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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The potential of Cuba's search for oil

by Elena Maffei

Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

The recent discovery of offshore oilfields in the Gulf of Mexico has given Havana new hopes of establishing rich deposits of its own, thereby decreasing Cuba’s present dependence on foreign energy sources.

Fidel Castro began to look for new energy suppliers immediately upon coming to power in 1959, and he soon found one. The Soviet Union was Cuba’s largest supplier of energy resources during the Cold War, but Moscow’s collapse in the early 1990s, coupled with the longstanding American embargo, drove the Cuban economy into a deep depression. Havana, in response, has begun implementing market-based reforms, including intensifying efforts to open the country to tourism,[1] as well as encourage strategic partnerships with other Latin American countries, most notably Venezuela.[2]

In 2011, Cuba produced about 55,000 onshore barrels of oil per day, mostly from the northern province of Matanzas, refining it at the island’s four refineries (in Cabaiguán, Cienfuegos, La Habana, and Santiago de Cuba). Consumer needs, however, call for over 170,000 barrels per day, making the island a net importer of oil.[3] Currently, the bulk of these imports come from Venezuela, which meets two-thirds of Cuba’s daily requirements thanks to an energy agreement the two countries signed in October 2000. Cuba has become a crucial partner for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, as reflected in both countries’ membership in the rising Alianza Bolivariana para Amèrica Latina (ALBA) trade bloc.

In early 2012, a deepwater drilling rig was built in China by an Italian company, Saipem, which is owned by the oil and gas multinational Eni, and then leased to Spain’s Repsol. The Spanish company began offshore oil exploration 22 miles north of Havana, in the Jaguey block of the Cuban Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), as early as 2004, and is hoping to find between 5 and 9 billion barrels in that area.[4] Yet Repsol will hardly be the only foreign company operating in Cuban territory, as it will be working in just six blocks within the EEZ, and will be doing so in cooperation with Norway’s Statoil-Hydro and India’s Ongc.

Twenty-two other blocks, meanwhile, have been awarded to other foreign companies, including Petronas (Malaysia), PetroVietnam (Vietnam), Gazprom (Russia), Sonagol (Angola), PDVSA (Venezuela), and CNOOC (China).[5] While each is eager to hit black gold in the region, it would take three to five years of drilling before real production could begin even if the deposits live up to expectations.[6]

The United States, which is not taking part in the drilling because of its embargo against Cuba, could nevertheless not be more interested. Washington, alarmed by the drilling site’s location just 60 miles from Florida’s coast, has been expressing its concerns about the potential environmental risks posed by the explorations, and has commissioned a panel of environmental and energy experts to discuss possible solutions to any potential disaster in the region.

According to William K. Reilly, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency under George H.W. Bush, “the Cuban approach to this is responsible and appropriate to the risk they are undertaking.”[7] But should an accident similar to the BP disaster of 2010 occur, the absence of a bilateral oil spill agreement between the US and Cuba, in conjunction with strict American regulations freezing the transfer of technology between the two countries, would threaten American interests in the region, as well as pose a real environmental danger to the entire Gulf of Mexico.

The matter is further complicated by the fact that offshore explorations are not taking place in US territorial waters, within Washington’s legal reach, and are therefore not governed by the Clean Water and Oil Pollution Acts. Thus, any US effort to take control of the situation in the event of an oil spill would be much more difficult, and would be bound to cause a diplomatic incident. Clearly, Washington must begin to consider a possible adjustment or elimination of the restrictions imposed upon the Caribbean country, and ask itself whether the embargo truly still represents American interests.

Economically, it must not be forgotten that if the investigations of Repsol and others reveal that there is a considerable amount of oil in the Cuban EEZ, Cuba could be transformed from an oil-importing country to one of Latin America’s largest oil producers almost overnight. Such a stark transition would undoubtedly affect relations between Havana, Caracas, and Washington, as well as completely change the geopolitical equilibrium of the region, possibly producing explosive results.

Another crucial issue is the conflict between the Argentine and Spanish governments over Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s nationalization of YPF, a now-former Repsol subsidiary. On April 19, the Castro administration announced its support for the takeover, stating that Argentina has the right to exercise permanent sovereignty over its natural resources. Such a controversial declaration, even if coherent once one takes into account Argentina’s alliance with Havana, could end up being a risky and counterproductive step for Cuba.

A potential geopolitical turning point for the region, the discovery of oilfields in the Cuban EEZ could represent Havana’s ticket to the further liberalization of Cuban institutions, an escape from poverty and underdevelopment, and the end of Washington’s disdain for their Caribbean neighbor.

Still, the Cuban position on the Argentinian YPF seizure could prove problematic, and Havana would do well to reformulate its position in order to ease tensions with the Spanish oil company.

At the same time, however, if the United States is interested in benefiting from this discovery and in staving off a potential ecological disaster mere miles from its southern coast, then it, too, must work to ease tension and adapt to the post-Cold War world.

To view sources, please click here.

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being "one of the nation's most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers." For more information, visit or email

May 29, 2012


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Applied Drilling Technology International (ADTI)... The company hired by the Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) to plan and execute an exploratory well in Bahamian waters... says it believes it will be drilling by the end of next year

ADTI: We expect to drill by end of next year

By Jeffrey Todd
Guardian Business Editor

Nassau, The Bahamas

The company hired by the Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) to plan and execute an exploratory well in Bahamian waters says it believes it will be drilling by the end of next year.

Applied Drilling Technology International (ADTI), based in Texas, is a division of Transocean, one of the largest offshore drilling contractors in the world with thousands of employees and billions in annual revenue.  While ADTI refers to itself as a turnkey operator, providing an all-inclusive approach to drilling, top executives revealed to Guardian Business that, in this case, they will only provide project management services for the Bahamas Petroleum Company.

"We're doing the pre-planning and design of the well. We design it with our people here, on our staff. Once the design is done, we move into the logistics planning stage," said Jess Richards, managing director at ADTI. "Once that is done, we will have a small team of engineers that will manage the day-to-day operations on the ground in The Bahamas. There will be supervisors on the rig.

Between our base teams and offshore teams, you're looking at around 12 people."

While not wishing to comment on the geological makeup in The Bahamas, Richards said, "We believe there is an incentive to drill a well. We believe we will be drilling by the end of next year. We're working as directed by BPC. All indications that we have received show we're on track."

According to BPC's drilling licenses, the company is required to spud an exploratory well by April of 2013. The ADTI director said his company, compared to other areas of the world, has not done a lot of exploration in the Caribbean. ADTI does manage wells all over the world, he added, especially in the Gulf of Mexico, which holds many similarities to Bahamian waters.

"It'll be a challenging well, but that's our forte," Richards told Guardian Business.

Research fellow at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas, Jorge Pinon, called Transocean, and by extension ADTI, "a quality outfit with a high level of experience and expertise".

He said Repsol's failure to strike oil off the northern coast of Cuba was unfortunate. But he emphasized that this setback has nothing to do with prospects in The Bahamas.

"The fact Repsol came out dry is not an indication you also don't have other opportunities in Cuba or The Bahamas. So no, the fact it failed does not mean The Bahamas is not a geologically attractive area," said Pinon, who is also the former president of Amoco Oil in Mexico and Latin America.

The comments echo similar assurances made by Simon Potter this week, the CEO of BPC.

Potter said BPC's target represents an "entirely different structure". According to the company's 2012 annual report, also released this week, 3D seismic surveys have yielded very positive results.

It found that the basement is deeper than previously mapped, implying a thicker source rock.

An event that could more accurately predict the fortunes of BPC is another well being spearheaded by Zarubezhneft, a Russian operator in Cuba, immediately adjacent to BPC's "southern blocks".

Share price for BPC, listed on the London Stock Exchange, ended yesterday's trading down more than seven percent, finishing at 6.91 pence.

On Tuesday, Adrian Collins, non-executive chairman of BPC, acquired 200,000 ordinary shares in the company at a price of 7.12 pence each.

Shares have suffered so far this year, registering a marked decline compared to when they were worth as high as 16 pence earlier this year.

May 25, 2012


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Jamaica: ...Balancing The Gay-Rights Debate

Balancing The Gay-Rights Debate

By Byron Buckley, Jamaica Gleaner Contributor

THE LOCAL faith-based community is pushing back against the advance of the gay agenda, with the recent staging of a forum by the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, which was formed in January.
The coalition's mission of ministry, advocacy and education is strategic in the cosmic struggle between religious and secular forces for predominance - a struggle that has been given added impetus with the recent endorsement of same-sex marriage by United States President Barack Obama.
The theme of the forum, 'Confronting the Secular Agenda and the Church's Balanced Response to the HIV/AIDS Epidemic', reflects the concern of the local faith-based community that gay-rights advocates in Europe and North America have overreached. Indeed, this has been underscored by the experience of Eunice Johns - a Jamaican who was prohibited from operating a foster home in Britain because of her religious views against homosexuality.
Having taken a 12-year break from foster parenting, Mrs Johns and her husband were alarmed at changes in UK laws that now required foster parents to avow homosexuality.
"It's as if these things were coming through the side door. So the Church needs to get organised and the people of Jamaica need to get ... active," warns Mrs Johns, who attended the forum in Kingston last Tuesday.
Mrs Johns' experience, as well as other cases of persecution by pro-gay laws, cited by Shirley Richards of Lawyers' Christian Fellowship, underscores the issue of overreach of the gay agenda. Laws are being passed that infringe other people's rights such as freedom of conscience and religious beliefs. In some jurisdictions, free speech has been made subject to the tyrannical acceptance of homosexuality.
Indeed, the criminalisation of biblical teaching on sexuality is one of several 'logical consequences' that have occurred in countries after the repeal of their buggery laws, according to Mrs Richards. Other likely consequences, she contends, include:
Incorporation of alternative sexual lifestyles into the educational curriculum.
Human-rights legislation (Equality Act) which establishes monitoring committees and punishes dissent.
Legal sanctions for public criticism of homosexuality.
Progressive endorsement of same-sex marriage with attendant pressures on religious institutions.
Legal adoption of children by same-sex couples.
Establishment of homosexual clubs in schools via the avenue of protection from bullying.
the new norm
This relentless push by the gay lobby to make homosexuality the new norm is what bothers many heterosexuals within and without the faith community.
The overreaching of the gay community seems also to be the concern of Dr Wayne West, another speaker at the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society's forum.
Dr West dismisses the claims by HIV advocates that the availability of antiretroviral therapy, as well as the relaxation of sodomy laws, will guarantee reduction in the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He argues that the number of new HIV cases is rising fastest among gay men, compared to other groups, in France where there have been no buggery laws for centuries.
Dr West also points to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States (US) indicating that, despite the availability of antiretroviral therapy, HIV incidence remained high among gay men in that country.
But neither Dr West nor the Rev Peter Garth, vice-president of the Jamaica Association of Evangelicals, has signalled that the Church is prepared to take unconventional approaches such as promoting safe-sex (use-a-condom) messages to congregants to fight the AIDS epidemic.
"Monogamous heterosexual marriage is the ONLY form of partnership approved by God for full sexual relations in our and every generation," declares Rev Garth, despite the instances of polygamy practised by several biblical icons. The Church, he says, will insist on abstinence, as well as faithfulness in marital relationships. However, that unbalanced approach will leave faithful spouses exposed to contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from spouses guilty of infidelity - highlighting the victimisation of many women whose partners are undeclared bisexual men.
The Church is also guilty of overreacting to homosexuality. The Church's apparent fixation on this issue has been at the expense of being silent on perhaps more egregious sexual atrocities, such as rape and the sexual abuse of children.
In this regard, Archbishop Donald Reece, president of the Jamaica Council of Churches, must be commended for his enlightened comments made at the forum. He suggests that, perhaps, the Church in general has not done enough to promote the sacredness of life.
"Programmes that would have informed our men and women - our boys and girls - of their Imago Dei (image of God) status and, consequently, the sanctity of life and the sacredness of sex are, by and large, lacking or too scant," the archbishop laments.
Correctly so, he condemns the Jamaican society for its selective morality in condoning some acts of violence - such as abortion - while disapproving of others.
It is this sacredness for life why Christians, individually and collectively, should not condone violence against homosexuals.
Clearly, there is need for consensus between pro- and anti-gay advocates.

Byron Buckley is associate editor of The Gleaner. Send comments to
May 20, 2012

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The curse of striking gold in Haiti

By Jean H Charles

The news is out of the bag: Haiti has billions of dollars of gold in its ground. Will this gold serve as a curse to make the nation as divided as the Central African Republic or will this gold enrich each citizen with the means put at his disposal so he will become as educated as possible so its endowed genius could come out for his benefit, his family and his nation?

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:
I was speaking recently with an official responsible for environment in the country; I told him Haiti is one of the best candidates to work out a deal with the pension fund of New York City and State to fill the mountains of the country with precious hardwood such as mahogany, ebony and cedar.

Twenty-five years from now, the country will be so rich and the investors will have such a high return on their investment that the only curse is how to protect Haiti from the international predators who will try to divide the north against the south of the country to put a hand on that wealth.

Singapore, without natural resources, and the Central African Republic, with ample natural resources, has proven that the best resource a country has is not its natural resource but its critical mass of highly educated people that this nation has within its midst. 

Showing off Haiti, to Jimmy Sherlock, an American friend, has taught me to become an acute observer of the energy of the Haitian people in surviving daily. Without support in infrastructure and in institution-building from past predatory governments, the people have developed significant resilience that has made them extraordinary workers!

The trick will be how to combine this resilience with education and formation so the citizens will strike gold and protect their precious resource (material and spiritual) against international predators that will reduce them to the state of the aboriginal Indians or the citizens of the Central African Republic (remember Bokassa!). 

It is significant that this gold discovery in Haiti happens at this time. In my old age of sixty-six years this is the first time since I was six years old that I felt Haiti has a government that is committed to fully defend the interests of the citizens of the country. The nation’s motto that resembles the French rallying cry at its revolution: liberty, equality and fraternity, must be translated into peace, tranquility and liberty.

I am observing today a combination of entrenched-interest actors made up of the old regime dinosaurs and a sector of the press bought by past governments bent on demonizing the Martelly/Lamothe government so peace and tranquility will not be the lot of Haiti.

Haiti was at the same standing economically sixty years ago than most of the countries of the Caribbean. Through dictatorial, military and illiberal democratic regimes it has become a pariah state where its citizens seek by any means at their disposal to leave their country for better pasture abroad. 

The earthquake of January 12, 2010, produced a shock that trembled not only the land but also the spirit. This spirit emboldens the people in particular, the downtrodden who took the leap of choosing an irreverent leader but totally determined to change the way business is conducted in Haiti.

Can this government protect the exploration of the gold mine so the country may receive what it is due in return? Initial information indicates that a good deal has been worked out where Haiti would receive one dollar out of every two dollars of revenue after expenses collected by the investors.

The gold mine in Haiti is large and deep -- twenty three million ounces, the equivalent of 40 billion dollars, with very promising samples according to Michael Fulp, a geologist based in New Mexico, USA. Gold and Haiti have been bedfellows for centuries. Christopher Columbus, when he landed first in San Salvador, Bahamas, from his extraordinary travel from Spain, was told by the aborigines to continue further down, where he would find Ayity where gold flowed naturally from the rivers.

The Spaniards, in digging for gold in Hispaniola, exterminated not only the culture but also more than one million Arawaks who peopled the island. Dejected by the hard work associated with the search for gold, the Spaniards left for Mexico where mining was easier.

The French who followed the Spaniards with imported slaves from Africa discovered black gold in the production of sugar from sugar cane produced and harvested by the African slaves. It was as such for three centuries, with St Domingue becoming the richest island of the world, transshipping immense fortunes to the European elite. 

The revolution of 1804 brought liberty but brought also misery to the mass of former slaves. Haiti was a bad example for a world bent on using slaves as a tool for production. Internal strife led by entrenched international interests that characterizes today the resource rich Central African Republic was also the lot of Haiti for two centuries after its independence.

In 1970, the United Nations in a study found that Haiti was rich in natural resources, especially gold and phosphate. But through a strange connivance of the dictatorial regime with the prestigious international organization that information was kept secret. I remembered visiting the library of the United Nations doing research on Haiti's mining potential; I was told such information could be delivered only with the authorization of the Haitian government. 

The cat is now out of the bag, Haiti the pariah of the world is also a Cinderella. Will it be for one day? Or will it be sustainable, the newly found gold serving to make Haiti rich and well developed as Norway is using its black gold to keep the country and its citizens fully protected for the dry days of the future?

The rush to create a critical mass of educated Haitians as initiated by President Michel Joseph Martelly is a sure way to erect a safeguard to protect the newly found gold niche in Haiti. It is the only potion to remove the curse of striking rich!

May 19, 2012


Friday, May 18, 2012

...the latest in a series of reports highlighting the crime problem in The Bahamas

U.S. report: Crime threat level critical

‘Numerous’ incidents against tourists

By Krystel Rolle
Guardian Staff Reporter

The United States Department of State has rated the crime threat level in New Providence as “critical” and “high” in Grand Bahama.

“New Providence Island, in particular, has experienced a spike in crime that has adversely affected the traveling public,” said the Bahamas 2012 Crime and Safety Report, which was recently released. “Armed robberies, property theft, purse snatchings, and general theft of personal property remain the most common crimes against tourists. There has been a dramatic increase in general crimes in 2011.”

It added: “In previous years, most violent crimes involved mainly Bahamian citizens and occurred in ‘Over-the-Hill’ areas, which are not frequented by tourists.

“However, in 2011 there were numerous incidents reported that involved tourists or have occurred in areas in tourist locations. These incidents have specifically occurred in the downtown areas, to include the cruise ship dock (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach commerce areas.

“Residential security also remains a great concern as the number of incidents involving house burglaries and break-ins has also increased.”

In last year’s report, The Bahamas’ crime rate was rated as “high” overall. New Providence and Grand Bahama’s crime threat levels were not separated in that report as it was done this year.

The latest report notes however that criminal activity in the Family Islands occurs on a much lesser degree than on New Providence.

“The [US] Embassy has received reports of burglaries and thefts, especially thefts of boats and/or outboard motors on some of the Family Islands,” the report said.

“The Bahamas has experienced a spate of armed robberies at gas stations, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, banks and residences.

“Perpetrators of these types of crimes typically conduct pre-attack surveillance by watching the intended victim.

“There were several reports in 2011 of victims being followed home after closing the business in an attempt to steal the nightly deposit. Several victims were severely injured. This underscores that common activities can directly impact personal security.”

The report also provided crime statistics, specifically pointing out that murder and armed robberies have dramatically increased.

“There were 127 homicides in The Bahamas in 2011, up from 94 in 2010, with nearly all the victims being Bahamian. This is a 35 percent increase from 2010,” it said.

The report pointed out that the police believe that many of the murders were related to drugs, domestic violence and retaliation/retribution.

According to the report, in late 2011, there were “numerous reports by cruise ship tourists and others regarding incidents of armed robberies of cash and jewelry. These incidents were reported during daylight and night time hours.”

The report said that the cash-for-gold business in The Bahamas may have resulted in the increase of these types of crime.

The report noted that the U.S. Embassy has received reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, in diverse areas such as casinos, outside hotels, or on cruise ships.

“In several incidents, the victim had reportedly been drugged,” the report said.

“The Bahamas has the highest incidence of reported rape in the world, according to a 2007 United Nations report on crime, violence, and development trends. The number of reported rapes increased 37 percent from 78 in 2010 to 107 in 2011.

“Two American citizens were murdered in Nassau in 2009, both in residential areas. Home break-ins, theft and robbery are not confined to any specific part of the island.”

The report noted that while tourists are not always the intended target of crime they could be impacted by being innocent bystanders.

The report, is the latest in a series of reports highlighting the crime problem in the country.

May 18, 2012


Thursday, May 17, 2012

The newly-elected Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government's proposed mortgage relief plan has been blasted by Moody's - a leading Wall Street credit rating agency - - - for "undermining" efforts to rein in The Bahamas' $4.356 billion national debt... warning that the scheme will likely cost Bahamian taxpayers $250 million to implement

PLP's $250m Mortgage Plan Blasted


Tribune Business Editor

Nassau, The Bahamas

A LEADING Wall Street credit rating agency has blasted the newly-elected Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government's proposed mortgage relief plan for "undermining" efforts to rein in the $4.356 billion national debt, warning that the scheme will likely cost Bahamian taxpayers $250 million to implement.

In a commentary likely to shock many in the governing party, Moody's described the plan - a key plank of the PLP's general election campaign - as demonstrating "a lack of commitment" on the Christie administration's part to tackle annual fiscal deficits running at over 4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Moody's described the proposed mortgage relief plan as "a credit negative", implying that its implementation could lead to it further cutting (downgrading) this nation's sovereign credit rating, something that could scare away foreign investors and increase the Bahamas' borrowing/debt servicing costs in the international capital markets.

Edward Al-Hussainy, Moody's assistant vice-president, in his note to investors on the general election outcome's implications, also warned that the PLP's mortgage plans created "moral hazard" that could increase Bahamian mortgage delinquencies, and would cost the Government a sum equivalent to 3.1 per cent of GDP spread over five years.

Mr Al-Hussainy, in his investment note obtained by Tribune Business, said of the new government's proposal: "We believe this demonstrates the new government's lack of commitment to the fiscal consolidation measures necessary to stabilise the national debt, and is credit negative.

"When enacted, this legislation will constitute a substantial contingent fiscal liability to the Government, and will negatively affect the sovereign credit. We estimate the contingent cost to the Government will be up to $250 million over five years, or 3.1 per cent of 2011's GDP.

"In addition, the plan introduces an element of moral hazard into the housing finance market that may actually increase delinquencies from their current level of 20 per cent of mortgage stock, or over 9 per cent of total bank lending."

Bahamian commercial banks, which have been waiting in trepidation to hear from the Government on how it proposes to implement its mortgage relief plan, last night told Tribune Business that the "moral hazard" element had already begun to kick-in.

While no bankers want to speak 'on the record' for fear of upsetting the new government, one senior executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, told this newspaper: "Banks are already seeing a deterioration in arrears for mortgages under 90 days past due.

"Those under 90 days past due have increased since the PLP announced its scheme. We were alarmed at the trends. The asset recovery teams were saying there was a sizeable jump in mortgage arrears between 31-90 days."

Moody's sentiments are likely to place Prime Minister Perry Christie and his government between the proverbial 'rock and a hard place', and at least give them pause for thought and pull them up sharply on the plan.

One the one hand, Mr Christie and the PLP will want to deliver on a key election promise that may well have induced a significant number of Bahamians to vote for them, and will not want to disappoint them for fear of a voter backlash.

Indeed, implementing the mortgage relief plan is included among the achievements the PLP has promised to fulfill during its first 100 days in government. And, as the bankers have indicated, there are already signs that more Bahamians are defaulting on their mortgage payments in the expectation that the Government will be there to bail them out.

Yet, on the other hand, the Government cannot risk a possible further downgrade to its sovereign credit rating. Not only would this increase borrowing/debt servicing costs on existing and future foreign currency debt servicing issues, such a development would also send a negative signals to international capital markets and potential foreign investors.

With economic growth and recovery a top priority, the last thing the Bahamas needs to do is send the wrong message that deters foreign direct investment (FDI).

Yet Moody's statement has already dealt a significant blow to the new government's hopes of sending out a message of 'fiscal prudence'.

Mr Al-Hussainy, in his note, said: "The Bahamas is experiencing a weak recovery from the global financial crisis, remains vulnerable to external shocks, and has limited fiscal room to maneuver.

"Our negative outlook for the sovereign reflects a growing financial deficit, currently at 4.7 per cent of GDP, and high levels of government debt that have ballooned to 53 per cent of GDP from 31 per cent at the time of the last national election in 2007.

"Stimulus spending has supported a return to positive, albeit tepid, growth of around 2.5 per cent this year. But unemployment remains above 15 per cent."

And, dealing a potentially serious blow to the Government's mortgage relief plan, Mr Al-Hussainy added: "Also, there's been little progress in reforming the tax system and diversifying sources of tax revenue, in particular through the introduction of a value-added tax (VAT).

"Near-term fiscal consolidation to control public spending and build up buffers is critical in this economic environment, and the mortgage plan undermines this."

The Moody's investment note said the PLP's general election campaign had advocated "significant new social spending", and described the mortgage relief plan as Mr Christie's "central campaign pledge". The rating agency said the plan included five years' of government guarantees for delinquent borrowers, together with write-offs of accrued interest and fees owing to the banks, and interest rate caps on mortgage loans.

Mr Al-Hussainy produced data showing that there were some $3.2 billion worth of outstanding mortgage loans in the Bahamian banking system, a sum equivalent to 39.6 per cent of GDP. Residential mortgages accounted for $3 billion, a sum equivalent to 37.3 per cent of GDP, with banks holding $2.8 billion - equivalent to 34.9 per cent of GDP.

The $700 million worth of mortgages in arrears is equivalent to 8 per cent of the Bahamas' $8.2 billion GDP, Mr Al-Hussainy noted. He calculated the $250 million burden from the proposed relief plan using an interest rate of 8.2 per cent, and 20 per cent of residential mortgages being in arrears.

The Moody's data also showed how many Bahamians were mortgaged to the hilt on consumer loans. With total bank lending standing at $7.1 billion or 87 per cent of Bahamian GDP, consumer credit totalled $5.2 billion or 63.6 per cent of GDP.

May 16, 2012


Monday, May 14, 2012

The legacy of colonialism and slavery creates self-hate and conflict among black people

By Hudson George

There is a big social problem among people of African descent in terms of who is black and who is mixed part black, and most of the time it all boils down to politics and prejudice, with a bit of colonial legacy. Therefore due to self-hate among some black people, darker skinned blacks are socialised to stay in the back, similar as in the colonial era of oppression and segregation.

Hudson George has a BA in Social Science from York University, Toronto, Canada. He has been writing since his early teenage years and now contributes letters and articles to a number of Caribbean newspapers.
In the United States of America, the colonial system of segregation brainwashed the general population to believe that citizens who have a small percentage of African blood are black. Presently, that racial theory without any scientific proof has become the norm for both black and white Americans. They believe that one drop of black blood makes a person black, even though the labeling might not physically fit the appearance of the individual.

In Sudan, the Arab colonisers taught the Sudanese that those who have at least an Arab ancestor are Arabs and not Africans. In some Latin American and Caribbean countries there is a similar kind of political racism, where some citizens will say in public that they are black, but when it is time to declare their racial status in a national census, they will claim that they are mixed race instead of being black.

In the United States, citizens of African descent identify themselves as African Americans, whether they mixed race as Rosa Parks, Fredrick Douglas, Halle Berry, Alisha Keys and Mariah Carey; or if they look pure African as Lou Rawls, Danny Glover, Tupac Shakur and Gladys Knight. And even though the majority of African Americans are dark skinned, the lighter skinned ones are more appreciated and recognised when it comes to promoting black people’s talent and beauty on television in America.

In the last two decades, black Americans have been brainwashed to believe that Halle Berry is the most beautiful black woman in America, with the help popular media culture that controls the minds of a majority of viewers. With the power and influence of the media, the portrayal of Halle Berry as the most beautiful African American woman became a worldwide belief of what a beautiful black woman should look like, while the darker skinned African American women, who are much more beautiful than Halle Berry, never got media promotion and attention to show the rest of the world how beautiful they are as African American queens.

Now that Halle Berry is in her middle age, the American media selected another African American woman of mixed ancestry as the most beautiful among the rest. This time around, the beautiful African queen is pop singer Beyoncé, who is of mixed race -- African, Native American and French Creole. With all the cry about racial discrimination against black people in America, African Americans are still promoting their own version of internal racism and self-hate within their own race, whereby they refuse to see beauty in their own women who are pure African or almost pure African descent.

In Sudan there has been a war going on for very long time between North and South Sudan. The leadership in North Sudan is Muslim and they claim to have Arab ancestors, even though some of them are of a darker completion then famous black American Muslim leaders Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan. The Southern Sudanese, whose dark skinned complexion Animists and Christians claim to be the indigenous Africans and Sudan is their native country. They claim that they are being discriminated against by the northerners because they are black. Therefore, the fighting continues and people are dying.

In the Latin America and the Caribbean, people of African descent practice the same kind of self-hate. Most black people in the Dominican Republic do not want to identify themselves as being black, they claim they are mixed race, even though the Dominican Republic and Haiti are two neighbouring countries with a common border on the island once called Hispaniola or San Dominique. In the early days of European colonisation, the entire island used to be one country, before it was divided into French and Spanish colonies after various conflicts and wars.

In Brazil, black people have divided themselves racially by different shades of skin colour, while they continue to suffer from economic hardship, poor educational standard and violence in the large urban ghettoes. Yet still, during World Cup soccer, black people globally support Brazil as the greatest soccer team in the world, all because of the great Brazilian soccer star Pele, who is a black and still known today as the greatest soccer player of all time.

In the English-speaking Caribbean islands there are divisions among black people based on skin colour too, even though it is not as bad as in the Dominican Republic and Brazil. For example, in Jamaica, lighter skin colour means a lot in terms of social class and upward mobility. It is very common to see some black Jamaicans bleaching their skin to look lighter, with the hope that they will be accepted at a higher status within society, even though Jamaica is a predominantly black vibrant society.

It is obvious that if Malcolm X had been successful in creating a separate black country in America for African Americans to live as a people and nation, the black population would surely have the same skin colour prejudice problem. They would have segregated themselves into light skinned against darker skinned and mixed race against pure blacks. And most likely a similar conflict would have happened, as we see happening in the Sudan and other countries where the skin colour of black people varies in terms of different shades of skin tone.

However, it will be impossible for black people to unite and make progressive changes to help the next generation, if they continue to promote lighter skinned women as the most beautiful, while the beautiful darker skinned black women are marginalised. With such a kind of segregation and skin colour prejudice practice among some of our own black people and being portrayed in the media, how do we expect the other the races of human beings to respect us and take us seriously when we cry out about racism and discrimination?

What has happened to our great civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Junior’s dream, that one day we all will be free and equal as human beings regardless of our skin colour and race and gender?

May 14, 2012


Friday, May 11, 2012

The Bahamas General Election 2012: ...Reversal of Fortune

Election 2012: Reversal of fortune

By Arinthia S. Komolafe

The results of the recent general election prove that democracy is still alive and well in our nation.  In the words of the late Sir Lynden O. Pindling after having conceded defeat to Hubert Ingraham in the 1992 general election, “The people of this great little democracy have spoken in a most dignified and elegant manner.  And the voice of the people is the voice of God”.

In an earlier piece, we had referenced the Jamaican elections of December 2011 in which the ruling Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) was defeated by the People’s National Party (PNP).  In the run-up to that election just like The Bahamas elections, polls had indicated that the race was close and in a dead heat.  However, the reverse would occur as the PNP would command 49 of the 63 available seats with no seats going to independents or third parties.  The challenges faced by the JLP were similar to those faced by the Free National Movement (FNM) government and not surprisingly, the outcomes have proved to be identical.

A reflection on election 2012

At this point, it is too early to state with great certainty the cause of the FNM’s defeat in the 2012 general election.  There is no doubt that the general election was hotly contested even though the number of constituencies won by the parties may not show this fact.  Apart from the long established parties of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the FNM, we saw the entrance of the newly formed Democratic National Alliance (DNA).

The DNA under the leadership of Branville McCartney capitalized on the obvious political divide of and the clamor for change by the Bahamian electorate.  However, as anticipated, votes for the DNA did not help the party win the government but rather served as spoiler of votes for the FNM and the PLP.  In the aftermath of the elections, certain political analysts have concluded that the presence of the DNA hurt the FNM more than it did the PLP based on the assumption that votes that were cast in favor of the DNA would have gone to the FNM.  This conclusion fails to explore the possibility that the DNA votes could have increased the number of PLP votes (and ultimately the number of PLP seats won) if in fact individuals voted against the FNM government and/or leadership.  However, in the absence of any scientific data to support these analyses, any subsequent conclusions are flawed.

In a public poll spearheaded by Public Domain, the results of the poll evidenced that there was an anti-government support with the FNM receiving 30.5 percent, the PLP 20.3 percent and DNA 16.5 percent.  Further, the exit polls conducted by The Tribune after the advanced polls showed the PLP ahead of the FNM significantly.  Preliminary data suggest that both the PLP and the FNM maintained their base while the DNA attained a portion of the independent and undecided votes.  It can also be argued that what separated the PLP from the FNM was that the PLP gained independent and undecided voters as well as disgruntled FNMs.

Same script, different cast

In 1992, Ingraham was successful in dethroning the most dominant political figure in Bahamian politics, the late Sir Lynden O. Pindling.  The administration had been plagued with socio-economic challenges due to effects of the drug era of the late 1970s through to the 1980s, a global recession, which at the time was termed the greatest since the Great Depression of the 1920s, and the rising cost of gas and food items.

Against this backdrop, Ingraham and the FNM campaigned against the PLP on the rising crime rate, an increasing national debt, illegal immigration and allegations of corruption and scandals.  Ingraham and the FNM promised a “government in the sunshine” that will usher in increased accountability and transparency in governance, better economic times and increased jobs, free enterprise and privatization of public entities and most notably the liberalization of the airwaves.

The Bahamian electorate, who at the time was suffering from high unemployment or underemployment and the rising cost of living, elected Ingraham and the FNM to office with the FNM defeating the PLP and claiming 32 of the 49 seats.  The FNM was subsequently granted a second mandate to govern during the general election of 1997 in a landslide victory in which the party won 34 of the 40 parliamentary seats.  Many remain of the view that Pindling’s failure to depart frontline politics and step down as leader of the opposition PLP also contributed to the resounding victory.

Two decades later, history has repeated itself.  Ingraham, faced with similar challenges that his mentor had back in 1992, was defeated resoundingly in a landslide victory by Christie in the 2012 general election.  The 2012 victory would also put to rest all questions as to whether Christie had what it took to defeat his most formidable political leader.  Just like his mentor, a decade and a half earlier, Ingraham would concede defeat in a gracious manner and would go further by announcing his immediate resignation as a member of Parliament and leader of the FNM.

Christie’s legacy term

The following words of Pindling after the PLP’s defeat in 1997 echo through time, “Today’s generation may not be so kind, but we chose to build on the past rather than destroy it.  We chose consensus and compromise over confrontation and conflict.”  The Christie administration should be guided by these words.  Christie, who has been favored to lead the final leg of the three-man political era of Pindling, Ingraham and Christie, must build upon his accomplishments and the success of his predecessors.  He must chart the course this term to build upon the legacy he started during his first term in office.  Christie is presented with an opportunity to not only cement the legacy of his predecessors but also to solidify his own lasting legacy for successive generations of Bahamians.  A definitive decision on gambling, an effective immigration policy, the expansion of access to quality education, true urban development and expansion and diversification of our economy are realistic feats that can be achieved in one term of office.

George Mackey in one of his pieces stated the following: “By the time the PLP was voted out of office on August 19, 1992, most of the planks of its initial platform, designed to address the many social and political ills that had led to its formation, had already been virtually completed.  In essence, the platform of the Quiet Revolution had run its course.  What the enlightened masses required was another vision, one that had as its primary objective their economic empowerment”.

This objective remains the same four and a half decades after the PLP started its journey in 1967.  Christie must create the environment for economic empowerment of our people.

We the Bahamian people on our part must give credit where credit is due to leaders who have made the ultimate sacrifice to serve our nation.  Our politics has divided us so much that we choose to focus on the failures of our leaders rather than their successes.  Now more than ever, we must be united and committed to building a stronger and better Bahamas that will once again make its mark on the world stage.  We must put our colors aside in the interest of current and future generations of Bahamians.

• Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law.  Comments can be directed at:

May 10, 2012


Thursday, May 10, 2012

7 Years on from the Creation of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America’s Trade Agreement for the People (ALBA-TCP)

7 Years on from the Creation of the ALBA -TCP

By Tahina Ojeda Medina - Ciudad CSS

What initially started as an alternative aimed at stopping the advance of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) has been transformed into an alliance in favour of Latin American and Caribbean integration. I am referring to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America’s Trade Agreement for the People (ALBA-TCP).

It is important to remember the solitary beginnings of ALBA-TCP. The main goal of the 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec was to create the FTAA, and like the majority of hemispheric meetings, the decision to implement a free trade area had already been taken prior to it being “democratically approved”.

The FTAA claimed to create a structure for free trade relations within the framework of the free market, without taking into account economic asymmetries, much less social ones. This aforementioned structure is evident in the 6th point of discussion for business and investment in the summit’s “plan of action”: countries will “ensure that the negotiations for the FTAA conclude before January 2005 at the latest, so that the agreement might be put into effect as soon as possible, no later than December 2005...”

The only vote against the plan came from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela; although the plan was published as having been approved unanimously.

Once they had analysed the kind of injustices that the application of the FTAA would bring to Latin America and the Caribbean, Cuba and Venezuela stepped forward and agreed on a plan to put the brakes on this situation. This is where the idea of the ALBA emerged, against the 2001 FTAA, before it was formally established in 2004 in Havana, Cuba.

The next step to stop the advance of the FTAA was taken at the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 2005. The final declaration of this summit read “the necessary conditions to implement a balanced and equal free trade agreement still do not exist, (conditions which ensure) the effective access to markets free of subsidies and distortive business practices, which take into account the needs and sensitivities of all business partners, including in their levels of development and the size of their economies”. This summit represented a definitive break with the FTAA.

Furthermore, Latin America and the Caribbean’s political map had changed since the FTAA was proposed. Cuba and Venezuela were no longer alone. From 2004, the following countries joined the ALBA: Bolivia (2006), Nicaragua (2008), Dominica (2008), Honduras (2008-2010), Ecuador (2009), St. Vincent and the Grenadine Islands (2009) and Antigua and Barbuda (2009). The subcontinent turned to the left, and this turn was met with various destabilisation attempts. An attempt to create war in 2008 in Bolivia, a state coup in Honduras in 2009, a failed state coup in Ecuador in 2012, amongst other international pressures toward the rest of the region.

Whilst the South was negotiating the various political difficulties arising from setting into motion the mechanisms designed to fight for the protection of the people, the “developed world” sunk into an unprecedented economic crisis created by the “invisible hand of the market”. These events are not isolated from the political and theoretical debate on contemporary international relations. When a project like the ALBA-TCP is analysed at an academic level, inevitable questions emerge, such as; is it a scheme aimed at integration? Is it aiming to construct a regional politics or an intra-regional free-trade agreement? Is the ALBA-TCP a formula to confront the negative effects of globalisation, or is it a strategy to enter into this process but from a stronger position?

All these questions have answers, which are still vague and somewhat open to debate, if we analyse the process of ALBA’s creation and consolidation from the perspective of theories on new “postliberal” regionalisms in Latin America and their relationship to globalisation. It is evident that ALBA-TCP was not conceived of as a scheme for regional integration, but rather as a political alliance to put a stop to FTAA which was progressively transformed into a collaborative mechanism which helped to strengthen real cooperation between countries in the regional South.

It is too soon to predict what a final regional integration project in South America would look like, but what we can confirm is that the ALBA has allowed for the creation of new forms of exchange and communication between countries that were once isolated; a first step in exploring a political agenda for integration. In this sense, ALBA-TCP is a formula for resistance to the project of globalisation. It is impossible to deny that globalisation is a concrete reality, but it doesn’t mean that countries have to throw themselves into its choppy seas without a lifejacket; the consolidation of strong regions is needed in order to confront the contradictions of the world system in which we live.

The ALBA-TCP, as Maria del Carmen Almendras Camargo defined it in the celebrations for the alliance’s 7th anniversary in Madrid, February 2012, is a “regional integration bloc made up of 8 countries with a population of 71 million inhabitants and a GDP of 498 billion dollars. It is the second largest trading bloc in the Latin American and Caribbean region after Mercosur, which has enormous human and natural resource potential.”

As ALBA begins to consolidate independently as a definite regional integration scheme, it is mutating and fusing with other integration strategies such as UNASUR and CELAC. On its 7th anniversary there are a whole host of reasons to celebrate; it has demonstrated that it is possible to say NO to the great global powers and design an independent and sovereign politics which can pave the way to a multi-polar world. Like the maestro Simón Rodriguez even said himself, we invent or we err.

Tahina Ojeda Medina is a researcher at the Development and Cooperation Institute at the Complutense University in Madrid ((IUDC-UCM), graduate in International Relations and a lawyer from the Central University of Venezuela, M.S in International Cooperation, Masters in Contemporary Latin American Studies and Doctorate in Political Science at the Complutense University in Madrid.

Translated by Rachael Boothroyd for

Source: Ciudad CCS

May 7th 2012

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Organization of American States (OAS) electoral observation mission calls the May 07, 2012 general election in The Bahamas - “free and fair”

OAS labels elections ‘free and fair’

By Guardian Staff Reporter

Nassau, The Bahamas

Calling Monday’s general election “free and fair”, the Organization of American States (OAS) electoral observation mission yesterday offered four preliminary recommendations to The Bahamas government after monitoring the country’s electoral process.

The OAS team recommended the “adoption of a legal framework on the financing of political parties and campaigns in order to enhance the accountability, transparency and equity of the democratic process”.

The team also recommended the process of redrawing constituency boundaries and the membership of the Boundaries Commission be independent of the government.

This recommendation was also an issue visited in the 2002 referendum.

The majority of Bahamians polled (57,291) voted against the creation of an independent Boundaries Commission, with 30,903 voting in favor of it.

The mission also encouraged the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas (BCB) to “provide access to all political parties and candidates in a free, fair and independent manner”.

The mission also encouraged political parties to incorporate more women in leadership positions and as candidates.

“[The year 2012] marks the 50th anniversary of women’s suffrage in The Bahamas,” said Alfonso Quinonez, chief of the mission for the observation team.

“For this election there were, 18,574 more women than men registered as voters. However, the increased participation of women as voters has not yet translated into other key areas of political participation. Only 22 out of the 133 candidates for this election were women.”

Former prime minister and Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Hubert Ingraham noted on the campaign trail that women would be a deciding factor in the election.

This was the first time that outside observers were invited to monitor an election in The Bahamas.

Teams from the OAS and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) were at various polling divisions on Monday.

Quinonez said it was an honor to observe the general election and noted that his team monitored 30 constituencies on election day.

“OAS international observers visited 189 polling stations throughout election day,” he told reporters.

“In all observed cases police were present and helpful to ensure a peaceful atmosphere. Voter participation was high and estimated at 88 percent.”

Quinonez pointed out that the mission would soon present to the OAS permanent council a detailed report that would be made available on the OAS’ website.

May 09, 2012


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

That bandit Chavez and the upstart Iweala!

By Dr Richard A. Byron-Cox

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is sick. His is a cancer case. And some in Venezuela, the US and our Caribbean, having branded him dangerously pesky, are fervently if silently praying that the illness prevails, speedily coffining-off this Venezuelan bad boy to the permanent silence of the grave. The Venezuelans and North Americans who wish this, need not concern us here. Suffice to say, the former find it difficult to challenge his popularity at home, while the latter are in contemptuous disbelief that “this Latino” has the cojones to question them. Our concern therefore is the Caribbean ones who want to see the back of Hugo. The question is why?
Richard A. Byron-Cox is an international law specialist, civil servant and author. He can be reached at
Their given reasons are too many for discussion in an article of a few hundred words. Consequently, we zero in on the cardinal ones, highlighting their merits or lack therefore.

Prophecies abound in some quarters that the Chavez-motored ALBA will ultimately lead to the death of CARICOM through the poaching of its members. The reality however is that many CARICOM states are members of other groupings, including the Association of Caribbean States, the OAS, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), and El Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana (SICA). Membership in these organisations has proven non-hazardous to the existence of CARICOM. So from whence is this hue and cry about el bandido venezolano trying to destroy CARICOM? Is this really serious!

Some, declaring concern for our democracy, are adamant that Chavez’s dictatorial hold on power is alien and dangerously contagious to us. Since birds of a feather flock together, they advise we stick with our crowd, maintaining a healthy distance from his corrupting influence. Truth be told, Hugo’s road to power was elections certified by all and sundry to be free and fair. He has won six straight and, though cancer stricken, is preparing to face the polls again. Isn’t it incredible that a man dubbed a dictator so readily embraces and subjects to the democratic exercise of the will of the people? Could this concern therefore be a case of people crying wolf while slaughtering a shepherd?

Others prescribe strict precautionary measures when engaging this socialist bosom buddy of those unrepentant communists, Fidel and his petit frère, Raul. The rumour is that Chavez is hell-bent on emulating the Castros by nationalising the entire Venezuelan economy. Then, he would dictate that our Caribbean leaders follow his lead, denying us all, the freedom of enterprise. This is naught but scaremongering and quatsch. While Chavez has nationalised a few industries in the crucial oil sector, free enterprise is most certainly alive and well in Venezuela after more than a decade of his presidency! This is self-evident truth. Further, Cuba itself is “liberating” its economy more and more, (granted not in the manner that the US, that self-proclaimed champion and self-appointed world evangelist of laissez faire economics would like).

It is also said that Chavez and Venezuela have been historically, politically and culturally conditioned differently from the way we were. We should therefore stick steadfastly to our kith and kin, which he certainly is not. But the argument that Venezuela is not Caribbean is questionable, not in the least for the simple fact that its northern coast is washed by the Caribbean Sea. So if being “Latino” makes Chavez foreign to us, then what of our relations with China, Brazil, Israel and, yes, the powerful white-dominated troika of Europe, Canada and the US? Are these our kith and kin? Lest we forget, this latter three comprise the G7 club where not even the emerging giants of the BRICS are welcome, not to mention us. Indeed, they have condemned us to the periphery of the world arena after having enslaved and exploited us for centuries. Oh yes, that is the inconvenient truth!

But all the aforesaid pales in comparison with what these fundamental “democrats,” and sworn guardians of the “free market” universally agree is President Chavez’s unpardonable sin: questioning the US’s self-appropriated status of world gendarme, and him being perceived as recruiting CARICOM states into his mercenary anti-gendarme gang. Not known for reticence, Chavez’s caustic anti-Yankee rhetoric is proffered as evidence that he is a threat to the one with the big stick? But has Chavez’s indignant rejection of US self-proclaimed imperium in the region hurt the relations between the CARICOM and the US? The clear and unequivocal answer is no.

Why then all this hullabaloo of Chavez and ALBA being of such grave danger to the CARICOM Caribbean? I dare to postulate that the key to it all is Chavez’s courage to question Uncle Sam on the one hand, and the cowardice of some in CARICOM on the other who shudder at the mere thought of this being possible. Indeed some of the latter are akin to an Uncle Sam poodle, which rushes to retrieve the thrown stick, but changes into a pit-bull if they merely think that you are attacking their master. So it’s no headline news that they are merciless to Hugo, even at this hour of his grave ailment.

All supra dictum have me wondering why these eternally loyal Uncle Toms have not gone paranoid on Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala due to her recent challenge of Yankee imperium over the World Bank?

Madam Iweala, like Hugo, has boldly rejected the US’s Jesus complex, and its self-belief in its global messiah role. She had the audacity to declare her candidacy for president of the Bank, insisting that she was the best suited. What’s wrong with that, you ask? Sure she is Harvard trained; is an economist; holds a PhD; is a minister of finance; was a World Bank director… In short, she has a CV of relevance longer than from Suriname to Bermuda and wider than from Bridgetown to Belize City.

So what’s the problem? It’s rather simple. Ab initio, the World Bank has been a most valued piece of hardware in the US’s arsenal of economic weaponry, especially as regards execution of its policy towards the so-called Third World. It is particularly useful for disguising, when and where necessary, the US’s real intent; and is central to the US’s ability to directly dictate economic policy in most developing nations. Now here comes this Third World-black-African upstart demanding that this important column of US global economic imperium be surrendered to her, publicly declaring that suitability, and not economic and military hegemony should determine who gets to be president of the Bank!

Yes, Iweala is indeed a terrorist, for as George W. Bush said, who is not with the US is against it. Let’s not be self-deceiving. The World Bank is as much an instrument of US power as the most potent piece of weaponry in its military. Iweala’s open challenge to US suzerainty on this front is an affront, just as Hugo’s stance is as regards their behaviour in the region. Like him, she is contemptuous of the idea that American dictates is leges legume, convinced that it does not always lead to what is boni et aequi. Yet, she was spared the crucifixion that cancer-stricken Chavez must bear. I wonder why? It’d be interesting to know.

May 07, 2012

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Labour Day in Haiti

By Jean H Charles

In a country where 89% of the population endure unemployment or underemployment, more than 500,000 people, mostly young ones, turned out into the vast yard of Haiti’s Ministry of Agriculture to celebrate International Labour Day on May 1.

Indeed on Labour Day, the rest of the world (with the exception of the United States that celebrates its own on the first Monday of September) takes a day of rest to give homage to the punishment that God sanctioned man to: “You shall now eat your bread from the sweat of your labour.”

Early in the day, I took public transportation to go to the Ministry of Agriculture, located on the outskirts of the city of Port au Prince, to attend the fiesta of three days that features the art, the food, the agricultural experiments and the produce of Haiti. I knew, there would be a massive traffic jam later when the whole city would take the only road leading to the event. Indeed by midday, only a helicopter could get you into the Labour Fair.

President Michel Martelly, freshly minted from a week’s stay at a hospital in Miami, recuperating from pulmonary embolism, plunged himself into the affection of the crowd to urge the Haitian people to make the duty of work, a labour of love to remake Haiti the pearl of the islands when labour was total hell.

The president, as well as his Minister of Agriculture, Heber Doctor, and his Minister of Social Affairs and Labour, Francois Lafaille, that sponsored the event, took the artistic decorated podium (a master work of Sisalco, a Haitian company that produces designer bags, trays and other home products made of sisal) to urge the crowd and the nation to take advantage of the new vision of the government in terms of agriculture that focuses on four different features: guaranteed food security for all; guaranteed revenue for those who work hard and play by the rules; protection of the natural resources; and contribution for bringing foreign currencies into the country.

I was already into the path of that new locomotive when, last week I was invited to Cape Haitian (on the northern coast of Haiti) to a spectacular forum organized by the very articulate and ebullient Under Secretary of Agriculture for vegetal production, Mr Fresner Dorcin. For the first time in Haitian politics, a ministry is pulling all the actors and founding agencies together to share their knowledge, their constraints and their vision on agriculture in a given catchment area: the northern and northeast part of Haiti. 

This caravan will go from county to county in duplicating the model developed in the north of Haiti. Secretary Dorcin has pulled off a energetic team made of the best agronomists in the country, ready to kill the sacred cows and the old inertia that incubate the culture where each director of the ministry has his own little program that has nothing to do with a coordinated vision of the modern management of agriculture in a country where 90% of the population are involved in a way or the other in the business of agriculture.

The mood in Haiti is comparable to the mood in the rest of the world on Labour Day. No more those massive demonstrations of workers united to celebrate the symbol and the achievements of communism and socialism (down with capitalism!) in the capitals of the former Soviet Union, its satellites and its wannabe satellites. The crowd in Haiti was festive and in a spirit of jubilance, not a single incident of violence in a mass of half a million people, most of them still looking for work or a ready market for their creativities.

I was proud to be a native of Haiti amongst this gargantuan demonstration of creativity in decorative arts, happy as a lad going from booth to booth in sampling the different culinary specialties of each county of Haiti.

Upon stumbling on a giant fruit that I did not know before (I knew later its name was jacqier, a native of India), I was ready to buy the produce and play the Christopher Columbus game (transporting one seed from east to west of the world) when Mr Brunel Garcon, a friend from high school, who in the meantime became an official of the cabinet of the minister of agriculture, intervened to help me to get the gargantuan fruit free of charge. 

I profited from my proximity on the stage with the minister of agriculture to conduct a long and debating conversation on the policy of agriculture in Haiti. Should the government incubate and facilitate the business of agriculture as countries such as Japan, the United States and the European Union or should this government stay out of the business of incubation and let the market and investors have free hand?

At the level of the political platform of Repons Peyizan, the party in power (freshly reconciled in a warm and intimate relationship with the government) is leading a movement to enrich each peasant family in the territory of the republic. 

The program is a cocktail of husbandry, organic agriculture and art-craft where the party, through its social organization, will incubate each family to engage into those activities that will generate a minimum of $15,000 dollars per year in the next five years from the paltry $400 dollars per year today.

The party is attaching itself to an anchor agency to actualize its goal and its mission. The program is starting in the region of Jacmel, in the southeastern part of Haiti, with the support of the technical mission of Taiwan at the beginning of this month.

The debate initiated with the minister of agriculture is still open. Will Haiti follow the model seen in the other Western countries where the number of agricultural workers take a dip on the lower side as the country becomes richer or should Haiti lead the way again in the world where it can demonstrate it can retain its agricultural workers in their fields and on their land, where they will lead a happy and pastoral life with niche markets for specialized and organic products?

Haiti is today at an exciting place. It has a new president, soon a new government, dynamic ready to shake the inertia of arrogance, incompetence and indifference of the last sixty years of governance in the country. Its young population of almost 8 million people out of a nation of 10 million people is ready to engage into the world of work with the creativity which is proper to the Haitian people.

Haiti is indeed open for business! Businessmen of the world unite! See you in Haiti soon!

May 5, 2012


Thursday, May 3, 2012

...the shifting political sands in The Bahamas find Bahamian Prime Minister -Hubert Ingraham - facing a general election to win a fourth term in government for the governing Free National Movement (FNM) party

The Shifting Sands Of Bahamian Politics

Nassau, The Bahamas

 LADY PINDLING'S appearance at the PLP's Clifford Park rally Friday night - to "set the record straight" for her "PLP family" - brought back many memories of the upheaval created by the Commission of Inquiry into drugs. It also highlighted the shifting sands of politics.

In her talk to her political family, Lady Pindling deliberately avoided the fact that her late husband's anointed successor was fired by him from the PLP cabinet in the eighties. She wanted the gullible crowd to believe that it was only Prime Minister Ingraham who was given orders to "walk the plank."

She also wanted her flock to understand that not only did Sir Lynden anoint Mr Christie as his successor, but Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield also would have liked him to have been his political heir. Anyone who recalled those times would find this assertion almost laughable.

It is true that at the time both Mr Christie and Mr Ingraham were hedging their bets about their political future. They both agreed that they would continue in politics, the question was how? Join an existing political party or remain Independent?

After the Commission of Inquiry, they both expressed concern about corruption, which former PLP Loftus Roker had earlier warned was "rocking the PLP to its very foundations." Because of their position -- particularly Mr Ingraham's -- they were both fired from the Pindling Cabinet. Mr Ingraham was later expelled from the PLP, while Mr Christie at the last minute was rejected as a PLP candidate in the 1987 election. Both decided to go it alone, winning a decisive victory in the 1987 election, unopposed by the FNM. They were the first Independent candidates to do so in the history of the modern Bahamas.

They were both weighing the possibility of joining a political party. Mr Ingraham, the more decisive of the two, was not certain which route he would take. However, he knew the route he would not take. Mr Christie was not so sure. He said he was still "philosophically committed to those principles" that originally attracted him to the PLP. He was not talking with the FNM, but he was talking with the PLP.

And so when Sir Lynden dangled a Cabinet post in front of him, he could not resist. He had his future made, no more time wasting fighting for his principles in the trenches. He was secure at the top.

The Tribune at the time speculated that Mr Christie would go back to the PLP. For all the years he was in the political wilderness, no reporter could ever draw him out on his opinions. Mr Christie promised interviews that he never kept. When he did go back he said he told Sir Lynden on two occasions: "My brother, I hope you realise that my silence is a statement."

Is that the way we are today to interpret his silence on issues on which he should be vocal -- particularly the allegations of corruption in his own party?

Not so Mr Ingraham. He said he was sorry to see his law partner and friend heading back to the PLP ship. "But that's his right to do," he added. "

I determined a long time ago," he said, "that the ship was taking the Bahamas in the wrong direction and it continues to be my goal to stop the ship."

He closed his ears to Sir Lynden's siren song to come back on board.

Today, Mr Ingraham is still determined to stop the PLP ship. Mr Christie, on the other hand, continues to face what Sir Cecil Wallace Whitfield described at the time as "one of his biggest hurdles" -- credibility.

Never far from the limelight, today's Fox Hill PLP candidate Fred Mitchell, who in those days headed his own political party -- the PDF-- demonstrated with placards outside of the House of Assembly calling for Mr Christie's resignation. He claimed that Mr Christie had broken his agreement with his supporters in Centreville by returning to the PLP. There were even PLP MPs who were upset that Mr Christie -- once the prodigal son-- had leap-frogged over all of them to a top position on his return to the fold.

Mr Mitchell felt Mr Christie was morally bound to resign his seat in Parliament when he decided to accept the Cabinet appointment.

Mr Mitchell maintained that Mr Christie had broken his political contract with his constituents who had returned him to parliament to oppose PLP corruption.

In the meantime, Mr Ingraham was still at war in the House with the PLP government for challenging the right of the Public Accounts Committee to "send for persons or papers" to do its work. Mr Ingraham was a member of that committee. He said that there was "crookedness" in the government's 1987 audited accounts, and that an attempt was being made to cover-up what was going on with the government's finances.

Today the shifting political sands find Prime Minister Ingraham facing a general election to win a fourth term in government for the FNM.

Meanwhile, Mr Christie, leader of the Opposition, hopes to replace him on May 7. As for Mr Mitchell -- whose dream was one day to become prime minister -- has himself returned to the PLP and serves under the man who he felt betrayed his supporters by returning to the PLP.

Politics is certainly a fickle throw of the dice.

May 02, 2012