DNA responds to May 2019 Labour Force Survey

  • Numbers are no comfort to struggling Bahamians,

  • Youth unemployment stubbornly high at 20%,

  • Unemployment among women impacting homes,

  • Decrease in private sector employment gain from 3.8% to 1.8%,

  • Data shows slowing overall employment growth year-over-year.

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) acknowledges the labour force survey results recently released by the Department of Statistics. The results come at a time when the government is desperate for some positive news to distract us from the national crisis that continues to inflict much suffering on residents due to massive load shedding by Bahamas Power & Light, conflicts of interest scandals and the obvious leadership deficit in government.


The May 2019 Labour Force Survey results would have been encouraging if the struggles of the average Bahamian do not paint a totally different picture from the numbers being touted by the government. The reality is that the 60% increase in the regressive Value Added Tax (VAT) rate continues to take a toll on Bahamian families and businesses. The announced decrease in the unemployment rate in Grand Bahama from 11.9% to 10.9% will have many residents on the island baffled following the number of lay offs during 2019 and the lack of credible investments since 2017. This statistic should also be weighed in the context that there has been migration of Grand Bahamians to New Providence and other surrounding islands.


It is common knowledge that since the survey was conducted, several businesses have closed and/or laid off workers in New Providence, Grand Bahama and other islands. The report shows that the number of self-employed persons which increased by 11.9% to 32,475 as at November 2018, remained the same at 32,475 in May 2019. It is unclear whether there was no new self-employed person between November 2018 and March 2019 or there were as much exits as there were entries into this category. The reality is that several persons are forced to become self-employed due to their inability to find gainful employment. 


The DNA supports entrepreneurship and innovation among the populace, and we are concerned by the major impediments to the ease of doing business in The Bahamas. Regrettably, these obstacles remain under an administration that has done little in this regard since assuming office. As a result, several self-employed persons will struggle to survive in the current economic environment. It is noteworthy that the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) just a few years ago, had estimated that the failure rate for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) stood at 70%. This statistic does not bode well for this vital sector and the real unemployment rate as well as under-employment rate in The Bahamas. 


On a year-over-year basis, employment grew by 3.2% or 6,635 in May 2019; a decrease from the 3.4% or 6,830 in November 2018. Additionally, private sector employees grew by only 1.8% to 137,605 in May 2019; a fall from the 3.8% increase to 135,135 private sector employees reported in November 2018. This suggests that the private sector is not creating enough jobs at the necessary pace to absorb new entrants into the labour force despite the record tourism numbers. The labour participation rate also fell from 83.1% in November 2018 to 82.9% in May 2019. Deliberate policies aimed at reducing the percentage of employed individuals in vulnerable employment are long overdue.


According to statistics, majority of homes are headed by women in The Bahamas. However, the survey results show that unemployment remains higher among women (9.9%) when compared to men (9.2%) despite the higher education attainment of the former. The statistics are worse for young women with an unemployment rate of 20.7% when compared to 19.5% for young men. This statistic impacts the standard of living in many homes and should be addressed with economic empowerment programs for women.


Youth unemployment remains stubbornly high at 20% within our nation and it is disheartening that this demographic is continuously dealt the bad end of the stick. Successive administrations have ignored the young people of our country and by their actions put the future of our nation in a precarious position. A DNA government will change this with intentional programs designed to unleash the true potential of the brilliant and innovative Bahamian youth.


The government had lauded the employment of 1,600 job seekers through the Government's Labour on the Blocks job fairs. Unfortunately, this initiative has provided more temporary than permanent jobs for Bahamians according to recent pronouncements by the Director of Labour. The Director had noted that the Government’s efforts to track individuals hired under this initiative had revealed that many of these persons had been let go. Abaco which was not a part of the labor initiative saw its unemployment rate increase from 7.7% in November 2018 to 9.3% in May 2018.


Bahamians have seen a significant reduction in their purchasing power while their wages remained stagnant. This perilous situation is worsened by the high cost of energy and unreliable power supply under a BPL Board and Minister that have been colossal failures. Parents and guardians of students that are financially challenged to prepare for the upcoming school year are not impressed by these numbers. The struggle for them is real and not appreciated by a government whose proverbial head is buried in the sand.


We implore the government again to devise and communicate an economic growth plan rather than implementing ad-hoc policies and hoping that the economy improves.


Arinthia S. Komolafe 

Leader 

Democratic National Alliance


FNM Grandstanding on Untendered Contracts

  • FNM is pot calling kettle black,

  • Both parties guilty of untendered contracts,

  • PLP and FNM competing for lesser evil title,

  • Unanswered questions remain for government,

  • Where is Whistleblower, Integrity Commission and FOI legislation?


In an article entitled “Minnis slams PLP over ‘untendered contracts’”, the Prime Minister was quoted as slamming the current leader of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and former Minister of Works for overseeing the granting of $200 million in untendered contracts worth only $3.5 million.


As the PM did his best to convert the parliamentary caucus into a circus, he compared the awarding of those untendered contracts to “the handing out of candy on tables at Halloween”. While the performance was comical and animated, it was a continuation of the lowered standard of debates that we have been subject to within our halls of parliament. 


The Bahamian people are well aware of the misdeeds of the PLP while in office. These are adequately documented, and no doubt were responsible for their devastating loss at the 2017 general elections. The question on the lips of Bahamians is whether this Free National Movement (FNM) believes that the electorate are blind to their actions since assuming office in May 2017. 


The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) wishes to remind the FNM administration of the popular Maxim of Equity that states that “he who comes into equity must come with clean hands”. Their hands are not clean, and they need to be reminded that questions regarding the BPL tender remain unanswered. In adopting a self-righteous posture on transparency and accountability, the FNM should produce the tender document or Request for Proposals for the relocation of the General Post Office, a report on the transfer of the BEST Commission to the OPM, the details surrounding the firing of the AMMC Chairman, the current status of the missing OBAN files, an update on the BPL investigation, evidence of meritocracy in appointments to public offices and the travel report promised for December 2018 just to mention a few.


Recently, the current Minister of Works was quoted as saying that the contract for the renovation of Government House will not be put to tender and they will select a contractor of their choice. This comes on the heels of public outrage over the alleged $9,000 monthly rent incurred by taxpayers for the Governor General’s accommodation and unknown timeline for the completion of renovations.


On behalf of the Bahamian people, we ask that the government provide a listing of and tender documents for all contracts issued since the FNM assumed office in May 2017. As the PM stated, “tendering is a transparent process; if it’s not tendered, it’s not transparent”. They should put up or shut up while taking a seat alongside their twin – the PLP. The Bahamian people can see through their grandstanding and hypocrisy. It is clear that what we have experienced is the case of the proverbial pot calling the kettle black and the PM will do well to heed the wise saying: “physician heal thyself”. 


Transparency and accountability can only be achieved with the enactment and enforcement of the necessary legislation as well as the implementation of systems that put checks on the political directorate. Grandiose pronouncements without the full implementation of Whistleblower legislation, the Integrity Commission Bill and Freedom of Information Act amounts to nothing more than political rhetoric and bantering. 


The DNA calls on the government to stop insulting our collective intelligence and govern in the best interest of all Bahamians. This is the least that they can do in the aftermath of the financial hardship they have imposed on the populace and their recent lackluster budget presentation.


Arinthia S. Komolafe

Leader

Democratic National Alliance


DNA on Compass Point Saga

  • Saga highlights need to own our economy,

  • Bahamians should never be used as pawns,

  • Government must come clean on promises made,

  • It is time for campaign finance reform,

  • Advert was unnecessary and sends wrong message


The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) is deeply concerned by the recent saga involving the owner of Compass Point Resort and the Government of The Bahamas.


It was disappointing to see a foreign investor lambast a sitting administration while using the employment of Bahamian workers as a bargaining tool. Simply put, it is totally unacceptable for any investor to use Bahamians as pawns to force the government to meet his demands.


According to news reports, the licence of Compass Point has now been renewed following the public exchange between the parties involved. However, the Bahamian people deserve to know what if any favors were given and what promises were made to the investor in question by the Free National Movement (FNM) to embolden him to issue a public reprimand to a sitting government. This situation brings to mind the unanswered questions surrounding the shady Post Office deal and Prime Minister Minnis’ early hours calls with former Cabinet Minister Brent Symonette guaranteeing the Town Centre Mall the government’s contract.


This recent debacle shines more light on the role that special interest groups play in our political system and the urgent need for campaign finance reform in The Bahamas. While it is unclear whether the investor at the center of this controversy is or was a financier of the FNM, the DNA maintains that until we address this important issue, he who pays the piper will continue to dictate the tune. This is why the DNA has partnered with the Bahamian people in the Change for Change drive that brings transparency and community funding into politics.


We believe that the only special interest in The Bahamas should be the Bahamian people and all efforts should be geared towards the economic empowerment of our people. It is time for Bahamians to own our economy and determine our own destiny. The economic empowerment of our people will go a long way in preventing threats to our jobs and Bahamians being caught in the middle of power tussles.


The DNA says it is time for the emancipation of our people from economic and mental slavery.


Omar B. Smith

National Chairman 

Democratic National Alliance


DNA Deputy: Political favors costing taxpayers under PLP and FNM

  • Appointment of new GG was unnecessary

  • PM decisions costing taxpayers

  • Bahamians foot more than $500,000 bill annually for 6 Governors General

  • Minnis has poor record in supporting women

  • DNA will end era of political favors


The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) continues to observe Prime Minister Minnis and his band of merry men as they inflict suffering on the Bahamian people. This has been evident from the passage of the Commercial Enterprise Act spearheaded by former Minister Brent Symonette, to presiding over the multiple blacklisting of our financial services industry, rise in unemployment and poor labor relations, to increasing VAT to 12% when Bahamians can't pay their bills or find good paying jobs to have a decent standard of living. 


Although this Minnis-led FNM administration does not fail to remind the Bahamian people that the cupboard is bare, they continue to spend Bahamian taxpayer funds like drunken sailors.  In this most recent budget, we saw an increase in food and travel expenses for this administration while the masses struggle to make ends meet. Now we learn that the government will spend $9000 per month to house the country's newest Governor General.


First of all, the DNA fails to see the need for the appointment of another Governor General. For a nation that is only 46 years old in political independence, we've already had 10 Governors General.  Our record in this regard can be attributed mainly to the handing out of political favors by the Free National Movement (FNM) and Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) to loyal Party supporters. This has resulted in the Bahamian people paying fixed sums for living past Governor Generals, being Sir Orville Turnquest, Dame Ivy Dumont A.D. Hanna, Sir Arthur Foulkes and Dame Marguerite Pindling. The total cost to taxpayers is some $350,000 per annum. We thank these individuals for their stellar contribution to The Bahamas; however, this cycle of appointing 'our people' to various posts is costly to the Bahamian people and shows our political immaturity.


His Excellency Cornelius A. Smith was recently appointed as the 10th Governor General of The Bahamas. The reason for his appointment is unclear and cannot be justified other than being a political payback for his loyalty to Prime Minister Minnis and the Free National Movement. Governor General Smith will receive personal emoluments of $70,000 per annum. At the minimum, his home accommodation will be $84,000 per annum. That is approximately $150,000 per annum on our 10th Governor General with no timeline in sight for the completion of renovations at Government House. As a consequence, Bahamians will pay more than $500,000 to maintain Governors General.


Why must the Bahamian people be saddled with close to $150k for one Governor General whose duties are merely ceremonial? Didn't the Prime Minister know that the quarters at Government House were unsuitable? What then was the rush to appoint a new GG and add more expenses on taxpayers?  There is no evidence to suggest that Dame Marguerite was not executing her duties well as the GG, in fact, she was most loved and highly praised.


Was the removal of Dame Marguerite because the Prime Minister has a problem with female leadership? For a professional who made his living and achieved wealth from caring and attending to women as an Obstetrician/Gynecologist, we in the DNA cannot fathom why Dr. Minnis continues to exclude women at the highest levels in government. For someone who has the Bahamian women to thank for ushering him into high office overwhelmingly with their votes, Dr. Minnis has shown little gratitude to the women of this nation. His record on advancing women in our nation is poor and a sad reality to see in this 21st Century Bahamas. The clear message is that women are good enough for tokenism as we have seen with the Senate appointments and good enough to be his patients, but not good enough to make decisions at the highest levels in Government.


We are being governed by persons whose hands are in the cookie jar to live a life of comfort while ordinary Bahamians suffer.  Just as it was during the PLP administration, the Old Boys Club is alive and well during the current FNM administration. It is FNM supporters’ time. The DNA will put an end to discrimination and appointments based on political expediency in our Bahamaland. For the first time under a DNA government, all Bahamians will matter and have a fair chance regardless of party colors. We also pledge to be good stewards of the people's money. 


Buscheme (Busch) Armbrister

Deputy Leader

Democratic National Alliance


DNA Chairman: We are in a national crisis!

  • PLP and FNM have failed on energy

  • Vulnerable Bahamians suffering under load shedding

  • Blame game is not the solution

  • Private sector should assess economic impact

  • DNA is only Party with a plan

Bahamians are in a state of hopelessness, frustration and annoyance by the recent blackouts that have become a part of everyday life in our country. The load shedding exercise being carried out by BPL is evidence that successive Free National Movement (FNM) and Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administrations including the current Minnis-led administration lack a viable plan for reliable and sustainable energy. Meanwhile, while the people sweat, PM Minnis and his entourage are in comfortable and air conditioned accommodation at a resort in St. Lucia.


Unfortunately, the real economic impact of this crisis cannot be quantified and it is yet to be made known to the Bahamian people. The current load shedding exercise could not have come at a worse time when children are home for the summer break, home patients need reliable electricity, the elderly are in discomfort and persons with special needs are at risk and babies lack comfort. Additionally, struggling Bahamians are losing appliances daily and thanks to nature, we are experiencing heat and humid levels like no time in recent history. 


The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) is also concerned about the overall impact of unreliable power supply and telecommunication services on the Bahamian economy; particularly, as it relates to small businesses during these tough economic times. Many businesses have had to close early, shutdown or not open at all due to their inability to access electricity. Considering the fact that most Bahamian businesses or homes do not have generators or solar power, this is foreseeable. In cases where few businesses have backup generators, the cost of maintenance and purchasing fuel has significantly increased business costs. 


The DNA calls upon the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC), Carmichael, Coconut Grove and other Business Leagues to survey their members in order to gain intelligence on the net effect of these blackouts including the impact on turnover, profit, business volumes and customer patronage.


It is unacceptable that The Bahamas is experiencing this assault on its people in the 21st Century and we in the DNA submit that this is a national crisis. Added to the BPL saga, we have also been experiencing problems with BTC phone lines making it difficult for Bahamians to communicate, while lack of access on numerous occasions to emergency numbers like 911 and 919 pose a security risk and could literally mean the difference between life and death. We could and should do better in our Bahamaland. 


We need visionary leaders that will utilize the natural resources of our country and move toward alternative energy. What we do not need are PLP and FNM Members of Parliament arguing over who made the Bahamian people sweat the most as they have been doing. Our persistence and reliance on fossil fuels is having a costly impact on doing business in The Bahamas, our nation's ability to gain a competitive edge over our regional and global counterparts and equally important, the right of Bahamians to enjoy their homes in peace without sweat or fear of break in from delinquents.


A DNA led government would have been full speed into our comprehensive energy plan for solarisation, waste to energy, the use of liquefied natural gas and other forms of alternative energy to reduce the cost and reliability of electricity at the two year mark. This would have improved our position on the ease of doing business index and positioned our country to be a global leader in reducing carbon emissions and promoting a sustainable environment. Instead, we are stuck with visionless leadership who are prepared to pander to and reward special interests groups who donated to their campaigns while maintaining the status quo of monopolistic power.


We appreciate the hardworking team of technicians and professionals who through no fault of their own are working hard to bring relief to the Bahamian people; however, we in the DNA submit that true relief will come when we rid ourselves of visionless and lackluster leadership from both the PLP and FNM.


Omar B. Smith

National Chairman

Democratic National Alliance


DNA: Debate is about economic empowerment and equal opportunity


  • Discussion is about oppressive and inequitable system not personalities

  • DNA condemns attempts to divide Bahamians

  • Political tribalism created by PLP and FNM

  • Both parties have political elites and cronies

  • Concern over vision and future of financial services

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) has reviewed comments attributed to the Hon. Brent Symonette regarding his unceremonious resignation from the Cabinet of The Bahamas. 


The DNA condemns any and all attempts to further divide Bahamians along racial lines in an environment polarized by political tribalism as created by the Free National Movement (FNM) and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). The DNA is the unifying force for Bahamians of all races, gender, creed and backgrounds with sole allegiance to the aquamarine, gold and black.


It is unfortunate that as we approach the 46th anniversary of our political independence, legitimate concerns of the Bahamian people and their quest for economic empowerment are being reduced to a discussion about race. While our history reflects a period of racial, economic and political oppression, the DNA submits that the current debate is not rooted in racial bias. We find it unacceptable that allegations of conflicts of interest, political favoritism, cronyism and nepotism are being disguised as racism in a 21st Century Bahamas.


To set the record straight, the Bahamian people are fed up with an economic system that is set against them in favor of a select few of political aristocrats and elites. It is common knowledge that political elites and cronies exist within the FNM and PLP; they originate from different races, creed and ethnicities. This is the crux of the frustration of the masses and the younger generation of Bahamians who have been shut out of opportunities within an oppressive economic system.


Mr. Symonette admitted that he might not have communicated to the Prime Minister that he did not intend to serve a full term at the time of his appointment to the Cabinet. This raises questions about the abrupt announcement and timing of his resignation at a time when our number two industry – financial services – for which he had responsibility is under tremendous pressure. We note that this is not the first time in recent years that the Minister responsible for financial services has resigned. The resignation of the Minister of Financial Services under the previous PLP administration also sent shockwaves across the industry at that time. This raises concerns about the vision for and importance placed on the second largest contributor to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).


The former Minister asserted that he “believes that younger people should take over” and this informed his decision to resign or retire when he turns 65 in December 2019. Perhaps, Mr. Symonette should share his sentiments with the Prime Minister who turned 65 earlier in April and has used the retirement age as justification for forcing several public servants into retirement. 


Over the decades, the PLP and FNM have presided over the establishment of a system of private sector monopolies and oligarchies to the exclusion and disadvantage of ordinary Bahamians. The outcry within the populace goes beyond Mr. Symonette and is directed primarily at the status quo which favors this unjust system of marginalization. 


The DNA in partnership with the Bahamian people will finally dismantle this system and usher in an era of transparency, accountability, meritocracy and economic empowerment for our people.



Arinthia S. Komolafe

Leader

Democratic National Alliance