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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Haiti and the seven deadly sins

By Jean H Charles:

With the installation of a new government, Haiti needs to set itself into a mode where the culture of growth, development and hospitality can flourish without impediments. First and foremost, security for life and for limb must be high on the agenda.

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) tag price of some $865 million per year to provide and enhance a blanket of security on the national territory is not only an international scandal but it represents the perfect model of how things should not be.

Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.comKidnapping, the absence of night life, the complete disregard for the rule of law have been the staple of life in Haiti, sometimes supported and entertained by the very Haitian governments. The many nations that comprise the MINUSTAH family excel in faking the duty of care and support to the stabilization of the country.

With one tenth of that amount, Haiti can set up its own national army that will protect the population, serve as a first defense system in case of environmental disaster and repel and control the drug reshipment invasion. The tourism industry, the commerce, the resilience and the creativity of the Haitian people need a true national security blanket to flourish.

Haiti needs in the second place to uproot the culture of the deadly sins so pervasive in the country. With bad governance implanted into the soul of the nation for the past sixty years, virtue has not occupied a place of choice in the intercourse of people living in the same land.

Haiti of today is comparable to France under the Regency regime in 1715, where the Duke of Orleans promoted a culture of greed, lust and debauchery, where adventurers mixed with do-gooders were seeking fast money followed by spectacular bankruptcy, poisoning the atmosphere for everybody.

The deadly sins you remember, immortalized by Dante, include pride, avarice, envy, wrath, gluttony, sloth and lust. Those vices have found a fertile land in Haiti to germinate and propagate amongst the poor as well as the rich citizens.

Michel Martelly, a former bad boy, might seem the wrong messenger to inject the culture of virtue into the country. Yet God himself did use sinners like Saul who become Paul to spread his religion of love charity, and humility. The Samaritan as well as Mary of Magdalene, both former sinners, were efficient missionaries of the new doctrine that humility, generosity, love, self control, faith, zeal, and prudence should rule the interactions between citizens of the same country and those of different nations.

Gandhi, the father of revolution with non violence, devised the concept of seven social sins. Politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice and commerce without morality.

I am witnessing in all aspects of life in Haiti the pervasive influence of the seven social sins. The legislative, the electoral board, the presidency, even the international organizations whose mission was to heal the wounds of a devastated population have been competing amongst themselves to serve mostly their own venal needs while professing compassion to the fate of the people.

The new government, with its prime minister designate, Daniel Rouzier, will have bread on the table. Before it embarks on any aspect of development those first two pillars – national security and moral sustenance -- must be firmly entrenched into the ethos of the new Haiti.

The people of Haiti, who fought all through to impose their own transition, have a high expectation from the new government. It is ready to uproot the old culture of the seven deadly sins. Martelly will have not only to set an example in his administration but he will have to call on the moral suasion of the Church and the civil society to preach and practice the new doctrine. The Archbishop Louis Kebreau in the homily at the inauguration has set the tone. His call for a culture of virtue was well received by the population who elevated him to a stature of a pop star.

The Haitian government must stop sustaining the lower instincts of the population. No nation has ever survived with the love of lust, greed, and wrath. Development, peace, growth and prosperity demands first and foremost good citizenship!

May 30, 2011


Monday, May 30, 2011

Bahamas: The time has long passed for the nation to demand value for its money in public Education

Education: Are your children getting value for money?

Tribune Staff Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas

Last week during a public address Education Minister Desmond Bannister said it is time for the nation to "demand value for (its) money."

The Minister was wrong about only one thing: The time has long passed. The government consistently invests some $200 million in the Ministry of Education annually. So the Minister was definitely correct in saying the nation has great expectations for its education leaders.

Most of the Ministry's budget is allocated to the Department of Education, with as much as 70 per cent going towards salaries. That leaves the department with under $30 million to distribute amongst the various school boards; to purchase school supplies and equipment for the 4000 teachers across 160 schools and everything in between. That $30 million is bolstered by millions of dollars in funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Since the mid-1990s, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has spent well over $70 million in IDB money.

Despite the cumulative billions spent on education, the public school system still leaves a lot to be desired, especially when it comes to technology. Less than 10 out of 160 schools in the system have publicly funded computer labs, and only a handful more has self-funded labs. Computer literacy amongst the nation's teachers is still woefully low, which has hampered the transition from "chalk and talk" classrooms to multimedia centres of learning. To this day, there is still no information technology (IT) curriculum for the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE). The closest the public school system gets to preparing our students for the technology needs of the twenty-first century is a BGCSE in keyboarding.

I am taking the minister up on his public invitation; I only hope the guardians of the nation's education system are really prepared for the scrutiny. The truth is often inconvenient. So far there has been a pleasantly surprising level of openness at the directorate level within the department of education (DOE).

There are some harsh realities facing the education apparatus. People inside the inner circles know all too well, the MOE has many dirty little secrets. Over the years, institutional and political roadblocks have stonewalled many who tried to bring them to light.

Earlier this year, ten people were transferred from their posts in the MOE amidst investigations of corruption and theft. One of the employees, it was alleged, was found with a "laundry list" of items that had been taken from a storage unit. Police investigations into this matter stalled, because the suspects were allegedly "vouched for" by senior ministry officials. It was claimed that one of the persons involved was even transferred to a section of the ministry overseeing the current $11.8 million IDB project.

Unfortunately, this highly suspect move is not surprising to some. Informed sources claim that a culture exists at the MOE where certain people are able to escape disciplinary action because they have something to hold over the head of another. There is a fear that any given person can and will "talk ya business, and name names." The culture has created an environment where many escape judgment. Culpable employees have even become untouchable to the minister.

Despite this perceived reality, there are those who would try to project an image of no reproach. No doubt this posturing is intended to protect the reputation of the MOE and those that lead it. But in the end, this strategy seems counterproductive.

It is an unfortunate predicament, particularly for those who are genuine about creating a system deserving of our public school students. No doubt, the genuine majority outweighs the questionable few, but given the education budget, the cost of mismanagement amounts to millions of dollars in waste. One 10 per cent kickback could amount to the cost of a badly needed new computer lab for a public school.

The MOE has been on the radar of the Ministry of Finance for several years. A few years ago, Finance changed the way money is disbursed for certain procurements, such as computers, and increased its oversight of education funds provided through the IDB loan facility. There was a concern about "kickbacks" in the system, so the ministry had its financial controls tightened.

Government regulators get a bad rap for allowing this institutional impropriety, but as one high level source at the Ministry of Finance told me, when you investigate a situation, there is often enough evidence "for me to believe", but that does not mean there is sufficient "evidential fact to dismiss or prosecute".

Officials are faced with a complex system that makes it near impossible to clean up shop. They often rely on shuffling or retirements to avoid lengthy and costly investigations that can get messy for all parties involved, and destroy public confidence in the process. Even still, the MOE has a number of employees under investigation. They all remain on the government payroll, and some of them are chilling at home laughing their way to the bank.

Discussing these shortfalls is not to dismiss or overlook the positive things happening in education. Last week, the permanent secretary, Elma Garraway, proudly reminded me about how well the system is working for children of all "abilities and disabilities", pointing to the recent success of a blind student from Abaco, who secured the prestigious Bahamas Primary School Student of the Year award this year.

There are many positive education stories that deserve to be shared, and many of them are. Like the story of the model computer lab at L W Young that was independently funded by private donors based on the aggressive fund raising efforts of its former principal. But when we ask the inconvenient questions, thin-skinned educators should remember, it is not personal. The reality is when things work well in education the proof of the pudding is in the results. When things go awry the proof is in the public purse.

When the government announced its new budget last week, the MOE got "everything it asked for", as one source said, all $200 million of it. How many departments and ministries can boast of the same? The public education system is one of the nation's most important institutions, so I believe like the minister said, the country has a right to ask and a right to know if we are getting value for our money.

Given all that has been said, let us apply scrutiny to the MOE, starting in the area of information technology. The MOE has an inspiring vision of how information technology can modernize the education system and provide innovative ways to bring about a unified and automated system of data management.

Over the past two years, the MOE successfully piloted the introduction of Pearson's PowerSchool, a web-based student information software (SIS), in several public schools, including Anatol Rogers, CR Walker High School, St George's High School and Mary P Russell Junior High. The software manages student grades, attendance records, and any number of other data variables. It provides real-time access to student records for teachers, students, parents and administrators.

The implementation of an SIS system by the department of education is a key pillar of modernization. Such systems have the power to centralize all of the records in the public school network, providing administrators and policy makers access to reliable data based on any number of variables.

In practical terms, this means schools could finally have an automated process of generating report cards; teachers could stay in the comfort of their homes on a Saturday afternoon while entering assignment grades. Parents could log into the system from work and access the school records of their children. Truancy officers could log into the system from a handheld device and pull up a student record to match against any explanation a child in the field may provide. The possibilities are unlimited for a robust SIS.

Private schools in the country have long since joined the international pack. The Catholic Board of Education and a few other private schools, like the Lyford Cay School, are using the same software being piloted by the ministry. Other private schools like Queen's College, St. Andrew's School and St Augustine's College have been using a similar SIS product offered by Rediker Software Inc.

The ultimate objective of the DOE is to have every school networked through a web-based information-management system. Informed sources say, in three to five years, this could be a reality for less than $1 million per year. But the ministry is not ready to green light the full-scale implementation, for several good reasons. Chief among them: Over the six to eight years the MOE spent some $6 million on an older "dead-beat" system that has failed to live up to expectations. The government is still spending upwards of $91,000 per year on that system.

This happens to be a part of the back story to the ministry's foray into the world of education software. The PowerSchool pilot project has been deemed a success by education officials, but it represents the middle part of a story that has an unfortunate beginning. Education officials were burned badly in the past and they are doing their best not to jump into the fire again.

Over six years ago, the MOE contracted Software Technology Inc (STI), a US company specialising in SIS, to be the chosen partner to modernize the school system. The STI system was rolled out in 20 public schools. It would be an understatement to say, the MOE has been "challenged" with the implementation of STI. So much so that let us say, the MOE is about ready to send STI on its merry way, scrapping the system entirely, informed sources say.

Ask any school administrator about the STI system, and you may get the same response I first got: "That's secret." Amongst the teachers you will get a mixed bag of reactions, including a lot of frustration and disappointment.

"To be honest, my opinion of STI is that it seems to me a bit of an antiquated system that we got, because other schools are using systems that are tried and tested. Why didn't we get one of those? Why did we get that system?" asked one high school teacher.

When STI was originally rolled out, it was not an online system. So even though CV Bethel was one of the original schools on the STI pilot, its system is not online to this day and its capabilities are below expectations. The original STI was a server based programme that could only be accessed on the internal network of an individual school, said a source. The company has upgraded since it was first contracted by the MOE, but its transition has not been seamless.

One primary school teacher said the problem of STI is the level of computer literacy amongst school administrators and teachers, and the level of access to computers at schools. He works at a primary school where STI is functioning. With more training he said the system could work, but there seems to be a lack of buy in from teachers, particularly the older ones, who "are not going to learn to use the computer just to use STI."

Director of Education Lionel Sands is not ashamed to admit, the STI system is not functioning in the way it ought to. Other high-ranking sources inside the ministry echoed his sentiment: "The contract that was negotiated with STI was not in the best interest of the department."

The cost of STI continues to grow each year without the concurrent increase in benefit. In fact, two of the original 20 STI schools were removed from the network and placed in the PowerSchool pilot. Just a few weeks ago, executives from STI were in the Bahamas having high level discussions with the MOE. They visit every year to be debriefed on the experience with the system locally.

"Of course this year was no different. We explained that we were not fully satisfied with where we were with respect to the number of schools that should have been involved in STI. We were not completely satisfied that it was operating the way we thought it should be operating. Even the schools that were on STI, they were still having problems over all of these years. We sought to explain that to them," said Mr Sands.

"Certainly we did not think that the license fee we were asked to pay was justifiable in light of the fact that we were not getting the full benefit of the system," he said.

Some details of the original STI contract remain sketchy. It was signed several years before Mr Sands assumed the directorship, so there are things he said he cannot fully explain, like what has been the exact cost outlay on STI. Sources claim $6 million and perhaps more was spent originally. Mr Sands was uncertain, but said the $6 million figure could be the cumulative cost over the years. One source, however, claimed there is missing documentation in the MOE concerning transactions related to the original STI license agreement.

According to sources close to the matter, the MOE lacked the internal expertise to effectively negotiate the original agreement. And to this day, one source said, the MOE does not have the internal technical expertise to manage the system.

If a school on the system experiences a server failure on report card day, for example, there is no system plan in place to solve that problem. This scenario played itself out in the past. The MOE has to give STI technicians an all-expense paid vacation in the Bahamas to handle any major technical problem that arise. The teachers who were originally trained to manage STI have since been redeployed to teach. Only one of the originally trained persons is still assigned to deal with STI.

When the STI system was implemented, there was "not a lot of forward thinking and planning", said the source. In some instances, for example, schools had to manually calculate the cumulative grade point averages for their finalizing students, because the STI system could not account for students' historical data. So STI report cards that were generated by the system had handwritten cumulative GPAs, according to a source. Details such as this were not taken into proper consideration in the first instance.

Further proof is the fact that to this day, all of the data on the STI system is stored off shore. In other words, the STI servers are located in the United States of America. And so a foreign country is housing government data on students in the 18 schools. Some have raised questions about the legality of that arrangement.

Mr Sands said he is not clear about how the data storage predicament came to be. As best as he can understand, he said at the time the system was launched, there was no local capacity to handle a server of that size. It was envisioned that the system would eventually migrate to the Bahamas.

The situation has somewhat changed today in that Cable Bahamas has the capacity and currently stores the data for public and private schools using the PowerSchool system. Mr Sands said localizing the MOE's database from the STI system is currently a high priority.

The bottom line in the STI saga seems to be a sense that STI should have delivered far more given the amount of time and money the government has invested in the system to date.

"We are supposed to be able now to say to a parent, if you want to see how your child is doing in school, just get online and you can see that without having to wait for report card day. That is what the system ought to be able to do. It is not doing that. Those are some of the challenges we are faced with," said Mr Sands.

"When I want to look at what a teacher is doing in a particular class I should be able to do that from my office computer, so I can see time on task; so I can see report cards being completed; so I can see how students are functioning; so I can see whether the curriculum is meeting the needs of the children. I don't have that with (the STI programme) even though it has the capacity to give me that," he said.

Fortunately, there is a silver lining for the 50,000 students in the public school system. The Director said he is still committed to getting it right and realizing the vision. And despite their frustrations, most of the stakeholders appear to be sold on the need to push forward.

"Working properly the system is very advantageous for us. I certainly would pursue something like that simply because I know the benefits of it. I have seen the benefits of it. We live in an age where we have to get away from doing all of these things manually. We can get it done with technology. There is a need no doubt about it," said Mr Sands.

So far the project has been moving at "snail's pace", said Mr Sands. There are 18 schools with STI out of 160 "over the past however long." With the speed of technological advancements, Mr Sands said he could only imagine what the MOE is missing out on. "We are still back in 2003/4 with technology of that time when we need 2011/12 technology," he said. That is another reason why the DOE wants to get it right this time around.

"That is why we want to make sure PowerSchool is giving us something that keeps us abreast and moves us. We want to make sure that as technology advances we are advancing with technology to get the best for our children. That is the bottom line. We want to see change in our instructional programmes. We want to see our student succeeding. We want to see administrators and teachers at their best using technology. We can't be in 1950 and expect that to happen in 2011," he said.

This time around the MOE has hired in the expertise. The DOE is currently using the technology consulting services of Deloitte and Touche to pilot PowerSchool. Mr Sands said he is comfortable saying, "The PowerSchool pilot has been a success", but that is not stopping the DOE from proceeding with due care.

"Our challenge is to be sure that if we were to go with PowerSchool for all of the other schools that we would get the kind of proposal from Deloitte that would be consistent with the service provided and not necessarily a money making venture for Deloitte, because you could have that whenever you have a monopoly. If you are the only person doing it you can charge me whatever you feel like simply because I need it and you are the only one doing it. And so we are very careful that we do not get into a situation where we are paying out more money than the service that we need," said Mr Sands.

"So what we are doing in addition to looking at Deloitte, we are looking at other companies that might be able to provide a similar service to see what their costing would be like, so we could compare proposals. Yes we are satisfied with Deloitte and PowerSchool, but we will not run headlong into Deloitte and PowerSchool, because we understand the nature of business. So we are cautious and will be cautious in doing that. We do not want to run the risk of doing a similar thing that STI did. Back then they saw something good that could come out of STI and they just ran with it. We want to be very careful," he said.

Deloitte and Touche was invited into the project through a recommendation by the Ministry of Finance, according to sources. The company is no stranger to government contracts. In fact, its managing partner Raymond Winder is one of the government's lead negotiators at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Sources claim, the Ministry of Finance took an interest because it was concerned about plugging the leak in STI expenditure.

The team at Deloitte operating the project, according to Tribune sources, is not off-shore, but rather "100 per cent Bahamian run", including their database administrators, security experts, project implementers and managers.

Donavan Morrison, IT Administrator at the Catholic Board of Education, said anyone running a project like PowerSchool should have expertise in areas like networking, system design, database systems, and web-based software.

"It requires a very in depth background when it comes to software development. You have to know for instance, what the server size needs to be are based on the bandwidth requirements. The person needs a huge background in networking and software implementation," he said.

There are a variety of "consulting shops" based in the Bahamas that have that type of expertise, according to sources, but not all of them are focused in the area needed by the MOE. IBM, for example, has the capacity; however, one source, with a stake in Deloitte, said, "They only sell hardware in the Bahamas."

Ernst & Young and PWC, have the capacity, but their local operation is built around auditing services, said the source. The same goes for KPMG, the consulting firm that handled the BTC sale. It focuses on "corporate finance", said the source.

The MOE has a major decision to make about pushing forward with its agenda. The best thing they can do to avoid creating any clouds of suspicion that could sour their chances at progress is to be more transparent than ever before. Government administrators should not be ashamed to speak about their past shortcomings or failures. It should be encouraged, so the public can have confidence in their ability to learn from the past.

So far, it appears that the muddy waters of the past seem to be settling. For now, in assessing the MOE's use of public funds to invest in student information software, I can say, we are not there yet, but it seems as though we are on our way to getting value for our money.

May 30, 2011


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cricket Is Like A Woman

Tony Deyal, Gleaner Writer

For my PAHO friend and colleague David Taylor, who was there that day with Mike Nathan Hugo Martinez from Cuba who was watching his first cricket match, and me. RIP David. The Almighty must have a cricket ground in Heaven - probably known as Lord's.

THOSE PEOPLE who, proud of their intestinal and testicular fortitude, cling steadfastly to the belief that it is not over until it's over, have ignored the strange lexicon, practices, customs, traditions and rituals of the game of cricket.

In cricket, even though it's over, and the officials in charge confirm that it is over, it is never really over since it is generally the start of another over which does not mean that when that over is over, the whole thing would really be over. Yet, it is not the same thing over and over again, although sometimes, like when the Indians batted slowly and painfully in Trinidad, or when Geoff Boycott is the commentator, it seems that way.

My American friend Jim, a great baseball fan, was befuddled. "Why are those guys in white? They look like ice cream salesmen," he commented. "That is the tradition," I responded. "Cricketers wear white for Test matches." "Why do you call it a Test match?" "Well," I said a trifle testily, my patience sorely tested, "that is the tradition. When two countries are playing each other, it is called a Test match."

"Why are those guys in white coats? Are they doctors?" he asked, his eyes lighting up at the prospect of a brawl. "I always thought that cricket was a sissy game." "No," I said. "Baseball is. It started from a game that girls play called rounders." He mused on this for a while. Holding started pacing out his run and began his long walk to his bowling marker. "Why is that guy leaving?" he asked. "The game hasn't even started." "He isn't leaving," I said. "He is just going to the point from which he starts his run-up to bowl." "Bowl?" he asked, again, puzzled. "I thought this was cricket. Are those three sticks the pins?"

I patiently explained that in cricket we call what he calls the 'pitcher' the 'bowler'. The latter, while it can also be a kind of hat, is not one, and in English a 'pitcher' is a large vessel or jug that is used to hold water or other refreshments. The sticks are the stumps and three stumps make a wicket. But unless there are bails on them, they're not really a wicket. "Hey! That's cool," he said in admiration. "It really isn't a sissy game if you need bails to play cricket. I suppose that's why there are so many policemen around the ground. And all the time I thought they were just loafing around." "That's right," I concurred. "It's a tough game. In addition to bails, you also need balls."

Holding delivered. The batsman, Boycott, played and missed. "What a pitch!" he exclaimed.

"That is not a pitch," I told him. "We call that a ball. The pitch is the bit of ground where the wickets are." He was mystified. "I thought that the ball was the red thing in his hand which he pitched at the guy with the funny bat." "Yes," I said. "But when he bowls it, we also say it is a good ball or bad ball depending on where it pitches." "But I thought you said the pitch is the ground where the wickets are?" I was stumped.


The slips went down for the next delivery. "Why do you need so many shortstops?" he asked.

"They're not shortstops," I explained. "They're slips." "Slips?" he asked, perplexed. "Yes," I said. "Cricket is like a woman. Centuries ago when cricket started, women dressed differently.

"They wore many garments. This is why we have first, second and third slip, cover, extra cover, mid on and long on. Because cricket is like a woman, it also explains why we have long leg and fine leg, square leg and short leg. It is also why it is a game of glorious uncertainties."

Holding bowled again. Again Boycott, nervously bobbing and weaving like a Trinidad pirogue being chased by a Venezuelan coastguard cutter, played and missed. "Three strikes," Jim said. "He's out." "No," I explained. "He's not out yet. To be out he must be caught, bowled, run out, hit wicket, stumped, or adjudged lbw." "What's that?" he asked. "That's leg before wicket. If the ball hits your leg when it would have hit the wicket, you're out." "What about if it hits some other part of your body, say like your head, is that hbw?" "No," I replied patiently. "It is still lbw."

"When a batter is hit in baseball, he walks," Jim said. "When a batsman is out in cricket, he walks," I said. At that point, Boycott walked and Jim, looking at him intently, said, "What a weird-looking guy." "That's what happens," I explained, "when you play too much cricket without a helmet." At that point the umpire said, "Over" and Jim got up to leave.

Tony Deyal was last seen collecting on a bet that he had seen snow fall in Trinidad. True! However, it was John Snow the English bowler and he fell diving to save a four during a Test match at the Oval.

May 28, 2011


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bahamas: Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette and the U.S. Embassy in Nassau Respond To WikiLeaks Report

DPM, U.S. Embassy Responds To WikiLeaks Report

By Sasha L. Lightbourne

Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette said he is not bothered by a leaked report from WikiLeaks, which detailed how the prime minister reportedly had no confidence in Mr. Symonette becoming the leader of the Free National Movement (FNM) back in 2003.

"I had no intention of running for leader of the party," Mr. Symonette told the Bahama Journal.

"I ran as deputy leader of the party and was elected. I never sought to get any advice from [Prime Minister Hubert] Ingraham on running for leader because I had no intentions of running for leader so I’m not the least bit interested in this story. I smiled at it because in 2002, I was the only Member of Parliament elected for Nassau for the Free National Movement."

The report, printed in a local daily yesterday, detailed how the prime minister was having a conversation with a U.S. embassy official and said that due to Mr. Symonette’s "personality and lack of appeal" he would not make a good leader.

In 2005, Symonette did not challenge for the leadership at the party’s convention. 

He went for deputy leader and won.  He was made deputy prime minister when the party won at the polls in 2007.

Mr. Symonette also told the Journal that he does not feel like the report will have an effect on the relationship he has with the prime minister.

"I have an incredibly sound relationship with the prime minister," he said.

"He and I get on incredibly well. We both understand each other and on numerous times under his watch I have served as acting prime minister in his absence. He and I fully understand each other and each other’s contribution."

Minister Symonette said he has no problem working with the prime minister and the comments in the story will have "no bearing on the relationship."

In a statement released late yesterday by the United States Embassy, it said that the unauthorised release of classified material has the very real potential to harm individuals as well as efforts to advance objectives shared by the country and the US. 

"It is unfortunate that a decision has been made to release information from conversations that took place in confidence," the statement said.

"The U.S. Government engages in the drafting and transmission of cables as an efficient form of global communication.  U.S. policy is made in Washington and field reporting is only one of the factors contributing to policy decisions."

The statement explained that communications between the field and Washington ensures that policymakers in Washington have a full understanding of all the factors at play when they make decisions. 

"By its very nature, field reporting to Washington is candid and often raw information.  Analysis expressed in cables may also be out of context, or may be the opinion of the reporting officer- and those opinions may not be shared by policymakers," the release said.

May 24th, 2011


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

“The Bahamas, a giant oil province in the making”

Report reveals potential oil revenue for Bahamas

NG Business Reporter

What financial benefit should Bahamians expect to reap if the sands beneath us hold the immense oil treasures some are projecting?

Under the current leasing arrangements, royalties of up to 25 percent of well-head revenue could translate into hundreds of billions over time. But as far as the government’s take goes, the terms of those licenses are quite favorable — for the licensees.

The projection for a small government take relative to other oil-producing countries is playing into the Bahamas Petroleum Company’s (BPC) efforts to attract investors to its Bahamian petroleum exploration project, and was featured in its April 2011 investor presentation, “The Bahamas, a giant oil province in the making”.

“Attractive fiscal terms: Low royalty; no corporation tax,” was the way it read in BPC’s investor presentation. One graph compared how licensee revenues in The Bahamas might stack up against revenue from a royalty-paying federal lease in the United States’ territorial waters in the Gulf of Mexico, based on $90 per barrel oil and 2007 variables. About 33 percent of revenues were allocated to costs in both territories, but with royalties calculated at peak production levels, the Bahamas government would take 25 percent in royalties compared to about 27 percent for the US fields. The US government cut of the lucrative revenue stream does not stop with royalties, however.

US Gulf of Mexico revenue to the licensee was reduced another 25 percent approximately in taxes. In the case of The Bahamas, that would go to the licensee’s net revenue, according to a chart presented. That chart was also a part of BPC’s competent person’s report prepared by the firm Moyes & Co. in 2008 and available on BPC’s website at

Of the 16 countries used for another chart in BPC’s investor report, the “government take” for The Bahamas was clearly the lowest, and inversely the “free cash flow” projected for licensees in The Bahamas clearly the highest. That chart was based on $100 per barrel Brent oil pricing and more current data than the Moyes data. Oil producers like Canada, Iraq, Nigeria, Libya and closer to home the US and Guyana are included in that study.

While very encouraging to the prospective investor, it may highlight some of the challenges ahead for a country with no oil and a limited mineral resource production history. This nation’s experience with salt and aragonite production may prove poor preparation if the drilling BPC hopes will happen next year proves that world-class oil production potential here.

And the potential is massive.

John Bostwick II, attorney and author of “Bahamas 20/20 Vision” told Guardian Business on Friday that based on public statements made, BPC could be looking at $2.4 trillion worth of oil — his calculations based on $97.50 per barrel prices. He says the size of the potential oil traps may be missed by many.

“I don’t know if people really are focusing on what they are saying,” Bostwick said. “Supergiant traps, not giant — supergiant.”

Supergiant oil traps have 5 billion or more barrels of ultimately recoverable oil.

In its recent investor report, BPC’s leads and prospects showed about 9 billion barrels as the ‘most likely’ yield level from structures in the southern fold belt covered by four of its licenses. If the traps there had a 100 percent structural fill, a less likely scenario, they could hold 24.3 billion barrels. At $100 per barrel for oil, that’s $2.4 trillion across the life of those fields. If predictions by many economists for a continued increase in oil prices prove true, that total value escalates. And that value is only for the areas BPC has done some survey and other research work on — it has additional exploration license applications in the pipeline.

According to the Petroleum Act, a licensee would pay a royalty “at a rate of not less than twelve and one-half per centum of the selling value at the well-head of the petroleum won and saved from the licensed or leased area.”

Information available on BPC’s website details the rates further. The royalty rates are 12.5 percent for oil production up to 75,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd); 15 percent for 75,000 to 150,000; 17.5 percent for 150,000 to 250,000; 20 percent for 250,000 to 350,000; and 25 percent for any amount in excess of 350,000 bopd. Gas production is set at a 12.5 percent rate, and land is rented for $0.92 an acre per annum, though rentals are deductible from royalty payments.

Just for illustration, if 500 million barrels of oil are produced in a year under those license terms, with oil at $100, it would generate about $11.4 billion in annual royalties for government. That assumes production is averaged out across a 365-day year. That’s a lot of roads — or schools, universities, hospitals, court rooms, police equipment, training programs, etc. For comparison, the entire gross domestic product (GDP) of The Bahamas in 2007 was 7.2 billion, according to World Bank data.

But is it enough? Based on BPC’s investor presentation, it’s may be a good deal for their investors.

The issue is likely to grow in prominence for Bahamians as more research is done, and particularly if drilling results change the narrative from a story about possibilities to a story about how The Bahamas became an oil giant.

Despite the billions a government stands to make, when the cost-benefit analysis is done, the potential benefits at least seem less strong than they could be. At least not when compared to what many other nations are able to secure for their petroleum assets.



Monday, May 23, 2011

Resetting US-Caribbean relations

By Anton E. Edmunds:

The announcement of the departure of Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Dr Arturo Valenzuela has prompted quite a reaction in the Washington community that tracks hemispheric affairs. While some argue that Valenzuela was marginalized by others with direct access to the White House and the Secretary of State, others have weighed in on how badly academics do in similar roles. There is even an assessment that the US role of protector of democracy in the region was damaged under his watch.

Anton Edmunds is the President of The Edmunds Group International, LLC (TEG), a business and government advisory service firm with offices in Washington DC and the Caribbean. He can be contacted at and prior posts reviewed at Edmunds Group News, Views & Events.While it may be unfair to blame this one individual for the collapse of relationships with some countries that have become emboldened in their ability to goad the United States, it is equally unfair to look to Valenzuela’s predecessor as an example of a more effective Assistant Secretary or for that matter, claim that the US regional relationship has suddenly been harmed. The reality is that the United States has long had regional relationship problems and has not had a consistent regional strategy in decades. A key fact that most chose to ignore is that relationships do not remain static, and the region itself for better or worse has changed.

Gone are the fledgling independent Caribbean states of a generation ago, and the new democracies of post conflict Latin America, both groups in the past clinging to a relationship with a regional hegemon freely dispensing aid and protection as these new nations weaned themselves from both colonial master and communist threat. Gone also is the belief by countries that the United States is a benevolent partner, willing to allow them to slowly evolve while accepting systems and standards consistent with its own. Instead what we see is a dysfunctional hodgepodge of struggling economies, each trying to eke out an existence in a merciless global marketplace while their leadership learn on the job the importance of good governance, an area where some would argue many are failing.

A perceived or real absence from the region by the US, while focusing elsewhere has served to exacerbate this weakening of ties and while opening of markets has done wonders for trade flows, it has proven not to be the panacea that Washington or the region once thought it would be. While by rote, Cuba has been the major focus of every incoming head of the Western Hemisphere at the State Department, it may not be any longer in reality the biggest problem. Instead it’s a combination of nuisance situations that serve to aggravate the United States vis-à-vis the Hemisphere.

There is Venezuela who some argue has managed to leverage its petroleum resources to gain friends and influence people; and one also sees a surging China providing aid to multiple nations and financing major a infrastructure and hospitality development. There is even an increased Middle-Eastern presence, with countries promising resources to a region some would argue is starved for attention and support, as in the case of Libya with the Eastern Caribbean.

The fact that the region has changed, with Caribbean and Latin American leaders becoming less wedded to their largest trading partner is not lost on observers. The hope is that with crime rampant, drugs flowing freely through the region and the threat of countries becoming controlled by criminal elements, the US and the region can find themselves once again together as partners sharing solutions to address important socio-economic problems.

This not unlike as in the days of the Cuba-Russia threat that preceded the Caribbean Basin Initiative and other similar initiatives. Recent initiatives such as Merida and the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative may well be attempts by the US to reengage.

Specific to the Caribbean, the Washington relationship appears to be one characterized more and more by feelings of both parties of dissatisfaction, distrust and disillusionment. The Caribbean unfortunately has long believed that a proud history of democracy should mean something more than it does, and that the tradition of a stable transition of government should be rewarded by thoughtful programs to advance this region’s development.

The reality is that be it with Europe or the United States, such a democratic history does not automatically translate into treats. As with the trade negotiations with the European Union, though called flawed by some, a level of maturity and creatively must be developed by the region if it is interested in working with its partners on co-authoring agendas and programs that are nuanced, thoughtful and comprehensive.

Caribbean leadership has also failed to effectively understand how Washington works and instead of cultivating multi-pronged alliances based on shared concerns such as security and mutually beneficial economic growth, instead depend on relationships of old and worse, looks to tenuous familial links between US government officials and countries of the region as a foundation upon which to advance policy discourse.

The great hope that a president of similar likeness and a State Department head who has travelled to the region in the past would usher in an era of re-engagement without real inputs from the Caribbean is a pipedream. Even relationships with entities such as the Congressional Black caucus have been badly managed and the Caribbean with few exceptions has failed to deliver its part of the equation when engaging groups like this by not submitting good ideas for consideration and worse, not engaging in the simplest of action of following up.

For the future, willingness by the Caribbean to develop and proffer solutions that take into consideration US policy direction is critical. That willingness must extend to listening to sometimes ill-conceived proposals but importantly, to understanding what drives them and to work to broker compromise where everyone wins.

While a knowledge gap and weakness at the senior levels at the US Departments of State, Commerce and other agencies in dealing with the Caribbean does not help and some may well characterize the placement of some who cover the region as tokenism, the Caribbean must itself step up to the plate by placing its best and brightest in the right space to rebuild a fractured relationship.

Some point out that a lack of attention by agencies such as USAID supporting on issues such as disaster mitigation and business continuity; the linking of key industries like tourism to agriculture; and the supporting of skills training in viable industry areas reflect changes in Washington and the centralization and politicization of this agency by the State Department.

Others argue that the bigger issue may simply be one of Caribbean irrelevance to the US or as stated before, the region’s inability to make itself heard. In any event, the lack of focus on the Caribbean is real and can be seen across the board.

In the case of the US Department of Commerce, it is perceived that the primary focus continues to be solely one of interest in building stronger alliances with Free Trade countries, with little acknowledgement of and unwillingness to invest in strengthening a robust trading relationship the Caribbean. Caribbean irrelevance to that entity may well be evidenced in the fact that never once in the three year history of that organization’s Americas Competitiveness Forum, has a Caribbean Head of State or corporate leader been featured.

In the case of others, including the Department of Energy, the use of proxies such as the OAS is becoming habit instead of direct engagement. One even sees the use of countries like Brazil and Canada as proxies for US engagement.

Unfortunately, for many in Washington there are some fundamentals that it is argued tell a different story. The lack of responsiveness from the region to overtures by the administration does allow many to question the seriousness of the Caribbean. As this is a problem also experienced by many an investor, the question as to whether Caribbean governments are incompetent or worse is not uncommon.

The now discounted Caribbean promise of an integrated marketplace, and regional standards in areas such as security has also served to dissuade many a career official from trying to advance a Caribbean agenda. Lack of action by the region on past initiatives does little to protect them from change by newcomers to Washington agency offices.

On the regional front, the Caribbean today is very much at the crossroads. The region lacks leadership at its crown jewel CARICOM, which begs the question as to which entity should major US agencies engage on regional programs. While the region itself reflects on the value of this body, one can only imagine what allies within agencies such as the State Department are thinking, as they have long had questions related to that organ’s ability to deliver. Gone too are the Caribbean statesmen of yore and lore who were able to command a certain amount of respect when it came to policy discussions with the US.

Compounding this is the re-emergence of regional and sub-regional rifts, often driven by personal and cultural inter-island animosities and protectionism that now consume significant time and resources.

When asked to comment about the future of the US-Caribbean relationship, there is expressed by many the hope is that the replacement for Dr Valenzuela will bring some broad regional experience and that Cuba and Venezuela, while they will continue to be key countries of focus will not be issues that derail the advancing a productive US-Caribbean relationship.

There is also hope that there will be real depth at the State Department and other administration agencies as it relates to the Caribbean, and one will see the Administration take a real stab at engaging Caribbean experts, maybe from the Diaspora community to fill out some of its ranks. Irrespective of the change in Washington, critical will be the ability of the region to do its part to help reset the relationship.

May 23, 2011


Sunday, May 22, 2011

1,551 centenarians living in Cuba


CURRENTLY living in Cuba are 1,551 individuals over 100 years of age, ten more than in 2010, according to the February updating of a study of centenarians undertaken during the years 2004-2008.

This multi-institutional investigation coordinated by the National Department for the Elderly and the Ministry of Public Health’s Social Assistance Department, documents that the doyenne of those who have passed the landmark age of 100 is Juana de la Candelaria Rodríguez who lives in Campechuela, Granma and will celebrate her 126th birthday in June.

The greatest number of centenarians, who receive special attention in Cuba, live within the provinces of Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Holguín, Camagüey and Villa Clara - the latter being the province with the most elderly population in the country.

Individuals who live on beyond the 100 year mark are of great interest to researchers and the population in general. They have overcome environmental and health obstacles to reach the current limits of human life.

Life expectancy for those born in Cuba now stands at 78 years – 76 for men and 80.2 for women. Within the population of centenarians, there are 20% more women than men.

Havana. May 20, 2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Gullible Jamaica

By Peter Espeut:

Various dictionaries define a gullible person as someone 'easily deceived or duped', 'easily taken in or tricked', 'easily persuaded to believe something', and 'easily deceived or cheated'. Do you think that, as a group, as a nation, we Jamaicans are more gullible than other people?

The question occurs to me today because one of the hottest topics around the country right now is whether today is the eve of Judgement Day, whether today is the day before the second coming of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Thankfully, most people interviewed on camera or on radio pooh-pooh the idea - not every Jamaican is that gullible; but the very fact that the subject excites so much interest suggests that many have lingering doubts.

Never mind that the source of the 'prophecy', talk-show host Harold Egbert Camping of Family Radio, based in Oakland, California, had previously predicted that the world would end on September 6, 1994. A civil engineer, Camping dresses up his 'prophecies' in mathematical calculations based on events mentioned in the Bible, which he treats as literal history; his explanation for the world not ending in 1994 is an error in his calculations, which he has now corrected. Anyone who says he is waiting to see whether Jesus will come tomorrow (more than on any other day) is admitting gullibility.

That many Jamaicans are gullible is beyond doubt. One only has to look at the thousands who deposited millions in Cash Plus and Olint expecting to double their money in less than a year. Several churches and Christian communities openly declared that "these schemes were sent by God to make us rich". The legitimacy of these Ponzi schemes was backed by 'evidence' from Bible prophecy and by utterances from charismatic local 'prophets' walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. The gullibility of so many Jamaicans is further revealed by the observation that these churches have not been discredited, that they have not emptied, and that these local 'prophets' are still prophesying.

one-of-a-kind churches

Jamaicans clearly want to believe in something. It is said we have more churches per square mile than any other country on earth. But most of these churches are one-of-a-kind; some guy comes along with a Bible in his hand claiming "the Bible says ...", and immediately he gains a following, and starts a church. His ideas have to be iconoclastic; they have to attack the traditional Christian denominations, showing them to be false, or steeped in paganism, or based on "human wisdom rather than on the Word of God". Usually, these religious luminaries claim some private revelation from God, which means that they have the power of the Spirit. Of course, they all differ in the message they get from the Spirit, except the part where the Spirit says people are supposed to contribute heavily to his (or her) church. The gullibility of Jamaicans is exposed by the fact that we have more churches per square mile than any other country on earth.

Ian Boyne's television programme 'Religious Hard Talk' is able to present new material week after week because of the almost endless religious permutations in Jamaica, all based on eccentric interpretations of the Bible. One would have thought that by now this parade of fundamentalists would have led his audience - and Boyne himself, who projects himself as well-read - to abandon this clearly flawed approach to the interpretation of Sacred Scripture. But gullible fundamentalist Jamaicans keep on searching for the new messiah who will lead them to a truth they can be comfortable with.

The gullibility of Jamaicans is probably best demonstrated in our approach to politics. So many of us continue to vote for political parties which, despite alternating in power for almost 70 years, have taken us deeper into debt, and have failed even to teach a majority of schoolchildren how to read properly. After having proven themselves to be corrupt and venal the last time around, without meaningful changes in personnel or philosophy, we somehow expect them to be different this time. The gangs of Gordon House need gullible Jamaicans for their survival, and through a substandard education system, they make sure our brains are not polluted with ideas about reason and logic.

And these same politicians have not failed to take advantage of the religious gullibility of Jamaicans by employing prophets or revival tables to manipulate us into supporting them.

God help us!

Peter Espeut is a sociologist and a Roman Catholic deacon. Email feedback to

May 20, 2011


Friday, May 20, 2011

Dominica's Mary Eugenia Charles - A legacy for gender equality in the Caribbean

By Rebecca Theodore

As Caribbean governments continue their focus on the eradication of direct and indirect forms of discrimination against women through legislative reforms and the enactment of gender sensitive social policies, the achievements of Mary Eugenia Charles, grand dame of the Caribbean come to light.

While the accomplishments and contributions of Mary Eugenia Charles to Caribbean politics are widely discussed in the scholarly and popular literature of universities and political arenas; it is also sometimes argued with much speculation, controversy, admiration and hatred. However, Eugenia Charles confronts Dominica and the Caribbean with the picture of a woman attributed with the enigma of power in a patriarchal society. Her leadership challenges the traditional belief of the inferiority of women and the authority and supremacy of men in the male-dominated sphere of politics in the Caribbean.

Rebecca Theodore was born on the north coast of the Caribbean island of Dominica and resides in Toronto, Canada. She writes on national security and political issues and can be reached at rebethd@aim.comAccording to the Journal of Caribbean International Relations, “Dame Mary Eugenia Charles championed the cause of gender equality long before it became commercially fashionable. As a feminist, Eugenia Charles evoked the burning issues of the rule of law, and the rights of the individual in society.” Yet, her relentless demands for equal rights, social justice, and the end of sex discrimination still does not guarantee women in Dominica and the Caribbean autonomy and freedom in the determination of their lives.

At a time when the human rights of women have been in many aspects undermined by ideals of masculine character and by historical disparities in the decision-making process, women in Dominica and the Caribbean should take strength in the strong symbol that has developed around the image of Dame Mary Eugenia Charles in the international arena.

Despite being president of the international federation of women lawyers, occupational segregation in gender-based wage gaps in the Caribbean still registers women as subjects of discriminatory stereotyping. Women in the Caribbean still lack promotional rights, free from job discrimination as social and legal institutions do not pledge equality in employment and earning and social and political participation.

It is against the drapery of such concepts that the distinctions between women as political leaders and gender inequality in the Caribbean are mirrored. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) documents that “despite higher levels of education, Caribbean women continue to cluster at the lower sectors of society in terms employment, wages, and political representation, making them vulnerable to poverty and gender-based violence and harassment.”

The role of women in political leadership in the Caribbean questions the meaning of democracy and citizenship and awakens the need for a more inclusive style of governance and politics. The roles that men and women play in society are not biologically determined and it is time to stop using biology as a metaphor for interpreting reality or other socio-cultural traditions and beliefs about a woman's place in the family and society.

While critics advance the view that gender equality has been achieved within the Caribbean community and it is boys and men who are now disadvantaged; gender inequality in the Caribbean still constrains the lives of women and is still a significant challenge despite important law reform efforts. Women’s level of participation in senior political positions remains extremely limited and violates their fundamental human rights.

Against the backdrop of this view, the need for structural reform, redefinition of power and a re-negotiation of our understanding of the practice of leadership becomes an urgent plea. The need to increase women's participation in politics and decision making is a valid goal especially at a time when attempts of developing Caribbean nationhood and identity are smothered by dependence on male constructs and standards. The Commission on the Status of Women further affirms that “women form at least half of the electorate in most Caribbean states, yet they continue to be underrepresented as candidates for public office.”

The male dominated social system in the Caribbean has excluded and been hostile to female participation in the political arena. According to the ECLAC study, female participation in the politics of the Caribbean is about 20 percent overall. In the English-speaking Caribbean, the average participation of women in Parliament averages 13.5 percent, varying from 7 to 25 percent. This means that recognition of the importance of women in reconstruction and the role and discipline of political parties in the Caribbean needs to be addressed because women's empowerment in the Caribbean is vital to sustainable development and the realization of human rights for all.

If reducing gender inequality is essential to increasing women's economic security, defeating poverty and fostering sustainable development and growth, then Caribbean governments should show greater efforts in advocating for legislation to advance gender equality, to eliminate all forms of discrimination based on sex, and to prevent gender-based violence and increase. The education system and the media should also stop upholding the patriarchal orientation of society as well as the epitomes of male supremacy.

Dame Mary Eugenia Charles will forever remain a strong symbol for years to come as a woman who challenged culture, structures of oppression, and gender inequality in the Caribbean. Her legacy of equality and accelerating human rights for women provide a firmer foundation for social and economic development and security and new approaches to leadership in Dominica and the Caribbean.

May 19, 2011


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why we reject the draft constitution for the Turks and Caicos Islands

By Douglas Parnell
Leader, Peoples Democratic Movement

The Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) rejects the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) draft constitution. Offered below are a number of reasons taken from our party’s position paper on the issue why it is unacceptable for our people and country at this stage of our development.

The 2010 review of the constitution of the Turks and Caicos Islands comes from an unfortunate period of maladministration and corruption exposed by a far reaching Commission of Inquiry requested by our party for the good of the country.

Peoples Democratic Movement leader Douglas ParnellThe findings of the Commission were shocking, and exposed numerous failings on the part of individuals in the last government, including individuals in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Governor. Ironically, while the Commission was in oral hearings, the Turks and Caicos Governor was still busy signing off on transactions where there was alleged corruption. The final report does not cite one constitutional failure as a cause for these alarming acts on the part of ministers.

It must be pointed out that this was not the first Commission of Inquiry to be requested. If former Governor Richard Tauwhare is to be believed, he declared at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in May 2008 that he had requested the FCO to call a commission of inquiry as far back as 2005. This was during a period before the 2006 constitution was enacted and in reality the Governor had greater authority and responsibility to act and correct failures of the local government at that time.

The FCO did not listen. What remains to be seen is whether the FCO will listen to the voice and wishes of the people to return our 2006 constitution or whether the FCO and its ministers will turn a deaf ear towards our concerns on OUR constitution.

As for the information in the Commission of Inquiry, the PDM stands resolute in our stance that “we told you so” and can safely say that we did what was right during this period of maladministration, unlike Governors Poston and Tauwhare, Meg Munn and Leigh Turner, who did what was wrong and ignored our concerns of corruption, and gross maladministration when they were brought forward and were summarily dismissed as lacking sufficient evidence.

The greatest obstacle to good governance and deterrent to sound financial management is a lack of hearing and adherence to the already existing laws of the Turks and Caicos Islands on the part of persons in authority. When this happens with locally elected officials, we have a remedy at the polls through a General Election, but when this happens with UK officials at the FCO the people of the territory have no recourse and we suffer for years, sometimes even decades.

Even today the FCO is not listening to their own MPs such as Andrew Rosindell and Lord Nigel Jones, who have both warned that a constitution cannot and should not be forced on the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Even to this day the FCO has neglected to pave a path for direct negotiations with the political parties on any change to the constitution as called for by our party and the British Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Turks and Caicos Islands, despite the precedent set during the 1986 suspension.

The FCO must remember that it has appointed over the years governors and attorneys general who have not served the interest of the people, but who served their own interest and broke the law.

The FCO cannot simply look at the last eight years and try to impose a constitution on the people based upon this period but it must look back and honestly assess its own failings, gross neglect and incompetence in administering its constitutional obligations to the Turks and Caicos people and our territory, obligations that is has agreed with the world to uphold and move towards. Yet, in this FCO draft constitution, the UK’s United Nations obligations are being disregarded. It is clear that the FCO is attempting to move the country backwards to an era of colonialism. It is seeking to extend temporary direct rule into permanent authority over the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands through its proposed draft constitution. This is unacceptable and we utterly reject it.

One of the measures being used to extend permanent authority over the Turks and Caicos people and their government is by granting greater authority to the governor under the pretext of correcting failures of the past. The governor would be granted the authority to:

a) reject the decision of cabinet,
b) make decisions contrary to cabinet; and
c) solely make appointments to public bodies.

Two cases come to mind that discredit this theory that granting greater constitutional power to governors will avoid corruption or conflicts of interest. Specific examples arise, namely, Attorney General Terrence Donnegan and Governor Christopher Turner. These two cases involved abuses of constitutional power. One was convicted and deported after the 1986 inquiry and the other left the territory in disgrace after granting special concessions to close relatives, which ended up costing the Turks and Caicos Islands people millions of dollars to correct. The FCO and the British Government did nothing to pay for their mistakes.

The people of the Turks and Caicos Islands cannot trust their constitutional destiny to a governor with unchecked power and authority over the three branches of government, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. Our history has proven that governors can and will fail to act with integrity and honesty in their decision making powers. This draft FCO constitution also grants the governor unchecked power and authority over the institutions protecting the three branches of government making him a complete and total constitutional dictator.

We have been down this road before where the level of incompetence and corruption in government by locally elected officials, coupled with the incompetence and neglect at the FCO, has caused our country’s constitution to be temporarily suspended. We have equally been down the road where the imposed solutions to fix the equal failings of the locally elected government and the FCO robs the people of their democratic, constitutional and fundamental human rights. We wish not to go down that road again as proposed in this draft constitution.

In introducing the draft 2006 constitution for public consultation and debate, Lord Triesman remarked, “The UK has only retained those powers, including for the Governor, which are – and will remain -- necessary in TCI to ensure the implementation of international obligations; to protect itself against contingent liabilities; and to ensure good governance.” So what happened to the governor and his constitutional ability to ensure good governance? Again, it was not the people or the constitution that failed. It was the individuals the FCO appointed who failed in giving the necessary attention to the Turks and Caicos Islands. The FCO now seeks to cover up its failings and problems by imposing an untenable constitution on an unwilling people.

The fact is the FCO failed to uphold their responsibility for good governance, yet the people are being punished for it through a draft constitution that is regressive. This draft represents a major backward step for the people and the protection of their fundamental rights. Specifically, it has components that ignore the will of the people as expressed through their representatives in our Parliamentary system of democracy. This document would eliminate Parliament’s authority on specific matters. The message communicated is one of distrust and suspicion.

We can only conclude from the constitutional proposals that the FCO does not trust the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands to make sound decisions through their representatives and the mechanisms to make law because decisions can be overridden, limited and removed from Parliament’s ability to handle the country’s business. This is dangerous.

In exercising its remit in the Turks and Caicos Islands the FCO should be concentrating on fulfilling its commitment made to the rest of the world in the United Nations charter.

The UK will argue, wrongly, that it is not bound by International obligation, as former FCO minister under the Labour government, Lord Triesman, claimed in his speech to the Turks and Caicos Islands on April 24, 2006.

He said, “In this context, it might be helpful if I set out the UK position on alternative forms of relationship, some of which I know have been discussed here in TCI in recent weeks. UN General Assembly Resolution 1541 set out some options for the relationship between Administering Powers and Territories, including independence, integration and free association. The UK did not vote in favour of that resolution, and does not regard itself as bound by it”.

However, we are eager to point out to the FCO that not being bound to 1541 does not mean there isn’t still an obligation to Turks and Caicos Islands under the United Nations Charter. The text of Chapter XI of Article 73 paragraph A and B of the United Nations Charter, Declaration Regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories, reads, “Members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present Charter, the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories, and, to this end:

a. to ensure, with due respect for the culture of the peoples concerned, their political, economic, social, and educational advancement, their just treatment, and their protection against abuses;

b. to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement;

Clearly, if we are to hold the British Government to account for their role in helping the Turks and Caicos Islands and our people achieve any measure of advancement, the grade would be low. The fact is this exercise of constitutional change is counter and opposite to the obligations that the UK government has agreed to the world to uphold with regard to Turks and Caicos Islands. We reject it and will continue the work on drafting a constitution for the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

May 18, 2011


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Bahamas Government is looking at amending existing legislation to allow persons to use solar energy in their homes

Government looking to amend legislation for use of solar energy

Tribune Freeport Reporter

FREEPORT - Minister of State for the Environment Phenton Neymour said Government is looking at amending existing legislation to allow persons to use solar energy in their homes.

Mr Neymour, who was in Grand Bahama for the launch of the national energy efficiency programme, said Government is encouraging Bahamians throughout the country to conserve energy in their homes.

On Saturday, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) were distributed to hundreds of residents here on Grand Bahama.

CFLs are energy-efficient and use 75 per cent less energy compared to the incandescent light bulbs. CFL bulbs last for three to five years and result in a savings of $20 per bulb annually.

According to Mr Neymour, approximately 50,000 CFLs have been distributed throughout New Providence and 100,000 in the Family Islands.

Additionally, he noted it is Government's objective to address the current legislation which hinders individuals using solar energy in their homes and interconnecting with the power grid.

The state minister said Government is expected to begin a pilot project using solar power systems next month in an effort to address any potential challenges in interconnecting between the power company and the customer.

"We have 33 solar (power) systems which we will offer to Bahamians; we will raffle it and once individuals are able to pay for installation then we will monitor their system and interconnection with a view of looking at all problems they have with the power company because the design of the system is important for safety reasons," he said.

"We want to ensure it is done safely with a view that later on we can open our current legislation to allow individuals to produce their own energy from solar power and at the same time use energy that is generated from the power company."

State Minister Neymour said there is already a provision in the Electricity Act that allows individuals in the Family Islands to produce up to 25 kilowatts in their own home without requiring provision from a power company.

In New Providence, he noted that individuals can produce up to 250 kilowatts in their home.

Mr Neymour said the solar power systems they are proposing are ones where individuals can get feedback from the power company.

"The sun does not shine 24 hours and so it is cheaper to have a solar (energy) system where you do not have a battery to store that energy during the day to be used at night," he said.

Mr Neymour said the battery is very expensive and lasts for only seven years, and would be more expensive in the long run.

"So it is significantly cheaper if we can eliminate the battery aspect of it where they can produce their own energy in the day and then receive energy from the power company at nights, that makes the use of solar more practical and cheaper. And so that is the direction we are headed."

Mr Neymour said the government is also encouraging Bahamians to look at constructing their homes to be more energy efficient.

He said they will soon be launching solar water heaters which the Government has also purchased under the national energy efficiency programme. "We have a select number of them and we will be offering them to Bahamians in the near future," he said.

Mr Neymour said government continues to conduct research and studies regarding the potential for renewable energy in the Family Islands.

He noted that the island of Andros has the greatest potential for renewable energy.

"We recognised that Andros has a potential bio mass using pine to generate energy and the potential for using algae to produce bio-diesel. We went to Abaco which also has great potential for bio mass," he said.

May 17, 2011


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Latin America and the Caribbean move toward energy security

Caracas, 13 May. AVN .- One of the main issues analyzed during a meeting by the people responsible for the energy area in Latin America and the Caribbean was the construction of an institutionality to be able to execute the proposals made on energy security, informed the Venezuelan Energy and Oil minister Rafael Ramirez.

The encounter held in a hotel in Caracas is part of the preliminary meetings in the framework of the Third Summit of Latin America and the Caribbean on Integration and Development (CALC) that will take place in Venezuela on July 5.

“Energy security includes a reliable and direct supply; for such reason, there are proposals to create mixed ventures in which each country can manage sovereignly its own resources without intermediaries that create so much speculation in the international oil market. We have progressed a lot in that matter in the Caribbean and in the South,” Ramirez explained.

In the first journey, it was decided the themes that will be discussed during the ministerial meeting of this Friday in which it is expected the attendance of the Venezuelan Foreign Affairs minister Nicolas Maduro.

From Friday"s meeting, a series of proposals will emerge and they will be debated over by the head of States next July during the Third CALC Summit.

“Solidarity, complementarity,energy security and asymmetries were the main themes discussed on Thursday,” he added

Ramirez stated that ministers have also debated over energy cooperation, since the countries in the meeting are part of Petrocaribe and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), and proposals have been made to make the two blocs work in the same direction.

The Venezuelan minister recalled that besides Petrocaribe, Venezuela has alliances in 8 mixed ventures in the Caribbean and is participating in the South in diverse natural gas, oil and fuel projects with Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil and Colombia.

“We have reached some progress in a bilateral way, but we think that this is an extraordinary proposal because we are holding talks with countries with common problems and we are building a fundamental bloc so as to give support to the socio-economic development of our nations,” he added.

Ramirez recalled that Latin America and the Caribbean have become one of the regions in the world with more hydrocarbon reserves, “which will be very important for the planning in next years.”

09:38 13/05/2011


Monday, May 16, 2011

Haiti at the dawn of a new era!

By Jean H Charles

On Saturday, May 14, 2011, Joseph Michel Martelly was sworn in as the 56th president of the nation of Haiti. It has been a transition fought for and earned by the people of the country against all odds, national and international. The first round was mired with irregularities that only popular anger forced corrective measures to put Michel Martelly on the next round of the balloting.

Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.comThe second round was enmeshed with allegations of corruption by and in favour of the legislators affiliated with Unity, the government sponsored political party. President Martelly has a cry of heart, begging the electoral board not to derail the beginning phase of his lobbying effort to tell the world that Haiti, free of political strife, is once again open for business!

This island nation, well known now all over the world, because of the devastating earthquake that destroyed its capital on January 12, 2010, has been languishing in economic stagnation for the past sixty years because of poor at best, corrupt and criminal governance at worst.

The first one hundred days will indicate the new direction of the Martelly government. The masses deprived of the most rudimentary indices of amenities – water, electricity, decent roads -- have high expectations from the new regime.

The recent earthquake has brought into the country widespread devastation, and it has brought also universal cooperation from the most obscure to the well known international service agency. To the naked eye as well as to the astute observer, it seems as though such massive outpouring of help went into the country as a flood pours into an open field.

Haiti is the best field study of the axiom that “those who can, will not, and those who will, cannot.” The government of Michel Martelly wants to prove that those who will can turn things around very quickly if there is a convergence of the right actors with the right policies. A day before the inauguration of his mandate he energized a million men and above all women to take a broom to clean the streets in a mass movement of voluntarism.

The right policies include turning around the two parts of the head that form the nation to make it look at the same vision of the future for each citizen. This operation demands an affirmative action on behalf of those who are the most deprived of financial incubation to create products with plus value to increase their wealth. It demands also reaching out to those who already have, with tax incentives to build a national economy that will satisfy the expectation of a 10 million strong population with growing purchasing power.

The right policies called for the (re)building of the infrastructure of the nation, starting with the smaller rural counties to the capital. For the past two hundred years in the life of the nation, no rural county, nay no town or city, has received a minimum annual earmarked funding for the building or the upkeep of essential services such roads, sewers and waste disposal, potable water, electricity and internet services.

The Preval government created the CNE (National Center of Equipment) to build and maintain local roads. That instrument was transformed into an electoral machine, turned sometimes into a criminal enterprise at the service of one man instead of the nation.

The Martelly government will need to revamp this institution to supplement and intensify the contribution of the EU – European Community – in infrastructure support to Haiti.

The new government is very friendly to the concept of PPP -- public-private partnerships -- to circle the country with all the modern infrastructural apparatus -- transportation, fiber optics, ferry services, electricity, and communications, etc.

Efficient international trade requires, as said Alan Beattie in False Economy, good communications, cheap and reliable transport, as well as certainty about getting the goods on time to the customer along with the certainty that the exporter will get paid on time. Haiti is too close to the largest market in the world (the United States) not to take advantage of that opportunity.

The institutions in Haiti in the Preval government have been either an instrument of propaganda with minimum service delivery or a private fief of someone close to those in power to distribute favors, exact pay offs and humiliate and frustrate the ordinary citizen. To obtain a passport, pay domestic taxation, or receive a certified copy of one’s birth certificate, you must visit the capital, stay in a long line and sometimes pay a corrupt broker to obtain service that should be in the regular line of business of each county.

The Martelly government will need to institute in its first one hundred days the culture of hospitality in the delivery of services. That culture should be extended also to the coordination of the international organizations so they can become more effective in their mission as well as the mission of the government in becoming a state friendly to its citizens.

Last but not least the Martelly government will need to extend a hand to the Diaspora so it can energize the reconstruction of the country. He has done so at a gala given by the Diaspora in his honor. He told the crowd, at last “the Diaspora has its own government.” The new amended constitution gives the voting power to the Diaspora. With rights comes also responsibility. I have demonstrated in an earlier essay that the Diaspora as a tool for nation building can be organized only from the home country. The Haitian government must be the moving force incubating the regional organizations to make them effective tools of the Haitian recovery.

The input of the Diaspora has been so far as fragmented as the support of the international organizations in Haiti: a flood spreading into an open field. The sustainable effect has been minimal at best. The forthcoming Diaspora sponsored civil society plan to provide each town with an endowment of 3 million dollars per year for infrastructure and institution building should receive the full blessing of the Haitian government.

The energy of the new president, Michel Joseph Martelly, gives the possibility of forecasting the dawn of a new era of Haitian leadership in the Caribbean. The big international issues, such as the smooth insertion and the re-education of the criminal returnees, the free flowing of services and labor throughout the region, the control and the management of the illegal drug business will find a firm hand in securing the Caribbean basin for growth and development.

Last but not least, the last time there was some muscle (for the best or for the worst) engagement from the big brother (the United States) in the financial situation of the Caribbean was during the governance of Ronald Reagan. The Obama government will have to look at its neighbour, the Caribbean area, and provide at least the 3 billion dollars annual aid that Ronald Reagan, thirty five years ago, provided to the region. Haiti will provide the leadership for such engagement!

May 16, 2011


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wyclef Jean Sees Martelly As Change Leader

From newsamericasnow:

AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Sat. May 15, 2011: Haitian-born, Grammy singer Wyclef Jean, has likened Michel Martelly to Barack Obama.

Jean’s comments came as Martelly, a Kompa singer known for mooning the crowds, was sworn in as the 56th President of the Republic of Haiti, replacing Rene Preval in the post.

Jean, who was among the many gathered for the swearing in on the lawns of the ruined National Palace earlier today, said Martelly’s dynamic promise of change has resonated with the people.

“It means a new start … the people want education not handouts. Now they have a leader who will mobilize then,” Jean told Reuters, comparing Martelly’s election victory with that of U.S. President Barack Obama in November 2008.

Ironically, during Martelly’s swearing in, in the country’s makeshift Parliament, the lights went out.

But the swearing in continues in the dark while Martelly went on to repeat his promises to transform Haiti from a development basket case into a new Caribbean destination for investment and tourism that will provide jobs and better lives for its 10 million people.

“Haiti has been sleeping,” Martelly, 50, said as dozens remained nearby in tent cities close to the former Palace. “Today she will wake up, stand up.”

He pledged to provide free education to the widely uneducated population and swore to bring to justice anyone who brings disorder to the country. Martelly also proposed restoring Haiti’s disbanded army to eventually replace the more than 12,000 U.N. peacekeepers in his country.

Several foreign dignitaries including former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Jamaica PM Bruce Golding and DR President Leonel Fernandez attended the swearing in. Though invited, neither former Presidents Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier or Jean Bertrand Aristide attended.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Developing prosperity consciousness through education

By Oliver Mills:

Many Caribbean countries are currently experiencing difficult economic and social challenges to a degree greater than has previously been the case historically. There are budget cuts in many critical areas, additional taxes on others in order to raise additional revenues, salary cuts and various deductions from incomes, despite the fact that incomes on a personal basis are already low. Deductions are therefore being made to incomes, even though the economies are not really experiencing the kind of growth required to sustain economic livelihoods.

Oliver Mills is a former lecturer in education at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus. He holds an M.Ed degree. from Dalhousie University in Canada and an MA from the University of London. He has published numerous articles in human resource development and management, as well as chapters in five books on education and human resource management and has presented professional papers in education at Oxford University in the UK and at Rand Africaans University in South AfricaThere is also increased crime and violence in many of our societies, high employment, and we do not seem to be able to come up with the kind of economic and social model that would place us on the path to sustainable growth and development. Because of this, those members of our society who still manage to survive despite inroads being made on their ability to accumulate capital for further investment and development, become the victims of forces in Caribbean societies bent on committing anti social acts, often preying on the economically better off, as well as on the little that other deprived social groups have.

However, despite these challenges to our social and economic stability, and image, there is the highly important and critical factor of education being the strategy that could develop and sustain our hidden prosperity consciousness, which has been buried by the many years of doubt, social discontent, assumed helplessness in the face of overwhelming economic odds, and the intrusion of false, even negative values into our discourse, and everyday interactions with each other.

With so many socio-economic issues, we often feel burdened down, and many of us tend to either give up, or escape to other countries where we feel our futures would be better secured. It is not so easy, however, since many of the countries we see as havens, experience the same problems we seek to evade through escaping. Because we experience a sense of hopelessness, our consciousness of our authentic capabilities becomes dulled, which results in a paralysis of the will. It is here that education can be used as the elixir with the necessary potency to lift us up from the falseness and negativity that surround us, and provide the tools that would help to rebuild our consciousness of who we are, and our capabilities, and that would catapult us to transforming our situation through an awakened prosperity consciousness.

But what is education, in relation to developing a prosperity consciousness? Education is about how to create and live the good life. A life of success, enjoyment, caring, and transforming ourselves, others, and everything else we touch and interact with. This is its true meaning. It does this by exposing us to critical thinking, critical self-evaluation, and a logical approach to our experiences, so that we are able to manage them in a healthy and positive way. In this sense, it resurrects our smothered consciousness of who we really are, helps us to realise that nothing is ever lost, or unachievable, and that despite our economic circumstances, and those of our societies, we can think differently by formulating and developing a prosperity consciousness, which, when acted upon, brings about unimaginable blessings, economic well being, and prosperity, despite the contradictions around us.

Through critical self-analysis, we are able to change the way we think about ourselves, and the conditions of our society, and so change our way of living and being, so that we begin to live a far richer life, through developing a consciousness that is prosperity oriented, rather than poverty directed. Neglect-oriented thinking disappears, and we are therefore stimulated to redirect our energies to making our situation better, by engaging in those healthy activities that foster abundance. An abundant and prosperity mind-set enables us to attract these qualities to ourselves, and we then operationalise the activities that manifest them.

Engaging in self-discourse is another educational strategy that promotes the development of a healthy prosperity consciousness through education. Whenever we are faced with any adversity, or interact with others with an unhelpful frame of mind, an inner discourse begins, which alerts us to the fact that a situation which is not good for us, and needs our attention. Through self-discourse, which is integral to education, we deal with the cross currents of ideas that preoccupy us, work them out coherently, eliminate the negative elements, and choose only those discourses that are self-enhancing to us. Education is therefore integral to self-discourse, and is itself self-discourse, in a dynamic way. Through self-discourse as education, we change our perspective to one that involves abundance and successful accomplishment, which are directly related to enabling a healthy prosperity consciousness, which fosters positive results, both psychologically and materially. We are able to strengthen our resolve to act, and so set in motion those energies that enable achievement and success to come about. Like attracts like, so that a prosperity consciousness brings to itself prosperous benefits.

Rational analysis is another element in forging a prosperity consciousness through education. It unburdens us, and results in clarity of thought. It also presents us with various alternatives we could choose from, and enables us, through a process of elimination, to choose the one that brings the greatest prosperity benefits. We are therefore never overwhelmed by events and circumstances, but are able to master and direct them to our own good, and the good of society. Economic and social upheavals become opportunities to use our educational training to benefit and progress further and so become victors in any situation.

With rational analysis, we are never victims or casualties, because we constantly analyse various shifts and turns, and therefore develop possible responses. We are never caught napping, because we are intellectually agile, with a philosophically oriented outlook which is prosperity conscious. We are therefore able to harness those tangible and intangible forces to our benefit, and as a result, live in abundance and success. We always see opportunities, not barriers, and therefore act with a knowing, not suspicion, that what we do will work out in our favour. A prosperity consciousness therefore brings prosperous results, since belief precedes, and brings about what we want to be manifested.

In a wider sense, a prosperity consciousness through education transcends myths, precedence, and everyday experiences. We are not held back, or dissuaded by society’s myths and legends, because we have a more transcendent perception of possibilities. Prosperity consciousness means that everything is possible and achievable, that everything changes, never remains the same, and is always in our favour. Most importantly, we project and live what we would like to see, have, and be. It enables us to become and achieve whatever we can conceive. It is more than just faith, rather it is a deep sense of knowing that whatever the situation or issue, we can transcend it to our advantage, and be successful in what we desire. We are therefore not bothered by what happens in our space, because we know we will prevail and reap abundantly despite the experiences of others. No economic, social, or personal challenges can therefore affect us negatively.

Education then, not only builds a prosperity consciousness, but develops it further. It does this by analysis, the process of elimination, and using the best and most rewarding logical selection from among the alternatives that emerge through the process of dialogue and discourse, which are often internal. Through this process, awareness develops, enlightenment occurs, and consciousness regarding which prudent choice will best serve our ends surfaces. Prosperity consciousness therefore emerges as an educational event brought on and sustained by philosophical deliberation, and educational critique. It is not haphazard, or ad hoc, but systematic. It is about being aware of the best among other options that contributes to our greater well being and enhances our personhood.

Having a prosperity consciousness further results in healthy thinking, a positive approach to life, optimism, and expectancy. We expect that everything will always work out well for us. It fosters sensitivity and tranquility on our part, which contribute to a noble and ethical life style. Events always work to our advantage, we become winners, our longevity increases, and it brings about joy, and a sense of inner peace. Education liberates our prosperity consciousness from being smothered, and covered by the dynamics of everyday life, so that we become conscious choosers, who are constantly favoured, and who always experience abundant success.

May 3, 2011