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|Bahamas Uncensored.com [20 October 2002]|
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|Posted by:||Oct 21st 2002, 07:12:48 pm|
20th October, 2002
FOREIGN MINISTER PLANTS A TREE...
TOURISM AND GAMBLING...
PJ PATTERSON IN JAMAICA...
BEC POWER CUTS AGAIN...
ALFRED SEARS AT CAFTAF...
SHANE'S NEW HOUSING...
CULTURE MINISTER IN PHOTO FLAP...
ELECTION COURT CALLED...
THE RESTLESS TROOPS...
PREDICTIONS FOR THE ECONOMY...
MRS. CHRISTIE TO BERMUDA...
KING ERIC AND THE REGATTA COMMITTEE...
YOUNG LIBERALS SEMINAR...
B.S. NOTES FROM GENEVA'S FREEPORT... PLUS
COMMENT OF THE WEEK
THE PM ON HIS GAME
Martin Kilson of Harvard used to always say that if you want to lead a black country you have to be able to "speak good". In other words, you had to be a good talker in order to move people behind objectives. This week Perry Christie, the country's third Prime Minister was on his game. The backbench who had been rumbling about his indecision on issues and appointments suddenly came alive when on an insignificant bill to allow additional casino games, the Prime Minister launched full-scale into the Opposition and their hapless leader Alvin Smith, the MP for North Eleuthera. The Opposition leader deserved it for a supercilious intervention he gave on a bill that did not deserve a major debate at all.
The backbench has in its habitat Kenyatta Gibson, Keod Smith and Sidney Stubbs. They are all first time MPs chomping at the bit with youthful vigour. They are the thorns in the side of any Opposition group with a constant set of taunts whenever Opposition members get up to speak. And so when their Leader Perry Christie launched into the broadside against the Leader of the Opposition they loved it and relished it. All the grumbling was stopped and they were fully part of the team. At one point Kenyatta Gibson took out his handkerchief and said to the amusement of the House "I surrender for you". He said that he didn't think that the Opposition leader could take it any more.
The Opposition Leader seemed to be reading a speech that someone else prepared for him. He kept saying that Mr. Help and Mr. Hope had fled since the PLP came to power and that the PLP needed to give that help and hope that they promised. The PM replied that he felt ashamed for Mr. Smith, he felt like he could cry for him. He told the Leader: "Do you know what you all put on my head? We came to office and the first act we had to do was to pay 125 million dollars in debts that your administration refused to pay, and then the second was to agree to borrow 186 million because the economy was headed into a deficit, and you talk about what happened to help and hope." He said that someone had to restrain him from taking up the chair on the side of him and throwing it at the Leader of the Opposition. This brought the House down.
No one is quite sure why the Opposition picked this insignificant bill in a gambling country to draw their line in the sand. But they did, making it a bill to expand casino gambling, to ignore religious leaders, not consulting with the people. This was the same bill that the Government of Hubert Ingraham (in which Mr. Smith served as a Parliamentary Secretary) tabled in the House prior to the General Election and had promised the industry that they would pass. In the end, the Opposition themselves could not agree on what they were doing.
When the vote came, the Opposition called for a division and the Leader of the Opposition abstained. Ken Russell, the MP for High Rock who was part of the Government that designed the bill voted against it, and the rest of the party voted for it. What a mix up.
There were 14 Members absent. Many of them PLPs with religious convictions who did not want their votes recorded. But the end is the Bill passed. Mr. Christie has his backbench troops in order through a stellar performance.
The number of hits for the week ending Saturday 19th October 2002 at midnight: 32,946.
The number of hits for the month of October up to Saturday 19th October 2002 at midnight: 67,071.
The hits for the year up to Saturday 19th October 2002 at midnight: 1,864,529.
FOREIGN MINISTER PLANTS A TREE
Fred Mitchell, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, officially opened the 8th Annual International Cultural Festival at the Nassau Botanic Gardens. The Gardens have been closed since 5th November 2001 when Hurricane Michelle wrecked the gardens. With the help of inmate labour and the direction of Eric Carey, the gardens were put back in some kind of shape to host the event. The event is chaired by James Catalyn, the playwright and former Ministry of Tourism executive.
On Wednesday 16th October, the Royal Society of St. George, the society of Englishmen and women abroad, donated a mahogany tree to The Bahamas and invited the Minister of Foreign Affairs to plant the tree in the gardens. The Minister gladly obliged and this Peter Ramsay photo shows the tree being planted with Judy Grindrod, the President of the Society. Peter Ramsay took the photo.
On Sunday 20th October, after the official opening of the festival, the Minister toured the grounds. Photos are by Derek Smith.
TOURISM AND GAMBLING
The bill that came to Parliament was the same bill that the FNM administration had promised the gambling industry that they would allow to become law. What it does is allow for pari-mutuel betting in The Bahamas, betting on horses or the dogs in real time. The FNM through the ten years they were in office passed acts that allowed for the first time sports betting at the casinos. They allowed the Sun International Casino to expand its floor space. So it was quizzical indeed that the FNM took the position in this House of Assembly that they were against his bill, which merely provides variety for customers coming to The Bahamas.
The battle on whether or not their should be gambling in The Bahamas is over. Not even the church can make such an argument with a straight face (see the 'Sideburns' cartoon by Stanley Burnside from the Tribune of 18th October). The numbers racket goes unabated. Every day couriers leave The Bahamas and go to Miami to buy the Florida Lotto for their customers in The Bahamas. Some of that money inevitably ends up in the collection plate. And yet you have the leaders of the church talk about their Opposition to gambling.
Let us make it clear that this site believes that all restrictions against gambling in The Bahamas should be abandoned. They are a violation of the right to choose of individuals. Right now there is a ban on Bahamians gambling in The Bahamas. That should be removed. It is simply foolish to argue otherwise. But clearly the FNM thought they were on a good wicket.
Neko Grant the MP for Lucaya (pictured top right), speaking after what must have been a really hearty lunch, held forth the about how the PLP did not consult with the people before going into the expansion of gambling. No one could quite figure out what was going on with Brent Symonette (pictured middle right), the would-be great white hope of the FNM. He was Minister for Tourism once and supported the expansion of gambling as part of the tourism product. It is believed that he wrote the speech for Alvin Smith (pictured bottom right), his Leader, and then when Perry Christie launched into the foolishness of the address, Mr. Symonette took flight and left the for the smoking room. In the end he voted with the PLP.
A country really needs an Opposition, and right now this crew is doing a disservice to the country by not getting their act together. Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe is shown at top in a Peter Ramsay photo presenting the amendment to the Gaming and Lotteries Act in the House of Assembly.
PJ PATTERSON IN JAMAICA
Percival Patterson is once again Prime Minister of Jamaica. His initials are P.J. and he told the victory crowd in Jamaica that his granddaughter told him that his initials mean 'Protect Jamaica'. He said that this is what he intended to do. He has a reduced majority; some 35 seats in a 60 member house in Jamaica compared to the 48 he had before the election.
Mr. Patterson watched with horror the defeat of Hubert Ingraham's government in Nassau and called in his pr and marketing people to study how the PLP had won and try to defeat the tactic that he felt would be employed by his Opposition in Jamaica. It worked. His party is the Peoples National Party, the party of Michael Manley. Edward Seaga who was trying at the age of 72, a newlywed and a father at that tender age again, to win one last battle to regain the Prime Minister's seat that he held last during the Reagan years. He has sadly become an anachronism and a caricature. It is time for him to retire. If he did not know it then he needs to know it now. Jamaica is obviously tired of him. His Jamaica Labour Party with Bruce Goulding back in the fold could easily have defeated Mr. Patterson if Mr. Seaga had only stepped down and allowed Mr. Goulding to lead the party.
There is a message to Mr. Patterson as well. It is time too for him to go. At 68, this is the fourth time that he will be Jamaica's Prime Minister. This is history in Jamaica that heretofore would throw out Governments every two terms. But he has obviously not solved Jamaica's problems and the electorate had a voter turn out of some 56 per cent. Jamaica just seems an endless morass of descent into crime, into politically inspired violence and economic rot. The tribalism was denounced by Jimmy Carter, the former US President, fresh from his Nobel prize win, who observed the elections and declared them free and fair and reflecting the will of the people of Jamaica. And so while we congratulate our friends in Jamaica, our wish is that Mr. Patterson begins immediately the process of moving on and out.
Jamaican Prime Minister Patterson is shown third from left in this file photo with Bradley Roberts, now Minister of Works; Perry Christie now Prime Minister and Fred Mitchell, now Minister of Foreign Affairs & the Public Service. The picture was taken during a visit to Jamaica by a high level Bahamian delegation to attend the installation of Professor Rex Nettleford at Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies.
BEC POWER CUTS AGAIN
The Minister of Works Bradley Roberts had an extensive communication in the House of Assembly this week about the state of the generation plant at BEC and why there was considerable load shedding during the summer. But at each juncture it becomes clearer and clearer why the management of BEC cannot be trusted. Just when people in New Providence had come to the point where they believed that it was now safe to use their electrical appliances without fear of power cuts, BEC announced on the morning of the power cuts that load shedding would begin extensively throughout the weekend, some three hours at a time. Extensive sections of the island were blacked out all day Saturday 19th October and the blackouts continued into today. We repeat the call for changing the management of BEC at the very top. We ask you to click here for the communication of the Minister.
The owners of Gladstone Farms are now down and out and on the ropes again. Despite the protective tariffs, despite the fact that they have monopoly deals almost with every demand for chicken in the country, they can't make a go of it. The farm is expected to close in mid November. Workers went on strike this week to get their severance pay. There is a deal afoot to rescue the chicken farm but many ask the question is it worth it to be producing chicken in The Bahamas anyway since without protective tariffs there is no way we can compete with American prices.
The economic question asked is why should the consumer in The Bahamas pay $1.29 per pound for chicken when you can get it from Miami for 29 cents per pound? The age old question. One supposes the consumer in Japan asks the same question about Japanese rice when rice can be produced in the US for much less. This becomes all the more important as the rescue offer is being put together for the farm in the shadow of our try to access the World Trade Organization and the Free Trade Agreements of the Americas. All of these economic cooperation agreements demand the removal of protective tariffs.
But there is a compelling argument for self-sufficiency in food as matter of national security. Is that a realistic goal? Some say that last year's closure of US ports after the 11th September incident frightened many Bahamians because they realized that there was only three weeks supply of food in The Bahamas and most of our food comes from the United States. Nassau Guardian photo by Donald Knowles of Gladstone Farms workers off the job in protest.
ALFRED SEARS AT CAFTAF
Alfred Sears, the Bahamian Attorney General, has been named the new Chair of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force. (CFATF). This is the regional version of the Financial Action Task Force of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that put the nail in the coffin of the Bahamian financial industry last year when a weak Prime Minister capitulated to them and changed the laws of The Bahamas.
It is a strange thing. The Bahamian Government came to office and was elected after promising to reverse the capitulation to these outside interests, and now we are the Chair of the body that is responsible for putting the nail in our coffin, and all the pronouncements emanating from the forum seems to be the opposite of what we preached that we would do. We realise, of course, that Minister Sears is necessarily walking a fine and difficult line with this. Anyway, we shall see. Minister Sears is pictured with the outgoing Chair of the CFATF in this BIS photo by Derek Smith.
SHANE'S NEW HOUSING
Minister of Housing Shane Gibson was pictured by Donald Knowles in the Nassau Guardian with Junior Bethel, brother of the Late PLP MP Peter Bethel overlooking plans for a new housing project. Shane Gibson, the former Trade Unionist and now Minister of Housing, has been a most active minister trying to get the housing programme of the Government off the ground. The Minister was announcing that some two million dollars are expected to be invested in the creation of a new Government built subdivision on 35 acres of land on Marshall Road in South beach Estates. There will 99 residential lots, including 89 six thousand square feet single family lots, 10 multi family lots, plus a community park and commercial site. The demand for housing in this country goes unabated. But the price tag of $80,000 is still way above the means of many who need the housing. The result is that the housing is put on hold while people try to scrap deposits and often they can't meet the commitment. And so we ask again for zero percent down for housing in this country.
CULTURE MINISTER IN PHOTO FLAP
Kenneth Love is the President of the Bahamas Photographers Association. He was furious said The Tribune of Thursday 17th October. He said that the photographers were upset that the Minister of Youth and Culture Neville Wisdom (pictured) has ordered them removed from Bay Street during Junkanoo in favour of the foreign press. Not so said the Minister. It was all a misunderstanding. He seemed upset that photographers would misinterpret his motives to expand and expose Junkanoo to the world. He said that negotiations were ongoing with American TV networks to have coverage on Bay Street for Junkanoo and they might want an exclusive. As we went to press a meeting was being called to see if the two sides could come together.
ELECTION COURT CALLED
The sore losers called the Free National Movement are now in court, an election court constituted under the Constitution to review the election results when they are under protest. At last we have Bahamians sitting on the bench with Sir Burton Hall, the Chief Justice and Madam Justice Jeanne Thompson reviewing the matter. The first question the Chief Justice asked on Tuesday 15th October when the case convened was what was the view of counsel on whether having regard to the decision of the Court of Appeal in McEwan, the secret ballot campaigner, as to whether the Court had the authority to scrutinize ballots or should he void the election all together and call fresh elections.
There are some who argue that the court should never scrutinize the ballots unless a high threshold of public interest is overcome. The court should almost always come down in favour of the secrecy of the ballot. The Judge then proceeded to rule on Thursday 17th October that he did have the authority to order a scrutiny of the ballots and he proceeded to hear the evidence. It turns so far on the defeated candidate Mr. Ferguson's claim that at least two spoilt ballots were counted when they should not have been.
The PLP is concerned that dropping this seat will get rid of a Minister of the Government. The FNM wants the seat because it will give them a much needed boost. And so we are off and the case resumes on Monday 21st October. Mr. Gray won the seat by four votes.
THE RESTLESS TROOPS
The troops continue to be restless as the PLP nears the six month mark of its second time in office. The economy continues to worsen with every day some rumour of a business collapsing. PLPs are frustrated that they have not yet seen their piece of the pie. But the PLP's leadership is still counseling patience; that it has not been long enough given the problems that we face. The revenue for the country is running behind. There is still a hiring freeze in the public service. But the stories of poverty are getting worse and worse. The calls are beginning for special measures to be taken by way of emergency aid to persons who are not working. It is that desperate.
PREDICTIONS FOR THE ECONOMY
The team of Larry Gibson and Anthony Ferguson writing in their weekly column in The Tribune's Business Section gave a sober analysis last week. Their view is that the country will be running an enormous budget deficit somewhere in the region of 220 million dollars. This will be the highest ever in the history of the country. What is alarming about this is the fact that the deficit was already predicted to be the highest ever at 186 million dollars. However, the revenue is seriously underperforming. By the Prime Minster's public reckoning the revenue is some 20 million dollars behind per month where it should be. The revenue that was expected was 970 million dollars so it appears that we are not on target for that.
The Government has restricted hiring in the public sector. But public sector salaries are expected to increase again shortly when the agreement to the anomalies exercise is complete in its second phase. And next year in July there is to be another general increase in salary for the public service.
Huedley Moss, who is the President of the Union at the Water and Sewerage Corporation (one of the most radical), made a startling revelation to the business community when he urged the Union community to stop pressing for wage increases with The Bahamas trying to improve its competitive position with WTO and FTAA accession coming.
Mr. Moss has been evolving his position for months as he and Reginald Lobosky, the archenemy of Unions, have been working more closely together in the civil society consultation group of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The negotiations for wages and benefits is now going on in earnest in the tourism sector and the feeling is that demands have moderated considerably on the wages question as the industry suffers serious setbacks.
In Singapore, we are told that public servants get a bonus for their work if the GNP of the country rises. Perhaps that is something that we ought to employ here. The plain fact is that this economy is reeling. The Government is more or less going on automatic and automatic is clearly not good enough as the tide of complaints about poverty and hunger continue to rise.
MRS. CHRISTIE TO BERMUDA
Bernadette Christie, the wife of the Prime Minister is in Bermuda for a conference on Women In Public Life. She is accompanied by an aide. The conference was held from 18th October to 20th October. She returns to The Bahamas today.
KING ERIC AND THE REGATTA COMMITTEE
It is no surprise that King Eric Gibson has taken umbrage at the appointment of the new Regatta Committee appointed by Neville Wisdom, the Minister for Culture and Sports. He now joins Rev. Philip McPhee in denouncing the Minister for appointing the new Committee and usurping the job of the Regatta Committees. King Eric said that the Minister had no right to appoint any such committee. Not surprising because King Eric disagrees with anything that doesn't have him at the head of it. And so the ball of confusion continues in sailing.
YOUNG LIBERALS SEMINAR
The Progressive Young Liberals, youth arm of the PLP, are holding a seminar this Thursday evening 24th October on the challenges facing Government Ministries. Among the speakers scheduled are Prime Minister Perry Christie and the Minister for the Public Service Fred Mitchell. The venue for the seminar is PLP headquarters at Gambier House on Farrington Road, contact email@example.com.
B.S. NOTES FROM GENEVA'S FREEPORT... PLUS
In this new format, the former News From Grand Bahama is renamed as above. This signifies the initials of our senior correspondent from the nation's second city, with the 'plus' for the many other sources from whom contributions are accepted. Ed.
Minister of Youth Neville Wisdom has fine tuned his public crusade against underage drinking and for the playing of Bahamian music and selling of Bahamian foods at local festivals. You will recall that we that we had to criticize Mr. Wisdom for the approach he was using to convey his positive message. The Minister it seems has gotten the message and he was heard at the Eleuthera festival with a more fine tuned message. Well done, minister.
Attorney General & CFATF
Alfred Sears the Attorney General and Minister of Education shocked his friends in Grand Bahama this week when he accepted the chair of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF). His friends wondered what has changed to make Mr. Sears change his position on bodies such as the CFATF. Prior to Mr. Sears' election to Parliament, the now Attorney General wrote a paper which clearly showed that these bodies were detrimental to The Bahamas' financial services industry. We wonder if Sears has now adopted the approach of a former British Prime Minister who said these famous words "We shall have peace in our time''. Appeasement did not work in that instance and we believe that it will not work in this instance. We feel let down.
Eldin Ferguson was able to convince the American Power Boat Association that Freeport would be a good place to close out its racing year. The hotels that were experiencing low occupancy have all gotten a needed boost. Port Lucaya on Friday evening was a buzz of activity with tourist in the square. The local casino also saw some much needed activity. Taino Beach yesterday was the scene of the first day of the two day race. News from Grand Bahama would like to say thank you to all those who came together to make this event happen.
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