Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Value Added Tax (VAT) and The Bahamas: ...Moody's International Credit Rating Agency has assigned value-added tax (VAT) a credit positive ...and estimates it could account for a third of The Bahamas' government revenue by 2016

Moody’s assigns VAT credit positive

Moody’s projects new tax could make up third of govt revenue by 2016, serving as ‘significant catalyst’ in economic reform effort


BY JEFFREY TODD
Guardian Business Editor
jeffrey@nasguard.com
Nassau, The Bahamas


An international ratings agency has assigned value-added tax (VAT) a credit positive and estimates it could account for a third of government revenue by 2016.

Moody's official assessment, released yesterday morning, found that VAT will likely be revenue neutral in the first one or two years. The government recently announced it would implement the tax by July 2014. This delay in revenue is due to a large set of zero-rated or tax-exempt goods and services, according to the report, and the elimination of other taxes such as select excise duties and business licensing fees.

"Fiscal revenue gains will become apparent as the VAT system matures," Moody's stated.

"We estimate the gross contribution of VAT revenue will expand to six percent of GDP annually by 2016. This will be a significant catalyst for the government's fiscal consolidation efforts."

Indeed, other countries in the region with VAT systems in place, such as Barbados, Belize and Jamaica, report overall fiscal revenue contribution of about 30 percent, or around eight percent of GDP.

"The ultimate effect of tax reforms, including the VAT, on The Bahamas' creditworthiness will depend on the government's willingness and ability to embed them in a broader fiscal strategy that also begins to reign in the government's current expenditure commitments," the report continued.

Moody's explained that the government's tax base currently stands at less than 20 percent of GDP, which is small compared to other countries in the region. The ratings agency referred to trade-related customs duties as "volatile", and yet it made up 50 percent of the total revenue in 2012.

Most significantly, it noted that this revenue source will likely "shrink" as duties are phased out with World Trade Organization (WTO) ascension.

Moody's also highlighted the "significant tax concessions" in tourism. As a result, this area accounts for only 10 percent of fiscal revenues.

In his mid-year budget communication yesterday, Prime Minister Perry Christie hinted that these concessions could be scaled back as part of the government's aggressive strategy to right the economy.

Last year, according to the government, trade tax made up 9.3 percent of GDP. Property tax accounted for just 1.4 percent, tourism-related taxes 2.1 percent and non-tax revenue 1.4 percent.

"Other tax" made up 4.1 percent, bringing the total revenue composition to less than 20 percent of GDP.

"The VAT is a key element of a broader set of structural reforms introduced this year to expand and diversify the tax base. The reforms reflect the government's commitment to fiscal consolidation," the report said.

Interestingly, the ratings agency made no mention of the government's plan to bring the tax on board by next year. The Christie administration has been criticized for assigning an overly ambitious timeline, most recently by the Council for Concerned Bahamians Abroad.

James Smith, a former minister of state for finance, emphasized yesterday that VAT is not a new idea for The Bahamas. The first study, he said, was conducted in 2002 with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"It would appear starting fresh you would need more time. But a lot of the ground work has already been done," he told Guardian Business.

Of all the reforms introducing by Prime Minister Perry Christie in recent times, Smith said VAT is the most significant.

"It's something we have never done before, where we expand tax to cover services. For us, I think it is a dramatic change," he added.

February 26, 2013

thenassauguardian

Friday, February 22, 2013

Bahamian banks react to data breach... ...thieves may have infiltrated an international acquiring company located somewhere in the Caribbean... ...Sensitive information for clients across the region could have spilled into the hands of criminals ...although there have been no major reports of fraud

Banks react to data breach

Commonwealth Bank and Bank of The Bahamas join Fidelity in reissuing credit cards, as financial institutions monitor client transactions closely


BY JEFFREY TODD
Guardian Business Editor
jeffrey@nasguard.com
Nassau, The Bahamas


Another financial institution has pulled the trigger on the partial reissuing of credit cards as the possibility of a major data breach sinks in.

Following an assessment of the risk, Commonwealth Bank Limited (CBL) is considering whether to send out 5,000 new credit cards to its clients, a process that could take up to three weeks.

Ian Jennings, the president of CBL, confirmed that some clients have already received new cards.  He said that a decision will be made soon on whether to commence a mass reissuing.

Sources close to the matter told Guardian Business that Bank of The Bahamas (BOB) is also reissuing cards.  Paul McWeeney, the managing director at BOB, did not respond to request for comment before press time.

On Tuesday, Guardian Business exclusively revealed that thieves may have infiltrated an international acquiring company located somewhere in the Caribbean.  Sensitive information for clients across the region could have spilled into the hands of criminals, although there have been no major reports of fraud.

Anwer Sunderji, the CEO of Fidelity Bank (Bahamas), said all Bahamian banks have been compromised and the institution chose to replace its cards as of late last week.

Indeed, financial institutions in The Bahamas don't appear to be taking any chances.

"As a matter of precaution, we are reissuing cards to our customers and notifying those that may have been breached," Jennings said.  "It is an expense in terms of manpower.  The cost of plastic is low.  It is the process and getting them out as quick as we can that is costly.  It will take up to three weeks to get them out."

Jennings told Guardian Business that it's a precaution CBL must take given the circumstances, noting that "you don't want that kind of exposure".

Managing Director of Scotiabank (Bahamas) Kevin Teslyk said yesterday that the breach appears to stem from a missing data tape or device from an office in Barbados.

He stressed that the bank employs very sophisticated monitoring software and preventative techniques.  Since the missing tape, the alert has not been escalated, although the bank will continue to monitor the situation over the coming days and weeks.

"If things change we'll handle it on an individual level, and if need be, to a greater extent if necessary," he added.

Wendy Craigg, governor of the Central Bank, confirmed that the risk could be "material".  The Central Bank was first informed of the incident by a domestic institution last week.  Over time, it became apparent that other banks were compromised and the replacement of cards would be necessary.

"As a regulator, we are always concerned about operational risk issues, and certainly one such as this could be material.  Our approach has been to contact all our domestic licensees, especially those issuing Visa Debit cards, to assess the extent of the breach," she said.  "We have determined that banks which processed transactions through the affected service provider were already alerted to the breach, and we are following up the matter to assess any possible exposure."

The governor applauded the response of banks thus far to protect their clients, pointing out that the breach is not just impacting The Bahamas.

Other entities within the Caribbean and elsewhere utilize the affected service provider.

For his part, Jennings told Guardian Business that there is very little that can be done about these data breaches.  Customers should always be careful with their card usage, he said, and during this time clients must be especially attentive.

February 22, 2013

thenassauguardian

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sir Hilary Beckles, Principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) ...wants Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to begin efforts aimed at seeking some form of reparation from Western countries ...for slavery

UWI principal wants CARICOM to seek reparation for slavery



The New York Carib News



GEORGETOWN, Guyana, CMC – Principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Sir Hilary Beckles, wants Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to begin efforts aimed at seeking some form of reparation from Western countries for slavery.

Speaking at the first of a series of lectures to commemorate the 250th Anniversary of the 1763 Berbice Slave Revolt, Sir Hilary said an ongoing discussion was needed to address the issue and called for an “informed and sensible conversation” on what has been described as the, “Worst Crime against humanity”.

The lecture titled, “Britain’s Black Debt: reparations owed the Caribbean for Slavery and Indigenous Genocide”, examined the damage done and wealth created through the slave trade particularly by Britain. Sir Hilary said out that reparation is not about people getting handouts, but about repairing historical damage and how to find a way forward.

He said that while all races experienced some form of slavery, African slavery was unique in its scope and brutality. Comparative studies note that it was the only system of slavery in which people were viewed legally as property and seen as non- humans.

African slavery was also unique in that it reproduced itself, meaning the children of slaves were born as slaves, they had no rights, and females in particular were seen as the prefect property since their offspring would add their value.

Sir Hilary said landmark cases such as the 1781 Zong Massacre in which 350 slaves were thrown to sharks after the ship’s captain went off course, helped to shape the discussion on the legality of slavery.

He said the issue of slavery has in recent years been viewed as a crime against humanity and these types of crimes have attracted calls for reparation for victims, in various forms.

He cited the case of Haiti noting Western countries had no qualms about requesting and obtaining compensation. Haiti had to pay, from 1825 to 1922, 150 million gold francs to France after its slave population fought and successfully gained its freedom.

Sir Hilary argued that Haiti has never been able to recover from that payment, which was needed for it to gain international recognition.

Sir Hilary urged Caribbean countries to emulate the position adopted by the Jews who were prosecuted during the Second World War and have since organised the Jewish Reparation Fund.

He said that through meticulous research, the organisation has been able to garner financial support for its claims against several countries for atrocities committed against Jews. These funds have been used to enhance the State of Israel in various means.

Sir Hilary said that countries such as the United States, Canada, Japan and New Zealand have put measures in place as part of their efforts to give reparation to indigenous peoples or war victims, yet there has been no similar move by CARICOM on behalf of its people.

He said the benefits accrued to many of the now powerful Western nations through slavery have been documented and accepted, citing the cases of the aristocracy in England, the Lloyds and Barclays’ banks which built massive fortunes through their involvement with the slave trade.

Yet many of these same countries have not been willing to offer any apologies for slavery, but instead have grudgingly given “expressions of regret”, an acknowledgment that falls short of an apology,” Sir Hilary said.

He said CARICOM has to come together to find a way to address the issue, one which will lead to peace, justice, reconciliation and future harmony.

February 13, 2013

The New York Carib News

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Rule of Law in the Turks and Caicos Islands

By David Rowe
Caribbean Journal - Op-Ed Contributor





In a political blast that threatens to cause a constitutional crisis in the Turks and Caicos Islands, the current Premier, Dr Rufus Ewing, has asked Her Majesty’s Government to recall Governor Ric Todd, Attorney General Huw Shepheard and CFO Hugh McGarel Groves.

This development is the most recent in a sequence of historic constitutional developments in the Turks and Caicos. But there has been serious corruption in the Turks and Caicos, and any potential recall of the Governor would simply not help in resolving these longstanding problems.

The Turks and Caicos had its 2006 constitution suspended in August of 2009, when the United Kingdom resumed direct control over the Turks and Caicos in response to widespread allegations of serious government corruption.

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office reviewed a Commission of Inquiry led by Sir Robin Auld, who had documented widespread government corruption among government officials including Turks and Caicos Islands Premier Michael Misick.

This is not the first time that the British had imposed direct role as they had done so in 1986, although it was later restored two years later.

Michael Misick resigned after the Auld Commission of Inquiry accused him of corruption and he was later asked by the Turks and Caicos’ newly-formed Special Investigation and Prosecution Team to surrender to the police for questioning.

Misick failed to surrender, however, and after a sojourn in a series of Latin American countries, was later arrested in Brazil after he was made the subject of an Interpol international arrest warrant.

The SIPT investigators who are seeking to question Missick have charged at least 12 other individuals, including five former Cabinet Ministers, on corruption-related charges.

In related circumstances, the SIPT reached an agreement with Sandals Resorts International, by which the company paid $12 million US dollars to the government.

The British Foreign Office introduced a new Turks and Caicos constitution in 2011.

The new constitution ultimately restored representative government to the Turks and Caicos with a local Cabinet, Ministers and a House of Assembly consisting of 15 elected members, chosen democratically in a vote in November 2012.

That election saw the return to power of the Turks and Caicos’ Progressive National Party, which won 8 of the 15 seats.

Earlier this month, however, one of the seats was declared vacant because of a successful election petition. A by-election is pending which could lead to a change of government next month.

In Ewing’s letter seeking a recall of the Governor and other officers. He suggested that “justice is for sale,” under the guise of plea-bargaining.

Dr Ewing specifically referred to well-known expatriate developers who had, in his opinion, secured their freedom from prosecution, both by monetary exchange under the guise of “Civil Recovery”, and by providing evidence against accused local politician “co-conspirators.”

In his letter to the Foreign Office, Dr Ewing implicitly suggested that there was a violation in the Rule of Law in the way in which the Constitutional Rules were being interpreted in the Turks & Caicos.

Professor AR Dicey, the British scholar famous for his jurisprudential theory, says that no one is above the Rule of Law, and he points out that the Rule of Law strengthens democracy.

Of course the Turks and Caicos is still a British Overseas Territory, and ultimately the Rule of Law will have to be determined by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The Rule of Law dictates that the British Administration should be fair to all defendants both local and expatriate. But the allegation that “justice is for sale” should, at all costs, be disproven.


David P Rowe is an attorney in Jamaica and Florida and a law professor at the University of Miami School of Law in Coral Gables, Fla.

February 14, 2013

Caribbean Journal

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Bahamas Government is proposing to implement a Value Added Tax (VAT) on July 1, 2014

Gov't Targets 15% Vat From July 1, 2014





By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
 
 
Nassau, The Bahamas
 
 
 
 
THE Government is proposing to implement a Value Added Tax (VAT) on July 1, 2014, at a rate of 15 per cent, the Minister of State for Finance said yesterday, adding that the hotel industry would be subject to a lower 10 per cent rate.
 
Michael Halkitis, speaking at the first session of a ‘Meet the Minister’ series hosted by the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce & Employers Confederation (BCCEC), said: “Within the proposed package of tax reforms, it is recommended that a VAT be introduced, as of July 1, 2014, at a rate of 15 per cent, consistent with VAT rates generally charged elsewhere.
 
“Such a VAT rate, in combination with the other reform proposals, would ensure that Government will have access to adequate revenues streams for the future.”
 
The Government plans to eliminate the 10 per cent hotel occupancy tax rate, replacing it with VAT at the same rate. A 10 per cent VAT rate will also be applied to all hotel food and beverage sales.
 
And, in a bid to ensure VAT will have a ‘neutral’ impact, meaning there will be no increase in the tax burden, Mr Halkitis said Excise Tax rates will be reduced in proportion to the 15 per cent VAT rate.
 
Among products subject to an Excise Tax rate are automobiles, tobacco and petroluem products, all the Government’s high-yielding revenue items, which were moved under this heading to protect them from World Trade Organisation-induced tariff cuts.
 
Prime Minister Perry Christie yesterday tabled the Government’s White Paper on tax reform in the House of Assembly, which proposs to exempt companies with an annual turnover of $50,000 or less from having to pay VAT.
 
“We are going to have extensive consultations with the public on this. We want business people to buy in. We don’t want to have a situation where the cost of living is going to increase,” said Mr Halkitis.
 
“We think it’s an important part of the overall financial process. We benchmarked other countries around the world and looked at our economy. Some countries charge more. Not many countries charge less. We didn’t want to go too high. We wanted to use something that is in use in other jurisdictions.
 
“In our discussion, we will determine whether that should be higher or whether it should be lower. Nothing is set in stone. We wanted to put some of our thoughts out there and get some feedback. Certain industries, for example, the tourism industry, might be treated a little differently,” said Mr Halkitis.
 
“For competitiveness reasons, it is proposed to eliminate the hotel occupancy tax and to subject hotel accommodations to VAT rather than subject them to both taxes.
 
“This will allow hotels to claim VAT input credits on their purchases of materials and supplies, and will be consistent with the current Hotels Encouragement regime.
 
Hotels will benefit from lower compliance costs, and the Government will benefit from administrative economies of scale,” the Minister added.
 
“However, again for competitiveness reasons, it is proposed that hotels be subject to a VAT rate equal to the current hotel occupancy tax rate of 10 per cent. Similarly, given the large contribution of hotels to economic activity, it is proposed that food and beverage sales in hotels be subject to VAT at the same rate of 10 per cent.”
 
Mr Halkitis added that all businesses will come under VAT, but only those with an annual intake of $50,000 or less. “We are proposing that businesses with an annual turnover of $50,000 or less are exempt. If you do that you end up with about 3,200 business that would be registered. We think that number is manageable. We should be able to administer that if you put in the proper system,” said Mr Halkitis.
 
As to the fate of Customs Duties, Mr Halkitis said: “It is generally acknowledged that, based on the experience of other acceding countries, pending membership in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will require reductions in Bahamian bound tariff rates. The final determination of those import tariff reductions will be subject to the ongoing WTO access negotiations.

“However, the excise taxes that are currently imposed on selected products, namely tobacco, petroleum, vehicles and certain luxury items, will be unaffected by WTO accession as, by law, they are imposed at the same rate on both domestic production and imports of those products.”
 
He added: “Given the relatively high rates of excise tax imposed on a number of excisable items, it is proposed that all excise tax rates be reduced by an amount just sufficient to counteract the imposition of a 15 per cent per cent VAT on those products. As a result, the total tax payable on excisable products would remain unchanged.

“The Government believes that its programme of tax reform, when fully implemented, will result in considerably greater and more efficient revenue collection, the proceeds of which will better equip the Government to meet the increasingly complex financial needs of our nation. More fundamentally, it will bring into being a new system of taxation that shares the tax burden more fairly and equitably,” said Mr Halkitis.
 
February 14, 2013
 
 
 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Venezuela Debates Currency Devaluation while Impact Remains Unclear

By Ewan Robertson:





Mérida, 11th February 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – There has been much debate in Venezuela over the causes and likely consequences of last Friday’s currency devaluation, while the concrete political and economic impact remains to be seen.

The Venezuelan government’s decision to devalue the Bolivar by 32%, from 4.3 to 6.3 Bolivars to the dollar, was a measure seen as inevitable by many economists after the Bolivar fell to under a quarter of its official value on the black market.

Alongside the decision, the fifth devaluation since currency controls were introduced in 2003, the government also announced the establishment of a new body to oversee the allocation of dollars to citizens and businesses.

Analysts in Venezuela have argued that the political impact of the devaluation will depend on the success of the media campaigns of both the government and the opposition, which are attempting to communicate their interpretations of the currency adjustment to the country.

However, economic factors will also determine the political impact of the devaluation, such as its effect on imports and domestic production, increases in inflation and prices, and complimentary government measures such a rise in the minimum wage and the effectiveness of price controls.

Opposition criticisms

The opposition has launched a campaign maximising the possible negative effects of the devaluation, partly in an attempt to erode support for Vice President Nicolas Maduro in the event of fresh presidential elections if Hugo Chavez is unable to continue in office on health grounds.

Ramon Aveledo of the opposition MUD coalition blamed the government for the devaluation, saying, “It’s due to the government’s irresponsibility and worrying incoherence”.

Opposition leaders and supporters alike nicknamed the move a “red” or “Cuban package” in an attempt to associate the devaluation with an IMF-style neoliberal structural adjustment package.

Julio Borges, a leader of right-wing party Justice First, said of the devaluation: “The only ones affected are the Venezuelan people, from whose pockets the government keeps taking money”.

He pointed to a rise in inflation and prices over the last two months, blaming this and the devaluation on high public spending. “Now they [the government] are going to make us pay for the consequences of their inability, waste and poor administration,” he declared.

A short-term rise in inflation is possible after the devaluation, because imports will be more expensive, with a concomitant effect on prices. On the other hand, since so many imported products are sold at prices that reflect the black market exchange rate, which is unlikely to change as a result of the devaluation, inflation might not rise much after all.

However, while sources such as Reuters have described a “spike” in annual inflation to 22.2% so far this year, a rise in inflation during and after the Christmas period is not unusual in Venezuela, and annual inflation is still below the annual rate experienced a year ago.

Government stance

Meanwhile, the government has highlighted the possible benefits of the devaluation, such as bringing in more oil revenue for social spending, helping boost domestic production, and potentially combating capital flight.
Foreign minister and former vice president Elias Jaua argued that the adjustment was made necessary due to the activities of a “speculator class” within Venezuela, who acquire dollars at the official exchange rate and then use those dollars for black market sale or to sell imported products at black market prices.

As such, Jaua defended the devaluation and the establishment of the government’s new currency exchange body as combating speculation and capital flight.

He also described the measures as part of “economic actions taken to protect our wealth in currency exchange, avoiding that it falls into the torrent of capitalist voracity, and to preserve our monetary resources for the sustainment of our socialist system of social benefit that our President Chavez has been constructing”.
Economist and pro-government legislator Jesus Faria further argued that the devaluation would make imports more expensive and exports cheaper, thus making domestic production more competitive.

He said that before last Friday’s devaluation there had existed “an exchange rate lag produced by the excessive cheapening of imports and the over-pricing of exports, which had to be corrected”.

US economist Mark Weisbrot also predicted the devaluation would have a positive impact. “The devaluation…by making imports more expensive [will] provide a boost to import-competing industries. For this reason, and because it reduces the black market premium and reduces capital flight, the move will overall be good for the economy,” he wrote.

Accusations that the devaluation represents an IMF-style “package” were widely dismissed outside opposition circles given that the move was not accompanied by any measures associated with neoliberal economics, such as privatisations, salary freezes, or the removal of subsidies.

However there have been criticisms of the move from within the pro-Chavez camp, where some activists have argued that currency devaluations contradict the movement’s political economy and that other measures could have been taken to address speculation on the Bolivar.

Leftist political scientist Nicmer Evans said that the move was “not very socialist”, because it is a measure “which affects the poorest and the richest equally”.

“Neither devaluation nor the Value Added Tax (VAT) are socialist measures, because they are regressive” he added on his Twitter account.

Venezuelanalysis

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The facts about homosexuality

BY CYNTHIA BURTON

Jamaica Observer - Columns:




I want to add my thoughts to the much-talked about topic of homosexuality, and clarify, once and for all the facts about this lifestyle.

Let me first state that this issue is not only confined to the perspective of the church, but to the wider society as well. The first point that must be made clear is that homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle.

Homosexuals were not created. Man was created as a being of free choice. He was also created with an inherent sexuality, which is also governed by choice. If we look at nature and how it is designed, even the animals and plants exist as male and female. It was so ordained for procreation. Each creature has to procreate in a union of male and female to ensure the survival of their species.
 
I have used the word "created" guardedly, as there are those among us who do not believe in the creation theory, but would ascribe to the evolutionist theory that says man evolved from animal life. Whatever your persuasion, we have to agree that the natural order of things is male and female.
 
This homosexual lifestyle is wrong and abhorrent, and moves so far beyond the realm of the Christian church that if you should examine all other major religions, such as Islam and Hinduism, homosexuality is tabooed. Additionally, if you should approach the biggest don in the inner city or the dancehall artistes, who have nothing to do with the church, they will give out against this lifestyle.

In fact, several of them have been banned from certain countries because of the stance taken against their music which hits out against this lifestyle.
 
This lifestyle, therefore, is a classic case of doing and believing the thing that is wrong for such a long time that it now seems right.
 
Times have really changed as far as the acceptance of this lifestyle is concerned.
 
I remember as a child growing up that homosexuality had to be kept behind closed doors, and those who practised this way of life had to do so in their closets under circumstances of great privacy.
 
Now look at how our world has changed. We not only now accept this as a way of life, but we are seeking further to endorse it, by allowing those who practise homosexuality to demand the same rights as heterosexuals. We have now got to the point where we have put legislation in place to protect the rights of these persons, them the message that they have the right to this choice of lifestyle and can therefore make such demands.
 
Now let us look at the whole thing from the church's perspective.
 
What is the church? The church in the bible is spoken about as the bride. It is God's institution and the voice of God for man.
 
If we go back to the book of Genesis, at the time of creation in Genesis 1 vs 21:
 
"And God created great whales, and every living creature and every living creature that moveth which the waters brought forth abundantly after their kind and every winged fowl after his kind and God saw that it was good."
 
Genesis 1 vs 27 and 28:
 
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them.
 
(28) "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air, and every living thing that moveth upon the earth."
 
Now for those who say that the Bible does not speak out against homosexuality, and that Jesus himself did not address this issue, let us move over to Romans 1 vs 24 - 27.
 
(24) Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves,
 
(25) Who changed the truth of God into a lie.
 
(26) For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature.
 
(27)And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of a woman, burned in their lust one toward another men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error...
 
Now we see the implications of societal acceptance of homosexuality, that people who practise this lifestyle have taken this matter to a different level, where they are now heading up the church and purporting to lead God's flock. It is the tolerance of this lifestyle that has now resulted in these persons now demanding rights of those things that are rightly the purview of heterosexuals.
 
Let us go even further with this dilemma. Now homosexuals are demanding the right of marriage and the right to adopt children. Gay marriages are very popular in modern society.
 
Can you imagine a scenario where a gay couple adopts a child and takes on the responsibility of raising this child in a primarily homophobic society? The child goes to school and the school hosts a PTA meeting. These two parents, male for argument's sake, turn up at the PTA meeting. Who is Mom and who is Dad? Can you imagine this poor child the next day at school with the other children?
 
Let us be quite clear -- marriage was an institution ordained by God between a man and a woman who are expected to procreate and create the unit called the family. So important is this institution that Jesus performed his first miracle at the wedding in Canaan of Galilee.
 
Now to the big question. Is homosexuality a sin? Let us look at the definition of sin. Sin is transgression of God's law. So those who argue that all sin is sin, may want to think again. Homosexuality is not provided for in the 10 commandments, because it is considered an abomination to God, and those who practice this lifestyle are flying in God's face and going against the order of things as God intended.
 
Now there are those who will argue that God created homosexuals. Let us be clear that God created all persons including the homosexual, but our sexuality and our sexual preference is as a result of the free choice with which we were all created. Some of us choose heterosexuality, some homosexuality and some abstinence. How could God create something that he abhors?
 
We can now see the dilemma that we have created as a society. The wrong has now become the right, and we are now creating laws on our books to not only allow the homosexual his constitutional rights, and to fulfil his everyday needs as stated in Maslows' hierarchy of needs, the right of food, shelter, the right to earn a living, but by extension are protecting rights that God ordained to be enjoyed between a man and a woman.
 
Additionally, while acknowledging these rights, we also have to be cognisant to the fact that certain professions, such as teaching, are not compatible with this lifestyle, because of the risk of perpetrating and influencing the spread of this lifestyle amongst the youth.
 
Finally, let us give the homosexual the benefit of the doubt and say for a minute that homosexuality is accepted and should enjoy all these rights.
 
Can we take it to the extreme and ask the question. What if all persons should adopt this lifestyle?  Can you imagine that the human race would become extinct, as the only thing that the homosexuals could not do is to procreate.
 
Finally, as a society, what legacy are we leaving for our children? Already as we move from generation to generation, we find our youth becoming more tolerant of this lifestyle and are being taught in schools that it is all right to pursue this lifestyle.
 
What of our moral values as a society? What will the decision makers of tomorrow embrace when they now become the leaders and legislators of tomorrow.
 
We therefore have to conclude that this lifestyle is unacceptable, abominable, and a clear message should be sent forthwith to all who choose to practise same, that they have the right to their sexuality, and all the other constitutional rights, based on their ability to contribute to society, but should not try to enforce this right to the point where we legislate for this lifestyle, thus threatening the whole moral fabric of society.
 
Let us therefore unite in a message of love to our homosexuals, that we love them as persons, but abhor their lifestyle. Additionally, this lifestyle is not permanent, and can be subject to change as evidenced by reformed homosexuals.
 
If we examine the facts, we see that environmental factors such as economic circumstances, rather than genetic predisposition, have influenced homosexuality, and therefore organisations such as J-FLAG should actively try to secure a transformation of this lifestyle, rather than serve as a voice in society for its acceptance.
 
cynthiacburton@hotmail.com

February 09, 2013

Jamaica Observer



Thursday, February 7, 2013

Obama and the Caribbean

By David Rowe
Caribbean Journal - Op Ed Contributor




IF UNITED STATES PRESIDENT Barack Obama’s foreign policy can be criticized, it can be on the basis that it has been somnolent and reactionary with regard to Caribbean policy.

Neither the United States nor the Caribbean can afford this because of the two sides’ strong linkages, democratic connections and the close proximity: Montego Bay, Jamaica is about a one-hour flight from Miami. Bimini in the Bahamas is 50 miles from Miami.

The Obama administration should attempt to devise a coherent and dynamic Caribbean policy for the second term, particularly in the countries of Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba.

And this time around, there is no diplomatic spanner in the works such as Jamaica’s 2010 Christopher Coke Extradition dispute to freeze the dialogue.

Indeed, there are many positive potential economic factors promoting business and trade in the region between the US and the Caribbean.

President Obama can ostensibly increase economic growth in the southeastern United States by asserting and consolidating the United States’ leadership in regional trade policy in the Caribbean.

Haiti

It has now been three years since the catastrophic earthquake demolished much of Haiti.
And despite the significant activity by the United Nations and NGOs, Haiti remains the most poverty-stricken country in the Caribbean and, indeed, in the Western Hemisphere.

Even the personal attention of former Presidents Carter and Clinton has not yet been able to ignite significant business activity there.

Washington should try to devise a legislative strategy that would encourage Haiti to increase its exports and generate domestic jobs so that the continuous trickle of refugees fleeing Haiti for economic opportunity in the United States and the Bahamas can be brought to an end.

The United States Congress can help Haiti by increasing agricultural imports from Haiti, and by existing textile incentives for investment in Haiti.

The major priority for the Obama administration must be to encourage major US investment in the country.

Cuba

Cuba is drifting towards the end of what history might call the Castro era. There are strong voices in both the Republican and Democratic parties that can see no reason to perpetuate the Cuban Trade Embargo and point to Washington’s positive diplomatic relationship with Vietnam as justification for trade with Communist regimes.

The Cuban Trade Embargo is thought to be a useless legacy of the Cold War, argued by some to have be needlessly but emotionally perpetuated by an influential group of Cuban-American leaders.

But whatever the reason for the continued freeze, it is clearly time for new and fresh dialogue with Cuba, if Cuba will concede on issues such as freedom of information and speech, freedom for political prisoners and travel freedom for all Cubans.

The continued incarceration of American Alan Gross in Cuba is symbolic of a backward attitude by Cuba with regard to human rights.

But there will likely be a new generation of leaders in Cuba soon, and the US should encourage them engage in constructive political change for the region’s benefit.

Jamaica

Jamaica does not have Haiti’s extreme poverty or Cuba’s autocratic angst but it does represent a third challenge for Mr Obama’s Caribbean policy makers in his second term.

Jamaica is the Greece of the Caribbean, heavily indebted and currently throttled by a vicious crime wave which sometimes results in 20 homicides per week.

To prevent Jamaica from sliding further, Obama may have to consider a special foreign aid package to help steady the political boat captained by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

Jamaica has been unable to conclude an agreement with the International Monetary Fund to stabilize its international credit rating, so its economic prospects appear gloomy in the short term.

Jamaica could benefit greatly from a United States recognition of a special Jamaica-United States relationship.

Today, China is playing the role of a political foster parent in Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, building major bridges, stadia and roads for its new-found Caribbean friends.

The United States should match China’s strategic outreach in Jamaica and keep it in check before China develops a logistical base in its Caribbean backyard.

An acknowledgment of these issues by the President might yield an integrated Caribbean policy to be administered by new Secretary of State John Kerry.

David P Rowe is an attorney in Jamaica and Florida and a law professor at the University of Miami School of Law in Coral Gables, Fla

February 04, 2013

Caribbean Journal


Saturday, February 2, 2013

...celebrating the 54th Anniversary of the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution

Celebrating the triumph of Cuba's revolution



By YURI GALA LOPEZ




I'd like to thank you for joining us in celebrating the 54th Anniversary of the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution, officially commemorated on January 1st. That day in the year 1959 marked a milestone for my homeland because the victory of the revolutionary forces allowed the Cuban people to attain true independence and sovereignty.

Since then, the Cuban people undertook their project of freedom, solidarity and social justice, facing hostility and aggressions of various kinds. The Cuban Revolution has overcome those obstacles and just started its 55th year of existence and counting.

Year 2012 was a very dynamic one for Cuba in many areas. Cuba held elections for its local government structures at the municipal level, a process which was implemented successfully. On February 3, Cubans will go to the polls to vote for provincial delegates and members of Parliament.

Despite the tensions associated with the global economic and financial crisis and other external challenges, the Cuban economy was expected to close year 2012 with a 3.1 per cent growth of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For 2013, Cuba foresees a 3.7 per cent GDP growth.

The gradual updating of Cuba's economic model continued. Last December, Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz pointed out that:

"The updating of the Cuban economic model is advancing at a firm pace and it now begins to address major, broader and more complex issues, based on the premise that everything we do is aimed at the preservation and development of a sustainable and prosperous Socialist society, the only guarantee for the independence and national sovereignty achieved by several generations of fellow countrymen in more than 140 years of struggle."

In 2012 Cuba had to face important natural challenges. In October, Hurricane Sandy caused significant losses for my country, mainly in its Eastern region, where Santiago de Cuba, the country's second largest city, was particularly hit. However, the recovery process of the storm-damaged provinces is underway. International solidarity was shown to us in a myriad of ways, something which we deeply appreciate.

Last year, Cuba managed to preserve important social achievements. For example, my country ended 2012 with an infant mortality rate of 4.6 per 1000 live births, the lowest in the Americas. For the fifth consecutive year, Cuba registered a child mortality rate under five, an expression of the human development index. Moreover, the country reported the second lowest maternal mortality rate in its history.

On the other hand, the new migratory measures recently announced by the Cuban Government show its willingness to continue strengthening the relations between the nation and its emigration.

Cuba continues to enjoy an increasing international recognition maintaining diplomatic relations with over 180 countries. We keep receiving the moral support of many governments and peoples of the world in our denunciation of the five-decade old blockade, while solidarity is growing in the case of the five Cuban antiterrorist fighters unjustly imprisoned in the United States.

By the end of this month, Cuba will assume the Pro tempore Presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), a step which entails an immense honour and a great responsibility to which my country will devote the greatest efforts and energies.

In spite of our economic challenges and convinced of the importance of globalising solidarity to build a better world, Cuba has continued to provide its modest cooperation to other sister nations of the South. For example, more than 29,000 youth from 115 countries are now studying in Cuba. Out of those, more than 18,000 scholarship holders come from Latin America and the Caribbean countries.

In December 2012, Cubans together with the Caribbean people again celebrated the Caricom-Cuba Day, but this time was special because we also commemorated the 40th anniversary of the joint decision adopted by four countries, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.

That brave and historic political decision taken in 1972 by those newly independent countries, in a climate of hostility and enormous pressures, was a breach in the isolation imposed on Cuba and marked the beginning of the close and excellent relations of friendship, solidarity and cooperation that Cuba enjoys today with all CARICOM member States.

The year 2012 was indeed very fruitful for Cuba-Jamaica relations, precisely the year when we celebrated four decades of bilateral diplomacy based on strong friendship, cooperation and solidarity.

More than 200 Jamaicans are studying medicine and other university courses in Cuba under the relevant scholarship programme. In addition to that, over 200 Cubans specialists are part of bilateral cooperation programmes implemented in Jamaica mainly in the fields of health and education.

Last year, the Cuba-Jamaica Ophthalmology Centre, located in Kingston, performed more than 1,400 surgeries. Since 2005 to date, more than 65,000 Jamaicans have been screened under that programme, while more than 9,000 patients have undergone eye surgery free of charge to them.

Both countries continued to exchange high level delegations during 2012. In January, a Cuban delegation headed by His Excellency Esteban Lazo, vice-president of the Council of State, visited Kingston to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the Most Hon Portia Simpson Miller as Prime Minister. In December, Jamaica was visited by a Cuban delegation led by parliamentarian Kenia Serrano, President of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples.

In the same line, Cuba received the official visit of a delegation headed by the Hon AJ Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. Cuba was also visited by other high-level Jamaican delegations, including those led by the Honourable Ministers of Youth and Culture, Health, Science and Technology, and by the Attorney General.

Both countries continued to support each other in international fora. Last October, at the UN General Assembly, the Government of Jamaica (along with 187 countries) supported again the resolution on the necessity of ending the unjust US blockade against Cuba. That position was also shared by the House of Representatives of Jamaica. Cuba deeply appreciates that solidarity. We also thank those Jamaicans who continue to be involved in friendship groups with Cuba.

I'd like you to join me in a toast to the 54th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, and to the further strengthening of the longstanding friendship between the peoples and governments of Jamaica and Cuba.
 
Yuri Gala Lopez is Cuba's Ambassador to Jamaica. The edited speech was delivered at a diplomatic reception on January 16 to mark the 54th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, officially commemorated on January 1.

January 31, 2013

Jamaica Observer