Muammar al Gaddafi in Libya and, in the case of Cuba, Fidel Castro, who has largely given way in his old age to his slightly younger and much duller brother Raúl. Both the Libyan and Cuban systems of government claim to be socialist, in one guise or other, and both have lasted for decades, in part thanks to a brutal security apparatus. Both have also irked and confronted the liberal, democratic and capitalist west, and above all Washington, over the decades, in the case of Libya using terrorist tactics to do so.
In addition - and evidence of this has been seen in the Libyan conflict in recent months - both clearly have a significant degree of support among their respective peoples, although whether it was ever a majority is another matter. There are of course good reasons why the two regimes have enjoyed a degree of support. Gaddafi has used Libya's oil wealth over the years to make the country one of the most developed in the region, and also counted on the backing of his own tribe, while the Castro-led revolution overthrew a despised, pro-US dictator, winning the admiration of leftist ideologues around the world, and the subsequent regime has, despite its faults, made considerable progress in areas such as healthcare and education.
So why has one been brought to its knees while the other appears to be standing firm? There has, of course, been much speculation - often wild and unfounded, disguised as analysis - as to the real causes of the Arab uprisings, including poverty, corruption, cronyism, governments that simply don't care about their people and, at least the western world would like to believe, a genuine desire for democracy, all helped along by the use of social media. But one thing is clear, which is that no one foresaw what was coming and the governments that have been toppled or have come close to being toppled from Tunisia to Bahrain, all looked pretty secure less than a year ago from today. Just like Cuba right now.
So could the same thing happen in Cuba? Yes, of course it could. Many ask why don't the Cuban people rise up against the tyrants and demand their rights? Or how can people be so passive in the face of such tyranny? Yet the same could have been said all across North Africa and much of the Middle East until just a few months ago.
These things may not be predictable, even by the most astute of the so-called experts and analysts, but the important thing - whether we're talking about Libya today or Cuba tomorrow - is to be as best prepared as possible for a change, both the domestic opposition and the international community, to help ensure that mistakes of the past are not repeated and that what replaces the current regime is a big improvement on the old order, preferably with something resembling democracy. In the case of Libya, that includes not destroying the infrastructure developed by the Gaddafi regime, or "punishing" people for having worked for the government - and avoid letting the country fall into chaos like what happened in Iraq - and in the case of Cuba it would mean not reversing the gains made in health and education, among other things.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
A state of public emergency exists in the twin-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It includes the power to search and seize without a warrant and powers of arrest and detention by police officers and soldiers. Persons should not have in their possession materials or documents which are likely to lead to a breach of the peace. Persons are also prohibited from making statements that are prejudicial to public disorder.
Yes, “the war on crime is on,” declares attorney general Anand Ramlogan. The recent occurrence of 11 murders in one day bears the scars for immediate action. The air is filled with fear. Blood stains the alleyways. Distant screams haunt the night as mothers wail over the loss of their sons and daughters. Streets lay empty and bare while starving dogs fight over misplaced men's meat and children's bones. “Indeed!” laments the passer-by, “crime has besieged the consciousness of our nation.”
This is the new Trinidad and Tobago. This is the land of hope and glory and the sweet black trinity that calypsonian Sparrow sang about. This is the oil rich republic that historian Dr Eric Williams defended to his dying breath. This is the unrecognizable land mired in chaotic and contradictory fury, held hostage by a pillaging group of thugs and gangs, who are rewriting its history to reflect their own morbid view of reality.
And now the only choice left is to pay careful attention to the criminal element that exists within the very ranks of the police service, the army and other government departments.
Trinidad and Tobago was placed on a Tier Two Listing by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the US Department of State as early as 2010. As the most active country of origin and transit point for regional and extra-regional irregular migration to North America and Europe, Trinidad and Tobago was warned about the vulnerability of its borders to transnational organized crime networks and the risk of being exploited by terrorists and murderous drug lords by its own immigration officials and security personnel.
But this warning fell on deaf ears.
According to the US State Department, the regular presence of small cargo fishing boats (pirogues) from Venezuela and other Caribbean islands, loaded with drug shipments, continue to go unnoticed because security forces do a poor job of screening maritime traffic and who many times have been paid large sums of money to remain quiet.
Gangs loyal to political parties or to the police garner more respect than law abiding civilians. Victims of police brutality go by unmentioned. Institutional dysfunction allows violence to continue into escalation of gang warfare.
A state of emergency at this late stage of the game, after the criminals have long been given notice by interior forces to leave the hotspots and go underground allowing them to set up new cells and safer havens, comes as a laughing game.
Now attorney general Ramlogan, national security minister John Sandy, acting police commissioner Stephen Williams and chief of defence staff Brigadier Kenrick Maharaj are at their peak in going after gang members, circulation of firearms and drug traffickers and are bidding to get as many weapons as possible off the streets.
But this action comes a bit too late.
Rather than embrace their responsibility of sweeping out corruption within their own ranks, prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has instead chosen to incite fear and confusion in the minds of the citizenry and visitors alike by instigating a state of emergency, while the very creed of national security and all its code of ethics of the public service are being ceaselessly undermined by the corruption of its own immigration officers, police officers, military personnel and some of its notorious elites.
Abuse of immigration stamps, issuance of birth certificates, bribery and government passports to foreign nationals, has failed to ensure immediate actions into tabling legislation to deal with the problem of human smuggling and trafficking, hence inciting a free reign to make a mockery of justice by deflecting responsibility back to the very system that failed in the first place.
Critics argue that the state of emergency curtails the freedom of citizens, suspends the public’s constitutional rights, deprives citizens of their human rights and scares investor confidence. The rhetorical and inflammatory call to action for a state of emergency repels the root of the problem and favours the murderous gang lords more than the citizens and does not equal a platform for change.
Simply stated, the criminal element in Trinidad and Tobago lies in weak legislation and lax border controls to corrupt immigration officials, and police and security personnel operating from within.
The unrivaled moral task of saving Trinidad and Tobago, while at the same time safeguarding the lives of its citizens from the destructive effects of crime, sits evenly with co-operation and intelligence sharing between Trinidad and Tobago, and US officials.
August 27, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
by Jennifer Nerby, COHA Research Associate
Haiti, along with the greater Caribbean, has experienced a substantial decline in remittances following the 2008 global economic crisis. Fortunately, remittance flows to Haiti increased significantly in the aftermath of January 2010’s earthquake. That year, Haiti received USD 1 billion in relief funds, with a significant portion coming from the Haitian diaspora. While these contributions helped many individual Haitian families to recover from the devastation, it is demonstrably clear that remittances do not pose a long-term solution for the country’s economic woes. In spite of relatively high remittance rates, Haiti suffers from pervasive unemployment. Many small island specialists seem to feel that only growth in small businesses and microlending operations can stimulate an independent and self-sufficient Haitian economy.
On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck ten miles west of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, leaving over three million people in need of emergency assistance. The earthquake displaced at least 1.3 million people, and as of January 1, 2011, an estimated 810,000 remained in the 1,150 refugee camps still in operation., That same month, Nigel Fisher, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti, commented, “In retrospect I think we can say that by and large the initial response to the earthquake was a success.” Remittances were a critical component of the total relief efforts; more than one million members of the Haitian diaspora increased the amount of money they send to relatives in Haiti after the calamity, resulting in a USD 360 million surge in remittances during 2010. World Bank economist and remittance expert Dilip Ratha explains that, “Financial help in the form of remittances from family members is always the first to arrive in times of distress.” Though remittances provided much needed support to the earthquake’s survivors, it is unclear if these funds will permanently reduce poverty and bring about necessary infrastructural change.
The Remittance Debate
Like many Caribbean nations, Haiti depends on remittances as a fundamental component of its national GDP ratings. According to the World Bank, migrants hailing from Latin American and Caribbean nations (LAC) sent a total of USD 48.3 billion to their home nations in 2005, and remittances represented 70 percent of all foreign direct investment to the region in 2004. In Central American and Caribbean nations, remittances typically account for 10 to 20 percent of each nation’s GDP. Haiti, however, is a special case; it dramatically surpasses the average ratio, with remittances accounting for 52.7 percent of the nation’s GDP in 2004.
Remittances do not necessarily solve pressing economic, political, or social issues in the Caribbean. In a 2007 paper entitled “Close to Home: The Development Impact of Remittances in Latin America,” World Bank senior economists Humberto López and Pablo Fajnzylber examine the positive and negative effects of remittances. Although the authors acknowledge that remittances often stimulate growth and investment, improve access to health care and education, and increase macroeconomic stability and individual savings, they question the effectiveness of remittances in decreasing poverty and instability in recipient nations. These contributions are subject to the financial standing of individual immigrants in developed countries and often prove inconsistent, as evidenced by the stagnation of remittance flows following the inception of the global financial crisis of 2008.
The global economic crisis of 2008 caused an abrupt decline in remittances worldwide, doing grave damage to many Caribbean economies. Looking forward, a variety of sources anticipate substantial increases in remittances to the Caribbean during 2011 and 2012 as developed economies recover from the 2008 crisis. Nine of fifteen Caribbean countries were expected to grow in 2010, but Haiti, along with five other nations, was predicted to contract significantly. This regression is largely related to a 12 percent decline in remittance rates during 2009, as Haiti was found to lack the domestic industries required to recover without international aid. The Outlook for Remittance Flows report anticipated that a two percent growth in remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean should be expected in 2010, and the World Bank reported that a “healthy recovery” was underway from the slump of 2009. Furthermore, the Outlook anticipated 7.6 percent growth for 2011 and 10 percent growth in 2012, totaling USD 69 billion in remittances allocated to the Caribbean. Haiti is scheduled to be one of the top three recipients of such funds.
While high remittance rates have at times accounted for legitimate economic benefits, local business development in Haiti has been dwindling as a result of the nation’s dependency on international donations. Much of Haiti’s reliance on remittances can be attributed to the nation’s high rates of unemployment, which reached an astronomical 40.6 percent in 2010. The CIA World Factbook noted that two-thirds of the population did not hold a formal job and ascribed the lack of foreign investment in industry to Haiti’s “limited infrastructure and a lack of security.” As a result, remittances have been found to create a vicious cycle of dependency on international donations coming from abroad. The escalating presence of microbanks as a major financial tool has led to the growth of small businesses and local industries, conceivably replacing remittances as the backbone of the Haitian economy.
Unlike remittances, microlending initiatives retain the potential to tackle Haiti’s weak infrastructure and unemployment. Fonkoze, one of Haiti’s most prominent for-profit microbanks, has forgiven more than ten thousand loans after the earthquake and continues to play a crucial role in the recovery process. The bank also expanded the “Ti Kredi,” or “Little Credit,” loan program to offer small loans of USD 25 to poor families who did not qualify for the bank’s larger USD 125 loans. “Ti Kredi” includes shorter repayment periods as well as health care and educational services. Fonkoze’s programs present borrowers with the economic opportunity to open small businesses, along with the critical skills to manage them successfully.
Thus far, microbanks have been one of the most effective relief agencies in Haiti and have been found to have the potential to enact enduring and progressive change in the region. Greta Greathouse of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) believes that Haitian microbanks “need to get stronger on a permanent basis so they can offset the operational risks that come with Haiti because of the earthquake and the inherent risks that are unfortunately a way of life for the country and its people.” A debilitating lack of infrastructure prevents many microbanks from becoming self-supporting and for-profit, as international contributions are often needed to cover losses from missing and delayed loan payments. Strengthening the Haitian banking industry will require improved regulation and a gradual shift toward for-profit banking.
Most microbanks in Haiti remain non-profit and consequently require international assistance to recompense for unpaid loans. Non-profit banking, while more sustainable and autonomous than remittances, lacks the financial transparency of for-profit institutions. Fonkoze is one of the few for-profit institutions in Haiti and had to operate at a loss for nearly three years before it was able to turn a profit. The microbank eventually stabilized thanks to USD 15 million in foreign donations. Though the bank initially depended on international contributions, Fonkoze is now en route to self-sufficiency and provides many Haitian borrowers with the opportunity to open and operate independent businesses.
The microlending climate in Haiti is far from ideal. Fonkoze nearly closed in 2008 due to losses from a destructive hurricane season, and more than 50 percent of borrowers with the major microcredit group Finca Haiti missed payments after the 2010 earthquake. The impoverished Caribbean nation is no stranger to natural disasters, and its dependence on foreign aid automatically entails a delay in relief efforts. The development of sound local emergency relief programs will enable Haiti to respond quickly and efficiently to crises without having to wait for foreign assistance. As more Haitians turn to microbanks for loans, the need to secure and regulate the banking industry grows ever more pressing. While some regulation efforts have been undertaken, it is still necessary to guarantee that Haitian microbanks are able to survive natural disasters and economic downturns like that of 2008.
Both remittances and microbanks have been vital to Haiti’s recovery since January 2010. Remittances offer a temporary solution to a greater economic problem. With improved regulation and security, microbanks can revolutionize the Haitian infrastructure and employ millions of jobless citizens. As in Fonkoze’s case, initial international investment will be necessary to financially secure Haitian microbanks, but the eventual autonomy of these institutions could be a remarkable game-changer for the Haitian economy.
The references for this article can be found here.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being "one of the nation's most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers." For more information, visit www.coha.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org
August 25, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Bahamas: Hurricane Irene could potentially fuel the dengue fever outbreak says Minister of State for the Environment Phenton Neymour
Neymour: Hurricane Irene could impact dengue fever outbreak
By Krystel Rolle
Guardian Staff Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas
Hurricane Irene could potentially fuel the dengue fever outbreak, according to Minister of State for the Environment Phenton Neymour.
He explained that the system could impact the government’s response to the outbreak. However, the minister added that the storm could also help the government get a handle on the outbreak.
“The ministry is concerned because the hurricane is coming — not just because it’s a hurricane but in regards to the dengue outbreak,” Neymour said.
“There are positives and negatives to a hurricane in that if there are high winds, the winds may blow the mosquitos away and not allow them to reproduce. It could also assist in the further outbreak in that regard. So a hurricane could assist but at the same time it offers challenges with fogging exercises. The high winds may impact fogging.”
On its current path, the eye of the storm is expected to pass over New Providence between tomorrow and Thursday morning.
Minister of Health Dr. Hubert Minnis told The Guardian yesterday that more than 3,000 people have contracted the virus to date. However, he noted that not all of the persons who have dengue fever received medical attention and therefore would not have been added to the count.
And with the health care facilties already inundated with patients, any increases in the dengue fever outbreak could further strain the public resources.
However, Dr. Minnis said the Ministry of Health is preparing for that eventuality.
“Though we may have strained resources, we find that opening the clinics on the weekends specifically for dengue cases is very, very helpful in reducing the burden,” he said.
The South Beach and Fleming Street clinics are open on weekends for dengue cases.
“If the need arises we would do what is necessary. If more clinics need to be opened we will make them available. We are finding that our policies are working, and the staff is performing well. So we will continue on this track.”
Minister Neymour said the Department of Environmental Health is also prepared to expand its fogging exercises.
In the meantime he said heavy fogging exercises will continue.
However, he advised residents to continue to empty containers around their homes, especially after bouts of rain.
Dr. Minnis said residents should also spray their homes and businesses with mosquito repellents during closing hours as an extra precaution.
He said all medical facilities are being sprayed to avoid contamination.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito is responsible for the spread of the virus. Fever, muscle pain, eye pain and headaches are some of the symptoms associated with the virus.
People with mild symptoms are being asked to treat themselves at home by getting rest, drinking fluids and taking medicines such as Panadol or Tylenol.
Aug 23, 2011
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Oswald Moore, chairman of the Bahamas Petroleum Dealers Association's (BPRA) says: The Bahamas petroleum sector should be deregulated and the Government-imposed margin/price controls removed
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune242 Business Editor
A leading petroleum retailer yesterday agreed that the sector should be deregulated and the Government-imposed margin/price controls removed, telling Tribune Business that no further strike action was currently being contemplated.
Oswald Moore, chairman of the Bahamas Petroleum Dealers Association's (BPRA) margin relief committee, told this newspaper in the wake of Friday's meeting with Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham that allowing gas stations and the oil companies to compete, and the market to set the per gallon price of gasoline and diesel, provided the best way forward for the industry.
"Yes, I would agree with that," Mr Moore responded, when asked by Tribune Business whether the Government should get out of imposing price controls on the petroleum industry.
"Most of the countries around us have already done that. Because they compete, they set the price in the marketplace."
Mr Moore said the current situation facing BPRA members was "impossible", adding: "We have been subsidising the industry now for a long time - for the past three-plus years."
Asked whether many Bahamians might question why petroleum dealers remained in the business, given the obvious difficulties in making a profit, Mr Moore replied: "Yes, they can wonder that, but when you consider the number of people who have mortgaged their homes and so forth to survive, they cannot walk away from it like that."
The crux of the issue is that gas station dealer margins, fixed at $0.44 per gallon of gasoline and $0.19 per gallon of diesel, are expected to not only generate a profit but cover rising fixed costs, such as labour, electricity bills and the various fees payable to the oil companies - rents, royalties and franchise fees and the like.
These rising costs have outpaced the fixed margins, a problem compounded by increasing oil prices. When the latter rises, Bahamian petroleum dealers are forced to turn to credit - cards, overdrafts, mortgages, bank loans and such like - to pay for their next fuel consignment, as the revenue streams earned on the previous, lower-priced inventory, are insufficient to cover the cost.
To compensate, BPRA members have been seeking a $0.30 increase in the per gallon of gasoline margin to $0.74, up from the existing $0.44 per gallon. On diesel, they were pushing for a $0.28 per gallon margin increase to $0.47, up from the existing $0.19. These were effectively 68 per cent and 147 per cent increases, respectively, in the gasoline and diesel margins.
However, the Prime Minister told Mr Moore at a Friday meeting that the Government, fearing the effects of a margin increase on the private sector and already-burdened consumers at a time of economic weakness and already-high gasoline prices, was not currently prepared to grant the BPRA's request.
The BPRA had previously indicated that failure to grant the margin increases would result in its members taking strike action, but this option appears off the table - for the moment.
"We are not looking at further strike action at the moment," Mr Moore told Tribune Business. "We think the Prime Minister's announcement was positive, and we will continue negotiations."
Mr Ingraham extended several 'olive branches' to the BPRA, according to a release from the Cabinet Office, promising that the margin increase request would be revisited once global gasoline and diesel prices reduced.
And the Government will also establish a Commission to assess gas station dealer complaints about alleged high operating costs, and other practices, imposed upon them by the three major oil companies - Esso, Texaco and FOCOL Holdings (Shell).
"I think it's something that needs to be done, but I don't want to say anything more about it at this time," Mr Moore said of the Commission.
Rents, royalties and franchise fees paid by dealers to the oil companies have long been a source of contention. Given that these payments come out of dealers' $0.44 and $0.19 per gallon margins, the argument has been that the wholesalers - the oil companies - actually earn more per gallon than their own $0.33 fixed margin.
But, more interesting perhaps, was that the Cabinet Office statement left the door open to deregulating the Bahamian petroleum industry, saying "a revision of policies" could ultimately lead to this happening.
Apart from Mr Moore, such a move was also backed by former Bahamas Chamber of Commerce president, Dionisio D'Aguilar, who urged that the Government and politics be removed from price control regulation of the sector.
"It's so silly and stupid the system they have in place because you have to go back to the Cabinet, and once you put the decision in the hands of politicians, it's a no-win for them," Mr D'Aguilar told Tribune Business.
"For them to give a price or margin increase, they will be accused of taking money out of the hands of the poor man and putting it into the hands of the gas dealers.
"As a result, the politicians are scared to make a decision to put up gas margins. You know this is exactly what is going through their brains. This is a politically horrible decision for them to make, and petroleum retailers thus become a victim of politics......
"This is why the process should not be in the hands of the Cabinet of the Bahamas. It's a no-win situation for them.
"The only way petroleum retailers can get a decision is by screaming and carrying on."
Urging the Government to "get out of making" decisions on gasoline margins, Mr D'Aguilar said this power should either be transferred to a body similar to the Utilities Regulation & Competition Authority (URCA), or a formula for small, annual increases established.
"They should set up a mechanism where margins increase according to the rate of inflation, or they are put up by two cents a year. If you went up one or two cents a year, no one would notice it," Mr D'Aguilar told Tribune Business. "Then you could review it, and come up with a mathematical formula in a systematic way.
"Work it out, make a decision and move on, so we don't have to come back to this."
August 22, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
Within the next year, the much touted CARIBCAN trade agreement tinkering will be concluded. CARICOM, OECS and Canadian trade negotiators will take credit for a job well done after the signing ceremony.
It will be interesting to see where the signing ceremony takes place. If it is in the depth of winter, the Canadian negotiators are likely to push for a Georgetown or Bridgetown signing ceremony only to escape Canada’s brutal winter. On the other hand, irrespective of the cold and soggy winter in Canada, our Caribbean negotiators who are so embedded in the per diem culture will prefer an Ottawa signing ceremony in order to maximize their per diem incomes.
Once the revised agreement is signed, the burning question remains. How can the Caribbean trade and export sectors maximize opportunities in Canada through the CARIBCAN agreement?
It is not a new agreement and has been around since the Mulroney days. Unfortunately, its failure was well known when Caribbean governments took ownership and locked up the policies and tariffs in the cupboards of local ministries of trade and industry. Exporters and investors from some CARICOM states remained disengaged and could not seize the opportunity to penetrate and sustain markets within Canada because there was no information, no market intelligence and no encouragement of partnerships through joint ventures and other initiatives.
It is hoped that, this time around, Caribbean governments will understand that a successful trade and investment partnership must be realized through strong and effective institutional collaboration. To put it bluntly, the Caribbean and Canadian governments are not involved in trade exports. However, through the agreement and sensitizing of officials on both sides of the spectrum, it is quite likely that barriers will be minimized and officials will become more informed about the free movement of goods and tariffs that have been eliminated.
In objective and realistic terms, trade collaborative efforts and sustainability between CARICOM nations and Canada require more than dependency on the “tiny bob” consular missions established in Canada. With fairness, Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados and Guyana maintain very effective consular missions with a strong trade arm.
Therefore, if the OECS is serious and committed to a trade and investment strategy between Canada and member states, the current regional approach and strategies for market penetration cannot be successful in its current form. Caribbean trade and investment initiatives cannot be achieved through obscurity or ineffective marketing networks.
The OECS must recognize that they require planning assistance to formulate, implement and sustain an effective trade strategy in Canada. It is achievable but there must be a willingness to understand the need for planning and collaboration.
An effective trade and investment strategy between Canada and the Caribbean within the context of the CARIBCAN trade agreement must extend beyond rum and nice beaches. Certainly, Caribbean rum imports in Canada will continue to be very important. However, those responsible for such products reaching Canadian shelves must understand that it is a competitive environment, as Trinidad, Cuba, Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados have already saturated the products.
Therefore, while the Europeans continue to fund the OECS Dominica-based Trade Unit, staff at this unit must understand that the import tariff on Caribbean rum will be affected within the new agreement and OECS nations need to introduce more than rum and hot pepper sauce to the Canadian market.
A few years ago, Michael Astaphan of Dominica and some other OECS colleagues began the process of establishing a private sector export organization. The concept had merit and received much needed assistance from the Europeans. Unfortunately, the concept died and a very valuable opportunity was lost. It is hoped that the concept can be revived because such an organization is of necessity, since most Caribbean exporters and investors are private sector persons.
Both CARICOM and the OECS must recognize that trade and exports should be private sector driven and not given the appearance that it is state sector driven. It is time to support and assist the private sector in their quest for new markets.
Another perception that must be dispelled with is the belief that regional chambers of commerce are the prime export movers in the region. While some chamber members might be exporters, we need to ask why Guyana, Barbados and other MDC Caribbean nations have strong and effective export agencies. The OECS needs to adopt a learning chapter from these organizations and support a strong OECS private sector export agency.
Another issue on Caribbean trade initiatives seems to be the duplication of regional agencies that purport to promote Caribbean trade abroad. There is the Barbados-based, CARICOM-funded agency Caribbean Exports, which continues to find successful niches with only hot pepper sauce promotion. Frankly speaking, this is another serious area that CARICOM’s new secretary general must address.
Maybe it is time to eliminate this agency and find some form of new organizational accommodation with the OECS that will witness the following three concrete outcomes: 1) Development and sustainability of a strong OECS private sector exporting agency to maximize opportunities and success through the CARIBCAN trade agreement; 2) strong and sustainable trade partnerships between private sector institutions in Canada and the OECS; and 3) moving the OECS trade initiative in Canada beyond the Trade Facilitation Centre.
Finally, successful trade implementation initiatives by OECS exporters to Canada require reliability, effective communications, utilization of information technology tools and seriousness. Canadian importers are not interested in stories and excuses as to why a product did not arrive.
The CARIBCAN trade agreement will provide excellent opportunities but its success will only be realized if the regional export private sector players are allowed to play their role. Once the agreement is signed, both regional multilateral agencies need to delimit their involvement.
The trade and investment process between Canada and the Caribbean must be private sector driven.
August 22, 2011
Sunday, August 21, 2011
There are many ways, the saying goes, to skin a cat. But the process is unlikely to be efficient with a blunt axe, wildly wielded in a crowded room.
You may, in the end, get the cat, but with great collateral damage and at a cost far greater than intended, or you dared to contemplate. Which is what we fear is likely in the English-speaking Central American country of Belize, where the United Democratic Party administration of Prime Minister Dean Barrow is attempting the ninth amendment of the Belizean constitution and is in a fight with almost everyone in the country over the matter.
Jamaica has an interest in the events unfolding in Belize, for like our island, Belize operates a Westminster-type system of government and is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). And a few Jamaican companies have interests in Belize.
It matters little that the proverbial cat the Barrow administration is trying to skin is Lord Michael Ashcroft, the hardly liked and shadowy former deputy chairman of Britain's Tory Party, who casts a long, and some claim manipulative, shadow over the Belizean economy.
Lord Ashcroft, who for years avoided paying taxes in the UK by claiming resident status in Belize, controls a wide range of business in that country, from banking and offshore business registration to telecommunications. Ashcroft's holdings include Telemedia, which is a near-monopoly in Belize's telecoms sector.
Lord Ashcroft developed a seemingly cosy relationship with the former People's United Party (PUP) administration which, his critics say, allowed him privileges, as well as an appointment as Belize's permanent representative to the United Nations, until the PUP lost power in 2008.
In 2009, Mr Barrow's party, using a hurriedly passed telecommunications law, nationalised Telemedia, over whose secretive licensing arrangements there was much controversy. The acquisition was upheld by the Belizean Supreme Court but was this year overturned by appeal judges, who held that the government did not have sufficient or compelling reason for the nationalisation.
Now, Mr Barrow, who needs more than 75 per cent votes in Parliament to amend deeply entrenched clauses of Belize's constitution, is attempting to place Telemedia's nationalisation beyond doubt by making a provision of the constitution that the government must control public utilities.
The water company, privatised in 2001, has been back in government hands since 2005, but Mr Barrow recently nationalised the electricity company, owned by Canada's Fortis Corporation.
Telemedia's status remains in limbo. While the appeal court held its nationalisation to be wrong, it made no specific ruling on what to do. So the government says the board of directors it appointed remains in place. Lord Ashcroft's lawyers have taken that and related issues to the Caribbean Court of Justice.
In the meantime, Mr Barrow is moving ahead with his constitutional amendment, including an adjustment to Section 69, to remove "all doubt" that any "law passed by the National Assembly to alter any provision of this Constitution which is passed in conformity with this section shall not be open to challenge in any court of law on any grounds whatsoever".
Mr Barrow should be warned that his government's action is having a chilling effect on the private sector and is bad for Belize's economy. But worse, this high-handed behaviour, because he has the parliamentary numbers, poses graver danger for Belizean democracy.
August 21, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
And why should we expect otherwise?
It was proposed by them when they yanked the previous document, deciding that a new one was in order.
It was designed by them when they hired a private consultant to put it together.
It was shaped by them when this consultant went throughout Turks and Caicos in town hall meetings, supposedly to elicit input from residents who, when they saw the finished product, were quite stunned and upset that it had very little of what they had laboriously submitted for inclusion.
Its introduction was heralded by a three person British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) team that held meetings around the Islands that can only be described as raucous, and filled with displeasure and dissent. In those meetings the FCO team stated over and over that they were ’listening,’ and ‘heard loud and clear what Turks and Caicos citizens had to say.’
In one of those meetings senior team member, Mr Ian Hendry, almost caused a fire-storm in the house-of-prayer venue when he basically defended the document’s contents by stating that ’Britain calls the shots here.’
Incidentally, it was incomprehensible to me why there was so much upset with Mr Hendry’s comment. He was absolutely right. Britain does ‘call the shots,’ and has been doing so for 212 years since they claimed Turks and Caicos as their colonial prize in the days of sailing ships, and we nor they have done anything to change this state of affairs.
The justification for Mr Hendry’s ’Britain calls the shots’ comment came scant weeks later when the FCO asked a team of seven Turks and Caicos citizens to come to the UK to ’negotiate’ the final touches for this document that would guide the lives of the Territory’s citizens for decades to come.
It gets better. THEY picked the group that they wanted to come to ‘negotiate,‘ which included individuals chosen and serving in the British-created Turks and Caicos Interim Government. These individuals complied with break-neck speed, proving without a doubt who ‘calls the shots,’ and proving Mr Hendry right as rain.
To cap all this off, Honourable Minister Bellingham paid a visit to Turks and Caicos playing the part of the town-crier and announcing the introduction of this diktat, at a timing to be decided by the Governor. Case closed! And this is democracy? And this is how a people’s rights are decided in the year 2011 A.D.
It is difficult to decide whether to laugh or to cry at this process in this day and age. On the one hand it resembles a circus show that makes one want to laugh, but on the other it so seriously affects the destiny of a people, our Turks & Caicos people, that it leaves one feeling close to tears.
Find and read Section #132 of the new Constitution. It is British preferential treatment pure and simple. Who asked that this be put in this document? Was it the Islanders during their input to the constitutional consultant on her visit through the Islands? Was it the consultant and her bosses, the FCO, who alone decided that this was a must? Was it the Turks and Caicos ’negotiating team,’ and especially the Interim Government representatives who thought this preferential inclusion to be necessary? Was it a particular segment of the expatriate community, feeling themselves now to be in a most privileged position by having an Interim Government that sees things from their perspective, and in ways that they relate to, who impressed upon the powers that be the need to include this preferential treatment? This latter possibility is quite intriguing. But think back and ask the following:
-- How is it that expatriates dominate the Turks and Caicos corporate law arena, the river through which the lion’s share of the country’s finances flowed, including that part tainted by corruption, yet no one from that community had to answer to the Commission of Inquiry? Is this not incredible?
-- How is it that in meetings such as the town hall events of the FCO team, almost no expatriates are seen (this observation made at the Provo church-hall venue)? There it is overwhelmingly native Turks and Caicos citizens strongly and passionately voicing their opinions of what is amiss and what they would like their future to be. But then in the final outcome we see Section #132 mysteriously show up in the Constitution. Does this segment of the population quietly, around the tea table, have the ear of these visiting power brokers and are able to get their agenda and interests acted upon in a way that the native population are hopelessly unable to do, no matter how much beating-the-gums and passion they display?
-- Farfetched you say? Think of this. Some believe that the about-to-be-exiled high-flying FCO official from Turks and Caicos to the same venue as Napoleon, was because he royally offended those in the expatriate community that hailed from his part of the world. It is a known fact that many of them despised him, and expressed as much vocally and in colourful language publicly. Oh, make no mistake, he offended native citizens on an ongoing basis, and they made their complaints known across the Atlantic. But to no avail. However, once he incurred the wrath of this expatriate community, it is thought that they used their influence to make him a modern-day Napoleon-in-exile.
We sit around in Turks and Caicos, and elsewhere, contemplating that the British seem to be making moves to take Turks and Caicos from the hands of its natural born citizens. But in truth they might be putting in the final touches to pulling it off.
It’s called deception and suppression of information, ideas, and talent even as they fly the false flag of ’Partnership and Progress,’ and ’we are listening’ and ‘we hear you loud and clear.’ It’s called complicity as our people, quick to stampede over each other, run at their beckoning to help them put their agenda in place.
It is quite disconcerting to see London and other UK cities on fire and being looted in a spree of lawlessness. So not British. An exasperated PM David Cameron described it as ’thievery,’ and ’criminal.’ Not so simple, Mr Prime Minister. A social scientist I am not, but I daresay it is much more than that.
As your people see their fortunes decline as their elected officials give them a deaf ear and get away with most outrageous behaviour, they feel disempowered and frustrated (like Tony Blair‘s deception to get the UK into the war in Iraq, British soldiers dying in Afghanistan, British citizens’ financial fortunes declining due to poor financial management, and the recent phone hacking scandal that makes one question diligent search for justice).
This all points to a crisis of confidence, causing well-meaning and law-abiding citizens to behave in this uncharacteristic manner. Now, if British citizens feel this way about those they chose to govern them, how much more should citizens of a Territory like Turks and Caicos, who lack representation at home or in the UK, feel about the path of their lives and their future? Remember the American abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison who said: ’If it’s not just, it’s not law.’ We should all pay heed to the words of this unapologetic and straight-forward man.
Ben Roberts is a Turks and Caicos Islander. He is a newsletter editor, freelance writer, published author, and member of TC FORUM. He is the author of numerous articles that have been carried by a variety of Internet websites and read worldwide. He is often published in Turks & Caicos news media, and in the local newspapers where he resides. His action adventure novel, Jackals of Samarra, is available at Amazon.com, and at major Internet book outlet sites.
August 20, 2011
Friday, August 19, 2011
Former military leader, and now democratically elected president of Suriname, Desi Bouterse, is keen to bring positive international spotlight to his country. That is the case so far.
Just a week ago, Fitch upgraded the sovereign foreign currency credit rating for Suriname one notch to B-plus, citing a stronger credit position and improvements in its balance of payments. The rating outlook was revised to stable from positive. Suriname is moving ahead in its quest to develop its economy without the help of Holland, its former colonial master.
Already, Suriname has made news in the Arab Gulf after Dubai Ports acquired major stakes in two harbours in Paramaribo. Canada and the United Arab Emirates are emerging rapidly as Suriname's principal trading partners because of economic external factors such as the rapidly growing world market for gold.
In the next three years, Suriname will see over 2 billion dollars in investments from IAMGOLD (US$800 million), Newmont (at least half a billion) and State Oil (US$1 billion). As well, the government will commence the building of 18,000 homes. These investments are besides those that China will be negotiating with Suriname soon. This will lead to a construction boom in Suriname and the government is already looking to address the issue of labour shortage. Most likely, Paramaribo will look to Guyanese labourers to fill this void.
Suriname pushed ahead before Guyana to build a major road and railway to northern Brazil and with a major partnership with Dubai Port and an agreement with Cayenne, this investment is sound. Moreover, on the western front, Suriname will bridge the Corantijn River to Guyana, and there are also discussions to build an international airport in Nickerie. This will attract Guyanese travelers from the state of Berbice, offering cheaper, easier and convenient options of travelling to the Caribbean, North America, Europe and Brazil. Suriname Airways (SLM) will recommence service to Guyana and extend its reach into Northern Brazil according to Foreign Minister Lackin.
Suriname has been on its own for the past decade, funds that Holland owed to Paramaribo have dried up, and the government is looking for foreign direct investment (FDI) and capital from Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Turkey and Gulf Arab States.
President Bouterse is a keen supporter of South American integration though the multi-lateral organisation, UNASUR. He has also given his ambassador to Indonesia, Amina Pardi the mandate to sell Suriname as the bridge between ASEAN and CARICOM.
Suriname has joined the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and the Bouterse pro- Arab government has reactivated ties with the Middle East. The IsDB, the OIC’s financing branch, is one of many institutions that could provide financing for several government programs, said minister of foreign affairs, Winston Lackin. “We believe this organization is an important one, taking into consideration the resources which are available through the IsDB to finance our programs and projects,” the cabinet minister added.
On the tourism front, this sector is on the rise. The steady flow of Euro-travelers from French Guiana has the tourism industry there in Suriname learning French. These are not expatriates. While the majority of tourists from Europe are expatiates from Holland, there are many non-Surinamers from Holland visiting as well.
And while Guyana struggles to bring Marriott to Georgetown, Paramaribo has already attracted Best Western, Marriott and Wyndham hotels. These were all brought here by the local private sector. As well, the local Torarica and Kransnapolsky group of hotels have expanded in Paramaribo and in the interior to tap the lucrative eco-tourism market. There is much more work to be done to market this product and to reduce airfares.
August 18, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
"Not in my Cabinet," was the strident answer given by Prime Minister Golding in 2008 when asked by the BBC's Steven Sackur on its programme HARDtalk if he would appoint gays to his Cabinet.
The beautiful luxury of hindsight affords us the opportunity to see that in the interview Sackur was setting up Golding for the simple question and the problematic response, but Golding blew it. Prior to asking the direct question, Golding had touched on Jamaica's culture in relation to homosexuality, and in answering it, he should have reverted to the culture line but with an expansion of his position, the country's position.
Even though we know that Golding was playing to the wider Jamaican anti-homosexual constituency, the full import of his response signalled that the leadership of the country was in the forefront of those who probably wanted to say, "Boom, bye, bye" to those openly flaunting their lifestyles on the down low.
In the previous PNP administration there was at least one powerful Cabinet member who was homosexual. During the PNP's run I had two luncheon meetings with him to discuss policy matters and while seated across the table from him, his lifestyle was the last thing on my mind - in fact it never even featured in my thought processes.
I am not aware that the normal, heterosexual PNP Cabinet members caught his "malady" and neither did I contract anything from proximity to him.
That said, I can empathise with TVJ for not wanting to air the pro-tolerance, pro-love public service announcement in which a former Miss Jamaica World expresses love for her homosexual brother. An indication of the virulent intolerance that Jamaicans have for those practising the lifestyle was seen in a Facebook post where one woman lambasted the former beauty queen for loving her own brother. Utterly amazing!
I have a relative who is lesbian and she has a bubbling, go-getter personality. Did I raise my hands to the heavens when I found out and say, "Oh, Lawd, what is this?" Absolutely not! I simply shrugged it off and made the decision that when next we meet I would give her a special embrace to indicate that I have no less love for her.
As a Jamaican I have to be true to my culture. It is what I am. For example, I could not have in my small circle of male friends one who openly practises the homosexual lifestyle. I wouldn't know how to relate to him or what to say to him. Do I say, "So, how was it with you and Big Moose last night? Did he rock your world?' The fact is, in a country where we are highly intolerant of what is euphemistically called "gay", while we cannot awake the next morning with a "Love gays" label emblazoned in our hearts, the decision to be more tolerant is something that civilised people ought to make, if only for the reason that homosexuals, like the poor, will be with us forever.
That said, I have remained puzzled for many years as to why a male would find another male sexually enticing. No so-called gay gene has been identified and the world accepts that homosexuality is a "lifestyle". In other words it is largely a choice, but, what is it that triggers that decision to go on the down low?
On Monday I telephoned a well-known doctor who has spent many years trying to unravel this phenomenon. "Only a very small percentage, much less that one per cent, of children born at Jubilee Hospital are born with what we refer to as ambiguous genitalia. That is, a vagina and a penis, maybe a vestigial one. It is always a difficult call for the surgeon to make a decision on what to do. It is usually best to wait for a number of years after which one can get an indication as to what particular sexual direction the child is headed, along with a consideration of the physiology on the inside. Then along with the parents' consent we can do the 'repair job' if you want to call it that and apply some hormone therapy."
Then I asked him the question, "Outside of that, what is it that would make a male later on in life want to have sex with another male? Personally, I find it repugnant, but it happens. What causes it?"
His answer shocked me. "To me, it is choice. They could be socialised into it or, as you ought to know, many of our poorer young men are driven to it by poverty."
"But how does that explain, say, San Francisco, or even some of our local homosexual politicians? Poverty was not a factor there. Could it be a mental imbalance which manifests itself into this social deviance? I know that it is no longer classified in medical literature as such, but in the end, what is it that is the main causal factor?"
"Medical science is still struggling with that. The fact is, people for whatever reasons make a choice at some stage of their lives that they want to express their sexuality in a particular way. If they want to do so, it is their right."
Whether it is triggered at birth or later by some hormonal imbalance, or it is strictly choice, the fact is it is here. Our "friends" in the powerful US and EU countries have fully embraced the right of their people to adopt the lifestyle, and thinking of us as savages, they believe that the time is right, considering how parlous our economic state is, to ram home their culture on us.
It cannot be as simple as that. While I would agree that our law on buggery is an ass, the US and the EU must recognise that culture changes do not occur in a flash, by fiat or by money coercion. To me, if two men want to get it on in the privacy of their bedrooms, it is up to them. All I would ask in return is that they keep it where it belongs - in private.
Many Jamaicans are of the view that what these latter-day foreign "invaders" with their money bags are doing is forcing on us a process which may begin with a repeal of the buggery law but may end up with Jamaica endorsing gay marriage. After that, what is likely to follow would be the sick scenario of gays in such a union adopting children!
This is by no means a perfect world and Jamaica has never been anywhere near independent. In the mid-1990s a snotty American teenager named Michael Fay visited Singapore. While there he decided one late evening to spread his US-learned nastiness by using a can of spray paint to despoil dozens of cars. He was held and sentenced to receive six lashes of the bamboo cane.
Even the then US President Bill Clinton intervened. In the end, Singapore did not cave in, but compromised and applied four strokes of the cane to the young man. Singapore was able to do so because it did not have its hands out begging anyone.
We are in no such position so we will always be forced to bend over and accept what is coming.
August 18, 2011
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
It is a fantasy of a post racial America narrated in the voice of a black person by a white woman. It is a story of African American maids in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1950s and 1960s. It is a time and place when black women helped raise white babies, and yet could not use the same bathroom as their white employers.
Set in the Deep South, ‘The Help’ portrays African-American women in subjugated roles and relies on tired stereotypes of black men. ‘The Help’ misrepresents African American speech and culture and omits civil rights activism.
‘The Help’ calls up memories for many affluent whites of being nurtured and cared for by black women, who might have been more like mothers to them than their own white birth mothers.
It is in ‘The Help’ that novelist Kathryn Stockett opens up old racial wounds and presents a deluded picture of hope for black people, who are still considered to be subhuman by mainstream white America.
And I am not amused.
I am not amused because Stockett has maligned the lines between black and white women in America and the Caribbean and it is not impolite of me to write about it. I did not experience slavery or the ravages of the civil rights movement but I am the offspring of slaves who left the same African port but anchored on a different shore, therefore I have the right to speak for I have no fear of being heard.
I do not speak African American vernacular English because I was born on a Caribbean island called Dominica, where vestiges of slavery still decorate the landscape. I was taught the perils of slavery by West Indian historian, Dr Eric Williams in the ‘Making of the West Indies’ and ‘Capitalism and Slavery.’
And I am disturbed.
I am disturbed because Ms Stockett has crossed a terrible line, writing in the voice of a black person. I speak a different accent and I do not understand that voice. The ‘infantilization’ of black women in ‘The Help’ also includes me and my Caribbean sisters everywhere, for we know what it is like to be told in America, “You have a different accent.”
Ms Stockett, Caribbean women may not have raised white babies to be racist like you but there are many Caribbean domestic workers living in the South. The brutal rapes and sexual harassment that they experience behind the iron gates and closed doors of white employers never make the headlines because they are denied the right to organize and bargain collectively.
Domestic workers are excluded from the National Labor Relations Act. They have little recourse to challenge abusive behavior and no union protection. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bans sexual harassment in the workplace, but domestic workers do not enjoy this privilege because the private space of a home, behind closed doors or iron gates does not constitute a workplace.
Reports from the United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women concludes that half of all foreign domestic women workers in the South report that they are victims of verbal and physical abuse and rape.
Yes, Ms Stockett, their hushed violence continues in silence while you profit as the hero.
You have used racism as a means to engender white solipsism by allowing white women the power to make it seem that their experiences are wholly representative of all women’s experiences, thus resulting in misinterpreted myths and the advancement of your history by exploitation and greed.
And I am angry.
I am angry because you have made slavery appear as a convenient formula for others to follow. You have used racism as stigmata for entertainment and have belittled the experiences of domestic workers in America and the Caribbean.
But I’ll forever be a confident black woman.
I will be a confident black woman because I know my history and I have powerful black role models as my guide. You have used the dependable voices of Abilene, Minnie and Skeeter to further deify systematic racism in America.
But at the end, you still needed black women to tell your story. At the bitter end, Ms Stockett, you still need black women as your guide.
August 17, 2011
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
The Haitian Senate has recently rejected Bernard H. Gousse as the next prime minister of Haiti. It is the second time the Senate as well as the House of Representatives have shot down nominees sent by the new president of Haiti, Michel Joseph Martelly, to form a new government.
The first nominee, Gerard Rouzier, was dismissed on the grounds of allegiance to a foreign country. Gerard Rouzier was the honorary Consul for Jamaica in Haiti.
The true reason was Mr Rouzier was a mulatto. The old political clan that still controls the Senate practices the political exclusion against the mulattoes from occupying high executive position in the government such as president or prime minister. The decibel level of racial insults has been elevated so high that the term “affranchis” has been affixed in the open debate onto a senator by another senator because of the light skin color of his epidermis.
Bernard Gousse did not get the nod on the spurious grounds that he did not receive a discharge from his old function as a former justice minister. He was discharged through a governmental decree used before to approve Jacques Edouard Alexis another prime minister.
Bernard Gousse was a no nonsense justice minister under the Latortue government. He pursued with diligence and with a firm hand, conspirators of the Lavalas regime bent on creating mayhem and violence under the logo Operation Bagdad in the country after the forced departure of their leader Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004.
Under the guidance of Aristide nemesis, Rene Preval, who ruled Haiti during the last eight years, those conspirators are now Senators of the Republic. They vowed to give Bernard Gousse his marching orders. He was dismissed in spite of the fact that all his documentation was in order. He could not even get to the stage of the normal constitutional process of presenting his political vision that could serve as the true template for decision making.
In his letter of departure, Bernard Gousse told his detractors from the GPR senatorial political platform that GPR -- the platform used by the clan Lavalas Lespwa -- will mean: Gousse Pi Red meaning Gousse will be there for the long haul!
This is the battle raging now in the country. Will the old clan that promised to remain in power for forty years (they have already concluded twenty years: 1991- 2011) continue to rule Haiti?
Using the lowest standard of evaluation, the Lavalas cum Lespwe cum Unity has failed Haiti miserably during the last twenty years. It is engaging today into a macabre dance of survival to continue the culture of corruption, complete disregard of the needs of the Haitian population and the misappropriation of the international cooperation resources under the guise of government.
The Martelly regime, elected in a plebiscite under the motto of change, is inflexible. His prime minister and his government must reflect the change brought about by the Haitian people.
Some twenty years ago, the Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide, who is the long hand behind the recalcitrant senators, defied the president of the Haitian Senate Eudrice Raymond to name his prime minister Rene Preval without consulting the president of the Senate as per the terms of the constitution.
On the day of the inauguration, on February 7, 1991, I had to restrain with both hands the president of the Senate, who was ready to fight physically with the newly elected president. I should have let the fight go on. Haiti would have saved the last twenty years of mayhem and misrule!
The fight to bring about a prime minister and a cabinet at the behest of the old regime is at the crux of the matter. The senators willing to facilitate the advent of the new order have forced a philosophical debate on the concept of nation building in Haiti. Should Haiti continue to be a pariah state in the midst of an avalanche of international cooperation?
The debate did not take place; on the strength of their numbers (16 vs. 14) the GPR senators defeated the motion to lay the nomination of Bernard Gousse on the table.
The OAS facilitated the will of the people of Haiti in forcing the withdrawal of Jude Celestin, the candidate of the old regime. This same OAS let in place the senators and the assemblymen selected by and forced upon the electorate through corruption and violence by the Preval regime. Was it by naiveté or by design?
The fact is three months after the inauguration of the new president they have succeeded in blocking the formation of a new government. The Haitian case need not arrive at the Somali situation for an opportune position. Good governance is at the root of all sustainable solutions for Haiti.
Helping Haiti to usher into the path of good governance will solve the drug transshipment business, the illegal immigration and the environmental degradation endemic to the country.
Haiti waited twenty years until the advent of a caring president; contrary to the Miami Herald’s editorial opinion, Martelly should take the time necessary to build a government willing to break away with the culture of corruption, the culture of predatory governance!
The resilient and gallant people of Haiti deserve a government at the scale of its mighty mission of freedom ring, torch bearers in this world!
August 16, 2011
Sunday, August 14, 2011
WHEN I saw buildings on fire in neighbouring Tottenham and rioters on the street late last Saturday evening, I knew that it was only a matter of time before the disorder spread to Hackney. Tottenham is less than a mile from my home in Hackney. The two communities have the same ethnic mix, the same poverty lines and the same history of poor relationships between the community and the police. Less than 48 hours later Hackney youths were looting shops in broad daylight.
Jamaica has seen riots in the past. They are also often a feature of politics in Africa and the Caribbean. However, Britain has seen nothing like the riots that occurred in the last week. They were more widespread and involved more communities than any before. In a matter of days they had spread from inner-city communities in Hackney and Tottenham in London to as far afield as Manchester.
Some people have argued that they were very different from the riots in the 1980s in Tottenham, Brixton and Toxteth, but I would argue that the similarities outweigh the differences. Similar to those in the eighties, the background to the riots was a poisoned relationship between the community and the police, and the spark that lit raging riots was the fact that the community believed a black person had died at the hands of the police. Other similarities include: the riots spread from the black community to the wider white community where youths had similar grievances; all types of hooligans and criminal elements got involved; and political elites resolutely refuse to believe that there are any underlying political issues at all.
The rioters are universally condemned as criminals. It is true that most of them were thieves, opportunists and "recreational" looters. However, just because the individuals involved did not have political motives that they could articulate does not mean that political issues do not underlie the disorder.
It is too simplistic to argue that government cuts caused the riots. Cuts do not turn you into a thief. But government policies have been very disillusioning for the youth. Educational allowances, that many of them relied on to stay in school, are being scrapped. University fees have been tripled, effectively putting higher education out of the reach of the youth. These policies have been a slap in the face for aspiring young people in the inner city. The government is planning big cuts in government, but the majority of people who work in communities like Hackney, work for the government. These are communities without hope, and young people are becoming more bitterly alienated than ever. And, as I pointed out in Parliament this week, we are looking at the third generation of black boys who have been failed by the British educational system.
The most pressing need is for the government to regain control of the streets. When the current crisis is over, we all need to try to understand what the dispossessed of the inner city were trying to tell us.
August 14, 2011