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Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) needs clear position on Jamaica's accession to the criminal and civil jurisdictions of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)

JLP needs clear position on CCJ

Jamaica Gleaner Editorial

It is time for Andrew Holness to end his party's cat-and-mouse game on Jamaica's accession to the criminal and civil jurisdictions of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

If the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) doesn't want the court, it must assert its position with clarity, including saying why. If, however, it supports the court, but genuinely believes that the final decision on it ought to rest with the Jamaican people in a referendum, we expect to hear a commitment from the JLP to campaign for a 'yes' vote in a plebiscite.

We, however, sense that the JLP stands for neither position. It hopes, it seems, to engineer a referendum, then leverage the vote not as a test on the public's opinion on the specific matter, but the broad performance of the Government. Which is why governments are often shy of referenda.
The CCJ was conceived and established to be a final court for a number of Caribbean countries, replacing the United Kingdom-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

Few courts in the world, in their governance structure, enjoy the CCJ's depth of insulation from potential political interference. Doubts about the quality of a regional court, which should never have been harboured, have long been put to rest.

Indeed, it was to this position that Bruce Golding, then the prime minister and JLP leader, appeared to have arrived 18 months ago in the face of a complaint from the UK's top judge that his justices were spending too much time on Privy Council cases at the expense of domestic ones.

Backing away from his party's formerly hard opposition to the CCJ - which was the basis of its moral leadership of a constitutional challenge to the manner in which the CCJ was being established as Jamaica's final court - Mr Golding said: "We have to dispense with the Privy Council."

He canvassed the possibility of a Jamaican final court, but that was deemed by many as part of a measured face-saving retreat. Mr Andrew Holness, Mr Golding's successor, appeared, prior to last December's general election, to have adopted a softer stance on the court.

Querying constitutionality

Recently, though, the opposition leader and his shadow justice minister, Delroy Chuck, have adopted a tougher tone on the CCJ and their interpretation of the Privy Council's ruling of the constitutional route for it to be our final court. The law lords held that to amend the Constitution to institute the CCJ as a superior court to the Court of Appeal would require that it be similarly entrenched.

On the face of it, this merely requires the passage of the bill with two-thirds majority of all parliamentarians. But Mr Chuck insists that securing the entrenchment of the CCJ would mean amending - thus requiring a referendum - of the deeply entrenched Section 49 of the Constitution, which sets out the processes by which constitutional amendments are achieved.

Essentially, the change to Section 49 would be to list the clause covering the CCJ among those subject to its cover. There are, however, those who believe that the same effect can be achieved differently: for instance, by indicating in the new CCJ clause that any future amendments to it would be subject to Section 49.

In Jamaica's 50th year of Independence, the issue of a final court should be a matter of mature discourse, not a scramble for political advantage.
The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.

June 29, 2012

Jamaica Gleaner Editorial

Friday, June 29, 2012

Neocolonialism and economic imperialism in the Caribbean

By D. Markie Spring
Turks and Caicos Islands

When God created man, He did so in His own likeness!

Nowhere have I known that God breathed into a ‘black man,’ ‘white man,’ or an ‘Asian,’ or any other so-called races. Neither did He make any of these humans superior to the other. However, there are people of one kind that devote their chief energies to thinking that they are superior to another.

The author of a number of published works, D. Markie Spring was born in St Vincent and the Grenadines and now resides in Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands. He has an MBA from the University of Leicester, England, and a BA from Saint Mary's University, Canada
Often, I refuse to use the word ‘race’ as I do not believe in ‘races.’ Conversely, I believe that there are people that happened to look differently on the outside, but on the inside the human body, regardless of differences on the outer layout of the person, our hearts, lungs, intestines and other body parts are shaped the same, located at the same dimensions of the body and have the same functions. Our blood is the same colour and it operates in the same areas of the body, transported by endless veins and arteries.

God is an omniscient Being and knew that the world would be one boring place without differences. Imagine a world filled with blacks or whites, or Asians. Visualize a world with one culture or language, or for that matter one climate. When fast forwarded in time, the world would seem like an austere, monastic, rootless ‘out-of-shape’ ball wriggling on its axis while it dances around the blazing hot sun, tormented into a monotonous brutish environment.

These facts have rejuvenated and given rise to modern day imperialism and colonialism. One would think that imperialism and colonialism have aged and that the world has rid these economic and financial, nonetheless, political exploitations – think again!

West Indians look around! The facts are surfacing and are evident like the shining stars in the night sky. Henceforth, the big regional cooperation are dominated, controlled and directed by mega metropolitan centres headquartered in the outer sphere of the Caribbean; and nonetheless, establishing and expanding settlements within the Caribbean Basin.

Furthermore, the colonizers are hiring liked-figured people, giving the impression that the regional boys and girls cannot perform certain categories of jobs, especially at management levels. West Indians are given the duties of the dirty jobs and lower end jobs when they are more experienced and qualified that the colonizers and their liked creatures; and their only experience and qualifications stems from their pale outlook.

They set up a ‘New World Order’ that is constantly and consistently merchandizing their kind into the work force; dodging all legality of the requirements, regulations and policies that directs the system. And for those of us who have made it to certain level, we ended up being paid at twice as lower than the non-West Indians on the jobs.

However, it must be noted that not all are the same, but there are the legitimate few who tend to contribute meaningfully to the regional economies and aid in lifting the standards of living for citizens.

Along this path, we cannot solely blame the imperialist-colonizers for their actions, but the local authorities, including our government, business entrepreneurs and lawmakers for solely concentrating on holding back one another especially those from neighboring islands and their constant disregard to neo-colonizers that are secretly spreading their empires.

Astoundingly, this fascist doctrine defeats the lure of economic infrastructure, such as the ironic fate of the ‘Education Revolution’ in SVG, the surge for independence in the Turks and Caicos, or does it subjugate the strife for political and economic stability within the region?

Already, we are witnessing the aftermath of these two phenomena; impacts that are both immense and pervasive – and effects that are both instant and protracted on our societies from inequality, exploitation, enslavement, trade expansion and the creation of new literature and cultural institutions.

Our fall is subsequent to our failure in accepting our own while the rest take advantage of the vacuum within our system!

Wake up!

June 27, 2012


Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Bahamas: Roman Catholic Archbishop of Nassau - Most Reverend Patrick C. Pinder announces program to protect children... Says: ...he would never tolerate any abuse within his Archdiocese

Pinder: I won’t tolerate abuse

By Travis Cartwright-Carroll
Guardian Staff Reporter

Catholic Archbishop Patrick Pinder said yesterday he would never tolerate any abuse within his Archdiocese and added that he knows of no one in the local Catholic ministry against whom any allegations of sexual abuse exist.

His comments came amid allegations of abuse that have swirled in various circles.

Pinder said it is unfortunate that there are some members of the Order of St. Benedict against whom allegations of sexual abuse have risen.

The archbishop said in a statement, “The Benedictines (Order of St. Benedict) had a long and distinguished association with The Bahamas which extended over a period of 120 years.  They have done a tremendous amount of good for the religious and social development of this community, particularly in education.”

Pinder said he would never tolerate abusive behavior period — whether sexual or otherwise.

Referring to allegations against some members of the Order of St. Benedict, the archbishop said, “This casts aspersions on their colleagues, the vast majority of whom were men of excellent character and exemplary virtue.

“This is a sad development.”

Pinder said he remains hopeful and prayerful that reconciliation can be achieved for those affected.

“I am thoroughly committed to maintaining safe environments for children and vulnerable adults in our community,” he said.

“In support of this, we have launched, here in the Archdiocese, the Virtus program for the protection of God’s children.”

The Virtus program, according to, identifies best practices designed to help prevent “wrongdoing and promote right doing within religious organizations”.

For more than a decade now, the international Catholic Church has been rife with allegations of sexual abuse brought against priests.

Some of the most senior officials in the Catholic Church in the United States and elsewhere have for years been accused of covering up reports of abuse and transferring clergy against whom those reports were made.

Last year, a group of victims abused by Catholic priests filed a formal complain to the International Criminal Court accusing the pope, the Vatican secretary of state and other senior officials of crimes against humanity.

The Catholic Church has spent years trying to sanitize its image amid the serious reports of sexual abuse and widespread cover up involving church officials.

Jun 28, 2012


The Bolivarian Revolution in the Context of the Third World Movement

By Matthew Siano:

Vijay Prishad in his work The Darker Nations recognizes that the worlds’ historically oppressed and excluded populations represent one of the most powerful forces for historic change towards social and economic justice. The rise of the Third World movement was a manifestation of these popular forces that developed before and after World War II in rejection of the bipolar, First World market capitalist, and Second World state socialist models. The Third World movement represented “the Darker Nations”, or the worlds historically oppressed and excluded majority, through the formation of international organizations, national liberation movements, and alternative development projects. Over time, due to a number of internal contradictions and external pressures, the Third World movement lost much of its political power, but not its’ importance to the lives of those people it represented and all those who desire global justice. Vijay Prishad only briefly mentions the Bolivarian Revolution in his book, and when he does he brushes it off as a colonels coup. Judging by the various similarities between the Third World movement and the Bolivarian Revolution, as well as by the entirely new context through which the Bolivarian Revolution has arisen; I believe that the Bolivarian Revolution represents a novel resurgence of the values and ambitions of the Third World movement.

Today, the First World, with the United States as its vanguard, operates through organizations like the IMF, World Bank and NATO, and has achieved a level of economic and military power that borders on hegemony. Through these institutions, many nations in the former Third and even Second World face the threat of neocolonialism. The neocolonialism of our time often wears a human face or obscures its true intentions through structural adjustment, debt bondage, capitalist culture, and NATO military “humanitarian” intervention. With a lack of any real check on these powers, it is now more important than ever that the voices and wills of the majority of the world achieve political and economic power, and organize themselves internationally to defend their collective demand for equality and justice.

In many ways, the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela is working towards this reality, and has already achieved economic and political empowerment of a large part of its historically oppressed and excluded population. In the context of a unipolar neoliberal world order, the Bolivarian Revolution has built upon many of the ambitions of the Third World movement. By championing regional integration, international nationalism, and by directly challenging First World ideology that there is no alternative to neoliberal capitalism, Venezuela is becoming possibly the vanguard of a new World movement. This new World movement builds upon the Third World movement by learning from its failures and striving towards similar goals of global justice and dignity for the historically oppressed and excluded. 

Popular Power

            The Third World movement was a manifestation of popular power. This popular power took various forms that included armed anti-colonial resistance (Algeria), non-violent anti-colonial resistance (Ghandi, India), and massive grassroots organizing with national liberation or socialism as its demand. A major failure of the Third World movement was that it did not live up to its promise of participatory democracy. Some nations within the Third World such as Saudi Arabia did not even have a semblance of democracy, while others like Tanzania took extremely top-down approaches to their ambitions. Even nations that had emerged from a long anti-colonial struggle and developed strong support like Algeria, “did not fully live up to its promise of radical democracy, where every person would be constituted by the state as a citizen, and where each citizen in turn would act through the state to construct a national society, economy and culture” (122, Prishad).

This failure to include popular forces into the Third World struggle made various states “vulnerable to the counterrevolution of the old social classes of property and the disgruntlement of those in whose name it ruled” (123, Prishad). Furthermore, the failure to include popular forces deprived the movement of its initial energy, and stifled much creative potential that may otherwise have been able to manifest.

The Bolivarian Revolution and government are also rooted in popular power against oppression. One of the earliest manifestations of this popular power came with the Caracazo. During this event, tens of thousands or more people, representing the millions most effected by the new neoliberal “shock” package proposed by Carlos Andres Perez and the First World, took to the streets in protest of rising prices, inequality and poverty. The popular power of this movement was violently repressed, but later manifested as political and economic power with the democratic election of Hugo Chavez and the creation of a new constitution.

Likely in response to the failure of Third World nations in their top-down approaches to global justice and national development, the Bolivarian Revolution has emphasized the construction of a participatory democracy. The government has facilitated this by granting legal authority and logistical support to the creation of communal councils; by opening up opportunities for referendum on national issues; and through its laws that support protagonist action.  Participatory democracy is antithetical to the assumption of the First World that only representatives and technocrats know what is best for the majority. Having travelled to Venezuela recently and listened to many people who have participated in community councils or participatory democracy in other more direct ways, it is quite apparent that these changes are building a society that encourages participation by its members in their own political and economic reality. It is most encouraging that the citizens of Venezuela have legal authority through the constitution to challenge the government, and the institutional framework through community councils and other organizations to do so. While there does still exist bureaucracy between these social forces and the government, it is a good sign that people are encouraged to self-organize to challenge the government, instead of being repressed or ignored. 

Economic Autonomy

            Economic autonomy, or economic self-sufficiency and determination, was equally as important to the Third World movement as political sovereignty. Many Third World nations realized that the economic policies promoted by the First World were the direct cause of their poverty and lack of development. A question arose:

“How can sufficient capital be harnessed to do the important work of reconstruction for economies battered not just by the world depression of the 1930s and the wars of the 1940s but by the centuries of colonial depredation?” (64, Prishad).

A possible answer to this question was Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI), which sought to limit their nations importation of goods from First or Second World countries with higher value-added, by producing those products within their own nations. This ISI model was accompanied by social investment in infrastructure and programs, and nationalization of key industries. The ISI model had its own contradictions, some of the most significant being that its main intentions were to protect domestic industry, and that this in turn led to the development of a national capitalist class detached from the interests of national liberation and the history of that struggle. This national capitalist class pushed the Third World into integration with the First World through globalization, which eventually destroyed one of the primary pillars of the Third World movement, economic autonomy.

The Bolivarian Revolution too has championed economic autonomy through endogenous development and a move away from neoliberal policies. The macro-level changes to the Venezuelan economy in many ways appear similar to the economic policies of ISI, including social investment, nationalization of key industries, price regulations and currency control. The Venezuelan government has achieved significant reductions in poverty and inequality, while increasing access to education and health care, primarily through reforms like these. What is inspiring about the Bolivarian Revolution and government is that they have realized the limitations of ISI development, and have sought out a social economy through endogenous development. Endogenous development according to the Venezuelan government is “a means to achieving the social, cultural and economic transformation of our societies, based on the revitalization of traditions, respect for the environment, and equitable relation of production” [2].

How endogenous development has manifested most significantly has been through the creation of a social economy, which attempts to break down capitalist work relations, and move away from capitalism towards democratic and participatory economics.

The creation of a social economy in Venezuela has been a slow process, which at first was primarily promoted through missions like Vuelven Caras and later Che Guevara that sought the creation of cooperatives. Cooperatives were understood to be a model that creates more equitable work environments, while promoting the values of solidarity. The social economy is also present in various worker-run and/or expropriated industries that have been granted legal recognition or are in the process of doing so. Socialist Production Enterprises (EPS) are another way the Bolivarian Revolution has sought to socialize the economy, by integrating production into the structure of the communal council. There are, however, some contradictions within the social economy. One is that many of the cooperatives facilitated by the government have not lived up to their expectations as real alternatives to capitalist relations, either in the workplace or with the community. Another is that the social economy has grown at a sluggish pace, and is still not a significant portion of overall economic activity. However, the very existence of a social economy is a powerful example of alternatives to neoliberal capitalism, and the growth or decline of this sector could very well determine the health of the Bolivarian Revolution in the future.

Internationalist Nationalism

            International nationalism was a theory for the construction of nations within the Third World movement, which built itself upon “the history of their struggle against colonialism, and their program for the creation of justice” (Prishad, 12). International nationalism manifested in the form of organizations like the G-77 and the Non-Aligned Movement, while pushing to democratize the United Nations, which was viewed as “a crucial forum for the Third World to raise issues of colonial barbarity and use the General Assembly as a medium to broadcast previously hidden atrocities before the world” (Prishad, 103). Unfortunately over time nations within the Third World movement began to move away from internationalist nationalism towards cultural nationalism that emphasized linguistic, racial or religious unity. This type of nationalism was deeply rooted in the pre-liberation social forces, and developed symbiotically with globalization. Saudi Arabia became a strong and sad example of cultural nationalism, which developed symbiotically with globalization in order to “open [the] economy to stateless, soulless corporations while blaming the failure of well-being on religious, ethnic, sexual and other minorities” (275, Prishad).

The Bolivarian Revolution is named after a revolutionary leader that helped to liberate many Latin American countries from Spanish colonial rule. The international nationalism of Venezuela today is not only apparent through its various references to Simon Bolivar, who believed in a Gran Colombia and the political unity of Latin America. The Venezuelan government since 1998 has built international relations with regional countries that in many ways challenge the international relations of the First World. The formation of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America’s Trade Agreement for the People (ALBA-TCP) was initially a counter to the neoliberal Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) that has become focused on Latin American and Caribbean integration.  ALBA has already proven to” allow for the creation of new forms of exchange and communication between countries that were once isolated” [3]. These new forms of exchange involve direct commodity trades such as oil for doctors with Cuba. In regards to new forms of communication between countries, Venezuela has established the regional television station Telesur, and launched the communications satellite Simon Bolivar, while also opening up the space for meetings between ALBA countries. Furthermore, Venezuela has been participating in trade agreements and commodity exchanges with members of the South American Nations (UNASUR). As a whole the organization is seeking the creation of alternative economic structures between participating nations, while basing its success on the well-being of its people rather than by profitability.

A more recent development with significant historical precedence is the formation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in December of 2011. CELAC was pushed for hard by Hugo Chavez, and its first meeting was held in the capital of Venezuela, Caracas. The United States and Canada are intentionally absent from CELAC, due to their domination of previous organizations like the OAS. The official stated objectives of the organization are to “to deepen integration and political, social, economic, and cultural unity and to promote sustainable development” [4]. Leaders such as Rafael Correa have proposed an alternative Latin American human rights watch to combat the plethora of U.S. funded human rights organizations. At the meeting, Chavez also stated: “It’s an honour for Venezuela [to host the summit]… many talk about the dream of Bolivar [for a united Latin America] but few talk about it as a project, about actually putting it into practice. Today we’re laying down the first stone, a fundamental one for the unity of Latin America and for our real independence.” [4]

All of this certainly suggests that Latin America is moving further towards regional integration, seeking cooperation economically and politically to challenge the dominant First World of neoliberalism and imperialism. Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution have been at the forefront of this movement towards integration, through the formation of ALBA, the hosting of and push for CELAC, and increasing cooperation with UNASUR.


Within the context of a unipolar world order, the Bolivarian Revolution has been a critically important accomplishment of popular power. Its goals and values align with the historical struggles of the Third World movement, but in an evolved form that has learned from history. Venezuela today is living evidence that the historically oppressed and excluded are the protagonists of history, and that their struggle for political and economic justice has not ended.

Works Cited

Prishad, Vijay. The Darker Nations. New YorkThe New Press, 2007. Print

[2] Gobierno Bolivariano de Venezuela:

[3] Tahina Ojeda Medina , 7 Years on from the Creation of the ALBA –TCP : Venezuela Analysis

[4] Ewan Robertson, CELAC Holds First Meeting of Triumvirate Countries, Designates Priorities: Venezuela analysis

June 26, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Resolution from the Political Council of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) ...for the immediate withdrawal of USAID from member countries of the alliance

ALBA Expels USAID from Member Countries


On behalf of the Chancellors of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Federal Republic of Brazil, on June 21st 2012.

Given the open interference of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the internal politics of the ALBA countries, under the excuse of “planning and administering economic and humanitarian assistance for the whole world outside of the United States,” financing non-governmental organizations and actions and projects designed to destabilise the legitimate governments which do not share their common interests.
Knowing the evidence brought to light by the declassified documents of the North American State Department in which the financing of organisations and political parties in opposition to ALBA countries is made evident, in a clear and shameless interference in the internal political processes of each nation.

Given that this intervention of a foreign country in the internal politics of a country is contrary to the internal legislation of each nation.

On the understanding that in the majority of ALBA countries, USAID, through its different organisations and disguises, acts in an illegal manner with impunity, without possessing a legal framework to support this action, and illegally financing the media, political leaders and non-governmental organisations, amongst others.

On the understanding that through these financing programmes they are supporting NGOs which promote all kind of fundamentalism in order to conspire and limit the legal authority of our states, and in many cases, widely loot our natural resources on territory which they claim to control at their own free will.

Conscious of the fact that our countries do not need any kind of external financing for the maintenance of our democracies, which are consolidated through the will of the Latin American and Caribbean people, in the same way that we do not need organisations in the charge of foreign powers which, in practice, usurp and weaken the presence of state organisms and prevent them from developing the role that corresponds to them in the economic and social arena of our populations.

We resolve to:

Request that the heads of state and the government of the states who are members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, immediately expel USAID and its delegates or representatives from their countries, due to the fact that we consider their presence and actions to constitute an interference which threatens the sovereignty and stability of our nations.

In the city of Rio de Janeiro, Federal Republic of Brazil, June 21st 2012.

Signed by:

The government of the Pluri-national state of Bolivia.
The government of the Republic of Cuba.
The government of the Republic of Ecuador.
The government of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
The government of the Republic of Nicaragua.
The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Translated by Rachael Boothroyd for Venezuelanalysis

Published on Jun 22nd 2012 at 4.32pm
Source: Diaro Granma

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cholera remains prevalent in Haiti

Cholera persisting in Haiti

By Amelia Duarte de la Rosa

CHOLERA remains prevalent in Haiti. The epidemic which began in October 2010, killing more than 7,000 people, is still in the endemic phase throughout the country. With the current rainy season, news agencies are talking of a fresh outbreak of the disease; however, the current behavior of cholera is precisely what was previously forecast.

Dr. Lorenzo Somarriba, head of the Cuban Medical Mission, explains, "The endemic phase moves through local epidemic outbreaks, given that cholera bacteria are in circulation, but the disease is behaving according to forecasts. From January through April, in the dry season, cases reported were very low; in May, the rains began and the number of people who contracted the disease increased.

"However, news agency reports are suggesting figures of up to 200,000 cases during the rest of this year and this is an overestimation, it would be half of the cases recorded in the first year of the epidemic. Endemic means that the disease remains at a stable level over a long period of time, including seasonal variations. On the basis of natural history in places where there is no adequate health infrastructure, such as Haiti, cholera remains in an endemic form for many years," he clarified.

In parallel, data from the Pan American Health Organization confirm that the global increase of cases is slow, given that there has been rain, but not as much as in previous years. The disease, principally acquired via contaminated water and food, is currently stable, with a tendency toward an increase due to the permanence of risk factors.

In Haiti, only 2% of the population has access to drinking water, there is no adequate environmental cleansing system and surface water sources are contaminated. These factors are compounded by high poverty figures, malnutrition, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, diseases which increase the risk of contagion.

For this reason, even though the accumulated mortality rate recorded by the Cuban Medical Brigade (BMC) continues stable – there have been no deaths this year – the brigade is ready to confront any case of contagion with focal controls on the part of its active monitoring groups.

In the BMC situation room, where a group of high-level cholera specialists work, all potential cases arriving at medical posts with a Cuban brigade presence are monitored, Somarriba notes. "The brigade has the personnel and resources to treat the disease. We have 33 observation posts, 30 cholera treatment units and two active centers prepared to receive, treat and report cases. Cases of acute diarrhea are now in third place on the chart of transmissible disorders and two departments are reporting the highest rates, Artibonite and Nord. Where there is a case we implement the epidemiological survey and act rapidly with all contacts.

"Any biological species is very difficult to eliminate, the Haitian and Dominican government authorities currently have a program to eradicate cholera on the island of La Española within a 10-year period; in other words, the non-circulation of the V. cholerae," he explained.

"In any event, the number of fatalities is in relation to the promptness or otherwise of focal controls in every case, which is why the differentiated and constant attention of our collaborators is focused on cholera. We are still distributing water-purifying chlorine tablets, monitoring and offering educational support. Thanks to all of this, Haitians now have knowledge of the disease and how to avoid it."

June 21, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Caribbean governments killing the hotel sector 'golden goose'

By Robert MacLellan:

Each of the Caribbean hotel investment conferences held in April and May this year included sessions to encourage closer cooperation between the public and private sector but, immediately prior to the Caribbean Tourism Summit in mid June, the governments of Jamaica and of Antigua and Barbuda announced significant new airport arrival taxes, with a new hotel occupancy tax also added in Jamaica. The Caribbean hotel industry’s greatest fear now is that other governments will follow.

Robert MacLellan is CEO of MacLellan & Associates, the largest hospitality, tourism and leisure consultancy based in the Caribbean. He has eighteen years experience in the hospitality industry in the Caribbean and was a cruise ship hotel officer and vice president, hotel services, of a cruise line earlier in his career
These extra charges target the region’s highest spending visitors – the stay-over guests. While everyone understands the difficulties that island governments currently face in trying to balance their own budgets in times of world economic uncertainty and with increasingly youthful populations, it is a fact that much of the region’s hotel industry is in deep financial crisis and has been for some considerable time. The region’s largest employer and biggest direct and indirect tax payer cannot be “the cow you take to market and milk it twice”.

Today, most lower and middle market Caribbean hotels, which have significant bank loans, are in default to some degree or other. Energy and water costs on many islands are as high as US$40 per day per occupied room – with little actual utility cost differential per day per room between budget hotels charging US$80 a night and luxury resorts charging US$800 a night. Reservation systems, like Expedia, and tour operators continue to negotiate aggressively low hotel room rates, such that Smith Travel Research projects that average room rates in the Caribbean will not recover back to 2007 dollar levels until 2014. My own research suggests that lower end hotels will not even achieve that level of rate recovery. More tour operators are pressuring hotels for all inclusive rates, where meals become part of the tour operator’s “commissionable” package, but Caribbean hotel restaurants are already incurring operating losses in the face of escalating world food prices. Inevitably, hotel refurbishment and marketing budgets continue to be cut.

Prior to this year’s two hotel investment conferences, I researched opinions from the hotel sector, relative to its perceived needs from Caribbean governments, and the following points summarise the concerns and suggested requests.

Hotel Taxation

Review taxation structures for new and existing hotels, “in their role as the region’s biggest export industry and foreign currency generator”. Many hotels currently require major re-investment and are struggling with bank debt and increased operating costs. Without new thinking, continuing low levels of inward investment in the sector and a downward spiral of standards are resulting in a consequent loss of global competitiveness for the overall Caribbean hotel product. At least a certain percentage of hotel taxation should go directly towards generic Caribbean global marketing in order to create world class campaigns of adequate scale.

If taxes are reduced on the hotel sector -- the current principal direct / indirect “tax cow” -- governments should seek to derive compensating levels of tax revenue from the following alternative targets: much higher cruise ship port fees; effective taxation of private condo / villa rental income; a wider property tax base; corporation tax increases paid by a wider range of businesses; abolish duty free concessions for car rental companies. Governments should also take steps to re-invigorate and grow the region’s agriculture and fishery industries as major components in sustainable economic activity – for export and for direct supply to the hotel / restaurant sector and to other local consumers.

Duty Free Incentives

Governments should simplify and improve duty free import concessions for refurbishment of existing hotels and for development of new hotels -- but also expand them to include incentives for furnished condos and villas, providing that those units are in a hotel managed formal rental program that generates taxable income on island. This latter action will speed up the recovery of the leisure real estate market, provide construction work, ultimately generate additional tax revenue and create new fresh resort inventory with extra earning potential for the region’s hotel companies. In general, current fiscal incentives are significantly better in many Central American tourism destinations than in most Caribbean countries.

Food Cost

In the light of rising world food prices, there is a need to eliminate import duties for hotels on all food items -- not available from local sources -- and governments should actively encourage the growth potential for local food supply.

Utility Costs

Reduce utility costs through part / full privatisation of existing electricity companies in order to finance investment in better infrastructure: the proposed gas pipeline from Trinidad or on-island LNG trans-shipment facilities; replacement of old diesel generators with efficient gas turbines, hydro, wind and tidal generators. Similar privatization of water companies should be undertaken for greater efficiency through re-investment in updated and extended infrastructure. Given likely increases in long term energy and water demand, this is a safe investment for the region’s social security funds, insurance companies, unit trusts, credit unions and private conglomerates – many of them still too risk averse to invest directly in the Caribbean hotel industry.

Human Resources

Re-invigorate human resources within the hotel sector and improve the industry’s profile as a career choice. Governments and the hotel sector should cooperate in developing and resourcing better, larger management and operative level training facilities throughout the region. Speed up and expand CSME to effectively allow CARICOM citizen managers and specialists to work anywhere within the region. In the meantime, expeditiously grant medium term work permits for other skilled personnel from outside the region - where their expertise helps to drive world class standards and disseminates their specialist knowledge.

Air Services

All stay-over visitors to the Caribbean (except yachtsmen) arrive by air. Greatly increased UK airline and regional airport taxes continue to have a significant negative impact on air travel to, and within, the region. The UK’s APD tax was highly discriminatory and costly for the Caribbean but lobbying by the public and private sector has been completely ineffective to date and must be more vigorously pursued with the UK government. The Caribbean Diaspora in Britain can be a powerful lobby at the next UK general election, if the APD issue is successfully communicated to them. The region now faces additional potential negative effects from the proposed European Union’s airline “carbon tax” and must avoid further increases in regional airport taxes.

Almost all Caribbean-based airlines are currently loss making but their ticket prices (including taxes) are some of the highest in the world per seat / mile. The private and public sector across the region should work together to help create, finance and under-write a viable pan Caribbean international and regional carrier, which will genuinely “partner” with the rest of the Caribbean tourism industry. Meanwhile, the cruise sector, which operates in the region virtually tax free and increases its “Caribbean hotel market share” year on year, must also be forced to make its fair share contribution to government tax revenues in the region.

I do not pretend that this commentary from the Caribbean’s hotel sector represents a panacea but the region’s most vital industry is on a slippery slope, with a significant part of it in danger of being decimated by strengthening world-wide competition. It seems very likely that middle market hotels on the islands with a lower cost base, like Dominican Republic and Cuba, will survive. Highly likely too that the region’s luxury resorts will survive, but what are the survival chances for some of the rest of the Caribbean’s hotels, particularly older properties with significant debt finance? Some of the dominoes are already falling.

Governments and the hotel sector should communicate quickly and effectively to act together with the greatest sense of urgency. Arguably, the French market has already left for the Indian Ocean and most of the Germans for South East Asia. And some people still think, “These islands market themselves!”

June 21, 2012


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

BP "Statistical Review of World Energy 2012": ... ...Saudi Arabia now trails Venezuela with a 16 percent share of world proven oil reserves... ...Canada ranks third with 175.2 billion barrels, or 11 percent of total...

Venezuela World’s Largest Holder of Proven Oil Reserves

By Saudi Gazette:

JEDDAH – Venezuela surpassed Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest holder of proven oil reserves, the BP "Statistical Review of World Energy 2012" said.

Saudi Arabia now trails Venezuela with a 16 percent share of world proven oil reserves, according to the report. Canada ranks third with 175.2 billion barrels, or 11 percent of total, unchanged from the revised number for 2010.w

The South American country’s deposits were at 296.5 billion barrels at the end of last year, data from BP Plc show. Saudi Arabia held 265.4 billion barrels, BP report said. The 2010 estimate for Venezuela increased from 211.2 billion in the previous report.

"These reserves are quantified and certified by third parties and recognized by the entire world as being the biggest proven reserves of the world," Venezuela’s Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said today in Vienna. "We have always said that in the future the natural resources will become scarce and when the economy recovers and demand will come back then we will be one of the few countries able to respond to that."

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela wants to more than double the country’s oil- production capacity to 6 million barrels a day by 2019, according to a government plan released June 12. The world’s biggest oil-exporting nations faced a 15 percent slump in crude prices last month, the biggest decline since December 2008, on speculation Europe’s debt crisis would derail the global economic recovery.

Ramirez has said oil prices need to be higher than $100 a barrel. The recent slump in crude is dangerous for producers, the Oil Minister said June 12 in Vienna, where the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is meeting today to decide production quotas.

Brent futures fell 14 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $96.99 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange at 4:04 p.m. London time Friday.

Global reserves advanced to 1.65 trillion barrels at the end of last year, a 1.9 percent increase from a revised 1.62 trillion in 2010, BP said. Venezuela now holds 18 percent of the world’s reserves, according to BP data.

BP revised its estimates on reserves in part because the company publishes its report in June, before most governments issue their annual reserves figures, said Robert Wine, a BP spokesman. Last year’s record average oil price also had an effect, increasing the commercial viability of hard-to-reach deposits, he said.

Venezuela’s deposits may be difficult to extract, according to Strategic Energy & Economic Research. "People still know that a lot of that is very hard to develop and is not as readily accessible the way Saudi reserves are," Michael Lynch, the researcher’s president, said today in Vienna. "It’s the same with Canadian oil sands."

Russia boosted its deposits to 88.2 billion barrels from a revised 86.6 billion a year earlier, according to BP. Russia’s share of the total is 5.3 percent. Reserves in Norway increased last year, snapping 11 years of declines, according to BP. The country’s deposits rose to 6.9 billion barrels, compared with a revised figure of 6.8 billion in 2010.

BP said the estimates in the report are a combination of official sources, OPEC data and other third-party estimates. Deposits include gas condensates and natural-gas liquids, as well as crude.

Global oil consumption increased 0.7 percent or 0.6 million barrels a day to reach 88 million barrels a day in 2011, marking the weakest global growth rate among fossil fuels in BP’s statistical review. Oil consumption in member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, declined 1.2 percent to its lowest level since 1995, while oil consumption outside the OECD grew 2.8 percent in 2011, BP said.

"Despite strong oil prices, oil consumption growth was below average in producing regions of the Middle East and Africa due to regional unrest," the oil giant said.

China was the largest contributor to a rise in global oil demand growth in 2011, increasing its total oil demand by 505,000 barrels a day or 5.5 percent in 2011, although the growth rate was below its 10-year average, BP said. Meanwhile middle distillates were again the fastest-growing refined product category by volume, for the seventh time in the past 10 years, the oil major added.

In non-OPEC countries, output was broadly flat, with increases in the US, Canada, Russia and Colombia offsetting continued declines in mature areas such as the UK and Norway, as well as unexpected outages in a number of other countries. The US registered the largest increase among non-OPEC producers for the third consecutive year, driven by continued strong growth in onshore shale liquids output, which pushed US oil output to its highest level since 1998, BP said. – SG/Agencies
Published on Jun 19th 2012 at 9.35am
Source: Saudi Gazette

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Transparency, accountability and ethical conduct in the Commonwealth Caribbean

By Ian Francis:

Within the last few weeks, Grenada was once again consumed with a scandal that touched on admitted campaign funds received in Grenada for the National Democratic Congress (NDC). As the evidence indicates, funds were received and deposited into various personal accounts of known individuals who hold elected and appointed important offices in Grenada. There were many verbal and one written admission, which emanated in a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Ian Francis resides in Toronto and is a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada and can be reached at
As the prime minister’s press secretary comforted himself in the media room at the Botanical Gardens, Grenada’s airspace was once again circulated by a Qatar Airways Airbus 320 aircraft, which sought clearance to land at the Maurice Bishop International Airport in Point Salines. Permission for landing was quickly granted and the Airbus made it way to the tarmac and took up a well located parking spot.

As the Airbus landed, numerous and unsubstantiated rumours and speculation surrounded the nation. There was no welcoming diplomatic entourage on the ground and the flight did not appear to be a presidential flight. Those of us who have taken the time to become aware of the diverse political habits of Arab leaders will know that they travel in pomp and ceremony, usually on a modified 747 similar to Air Force One of the United States of America. In conversation with regional aviation experts, they all agreed that there is indeed a vast difference between an Arab presidential personal 747 and a 320 Airbus.

As the curiosity and speculation about the Qatar Airbus at MBIA continued, it was necessary to contact the press office of the Embassy of Qatar in Washington to determine whether the emir was on an official visit to Grenada. After checking many other reliable sources, it became evidently clear that the emir was not in the Caribbean region, although there was a sanctioned Qatar delegation in the region. With no official statement from the Thomas administration, it will be unfair to promote any further speculation.

Grenadians have been left in the dark as to whether there is any connection between the Qatar-Saudi Arabia-British Virgin Island monetary contribution to the ruling NDC and the follow up visit to Grenada by Saudi and Qatar officials. What is very clear to Grenadians at home and in the Diaspora, is that money passed, money went into personal accounts and it has now been determined that it is an internal NDC matter that will be addressed by party officials. With such an undertaking, it is hoped that at some appropriate time after the issue has been dealt with, the NDC will accord the necessary respect to Grenadians by sharing with them the outcome of the party’s internal adjudication task on this shameful and embarrassing episode to Thomas and his loyalists.

While the debate persists amongst local and leading legal minds, there seems to be a unanimous position that there was no law broken. As a lay person, I concur with the legal minds. However, there remains the issue of transparency, accountability and good ethical behaviour. Given Thomas’s persistent denial and change of stories, only later to admit that funds from unknown persons had in fact arrived in Grenada and some made its way into his personal account, this behaviour by Thomas and his NDC loyalists raises many troubling questions and concerns. If this unethical and roguish behaviour is evident within the ruling party, what stops it from being practiced and embraced in the government domain as it now seems obvious?

In my view, the current Grenada situation should give added impetus and expediency for regional institutional reforms and genuine capacity building initiatives. In recognizing this urgent need, it would appear that the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) should take the initiative. Why the OECS? Available information indicates the MDCs within CARICOM have already taken some initiatives. For example, it was only a couple of weeks ago that Jamaica’s National Security Minister, Peter Bunting announced the formation of a joint initiative to be known as MOCA to address corrupt practices across the Board.

The OECS, in its ongoing quest for fulfilling its multilateral mandate, needs to go beyond just the raking in of euro dollars and other pittances for environmental and other initiatives. The OECS and its members are highly recognized and appreciated throughout the Commonwealth. It would appear that, given the existing recognition, initiatives and other activities to implement transparency reform and good governance do not at all times have to carry a huge dollar tag. It is also the responsibility of many OECS leaders to recognize and understand that, if they are truly and honestly committed to the building of the transparency and accountability process, working collectively and in a committed manner there is much that can be achieved.

My vision and understanding for building and sustaining a viable and effective transparent model in member states must be taken seriously. There is much needed assistance that can be derived from Canada in health and legal governance, development of policies on sexual harassment and campaign financing.

Australia and the United Kingdom can assist in local government development; judicial planning and public sector human resource development.

Prior to beginning the task of building a strong and viable transparency model, it is incumbent upon OECS governments to settle the long outstanding and shameful resistance of full CCJ membership. Once the CCJ membership is settled, each member state must comply with the old promises and posturing of appointing strong Ethics Commissioners with the necessary legislative powers to be independent and the right it investigate, expose and rule on all forms of unethical behaviour.

A good starting point should be the declaration of assets and their retirement to a blind trust. OECS governments should not vacillate any further but to emerge and join collectively in building a strong transparency and accountable model.

June 18, 2012


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Evolution, revelation and Khama

Egerton Chang, Contributor - Jamaica Gleaner:

I was raised a Roman Catholic. So I am not supposed to play around with the creation theory. However, I have a scientific background, and I also like to play around with figures. And, in any case, evolution does not preclude the Creator.

The universe has been around for some 4,500 million years. That's a long, long time. Now let's say that evolution started when the first forms of life appeared some 3,000 million years ago (most say earlier than that). And let's say that they evolved at a snail's pace. At a rate equivalent to virtually no rate at all. That's, for argument sake, a rate of 'improvement of quality/complexity' of doubling once in a million years. Now, that's dead slow. That would be at a rate of improvement of 0.000001 per year.

However, given the nature of compounding, that figure, over a long period, multiplies itself exponentially. Thus, for 10 million years, that would amount to an improvement of 22,026 times. A seemingly minuscule improvement given the very long period involved. Ten million years is unimaginable.

So what about 100 million years? This figure compounds to 2.68798E+43. That is:
2.68798 x 1 followed by 43 zeros. Or a 26,879,800,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 improvement on the very first single-cell creatures.

But that's just 100 million years. What would it be at 500 million years? It would be 1.4032E+217, or 1.4032 x 1 followed by 217 zeros or 14,032,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. My finger is getting tired just typing these zeros. But by now you should be getting the picture.

Remember, the first forms of life appeared over 3,000 million years ago, and we have only calculated for 500 million years. Recall, also, the exponential increase going from 100 million (43 zeros) to 500 million years (217 zeros).


So you can see that this would be an extremely, extremely, extremely large figure. Probably approaching over one googolplex. A googolplex is a very large number - 1 followed by a thousand zeroes.

Nevertheless, let's acknowledge that the rate for the vast majority of this period up to 250 million years ago was even slower than dead slow, so that, let's say, the first 2,750 million years amounted to just 100 million years as far as the evolutionary clock is concerned.

For the last 250 million years, however, it is acknowledged that this same evolutionary clock has speeded up. Let's say this rate was increased to just 0.000002 per year. Thus, 1.000002 to the 250 millionth power would be 1.4029 x 1 followed by 217 zeroes; 3.7709 X 1 followed by 260 zeroes would be the compounded effect of these 350 million years.

Number of Stars

In fact, that number makes the number of stars in the universe look minuscule (even insignificant) by comparison. A new study suggests there are a mind-blowing 300 sextillion stars, or three times as many as scientists previously calculated. That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros or 3 trillion times 100 billion. That is just 30 times all the grains of sand on the world's beaches and deserts. The improvement in the first forms of life has 260 zeros and counting, according to my playful hypothesis.Isn't it at least possible (indeed probable) that we (and all living things we see today) evolved from these early life forms?

And what is to come?

According to contemporary cosmologists' best guesses, the universe will continue to last for an extremely long time, something over a googolplex years. Some estimates are even longer.
Whether us, or our descendants, or that of another species on some distant planet, what will eventually evolve is many googolplexes of improvement/complexity on what exists now. That is truly mind-boggling. In fact, whatever we imagine of life, one million years from now, it probably won't be like that.

Come to think about it, it must be a fact that God created man. For how else would anyone other than Him appreciate the enormity of His works.


I 'Googled' my last column titled 'An Unusual Friendship: Botswana' and found that this article was referenced by more than 30 newspapers and websites from around the world. From the Kalahari News to South Africa Republic to Botswana News to; IPTV Caribbean, World Africa Business News and The World News Network (CHOGM News), among many others.

Incidentally, and for those interested in the meaning of names, I was reminded that Tshenolo means 'revelation'.

Interestingly also, it appears that interracial friendships took on a political face with a Jamaican twist when the British, in 1950, conspired with tribal leaders in Bechuanaland (later independent Botswana) to remove Seretse Khama as the chieftain of the Bamangwato tribe and exile him because he had married a white English woman.

This was brought to my attention by Ambassador Audley Rodriques, who emailed me the following on the same day of publication, May 20, 2012:


You may know that the British, in 1950, conspired with tribal leaders in Bechuanaland to depose Seretse Khama as their chief and send him into exile because he had married a white English woman, Ruth Williams. Plain racism it was. The apartheid government in South Africa, which had banned interracial marriages, was not happy with a black chief married to a British white woman and living next door. And there were concerns that South Africa would invade Bechuanaland. Of course, there were other more complex geopolitical factors at the time, including South Africa's enormous mineral wealth, British post-war indebtedness, and uranium for the atomic bomb.

Interestingly, Seretse Khama (who subsequently became prime minister and president of Botswana) was, at the time of his exile, offered a small job in Jamaica by the colonial office to "keep him quiet". In refusing the kind offer, he reportedly said he would not want to take bread out of the mouth of any Jamaican. There is, of course, much more to this story, including the support Khama received from Jamaicans (and other West Indians) in Jamaica and the UK.

Audley Rodriques

[Jamaican ambassador to Kuwait and former high commissioner to South Africa]
Egerton Chang is a businessman. Email feedback to and

June 17, 2012

Jamaica Gleaner

Friday, June 15, 2012

Havana: ...Capitalism is a fraud... ...• • • An Interview with Communist Party of Spain (PCE) General Secretary - José Luis Centella • • •

By Serigo Alejandro Gómez

THE Spanish political activist, José Luis Centella, is far from the stereotypical figure at the podium. He speaks deliberately, exemplifying the adage that there is no need to shout when speaking the truth.

The party he has led since 2009 has a 90-year history of struggle, beginning with the defense of the Republic against fascism through the difficult times around the fall of the Berlin Wall. Centella is aware that the party is facing a new challenge today, given the economic and social crisis which is gripping Europe and especially Spain.

"For a period of 15 or 20 years, capitalism appeared to provide answers to Spain’s problems. There was employment, economic growth and a certain level of general well-being. And the socialist camp had disappeared. Even then, we said that was all fraudulent and based on speculation," the leader said in an interview with Granma.

"In Spain today we have an unemployment rate of 24%, while one of every two youth is without work. In regions such as Andalusia, where I come from, the figures are even worse. All of this added to a level of poverty which has increased five times over, in just a few years.

"That other capitalism was, in reality, a fraud. And now people are in a state of uncertainty, leading to expressions of rebellion.

"Given this situation," Centella affirms, "the PCE (Communist Party of Spain) appears as an instrument which can organize those affected by the crisis, to give the workers an instrument of struggle.

"At this time we are recovering the party’s strength. One of the keys to this has been reinitiating a clearly anti-capitalist and revolutionary discourse. Previously we went through a very difficult stage during which we lost our social base and strength, but in the last two congresses we have committed ourselves to strengthening our organization, to the displeasure of those who were rubbing their hands in glee, thinking that we were going to disappear."

In the midst of a serious social and economic crisis, channeling discontent along a revolutionary path is crucial, since as Centella said, "The danger exists that this [discontent] could be used by fascists."

"What fascism attempts to do is to identify the immigrant, your neighbor, as the enemy, to leave capitalism unscathed. The role of our party is to show who the real enemy is: a system which has plundered Spain, as it has many other countries."


The nature of the struggle in which they are immersed has obliged revolutionary movements in Europe to seek unity. Thus Centella spoke of the alliances the PCE has made within the United Left (IU).

"The party is participating in elections through this alliance, but maintaining its independence and structure in the rest of its work. The other groups within it are not all communists, but they are anti-capitalist, nationalist or environmentalist. The Spanish left, as is the case in the rest of Europe, faces the challenge of showing that there are alternatives to capitalism. Doing this requires learning from all previous historical processes, but not copying them.

Centella believes that today Latin America is leading the confrontation with capitalism, where Marxism is in the streets, and said, "What is at stake in the coming elections in Venezuela is not whether Chávez or Capriles will be President, but rather whether socialism will be constructed or the previous system returned.

"The European left must be conscious that at this time in history, Europe is in the rearguard in this confrontation with capitalism. Today we have to learn, as opposed to teach."


With respect to attempts by certain forces on the Spanish right to push a more aggressive anti-Cuban policy, Centella commented, "There is one fact which they have never been able to change. The Spanish people feel a great deal of solidarity for the Cuban people; despite many attempts, the right wing has never been capable of building anti-Cuba sentiment. They have never mobilized more than a couple of gusanos."

What is increasing every day is solidarity with Cuba. Centella said, "In Spain, the case of the Five is increasingly known, it is no longer taboo. This is an issue that must be made known; it shows the injustice of a country which boasts about democracy and combating terrorism."

"The movement in solidarity with the Five is very solid and many people have even been drawn closer to Cuba and its history after learning about these anti-terrorist fighters.

"The PCE has also waged a battle around the issue of the U.S. blockade of Cuba. Through an intervention in Congress, we were recently able to get the Spanish government to issue a statement condemning the blockade. It is very difficult to justify when faced with direct questions." 

Centella’s long-standing relationship with Cuba has even turned him into a baseball fan. His team? Industriales. But his affection for the country goes much farther and he doesn’t hesitate to say, "I feel very much at home here."

June 14, 2012 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

...the power rests with the commoners in any society and The Bahamas is not an exception... ...The time has come for the commoners to fully appreciate the extent of the power they possess... ...After all, the common shareholders can vote in, vote out or re-elect individuals to the board to govern the affairs of what is deemed “Bahamas Ltd”... ...The commoners need not accept this tragedy that has been assigned to them ...and must flip the script ...demanding what is rightfully theirs as owners of our Bahamaland

The tragedy of the commoners

By Arinthia S. Komolafe

Nassau, The Bahamas

The terminology “commoners” is often construed to refer to a wide ranging social division of regular people who are members of neither the perceived noble or religious classes.  It is no news, therefore, that in any society the so-called commoners comprise the majority of the electorate and countries’ populations.  Logic leads us to a conclusion therefore that the power rests with the commoners in any society and The Bahamas is not an exception.

On May 7, 2012, the Bahamian people for the eleventh time since 1967 went to the polls and voted into power the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and ousted the governing Free National Movement (FNM).  This victory represents the eighth of its kind for the PLP since 1967 which governed for 25 consecutive years under the late Sir Lynden O. Pindling until its first defeat by the FNM in the 1992 general election. This is compared to the FNM’s three terms of governance and 15 non-consecutive years under the leadership of Hubert A. Ingraham.

The commoners of The Bahamas from year to year have made these decisions presumably based on their convictions and political persuasions to determine the party they wish to govern the country. Further, it is interesting to note that recent elections evidence a divided electorate who has failed to give administrations a clear majority as it relates to the popular vote.

The class divide

The fact that incumbent governments have been voted out of office in the last three general elections appears to be a testament that within a democracy, true power rests with the people – the commoners.  It is noteworthy to state that the term democracy comes from the Greek word “demokratia” which means rule of the people.  In spite of this well-documented and proven power of the people, a school of thought suggests that democracy is just an illusion which sells an idea to the masses that they have the power to elect individuals of their choice to high office.  The proponents of this school argue that the undeniable truth is that power ultimately rests in the hands of a small elite group.

The reality within the context of The Bahamas is that local aristocracies, oligarchies and political dynasties abound regardless of which political party is in power.  As can be expected, the interests and sometimes greed of a small and select few outweigh the interests of the common man.  This is indeed the tragedy of the Bahamian commoners who supposedly have the power and should control their destinies.  Official oppositions from one political cycle to another, it seems, only fight against the government of the day and most of such government’s policies not necessarily because they have the interest of the people at heart, but primarily because power has slipped away from them even if only for a fleeting moment.  Their motivation seems to be driven by a reduced status in society either socially, professionally or politically and a deflated ego.

The dilemma of the common man within the Bahamian democratic framework is that the major political parties have been successful in creating an effective divide in Bahamian politics either through oppression or manipulation.  A certain class of Bahamians are oppressed either because of political persuasion or social and economic background.  Meanwhile, there are those who are manipulated to suit the needs of the elite ruling class.  The end result is that the masses remain divided and fight at the lower end to support their respective parties at any cost while the select few wine, dine and enrich themselves.  In the midst of the division, the commoners’ lives are not necessarily improved by the governments and politicians they have hired.  The elite who “call the shots” always maintain their drive, focus and unity to maintain power both politically and economically while the victims left holding the bag almost always are the masses.

It is rather unfortunate that a select few have convinced themselves that the governing class of The Bahamas is a “members only” club with entry requirements not based solely on merit, qualification and patriotism.  The small elite have resorted to treating The Bahamas like a private company – they sit as the directors and preference shareholders while the masses who are the common shareholders sit back and accept their dictates.  As a result, governance is reserved for the chosen few who are considered worthy, thereby perpetuating the prosperity and expansion of established political dynasties and special interest groups.  In order to achieve this objective, they seek to manipulate the electorate by keeping voters uninformed about many political and economic issues to ensure that emotionalism and sensationalism determine the outcome of elections.

The commoners must demand what is theirs

Last week the Bahamian people mourned the death of the late William Cartwright.  Cartwright was one of the three founding members of the PLP along with the late Cyril Stevenson and the late Sir Henry Taylor.  The party, which is the oldest party on Bahamian record, was formed in 1953 by the gentlemen during a time when it was unpopular to stand up against the ruling oligarchy.  The overall platform of the PLP was to erase social, economic and racial inequality for all Bahamians regardless of their class or status.  Today, both the PLP and the FNM have members who are either founding members of those respective parties or who are second or third generation descendants of founding members and those who fought in favor of the PLP’s founding philosophy.  Unfortunately, it is sad to note that both these parties have become guilty of the same evil that they fought against decades ago to bring so-called liberation to the masses.

The power that the masses possess in choosing the people that govern them ultimately vests power in the government.  The power vested in the government and leaders it seems fair should then be exercised for the benefit and betterment of the commoners.  However, it is sad that questions remain as to the identity and location of the champions of the commoners today.  The average Bahamian who is classed among commoners has been taught by the actions of successive governments not to aspire for higher office or leadership within his/her own country.  Appointments are made for the most part along party lines and from the elite as opposed to choosing from the pool of talented, intelligent and skilful Bahamians across the archipelago.

The time has come for the commoners to fully appreciate the extent of the power they possess.  After all the common shareholders can vote in, vote out or re-elect individuals to the board to govern the affairs of what is deemed “Bahamas Ltd”.  The commoners need not accept this tragedy that has been assigned to them and must flip the script demanding what is rightfully theirs as owners of our Bahamaland.


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

Jun 14, 2012


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Bahamas has been urged to end its embargo on direct agriculture imports from Haiti ...with the current system thought to quintuple produce costs via Florida-based middlemen as it transits through the US

Haiti Agriculture Embargo Raises Costs Five' Times

Tribune Business Editor

Nassau, The Bahamas

THE Bahamas has been urged to end its embargo on direct agriculture imports from Haiti, with the current system thought to quintuple produce costs via Florida-based middlemen as it transits through the US.

Speaking to Tribune Business ahead of the proposed Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation's (BCCEC) likely trade mission to Haiti in September this year, Chester Cooper, the organisation's chairman, said the current health-related barrier to direct imports from the Bahamas' southern neighbour "stifles trade" and drives up costs for consumers in this nation.

He suggested that by creating a Bahamian inspection station in Haiti, so that this nation's officials could examine inspect agricultural produce for health and safety issues before they were imported here, direct trade between the two nations would increase to such an extent that it would open up new shipping routes.

And, ultimately, Mr Cooper said increased trade could have the effect of bolstering Haiti's economic stability and reducing the flow of illegal migrants northwards to the Bahamas, creating a win-win for both nations.

Recalling that the embargo on direct Haitian agricultural imports had been raised as a key issue on the last BCCEC trade mission to that country in 2007-2008, Mr Cooper told Tribune Business: "Regrettably, there hasn't been any advancement on the issue.

"I've spoken with Phillip Miller at the Ministry of Agriculture, and understand they have tried to make some moves on the issue, and then there was the earthquake, the cholera. There's always something that throws the mission off."

While a Bahamian team had previously visited Haiti to see if this nation could establish an agricultural inspection facility there, Mr Cooper said this had occurred several years ago before the earthquake that devastated the Bahamas' southern neighbour.

Of the existing embargo, Mr Cooper told Tribune Business: "It stifles direct trade itself. If we can generate the volumes, we can get more efficient shipping routes between the Bahamas and Haiti. But, so long as the volumes are so low, it creates inefficiencies in pricing."

If just two boxes of mangos were being shipped from Haiti to the Bahamas, Mr Cooper said it was more cost effective to send them through the US anyway, rather than direct to this nation. If volumes rose, the demand for direct shipping would, too, ultimately leading to the creation of new shipping companies and routes between the two countries.

Tribune Business understands that if mangos are sold in Haiti for $0.20 per product, Florida-based wholesalers may charge as much as $1 for them once they have reached the US - mark up of five times' or 400 per cent.

"In effect, produce coming into the Bahamas from Haiti passes the Bahamas, transits the US as they have US Department of Agriculture inspection on the ground that facilitates trade to the US," Mr Cooper said.

"A box of Haitian mangos, for example, might eventually find its way to the Bahamas after transiting the middleman in Florida, who would've tacked on their mark-up. This is most inefficient and drives up the costs to Bahamians unnecessarily. There were no doubt good reasons for this position, but it has now been several decades and this should be promptly reviewed."

He added: "The Bahamas government should put in place its own inspection protocols and expedite the removal of these restrictions. Ending the embargo will not only reduce the cost of Haitian products imported to the Bahamas, and improve trade but, taking it to the logical conclusion, it might help the Haitian economy and our relations with Haiti by improving commerce."

Mr Cooper added that if the Government was to "commit" to removing obstacles such as the direct agriculture embargo, it would open up more trade and investment opportunities between the Bahamas and Haiti, and encourage more businesses to go on the September trade mission.

"It's important on many levels," he added. "If we can achieve it, obviously there's the commercial aspect and it would make some contribution to the Haitian economy. If we take it to its logical conclusion, the more liberalised the Haitian economy is, the fewer Haitians will migrate illegally to the Bahamas.

"From a macroeconomic point of view, down the road the more trade Haiti gets, the better for everybody. We'll be working hand-in-hand with the Government on these issues.

"We live in a very open economy and import the bulk of the goods we use here. Typically, we import goods from south Florida. The south Floridians bring them in from elsewhere, and it's important for us to create diverse linkages where possible to reduce the overall cost of food."

June 11, 2012

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Bahamian economy ...government debt, budgets and deficits: ...A look at how The Bahamas' economic circumstances have evolved over the past decade

A Perspective On The Bahamas Budget


Nassau, The Bahamas

AGAINST the backdrop of this year's post-election budget debate in Parliament, we thought it would be useful to look at how our economic circumstances have evolved over the past decade.

May 2001

When the first Ingraham administration tabled its final budget, Finance Minister Sir William Allen talked about containing the demands of inefficient, money-wasting state corporations like Bahamasair and ZNS.

He deplored the three-year delay in divesting BTC, which he attributed to the sorry state of the corporation's accounts - meaning it had been allowed to operate incompetently for decades.

But the future looked bright. The Bahamian economy had grown by 5 per cent in 2000, with more of the same projected for 2001. And the government debt-to-GDP ratio was about 30 per cent ($1.5 billion), considered sustainable by most economists.

"The declining debt and lower interest rates have reduced the cost of debt servicing," Sir William said. "Unemployment has been reduced to the lowest levels ever recorded (6.9 per cent), living standards are approaching those of the advanced OECD countries, and Bahamian society is prepared to meet the future with greater certainty and confidence than ever."

There were certainly achievements to brag about. An overall budget balance had been recorded for the first time since the early 1970s, and Allen was predicting that fiscal imbalances would become a thing of the past.

But that optimism was fleeting. Within months, the deadly terror attacks on New York and Washington produced panic in the US and sparked a worldwide recession that halved global economic growth. A sharp fall-off in travel forced the Bahamas to take emergency fiscal measures.

May 2002

So Perry Christie was able to say when he took office in 2002 that he had inherited a big deficit. His new government stressed the importance of containing public debt so that the country's limited resources could be applied more productively.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, State Finance Minister James Smith warned that revenue losses and emergency spending, combined with the demands of the loss-making public corporations, were straining the country's resources. And the government promised to complete the sale of BTC by 2003 at the latest.

May 2004

By the middle of his term in office, Christie was decidedly more upbeat. The impact of 9/11 on tourism had been short-lived, Sol Kerzner was investing a billion dollars to expand Atlantis, and the credit boom underway in the US was having a marked spillover effect on the Bahamas.

Although the administration promised to reduce government debt (which now topped $2 billion) to that 30-per-cent-of-GDP sweet spot, this time there was no talk about containing the demands of state corporations. And when Christie left office three years later, the BTC privatisation process was still in limbo - a full decade after it had been launched.

May 2006

As you might expect in what was to be his last year in office, Christie presented a grandiose budget in 2006-07. He talked about transforming the tourism and transportation sectors of New Providence, restoring Grand Bahama's prosperity, ending poverty, and getting crime and illegal immigration firmly under control.

"We have secured the future economic prospects of The Bahamas," he declared, "which are unrivalled in this region and without precedent in the economic history of our country...a scale of inward investment without parallel anywhere in the world..the economy has reached take-off point into what could be the longest, highest and most sustainable expansion of our history."

But ironically, and little noticed at the time, storm clouds were already gathering. Oil prices were about to spike, but energy was simply not on the government's radar. And the housing bubble in the US would soon burst, leading to an unprecedented global financial crisis with severe and long-lasting consequences for the Bahamas.

May 2007

When the FNM returned to office, they appeared to sniff the approaching storm. Hubert Ingraham tabled a balanced budget and promised to eliminate the deficit within five years, in the process bringing government debt down from over 37 per cent of GDP to around 30 per cent.

When Ingraham regained office, the total public debt (i.e borrowings by both the government and state corporations) was $2.9 billion, having grown by $656 million, or 29 per cent, during the Christie administration. At that time, the country was paying an overall interest rate of 7 per cent on borrowed funds, and servicing this debt was costing more than $141 million a year.

"It is crucial that we move quickly to reduce the ratio of debt to GDP and not allow it to drift upwards as it has in recent years," Ingraham said at the time. To do this, the government planned to rely on improved revenue collection and projected growth of more than 4 per cent.

Although state corporations were not mentioned in that budget communication, for the first time energy was a talking point. The government announced a review of alternatives to fossil fuel imports for electricity generation - including solar, wind and wave energy technologies - and set about formulating a national energy policy.

May 2008

But the FNM's honeymoon was brief. By early 2008 the prospect of a deep global recession was looming, as financial markets came under increasing stress. In the second budget of his new term, Ingraham pointed to economic uncertainty and spiralling energy costs as major factors in the government's decision-making.

With the economy suffering "severe setbacks" from the credit crunch and from the surge in energy and food prices, the government sought to provide a targeted fiscal stimulus as unemployment began to rise. A $100 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank was also secured to complete the much-delayed New Providence Road Project.

And all the loss-making state corporations were still receiving big subsidies - $28 million for Bahamasair, $22 million for Water & Sewerage, and almost $12 million for ZNS. As fuel prices reached record highs, BEC's financial position worsened, and it was exempted from paying import duty on fuel, further impacting the government's finances.

In September, the giant Lehman Brothers investment bank collapsed, sparking a panic in the financial world. It was a seminal event that dramatized the severity of the Great Recession, which had actually begun in late 2007. The fallout shrank the Bahamian economy by 1.5 per cent in 2008.

May 2009

The following year's budget acknowledged the "extraordinary" impact of the financial meltdown. Government debt was now over 38 per cent of GDP, while the deficit had grown to 5.7 per cent of GDP. But more borrowing was necessary, Ingraham said, if the country was to avoid painful adjustments.

Meanwhile, the seemingly never-ending privatisation of BTC was entering its final stages, and the government began to mull the sale of other public corporations. Plans were also drawn up to cut ZNS' bloated staff level by more than a third.

"The financial resources released from propping up these corporations, plus the proceeds of privatization, would provide welcome relief to the Bahamian taxpayer," Ingraham said.

As the vaunted Emerald Bay resort on Exuma closed and other major foreign developments were put on hold, the government sought to cushion the impact of "these deeply troubling times" with unemployment benefits and a national re-training initiative to help laid-off workers find new jobs.

May 2010

The 2010-11 budget prescribed the most stringent fiscal retrenching of recent times, against a backdrop of 15 per cent interest on the nation's $2.9 billion public debt. Unemployment rose to more than 14 per cent.

Ingraham acknowledged that the country could not sustain more deficit spending. This was in line with the IMF's view that emergency fiscal measures should now be withdrawn, to signal a credible commitment to contain debt.

Spending was essentially frozen at 2009 levels and the government said it would pursue tax reform to raise revenue collection to 20 per cent of GDP to slow the growth of debt. After contracting by about 7 per cent in 2008 and 2009, the Bahamian economy barely grew in 2010 - by less than half a per cent - while government debt soared to 48 per cent of GDP.

May 2011

By 2011, the debt had climbed to 53 per cent of GDP, as the government borrowed more to strengthen the social safety net and continue major infrastructure investments.

"Reforming and modernizing tax administration will be crucial to deal with future changes in the tax regime that may flow from a much-needed and overdue reassessment of the revenue structure of the government," Ingraham noted.

Meanwhile, revenue was bolstered by $210 million received from the sale of BTC in April, which reduced the deficit somewhat. Government debt was put at $3.8 billion, or 46 per cent of GDP, while revenue collection was 18.5 per cent of GDP. And the economy grew by a modest 1.6 per cent in 2011.

May 2012

In the first budget of his current term, Prime Minister Christie said the financial picture was worse than anticipated and promised to maintain fiscal prudence, while forecasting major new spending on mortgage relief, education, urban renewal and healthcare. He also undertook to explore ways of re-nationalizing BTC.

Christie said tax revenues would have to rise, suggesting they should be 25 to 30 per cent of GDP - a significant jump over previous revenue collection proposals. "Our tax base is much too narrow, focusing as it does on goods to the exclusion of services," he said. "This is simply unacceptable in a modern economy."

The government said it would appoint an economic advisory council and prepare a White Paper on tax reform, along with a centralized tax administration system. "The current structure is disjointed, inefficient and inequitable in many respects," Christie said.

Unemployment spiked at 16 per cent in late 2011 and economic growth this year is projected to be about 2.5 per cent, driven by tourism and foreign investment, especially the Baha Mar development on New Providence. Similar modest growth is expected next year.

Government debt was just over $4 billion in May, over 50 per cent of GDP, and the IMF has warned that delaying tax reform will raise financing costs and threaten the economic recovery. This year's budget includes spending of $1.82 billion against revenues of $1.55 billion, producing a deficit of $550 million - or 6.5 per cent of GDP. Debt servicing is now $328 million, or just over 18 per cent of total recurrent expenditure.


This potted history makes it clear that, from the beginning of the 21st century - when the US economy to which we are firmly attached had just experienced the longest economic expansion ever - successive governments have been ratcheting up the national debt, no matter what they said to the contrary.

There are valid reasons for this - the country needs better social and physical infrastructure to achieve orderly growth and improve the quality of life. This requires investment that has to be paid for. Simon Townend of KPMG (Bahamas) has said we need to spend more than $2 billion over the next few years in transport, health, education and other sectors to remain competitive.

The upshot is that the Bahamas has a serious infrastructure deficit - despite significant recent investments in roads, electricity and water supply, air and sea ports. There are still large backlogs of needed work on existing systems, together with new demands that go unmet. Meanwhile, scarce public funds are being poured into dysfunctional state corporations that provide very little public value.

Successive governments have also known for years that they have to tackle tax reform - changing revenue collection from an outdated system based on import duties to one based on consumption or income. But they have postponed all the hard decisions. Prime Minister Christie appears set to grasp this nettle, but it is critical that we achieve the right balance between revenue, spending and borrowing. And that requires the considered input of civil society, not just the pontifications of politicians.

One of the biggest contributors to deficit spending (and to the national debt) over the years has been the public sector. Despite the sale of 51 per cent of BTC last year (after 13 years of trying), inefficient state corporations continue to absorb hundreds of millions of tax dollars. Is it really necessary for the government to own and operate all these corporations?

And although energy is a critical problem for both the public and private sectors, it does not appear that urgent steps are being taken to (in the words of the National Energy Policy) "aggressively re-engineer our legislative, regulatory, and institutional frameworks and implement a diverse range of sustainable energy programmes."

Back in the good old days of 2001, Sir William Allen warned that unless fiscal deficits were curbed, "the resources required to service the increasing debt will eventually bankrupt national programmes." He added that "increasing the share of GDP taken in taxation above 20 per cent...would adversely impact the competitiveness of the economy and eventually...destroy jobs."

According to PLP Senator Jerome Gomez, the days of borrow, borrow, borrow and spend, spend, spend are over. Well, let's give him a raincheck on that.

In the meantime we should focus on this: many experts say that an economic shock from Europe, which is quite possible in the months ahead, could push the US and most of the rest of the world into another big recession. 

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June 06, 2012