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Thursday, January 30, 2014

The unpopular value-added tax (VAT) proposal in The Bahamas

The view of the people on VAT

The Nassau Guardian Editorial
Nassau, The Bahamas

Since the government last year emphasized its commitment to implement a value-added tax (VAT) the Bahamian people have been offering opinions.  While many accept that the government needs more revenue to meet its obligations, we think most Bahamians do not support VAT as it has been proposed.

The government issued its white paper on VAT in February 2013.  For months now commentators from the business community have offered their views on VAT to the broadcast and print media.  There is a VAT story in the business sections of the major papers almost daily.  Talk radio also regularly takes up the subject with Bahamians calling in to give their views.

For these reasons it was strange to read on Monday in this newspaper that Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis said the public’s slow response to the government’s VAT white paper is responsible in part for their delay in tabling VAT legislation.  Although he could not say exactly when the government will table the laws in Parliament, Halkitis did say it must happen before the end of February in preparation for the implementation of the new tax system on July 1.

The business community last year went as far as preparing a counterproposal on tax reform the government does not appear interested in seriously considering.  The people have spoken and they continue to speak on VAT.  They regularly point out the flaws in the proposed system.  They regularly point out the burdens it will cause on businesses and consumers.  They fear an increase in the cost of living at a time when unemployment is over 16 percent.

Halkitis said the government is listening and considering all concerns coming from every sector on VAT and that the Ministry of Finance has even “tweaked” some of its VAT proposals.  He didn’t, however, provide specifics as to what has been tweaked.

“When we say we are doing consultations and we are listening to alternatives we mean that,” Halkitis said.

“When we find out something or someone brings something to our attention that we may not have considered for whatever reasons, then we have to look at that to make sure that we are not disadvantaging anyone, particularly any business group.

“We have to look at what the consumers are saying to make sure there is nothing we overlooked, and so it is all a process.”

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) seems married to its VAT proposal regardless of the likely harmful consequences it will have on our economy if implemented.  And now, after bringing forward a poor idea, the PLP seems to be beginning to realize that its solution to the country’s debt problem is not popular.  If that realization is delaying the VAT laws from being presented to Parliament the government should not blame the people.  It is obvious who is to blame.

January 29, 2014

thenassauguardian editorial

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Latin America and the Caribbean moving forward

By Laura Bécquer Paseiro:

With the foundation three years ago of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the dreams of a region, which for years had been deferred, re-emerged. Great challenges and great hopes are both a reality for the new regional organization. Its success depends on the degree to which the 33 member countries, all south of the Río Bravo, are able to focus on the search for unity, despite their differences.

Time has shown that only by following the route of unity emphasized by our forefathers, without denying the rich diversity which differentiates us, will the reality of Latin America and the Caribbean be changed and our true, definitive independence secured.

When, in 2008, regional leaders sat down to discuss unity and draft the first outline of what CELAC would become, they did so committed to change the face of the planet’s most unequal region, which paradoxically possesses the world’s greatest reserves of natural resources - the object of foreign powers’ voracious appetite, leading to centuries of struggle. They did so to change the present and future of the 600 million who inhabit the region’s 20 million square kilometers.

Cuba’s national hero, José Martí, said in 1891, "The peoples who don’t know each other must hastily do so, like those who will be fighting together." This fight is no longer against colonists who came across the Atlantic in droves, to impose their way of life, but rather against the inequalities which hold us back, against a common enemy always looking for opportunities to again subject us to domination and dependence. CELAC’s 33 nations are committed to emphasizing what we have in common, to move toward the creation of a structure of our own.

Many accomplishments have been achieved in the social and economic arenas as a result of policies implemented by governments devoted to improving citizens’ living conditions and the positive experiences of regional alliances such as ALBA, Petrocaribe, Mercosur, Unasur and Caricom, which have made an important contribution to the development of collaborative solidarity and complementary economic policies across the region.

Nevertheless, there is much work to do in Latin America and the Caribbean to rise above our dependent, neoliberal past. CELAC has, therefore, proposed action plans directed toward establishing Latin American and Caribbean sovereign control of resources, to ensure that sustainable development is achieved.
This region which possesses the world’s third largest economy, a fifth of the planet’s oil reserves and the greatest biological diversity, is also the most unequal, with 164 million persons living in poverty, including 68 million in extreme poverty.

The launching of CELAC in December 2011 changed forever the geopolitical map of the region. An organization now existed, focused on strengthening international relations through a multilateral system which respects national sovereignty and self-determination.

The Community has made a commitment to respect the equality of states; to reject threats and the use of force; to abide by international law; to promote human rights and democracy, while moving forward with a shared regional agenda within international forums. The organization was founded with the intention of respecting currently existent integration efforts, not replacing them, as all are working toward a common objective.

Cuba, as CELAC pro tempore president, has undertaken the group’s work respecting each and every one of the principles established in the Declaration of Caracas, fully conscious that the organization is precisely the instrument the region needs to resolve differences, just as President Raúl Castro said at the 2011 founding summit in Venezuela.

The emergence of CELAC is recognized as the most important institutional event in Latin America and the Caribbean over the last century, the realization of the dreams of unity, justice and sovereignty held by the great men and women of these lands.

The fact that the region has its own voice, and this voice is gaining attention on the complex world stage, is, in and of itself, a great step forward.

As the Community of 33 nations is preparing for the Havana Summit, January 28-29, the strengths developed over the last few years are evident. Also evident are the enormous challenges which must be faced, many of them inherited from the past. The shared commitment to meet these challenges reflects the new times in Our America. To paraphrase a great leader, the peoples of Latin America have said, "Enough" and begun to move.

January 22, 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) and The Bahamian Government's matching 49 per cent equity stakes in Bahamas Telecommunications Company’s (BTC) ... A 'Face-Saving' Deal

'Face-Saving' Deal With Btc

Tribune Business Editor
Nassau, The Bahamas
The Bahamas Telecommunications Company’s (BTC) controlling shareholder will enable Perry Christie to claim he has regained majority ownership for Bahamians by handing two per cent of its equity stake to a foundation, in a ‘face saving’ deal.
This is the main feature of the agreement that has been worked out by London-based Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) and the Christie administration’s negotiating team, with nothing changing at BTC in terms of its daily operations.
The key terms, as revealed by well-placed sources to Tribune Business yesterday, are:
• CWC will retain Board and management control at BTC.
An entity, called The BTC Foundation, will be created to own the two per cent equity stake that CWC is relinquishing in the privatised carrier.
The foundation, a trust-type structure, will make donations to a variety of Bahamian social and community projects.
This will leave both CWC and the Government with matching 49 per cent equity stakes in BTC.
There is no indication that the agreement with CWC involves an extension to BTC’s three-year post-privatisation cellular monopoly, which is due to expire on April 6, 2014.
There had been fears CWC would seek an extension to this in return for relinquishing majority control, something that would have denied Bahamian consumers the benefits of reduced prices, improved services and greater choice stemming from competition.
The details of the deal were effectively confirmed by panicky phone calls to Tribune Business from BTC and government-related sources, who - informed of this newspaper’s likely article - asked whether it had a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreed between CWC and the Government.
Offers were also made to this newspaper to ‘drop the story’, in return for ‘exclusive interviews’ with unnamed persons.
January 22, 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Research shows domestic violence is a major driver of The Bahamas' crime problems

'Crime Driven By Domestic Violence'

NEW research shows domestic violence is a major driver of country’s crime problems, Social Service Minister Melanie Griffin revealed.

Addressing the premiere of the docudrama “Get Out” at the New Providence Community Centre over the weekend, Mrs Griffin said Bahamians cannot continue to “bury their heads in the sand” when it comes to reporting abuse within the home, as research undertaken by the Bahamas Crisis Centre shows children who are abused become desensitised to violence, and are more likely to carry weapons to school or social events.

“To put it bluntly, many of the young males paraded before the courts today charged with violent crimes and many of the young girls committed for uncontrollable behaviour were themselves likely victims of some type of abuse,” Mrs Griffin said.

“Over the years we have hurt ourselves by ignoring the problem, because studies show that unchecked domestic violence not only escalates, but manifests itself in many other different ways.

“The stark reality is that our crime problem will not be solved if we do not solve the problem of domestic violence.”
Violence within the family, particularly against women and children, has been an “open secret” in the Bahamas for many years, the minister said.

“All too often we have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the scars and screams of those who are regularly beaten and by doing so we have, in fact, hurt ourselves.”

She explained that Bahamian law defines domestic violence as physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial abuse committed by a person against a spouse, partner, child or any other person who is a member of the household or dependent.

For its part, she said, the government has passed legislation in the form of the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act, 2007 providing legal protection for victims and counselling intervention for perpetrators.

In 2008, changes to the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act increased the sentence for the offence of rape to life imprisonment and criminalised voyeurism, sexual harassment and certain forms of pornography, she said.

“Last year the government established a National Task Force on Ending Gender-Based Violence and approved a State Accountability Study to end Violence against Women and Children funded by UNWomen. These two initiatives are designed to co-ordinate the work of all agencies in the fight against violence and to produce a national strategic plan to eliminate gender-based violence.

“The work of the National Child Protection Council and the Child Protection and Urban Renewal Units of the Department of Social Services, as well as our community and school-based programmes are also ongoing.

“We must all realise, however, that no government can do everything. We need the help of every man, woman, boy and girl to fight this onslaught. It is up to you to report the crime of domestic violence just as you would any other crime,” she said.

Mrs Griffin said the filming of the docudrama was a step in “the right direction” as it seeks to raise the level of awareness of the problem and discuss what can be done about it.

“The organisers are commended for bringing the project to fruition and we pray for its success. I thank you,” she said. “The importance of this film cannot be stressed enough as it brings focus to a most pervasive global and national problem, domestic violence.

“I applaud Mr Trevor Clarke, director, and Mrs Patrice Lockhart-Stubbs, executive producer, the production staff of Fujon Media Video and Photography and the actors involved in creating this docudrama for their outstanding work,” Mrs Griffin said.

January 21, 2014

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Pauline Peters, former head of Grenada’s inland revenue department ...on the challenge to implement value-added tax (VAT) in less than six months in The Bahamas

Bahamas would set VAT precedent

VAT consultant says ‘challenge’ to implement VAT in less than six months with no existing system

Guardian Business Editor
Nassau, The Bahamas

Should the government push ahead with plans to implement value-added tax (VAT) on July 1, The Bahamas would set a precedent as the only country in the Caribbean with no already existing domestic tax system to implement the tax with less than six months between the passage of the legislation and the tax taking effect, according to a government VAT consultant.

Pauline Peters, former head of Grenada’s inland revenue department, who oversaw that country’s transition to a VAT system, yesterday described this reality as likely to pose a “challenge”.

“There are a few countries who have done it with less than six months to go between the passage of the legislation and the tax taking effect. St. Kitts did it, St. Lucia, Dominica... but the difference in those countries is that they had a system of indirect tax already, so the culture of paying taxes was already there.

“With the businesses and the changeover they’d have to make with the move over from a sales tax to VAT, it would’ve taken a bit because their systems would have to change, but there were persons with knowledge of taxation; what those countries did was draw from their current domestic tax system, so you have a good blend of people with knowledge of the tax system.

“Without having a domestic tax system in place already, I think that’s one of the major differences between The Bahamas and the other countries which have gone live. On both sides significant progress has been made, but everyone would appreciate the fact that with the legislation not yet approved and The Bahamas not coming from a situation with a domestic tax system in place, that could be a challenge for the most effective implementation that we could have,” said Peters, who pointed out that Grenada allowed for nine months between the passage of the VAT legislation and the implementation of the tax.

Meanwhile, Peters recognized that with the legislation not having been passed, it is all the more difficult to convince businesses to begin investing in software and training related to VAT implementation, even as the intended deadline for the tax to come into effect draws near.

The Ministry of Finance is continuing to finalize the VAT legislation, with Financial Secretary John Rolle having indicated that it hopes to have a final version available for Cabinet, based on input from various sectors in which it has been in consultation by the end of the month.

Peters said that the Ministry is in the process of compiling a document with all of the recommendations from various industries on VAT which will form the basis of a presentation to Cabinet.

This will allow Cabinet to make the final decision about what changes are implemented in the legislation.

“I think that process should be a pretty smooth one given level of involvement our minister of state (Michael Halkitis) has in the process with technical team and the ministry of finance... so when it goes to the cabinet there won’t be much to comment,” said Peters.

Meanwhile, the VAT consultant said that on the Ministry side, “good progress” is being made towards implementation, with officials receiving assistance from a variety of sources in preparing for the launch of VAT.

“Now on the other side we have to have businesses on our side,” added Peters, who encouraged the private sector to continue to review the draft legislation and guidelines, and “see what effort it will take to program their system to accommodate” VAT.

“So you can get costings and quotations from providers so when things are finalized you can move swiftly ahead.”

She added that the VAT hotline has been “ringing off the hook” with queries from the private sector and general public about the proposed new tax, a sign she takes as a positive one.

“Only recently we have put additional resources in place to field the questions as they come in, so that has been pretty busy, and officers have been dealing with that.

“Before Christmas we had a series of questions and comments and those we’ve responded to and those continue to come in; so there’s a fair amount of traffic there as it relates to people seeking clarity – not just businesses, but regular persons in society have been asking very pertinent questions on cost of living, what type of preparations, should I buy now, what should I do. At least the measure is out there and people are becoming aware they need to start preparing.”

Peters encouraged more people to submit questions and call the hotline should they have questions.

January 17, 2014


Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Paper Presented Arthur Dion Hanna Jr. to the 43rd Annual Conference of the British Society for Eighteenth Century Studies, St Hughes College, Oxford University: 8-10 January 2014


It has been indicated that cultural resistance is an essential element in the historical effort to create a world which satisfies the “needs and powers of men”, with its goal being “emancipation from slavery” (Horkheimer 1972). In this respect, this paper explores the seminal cultural resistance, which, although inherent in eighteenth century literature, festivals and folk tales emanating from the African Diaspora, has flowed with concomitant currents of ambivalence of identity and an often embarrassing enmeshment with Western philosophical traditions, which veil the vital Pan African essence of early African Diasporan literary, artistic and cultural endeavours (Henry 2000; Hanna 2011).

The eighteenth century was an era driven by the enslavement of African people and colonial expansion by European imperial powers. The culture shock of physical bondage and the often brutal harsh regimented conditions of enslavement created a universe in which resistance took a variety of forms, many of which were veiled in the limited creative space afforded by slave masters and Western academia.

The dehumanizing experience of enslavement during this era was also characterized by slave societies in which enslaved Africans were forbidden to speak their own languages or to openly worship their ancient deities. This oppressed and restricted reality also ensured an ambivalence of identity and a fractured sense of 'being'. It is within this contradictory contextual frame of reference that we explore the techniques of cultural resistance and the struggle for emancipation, which laid the foundations of Pan African identity.

The apparent paradox and ambivalence of eighteenth century African Diasporan resistance cloaked in Western philosophical discourse confirms the conclusion that either culture itself or the regimes of power that are “imbricated in cultural logics and experiences” can ever be wholly consistent or totally determining (Dirks et. al. 1994:18). In this regard, it is asserted that identities may be seen as variably successful attempts to create and maintain coherence out of “inconsistent cultural stuff” and “inconsistent life experience” but that every actor always carries around enough disparate and ontradictory strands of knowledge and passion so as always to be in a potentially critical position (ibid.).

In this paper we critically examine the phenomenon of ambivalent and fractured identities which, paradoxically, provided a foundation for the African Diaspora's creation and maintenance of a coherent identity linked to their African roots in the eighteenth century which ultimately incubated and gave birth to the modern Pan African movement. Of necessity, we engage parallel streams of race, class and gender which flowed inextricably throughout the eighteenth century and were crucial in the revolutionary process of Pan African identity formation.

1 In this paper the term “Pan African” has two meanings. In the first instance, it refers to the collective resistance of Black populations from the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe against Western slavery, imperialism, colonization and racism from the 1770's to the present time (Stuckey 1987; 1994; M'Baye 2011:9). The second meaning is the diffusion of African survivals (known as Africanisms) in different parts of the world, such as the spread of African cultural values, customs and ideologies into the Black Diaspora since slavery (Levin 2003; M'Baye 2011:9).

Salaam in Afrikadesta

In the context of the colonial and slave realities of Africans at home and abroad during the era of the 18th century, it is fortuitous that we are having this discourse in the ancient precincts of Oxford University, given that one of its famous alumni was one William Penn2, who converted to Puritanism from mainstream Church of England religious doctrine and to whom a grant of letters patent was made of extensive North American colonies, including Pennsylvania, the so called Quaker State (Garranty and Carnes (eds.) 1999; Osgood 2010) some 30 years after a proprietary grant had been made to then Attorney General, Sir Robert Heath, of the Carolinas, which included the Bahamas Islands, the archipelago where Cristobal Colon, aka Christopher Columbus is reputed to have first made landfall in his momentous so called voyage of discovery which set into motion the historical train of colonial events punctuated by the kidnappings and forced enslavements of millions of Africans and which helped to create the underlying cultural, economic, social and political fabric of the 18th century (Craton 1983; Craton and Saunders 1992; Hanna 2011).

Stuart Hall asserts that the post-colonial experience prepared the colonized to live in a postmodern Diasporan relationship to identity and that, paradigmatically, it is a diasporic" experience (Hall 1996:490). In this frame of reference, cultural research agendas must have at their epicenter an awareness of the lived Diasporic experience of ordinary, everyday people and of the complex and multifaceted interaction of race and other social phenomena and consequent hybridization, which often conceals the inner dynamics of social interaction utilized in myth creation (Hanna 2011:218). In this regard, Avtar Brah argues that experience is best understood as the mediated process of making sense of the world symbolically and narratively (Brah 2007).

In explaining the complex matrix of symbols surrounding the concept of identity in an African Diasporic context, it is critical and essential to consider the contention that, from the Afro-Caribbean perspective, philosophy is an inter-textually embedded discursive practice and not an isolated or absolutely autonomous one (Henry 2000:2; Hanna 2011:218). Henry asserts that the formation and current structures reflect imperial history of the cultural system which was housed in the larger discursive field of Caribbean society (Henry 2000:3). He further points out that the history of discursive violence in the Caribbean has produced high levels of mutual de-centering and inter-culturation between the African and European worlds, the European and Indian worlds and the Indian and African worlds and that this violence has left parts of these systems fairly intact, other parts highly mixed and others that are damaged beyond repair, which is the heritage upon which creative totalizations must build, with these imploded foundations having led to superficial comparisons with post-modern thought that can be misleading (Henry 2000:15).

In this context, it is important to bear in mind Paget Henry's indication that the impact of colonization had at least three important consequences for Pan African discourse, with the

2 University of Oxford

first being the devaluation and negation of the "truth claims" of Europeans and European educated Africans, on assumptions of White superiority. Secondly, their hybridization, as they absorbed European contents and adopted European languages, as a medium of expression and thirdly, in addition to Arabic languages, African discourses, which were primarily oral, developed writing capabilities in European languages (Henry 2000:44). The Eurocentric educational mindset has created contradictions and ambiguities in Caribbean Pan African scholarship, with Western historicism being one of the most important generative ontological constructs of modern Caribbean thought (Henry 2000:48).

Paget Henry concludes that, from early African literary efforts of the 18th century, the writings of the African elite, such as Ottobah Cugoano, Anton Amo, Olaudah Equiano, Africanus Horton, Bishop Crowther, James Johnson, Edward Blyden, Kitoy Ajasu and Joseph Casley-Crawford, have all been exposed to European education and absorbed many of its biases, with it only being in the post-colonial period that these "clouds of invisibility" have begun to disperse, allowing traditional African philosophy to emerge (Henry 2000:44). Henry declares that contradictory ambivalences result from the hybrid nature of colonial languages and other signifying systems and that the persistence of Euro-centric values and meanings in the thinking of Pan African philosophers reflect "embarrassing traces" that limit the effectiveness of their critiques (ibid.).

In this Pan African mindset, Henry contends that the traditional, pre-modern, African, with his national Yoruba, Baluba, Akan, Igbo and other African traditional concepts of self and identity are subsumed in the idea of "the negro" and placed at the base of European conceptualization of humanity, inherently inferior and essential to the formation of European and Western identities (Henry 2000:55). In this respect, in seeking the inner core of traditional Africa, it is imperative that we deconstruct the Western fiction and begin to see the essence of identity and "being", as well as creative activities of African deities (Henry 2000:55; Hanna 2011:222). Wole Soyinka's analysis of this pre-modern, traditional African paradigm demonstrates that most African ontologies are premised on four basic stages or areas of existence, namely the world of the ancestors, the living, the unborn and the "creative womb or matrix of original forms and energies" (Wole Soyinka 1990:140-160).

In this frame of reference, Fashina has asserted the need for the carving of a distinct critical canon for the reading of Black/African literature (Fashina 2008:60). He points out that African names of humans, flora, fauna and objects as used in African literary and cultural discourses are ritualistic and historical, carrying the same sacred meanings (ibid.). This consciousness of the imperative of creating a code for African cultural interpretation was the foundation for the first International Congress of Negro Writers and Artists in Paris in 1956, with intrinsic exploration of the Crisis in Negro Culture (Fashina 2008:61). Nelson Fashina points out that subsequent conferences and congresses3 of African American writers and critics have examined the negative impact of writing or book culture (literary theory and interpretation)

3 C/f Fashina's critique of Copans' 1999 IFRA Lecture which questioned the authenticity of African Studies (Cited in Fashina 2008).

on the drive for a Black critical aesthetics (Fashina 1997:11; 2008:61)4.

It has been indicated that several cultural genetic factors foreground this sense of nationalism and Pan Africanist consciousness, primarily the need to create a theory of Africanism and Blackness which is “distilled from the homogeneous pattern of emotive and mythical interpretations” of values in contrast to the “European induced images and conceptions of our universe”, which is an organic aspect of African imagination and the symbiotic aspect of African collective consciousness (Irele 1990:54; Fashina 1994:73; 2008:61). Fashina argues that, quite against this strive for “African nationalist consciousness in culture and literary studies is the “European standard interpretation” of African studies as more a “mental construct” rather than a “researchable quality” (Fashina 2008:61). Fashina declares one needs to remind the proponents of this “absence theory of Africa and African epistemology” that criticism theory and dialogical reasoning and philosophy are not alien to African culture and traditions. He points out that the pages of history are replete with records that court historians and poets did exist in the palaces of African monarchs, kings and emperors of the early African empires before the invasion of the continent by Western colonial imperial forces in the 18th century.

These historians and poets were court officials and although not invested with official designation by university tradition as research fellows and scholars, they nevertheless performed such roles and functions in their relative conditions, age and time as researchers in history, ethnography and culture, becoming ultimately the unacknowledged sociologists and anthropologists of the African spatial dimensions of their time and the “pedigree” of their records and informal archives have formed part of the “data sites” collected by early European historiographers, ethnographers and social researchers, whose works form the “templates for today's modern interpretations”. This provides fertile ground for the assertion that, regardless of whether the European social science establishment was the “biological parent or midwife” that took delivery of the now “orphaned African studies”, the fact remains undeniable that there had been a form of informal study about Africa and its culture, even though in “unsophisticated scale”, before the “invention of the now canonized term African Studies” (Fashina 2008:61)5.

In this respect, it is essential to consider that the homogenization of African cultures is detrimental because it “overlooks the multifarious African civilizations” from which specific African Diasporan writers came or evolved (M'Baye 2011:6-7). As asserted by Colin Palmer, we need to emphasize the difference between African cultures by recognizing that these people who resided on the African continent defined themselves solely in accordance with their ethnic groups (Campbell 2000:56-59). This underscores the specification and importance of social relational and cultural perspectives in understanding the basic conditions under which the migration of enslaved Africans occurred (Mintz and Price 1976).

In this contextual framework, in which African names and objects are interpreted in their

4 C/f Diop 1974; Gates 1984; Henry 2000; Hanna 2011
5 C/f Diop 1974; Achebe 1988

sacred contexts, their implications and transformations from one space to another and their semantic, semiotic and cultural configurations can only be understood fully by the sharers or stakeholders in the culture (Abram 1997:14; Fashina 2008:69). This engages a necessity to “re-inscribe” the continent of Africa into the history of the Black Diaspora and requires writing Africa into the global history of Pan African resistance and tracing this history to early literature and cultures of the Black Diaspora. This helps us to see and acknowledge the subtle tactics that enslaved Africans invented from the belly of the slave ships of the Middle Passage in order to resist European oppression and reconnect with Africa6 (M'Baye 2011:6). M'Baye emphasizes the need to examine the conditions early Black writers experienced during the middle passage or after their arrival in the New World and to explore the specific cultural contexts and social relationships that influenced their works and lives during the 18th century.  He indicates that this approach to literature consists of letting the texts talk in order to reveal the rich syncretism of African and European cultural elements that permeate them.

This de-homogizination of Africa helps us to examine the exact African societies whose folklore, myths, religions and world views permeate early Black Diasporan writings (M'Baye 2011:7). M'Baye concludes that, by exploring these specific African retentions, one can see how the pioneers of Black Atlantic literature blended their African identities with their Western traditions to achieve admissibility and social and economic status in a new world in which Europeans had equated the adjective African with inferiority and inhumanity. Hence, the Black Atlantic literature should be interpreted through an African centered method that validates the importance of these multiple identities, positions and ideas that early Black writers developed in particular moments of their lives to strengthen or weaken their Pan African consciousness (ibid.).

This begins with an acknowledgment of the distinct African cultures from which the authors came and a validation that the contributions of the first Black women writers made in the development of Pan Africanism (ibid.). Amy Levin emphasizes the need to combine methods of cultural anthropology, literary criticism and intellectual history, which serve as metaphors of cultural and social resistance of women in the Black Diaspora (Levin 2003).

However, Paul Gilroy has advanced the term Black Atlantic to describe what he views as the “ambivalent representation of race and nationalism” in the writings of early American and British writers and intellectuals. In this respect, he theorizes Africa in terms of dualities to reveal the diversity of modern Black cultures (Gilroy 1993). However, M'Baye points out that, although it broadens our understanding of relations between Africa and the Diaspora, Gilroy's theory is open to serious critique because it over emphasizes the anti-essentialism, hybridity, individuality and ambivalence of early Black writers of the Diaspora towards Africa. In this regard, Gilroy's vision of Black cultures as fragmented overlooks the complex ways in which Black writers of the Diaspora have consistently perceived Africa in Pan Africanist terms despite their fluctuating relations towards Africa. This rigid theory of hybridity excludes Africa from the experiences of Black people in the Diaspora (M'Baye 2011:11).

6 “Pan African resistance began in the belly of the whale from which the sons and daughters of Africa were dispersed all over the New World, occupying every conceivable task” (Gomez 2005). C/f Gomez 1998

Gilroy has contended that the works of Wheatley and Equiano should be valued only as a means to observe the durability of African elements in the Diaspora or dismissed as an inadequate mixture, doomed always to be something less than the supposed pure entities that first contributed to produce it. Their legacy is most valuable as a mix or hybrid, with its recombinant form being indebted to its present cultures but remaining “assertively and insubordinately a bastard” (Gilroy 2000). Gilroy also argues that neither Equiano nor Wheatley ever returned to the African homelands from which their long journey through slavery had begun and that Wheatley's poetry reflects her personal transformation from African to American (ibid.).

M'Baye points out that, by representing Equiano's and Wheatley's relations to Africa as an irreversible disconnection from the continent and total conversion into American cultures, Gilroy's theory of hybridity assumes that this process of cultural and social mixing occurs only in the Black Diaspora, as if the African continent from which the enslaved Black people came was and continues to be a single homogenous and pure entity (M'Baye 2011: 11). Gilroy neglects how these writers bridged their physical distance from their homeland and attenuated their self alteration through frequent appropriation of African identities (ibid.).

This process of self navigation reveals the spiritual significance of Africa for 18th century Black Americans such as Wheatley and Equiano (Baker 1980). This constant attachment or spiritual journey to Africa produces a “double nomenclature” or the act of being caught between two worlds7 (ibid.). In this self navigation, on the one hand, they were not free to be Africans, finding that their traditional rituals and the instruments necessary for their performance suppressed by White society. On the other hand, they were defined by law as outsiders and were excluded from the free, human, community that the Puritans designated as the City of God in the New World (Baker 1980; M'Baye 2011:12-13). In mapping this self navigation, the transportation of African oral narratives permits us to make inter-textual and comparative analysis between these tales and the narratives of African American slaves8 (M'Baye 2011: 12-13).

In this respect, it is essential to consider that engaging 18th century African scholarship in the context of modern Pan African political theory poses problematic enigmas, which must be placed under the microscope of subtext analysis (M'Baye 2009). As indicated by Anthony Bogues, early Black slave narratives reflect discursive practices of slave criticism and critique that produced alternative meanings of racial slavery, natural liberty and natural rights and countered the dominant 18th century ideas of racial plantation slavery. He points out that, as documents of slave political criticism and critique, the narratives have a great deal to tell us about 18th century social and political ideas and form a central part of an Africana radical intellectual political tradition (Bogues 2003).9

7 C/f DuBois 1903
8 C/f Herkovits 1936; 1941
9 C/f Piersen 1993; Berlin 2003

In this context, Babacar M'Baye profoundly asserts that 18th century Black Diasporan writers such as Phillis Wheatley, Quobna Cugoano and Olaudah Equiano were pioneer writers of the Black Diaspora who identified with Africa and developed sustained criticism against slavery, racism and other forms of oppression against Black people in the New World and Africa. In their works, they made strong Pan Africanist and other nationalist references that allowed them to offset the occasional ambivalence that they expressed towards Africa. The Black Diasporan writers were part of a small elite group of Western educated Black intellectuals whose views on Africa did not represent those of all other Black populations in the West (M'Baye 2009). As indicated by M'Baye, they received education and eventually acquired freedom, experiences and opportunities which were not available to Black people in the United States and the Caribbean. Yet they utilized their elite status and individuality by attacking Western slavery and linking their suffering to that of Black people in Africa and in the African Diaspora, thereby becoming "pioneers of Pan Africanism". Recognizing this subversive quality of Black Diasporan authors requires us to interpret their writings of Pan African and radical texts that grappled with the racial, ideological and political realities of Western slavery and imperialism on the Black world (M'Baye 2011:3).

As Chapman advises, the slaves created a rich oral literature in their new tongue and a distinct culture to sustain themselves intellectually and spiritually and gave expression to the “man in the slave” in opposition to the dehumanizing conditions of slavery. Slaves could gather together only for religious worship and beyond the expression of strictly controlled permissible religious sentiments, spirituals provided the imagery and a veiled structure for the utterance of hidden uncontrollable freedom aspirations. The legal status of slaves was as property but unlike other stolen property, slaves refused to remain stolen (Chapman 1971:xiv). Similarly, M'Baye indicates that, by comparing Black Diasporan narratives, one can identify trickster figures and resistance traditions that are similar to those that permeated the cultures of both enslaved and free Black Diasporan people. Such comparison of Black Atlantic narratives reveal the relationship between the history of the Black Diaspora and Africa (M'Baye 2011:16). In this regard, a strong influence of African cultures and Pan Africanist spirit of resistance can be identified in the writings of Wheatley, Cugoano and Equiano and their inter-weaving of history and literary analysis tends to demonstrate the Pan African dimensions of their works (M'Baye 2011:19).

More critically, it has been asserted that the concept of African Womanism urges critics to study the experiences of Black women, living within European societies, within African paradigms (Dove 1998:515). This African centered feminism emphasizes the boundaries confronting Black women who resist race, class and gender based oppressions (Davies and Fido 1990; John 2001; Hoving 2003). In this respect, M'Baye indicates that, in her poetry, Wheatley developed her own form of Black Womanism by using the verbal skills of Black Griottes and traditional African tricksters such as Ananci, who could assume either the form of a spider or alternative male or female human forms, in order to negotiate her freedom within an 18th century New England culture in which Puratinism and Methodism were predominant10

10 Griotte is the feminine equivalent of the term Griot, which is a term for traditional African historian, lyricist, story teller, diviner, adviser and healer (M'Baye 2011:24). C/f Hale 1998

(M'Baye 2011:24). M'Baye suggests that identifying Wheatley as a Griotte suggests the major role that this pioneer Black writer from Senegal had on Pan African Literature that praised Puritan and Methodist Christianity and American patriotism in order to achieve freedom for enslaved Africans, confirming Robinson's optimistic statement that exhaustive research will one day reveal Phillis Wheatley as a cleverly disguised, badly misunderstood, militantly assertive Black woman (Robinson 1975:30; M'Baye 2011:24).

Abraham Chapman declares, the slave narratives created a new image in American literature:  the slave as hero. Some of the reactions to the publication of the slave narratives reflect the first conscious awareness of this new type of hero in American literature (Chapman 1971:xviii). Similarly, Dean has asserted that slave songs and poems, music, stories and religion played a significant role in slave culture, with it being through these modes of expression that slaves were able to imprint their existence, leaving symbolic representations of their African history in the New World (Dean 1995:11). The embodiment of African musical traditions into Bahamian cultures symbolized the strength of Black slaves to preserve their heritage and identity in West African culture (Bethel 1991).

We are reminded by Grace Turner that displaced Africans could draw on cultural references to create appropriate personal perceptions for themselves as well as their children. This would allow an alternate reference point for understanding their values as individuals, regardless of their legal and social circumstances. Enslaved Africans, living under difficult daily conditions, were thus assured the promise of a better after life (Turner 2007:30). In our analysis of 18th century Black Diasporan literature, we must, of necessity, adopt these alternate reference points and terms of analysis which offer fidelity to these realities and this demands a radical reassessment of the Black Diasporan literature of the 18th century through the lens of African context and contemporary social historical realities. This contextual framework leads to inescapable links between these Black writers and the seminal and foundational dimensions of Pan African thought and scholarship and provides new insight into this significant body of 18th century literature and scholarship and into modern Pan African theory.

As poignantly asserted by Peter Abrahams, if the men inaugurating the new ways have the sense and the patience to preserve the finer qualities of the old ways and fuse these with the new, then we can expect something magnificently new from Africa (Abrahams 1960:75). This confirms Tom M'Boya's declaration that the African desires to be understood from the viewpoint of his or her own people. Africa must now assert its own personality and speak for itself (M'Boya 1960:30).
Free the Land!
A Luta Continua!


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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

An ode to Majority Rule Day in The Bahamas - January 10

Majority Rule in The Bahamas

By Dennis Dames

We are now one people under the law
…with the collective power to choose
It has been a long and hard-fought battle
…to where we are today

The struggle of our forebears
…against injustice and indifference
Produced a people of variety
…to rule our blessed land

We are free to determine our destiny
…the roads of which we choose to travel
Peace, love and prosperity
…or war, hate and poverty

The choice is in the hands of the Bahamian people
…for better or worse
The obstacles of oppression and inequality
…has been optimistically eliminated
Thanks to the unselfish freedom fighters
…our fate is with us

Majority rule has succeeded
…where do we go from here?
The meaning of the victory in reflection
…something that we must all contemplate

Let’s not waste the revolutionary opportunity
…to thrive in harmony
Bahamians together for a prosperous nation
…the unborn generations will celebrate our feat
The torch of freedom and opportunities for all
…burns deep in our hearts

Every citizen deserves liberty
…we all have a duty to ensure the same
Let’s rule with the vision
…and take care of each other
Let the majority remain the keepers of justice
…and minority, civil and satisfied

God bless The Bahamas
…where majority rule reigns with love and compassion

© 2014 Dennis Arthur Dames

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Value Added Tax would be a critical element of tax reform in The Bahamas the country battles significant fiscal deficits ...and alarmingly high debt

VAT storm builds

Year in Review

Guardian News Editor
Nassau, The Bahamas

In recent months, concerns about value-added tax (VAT) have been mounting.  The debate over VAT has emerged as one of the most significant stories in 2013 and the expectation is that it will also be an important story in 2014.

The government has announced that VAT will be introduced on July 1, 2014.

The tax system would be a critical element of tax reform in The Bahamas as the country battles significant fiscal deficits and alarmingly high debt.

Financial Secretary John Rolle has said repeatedly that the cost of inaction would result in an unchecked rise in debt, less capacity to borrow for emergencies, which increases our vulnerability to shocks like hurricanes and sudden contractions in foreign economies on which we depend for tourists.

“There will also be a credit downgrade and eventual loss of access to credit markets,” he warned. “This will result in one outcome: Much higher tax increases, larger reductions in spending, possible reduction in public sector employment [and] scrutiny of the exchange rate parity.”

The Bahamas’ financial future faces a crisis.

On our current path, it is no understatement that we are doomed without action.

Government debt as at June 30, 2014 is projected to be $4.9 billion, compared to $2.4 billion as at July 2007.

The Bahamas has a legacy of high budget deficits.

Over the last two fiscal years, the government has seen a total deficit in excess of $500 million. The projected deficit at the end of 2013/2014 is $529 million.

The government intends to borrow $465 million to finance the projected revenue shortfall in the 2013/2014 fiscal year. This would add to the $650 million the current administration already borrowed.

Almost one out of every four dollars in revenue collected by the government must be allocated to pay the interest charges on the public debt and cover the debt repayment.

This current state of fiscal affairs is worrying on many levels, and it is unsustainable.

In the government’s white paper on tax reform, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Perry Christie notes that the government’s revenue base is extremely narrow and ill-suited to the expanding needs and demands of modern Bahamian society.

The country’s tax system is out of balance as it predominantly focuses on goods, he pointed out.

It does not share the tax burden with those who are providing services in a way that is either fair or adequate.

The government has decided to go the way of value-added tax to secure an adequate revenue base in support of modern governance.

According to the white paper, the government intends to effect the eventual reductions in import duty rates that will accompany The Bahamas’ accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), and reduce excise tax rates to compensate for VAT.

As a consumption tax, VAT provides a broader base for government revenue; imposes taxes on goods and services equally and imposes greater discipline on businesses, the white paper says.

It also says it encourages investments by providing incentives to business on capital expenditure, and the audit trail that would be required promotes greater efficiency in the collection of taxes.

In its look at various options for tax reform, the white paper highlights VAT as a more favorable option than a sales tax, which is a tax imposed at the final point of sale.

Agriculture and fisheries; social and community services; health and education services are among the areas that will be exempted.

But exemptions will be kept “to a bare minimum”, the government has advised.

The effectiveness of the tax is tied to many factors, including how it is implemented, tax experts and others with experience in effecting tax reform have said.

The VAT legislation and regulations are now in circulation, but it is unclear when they will be introduced in the House of Assembly.

Christie has said that while July 1 is a target date for implementation, it is not set in stone.

December 30, 2013