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Environmental Stewardship... A Profitable Investment in The Bahamas
Related to country: Bahamas


Environmental Stewardship, A Profitable Investment...

 

 

Over the last several years, oil spills and countless other environmental infractions have become a more common occurrence across our chain of islands. Monday’s newspaper headlines regarding the reported oil spill on Adelaide Beach over the weekend is again another reminder of the failure of this, and past administrations to preserve and properly manage this country’s environmental resources.

 

As an archipelagic nation, our country and its citizens depend heavily on our natural resources. Known as a destination of Sun, Sand and Sea, many tourists travel from far and wide to visit our pristine beaches and swim our crystal clear waters. Locally, scores of fishermen depend on the health and wealth of the ocean for economic sustenance.

 

Unfortunately successive governments have allowed for the destruction and misappropriation of such resources to the continued detriment of our national development. Rather than enacting policies to protect the environment, the government continues to take a reactionary position, only ever acknowledging the need for change or improvement when disaster strikes.

 

Our country’s geographic location and its archipelagic makeup give the Bahamas a unique advantage over many other countries in the region, with each island offering diverse and unique environmental experiences. Rather than simply selling off these natural treasures to the highest bidder, a responsible government – A DNA GOVERNMENT – would work not only to protect the delicate ecosystems which exist, but also enable Bahamians to become owners in an economy driven by environmental responsibility. The continued mismanagement of our natural resources by this and previous governments however, has stymied any such possibility.

 

This point is particularly critical as the government prepares to impose VAT come January 1, 2015. While the government continues to assert the need to find new revenue streams, they simultaneously ignore the economic benefits that can be derived from the land and sea around us. Even now in the face of this most recent incident, the government, outside of a generic statement about cleanup efforts, has given no indication that it is prepared to seriously examine current environmental legislation with a view to upgrading and improving them.

 

Saturday’s incident at Adelaide beach was not a first time occurrence and without intervention from the government, it may not be the last.  For some time environmentalists have warned about the impact of BEC’s Clifton plant on surrounding waters. Now, in addition to providing Bahamians with sub-par electricity services, BEC is being allowed, without consequence, to pollute the water, potentially destroying important ecosystems nearby.

 

Rather than take responsibility for the corporation’s continued role in the matter though, the chairman is instead attempting to pass the buck claiming that the company is not solely responsible for the environmental damage. It is clear that the chairman has missed the point completely. It is not about who specifically is to blame for the problem, but rather that the problem exists at all. We, in the DNA encourage BEC to take whatever steps are necessary, including collaborating with other area stakeholders to ensure that they are all being good environmental stewards.

 

We have been entrusted with arguably the most beautiful collection of islands, rocks and cays in the world; it is imperative, now more than ever that Bahamians and those we elect to office take stock of the natural beauty and resources given to us by God and find ways to use them to further the continued growth and development.

 

Environmental degradation has far reaching effects on our way of life; we must act NOW to end it once and for all.

 

Chris Mortimer

DNA Deputy Leader

September 17, 2014


September 20, 2014 | 11:27 AM Comments  {num} comments



Edmund Moxey and the great political sin committed against him
Related to country: Bahamas


 

‘A great political sin’

 

PLP’s integrity defended after Ed Moxey’s name invoked in House


CANDIA DAMES
Managing Editor
candia@nasguard.com


The late Edmund Moxey died without ever receiving a formal apology for all the wrongs against him.

“There is a lot of healing that needs to be done, and not for the sake of Edmund Moxey, but for the nation,” his son, Pastor Mario Moxey told National Review.

“We need to turn the corner in this country for reconciliation.”

At Moxey’s funeral on August 1, Prime Minister Perry Christie suggested the former Coconut Grove MP might have been taken for granted.

“Looking back now, as inevitably we do on an occasion like this, we see all too clearly and perhaps a little late, that Edmund Spencer Moxey was a true visionary when it came to cultural development and community uplift,” Christie said.

Moxey was among the PLP members who ushered in majority rule when the party won the 1967 general election.

The victimization Moxey and his family suffered received renewed attention after Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins decided to dedicate his contribution to the constitutional referendum debate to the former parliamentarian whose dream of a cultural village died decades ahead of him.

“We must first and foremost acknowledge the truth, and in the honor of that man, that champion who I recognized earlier, I believe that as a young politician, recently joining the Progressive Liberal Party, and when I made my maiden speech I said we should atone for the sins of the past,” Rollins said.

“One great political sin that was committed, Mr. Speaker, is that we politically and financially eviscerated the late Mr. Edmund Moxey, because of his views and because he was perceived as a threat.

“Mr. Speaker, it has relevance to what I say today because when we stand to our feet and we speak in a fashion that appears to be contrary to that of the party line, there are those who give orders to politically destroy and do damage to that individual, for no reason other than the fact that they espouse independent views.”

Rollins’ decision to invoke Moxey’s name during the debate, brought into focus certain shameful aspects of the PLP’s past.

“It was not long after becoming the government by the people and for the people that daddy recognized that the people of The Bahamas had been betrayed by the Pindling government,” his daughter, Marva Moxey, recounted a few months ago in a tribute to her father.

“All of the plans and programs that were to be implemented to ensure people empowerment, urban development and community building were soon abandoned by the government.

“In particular was our cultural heritage, which would have given us a strong sense of identity and independence to grow and develop ourselves in a meaningful way.”

Marva Moxey also recalled that her father “was made an example of the price to pay for being a bold, outspoken, independent thinker”.

She said, “As promised, every time daddy got a job playing music in one of the hotels or elsewhere, someone would call and threaten the establishment with the canceling of work permits for their foreign workers.

“So having to choose between their top executives and daddy, daddy would be released and sent home brokenhearted and discouraged. This happened job after job in spite of the fact that he was qualified and a Bahamian.”

After detailing the victimization endured by the Moxey family as a result of the position taken by her father, Marva Moxey said, “Despite our personal biases and party commitment, it should be underscored that this whole matter of hurting others who do not subscribe to our political philosophy is unwarranted and indeed inhumane.” 

Defense

While awakening the injustices suffered by Moxey, Rollins also awakened the ire of Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell and the prime minister.

Moxey’s family must have watched with great interest as Mitchell said on the floor of the House of Assembly last Monday that the “other side” of the story has not been heard.

Some wondered if this was an attempt to denigrate Moxey’s legacy.

Mitchell did not tell “the other side”, except to recount the night of the long knives, when several PLPs, including Moxey, lost their nominations ahead of the 1977 general election.

“Much was said about and I went to a funeral and I heard a lot about the history of what the Progressive Liberal Party did to one of our fallen soldiers. I would only say this, that it is important, Mr. Speaker, to hear the other side,” Mitchell said.

“My view also is in some cases it is better to let sleeping dogs lie, to not open up old wounds and to leave the bones buried where they are.”

Mitchell pointed out that much of what transpired over nominations in 1977 was precipitated by events in August 1976 when the then leader of the Progressive Liberal Party sought to move the Public Disclosure Bill in the House.

There was a temporary majority of the opposition, the speaker put the question and the bill was defeated. Moxey, at the time a parliamentary secretary, voted to kill the bill and was fired by Pindling.

The House was prorogued and the bill reintroduced.

“When the nominations came up in 1977 [seven] people lost their nominations,” Mitchell noted.

“Among them was the late Mr. Edmund Moxey. The chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party at the time was Mr. Hubert Ingraham, and I’m saying that those who know the history should just hear the other side. You don’t have to believe it, just hear the other side.

“…There’s been a lot said about what we did and didn’t do. The point is that no one in here had any responsibility for what happened. The only person that I recall by report who spoke for anyone to save their nominations that night was the right honorable member for Centreville (Perry Christie) and I believe that had to do with Mr. Franklyn Wilson who for other reasons not connected to those [also lost his nomination].”

George Smith, the former Exuma MP, recalled however that there were others who stood up for the people losing their nominations.

“I was saddened that one or two people who I was particularly close to were not being nominated,” Smith told National Review.

Mitchell said the relevance of recounting this bit of political history was that the PLP was “attacked” during the course of the recent debate on the constitutional amendment bills.

“And I’m simply saying I’m defending that integrity and making this general point, sir… This is a rational organization. This is a rational organization.”

Prime Minister Perry Christie also distanced the current group of PLP politicians from the victimization Moxey suffered.

“Mr. Speaker, I have been here for 40 consecutive years in public life and the issue arose, Mr. Speaker, as to the member determining that he would wish to dedicate his speech in a special way. That’s fine.

“But any implication to suggest that anyone on this side of the House had anything to do with what is perceived to have happened to Ed Moxey, it would be entirely incorrect, wrong, unfair and unacceptable to me as leader of the Progressive Liberal Party,” said the prime minister as members from his side pounded their tables in agreement.

“I want to go further. These same people who make up the elected members of the Cabinet at the request of a member of the Moxey family, Mr. Speaker, have agreed to make an unprecedented contribution, rightly so, to that family, these same members.

“And let me say this, Mr. Speaker, these members just agreed to lift him up as one of 41 iconic contributors to the cultural development of this country, and it’s important we do that to position fairness in this debate.”

The prime minister added, “There is no one in The Bahamas who can speak to my relationship with Ed Moxey and that’s a relationship that began probably before the member for Fort Charlotte was born, and there is no one in this country that could point to anyone in this Parliament and say they had anything to do with victimizing or discrimination against Ed Moxey, and I want them to look at the members in this Parliament.”

Christie also said that before Moxey’s death he expressed in writing that he wished the country to move on from what happened to him.

“Ed Moxey wrote in his personal hand a position as to the spirit that he had when he knew he was being challenged with this health,” the prime minister said.

“I actually said at the [funeral] service I was going to request the speaker to read it into the record of the House because it was an uplifting account of a man who himself felt he may have been battered by the forces in public life, but he said the country must come together, put that behind it and move on, and he believed that he was living at a time where he was giving witness to the fact that those who were in government today would have no interest in pursuing what he perceived to be the kinds of attacks that he experienced.

“So he himself had moved on beyond the words that were intended to divide and that would have caused pain on this side of the House.”

The story of Edmund Moxey and the discrimination he faced after his falling out with the PLP leadership will long after his death speak volumes about what ought not happen to independent-minded politicians, or anyone who offends the powers that be.

For the PLP, it is an ugly piece of history; the kind of treatment we all hope no one else has to experience.

August 25, 2014

thenassauguardian


August 26, 2014 | 9:21 AM Comments  {num} comments



The Bahamas Government’s initial 15 % Value-Added Tax (VAT) proposal could have resulted in potentially catastrophic consequences for the Bahamian society
Related to country: Bahamas


9,000 Jobs Lost Under 15% Vat -

 

 

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Nassau, The Bahamas-

 

 

The initial 15 per cent Value-Added Tax (VAT) would have “eliminated” 9,000 Bahamian jobs and caused a $380 million drop in tourism sales in 2015, an industry study estimated.

The Ernst & Young accounting firm’s report on the likely economic impact from the Government’s first VAT proposal suggests that it could have resulted in potentially catastrophic consequences for Bahamian society, with the effects felt by almost everyone.

The study, conducted for the Bahamian hotel/tourism industry and obtained by Tribune Business, said the net tax burden on the sector would have increased by $320 million next year.

This was based on the combined ‘direct and indirect’ impact from a 15 per cent VAT and changes to the existing tax system. Ernst & Young based its findings on the lower 10 per cent rate that the hotel industry would have paid, plus the elimination of the 10 per cent hotel occupancy tax.

Parts of the accounting firm’s study, namely that a 15 per cent VAT would have increased tourism prices by 9 per cent and caused an 11 per cent drop in tourism consumption, have already been made public. What has not, until now, is the dollars and cents impact.

“As tourists respond to increased prices resulting from the VAT, they would reduce the number of visits and consume fewer goods and services in the Bahamas. The analysis estimates that this response would reduce tourism sales by $380 million in 2015 levels,” Ernst & Young said of a 15 per cent VAT.

“A $380 million reduction in tourism sales in 2015 would result in the elimination of 9,000 tourism and related jobs across the Bahamian economy.

“It would result in a loss of nearly 4,700 direct tourism sector jobs, relative to the baseline in 2015 (11 per cent reduction). The total domestic job loss would increase to 9,000 jobs when considering jobs supported by the tourism industry’s supply chain and employee spending (the ‘multiplier’ effect).

“By 2017, the economy-wide job loss would increase to nearly 13,200 jobs, of which 6,800 would be from within the tourism industry.”

Looking to the medium -term implications of a 15 per cent VAT, Ernst & Young added: “By 2017, the Government’s proposed VAT would reduce tourism’s contribution to GDP by more than $350 million (or 15 per cent).

“Under current law, tourism’s contribution to GDP (the most comprehensive measure of the industry’s current economic activity) would reach an estimated $2.3 billion in 2017. The imposition of the proposed VAT would reduce tourism sector GDP by $353 million by 2017.”

The accounting firm also projected: “The three-year cumulative loss in GDP (2015-2017) from the impact of the Government’s proposed VAT on the tourism industry is an estimated $890 million, relative to current [tax system].

“Over the three-year period, the tourism industry is estimated to contribute a total of $6.5 billion to GDP under current-law [tax system] growth projections.

“If the Government’s proposed VAT is enacted, the tourism industry would produce a total of nearly $5.7 billion of GDP in three years.”

The Ernst & Young report’s findings likely weighed heavily on the Government’s decision to drastically alter its VAT proposal at the last minute.

The study was presented to Prime Minister Perry Christie on May 21, just eight days before the Budget was unveiled in the House of Assembly. Its findings, together with those by the Coalition for Responsible Taxation, the New Zealand consultants and the Government’s own US advisers, Compass Lexecon, all recommending a lower rate VAT, appear to have been instrumental in persuading the Christie administration to accept a radically revised 7.5 per cent rate with few exemptions.

In their letter to the Prime Minister, the Tourism Industry Partners Group warned that a 15 per cent VAT would cause a $363 million drop in tourist spending, together with a $340 million drop in tourism’s GDP contribution by 2016.

The Group said the Bahamian hotel and tourism industry “faces unprecedented cost competitive challenges”, with the Ernst & Young study “validating” these fears.

Not that a 7.5 per cent VAT rate will exactly be benign for the sector. The Ernst & Young study modelled the impact of a 7.5 per cent rate on the industry, together with a 0.75 per cent employer payroll tax and 15 per cent VAT on the rest of the economy.

While not a direct like-for-like comparison with the Government’s revised 7.5 per cent VAT plan, the accounting firm projected that its model would result in a $117 million increase in net new taxes paid by the tourism industry.

Under the 7.5 per cent VAT model employed by Ernst & Young, tourism prices between 2015-2017 rose by 4.2 per cent, rather than 9.2 per cent, each year.

This still resulted in a decline in tourism sales, but only by $172 million compared to $380 million in 2015, and by $250 million as opposed to $554 million come 2017.

And, when it came to tourism’s GDP contribution, the 7.5 per cent VAT model employed by Ernst & Young said this would drop by $110 million in 2015, compared to $242 million at 15 per cent, and by $159 million compared to $353 million in 2017.

Jobs, though, would still be lost. Ernst & Young’s version estimated that 2,000 direct jobs could go under a 7.5 per cent VAT in 2015, as opposed to 4,700 at 15 per cent, with this figure increasing to 2,900 as opposed to 6,800 come 2017.

July 22, 2014

Tribune 242


July 23, 2014 | 9:25 AM Comments  {num} comments



Living below the poverty line in The Bahamas
Related to country: Bahamas


 

Poverty, VAT and the PLP’s promises

The Nassau Guardian Editorial

The Bahamas:

 

Forty-three thousand people in The Bahamas were living below the poverty line around this time last year, according to data from the Department of Statistics. Nothing that has happened since suggests this number might be any lower today; in fact, it has probably continued to rise steadily.

This means that the ranks of the utterly destitute among us, those who must eke out whatever kind of existence they can on less than $12 a day, account for around 13 percent of the population of this country. And this is not taking into account the many more thousands, probably tens of thousands, who struggle to survive just a hairsbreadth above the poverty line, so close in misfortune to the “official poor” that there is no appreciable difference in their circumstances.

It is no secret that the places where such people live are the principal incubators of violent crime, domestic and child abuse, juvenile delinquency, teenage pregnancy and many of the other social ills that increasingly threaten to tear this society apart at the seams. It is also common knowledge that the governing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) represents the majority of these areas in Parliament, many since the time of majority rule. Over those many years, the promises upon promises meted out at election time – of employment, security, proper sanitation and all the other basics of civilized existence – have amounted to those areas remaining in poverty.

The revelation of a considerable rise in the level of poverty, around 3.5 percent over the last survey in 2001, comes against the backdrop of this legacy of unfulfilled promises and follows closely on the heels of several other important pledges broken by the PLP in its current term, among them that it would create 10,000 jobs upon coming to office.

Two years on, the vast majority of these jobs have yet to materialize, while the government’s failure to fulfill another campaign assurance, that of an effective mortgage relief scheme, is only adding to the ranks of the desperate all the time.

And now, at this moment, faced with such a troubling situation, the government has announced that it will impose value-added tax – the impact of which, it admits, will hit the poor the hardest – at a rate of 7.5 percent, without any corresponding reduction in import duties to ease the blow.

Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis has said the cost of living is expected to rise by four percent as a result.

There is no cause for worry, however, according to Social Services Minister Melanie Griffin. She said the government has plans to mitigate the impact on the poor and will be able to “handle whatever fallout” may result from the implementation of VAT.

The good minister must forgive Bahamians if her assurances do not ease our collective anxiety for the future. Our skepticism is nothing personal, being based solely on the fact that not all promises made by her party are fulfilled.

July 09, 2014

thenassauguardian


July 11, 2014 | 10:56 AM Comments  {num} comments

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The role of the media in today’s Bahamian society
Related to country: Bahamas


The role of the media in today’s Bahamas


“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” – Malcolm X

Recently there has been considerable commentary from many quarters of our society about the media and its role in today's Bahamas. Politicians in particular – and from both sides of the aisle – have taken to critical commentary about media coverage depending on the story and what the reporters say about them.

Therefore this week we would like Consider This... What is the role of the media in today's Bahamas, and are there deliberate attempts to quiet the fourth estate?

The fourth estate

The term “the fourth estate” is derived from the medieval “estates of the realm”, of which three were formally recognized: the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners. Each “estate” had a distinct social role and a certain level of power and influence.

By the middle of the 19th century, people began referring to the press as a fourth estate, referencing the fact that most parliaments and other houses of government had an area set aside specifically for use by the press, which highlighted that the press is a distinct group within the larger framework of the realm. Several historians credit the coinage of the term “fourth estate” to Edmund Burke, who is said to have used it when discussing the French Revolution, although the 19th century author, Thomas Carlyle, popularized the term.

In modern societies, the media is often called the fourth branch of government (or "fourth estate") in addition to the executive, legislative and judicial branches. It is generally accepted that the most important role of the fourth estate is to monitor the political process in order to ensure that those in the other three branches do not abuse the democratic process. Today, the fourth estate includes the public press, collectively encompassing journalists, photographers, television broadcasters and radio announcers, among others.

The role of the media

Few will argue against the idea that access to information is essential to a healthy democracy and that the press is important for at least three reasons. First, it reports the news without bias, as facts are presented as they are. Secondly, it ensures that citizens are able to make responsible, informed choices on matters of national importance rather than acting out of ignorance or misinformation. Third, the media serves a "checking function" by disclosing whether elected representatives have upheld their oaths of office, fulfilled their campaign promises and carried out the wishes of those who elected them.

Some persons become very sensitive about media coverage because it plays such an important role in the fortunes of political candidates, elected officials, dignitaries and national issues. This is where the role of the media can become controversial. News reporting is supposed to be objective and balanced, but journalists are people with feelings, opinions and preconceived ideas. It is sometimes felt that journalists either allow their biases to creep into the reporting of the news or report only news that is negative to the side they are biased against, ignoring news that may be equally negative about the side they support.

In addition to its responsibility of “reporting the news”, the print media also produces an “op-ed” section, where opinions and editorial commentary are expressed by the editor, columnists or the general public, the latter often in the form of letters to the editor.

Protecting freedom of the press

The media has immense political and social power, because it can be used to shape societies while imparting news of note and commentary of interest. Because of its importance, many countries have embedded press freedom provisions in their national constitutions. Other nations have enacted laws to protect the rights of the press, ensuring that citizens have access to reports on matters of interest.

Because of the importance of the fourth estate in society, most members of the media abide by certain professional and personal codes of ethics. Many journalists attempt to cultivate an air of neutrality, focusing on reporting the issues as they are, so that people can judge the facts for themselves, while others focus on offering commentary and analysis from the perspective of a particular position. Journalists are careful, as a whole, to protect the integrity of the press, protecting sources, verifying information before publication and using a variety of other techniques to convey a trustworthy appearance to the public, encouraging people to put their faith in the media.

The fourth estate in The Bahamas

For many decades, there has historically been a tug of war between the media and politicians in The Bahamas. In the early days of party politics, dating back to the early 1950s, the two established daily newspapers were seen as biased in favor of the white oligarchy, which sought to continue the established conservative social and political order, often denigrating the fledgling Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). This prompted some in the PLP to form the Bahamian Times newspaper, in order to ensure that the PLP’s position was clearly delineated to the people of The Bahamas.

It is fair to say that while the editorial slant of The Tribune has not radically changed, the same observation cannot be made of The Nassau Guardian. More recently, the editorial slant of The Nassau Guardian has been more balanced, equally criticizing the PLP, the Free National Movement and the Democratic National Alliance – taking each to task as the need arises. It is wrong for persons in public life to conclude that the newspapers are deliberately “out to get them” because the media reports factual information about the conduct of persons in public office. Facts and sometimes foolish statements emanating from politicians are stubborn things; they are what they are, and no amount of complaining about their reporting will change the facts or the foolish statements.

For politicians to believe that they are immune from public scrutiny for their actions and statements is a mistake. The media has a sacred responsibility and duty to inform the public about the conduct of all persons who hold public office, regardless of their party affiliation.

Imagine what would have happened if Woodward and Bernstein did not investigate and report on the Watergate break-in, which resulted in the resignations and convictions of numerous high level, powerful politicians, who abused their offices and broke the law, as well as the resignation of a corrupt U.S. President. Woodward and Bernstein did not deliberately set out on a course to destroy the lives of those who broke the laws. Their primary objective was to critically investigate, analyze, and report the facts, wherever they led. The same can be said for Daniel Ellsberg’s revelations relative to the Pentagon Papers, Julian Assange regarding WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden concerning the excessive NSA abuses and invasion of privacy of countless innocent citizens in many countries.

All of our politicians have to come to terms with the vitally important role of the fourth estate in the development of our country and should recognize that the media’s role is to expose incompetence, corruption, malfeasance and breach of the rule of law that governs us. Members of the fourth estate should conduct themselves without fear or favor, oblivious to who the persons are that they are investigating. Politicians should not be surprised when the media calls attention to their abuses of office or power, their arrogance and excessive sense of entitlement. Politicians are servants of the people and should conduct themselves accordingly; otherwise they should expect that the fourth estate will expose them.

Conclusion

Instead of vilifying the press, progressive politicians, distinguished persons and private citizens alike should willingly engage the media in order to present their account of events or their side of the story. It benefits no one to attack the media unless it engages in defamatory reporting, in which case the aggrieved parties can and should seek legal redress before the courts.

As we mature as a nation, we will find that it is far better to engage the press in meaningful dialogue, to have frank and open discussions with them and to explain one’s actions and decisions on their merits. Not only will it demonstrate the constructive power of communication, this kind of honest and straightforward interaction will also go a long way in building the strong democracy envisioned by our forefathers, a democracy that will be the backbone of the robust and advanced society we all wish to see.

 

• Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com.

June 23, 2014

thenassauguardian


June 25, 2014 | 10:17 AM Comments  {num} comments



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