DNA Responds to IMF Article IV Statement

·      IMF confirms aspects of DNA’s position on economy

·      FNM approach inherently flawed and socially disruptive

·      Government ignores significant impact of VAT increase

·      Fiscal accomplishments disconnected from plight of masses

·      Economic and financial service growth plan still lacking

 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its recently released statement following discussions on the 2019 Article IV consultation provided confirmed observations that have been made by Bahamian experts over the years.

 

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) acknowledges the efforts made by the government to address the fiscal challenges confronting our nation but contends that the approach adopted is inherently flawed and socially disruptive. The sixty percent increase in the regressive Value Added Tax (VAT) rate and the aggressive timeline for elimination of the GFS deficit has imposed significant hardship on the Bahamian people.

 

In its statement, the IMF estimated growth in Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 2.3% at 2018 and projected 2.1% for 2019. However, the economic growth rate is projected to stabilize at 1.5% in the medium term in the absence of a comprehensive economic growth plan which could deliver the 5.5% required to absorb new entrants into the labor market annually.

Our nation remains plagued by unemployment in double digits and youth unemployment at an alarming rate of 23%. The fiscal targets and accomplishments touted by the government have simply failed to translate into economic empowerment or relief for the Bahamian people. The current administration has simply continued the infamous friends, family and lovers’ mentality.

The absence of a growth strategy for the financial services industry has reduced our government to a blacklist avoidance and escape agency.

 

The government is under pressure to restore credibility to financial planning and fiscal projections communicated to the nation under the watchful eyes of international observers. Expenditure and revenue forecasts cannot simply be inserted into the national budget as placeholders but must be underpinned by realistic expectations and assumptions. The current administration must find the empathy to end its relentless assault on the middle and working class in our society. The pontification on prudence in public sector hiring has been discredited by subsequent admission that terminated employees have been retained or replaced. They must rein in expenditure while discontinuing the tax, spend and borrow philosophy which burdens residents under a regressive and oppressive system of taxation.

 

The DNA has long advocated for a comprehensive review of the Bahamian tax system and the introduction of an equitable tax regime. The IMF noted that “Global tax trends and the prospective accession to the WTO thus present an opportunity for a comprehensive review of the Bahamian tax regime with a view to achieving a more equitable and less distortionary tax system. To strengthen transparency and inform future policies, a quantitative review of existing tax and other investment incentives is recommended”.

 

It is regrettable that the Free National Movement (FNM) is heavily influenced by special interest groups and party loyalists that do not want a progressive and equitable tax system. The endangered middle class and less privileged have been relegated to the proverbial backburner with no relief in sight as a result.

 

We have long called for initiatives aimed at addressing structural deficiencies within the Bahamian economy and deliberate efforts to improve the ease and cost of doing business. The DNA maintains that the government has failed to make the case for The Bahamas’ accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in an environment that places Bahamian businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

 

The current administration is notorious for not taking advice or counsel originating from locals but has gained a reputation for moving with haste to implement recommendations made by international and multilateral agencies. Perhaps they will now implement policies that benefit the masses now that the IMF has implored them to do so.

 

Arinthia S. Komolafe, Leader

 Democratic National Alliance

DNA Stands in Solidarity with Teachers

  • Bahamian youth must be at center of government policies

  • Government reactive rather than proactive on public education system

  • Teachers are valued professionals

  • Epidemic of violence in certain schools must be addressed

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) is of the belief that the future prosperity of The Bahamas hinges on the education and economic empowerment of our people. It is our position that the Bahamian youth must be at the center of government policies, initiatives and programs. Our education system cannot be tainted by politics or a reluctance to implement a real governance platform.

 

We are calling on all school administrators, especially those within the public sector to stand up for their teachers and ensure that all rules are enforced. The requisite focus must be placed on ensuring that there are no compromises in the application of rules and regulations within our education system.

 

Individuals familiar with the educational system are aware of the challenges faced daily by our hardworking educators. It is extremely difficult to work in conditions where teachers are constantly looking over their shoulders in fear or being blatantly disrespected in their classrooms. Teachers are weary of this situation and there is a level of frustration with the lack of attention to this matter. 

 

The approach to matters confronting us within the public education system has been reactive rather than proactive. It is unfortunate that issues that could be addressed right away are being swept under the rug until the matter becomes more serious. This is not the type of position or environment that is needed. Administrators must always be proactive and intentional in reforming the system. 

 

Teachers are one of the most valued professionals in any country and The Bahamas should not be an exception. They work tirelessly by going above and beyond albeit they are not adequately paid as they continue to positively impact and prepare the next generation of Bahamians. 

 

The DNA calls on the Minister of Education to get involved. Meet with the teachers of the SC McPherson Junior High School. We salute them for standing in solidarity to protest a system and environment that hinder effective learning. 

 

For too long, the Bahamas Union of Teachers has spoken about an epidemic of violence in certain schools. Evidently, nothing tangible is being done and their needs are not being met! It is time for the Minister along with the Ministry of Education to bring about plans that counter violence in schools. Legislation must be put in place to make serious actions punishable by imprisonment and granting school authorities to permanently expel violent students. 

 

If we don’t act decisively with a strong hand to prevent these matters, we will constantly see issues like this and more resurfacing. 

 

Dr. Matheo J. Smith 

DNA Spokesperson for Education


Government must deliver on promised free tuition

  • Youth education must be paramount

  • FNM continues to disappoint Bahamian youth

  • No relief in sight with 15% UB tuition fee hike

  • Mixed messages from PM and Minister

  • Government must get priorities right


The recent announcement by the President of the University of The Bahamas (UB) that tuition fees will be increasing beginning in the Fall of 2019 took many by surprise.  Additionally, the revelations that the costs for attending UB were up to approximately $30k for a UB student were also startling. Many were alarmed by the President’s announcement considering the fact that the Prime Minister had on many occasions promised that tuition at UB would be free for Bahamian students – a campaign promise which the current administration has failed to deliver on.


It is imperative that our societal leaders craft policies and programs that will create a path that is clear to the middle class for Bahamians from all walks of life to ensure our nation's economic prosperity. This entails opening the doors of higher education to more Bahamians in the best way possible by ensuring access and affordability.


Today, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require education and training beyond a high school diploma. Yet almost half the students who begin tertiary level education in this country do not finish within four to six years. The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) has noted the recent report that the University of The Bahamas will implement a tuition hike for the 2019 fall semester for new entrants.


While we empathize with UB’s plight and the financial challenges that the institution faces, we believe that this proposed 15% increase will further put tertiary level education out of the reach for the very families that need it most and further disenfranchise Bahamian youth. Higher education should no longer be a luxury for the privileged few but a necessity if our young people are to be positioned for competing in the global economy.


Even more perplexing are the mixed messages and lack of coordination within the government. The Prime Minister and Minister of Education seem to be on different pages on the timing and details of the free tuition initiative promised by the Free National Movement (FNM). According to media reports, the Minister threw the PM under the proverbial bus when questioned about the disparity between the PM’s announcement and UB’s planned fee increase.


A visionary Bahamian government should be committed to restoring and enhancing our world leadership in college completion and ensuring that every student who choose to take advantage has access to an affordable and high-quality postsecondary education. Students everywhere, including many older students juggling work and family responsibilities recognize that higher education is essential to increased opportunities and that fact has fueled a substantial increase in college enrollment rates in recent years.


The FNM like its predecessor has failed to prioritize the education of our youth. Specifically, the current administration is not delivering on its promise that guaranteed, “free tuition to every qualifying Bahamian.” Prospective college students are often priced out of the education they need to set themselves up for future success while recent college graduates continue to feel the weight of their student loan payments holding them back from fulfilling their full potential.


We submit that this is no time to raise any tuition fees for students if we are aiming to create a sustainable economy with equal opportunity for all Bahamians. The DNA calls on the government to live up to its promises and make college affordable for every Bahamian without further delay.


Now more than ever, tertiary level education remains the greatest driver of socioeconomic mobility in The Bahamas, but if we don't do more to keep it within reach for low and middle class families and those striving to get into the middle class, it could have the opposite effects; serving as a barrier, instead of as a ticket to a brighter future for all.


We encourage this Government to reverse a quarter-century-long trend of disinvestment in higher education, promote reforms to support student success and embrace their role in overseeing institutions. For far too long, the government has focused almost exclusively on inputs enrolling students in college to say that there is an increased enrollment, but they focus little on outcomes which is graduating from college with high quality degrees.


It is time to reset the incentives that underpin the system to focus on meaningful outcomes. We cannot continue to fund an unsustainable status quo.


Dr. Matheo J. Smith

DNA Spokesperson for Education


The DNA Demands Transparency

It appears as if the Free National Movement government has embarked upon a policy of score settling, political victimization and alienation of competent Bahamian professionals.

The whole exercise of summarily dismissing eight senior police officers, virtually all at the same time reeks of victimization.  Every time the government changes in The Bahamas, successive administrations play favorites with the public service, promoting their cronies and firing perceived enemies. The police force and the country at large is fed up with this disgraceful behavior. If there were legitimate reasons why these officers should have been dismissed in this manner, the Bahamian People deserve an explanation. It has been almost two years since this administration has taken office so if this was normal attrition it would have already commenced long before now, and been a more gradual process. Done in this manner makes it difficult to believe the Government’s explanation of excessive accumulated vacation days and not some other reason. The public needs to know.

What makes the government look even worse is the loss of Bahamian talent across  the board.

This administration must explain the reason why the talented, competent and celebrated Bahamas Power and Light Chief Operating Officer, Christine Alston abruptly left  the corporation particularly after they embarked on a campaign to bring qualified Bahamians home to build the country? What is the reason this government cannot keep proven competent professionals in their employ?

At this very moment the Minister of Works, the Hon. Desmond Bannister is embroiled in a law suit regarding his treatment of former BPL board Chairperson Mrs. Darnell Osborne.

What has happened to the FNM's promise of transparency?

The DNA demands that the government:

  1. Give the reason why so many of the top brass of the Royal Bahamas Police Force were made to leave in the manner in which they were?

  2. What is the reason for the abrupt departure of Ms. Alston from BPL?

  3. What is the status of the probe that the Prime Minister promised into the issues related to the Minister of Works Desmond Bannister and the former BPL board?

It seems more so than ever that an investigation needs to be done at BPL.

The FNM promised transparency, but so far all the people have received are cover-ups.

“It’s the people’s time” for answers!

Omar B. Smith, National Chairman

Democratic National Alliance


LOI: DNA Cautiously Optimistic on Grand Lucayan

  • LOI should be viewed in context

  • Key details not available for proper assessment

  • Total cost to Bahamians unknown

  • DNA hopes for the best for Grand Bahama

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) welcomes any news or initiative with the potential to boost the Bahamian economy. We are hopeful that the long-suffering people of Grand Bahama will finally get some relief and a much-needed economic stimulus imminently.

It is on this premise that the DNA is cautiously optimistic on the prospective sale of the Grand Lucayan resort and proposed developments in our nation’s second capital.

The signing of a Letter of Intent (LOI) between Lucayan Renewal Holdings Ltd. (LRHL) and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and the ITM Group for the purchase of the resort should be taken as what it actually is. The LOI is simply a document which contains declarations of the intentions of both the seller and purchaser. The approval process and formal discussions on a Heads of Agreement for an actual purchase have yet to be completed.

Successive administrations have been known to sign LOIs in the past with some of these being engulfed in controversy or not materializing. Many will recall the infamous Stellar Energy Waste LOI and the Wynn LOI for the purchase of the Grand Lucayan signed in December 2017.

In the case of the Wynn Grand Lucayan LOI, the government was not involved in the signing as this was only a preliminary step in the process. Rather, the announcement was made by the government following the signing between Hutchison Whampoa and the Wynn Group. The Minister of Tourism was perhaps mindful of this when he stated that the Chairman of LRHL spoke prematurely about an imminent deal for the Grand Lucayan. The Prime Minister’s absence from the signing also speaks volumes about the significance of this ceremony.

There are currently no details beyond the announcement and photo opportunity for the government. The announced purchased price of $65 million is meaningless in the absence of specific details on the incentives, massive subsidies and concessions that will be provided by the government and funded by taxpayers to make this deal happen as well as how the issue of airlift will be addressed. Further, it is evident that the purchase price will not cover the costs expended by the government to date inclusive of operation costs to manage the hotel, severance packages, any repairs carried out since the government’s purchase and the interest costs on the loan from Hutchinson Whampoa among other things.

The government will need to disclose the total cost to Bahamians seeing that the Wynn Group had sought $159.65 million in concessions to make the resort functional. Concerns had also been expressed about the cost of energy, taxes and inefficiencies at that time.  The Prime Minister had cited these as the reason why the deal with Wynn fell through and as justification for the purchase of the property for $65 million (even though it was appraised at $57 million prior to being damaged by Hurricane Matthew).

We are hopeful that this is not another political stunt and that this deal will bring an end to the emotional roller coaster that successive administrations have placed on Grand Bahamians.

Arinthia S. Komolafe, Leader

Democratic National Alliance



Tit for tat Politics in The Bahamas Must End!

  • FNM governing for special interest and supporters

  • FNM and PLP have perfected art of victimization

  • Political tribalism is a threat to our democracy

  • DNA is the only hope for change

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) has followed with much disappointment, the degradation of the public debate in our nation.

After campaigning on transparency, accountability and meritocracy, the Free National Movement (FNM) government has been a colossal failure on all three grounds. They have failed to bring an end to nepotism, cronyism and political victimization.

The current administration like its predecessor has continued to divide our nation based on party colors and create a hostile environment among the citizenry. We have witnessed the termination of contracts within the public service only for new positions with higher remuneration to be created for party loyalists.

In particular, it has been obvious to all Bahamians that the FNM remains a party for the wealthy and special interest groups. FNM party loyalists are beneficiaries of the crumbs from the proverbial national pie while the rest of the country suffers under a government that has increased the tax burden on the vulnerable.

The DNA believes that succession planning is essential for continuity and stability in leadership. A properly planned process will not only reward success and empower the youth, it will also ensure that persons that have served our nation are treated with dignity and respect. Regrettably, the process has not been transparent, fair and unbiased to all parties involved. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander.

The political tribalism perpetuated by the FNM and Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) over the years is a threat to our democracy. It is simply unacceptable for a government not to address the obvious flaws in its approach to the termination and retirement of long serving Bahamians within the public service and uniformed branches.


The government continues to remind the Bahamian people that the retirement age is 65 with an option for early retirement at the age of 60. All individuals serving the nation should not be exempt from an established rule that has been used as justification for letting select individuals go. It is our expectation that this rule will be applied straight across the board without fear or favor. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues should lead by example by tendering their resignations once they attain the retirement age.

The Bahamian people have come to realize that true change and equal opportunity for all of our people can only be achieved under a DNA government. We will implement a system that rewards hard work, professional development, innovation and initiative regardless of political affiliation. The DNA will not be governed by special interest groups and political financiers.

We implore all patriotic Bahamians in the uniformed branches, public service, civil society and the private sector to join us in the fight to end political favoritism, tribalism, victimization and indignity instituted by the PLP and FNM.

Arinthia S. Komolafe, Leader

Democratic National Alliance