Saturday, December 31, 2011
2011 wasn’t just another year. Powerful politicians went to jail, joblessness hardened into recession, and many of our assumptions about the status quo froze to death. Some of us were inclined to laugh, but found dark sorrow everywhere our teardrops fell.
2011 was a powerful reproach for some of the world’s most ruthless dictators. From whispers to daylight, the worthy causes of global protesters prevailed. Where once emerging economies were looked upon with suspicion, European and American dominance of financial markets dwindled. Bad things happened to good companies, due to poor practices by executives, unwise decisions by board members, and self-serving ties between public officials and wealthy elites.
We didn’t place into perspective, the chaotic gyrations of the global village. Neither did we rely on regional values to reinforce our identity nor reposition ourselves. It was our reluctance to embrace local intelligence that moved CARICOM from bleak orchards to ruined gardens.
We like crony circles. We dislike public-serving ideals.
Reflect! The Caribbean Court of Justice could not expand its acceptance radius. In the politics in which our success rate is formed, economic unification eavesdropped on national elections and discovered that they were parodies of changing cooks or keeping old menus.
Our leaders appeared less able to provide hands-on social and financial answers. Non communicable diseases escalated. Natural disasters were not as brutal. Observe! Violent crimes shook the foundations of our streets and homes. With tearful eyes, we watched peace sink into the sea. At the regional and sub-regional levels, speech-eloquence flourished.
While traveling between islands inspired hostile hospitality, labour unions pushed governments and corporations to bargaining turbulence. Our colleges and universities granted degrees. They did not generate work-related research or expanded quality of life opportunities for Caribbeaners.
If you think you understand the Caribbean mindscape, you don’t understand island people. We congratulated ourselves for sitting on big committees in high places. Good! But we delivered nothing to better the region. Pay attention! Our desire for national growth did not get along with our capacity to overcome micro-thinking. Instead, we thundered mighty promises only to drift further apart.
At the end of 2011, we were still satisfied with square mileage fantasies -- a phenomenon caught in the vagueness of sovereign versus colonial politics.
To escape circles and climb ladders, an underlying question persistently arises: What is the quality assurance test to ensure that the Caribbean goes beyond Twitter talk about regional development?
An action-packed vision of self-sufficiency that starts with an appetite for 75 percent food independence should be the Caribbean’s chief activity. Nothing should prevent us from creating cost-containing technologies to reduce our dependency on refined, imported foods.
To climb ladders is to hear vast discoveries screaming for our attention.
Missing is a deep deductive passion for experimental investigation of our immediate surroundings. There is too much sun, wind, water and sand in our midst, not to devise penny cheap transportation and build strong infrastructure. Taking advantage of our advantages will make us cut the edge.
Rather than hurricanes being a source of terror, perhaps our scientific adventures could turn them into a platform of renewable energy. Ever wonder if there is hidden energy to be harnessed from this yearly ritual of howling winds? If not, what else could we extract from stormy rains?
Suppose we constantly challenge our intuitions. We could find healing elements in banana roots and coconut bark. We could grind them with lime juice and sea shells. Upsetting concoction? But perhaps we might uncover combined intelligence that may cure prostrate and breast cancers, high blood pressure and diabetes. Are we curious enough to find out? If our genius is freed from photocopying anxieties, it will bring extraordinary success. But if it’s stifled, it will suffer from self-doubt and baptize everything foreign.
CARICOM could generate a blueprint for thinking globally with all sorts of local connections and sub-regional tradeoffs. We must take a pragmatic approach to economic growth, and a coordinated view of regional diplomacy. But we’ll have to set higher leadership criteria. Empathy and responsibility mixed with competence and justice are necessary traits. Passion, courage, and commitment to regionalism are needed too.
Our growth opportunities require new networks of interdependent alliances to increase gains in investments and stability. We could melt the right economic and social resources to collaborate with Brazil, Russia, India and China. We could further bolster important partnerships with Asia, and gel our interests with US policies for our betterment.
To do this, we-the-people must provide our leaders with advisory and implementation support in areas of urgent need. We must customize solutions with local cultures and global standards, while rewarding and punishing leadership behaviour based primarily on moral principle and operational performance.
I agree with Paul Romer‘s concept of “nonrival goods.” It highlights the power of information and ideas to expand our material world. He observed that:
“…every generation has underestimated the potential for finding new recipes and ideas. We consistently fail to grasp how many ideas remain to be discovered. The difficulty is the same one we have with compounding. Possibilities do not add up. They multiply.”
Pressed for application, our prosperity will multiply at the edge of innovation. I urge us to see lights. Let’s hide the wrinkled wisdom of those adorned with old age deep inside our children. It is then that the powerhouses of today -- our young people -- will be mentored into greatness. Release them to the wonders of possibilities.
2012 will operate in whole. If you sow magnificence, you’ll reap amazement. Upon a contagious Caribbean dream with focus is imprinted the seal of joyful accomplishments. Perhaps CARICOM could reproduce men and women of honour, resplendent with durable characters and spiritual values. This is the essence of regional development.
Drink deep of this truth, and live it!
December 29, 2011
Friday, December 30, 2011
Blowout in Jamaica General Election: the People's National Party (PNP) Won 41 Seats and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) 22 Seats
by Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
Defying opinion polls that suggested yesterday's general election was too close to call, the People's National Party (PNP) secured a stunning victory, winning 41 of the 63 seats in the House of Representatives.
The party gained 53 per cent of the popular vote.
The result will propel the PNP's president, Portia Simpson Miller, back to the premiership, a job she held for 18 months and lost a mere four years ago when her party was prised from government after more than 18 years in office.
In fact, the defeat of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) meant the first time since the advent of universal adult suffrage, nearly seven decades ago, that an administration has been chucked out after a single term - an outcome that will likely lead to much soul-searching within the organisation.
Indeed, in yesterday's election, several leading JLP figures, including Cabinet ministers Robert Montague and Clive Mullings, spectacularly lost their parliamentary seats
"I want to thank the prime minister who called earlier to congratulate me, and he was very gracious," Simpson Miller said.
"I am humbled by the support of the Jamaican people and I ask you to ensure that you greet JLP supporters with love."
Shaping future together
Simpson Miller said her team would be working with all Jamaicans as one Jamaican family "as we shape the future together".
She had special commendation for Arnaldo Brown, Julian Robinson, Damion Crawford, André Hylton and Raymond Pryce - first-time candidates who secured victories.
She also commended candidates who came close to victory, saying "you are winners".
In conceding the election, outgoing prime minister and JLP leader, Andrew Holness, accepted the result as the will of the people and said the party would listen to the voice of the people.
"It is a time of reflection and introspection for the Jamaica Labour Party. We see it as an opportunity to rebuild and, starting tomorrow, we will be rebuilding," a sombre Holness said.
"It is apparent that the people of Jamaica still have concerns about the JLP and we will reflect on that. I wish the new Government well. They will face several challenges, but I hope for the benefit of the country they will do a good job."
He added: "I was privileged to have served in a short time. I really did not have much room. I had to make the decision that we made. I feel good that I have executed the duties of prime minister over the short time to the best of my ability, and I look forward to another opportunity."
Holness was prime minister for just over two months, having been catapulted to the job after the surprise resignation of his predecessor, Bruce Golding, who accepted that the JLP would have little chance of victory with him at the helm.
Golding lost public confidence over his administration's resistance of the United States' request for the extradition of now-convicted gangster Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, and the hiring of lobbyists to encourage Washington to go soft on the matter.
In its election manifesto, the PNP promised to renegotiate the country's agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), implement a Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) to arrest the problem of unemployment; and renegotiate the contract of the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) to allow for competition in the transmission and distribution of electricity, among others.
It was also the first time that persons were vying for 63 seats in the House of Representatives.
The JLP won the 2007 general election by a razor-thin majority, securing 32 of the 60 seats in the House. The PNP won the other 28.
The PNP had greeted Holness' announcement of election and nomination day, saying the symbolism of the dates meant a lot to leaders of the party. Simpson Miller celebrated her 66th birthday on nomination day, December 12.
"I want to thank Mr Andrew Holness for giving me the best birthday possible that anyone could ever have. And an excellent Christmas gift for the Jamaican people, and a wonderful and beautiful new year," Simpson Miller said after the election date was announced by Holness in Mandeville.
Nomination day was also special for the PNP's campaign director, Dr Peter Phillips, as it marked the 24th anniversary of his marriage to Sandra Minott Phillips while the eve of yesterday's election was his 62nd birthday.
The PNP has been on the election trail for more than a year. It had blasted the JLP government for the handling of the economy and said it had brought shame on Jamaica with its handling of the extradition request for Coke.
In its bid for leadership of the country, the PNP embarked on an all-island tour during which party officials, led by Simpson Miller and 'Star Boy' K.D. Knight, told the country that Bruce Golding was not suitable to continue as prime minister and that the country needed to go to the polls in a general election.
According to Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson polls, 21 per cent of Jamaicans lined up behind the JLP in June with that number increasing to 26 per cent by November with Holness at the helm.
The last Gleaner-Johnson poll before the election, done on December 17 and 18, found 38 per cent of Jamaicans were prepared to cast their ballot for the PNP, while 36 per cent would vote JLP.
Heading into the election, the PNP was confident that Jamaicans had accepted its message that it was capable of leading a return to sustained economic growth for the country.
The PNP also claimed the turnout at its mass meetings was "overwhelming, demonstrating the fact that the people are ready for a change of Government."
Yesterday's victory added to general election success secured by the PNP in 1955, 1959, 1972, 1976, 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2002.
The JLP won the elections in 1944, 1949, 1962, 1967, 1980, 1983 and 2007.
December 30, 2011
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Sir Clifford Darling... the fourth Bahamian Governor-General of an independent Bahamas is a hero of the labour movement and for the rights and dignity of workers in The Islands
By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas
SIR Clifford Darling, the fourth Bahamian-born Governor General of the Bahamas, died in hospital yesterday morning.
Sir Clifford, who was described as one of the major builders of the modern Bahamas, died in the Princess Margaret Hospital at 5am Monday after a long illness.
Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes said Sir Clifford's passing is particularly hard on him as he was a good friend.
"Along with all the Bahamian people, my wife and I mourn the death of an outstanding Bahamian leader and nation builder. Sir Clifford's passing is also a personal loss as he was for years a colleague, and for decades, a good friend," he said.
"Sir Clifford was among those extraordinary Bahamian leaders who commanded the Bahamian stage during the history-making years of the fifties and sixties and he played his considerable role with dedication and with his characteristic dignity. Even as we mourn his loss, we also thank God for a life that was well-lived and wonderfully fruitful.
"On behalf of a grateful nation I extend sincere condolences to Lady Darling, Sir Clifford's children and other family members during this their time of bereavement."
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham also sent condolences to the Darling family. He said Sir Clifford's passing brings to a close another remarkable career of an early nation builder and pioneer for equality.
"I was saddened to learn of the passing of Sir Clifford Darling this morning. Sir Clifford, the fourth Bahamian Governor-General of an independent Bahamas is a hero of the labour movement and for the rights and dignity of workers," he said.
"His entry into public life was driven by his strong desire to secure equity for fellow disadvantaged taxi-drivers. The success he helped win for taxi drivers set the stage for dramatic political change in our country; a change that began in 1967. Bahamians owe a debt of gratitude to Sir Clifford for his half a century of public service marked by honesty, industry, loyalty and integrity. His proud legacy will not be forgotten. Even as we mourn his passage, we celebrate his life of service and dedication to The Bahamas. May he rest in peace."
Sir Clifford was sworn in at Government House on January 2, 1992, by Chief Justice Joaquim Gonsalves-Sabola, succeeding Sir Henry Taylor, who retired on January 1.
Sir Clifford served as Speaker of the House of Assembly from 1977 until November 13, 1991, when he resigned.
A former Progressive Liberal Party Member of Parliament for Englerston, Sir Clifford was born on February 6, 1922, at Acklins Island to Charles and Aremilia Darling. He attended Acklins Public School and public schools in New Providence.
The former taxicab driver served as general secretary of The Bahamas Taxicab union for eight years and as president for 10.
In the early 1950s, Sir Clifford bargained with hotels for better treatment for taxi drivers. In 1957, Sir Clifford as president, blockaded and closed the airport. A general strike followed in January, 1958. With Sir Clifford's help, an agreement among hotels, tour services and taxicab operators was reached.
Sir Clifford served as a PLP senator from January 1964 to January 1967. He then served as a Englerston MP from January 1967 to October 1969, when he was appointed to the Cabinet as Minister of State.
In November 1971, he was named Minister of Labour and National Insurance. He was responsible for the introduction of the National Insurance programme on October 7, 1974. Sir Clifford was elected Speaker of the House in 1977 and knighted by the Queen the same year. He was a Stalwart Councilor, the highest honour that can be bestowed on a member of the Progressive Liberal Party.
Sir Clifford is survived by his second wife, Lady Ingrid Darling, and seven children, Clifford Darling Jr., Andrea Darling-Thompson, Sharlene Hanna, Theresa McPhee, Rushena Darling, Lakreisha Darling and Charles Darling.
December 28, 2011
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
When we look out on the world... and back at The Bahamas, we agree with those who say that Bahamians -- despite hard times -- have much to be thankful for
Nassau, The Bahamas
IN his Christmas message, published in The Tribune on Thursday, Catholic Archbishop Patrick Pinder pointed out that compared with other nations, the little Bahamas has much for which to pause and give thanks this Christmas. And so, although the dark clouds of crime threaten our islands, yet there are still many signs to encourage Bahamians to believe that there is reason to hope for a brighter future.
The Archbishop shared with our readers the contents of an e-mail, which had been sent to him. It said: "If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.
"If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million in the world.
"If you can attend church without fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death, you are more blessed than three billion people in the world.
"If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.
"If you can hold someone's hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder, you are blessed because you can offer the healing touch.
"If you can read this message, you just received a double blessing in that someone was thinking of you, and furthermore, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world who cannot read at all."
When seen in this light Bahamians have much to be thankful for. Our economy started to drag after the Lehman Brothers bank crash at the end of 2008. The seismic shock was felt worldwide. It was like a bowling alley gone wild, with one international house after another displaying warning flags until eventually Wall Street was hit and took a tumble. The world banking system is so interwoven that when one stumbled, the others came tumbling after. Not only was the world in financial trouble, but it was also in political turmoil with the Middle East on fire and headed for destruction.
Analysts blamed the financial crash on the "greed, ambition and reckless risk-taking that is now carrying the economy into the worst recession for a century."
The Bahamas was not immune. It too felt the shock waves. Greece was in meltdown, unemployment was out of control with the civil service being cut to bring spending into line. Around the world the first people to feel the belt tightening were the civil servants whose jobs disappeared almost overnight.
The civil service is the first place that governments look to cut costs when their treasuries are under pressure.
Here in the Bahamas, the Prime Minister would have been justified in trimming what for years has been recognised as a bloated and inefficient civil service. He did not.
As Prime Minister Ingraham said today in his Christmas message to the nation -- which will be broadcast by ZNS TV and radio at 8 o'clock tonight -- through prudent planning his government was able to "preserve jobs in the public service and to avoid salary cuts or lay-offs within the public sector as experienced in many developed and developing countries."
This is not to minimise the suffering of many Bahamians during this crisis. Many have lost their jobs, their homes, and really don't know where the next penny is coming from, but when one compares Bahamians' problems with the suffering of the world, the majority of our people have much for which to be thankful.
Government has been criticised for not investing in people during this lean period. However, not only is government investing in people by providing infrastructural jobs, but through these jobs it has enabled many workmen to maintain their dignity by enabling them to earn enough to support themselves and their families.
Government has been criticised for borrowing funds for roadworks. In the end, however, it will be money well spent -- not only will citizens see where their tax dollars have gone, but the infrastructure will have been so improved that it will raise the Bahamian's standard of living and enhance our tourist product -- better roads, better quality and delivery of water and electrical supplies.
Nor has the government neglected the youth. It staff has encouraged the business community to take on young people for training. And many have done so.
Next year, Bahamians face an election. When we look out at the rest of the world -- rioting and killing in the streets to overthrow governments -- we should be grateful for our democratic system. Every five years - although there is a lot of manoeuvring and name calling before hand - Bahamians go to the polls and in an orderly fashion vote their governments in or out. Just look at the turmoil and backwardness of the Middle East whose people have never experienced free elections. Earlier this year after months of street demonstrations and violence, Tunisia's president ended a 23-year rule by fleeing to Saudi Arabia. Tunisia was followed by the ousting of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, again followed by a full scale civil war in Libya, that took out Mummar Gaddafi. That 42-year rule ended in Gaddafi's murder. And now the populace is beating at the doors of Syria's regime. A forest fire is sweeping across the Middle East echoing a people's cry against unemployment, food inflation, corruption, lack of freedom of speech, and assembly and other democratic freedoms -- all the freedoms that we take for granted in our society.
When we look out on the world, and back at the Bahamas, we agree with those who say that Bahamians -- despite hard times -- have much to be thankful for.
And it is on this note that we wish all of our readers a peaceful, and happy Christmas with family and friends, and hope that the New Year will be filled with many blessings.
We also thank our advertisers for their valued business and assure them that The Tribune will give them even better service in the New Year.
December 23, 2011
Friday, December 23, 2011
by Richard Ho Lung
WE KNOW it can be done: Christ can save our island. Christianity can save our island. We are losing faith, because we are not one, not united. I am not talking about tolerating one another. I am talking about loving one another and working together in fulfilment of a vision presented to us by Christ.
What is this vision? It is set out by Christ: "I have come to preach the good news to the poor; to set the captives free." Justice and mercy will be exercised when Christ is here. If we really want to know the presence of Christ today in our world, in Jamaica, it is where the Church is doing the works of justice. From the times of the Old Testament to the times of Christ, and now in our world and in Jamaica, justice must be done if we want to give witness to the one true living God.
We must agree on certain points, the fundamentals of our faith. We must not waste time talking and debating whether gay marriages, abortion, euthanasia, this denomination or that, is right or wrong. All these issues are obviously misguided and can be answered by questioning: Does God want same-sex marriages; a mother to eliminate the child of her womb; old and sick people be euthanised?
We need to work with the poor and rejected ones; we need a Church of the poor. Even if Churches are wealthy or middle class, churches and schools must form the consciences and carry out activities of justice and mercy that give glory to God. God will be pleased; God will dispense all the riches of the earth to accomplish His kingdom here on earth, the salient characteristics being justice and mercy.
Powerful Christian faith
I believe the civil state needs us, and I believe our Christian faith is so powerful that it can change the attitudes of everyone, including politicians, if only we as Church really become God's kingdom here on earth. Psalm 72 verses 2 through 4 says:
"O God, give your judgment to the king ... that he may govern your people with justice, your oppressed with right judgment ... that he may defend the oppressed among the people, save the poor and crush the oppressor."
And Psalm 82 verses 3 and 4 asks God to:
"Defend the lowly and fatherless; render justice to the afflicted and needy; rescue the lowly and poor; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."
But first and foremost that fundamental principle must be met: to serve justice and mercy to the poor, not only in word but in deed.
Too much talking, too many words; too many belaboured arguments and permissive foreign ways; too much mediocrity and middle-classness, have led us into a wilderness and confusion that are wrought by the devil himself.
Jamaica is still a Christian country, so let us be Christian! United we stand, divided we fall. First of all, we must love one another and work with one another for justice and mercy. Jamaica is a most unusual country. The spirits and souls of Jamaicans are strong and serious. Let us give an example to the world, as we have done in so many other endeavours.
Let us require once and for all a strong moral family life. Politicians are cowards in requiring marriage and fidelity with a punishment for those who are promiscuous and then themselves bear children out of wedlock. Men and women must stop living like animals on our streets. There must be a law that is seriously enacted on those who bear children outside of marriage. That should be so for all classes of people.
Strong moral Christian values must be taught once again by teachers in the schools regarding personal behaviour, sin and virtue, right and wrong, and an absolute sense of responsibility towards the poor.
There must be a right and wrong, punishment and reward, heaven and hell, justice and mercy, not only taught but exercised in family life and in the schools.
We must become a Church of the Beatitudes. I believe we are approaching the Age of the Beatitudes, wherein Christianity will be judged worthy and relevant to the life and benefit of modern man on the basis of how effectively she implements the works of mercy and justice among the most needy and marginalised - materially and spiritually - in our world. Time is running out: the Kingdom of God is at hand! Church, are you ready?
Feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
December 22, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Money and politics
By Ian G. Strachan
Nassau, The Bahamas
What role will money play in The Bahamas’ 2012 general election? Does the party with the most money always win Bahamian elections? That is the feeling of many observers. Money will be spent, of course. Lots of it. But we will have absolutely no idea where this money comes from. And that is the way Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie want it.
Is the U.S. government, through some company, funding one political party over the other in our election? Is the Chinese government bankrolling a party’s election campaign? Which Lyford Cay residents are backing political campaigns and which campaigns? Which private businessmen, Bahamian or expatriate, are making campaign contributions, and how much? Are numbers houses backing candidates? Drug lords? Which lawyers are ‘borrowing’ money from their local and international clients to finance political campaigns? And what will all this mean in terms of the new government’s choices when in office? How will we, the citizens ever know, truly know, how the decisions regarding our tax dollars, present and future, are being made and the extent to which campaign contributors are shaping those decisions?
The issue in other countries
Ronald Sanders, in a piece called “Caribbean electorates: Not for sale”, wrote recently that, “General elections in St. Lucia and Guyana on November 28 have raised serious questions about the financing of campaigns and the unfair use of state resources by governing political parties to gain an advantage over their opponents. In St. Lucia, it is alleged that a significant portion of the United Workers Party (UWP) campaign funds came from Taiwan. The UWP was the ruling party at the time of the elections and the then leader of the opposition and leader of the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP), Kenny Anthony, had engaged in a public row with the Taiwanese Ambassador over his blatant interference in the electoral politics of the island. In Guyana, it is claimed that the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) outspent its three rivals by a sizeable margin in the elections campaign.”
Interestingly, in a 2010 case called Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission, the United States Supreme Court made a ruling that essentially repealed mechanisms that had been put in place by the U.S. Congress and Senate to control the power of big money to shape U.S. elections, via the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 among others. Even with those laws in place, the 2008 election of Barack Obama had been the most expensive in U.S. history. Obama’s campaign budget alone was three-quarters of a billion dollars. The figure is likely to reach a billion in 2012.
The Citizens United ruling, which passed on a 5-4 vote in the Supreme Court, states that it is unconstitutional to deny corporations and unions the right to the First Amendment, or “free speech”, which includes the right to fund political campaign ads. This essentially treats corporations as people.
Former President Jimmy Carter called the ruling “one of the stupidest rulings ever consummated or perpetrated on the American people”. In an interview with Tavis Smiley in 2010, he went on to say, “It is a complete transformation or change of what our country has done ever since it was founded. That is, to try to put some restraint on the massive infusion of money into the political campaign. And also to have those who do make the contributions legally identified. You can make it in secret now... When I ran against Gerald Ford in 1976, he and I used public money. We used a $2 per person check off. $26 million total. And when I ran against Ronald Reagan four years later (1980), we did the same thing.”
President Barack Obama himself has been highly critical of the ruling, calling it “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans”.
Obama said further, “They can buy millions of dollars worth of TV ads – and worst of all, they don’t even have to reveal who’s actually paying for the ads. Instead, a group can hide behind a name like ‘Citizens for a Better Future’, even if a more accurate name would be ‘Companies for Weaker Oversight’. These shadow groups are already forming and building war chests of tens of millions of dollars to influence the fall elections.
“Now, imagine the power this will give special interests over politicians. Corporate lobbyists will be able to tell members of Congress if they don’t vote the right way, they will face an onslaught of negative ads in their next campaign. And all too often, no one will actually know who’s really behind those ads.”
The reality, however, is that despite receiving over 60 percent of his campaign funding from people who gave less than $1,000 each, Obama could not have won the 2008 election if not for “the tens of millions that lobbyists, PACs, corporations, Wall Street, and labor unions shove into a presidential candidate’s campaign coffers”. This is according to political analyst Earl Hutchinson, who concludes that “the bitter reality [is] that politics is a hard, dirty, cash-soaked game, and those with the most cash will always have the edge.”
A system open to abuse
No less than in the U.S., our politicians and our Parliament are bought and sold. We are not allowed to know who is doing the buying, but we know who is doing the selling.
The perverting power of money doesn’t end with general elections. Many, as our prime minister recently admitted (with tongue in cheek, I can only assume), are entering politics as a means of economic advancement.
“It is sad to see that we have moved to a place in our history when many who seek to offer themselves for election to the House are motivated by the desire to achieve personal success and not by a dedication of service to others – that is the general public," he said.
The fact is that the corrupt culture of our politics makes it very difficult for a politician to do otherwise. The people ‘shake down’ the representative at every opportunity. He/she is expected to be financial godfather for all his/her supporters and even for those who didn’t give support, not just in order to get elected, but throughout his/her term in office. This burden cannot possibly be sustained by an MP’s salary; particularly an MP with his/her own children to house, feed and educate. This opens the door to the temptation: MPs seek to repay themselves through unofficial means sometimes just to avoid bankruptcy. Even MPs who were financially successful before being elected run the risk of suffering financially when in office because their pay is miniscule when compared to what they made in private life. Accustomed to a certain standard of living and somewhat embittered by the constant begging of constituents, some politicians find ways to feather their nests by personally profiting from the awarding of contracts, etc. That is to say nothing of the men and women who conclude that there is no way for them to attain the lifestyle they desire period – unless they enter politics as a career and make it their business to take advantage of the largesse of the state.
Michael Parenti, noted American author of the book “Democracy for the Few”, asserts that “to curb the power of the moneyed interests and lobbyists, minor-party as well as major-party candidates should be provided with public financing. In addition, a strict cap should be placed on campaign spending by all candidates and supporters, with no loopholes allowed”.
Politicians can feel insulted; corporations and lobbyists may label it undemocratic, but transparency is the best safeguard of democracy that we can have.
Still other politicians have made so many enemies that they must ensure they are financially ‘set for life’ because their enemies, once in power, will make sure that neither they, nor their children, nor their children’s children will ever enjoy a single opportunity.
We know it’s happening but we can’t find the evidence very easily. The Public Disclosure Act of 1976 isn’t worth the paper it was written on.
Obviously this situation cries out for reform. The problem is the people who suffer most from this state of affairs (the general public) don’t understand that they suffer. They pay for this corruption in ways they don’t understand. In ways that far outweigh the measly bribes they are able to squeeze out of their elected representatives at election time and on the rare occasions they catch them on the street. Without enlightened leadership, the system will go on perpetuating itself.
• IAN STRACHAN is Associate Professor of English at The College of The Bahamas. You can write him at: email@example.com
Dec 19, 2011
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Like a string of beautiful emeralds, our charming Caribbean islands mesmerizingly hang around the neck of the American continent. Chiseled by British, French, Spanish and Dutch artisans, each gem became a uniquely precious diamond, or ruby, or prized pearl -- a true acme of perfection.
Our beautiful beaches were peaceful places, where majestic mountains magically rose out of the seductive sea. Secluded swimming and snorkeling in the warm waters beneath the rugged waterfalls made the majesty of the oceans merge into the beauty of the beach's stunning but solitary stretch of soft sand. This emerald gulf coast is a tropical paradise, where impressive waves are wonderfully woven into charming crystal whirlpools of welcoming warm water.
The whispering wind whipped our scanty clothing like a fluttering flag on a weathered flagpole, and we could detect the aroma of tonight's dinner lazily drifting towards us in the cool crisp evening air. ...But something was changing. Yes, something was being altered. Our senses were adjusting to change... not necessarily for the better... and we were accommodating them. The evolution was slow but certain -- and steady.
We could feel it. Our friends say they could see it. The nation was touched by it. The neighbours -- they could taste it, and our pets... they could sense it. Yes it -- something -- was not right any longer. In my veins; in my blood; in my sub-conscious, I just knew that we, as a people, had lost our peaceful virginity. It was gone. Taken -- no, stolen -- from us. We were no longer the peaceful, innocent, cavalier, fun-loving people we once were. The devil had arrived by sea and by air. He had arrived in the guise of "progress," and his name was Lucifer.
He, and his relatives, had arrived each day, and we welcomed them. They multiplied. They were beginning to take over our lives. ....And we did not realize that we were slowly going down the highway of destruction. The guns came with them, and the knives did too. They were stealthily concealed in their luggage and the Customs officers were none the wiser... or were they? Slowly, we were drifting into a long, lost land, and did not even realize we were miraculously moving. God was speaking to us, and we did not listen. His words fell on deaf ears while we were hustling for the almighty dollar.
Today a man was mercilessly killed and a woman was fatally shot... at close range. Last month my sister was kidnapped, then murdered, her naked body found as it degenerated and disintegrated into manure for the hungry vegetation in the lonely forest. I cannot remember the last week we did not have a brutal murder in our peaceful Caribbean. I called up north, and I called down south, but the answer was the same. Violence had overtaken the land. My land. Our land. The gods wept, and the floods came, but we did not get the message.
It did not start this way though. It was subtle. It was faint and illusive. It was inconspicuous, indirect, indistinct and insulated, but profound. Half-truths and white-lies were told... but those, we just took for granted. Lies continued to be told like they were nobody's business -- but they were your business, and they definitely were my business. Rumours of banana boats not arriving and shipments suspended circulated, and the farmers were disheartened.
The earth shook, and thousands died. Someone was trying to get our attention, but the signal was not received. We did not heed. We did not hear -- the warning. Curfews were imposed, prisons were exposed, and a state of emergency was enforced. We looked at the telly and decided to copy. Lawlessness was the order of the day -- and the night.
Authority was disrespected. Election results... disregarded. Demonstrations, whether warranted or not, occurred. Fire-trucks were overturned and police officers were assaulted. Thank God, the law exercised restraint, but disorder ruled the day. Missiles were hurled at peace officers and the state's Parliamentary gates were battered beyond belief. ...And blood flowed.
But all of that was not enough! Fires were ignited and damage was caused. We were told that more fires were on the way, and that other acts of incivility would certainly follow. Then we heard it! I didn't want to believe it. That could not be true. But it was! Dem boys say that guerrilla warfare was coming to the land. Men were shot in their homes; others were attacked, while jewelry was stolen. Young and old disappeared -- kidnapped -- then their bodies found whenever... wherever. Criminal gangs roamed the land and turned our slice of paradise into a brittle and broken battle zone.
Wiki leaked, and leaked, and leaked and told us about prime ministers and opposition leaders, some of which made us proud... and some had us hanging our heads in absolute shame. In the courts, men were found guilty of lying. Our system of decency was drastically deteriorating. Defamation of character lawsuits were successful as the lies persisted, and my peaceful Caribbean seemed to be going to the dogs. ....And that was insulting to the dogs!
This culture of violence must not be encouraged, and something has to give.
...And it will, because we stood up against it.
We decided to do something about this sad, sick and sorry state of affairs. We will fight back. We must fight back. We must join forces to combat this violence and crime. This is totally unacceptable. We will turn back the hands of time!
From the Bahamas to Guyana, and Trinidad to Bermuda, we must unite to defeat this malady. Success starts with the decision that "we are not going to take this anymore." We are sick and tired -- of being sick and tired.
Let us join forces, put our heads together, and solve this problem for all of us. The criminals must not win... we will take our beautiful, peaceful Caribbean back.
December 17, 2011
The Paying Taxes 2012 report said an average Bahamian company paid, in taxes, a sum equivalent to 47.7 per cent of its annual commercial profits... Rick Lowe, operations manager at Nassau Motor Company (NMC) and a well-known fiscal hawk, said the findings added to his contention that The Bahamas was not a 'low tax jurisdiction' as it is repeatedly advertised
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Nassau, The Bahamas
THE Bahamas' long-cherished notion of being a 'low tax' jurisdiction has been called into question by a report that says companies pay taxes equivalent to almost 48 per cent of their annual profits, a private sector leader yesterday describing that number as "scary".
The Paying Taxes 2012 report, produced by the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) accounting firm, together with the World Bank and the latter's International Finance Corporation (IFC) arm, placed the Bahamas among the bottom third of nations - 134th out of 183 - when it came to the 'total tax rate'. This was defined as the ratio of a business's total annual tax burden to its commercial profits.
The report said an average Bahamian company paid, in taxes, a sum equivalent to 47.7 per cent of its annual commercial profits. This left Winston Rolle, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation's (BCCEC) president, to call for a breakdown of the calculations, so that the private sector and government could see how the figure was derived.
"That's very surprising," Mr Rolle said of the Paying Taxes 2012 report's findings. "When you consider other countries, with their payroll and employee taxes, and you take a look at our National Insurance Board (NIB) with a 9.8 per cent contribution rate, that's relatively low compared to a number of other jurisdictions, who are now in the teens, so that's very surprising.
"That 48 per cent sounds like a really high number, and that's a scary number right now. My concern is that some businesses will jump all over that number to advocate for lower taxes.
"Everybody is going to complain that the cost of doing business is too high, but we need to understand what's in those numbers to numbers to make up 48 per cent. That one is clearly something to look at a little deeper. The initial response is: Where did that number come from?"
Still, Mr Rolle added: "I don't deny the cost of doing business in the Bahamas is high, but all things considered, when you look at other Caribbean countries, I don't know if we're significantly higher than other jurisdictions."
Others, though, felt the Paying Taxes 2012 report was close to the mark. Rick Lowe, operations manager at Nassau Motor Company (NMC) and a well-known fiscal hawk, said the findings added to his contention that the Bahamas was not a 'low tax jurisdiction' as it repeatedly advertised.
Pointing out that, via the Business Licence fee, companies were taxed regardless of whether they made a profit, Mr Lowe said of the 48 per cent figure: "I don't think it's out of the question. I've always maintained we are not a low tax jurisdiction."
While the Government typically referred to revenues being 'a low' 18-19 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), Mr Lowe said the reality facing the private sector was something quite different, and he preferred the PwC study.
The Bahamas, though, fared better elsewhere in the Paying Taxes 2012 report. It ranked 54th out of 183 nations on the ease of paying taxes, coming in at 63rd with just 18 tax payments by companies per year. And the Bahamas finished just 5th on time to comply.
"One of the key reasons we're in a good position compared to other jurisdictions is that the bulk of the taxes are in duties, and if you do not pay them you do not get the goods," Mr Rolle said. "That makes the process a relatively straightforward one."
He questioned, though, with the compliance timeframes were actually adhered to in practice.
December 16, 2011
Friday, December 16, 2011
Govt expands National Drug Plan
By Travis Cartwright-Carroll
Guardian Staff Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas
A wider group of Bahamians will now benefit from the National Prescription Drug Plan (NPDP), Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham revealed in the House of Assembly Tuesday night.
Staff of Her Majesty’s Prisons, the industrial schools, members of the police force and the defence force, public service officers, and Bahamians 60 years of age and over in receipt of survivor’s benefit and survivor’s assistance will also be added.
Females receiving ante-natal care, care connected with child birth, post-natal care or any other medical care associated with pregnancy will also be added.
People in receipt of disablement benefit assessed at 100 percent under the National Insurance (Benefit and Assistance) Regulations, are also being added.
Already benefiting under the first phase of the plan are NIB pensioners, NIB invalids, Bahamian citizens over 65 years of age who are not eligible to receive a NIB pension, children under 18 years of age and students under 25 years of age.
“This amendment is designed and intended to ensure that all of the persons who are listed in the resolution...will receive the same benefit as everybody else,” Ingraham said.
He continued: “It is providing law to all of those persons to receive this medication for these prescribed illnesses without payment.”
The government enacted the drug plan in 2009. The NPDP is designed to assist the Bahamian public with medications generally prescribed to treat 11 chronic conditions: arthritis, asthma, breast cancer, depression (major), diabetes, glaucoma, high cholesterol, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, prostate cancer and psychosis.
Ingraham noted, however, that the list has been expanded to cover more chronic diseases, but he did not list the additions.
Dec 15, 2011
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Politics in The Bahamas post-Perry Christie: ...it appears that politically, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) will be at a bloody crossroad... Moving forward, the party must not—in the words of Sam Tenanhaus—become “trapped in postures of frozen light, clenched in the rigor mortis of a defunct ideology.”
Who's it gonna be?The leadership showdown is turning into a 'bloody crossroad'
By ADRIAN GIBSON
Nassau, The Bahamas
THE leadership showdown in the PLP will feature a line up of contenders, pretenders and a number of wannabes vying for the leadership who couldn’t convincingly serve as effective backups to Bozo the clown. In a post-Perry Christie era, one can imagine the probable leadership candidates scampering across a convention floor, all fervently seeking the support of the party’s ever ballooning contingent of stalwart councilors. No doubt, there will be a few aspirants employing Brutus’ tactics and stabbing each other in the backs with sharpened political knives.
When the leadership melee kicks off, one expects to see lots of finger-jabbing and colorful political vernacular.
Post-Christie, it appears that politically, the PLP will be at a bloody crossroad. Moving forward, the party must not—in the words of Sam Tenanhaus—become “trapped in postures of frozen light, clenched in the rigor mortis of a defunct ideology.”
In 2007, Bahamians expressed disillusionment with the PLP’s scandalous reign and lack of vision and voted them out of office after one term. Today, there remains some members on the party’s frontline who are among the walking wounded of our political culture and who should not be re-nominated.
A future leader of the PLP must be able to espouse a new and innovative approach to governance, one that would deepen the populace’s trust in accountable governance. A future leader must be capable of proffering a vision for empowering Bahamians, enforce ethical codes of conduct (MPs/ministers) and present a conscientious national development platform to the electorate.
Frankly, people are weary of the old ways of the PLP, top heavy with stalwart councilors who vote in lock step like assembly line drones and cultivate an atmosphere of personality cults. The supremacy of stalwart councilors within the PLP has perhaps singlehandedly retarded the advancement of the party.
At present, there are a few in the PLP who are merely an assemblage of reprobates, head bangers and morons. Likewise, the PLP is also home to a lame duck legion of political pretenders who should not even offer in 2012, weighed against vying for the party’s leadership and seeking to possibly lead our country!
A new leader must maintain, and perhaps reconfigure, the party for it to continue on as a legitimate and credible political force. Indeed, delegates choosing a new leader must select someone who has the ability to rid the party of political dead weight and revivify the party, and the masses, once Mr Christie bids farewell to the political frontline. The prospective leader must not merely have a wide-eyed infatuation with power!
Former Prime Minister Perry Christie is a political titan who appears to be an experienced and principled gentleman. However, he lost the 2007 general election because he appeared dithery and lost control of the reins of his Cabinet.
So, who could succeed the Mr Christie?
Dr Bernard Nottage is in the twilight of his political career, with this election perhaps being his swan song—though he’s expected to retain his seat. Dr Nottage is politically astute and charismatic, a political journeyman with firm managerial skills and, since his ventures with the defunct CDR, the party’s most prominent prodigal son.
Now a senior citizen—in truth and in political terms—the leadership window for Dr Nottage is seemingly slamming shut. The good doctor has apparently peaked and will not see the Promised Land (leadership). By 2017, Nottage will likely be an outgoing figure.
Philip ‘Brave’ Davis, the deputy leader, has neither razzle nor dazzle. Davis was once thought of as merely a flimsy, smiling back-bencher who appeared inclined to quietly stand in the background. He has since repackaged himself.
Mr Davis does appear to be a one-dimensional politician who has no Cabinet experience and no notable political achievement/experience on his resume. Sources assert that he is a down-to-earth chap who didn’t have an opportunity to attend college and instead pulled himself up by his bootstraps.
Relative to public speaking, his oratorical delivery is about as explosive as a soaking wet fire cracker. If Davis’ leadership campaign is based wholly upon his oratorical ability to electrify a crowd and project his vision, his stock could be lower than the Zimbabwean dollar. I must admit that Davis’ parliamentary performance on Tuesday, during the debate on the Boundary Commission’s report, showed that at least he’s a work in progress.
Previously, Mr Davis—in the deputy leader race—ran a multifaceted campaign that was impressive as he employed much of the modern political/marketing strategies used in American political campaigns.
So, has Davis shown that he is a true successor to Mr Christie? Does he have the political appeal to win the electorate’s hearts and votes? Or, could he, like many others before him, peak at deputy leader?
Obie Wilchcombe, who was Sir Lynden Pindling’s understudy, is a dynamic and charismatic orator. Mr Wilchcombe would be a real contender in the leadership showdown. Wilchcombe is the only member of the PLP frontline who has served as party chairman, senator, MP, leader of Opposition business and minister. Frankly, he is one of the odds-on favourites to succeed Mr Christie.
Mr Wilchcombe has the public appeal and tenure to mount a successful campaign and has been an outstanding MP. He is known as a “ground hog” during political campaigns.
Fred Mitchell is not to be politically underestimated and will no doubt throw his hat into the impending leadership skirmish. Mitchell is perceived to be quite intelligent and, by many accounts, has been a superb MP. However, his detractors see him as a divisive and polarizing figure who would have to revamp his image to truly capture the overwhelming support of party delegates.
Alfred Sears, whose imminent political departure will leave the PLP without a strong leadership contender, is one of the smoother operators in the political firmament. Although his performance as Education Minister/Attorney General was solidly mediocre, he appears to be a highly intelligent and competent man of integrity who is widely respected and well-liked. Sears is seemingly a straight-shooter and the PLP should encourage him to remain on the frontline.
Shane Gibson is a long shot. Before he staggered from one blunder to another as a Cabinet minister, Gibson was seen as a young turk who could’ve succeeded Mr Christie as party leader. Today, whilst he’s purportedly a good-natured chap who is loved by his constituents, Mr Gibson is seen as a political non-event and a pariah figure within the party.
Is it true that earlier this year Mr Gibson had talks with the PM and inquired about joining the FNM?
Frank Smith is a firebrand and rank outsider who would be politically sucker punched in any leadership race. Mr Smith will likely be banished to the political wilderness after the 2012 election.
Post-Christie, could the leadership clash see the emergence of a leader from a younger generation of PLPs who do not currently sit in the House of Assembly?
I have gained much respect for Raynard Rigby since he spoke candidly and rationally offered constructive criticism of his party in the wake of its 2007 defeat. Cousin Raynard noted that he objected to the requirement—as party chairman—that he defend public scandals that he privately objected to; addressed campaign shortfalls and chided the party for running a poorly organized campaign; and called for the PLP to engage in mature discourse and accept criticism as not anti-PLP, but merely a differing opinion.
Formerly a clueless and bombastic talker, “cous” has rebranded himself, should be courted for a nomination and distinguished as a young turk on the fast track to leadership.
Jerome Fitzgerald admittedly boasts some electric qualities. However, Fitzgerald has become known for partisan histrionics and sometimes appears overly combative. That said, he is a political newcomer who has a rather cerebral deportment and appears to have the country’s best interest at heart.
Published on Saturday, December 3, 2011, in the column Young Man’s View, in The Tribune’s ‘The Big T’
Bahamas Blog International
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
General Manuel Noriega’s return to Panama on Sunday, after serving 22 years of imprisonment abroad, poses serious questions for the Panamanian system of justice, the rectitude of Washington’s treatment of Noriega during his long period of incarceration, and the future fate of the 77-year-old former dictator.
The Noriega case is surrounded by gross hypocrisy, a failure to tell the full truth concerning the nature of the US-Panamanian relations during the period of Noriega’s rule of the country from 1983-1989, and the exact details of the ties existing at the time between Washington and Panama City.
At the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, we have long been intrigued by the links between the two hemispheric entities. From the days of Noriega’s attendance at the Peruvian National Academy as a young cadet -- Panama did not have such an institution of its own -- to shortly before the establishment of intelligence connections between the youthful Noriega and the colossus to the north, Noriega’s flawed relationship with Washington has been a matter of conjecture. What we had here was a cursed knot binding the two countries together.
It is probable that Noriega’s privileged place on the US payroll would have lasted to this day if Roberto Eisenmann, a distinguished Panamanian democratic figure, had not fled to the country at the risk of his life after being identified as a mortal foe of the Panamanian strongman. Eisenmann tirelessly patrolled the corridors of power in Washington, spreading anti-Noriega gospel. Finally, through much of the 1980s, Eisenmann lobbied the US Senate until he was successful in having that body pass a resolution cutting off all assistance to Panama because of Noriega’s human rights violations and his connections to drug-trafficking and money laundering.
But President George H.W. Bush did not readily acquiesce to the anti-Noriega template being pushed at this point by the Senate. Noriega had been an effective CIA asset, plying Washington with accurate on-the-ground information in the Washington-backed contra campaign against the Sandinistas and in the Salvadoran government’s ugly war against the FMLN guerrillas.
Noriega had allowed US airplanes to take off from Howard Air Force Base to fly over Nicaragua and El Salvador to photograph and select potential targets for US-backed local forces, as well as critical intelligence information on Cuba and on Russian activity in the Caribbean basin. On a visit to Panama in the 1980s, Bush was reportedly briefed on local realities. When Bush became president and the Senate was taking a strong embargo stand against Noriega, the US president eventually yielded to the interventionists in Washington who were calling for military action against Panama. Even though Bush would have preferred to have tried to maintain the formerly valuable US ties with Noriega, this had become all but impossible. This was particularly the case after the late Senator Ted Kennedy and other Senate liberals like Senators Dodd and Leahy were calling for decisive actions against the cynical Panamanian dictator.
(COHA director Larry Birns had been invited to Panama by General Noriega just before the U.S. invasion was launched. In his communiqué to Birns, he described him as his “honorable enemy.” Birns is believed to have been the last American citizen to meet with Noriega before the US attack was launched.)
So what to do with General Noriega now that he is arriving back to his country after having served more than 22 years in US and French jails? It would clearly be cruel and unusual punishment to be sent to some bleak Panamanian jail at the age of 77, no matter how accented by interior decoration. In keeping with Panamanian law, the international community should call upon Panamanian authorities to place the Panamanian outcast under nothing more than house arrest, rather than requiring him to face another 20 years of incarceration or even more.
The US knowingly and cynically used Noriega even though it was fully apprised regarding his links to drug traffickers and money launderers. Incidentally, Noriega, while being portrayed back in Washington as a large-scale drug trafficker, was actually a relatively modest operator. And the US falsely told the American people that the elimination of Noriega would all but end the drug trafficking surge, a notion which was and is patently untrue.
Today, under president Ricardo Martinelli, Panama is even more corrupt than it was under Noriega, yet President Obama did not even bother to mention this fact when he aggressively campaigned for the passage of the bilateral trade agreement with that country.
COHA calls for compassion. House arrest is the proper sentence to mete out to a man who was but one of countless US officials and Central American operators who worked outside the law and would never qualify for a red badge of courage.
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
December 14, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
...the role that the College of The Bahamas (COB) can and should play in contributing to the development of a modern Bahamas in the 21st century and beyond must not be understated or underestimated
The invisible College of The Bahamas
By Philip C. Galanis
Nassau, The Bahamas
“Education is teaching our children to desire the right things.” – Plato
In April, 2009, we wrote about the College of The Bahamas (COB) in an article entitled “A Hidden Treasure” in which we observed that “it is important for Bahamians to have confidence in that institution as the forceful and valuable seat of higher education”. Two and one-half years later, and almost a year after the appointment of a new college president, we thought it would be interesting to Consider This… has the College of The Bahamas lived up to the high expectations and ideals of which we wrote, or has that hidden treasure now become virtually invisible?
The current state of affairs
Sadly, we believe that since former president Janyne Hodder left the college, the institution that is supposed to be the cornerstone of learning in our nation has become less impactful, less relevant and almost invisible on the Bahamian landscape. In fact, if you think about it, when was the last time that anyone has heard of any new, innovative, or interesting developments at the college? Regrettably, there have been several fascinating day-long seminars that have gone under-attended because of the lack of any organized and formal publicity or advertising, putting the dazzling knowledge imparted at these forums in the category of trees falling in the forest with no one to hear them.
It is always revealing and instructive to speak to college students attending that institution in order to garner their perceptions of how the college is faring. I did that with several students, some of whom had transferred to COB from North American colleges as well as students who attended COB directly from high schools in The Bahamas, and what we discovered is disturbing, distressing and disconcerting.
Those students observed that generally they do not have an inkling of an idea of the college’s vision or the direction in which it is headed either in the short- or long-term. Those same students indicated that teachers and students are not always very helpful on a number of fronts. Some COB lecturers and many students do not know where certain classrooms are situated on the campus and many of those classrooms and bathrooms are dingy, drab, dirty and disappointingly maintained.
In some cases, the air conditioning does not work, classrooms are uncomfortably hot and many of the lecturers and students do not even use their college-assigned email addresses, preferring instead to use their own Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail addresses. The registration process is poorly-organized and managed, and classes are often over-populated, sometimes with as many as 60 students, where the ideal class sizes are not supposed to exceed 25 students.
For various reasons, some of the more seasoned personnel have left or are in the process of leaving COB. The college has lost some of its senior management and faculty over the past year, and, while some of the departures have been a positive development for the college, others have been very detrimental.
In the aggregate, while there are positive attributes at COB, these abnormalities suggest a crisis of leadership and an absence of effective management at the college. If COB hopes to attain university status, these, among other deficiencies, must urgently be rectified.
Another area where the invisibility of the College of The Bahamas is hurting its overall mission is in the wider community. Institutions of higher education should play a vitally important role in the development of the community in which they exist. Historically, colleges have exerted a powerful influence on communities as bastions of critical intellectual intercourse, providing leadership in making positive contributions to ensuring the community’s future. This, in turn, ensures the development of competitive skills of the nation by building community values and cohesion which ultimately help communities to move forward. The college should be an incubator for innovation, thought, leadership, research and critical commentary on intellectual, social, economic and political issues. The college should also be a catalyst for change and transformation of the society in which it is situated, offering an enticing menu of seminars and lecture series for those who are not students, spreading the seeds of knowledge beyond the walls of academia. However, this desire to be an enriching force in the community seems to be sorely missing from the College of The Bahamas.
An institution of ideas
Can you imagine the contribution that COB could make in helping to frame the national debate on issues relative to the upcoming general election campaign in order to encourage an issues-oriented exercise?
Where better to have the kind of structured debates between candidates that the populace is yearning for than within the confines of COB? Monitored and analyzed by academic minds, these kinds of debates could broaden the political discourse in a healthy and intelligent manner, giving Bahamians – for the first time – a dispassionate and analytical atmosphere in which to evaluate their future leaders.
Additionally, shouldn’t COB’s Social Sciences and Business departments, based on research and empirical study, engage in formulating ideas about how we can realistically address some of our social challenges and the expansion of the Bahamian economy? Seminars and lectures could enlighten Bahamians from all walks of life about surviving these challenges and understanding the new normal that will be the Bahamian economy. Clearly, participating in scholarly discussions could introduce new concepts and ideas, enabling and empowering attendees to thrive in the future.
And shouldn’t the Political Sciences department address the shortcomings of our quasi-Westminster model with a view to proposing constitutional changes in order to update and transform our system of governance? In a college setting, minds young and old would be able to come together in fruitful examinations and discussions that could do much to shape our future.
Isn’t there a golden opportunity for COB to research comparative penal institutions that work effectively, with a view to enhancing our efforts toward rehabilitation and reconciliation of persons who have lost their way in society? The intellectual study and explanation of the restorative justice initiative, for example, could change not only the way we punish criminals but also how we help victims to reclaim their lives. In a college atmosphere, these kinds of investigations can be undertaken in a non-threatening way, allowing all sides to question and understand this concept.
Higher education provides an exceptional forum where lecturers and scholars can evaluate societal problems from a uniquely balanced and comparative social and economic perspective.
In the final analysis, the role that COB can and should play in contributing to the development of a modern Bahamas in the 21st century and beyond must not be understated or underestimated. But first and foremost, COB must shed its cloak of invisibility and boldly step forward, prepared and eager to open its doors to the community and make positive contributions for the benefit of all our citizens.
•Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to: email@example.com
Dec 12, 2011
Monday, December 12, 2011
Well, the CARICOM-Cuba Summit has ended. Raoul enjoyed his two days in Trinidad, although he and his large delegation were denied access to the Hilton Hotel. In my personal view, CARICOM states that continue to show denial and stupidity will soon understand that the Helms Burton Law is an old United States statute that is not likely to be repealed any time soon.
At the same time, CARICOM states are obligated to continue calling for the lifting of the embargo against Cuba. It is an entrenched United States policy that is still soured and offended about the ideological rebuff after the overthrow of the Batista regime.
Looking at the final communiqué issued in Port-of Spain, I am at a loss to determine what the strong message is that Caribbean leaders will send to the United States. Frankly speaking, the message remains the same as repeated annually at the September United Nations General Assembly.
What is very interesting about the communiqué is the hypocrisy and apologetic nature of some of our leaders. They are the first to burn their cell phone line to Bridgetown offering an apology to the resident United States ambassador or political attaché expressing remorse and saying we had no alternative but to support the communiqué. A phone call and expression is not enough, if any Caribbean leader present at the event had the guts and strength, they should have walked out and refused to sign the communiqué. They did not.
A final communiqué of the meeting was expected and this was accomplished. However, the continuing sad spectre of leadership in CARICOM states and their contribution to national development, which breeds increase crime, lawlessness, youth unemployment and corruption across the board, needs to be urgently addressed.
The Cuba- CARICOM summit was a necessity, given Cuba’s aid and development assistance in the region. Along with Cuba’s aid commitment, the Caribbean region has had long cultural ties with Cuba that it is never a surprise to book in as a tourist in one of Cuba’s finest to immediately find out that the maid or barman has strong Caribbean roots.
As a long-time political analyst, who has paid great attention to the Cuba-US trade embargo, it is my personal feeling that condemnation of the embargo at the United Nations or a Trinidad summit will never achieve the desired goals.
It was interesting to read the comments of former United States ambassador to Barbados and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. As a Bush appointee, Ambassador Kramer was not part of the State Department family. Her political appointment meant that her reports were for the consumption of her ideological hawks and it was necessary to describe the weak and visionless Caribbean leadership that encountered her during her diplomatic posting.
Former Ambassador Kramer has gone; however, there are many other foreign diplomatic missions in the region developing and reporting their views about our leaders. There is no control about what is reported to home governments. However, Caribbean leaders and their aides could begin the process of laying important groundwork.
Indeed our states or nations are small; however, policies, standards and procedures are important. We need to devise an access policy that ensures control and suitability to rank. For example, a political attaché from the US Embassy in Bridgetown should only have unfettered access to the rank of an assistant secretary. The idea of the permanent secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs dropping all his chores to see the designated pipsqueak is ridiculous and demonstrates a colonial mentality.
This article is not about hostility to Washington; the latter has a constructive role to play in the region. However, the success and sustainability of their presence in the region must be encumbered with respect, sensitivity and professional manners. The big stick approach should not be applied.
At the same time, CARICOM leaders need to rebrand themselves and understand the dynamics of governing and decision making. If the two are embraced, in time to come we can express admiration.
At the moment, their conduct and management of state affairs leave a lot to be desired.
Come on guys you can do better.
December 12, 2011
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Which party is best for Jamaica?
Friday, December 9, 2011
The Bahamas: A constitutional dictatorship?
By Rishard P. O. Cooper
Nassau, The Bahamas
We have an anachronistic, colonial governance system that is no longer suitable for the needs of our developing nation in this 21st century. We inherited this Westminster system of governance from the British. So far, our political leadership has not thought it good to change the system. One of the weaknesses of the Westminster parliamentary system of government is the lack of strong separation of powers between the legislature and executive. In The Bahamas most of the governing party’s members of Parliament are in the cabinet (the executive). Most of these MPs, including the backbenchers, are not, it seems, independent thinkers or operatives. This creates an environment in which the executive (the cabinet and more specifically the prime minister) is often left unchecked in any substantial manner. While checks and balances are important for honest governance, a government must be able to effectively and swiftly take action on behalf of the people, for better or worse. The current political gridlock in America between the congress and President Barack Obama underscores a drawback to presidential governance systems that traditionally have stronger institutional separation between the legislature and the executive.
Today, due to our proximity to the U.S. and our own political evolution, Bahamian elections are treated as essentially choosing between two or more party leaders. Hence, many Bahamian voters perceive and treat general elections as presidential races between the leaders of political parties and not so much as votes for particular members of Parliament. However, our system is not a presidential system. If an individual wants to be prime minister, realistically, that person will have to be the leader of a major political party. Historically this has been the only way to ensure the loyalty of a majority of the members in the House of Assembly. However, it is often difficult for newcomers and outsiders to become the leader of a major party. This is so because delegates that may be staunch supporters of the established party leadership often choose party leadership.
Here are a few suggestions to reform our antiquated governing system and make it more efficient, transparent and to reduce the concentration of power in the prime minister. Firstly, our parliamentary system must be reformed in favor of a presidential one. This should make it easier for newcomers and outsiders to have a better chance to successfully run for prime minister/president without having to build up a substantial amount of support within a political party or command the loyalty of a certain number of MPs. At the same time, this would allow Bahamians to directly choose the political leader of the country. Our elections often boil down to a de facto race between the leaders of our political parties. Changing to some form of presidential system would eliminate the indirect method we use to “choose” our prime minister. Secondly, we should implement term limits as prime minister to two terms consecutively or cumulatively. Some critics also recommend that there should be similar term limits for members of Parliament to reduce the number of career politicians – not a bad idea at all.
Reforming our campaign finance laws to make the financing process more transparent, fair, and reduce the influence of corporations and rich people should also make our system more democratic and less beholden to special interests, including, for example, limits on the amount of money persons and entities can donate to a campaign. Ideally, our general elections should be funded completely from the public treasury. In addition, a properly functioning ombudsperson’s office must be formulated to receive and investigate complaints against the government.
The ombudsperson’s office in conjunction with a well equipped and fearless public defender’s office should be empowered to take legal action to protect the interests and rights of citizens, residents and others. Probably the most important factor in reducing the concentrated power in the prime minister under our current governance model involves the election of strong, independent minded cabinet ministers and backbenchers. The prime minister is not the supreme leader as some may suggest or insinuate. Instead, he or she is the first among equals and should conduct him or herself accordingly. If we are able to implement some or all of these non-exhaustive suggestions, we can go a long way in reducing the extraordinary power wielded by the prime minister.
•Rishard Cooper is a Bahamian international corporate attorney. Email feedback to: rishard.Cooper@gmail.com
Dec 09, 2011
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Under the constitutions of most countries that got independence from Great Britain, there is no fixed date to call general elections for members of the House of Representatives to serve their five year terms. Also, the prime minister or the president of the country is not elected by the people through a direct vote. The party that gains the majority of votes in the House of Representatives forms the new government and the leader of the party automatically becomes the prime minister or president.
With this type of arrangement, anybody who want to become the prime minister or president of the country, must seek a seat in the House of Representatives, win the seat and plus try to become a leader of his or her party at the party’s leadership convention. If this person wins the leadership of his party and loses his or her seat in the general election, that person cannot be the prime minister or president of the country but shall retain his or her position as party leader until the party holds its next convention. The elected members of the party from among themselves shall then decide who will be their party’s prime minister or president and then give his or her name to the governor general of the country.
In 1979 in Belize, Dean Lindo was the party leader but lost his seat to Said Musa so the party appointed Dr Theodore Aranda the leader of the party in the House of Representatives. He retained his title as party leader and, when the party convention was held, Manuel Esquivel was elected party leader because Dr Aranda had resigned from the party to head the Christian Democratic Party (CDP).
Elections were held in 1984 and the United Democratic Party (UDP) defeated the People’s United Party (PUP) by a margin of 21 to 7. In that election, a young politician by the name of Derick Aikeman defeated the leader of the People’s United Party George Price and Florencio Marin was appointed the leader of the opposition in the House of Representatives while George Price retained his position as leader of the party. George Price stayed in that position from 1956 until he stepped down in 1996 a total of forty years. Florencio Marin competed for the position of leader of the party but was defeated by Said Musa and he was isolated from the party for many years until the last year of the PUP reign in 2007-2008.
In 1989, the PUP came back and won the election, so George Price became the prime minister again but they lost the elections in 1993 and Manuel Esquivel returned and became prime minister again. He resigned the post of leader in 1996 and was replaced by Said Musa who became the prime minister in 1998 when the PUP won the elections. Musa was elected for two consecutive terms until his party was defeated by the UDP in February 2008, when Dean Barrow became the prime minister.
Since taking over the leadership of the United Democratic Party, Dean Barrow has brought the party to the point where they have been winning elections and it is now a force to reckon with. The People’s United Party is currently fragmented and is being controlled by a few families, business people, interest groups and people of Arab descent and Belizeans are angry with this picture. More native Belizean ethnic groups such as the Creoles, Garifunas, Latinos, East Indians and Mayas are supporting the United Democratic Party today. The attempt by the PUP to portray the UDP as a party that is only for African Belizeans has failed miserably. When the UDP have their conventions you see all different type of Belizeans that makeup Belize.
This was clear based on the resounding victories the UDP have been enjoying since March 2006, when they won the municipal elections, village council elections and then climaxing with the general elections of 2008. The PUP has been saying that they are ready for general elections because they have all their thirty-one candidates in place. Having candidates and winning elections are two different things. The UDP can now call the elections whenever they feel like and I am of the opinion that they will do it shortly after the municipal elections are held in March of 2012.
Recently, elections were held in Guyana and the party in power lost the House of Parliament but retained the presidency. In Saint Lucia the UWP party that was in control lost the House of Representatives and the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) headed by Dr Kenny Anthony returned to power by winning nine out of fifteen seats in the House of Parliament after about nine years as the opposition. Jamaican has elections scheduled for December 29 this year and Jamaicans are ready to go to the polls with their JLP government and their new Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
The Belize government has gotten the gangs under control and is working on a few economic initiatives to obtain funds to provide jobs for their citizens. Roads and bridges are under construction, a new airport is under construction, they have taken over the public utilities to increase government revenues, utility rates for the consumers are going to be reduced soon, new schools are being built and electricity will be provided to an additional 29 villages soon.
With all these efforts being made by the government, it is clear that the UDP government is getting ready to call elections soon. Before a prime minister of any country calls early elections, he or she must weigh the pros and cons on what are their chances of getting re-elected first. With the current financial state of the PUP, their fragmentation and their lack of a clear vision and direction, the UDP should so go ahead and take advantage of their situation because PUP did the same thing when they were in power. After years of being an opposition party it is now time for the UDP to remain the governing party.
December 8, 2011