DNA extends condolences on the passing of Bradley Roberts

We are saddened to hear of the passing of the Honourable Bradley Roberts.

Big Bad Brad as he was fondly called in the political arena was an astute politician who served as a Parliamentarian, Cabinet Minister and National Chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party. He also served in various capacities on statutory boards and government agencies.

Mr. Roberts was also a historian in his own right and no doubt contributed to the development of our nation and democracy. Many regarded him as a repository of Bahamian political history and a political strategist. While many viewed Mr. Roberts as a polarizing figure in Bahamian politics, he will be remembered as a courageous and passionate wordsmith who loved his country

We salute him for his national service and dedication over the years.

On behalf of the Democratic National Alliance, we offer our deepest condolences to the Roberts family, friends and former colleagues. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.

May his soul rest in peace.

Arinthia S. Komolafe

Deputy Leader, Democratic National Alliance

Approach to OECD list must go beyond semantics

The Bahamas and twenty other countries were recently singled out by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on the premise that their residence by investment (RBI) and citizenship by investment (CBI) schemes pose a high risk to the integrity of the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) regime. This adverse listing followed the analysis of over 100 CBI/RBI schemes by the OECD.

In what was termed as the clamping down on CRS avoidance through CBI/RBI, the OECD asserted that it is seeking to equip financial institutions with tools to help them identify accountholders that may misuse RBI/CBI schemes specifically to avoid the CRS. We submit that this is another classic case of the moving of the proverbial goal posts by international organizations.

The Government must now move beyond the semantics and address this issue for what it really is. The reality is that only 21 out of over 100 countries were placed on this list for high risk CBI/RBI schemes. While the use of the word “blacklist” may be inappropriate or frowned upon, the list is not a positive, complimentary or favorable one.

As part of the OECD guidance, financial institutions are being asked to consider the results of the OECD’s CBI/RBI risk analysis and whether an accountholder has residence in a jurisdiction offering a potentially high-risk CBI/RBI scheme. This equates potentially to additional scrutiny and enhanced due diligence on legitimate economic permanent residents of The Bahamas.

We note that since the release of the guidance, the OECD has issued a statement in which it was asserted that Monaco’s residence and immigration requirements do not pose risks to the integrity of the CRS. This followed the provision of additional information by Monaco and it is expected that the guidance/list will be updated to reflect this.

The Government has an obligation to ensure that the OECD is made aware of the robust and rigorous process in place for the granting and maintenance of economic permanent residence by individuals. This includes a comprehensive due diligence and vetting process to ensure the fitness and propriety of all applicants.

The economic permanent resident programme and second home market are well regulated and pivotal to our economy. It impacts the real estate, financial services, tourism and government sectors with contributions to our nation’s Gross Domestic Product.

We need effective representation and diplomatic collaboration to address this latest attack on our nation’s economy. It is simply unfair and unacceptable for the OECD to place The Bahamas on any adverse list despite our demonstrated commitment to meeting our international obligations.

Arinthia S. Komolafe, Deputy Leader

Democratic National Alliance

Access Denied (Disability Rights)

For years we have toyed around with the words access, inclusion and human rights, often dismissing them as if they were of little to no importance in our country.  Can we collectively now get serious about it?

The inclusion of all persons within our society in nation building is essential for the success of our commonwealth. There is absolutely no reason why in 2018, persons of all abilities should not have access to all buildings within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. It was disappointing to witness the inconvenience and frustration that individuals with varying abilities were subject to at a recent event hosted at Mount Fitzwilliam – home to the highest office in the land. The fact that there is an elevator at Government House and the organizers were unable (or did not seek) to ensure that it was working is heart-breaking! A simple change in location, given the inaccessibility of the building, would have resolutely indicated that we are indeed thinking about inclusion, serious about accessibility and we as a nation understand basic human rights.  In the words of a local advocate, “It is an ironic mockery to honour someone and disrespect them at the same time”

It is simply unacceptable that children that are differently able are still having difficulties with getting to some of their classes because there is simply no access.   Further to the issue of environmental barriers, there are children with special needs that are still not able to access needed therapeutic intervention namely Occupational Therapy, Behaviour Therapy and Physical Therapy within the educational system.  The lack of provisions for students needing additional assistance is an impediment that extends beyond their immediate environment to potentially shutting them out of their future. It is high time that we got serious about access, inclusion and human rights in our nation.

Public transportation for persons in wheelchairs is non-existent, recreational facilities have substandard access and even though we advertise our beautiful beaches worldwide, they remain inaccessible to persons with limited mobility. These individuals are constantly subjected to choosing between the worst option and nothing at all, which is truly inhumane.  Successive administrations have pontificated much about this issue, but can we take the rights of ALL humans serious; especially in what has been termed ' the people's time'?

Can we include every human in the human experience and move beyond just pacifying dialogue? Mere sympathy does not provide access, inclusion, or human rights. Would you like to be subjected to what you see others suffer through? Would an “I’m so sorry” pacify you if you see students moving from the Science Lab to the Music Room, but you can’t because there is no ramp for a wheelchair? Would you like to know that you, your mother or your child was being honoured somewhere and you couldn’t attend because there was absolutely no way for you to get to the second floor of that building except by stairs you cannot climb?

Inclusion of people with disabilities in society means involving them in every aspect of participation others enjoy. Inclusion is something that must come from a desire to include them in the activities of the community, family, friendships and more.  Including people with disabilities is something that you cannot legislate into the hearts and minds of people, it is something that we must want. When all of a person's needs are met in an integrated way, each of the areas adds strength in their ability to achieve fulfilment in other areas. Inclusion is about meeting every one of those needs and maximizing a person's overall quality of life.   

Mohamed Jenmi, a Professor of ICT and Educational Technologies said it best in his TED talks presentation in 2013, “Disability is not the problem.  The accessibility is the problem.” Human Rights are not optional!

Charlis Robins

Spokesperson for Social Services & Urban Development, Democratic National Alliance

Grand Lucayan: Fundamental issues remain unaddressed

  • Fundamental issues with Bahamian economy highlighted

  • Parliamentarians must stop sowing seeds of discord

  • Administration lacks creativity, innovation, business and negotiating skills

  • Government fails to chart course for future prosperity of country's second capital

  • Grand Bahama pivotal to the overall success of nation’s economy

While many Bahamians have reservations about the Government's decision to purchase the Grand Lucayan resort, all right-thinking Bahamians are hopeful that this investment will bring relief to Grand Bahamians. There is no victory to be derived from a failure of the Government insofar as the economy of Grand Bahama is concerned. Therefore, many looked forward to the Prime Minister’s communication in Parliament with much anticipation.

Regrettably, the Prime Minister’s communication on the Grand Lucayan purchase was disappointing and raised more doubts about the Government's actions. The presentation provided no additional or visionary details to the Bahamian people. The communication fell short on substance on the strategic plan, business plan, operational plan, interim measures and a detailed exit plan for the resort.

Just like the decision to increase the VAT rate by 60%, this decision was not only lazy but also a display of a lack of creativity, innovation, business and negotiating skills of the current administration. After sixteen months of futile negotiations, the Government has taken the easy way out and expended taxpayer funds on a resort that has been described as not making economic sense.

The Prime Minister spent a significant and inordinate amount of time recounting the actions of the ousted PLP administration - an administration that was fired by the Bahamian people. Valuable time was wasted on political rhetoric, pandering, sensationalism and demagoguery. It is also shameful that the Government has chosen to foster a spirit of division by pronouncements aimed at pitting residents of Grand Bahama against their brothers and sisters in other Islands of The Bahamas; particularly inhabitants of New Providence. The Government must promote unity and camaraderie among the citizenry, after all we are one people united in love and service.

Comparisons between the total cost of the concessions requested by the Wynn Group (“Wynn”) and the purchase price to be paid by the Government for the Grand Lucayan seem disingenuous and misleading. The $159.65 million in concessions sought by Wynn appears to have at its core a fully functional Grand Lucayan with all three hotels operating as going concerns as opposed to the purchase of an asset with only one hotel in operation and without considering cost related to repairs and operations on an ongoing basis. A fair analogy can only occur when these additional costs and accompanying concessions are determined and communicated.

By all accounts, massive subsidies, concessions and incentives will be required to address the issues with airlift, room inventory and the high cost of doing business in Grand Bahama (which is reflected in the concessions demanded by Wynn). A frank discussion on these and the corresponding plans remain outstanding.

It is disturbing that we still do not know how much this venture will ultimately cost the Bahamian people with the Minister of Finance stating that current estimates put the total capital financing needs around $124M including the purchase price. The pontificating and grandstanding by Members of Parliament cannot substitute for a comprehensive plan for the Grand Lucayan and the economy of Grand Bahama. The Prime Minister’s communication reveals that the fundamental issues confronting the Grand Bahamian economy serve as a disincentive to investment and investors – that is, the cost and ease of doing business.  Wynn’s requests reveal that investors are concerned about the cost of energy, anxiety over increasing taxes, inefficiencies within the public sector and The Bahamas’ overall competitiveness when compared with our regional counterparts.

The Government acting as a buyer of last resort cannot become our modus operandi as a nation. Not only is this approach unsustainable, it deprives essential services such as education, healthcare, national security and disaster recovery of much needed funding and investment. We implore the Minnis administration to abandon its lazy approach to governance and chart an economic course that can inspire Bahamians and incentivize investors.

Arinthia S. Komolafe, Deputy Leader

Democratic National Alliance