Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bahamas: ...Is there a glass ceiling for Bahamian women in politics?

Is there a glass ceiling for Bahamian women in politics?


By Melisa Hall


Margaret Thatcher, England’s first female prime minister, stated that “if you want something said ask a man and if you want something done ask a woman”.

I feel that this quote is so relevant to the success of the political party that will be victorious because no matter what your political affiliation is, if you are seeking to be victorious in this election it’s going to take the support of the Bahamian female voter.

This was confirmed nationally on April 10, where it was reported that Hubert Ingraham stated: “Women will decide the outcome of the next general election.”

The statistics indicated that registered female voters outnumber male registered voters by 20,000 – of which we all know is not surprising.  When we take an international perspective, we see that in the United States there is also much political debate about the role that women will play in its elections, and the echo remains the same:  Women will decide who wins the 2012 election.

With statistics and statements like these, it clearly indicates how significant, powerful and influential we are as women.  We have the power to make or break things, we determine who will win or lose, consequently our individual decisions will corporately and politically impact our nation.

However, if we as Bahamian women have so much power and influence to make such determinations for our country, why are we so underrepresented in the political arena and why have we yet to elect a female prime minister?  Is this trend indicative of the notion that politics is a man’s world and women belong in their homes and should remain in the private realm as opposed to the public realm?

Women in politics

While we must acknowledge the significant strides women have made in politics there is indeed a grave level of underrepresentation.  Under the current government administration there are only five female members of Parliament out of the 41.  They are Loretta Butler-Turner and Verna Grant from the Free National Movement (two).  And from the Progressive Liberal Party there are three, which include Glenys Hanna-Martin, Cynthia “Mother” Pratt and Melanie Griffin.

When we look at the female political candidates who have had the courage to step forward to either enter or remain in the political arena we see that there is hope for an increase in the representation of women in politics.  The Free National Movement has nine female candidates, the Progressive Liberal Party has five and the Democratic National Alliance has six female candidates.

Having said that, we see that women in The Bahamas have ascended and advanced to high ranking official positions like that of female presidents of the Court of Appeal, governor general, heads of the Senate and, as mentioned, members of Parliament.  But the only time we have seen any female rise anywhere near the position of prime minister other than in the capacity of “acting” was under the Progressive Liberal Party administration when Cynthia “Mother” Pratt was the deputy prime minister.

Therefore, we must ask the question as to whether or not there exists for Bahamian women in politics a glass ceiling, as we have yet to see equal representation in Parliament or even near the 30 percent desired quota that is advanced and advocated around the world for women representation in Parliament.

When we take a look globally and even more closely at our Caribbean sister nations, we see that culturally there has been an acceptance of female prime ministers and presidents like Portia Simpson Miller in Jamaica, Kamla Persad-Bissessar in Trinidad and Tobago, the late Janet Jagan of Guyana, the late Dame Eugenia Charles of Dominica, who served for 15 years, and Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom, who served for a period of 10 years.

From a biblical perspective, we see that women like Deborah and Esther were instrumental in saving nations.  For example, when the Israelities were oppressed by Jabin the King of Canaan, Deborah prevailed upon Barak, the head captain of the army, to face the Assyrian General Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s Army in battle.  With the help of Barak and Jael, another woman, the Israelites achieved an unlikely victory over Sisera’s force and there was peace in the land for 40 years.

In a radio interview on Gems 105.9 on April 14, on the weekly women’s radio show, “Business, Money & Women”, I asked two courageous female political candidates of their opinions as to whether or not they felt there was a glass ceiling for Bahamian women in politics and why they felt The Bahamas has yet to elect a female prime minister.  Both candidates shared similar opinions.  Kelphene Cunningham, the Democratic Nation Alliance (DNA) candidate for Garden Hills, said she did not think that there exists a glass ceiling and that it’s all about timing and at the right time we as women would achieve that major accomplishment.

Cleola Hamilton, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) candidate for South Beach, said there were no limits to what we can accomplish as women and that gender does not play a significant role in what one achieves.

I must say that I admire both of these women for offering themselves for political service at such a crucial time like this.  However, does this mean that perhaps in our next generation we would see the rise of a female prime minister?

According to the historical data we see that women can handle power and that we can and will take charge where and when we are needed.  Women are indeed breaking down barriers around the world and shattering the so-called “glass ceiling”.  While there are many mixed opinions about “the glass ceiling” notion I want you to know that while it is real and wrong, we as women must be careful not to create our own ceilings by placing virtual limits upon ourselves to explain our lack of progress, disappointments and circumstances beyond our control.

While we need more powerful women represented in Parliament, it does not mean that we must take power away from men to accomplish this.  What we need to do is create and embrace our own power.

When will we break through?

We should note that in the past we have seen many other Bahamian women break glass ceilings in their respective areas, like that of Janet Bostwick who was the first female member of Parliament elected, attorney general of The Bahamas and the first to act as deputy prime minister; Dame Ivy Dumont, first female governor general of The Bahamas; Italia Johnson, the first female speaker of the House of Assembly; Dr. Doris Johnson, the first female president of the Senate, with Sharon Wilson as the second; Ruby Ann Cooper-Darling, first woman to register to vote.

We also see that as we study the lives of successful women that women do have the power to break through barriers, ceilings, or societal limitations that may arise.  However, we as women must work together to help each other succeed.  When one of us succeeds we all succeed.

For those of you who may have career, entrepreneurial or political aspirations but perceive that there is a glass ceiling that may prevent you from progressing, here are few things you can do to achieve your goals to shatter the glass above your head.

1. Be courageous and strategic: Have a plan for your career and for the climb up the political ladder.  Network strategically with men and women.  Find a mentor and a coach.  Have a system and a support system.

2. Be prepared to take risks: Remember Queen Esther in the Bible.  She was automatically excluded because of her background and where she came from, and she could have claimed a “glass ceiling exemption”.  She yet went from orphan to Queen by stepping out of her traditional role to         change the course of history.

3. Be prepared, have a strong sense of purpose, confidence and patience: You must prepare yourself, educationally, financially, spiritually and politically.  Know what your purpose is and be confident in knowing that while obstacles and trials may come you have the power to overcome and break through barriers.

4. Remember successful people leave clues: You should study the lives of successful women to see how did they break through, what set them apart and what skills or expertise they possessed.

As we prepare to go to the voting polls on May 7, it is important that we as women make sound decisions about the future of this nation which will affect future generations.  Remember the power that is within us to merge together to make a difference and that as we are the determining persons who will decide who wins the election, we will also decide whether or not we will become personally empowered to play a significant political role in our government.

Finally, we must ask ourselves in which generation will we follow suit and elect a female prime minister?  Is it in my generation, or my daughter’s generation?

• MELISA HALL is an attorney, advocate for women empowerment and business coach.  To find out more information you may contact her at 341-2204, reach her via Facebook, Twitter or email her at:kwibsuccess@gmail.com

Apr 27, 2012

thenassauguardian

Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)

Trinidad and Tobago and the CCJ




By Ian Francis:


There comes a time during the lifespan of any administration when rapid decisions and press commentaries will be made about an important public policy decision headed to the lower House of Parliament. It came as no surprise when Madam Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago announced that the Republic will withdraw from the criminal appellate division of the British Privy Council and hand over this piece of the pie to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).


While the prime minister’s announcement is a public policy step in the right direction, it is extremely difficult to rationalize her apparent pro-colonial thinking that the oligarchic Privy Council should still have some say in the final disposal of civil and constitutional matters. Madam Prime Minister, I strongly disagree with you and you should seriously re-think this one.

I strongly submit that the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago consider the following: 1) Make a total break with the Privy Council; 2) Establish a good regional example to other CARICOM leaders who have been shamelessly vacillating on the CCJ; and 3) move expeditiously and include all the appellate jurisdictions, as the Republic’s decision is long overdue. Taking a slice and leaving another in the cupboard for later is not good politics for an independent nation. The late prime minister, Dr Eric Williams, would have taken everything away.

Since her intended policy announcement to cut and share a slice of the pie, it was quite refreshing to read the comments of Dr Rowley expressing support for the move. While Dr Rowley’s comments are helpful and will move the process forward, as opposition leader, he has the right to suggest amendments to the proposed bill by reminding the prime minister that the whole cake should be brought home.

Panday’s comments were not surprising as he is stuck in the “never come back mode”, discredited and very irrelevant to Trinidad public affairs. While his former United National Congress (UNC) must be given credit for supporting the creation of the CCJ and providing a headquarters in Port of Spain, it is time for him to move beyond the referendum concept. 

Panday’s desire to ensure citizen participation in making a break with the Privy Council should not be based on a national referendum. It is the responsibility of the national government to design and implement a public information program that would increase awareness and understanding about the CCJ, the need for disengagement from the Privy Council and to minimize ambivalence about the process. Therefore, Panday, in his irrelevant political era, should re-think this referendum strategy.

About one year after assuming the chair of CARICOM, Prime Minister Dr Douglas of St Kitts and Nevis was equivocally clear about the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) membership in the CCJ. If my memory serves me right, Dr Douglas stated that OECS members had found a mechanism for direct membership in the CCJ that would avoid constitutional referendum in most OECS nations. Prime Minister Douglas demitted the rotational chair and nothing more was heard about the “found mechanism”.

Regional ambivalence about the CCJ is a reality. It is embedded amongst distinguished regional legal luminaries, government leaders and of course certain criminal elements who have successfully scored points with the Privy Council. However, at the end of the day, reality, political common sense and breaking the yoke of colonialism are important milestones that regional CARICOM governments must pursue.

Membership in the CCJ is of vital necessity and the region is encumbered with distinguished jurists who can perform as well or even better than some of the British Privy Council cronies.

So, once again, Guyana, Barbados and Belize must be commended for their efforts and contribution to the CCJ. Regional governments have vacillated for too long and treated the CCJ membership with the utterance of dishonesty and tomfoolery to the region’s population.

The CCJ must be recognized and accepted as our final appellate court in all criminal, civil and constitutional matters.


April 28, 2012


caribbeannewsnow


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Perry Christie backtracked on a statement he made a week ago ...confirming that Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) was benefiting from advice he was providing as a consultant for Davis and Co. law firm

Christie backtracks on oil statment


PLP leader contradicts earlier admission on issue


By Taneka Thompson
Guardian Senior Reporter
taneka@nasguard.com


Nassau, The Bahamas


Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Perry Christie last night backtracked from a statement he made a week ago confirming that Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) was benefiting from advice he was providing as a consultant for Davis & Co. law firm.

Christie said in a statement he no longer works as a consultant for the firm. He said the professional relationship was severed “well before” the issue became a controversy.

However, the press release contradicted statements Christie made during a recent telephone interview with The Nassau Guardian that was recorded with his consent.

In that interview, Christie indicated he was still providing advice for BPC, which is seeking approval from the Bahamas government to drill for oil in Bahamian waters.

Last Thursday, Christie said he is a consultant for Davis & Co. and gives legal advice for BPC. He made no mention of the relationship being over — in fact refering to the advice he is ‘now’ giving.

“It’s not a conflict because the advice I’m giving now has nothing to do with any decisions I [will] make as prime minister,” he said.

Davis & Co., the law firm owned by Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Philip Davis, is one of two Bahamian firms that represent the oil company.

“Once we became in Opposition, part of the professional services I render is by way of a legal consultancy to Davis & Co,” the PLP leader said last week.

“As a part of the legal consultancy, I consult on work the firm deems I am qualified by the office I’ve had, by the knowledge I have in terms of government and by my own grasp of the legal principles involved in issues to do with governance. So that is my consultancy and that embraces whether [it’s] matters of tourism or in this case, Bahamas Petroleum.”

The revelation that Christie is providing advice for BPC was made by Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham last week, after Ingraham was asked by The Nassau Guardian about the issue of oil drilling.

Christie confirmed he was providing advice through Davis & Co. after he was contacted by The Guardian and questioned on the matter.

During that interview, Christie expanded on the advice he gives to the oil company through Davis & Co.

“If there is an issue they need advice on, if they need someone to speak to the issue of environmental impacts, the issue of whether or not in my judgment a matter is worthy for the government to approve, whether or not an application is ready, whether or not they should employ, who should go on the board of directors, whatever views they ask of the firm in the event that the firm regards it as necessary they would consult me on it — those are the services I provide,” Christie said.

Last night, he said his working relationship with Davis & Co. and BPC is over.

“Well before this current controversy, which is motivated solely by Ingraham’s last-minute attempts to derail his impending loss, my consulting arrangement with Davis & Co., which represented BPC among many other clients, had expired.  Thus, I am not currently advising BPC in any manner,” said the statement.

Christie’s admission last week has been the subject of several attacks from Ingraham and the Free National Movement.

On Wednesday night, Ingraham labeled Christie an oil lobbyist and said the PLP leader’s ability to lead the country is now compromised because of his relationship with BPC.

Yesterday, members of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) demonstrated outside the Office of the Leader of the Opposition on Parliament Street and demanded his resignation over the matter.

Last night, Christie said the criticism was politically motivated and added that his ethics are above reproach.

“They are losing, we are winning, and they are inventing new charges and distractions,” he said.

Christie added that when permits for oil exploration were granted by his administration he ensured that stringent environmental restrictions were imposed.

He said the Ingraham administration did not adhere to the same strict policies when it granted oil exploration licenses.

“The current prime minister had a different approach, issuing oil exploration permits with no serious environmental conditions whatsoever,” Christie said.

Christie also said if the PLP wins the next election oil drilling would only be considered once there is a full regulatory system to ensure that stringent safety and environmental protection systems are in place and after there is a national consensus on the issue.

Christie said his party would put the issue to a national referendum if necessary.

Apr 27, 2012

thenassauguardian

Friday, April 27, 2012

Looking back on the Cuba distraction at Cartagena

By Roman Suver

Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs



On the weekend of April 14th and 15th, Colombia hosted the Sixth Summit of the Americas, as 33 inter-American governments convened in Cartagena to discuss a broad host of topics. Dominating the agenda were scheduled discussions of the ongoing War on Drugs and the prospects of debating the legalizing of cocaine, marijuana, and other drugs in an effort to reduce criminal drug trafficking and the rampant violence it has brought to Latin America.

Other notable discussions included the newly-inflamed Falklands/Malvinas Islands conflict and new sovereignty claims over the territory by Argentina, as well as Latin American criticism of the United States’ expansionary monetary policy as a response to the ongoing European debt crisis.

The most contentious and prominent of discussion topics, however, was the continuing exclusion of Cuba from OAS-sponsored gatherings, including the previous five Summits of the Americas, and this newest meeting in Cartagena. The issue dominated news coverage leading up to the Summit, and despite hopes by many that the US would relent in its unilateral opposition to Cuba’s participation in OAS activities, President Barack Obama instead reaffirmed the US’ long-held default stance on the matter. To this end, he stated that Cuban authorities have “shown no interest in changing their relationship with the United States, nor any willingness to respect the democratic and human rights of the Cuban people.”

This pronouncement and the US opposition to Cuba’s future involvement in OAS-related hemispheric gatherings effectively acted as a unilateral veto, as Canada was the only other summit attendee to oppose Cuba’s reintegration, though Prime Minister Stephen Harper reportedly considered supporting the majority position on Cuba’s unconditional re-admittance. This stubborn and clearly ideologically-based US move served to do nothing but further alienate the US from the region at a time when it is actively attempting to build both economic and political alliances.

Furthermore, by exacerbating the divide between traditional US pan-American policy and the Latin American position through his comments, Obama ensured that the topic of Cuba would continue to dominate the discussion throughout the summit, instead of allowing for a unified hemispheric discourse on other important and pressing regional matters to command media attention. Not surprisingly, amidst the polarizing environment in Cartagena, the Sixth Summit of the Americas concluded without a joint declaration on the agenda’s subjects, further accentuating the dysfunctional nature of current hemispheric politics.

Ahead of the Summit, Ecuador’s President, Rafael Correa, wrote a letter to the summit’s host, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, in which he declared his intention to boycott the meeting in protest of Cuba’s ongoing exile. He further pledged that Ecuador would boycott any future gatherings that excluded Cuba as long as he remains in office, and urged fellow ALBA members to do the same. While it appeared last week that no other nation would take similar steps, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega abstained from attending at the last minute, boycotting the event on the same grounds as Correa, despite his government’s presence in Cartagena.

There had been speculation prior to the meeting that some Latin American countries, especially those with memberships in ALBA, would decline to join Ecuador in boycotting the event in hopes that the US would soften its position on Cuba during the weekend’s meeting, making a gesture that could worsen trade relations with the US unnecessary. However, after Obama’s steadfast reiteration of the US stance, all eight ALBA members moved swiftly to decry the Cuban situation, vowing to boycott all subsequent Summits of the Americas if Cuba is not granted unconditional participation. Perhaps not so surprisingly, this same sentiment was echoed by some of South America’s most influential nations, including Mercosur members Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

The increasingly vocal and adamant calls for Cuba’s inclusion by Latin America, and the growing number of provocative comments being made by Latin American leaders about ending North American hegemony in the region, are ominous signs for the abiding strength of the US influence in the region. With the prospect of the majority of the next Summit’s attendees boycotting the event under the current status quo, the future of the OAS and North American participation in Latin American affairs appears noticeably bleak.

There are already a number of regional organizations which exclude the US and Canada, CELAC and UNASUR among them, and their increasing relevance to international cooperation in the Americas does not bode well for North America. If the US continues to persistently adhere to its current stance on Cuba through to the 2015 Seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama, there is a distinct possibility that the OAS could lose all legitimacy as well as its influence as exasperated Latin American countries refuse to participate.

This could lead to both a rethinking of US policy towards Cuba, and greater cooperation and concessions by the US, pursuant to a more unified and egalitarian Western Hemisphere dynamic. Conversely, if the US continues its archaic and neo-imperialistic stance, bodies like CELAC would stand to gain considerable influence, and could perhaps even replace the OAS as the hemisphere’s primary pan-American body and standard-bearer for regional cooperation.

In either scenario, the inescapable reality becomes quite clear; no matter how US policy towards Latin America evolves in the near future, the US’ longstanding and powerful influence in Central and South America is beginning to wane. Newly developing export markets and swift economic growth in Latin America are bolstering the region’s ability to function independently of more developed powers like the US, and the more the region continues to develop, the stronger its thirst for self-determinism will become.

As Central and South America continue to modernize in their quest to join the ranks of developed world powers, the US will continue to watch its previously formidable regional will diminish. The more Washington is willing to proactively amend its foreign policy towards Latin America to promote a more respectful and reciprocal partnership arrangement, the better its prospects will become in forging long-term amicable alliances and beneficial economic partnerships with a rapidly upsurging region.

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 ww.coha.org or email coha@coha.org

April 26, 2012

caribbeannewsnow



Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bahamas: ...Support conch salad for Bahamians first - and end conch exports!

Crucial Times For The Conch


Tribune242
Nassau, The Bahamas


 

FIVE centuries ago, the Amerindian inhabitants of the Bahamas lived in a completely different world from the one we know today.

Early European explorers described flocks of parrots "darkening the sky", dense hardwood forests, and sea turtles so numerous they kept sailors awake by constantly knocking against ship hulls.

Seals and iguanas crowded the shorelines; whales were a common sight offshore; and lobster, conch and fish were abundant. Evidence for this are the large mounds of discarded conch and other shells and fish bones that are a ubiquitous feature of Lucayan archaeological sites.

And since slow-moving conch once abounded in shallow water, they became a staple food for the European settlers - giving rise to their nickname, "conchs", which persists to this day in the Florida Keys. In the Bahamas, the sobriquet has mutated into "conchy joe" - meaning a white or mixed-race Bahamian.

When South Florida was an impenetrable wilderness, Bahamian "conchs" looked upon the Florida Keys as northern out islands. In fact, Key West is famously known today as the conch republic, and early American dictionaries define conchs as "illiterate settlers of the Florida Keys" - meaning Bahamians, both black and white.

But today, the delectable queen conch - the one we all love to eat - is in serious trouble throughout the region. And that Bahamian delicacy, conch salad, is in danger of becoming a thing of the past.

Florida's conch fishery collapsed decades ago, and conch harvesting was banned throughout the continental United States in 1986.

With growing evidence that conch populations were collapsing in other territories, international export permits were required for all queen conch trade in 1992. Conch exports from the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Honduras (which used to supply the bulk of US demand) have now been suspended.

So most of the 1,000-plus metric tons of conch consumed by Americans each year is imported from a handful of countries like the Turks & Caicos, Belize and the Bahamas, where conch populations have been in somewhat better shape. But new research shows that the Bahamian conch fishery is also in danger of collapse.

A key point to consider is that conchs don't reproduce when populations fall below a certain density. That's because - like groupers - they gather in large spawning aggregations to breed. Within a few days, the eggs hatch into larvae that can float more than 100 miles from their point of origin. And after a few weeks the larvae settle on the seafloor to become juvenile conch - miniature versions of the adult mollusks we are all familiar with.

These juveniles bury themselves on the sea bottom to escape predators, spending more time on the surface as they grow, eating algae and detritus in the sand. They take several years to mature and can live as long as 20 years. But as we all know, they are ill-prepared to deal with human fishing pressure.

Scientists used to say that, throughout the region, only the offshore Pedro Bank in Jamaica and the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park have average densities of conch greater than the threshold needed for reproduction (about 50 adults per hectare). But new research says that even in the Exuma park (which has been a no-take zone since 1986), conch densities have dropped 35 per cent over the last 17 years, suggesting that the population is no longer self-sustaining.

This research was conducted by Martha Davis, Catherine Booker and Dr Allan Stoner, a top scientist with the US National Marine Fisheries Service who led a multidisciplinary group studying conch ecology and conservation in the Exumas during the late 1980s. Davis and Booker are both environmental scientists who have spent a lot of time in the Bahamas and are collaborating with Stoner on the latest research.

It was Davis who founded the non-profit research group called Community Conch, which has conducted three surveys in the Bahamas since 2009, with support from the government and local conservation groups. The mission of Community Conch is to support sustainable conch populations in the Bahamas through research, education and collaboration with local communities.

Booker is Community Conch's field representative based in George Town, Exuma. And tonight, she will be discussing the organization's latest research at an open public meeting in the Bahamas National Trust headquarters on Village Road, starting at 7pm.

"So far, every place we've studied in the Bahamas - Andros, the Berry Islands, and the Exuma Cays - we've seen evidence that conch stocks are declining, and in some cases severely declining," Booker told me.

"The Bahamas is now experiencing what other countries in the Caribbean have been struggling with for decades."

Community Conch has prepared a technical brief on its research, and the Department of Marine Resources is considering new policies to better manage the Bahamian conch fishery. The brief is based on data collected 17 and 20 years ago by Dr Stoner, plus comparative data collected in the last three years by Community Conch under Dr Stoner's direction.

Researchers observed no mating at all with a density of less than 47 adult conch per hectare in the protected waters of the Exuma park, or at two traditional fishing grounds in the Berry Islands and off Andros. Logistic modeling suggests a 90 per cent probability of mating occurring at 100 adults per hectare in the un-fished area, but mating frequencies increased more slowly with density on the fishing grounds.

"Mating frequencies were 6.3 per cent in the Berry Islands and just 2.3 per cent at Andros," the researchers said. "In contrast to the marine reserve, 90 per cent probability of mating required 350 to 570 adults per hectare at Andros and the Berry Islands respectively."

So having more conch in the future is based on our ability to maintain sufficient population densities in the present. And this is further complicated by the fact that the animals are slow to mature, meaning they are often harvested before they have a chance to reproduce.

According to Catherine Booker, Community Conch recently studied the relationship between the age of a conch and its stage of reproductive maturity. "What we found, and what other scientists have found throughout the Caribbean, is that the queen conch needs to be older than we thought before it is capable of reproducing.

"We estimate age by looking at the thickness of the flared lip of the conch shell, and it turns out the lip actually needs to be about 15mm thick before a conch is sexually mature. Based on our work and others, female conch are probably not mature until they are at least five or six years old. Males mature a bit younger."

But the most important factor affecting conch stocks is fishing pressure. Improved diving gear, the use of freezer storage, and habitat degradation from development all add to the dramatic decline of the fishery throughout the region. This means that getting reliable data is key, so that marine resource managers can know what they are dealing with.

In the Berry Islands, for example, Community Conch found that juvenile populations in important nursery grounds that were studied in the 1980s had declined a thousand times to only a few hundred individuals by 2009. And of the eight historical fishing grounds surveyed off Andros in 2010, only one had adult densities allowing minimal reproduction.

Last year, Community Conch surveyed sites in the Exuma Cays that had been previously studied by Dr Stoner and others. They found that the overall density of adult conch had declined substantially over the past two decades, and the population had aged significantly.

"These results are expected when the adult population is not being exploited but where recruitment has slowed," Community Conch said. "We conclude that the park is not large enough to hold a self-sustaining population... a single marine reserve such as the ECLSP cannot protect a species with pelagic larvae when the population outside the reserve is heavily exploited. Rather, a network of marine reserves is needed to provide a chain of reproductive sources."

From this research, the scientists conclude that conch densities in commercially fished areas of the Bahamas are decreasing to levels that will not sustain the population. Fishing grounds in the Berry Islands, Andros and Lee Stocking Island in the Exumas all show evidence of collapsing populations.

And although the Exuma park protects existing conch, there is not sufficient recruitment from outside the protected area to maintain conch populations within the park, and further decline is expected if there is no change in fishery management policies.

"Queen conch populations are rapidly declining below critical thresholds for reproduction and they are being harvested before sexual maturity," Community Conch said. "Experience in Florida and other Caribbean nations show that recovery of conch populations is very slow after populations fall below those thresholds. Releases of hatchery-reared conch have not been successful in rebuilding stock, and natural populations need to be conserved."

According to Booker, "the reality is that it is much easier to make management changes now before it is too late. The current regulation of requiring a flared lip combined with minimal enforcement has produced the current situation.

"We like to say, if you can break the lip, that's an immature conch, so don't take it. The need to set priorities and implement a conch recovery plan is critical and urgent."

New management policies recommended by the scientists include an expansion of marine reserves to include appropriate conch habitat; banning the use of hookahs to harvest conch; establishing a lip thickness criterion of 15 mm; setting quotas for conch landings; and implementing a closed season on conch between July and September.

One key recommendation is to end conch exports. The United States now is the largest consumer of imported conch, buying more than 80 per cent of the conch available for international trade. And conch has been legally exported from the Bahamas since 1992 - almost 600,000 pounds last year alone. This only increases the fishing pressure on conch stocks.

"Closing off legal exports would reduce the pressure on local conch populations," Department of Marine Resources Director Michael Braynen told me recently. "Conch exports are still allowed because fishermen say they 'need' the income, after the local demand for conch has been met."

But it makes little sense to allow the export of hundreds of thousands of pounds of conch meat every year, while watching the decline of this key Bahamian fishery.

Over the years, conch fisheries have been closed in Cuba, Florida, Bermuda, the Dutch Antilles, Colombia, Mexico, the Virgin Islands and Venezuela.

Do we really want to see the end of this cultural catch in the Bahamas? Support conch salad for Bahamians first - and end conch exports!

■What do you think? Send comments to larry@tribunemedia.net or visit http://www.bahamapundit.com/ .

April 25, 2012

tribune242


.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Reflections of the 2007 general election in The Bahamas

Remembering the close 2007 general election

thenassauguardian editorial


Nassau, The Bahamas


Many have forgotten just how close the 2007 general election was.  Some have held on to misconceptions about that race for five years.  We recently witnessed a young Bahamian, who is keenly interested in politics, argue that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won the popular vote in 2007, but lost the seat count.  That is incorrect.

The Free National Movement (FNM) defeated the PLP by 3,976 votes in 2007.  The FNM won 23 seats and the PLP 18.  In New Providence, the two parties fought to a virtual tie.  The FNM beat the PLP in our main island by only 1,624 votes.  In the Family Islands the FNM won by 2,352 votes.

The FNM did not win a majority of votes in that election.  The FNM ended up with 49.8 percent of the votes counted; the PLP with 46.96 percent of the vote.  Of the 41 seats contested in 2007, 10 constituencies were decided by 100 votes or less.

This race was quite a fight.  The people did not overwhelmingly want one party over the next.  It was our closest election in the popular vote since the dead heat of 1967 when the PLP secured 18,895 votes and the United Bahamian Party (UBP) 18,824 votes – a margin in favor of the PLP by only 71 votes.

For the PLP this election is a defining moment.  The party has lost three out of the last four elections.  It has been descended from the mountaintop of Bahamian politics where it was once perched during the golden years of Sir Lynden Pindling.  A fourth loss in five years would indicate a fundamental disconnect between the post-Pindling leaders of the PLP and the electorate, especially when that electorate has the choice on the other side of Hubert Ingraham.

No one energizes the PLP base more than Ingraham, a man some opposition supporters call every unholy name in the book.  However, in a direct election when it was only Ingraham and a PLP leader battling against each other, the PLP has never defeated him in a general election.

This election is a final test of post-Pindling PLPism versus the Ingraham brand (Ingraham has said he is not running again).  The FNM leader has made the declaration that it is ‘me or them’; ‘me or Christie’.

The PLP must not underestimate Ingraham.  His brash unapologetic style evolved from the rugged circumstances many Bahamians come and came from.  He has been shaped and defined by his transition from childhood poverty to wealth and power.

In a traditional election, under the circumstances that currently exist in The Bahamas, a major crime problem, a high unemployment rate and a roadwork project that has become a fiasco of sorts, the opposition should be up significantly.  However, many feel the mood remains similar to that of 2007.  The divide between Ingraham and the post-Pindling PLP is close.

If Ingraham wins again in this environment he will not only be the man who won non-consecutive back-to-back victories, he would also be the man who deposed the entire post-Pindling ruling class of the PLP.  The then opposition, having lost four of five elections, would then know that what it is, who it is, is not what the people want as compared to Pindling’s great pupil.

Much is on the line on May 7.  Legacy is at stake.

Apr 24, 2012

thenassauguardian editorial

 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What did CARICOM get from Canada?

By Ian Francis:




CARICOM Press Communiqué 98/2012 of April 16, 2012 under the caption “CARICOM lobbies Canada for G20 help” has caught my interest and curiosity, which warrants a Caribbean News Now Article on this critical issue.

It is important to state that my curiosity meant reading over the press communiqué several times in order to avoid criticisms from my analysis and response. Therefore, it is incumbent upon my part to address the content of the release in a chronological manner.

Paragraph one of the release highlighted that a meeting was held between the heads of government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, prime minister of Canada. At the meeting, CARICOM heads requested Canada to continue the lobby to the G20 nations to focus on the plight of small vulnerable economies and highly indebted middle income countries. Harper nodded and maybe there is a reason why he opted for a non-verbal response.


Paragraph two lamented that it was the second meeting with a G20 nation, citing Mexico as the previous one. Again, there are no indicators as to how Mexico responded. Given the fact of increased drug trafficking, crime and lawlessness, human rights violation and recent natural disasters, one wonders if Mexico is seen as a reliable partner within the G20 community. Given this situation, it will be interesting to see future political development in Mexico and its relations with CARICOM states.

Paragraph three highlighted four topics that apparently consumed Prime Minister Harper’s time. These were 1) economic issues; 2) the ongoing negotiations for a trade and development agreement between the two sides, which it is believed is the CARIBCAN trade agreement; 3) security cooperation; and 4) an acknowledgement of the special relationship between Canada and CARICOM, which has existed for almost a century and described the relationship as “dynamic and evolving based on mutual respect and shared interests, from which the respective nations have benefitted.”

Paragraph four is very interesting as CARICOM states expressed appreciation to Canada for its assistance in advocating CARICOM’s views in a global forum such as the G20. Canada was asked to continue its advocacy role with even greater urgency, taking into consideration the seemingly endless global economic and financial woes that continue to wreak havoc on the small, vulnerable economies in the Community.

Paragraph five outlined an information sharing mechanism aimed at increasing Prime Minister Harper’s awareness about some of CARICOM initiatives. The prime minister was advised of CARICOM’s efforts to use its collective strengths to combat the challenges and secure the future through diverse measures. They emphasized the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) although they were not able to indicate its current status; establishment of CARICOM enterprises, which fell short of details even when the prime minister sought information about future participation by Canadian entrepreneurs; and, of course, they took the opportunity to express appreciation for the support provided to the CARICOM Secretariat through the CARICOM Trade and Competitive Project, which will likely integrate Haiti into the CSME.

Post Summit Perspective on the Canada-Caribbean Meeting:

The communiqué’s synopsis gives a clear indication about the Caribbean Community and Canada meeting. Once again, Canada should be commended for affording the opportunity to meet with a group of leaders who three months ago was unable to show guts by telling Venezuela and their misguided Latin nation allies that Canada should be invited to attend CELAC meeting in Caracas. They went along and joined the Latin pariah states in excluding Canada. In my view, Canada will always remain a friend of the Caribbean Community irrespective of their transience when El Presidente speaks.

The meeting with Canada demonstrated the show of regional collectivity, cooperation and leadership given by the CARICOM Secretariat. However, those who attended should understand that, although Prime Minister Harper was impressed by the show of solidarity, his briefing books and three ring binders would have indicated a totally different situation. So, Caribbean Community leaders, do not be fooled. The same applies to Mexico and the United States.

The Caribbean Community leaders who participated in the meeting need to clearly understand Canada’s role in the Caribbean. Traditionally, in the conduct of its foreign relations, Canada has always recognized the region as two distinct vantage points. Canada has traditionally maintained strong bilateral and multilateral cooperation with Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad, Belize and the Republic of Guyana. They have established diplomatic missions in each of these nations as well as strong cooperation agreements ranging from military to education.

What was previously known as the Windward and Leeward grouping, which is now the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Canada has opted to allow its High Commission in Barbados to handle OECS Affairs. There, OECS states must understand that, although Canada recognizes and understands the plight of the OECS, there are indeed preferential treatments to the five nations mentioned above. Unfortunately, OECS leaders have not spent the time to re-orient Canada’s strategy in the region. A clear indicator of OECS deficiencies is accepting the suggestions of a soon to be retired Canadian diplomatic official to close the OECS diplomatic mission in Ottawa as a cost containment effort. To many diplomatic observers, it is an extremely dumb move to close a vehicle that provided an OECS diplomatic presence in Ottawa. The decision to close the OECS diplomatic mission in Ottawa was ill-fated and many leaders are now privately expressing regrets at the decision made in St Vincent.

The Caribbean Community’s desire to see Canada continue lobby efforts with G20 countries is laughable and could be considered the greatest foreign affairs prank by the Caribbean Community on Canada. Why is it laughable? Many of the G20 nations have bilateral diplomatic relations with most of the independent nations that constitute the community. While the exchange of diplomatic personnel might be at a non-resident level, the mere fact that all community members have flourishing and active diplomatic missions at the United Nations and in Washington should provide them the opportunity to access G20 nations to discuss economic and vulnerability issues on a bilateral level rather than begging Canada to ensure that the regional economic plight is mentioned in the final communiqué of G20 meetings.

Three other issues caught my attention. These are: 1) Canada’s significant multilateral assistance to the CARICOM Secretariat to implement the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) program, and the inability of the Community leaders to give an accurate progress report on the status of the CSME to Harper; 2) Canada’s false belief that OECS nations’ economic problems can only be effectively resolved by plowing more multilateral assistance within the CARICOM Secretariat, knowing full well that such assistance is not impacting on daily conditions faced by the poor and disadvantaged; and 3) the OECS Caribbean Community leaders shortsightedness, and lack of an economic development bilateral strategy for presentation to Canada.

To conclude, I will not add any further comments about the revised CARIBCAN trade agreement. However, I am curious about what OECS nations will sell and market in Canada, as the Caribbean rum environment in Canada is very competitive.

So, personnel in OECS foreign ministries need to become more visionary and place less emphasis on the next foreign posting.
April 23, 2012

caribbeannewsnow

Monday, April 23, 2012

A modern Bahamas must adopt modern ways of conducting its affairs... and if we are to contemplate a reform of our tax structure... we ought to look at all forms of taxation ...and select the most efficient and the most appropriate for the benefit of all Bahamians

Pursuing tax reform

thenassauguardian editorial

 

Nassau, The Bahamas


Given the fiscal performance of the economy over the past few years and especially in the midst of the global recession, it has become increasingly clear that the days of relying on customs duties for the majority of the government’s revenue are rapidly coming to an end.

The arguments against, and the analyses of, the current tax regime are as numerous as they are compelling.

The more often repeated reasons are that customs duty as a major source of government revenue has outlived its usefulness because the system is extremely insensitive to changing circumstances in the economy; it is unintentionally unfair and regressive in its impact, particularly on low-income households, and at best it distorts the orderly and efficient working of a market economy.

To which we can add: In the context of the predominantly retail and wholesale services sector of the Bahamian economy, it ties up too much of the cash flow in advance of the first sale or turnover of the imported goods.

Some have argued, rather convincingly, that consideration ought to be given to introducing a more progressive tax regime, such as the value added tax (VAT), a tax regime that is used in more than 170 countries and that is generally considered less onerous on low-income households and small businesses.

Since the tax is levied on both goods and services, it is believed that the government’s overall take could increase without having to increase the tax rate.

Indeed, there may be scope for reduction in tax rates and fees in some specific categories.

In a country such as The Bahamas, that has historically boasted of its distaste for imposing direct taxes on income, the VAT has a certain amount of appeal in the sense that it has the potential to increase the tax yield to government without having to concede its historical adherence to no tax on income.

Given the developments over the past few years with the removal of the veil of secrecy and confidentiality as regards to bank accounts in The Bahamas, and more recently the almost 30 tax information exchange agreements (TIEAs) signed by the government and other foreign jurisdictions, perhaps the time has come to re-examine tax reform in The Bahamas beyond the consideration of a VAT.

Consideration could be given to a broad-based or selective income tax regime which would permit the country to enter into double taxation agreements, and by so doing obtain tax income from foreign companies operating in The Bahamas without increasing the overall tax burden to those companies since — because of the double taxation treaty — the existing tax would be shared between our Public Treasury and that of the company’s home country.

Such a move could also provide added protection against the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s constant threats to destabilize the so-called “tax haven” countries.

A modern Bahamas must adopt modern ways of conducting its affairs, and if we are to contemplate a reform of our tax structure, we ought to look at all forms of taxation and select the most efficient and the most appropriate for the benefit of all Bahamians.

Apr 23, 2012

thenassauguardian editorial

 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) stock has lost a fourth of its market value on the heels of a declaration from Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham that his government would not allow BPC to drill for oil in Bahamian waters

Oil company’s stocks plummet

Drop in market value follows PM’s comments


By Candia Dames
Guardian News Editor
candia@nasguard.com


Nassau, The Bahamas


Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) stock has lost a fourth of its market value on the heels of a declaration from Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham that his government would not allow BPC to drill for oil.

The company recently said it would seek to renew its licenses with The Bahamas government.

BPC wants government approval to drill an oil well in Bahamian waters by April 2013.

In 2005, BPC began its negotiations with the Christie administration for its various permits and licenses to look for oil in the country’s territorial waters.

Since then, the company has only done 2D and 3D underwater seismic testing to figure out the best areas to drill for oil and get a better handle on the country’s oil potential.

The Nassau Guardian asked the prime minister on Wednesday whether his administration would allow oil drilling in Bahamian waters, and he responded ‘no’.

Ingraham also said, “We are undertaking studies and after that we will see, but we don’t have any plans to drill for oil in The Bahamas.”

He also said certain senior members of the Opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) have direct links to BPC.

“They (BPC) are very much tied to Perry Christie and those,” Ingraham said.

“In fact, I think he may be a consultant for them. He is certainly involved with them.”

Ingraham also suggested that attorney Sean McWeeney, a former PLP attorney general, is also tied to BPC.

On its website, under company advisors, BPC lists the law firm Davis & Co., run by PLP Deputy Leader Philip Brave Davis, as part of its Bahamian legal team.

McWeeney’s law firm Graham Thompson & Co. is listed as the second firm representing BPC in The Bahamas. McWeeney is a partner in the firm.

On Thursday, Christie told The Nassau Guardian he is a legal consultant for Davis & Co., the law firm which represents Bahamas Petroleum Company.

Christie confirmed that the company benefits from the advice he provides to BPC’s legal team.

Christie said the working relationship with Davis & Co., the law firm owned by Brave Davis, began after his party lost the 2007 general election.

Christie would not say definitively if his administration would allow any company to drill for oil if the PLP wins the election. He said that decision would depend on environmental studies presented to government on the issue.

While in opposition, the PLP has been relatively quiet on the issue of oil drilling in The Bahamas.

Former Minister of Trade and Industry Leslie Miller, however, recently accused the current administration of failing to keep the Bahamian people properly informed on the matter.

Apr 21, 2012

thenassauguardian

Friday, April 20, 2012

US facing bold new calls for 'drug war' alternatives

by Ekow Bartels-Kodwo


Research Associate at the Council On Hemispheric Affairs.



At a poorly attended summit of Central American leaders, the host President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala reiterated calls for the decriminalization of recreational drug use. Although some regional former heads of state have called for such a solution, President Molina became the first sitting head of state to openly advocate for such a controversial stance when speaking at the Central American Security Summit in Antigua, Guatemala.

Billed initially as a groundbreaking summit during which “alternative solutions” to the War on Drugs were to be discussed, the conference’s emphasis on how to manage the War on Drugs, as well as talk of decriminalization, were sidelined before the conference even began.

After accepting invitations to the conference, three heads of state, representing fully half of the countries in the region, pulled out of the conference on short notice. This was likely the result of pressure from Washington, which has long opposed legalization, and the reluctance of the Organization of American States, the (OAS) to face up to the issue of drug trafficking and related violence.

President Molina declared that the War on Drugs had failed, asserting that it was time to reconsider drug policy in the region. The summit, he hoped, would put an end to the stigma surrounding the discussion of decriminalization as a serious policy alternative to outright prohibition. He added that the conflicts surrounding their countries have cost Central American countries hundreds of millions of dollars annually and tens of thousands of lives.

Referring to the current policy, Molina opined “We have seen that the strategies that have been pursued against drug trafficking over the last 40 years have failed.” He added that there was a need to “look for new alternatives” and “end the myths, the taboos, and tell people we need to discuss this.”

Also in attendance was Laura Chinchilla, President of Costa Rica, who decried the cost in terms if human lives, asking rhetorically, “How much have we paid here in Central America in deaths, kidnapping, and extortion?”

The summit came in the wake of US Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to the region in early March, wherein he restated the United States’ opposition to the decriminalization of drugs in Latin America, and attempted to muster support for a renewed push in the US-led War on Drugs. Speaking in Mexico City, Vice President Biden told reporters that, while the discussion on decriminalization was a “legitimate” one, the dangers of legalization outweighed any benefits.

Biden’s visit came shortly after the OAS warned against the crippling social and economic effects that Central American and Mexican drug cartels are having on the region. In remarks to the OAS-sponsored Conference on Transnational Organized Crime in Mexico City, OAS Secretary for Multidimensional Security, Adam Blackwell said that the state of transnational crime in the region not only threatens to undermine institutional security and stability, but also poses a systemic threat to democracy.

In his further comments at the conference, Secretary Blackwell admitted that there had been an increase in the regions drug-related violence, but stressed the importance of remaining steadfast in the ongoing fight against the criminal organizations behind it. He stated, “I urge you to direct our efforts to the development and strengthening of our institutional capacities, through knowledge-sharing, the exchange of information and experiences, and wherever possible, joint action.

This increased pressure on area countries from the OAS and the US, as demonstrated by Mr Blackwell and Vice President Biden respectively, to stick to the script in regards to the war on drugs, is symbolic of how oblivious the hand-me-down US policy regarding her neighbours in the western hemisphere is to changing realities on not just the war on drugs, but on seemingly unrelated issues such as the US embargo against Cuba.

The calls by Presidents Perez Molina of Guatemala and Chinchilla of Costa Rica, while by no means unequivocal, signify a shift of tectonic proportions when it comes to dealing with the drug gangs that have terrorized the Central American countries from their bases in Mexico.

It remains to be seen, however, just how unyielding such calls for legalization will be in the face of strident US opposition. Already, President Molina has suggested alternatives to decriminalization. He proposed a tax levied on the US for all drugs seized in Central American countries because the US is the largest consumer of these drugs. He also proposed that Central American governments set up a court with regional jurisdiction that deals with transnational similar to the approach of the UN’s International Criminal Court.

Overall, two factors remain to be weighed. First, will the United States encourage some of the new alternative solutions presented by President Perez Molina? But even more important to the verifiably bona fide post-colonial sovereignty of these countries is whether or not those Latin American states ultimately do genuinely favor decriminalization and whether or not their leaders were bold enough to raise the issue at the Summit of the Americas this April, at which the United States was represented by its Diplomat-in-Chief, President Obama and not Joe Biden as was the case in early March.

Whatever be the case, it is time to stop throwing away the baby with the bathwater and to put heads together in order to put a halt to the menace that has plagued, and continues to undermine the fundamental and systemic national security of the entire Central American region. The time has come for the United States to allow the region to start seriously looking at less costly policy alternatives to the war on drugs, in order to remove this deepening stain on the conscience in order to move the society that we live in from one that we have cause to be ashamed of living in to one that future generations can be proud to be a part of.

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: http://www.coha.org/ or email coha@coha.org

April 19, 2012

caribbeannewsnow

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham ...says that there would be no oil drilling in Bahamian waters if his party - the Free National Movement (FNM) is re-elected to office

PM: FNM govt won’t drill for oil


By Taneka Thompson
Guardian Senior Reporter
taneka@nasguard.com


Nassau, The Bahamas



Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said yesterday there would be no oil drilling in Bahamian waters if his party is re-elected to office.

Asked if his administration would allow drilling if returned to power, he said ‘no’.

Ingraham added that Bahamas Petroleum Company Plc. (BPC) — the company licensed to explore for oil in Bahamian waters — has direct ties to Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Perry Christie and other senior members of the party.

In 2005, BPC began its negotiations with the Christie administration for its various permits and licenses to look for oil in the country’s territorial waters.

Since then the company has only done 2-D and 3-D underwater seismic testing to figure out the best areas to drill for oil and get a better handle on the country’s oil potential.

However, in 2010 the Ingraham administration placed a moratorium on new oil exploration or drilling licenses. The moratorium came after the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We are undertaking studies and after that we will see, but we don’t have any plans to drill for oil in The Bahamas,” Ingraham said.

He was responding to questions put to him by The Nassau Guardian after he completed a tour of Bains Town and Grants Town yesterday.

“They (BPC) are very much tied to Perry Christie and those,” Ingraham said.

“In fact, I think he may be a consultant for them. He is certainly involved with them.”

Ingraham also suggested that attorney Sean McWeeney, a former PLP attorney general, is also tied to BPC.

On its website, under company advisors, BPC lists the law firm Davis & Co., run by PLP Deputy Leader Philip Brave Davis, as part of its Bahamian legal team.

McWeeney’s law firm Graham Thompson & Co. is listed as the second firm representing BPC in The Bahamas. McWeeney is a partner in the firm.

A press release posted on BPC’s website and published in Offshore magazine, said the company “now looks forward to the outcome of the Bahamian elections.

“Whatever the result, it anticipates a refreshed mandate to support exploration,” the press release said.

Ingraham said yesterday The Bahamas’ waters are too pristine and important for the country’s tourism product to risk drilling for oil.

“We’ve seen what happened in Louisiana with oil drilling,” Ingraham said, referring to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

BPC’s CEO Simon Potter recently told Guardian Business that drilling an oil well by April 26, 2013 was an important benchmark for the company. However, BPC’s current oil drilling license is set to expire this month.

Potter said he was confident that the company would receive an extension from the government; the renewal is subject to the company meeting certain obligations, terms and conditions.

Last September, the company began compiling its 3-D seismic data.

There is reportedly a 25 to 33 percent chance of oil being found under The Bahamas’ territorial ocean floor.

The company has also submitted its environmental impact assessment to the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology Commission (BEST).

Apr 19, 2012

thenassauguardian

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

General Election in The Bahamas: ...Bahamians are expected to turn up at the polls in record numbers to vote in a new government - May 07, 2012

2012: The FNM’s new plan

The governing party puts forward its vision for the next five years

By Taneka Thompson
Guardian Senior Reporter
taneka@nasguard.co

Nassau, The Bahamas

With three weeks left until the general election, two of the three major parties jockeying for your vote on May 7 have released their blueprints for governance.  Last Thursday night, before thousands of jubilant supporters who converged at R.M. Bailey Park for a mass rally, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham unveiled the Free National Movement’s Manifesto 2012.

The FNM’s extensive, 120-page document touches on the party’s plans to reduce and prevent crime, tackle illegal immigration, improve the country’s educational system, diversify the economy, reform the tax system and improve life for all Bahamians.  It places a heavy focus on youth development, national volunteering, business expansion and economic development of the Family Islands.

On Thursday afternoon, the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) released its Vision 2012 and Beyond – a document which sets out that party’s policies on crime, immigration, the economy and social issues.  At the time of writing this article, the official opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) had yet to release its five-year blueprint, called “Our Plan”.  However, the party asserted that it had been releasing critical components of Our Plan, such as its crime fighting platform Project Safe Bahamas and a mortgage relief scheme for homeowners facing foreclosure, over the past several months.

While this is by no means an exhaustive look at Manifesto 2012, I have highlighted a few areas which should be of concern to voters.

Crime

In no other area has this administration faced more criticism and backlash than its crime fighting strategy.  Murders climbed to record levels under the FNM’s watch and incidents of other violent crime and anti-social behavior grabbed headlines during the past five years, in spite of the myriad of policies the government put in place to curb violence.

Critics from the opposition maintain that the government failed to deliver on its 2007 mandate for crime fighting and continue to lay the blame for the crime statistics at the government’s feet.  It is not surprising then that the fight against crime is listed as the main concern of the next FNM administration.

“Ensuring the safety and security of all Bahamians is our number one priority,” the manifesto says. “The business of police must be preventing crime not simply responding to it...  Our aim is not just to control bad behavior but to change it.”

In the document, the FNM lays out 11 ways it plans to ensure that the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) not only responds to crime, but also helps to prevent criminal behavior.  The FNM plans to accomplish this by increasing the police’s visibility and presence on the streets.  Low visibility is a common complaint from many in society who feel that officers spend too much time in their squad rooms and not enough time patrolling known criminal hot spots and neighborhoods which have become targets for housebreakers and armed robbers.

The FNM said during its next term in office, it will boost the ranks of the Royal Bahamas Police Force by 250 officers; require officers to spend half of their weekly shifts working the beat; and require police to spend as much time on the streets at night as they do in the daytime.  The FNM also said it will marry community policing with modern technology to increase the predictive capability of the police force and expand closed circuit television to assist in crime prevention and criminal detection. The FNM also says it will require district constables to hold monthly meetings in their areas to keep residents aware of crimes committed in their communities.

While placing more police on the streets and beefing up the command of the RBPF may put some residents at ease and catch a few criminals in the act, it will do nothing to root out the spirit of lawlessness, disorder and general disregard for human life that so many in our society are afflicted with. Focusing on at-risk youth, instilling positive values, education and affirmative life skills are the only long-term solution to the crisis our country is faced with.

There are several long-term initiatives in the FNM’s agenda that could lead to positive results if they are properly introduced and maintained.  One such policy is identifying troubled youth when they display anti-social or violent behavior in the school system.  The FNM says it plans to create “a fast and effective program in the school system and at the community level to address the early display of anti-social behavior by young persons as well as a targeted program for repeat offenders”.

Other proposed policies in the FNM’s manifesto for youth development include a mandatory community service program for government school students; creating a summer institute for boys making the transition from primary school to junior high; and creating a youth outreach initiative.

Education

Under its education platform, the FNM promised to ensure that every child is adequately numerate and literate before he or she leaves the third grade.

The manifesto says the FNM will create a mandatory work experience program if elected for another term, which will ensure that all high school seniors complete a minimum number of apprenticeship hours before being allowed to graduate.

The FNM also plans to place a heavier focus on skills training by expanding technical and vocational skills training offered at public high schools and increasing the budget allocation to the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI).  The next FNM administration also plans to bolster programs at BTVI so that it can certify skills levels and standards for Bahamians trained in construction, plumbing, masonry, electrical work, etc.

Jobs

Another key issue in this election will be job creation.  According to recent figures released by the Department of Statistics, the country’s unemployment rate was 15.9 percent as of November 2011.  The unemployment rate for young people was 34 percent and the unemployment rate in Grand Bahama stood at 21.2 percent.

Unemployment and crime go hand in hand and in order to stem the level of violence and theft on our streets, the government must focus on job creation.  In order to stimulate job creation, a responsible government must look out for small businesses and create grants and stipends which allow them to remain afloat and keep people employed.

In its manifesto, the FNM said it will foster small and medium business development by giving more incentives to the manufacturing and industrial sectors; it will promote and encourage small resorts and bonefishing lodges that are Bahamian owned; and give incentives to entrepreneurs to open up shops in the Family Islands and create employment in those communities.  If re-elected, the FNM says it will also offer a one-time apprenticeship financial incentive to manufacturers for each apprentice they take on.

Tax reform

Although tax reform is noted in the manifesto under its plans to modernize the economy, just how the FNM will address the issue if re-elected is not made clear.

“Accelerate taxation system reforms to reduce dependence on border taxes and broaden the tax base,” is all the manifesto says on the issue.

Financial analysts have long maintained that the country has to move away from its heavily customs based tax regime to another taxation system which makes us more competitive in the global trade market.  Tax reform is also needed so that this country can fully comply with international trade agreements such as the one signed with the World Trade Organization.

Vote wisely

Bahamians are expected to turn up at the polls in record numbers to vote in a new government.  This election cycle there are many choices.  Three parties are fielding 38 candidates each and there are a handful of independents and fringe party members all hoping to be elected to Parliament come May 7.

In New Providence, it is now impossible to avoid the billboards and posters with the smiling faces of political hopefuls which crowd every corner, or to ignore the political ads filled with promises and election pledges which play every few minutes on the radio and television.

However, voters should not be fooled by the fanfare and theatrics which are commonplace in “silly season”.  In between the gibes, wisecracks and blame laying which are thrown about at political rallies are slivers of the real issues that will affect this country for the next five years and beyond.  The concerned voter, and every Bahamian interested in the future of this country, should make an informed choice based on the policies and promises each party and candidate has made on the campaign trail, along with their records in office.

The discerning voter should decipher the grandiose promises from the probable initiatives that can be implemented over a five-year period before he or she makes a choice.

Apr 16, 2012

thenassauguardian

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Caribbean cruise ships: The imbalance of risk/reward and a Trojan Horse

By Robert MacLellan



April’s annual Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference in Puerto Rico provides a highly appropriate time and venue to raise questions about the future of the cruise industry in the Caribbean and its impact on the region’s hotel sector.


Since the beginning of 2012 alone, four cruise ships have now experienced very serious incidents that could have resulted in disastrous damage to the marine environment in tourism dependent areas of the world. One ship, the MSC Poesia, was stranded on a reef in early January while approaching Port Lucaya, Bahamas. The other three ships drifted helplessly, without power or steering capability. The Azamara Quest was adrift for 24 hours in late March near the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Tubbataha Reefs in the Philippines. The Costa Allegra was adrift in late February near the pristine Alphonse group of coral atolls in the Seychelles, until towed to port by a fishing boat, and the Costa Concordia drifted until it capsized on rocks in mid January on the Italian tourist island of Giglio.


The Caribbean is THE most tourism dependent region in the world, marketing itself primarily on its pristine beaches and reefs. In total, over 60% of the world’s cruise ship fleet is in the Caribbean in the winter high season – a greater number of ever larger ships today -- but which, self evidently, have inadequate emergency back-up systems to allow safe operation of the vessel in the event of a major fire or severe grounding or collision.

Costa is a division of Carnival Group and Azamara is one of Royal Caribbean Group’s brands. Together, their ships call at every major tourist island in the Caribbean. These two groups completely dominate the world cruise industry and their financial resources dwarf the GDP of most island economies in the region.

Few resources exist in most Caribbean island ports to limit the effect of similar or greater cruise ship incidents -- a serious grounding or collision could result in a devastating and long term environmental disaster. Most cruise ships move to “high season” in other parts of the world at the end of the Caribbean’s winter season and detailed cruise itineraries within the region can be readily changed. Therefore, in the event of a disaster, it is a single island government or small group of governments that will bear the full environmental and economic impact.

How much cooperation or finance have Caribbean governments received from cruise lines even to help resource effective disaster planning in order to mitigate these risks? In overall terms, what is the actual economic risk/reward balance with cruise ships in the Caribbean?

Caribbean government port taxes have not even kept up with regional inflation rates and in recent years the shore-side spend per cruise ship passenger on each island appears to have declined significantly. Today, even the discretionary spend per cruise ship passenger in the Caribbean is estimated at 82% on board and 18% on shore. While the economic benefit to island economies has declined on a per passenger basis, cruise ships continue to operate in a virtual tax free environment within the region -- yet they require island governments to finance and build larger expensive piers for their larger, more cost efficient ships.

Furthermore, today’s cruise ship business model is now a highly aggressive one, operating from multiple home ports in the USA. Larger ships have lower levels of capital and operating unit costs and, thus, correspondingly lower fares -- as low as US$45 per passenger per day, including meals. Construction cost of the larger ships is around US$250,000 per cabin, compared to US$750,000 per room for a new 4/5 star resort in the Caribbean. Cruise ship food costs, liquor costs and comparable labour costs are lower than in Caribbean hotels.

The cruise industry’s overpowering competitive edge over Caribbean hotels in high season is a “Trojan Horse” with its resultant negative impact on inward investment for new resorts. This factor has been consistently and grossly underestimated both by governments and the private sector in the region. In the meantime, Caribbean hotels struggle desperately to absorb ever higher energy and food costs, while being the largest direct and indirect tax contributors and the largest employers in almost every economy in the region. The region’s governments tax their own major “export” industry, while allowing massive international corporations to make massive profits from the Caribbean’s natural resources.

Is it not time that the fiscal contribution by cruise lines to Caribbean governments more fairly reflected the industry’s impact on the local environment and, ultimately, their potential for environmental disaster in the region? If the Caribbean Tourism Organisation is evidently not powerful enough for that challenge, then CARICOM governments should act with the governments of Mexico and Central America to present a united front in negotiating with the cruise lines.

In today’s global cruise market from November to April there are virtually no realistic, alternative itineraries to the Caribbean -- relative to major passenger feeder countries, adequate port facilities, attractive tourism infrastructure and cruising distances. Cruise ships are currently “using” most Caribbean destinations almost for free. NOW is a highly appropriate time to end that scenario -- while the cruise industry is struggling hard to protect its image and to achieve good “corporate citizen” status. Even Alaska, on its own, negotiated a better deal for its ports. The countries of the Caribbean basin can and should dictate better terms with the cruise lines, while also helping to protect their own domestic hotel industry.
April 17, 2012
 
caribbeannewsnow
 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Is The Bahamas headed towards a dictatorship?

Are we headed for dictatorship?

Consider this

By Philip C. Galanis

"How fortunate for leaders that men do not think." – Adolf Hitler

 

The election bell has been rung, Parliament has been dissolved and, like the Biblical reference to Gog and Magog, the forces are assembling on all sides toward the final countdown on May 7, 2012 – General Election Day in The Bahamas.

Over the past five years, there have been numerous references to, and a certain level of discomfort regarding, the leadership style of our current prime minister.  It has been described by some as domineering, dictatorial and despotic.  Others have preferred decisive as a more appropriate description of his leadership style.  So this week we would like to Consider This...is it more appropriate to characterize the prime minister as dictatorial or decisive in light of his authoritarian style, and, if he is returned to office, are we at risk of becoming a country that is led by a dictator?

The behavior

What is the genesis of the accusation of dictatorial behavior by the nation’s chief executive?  Perhaps it is deeply rooted in his no-nonsense approach and social intercourse with friends and foes whom he would not hesitate to publicly humiliate, particularly if they do not share his point of view.  The prime minister is not known to suffer fools – or even sages – lightly.  While there are countless examples of this during his term in office, the more recent past provides graphic patterns of such petulant propensities.

Perhaps the more glaring ones are those instances where he single-handedly chose his candidates for the upcoming elections, introducing them en masse to the Free National Movement (FNM) council as a fait accompli with the autocratic attitude of “take it, or leave it, this is what I want, and this is what I will get”.   Of course, the party acquiesced to each and every nominee, without exception.

Who can forget how mercilessly he cut three of his sitting parliamentary members from the candidate’s list for the upcoming general election?  To add insult to injury, at least one of the eleventh hour “terminated” candidates was not even informed that he had been chopped this time around.

Then, of course, the House of Assembly proceedings were abruptly abated, suspended, then dissolved, without allowing any of the members from both sides, including the speaker, the deputy prime minister, past and present, as well as several of his own ministers, past and present, the customary opportunity to thank their constituents and the Bahamian people for allowing them to serve in high office.  Parliament belongs to the people of The Bahamas, not to one man to do with it as he wishes, when he wishes.  But not one of his parliamentary colleagues dared raise his voice in disapproval.  As Adolf Hitler once said: “How fortunate for leaders that men do not think.”  I would add, “or speak up”!  There are certain parliamentary conventions that apply to our system and to deliberately disregard the established decorum is an abuse of office and an abuse of power.

We also recall that at the launch of the FNM candidates in Freeport many Sundays ago, the prime minister bellowed: “I want to win all five seats in Freeport.”  Not, “the FNM wants to win” or “we want to win”.   No, his words were well-chosen that, “I want to win all five seats in Freeport.”  Since that launch, he has repeated this personalization of the goals of the FNM in speech after speech.  His party, his Parliament!

The practice of the leader

Now that the elections have been called, a thinking and discerning public would seriously question the appropriateness of the executive branch of the government entering into and executing new multimillion-dollar contracts, one after another, from island to island, as Hubert Ingraham’s government seems intent on doing right up to voting day.

On the other hand, while in office, Perry Christie refused to sign the agreement which would have authorized the sale of BTC after he called elections for May 2007.  He could have, but he did not think it was appropriate and therefore did not abuse his office or power.

We believe that it is totally inappropriate for any government to continue to execute substantial, new contracts or agreements after its term in office has come to an end and Parliament has been dissolved.  There are only two things which can explain this prime minister’s behavior: Either he is deliberately and unconscionably exploiting the public purse in order to win votes in the upcoming elections, or he is rushing to reward and enrich his supporters with last minute, multimillion-dollar, ginormous contracts because he is not sure that he will be returned to office as the prime minister.

Bahamians are increasingly expressing their fears that if he is returned to office, the prime minister will believe that his behavior has been validated and sanctioned by the Bahamian people.

Some thinking Bahamians have rightly expressed concerns about the mesmerizing effect that Ingraham has had on his blind and unquestioning supporters who insist on calling him “Papa”.  This is not without good reason.  The last person in Bahamian memory who bore the title of “Papa” was Francois Duvalier, the president of Haiti from 1957 until his death in 1971.  He was better known to his people and to the world as “Papa Doc”, the demonically despotic dictator who dominated Haiti with an iron fist.

He was also a very decisive leader, who, viciously assisted by his bullies and brutal goons, the Tonton Macoutes, blatantly abused his power for his own personal aggrandizement, profit, corruption and genocide of his Haitian political opponents.  Named after a Creole term for the bogeyman, the Macoutes’ raison d’etre was to extend and bolster support for the Papa Doc regime in the countryside. By 1961, although they had twice the numbers of the regular Haitian military, they never developed into a real military force but remained more of a brutal secret police and Papa Doc’s private, malevolent army dedicated to maintaining that Papa’s iron grip on his country.

Conclusion

As thinking Bahamians, it is our duty to continually ask the pressing questions of and to challenge our leaders to account for their actions in order to ensure that they never become too big for their britches.  When that occurs, we the people must never hesitate to cut them back down to size.  Most dictators are cowards who recoil into the shadows when faced with an intelligent, probing populace who is not afraid to boldly confront and fearlessly oppose their misdeeds.  Whether we are talking about Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein or any wannabe Bahamian variation of the former, if we wish to stave off any vestige of a dictatorship, we must never, ever allow our leaders to believe that we have become the kind of a people who caused Adolf Hitler to say: “How fortunate for leaders that men do not think.”

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: pgalanis@gmail.com

Apr 16, 2012

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