EU Blacklist: What has really changed?

  • Bahamas remains on grey list

  • Strategic not myopic approach to financial services

  • New standard imminent and inevitable

  • Government kicking can down the road

  • Time to govern for Bahamians

The recent announcement by the European Union (EU) that The Bahamas remains on its grey list and has not been blacklisted is a welcomed development. This follows the removal of The Bahamas from the EU blacklist to the grey list in May 2018 after the government made several commitments to carry out reforms.


While the temptation to embark on celebratory exercises and seek political brownie points may seem attractive to the government, it would be prudent not to do so. In reality, The Bahamas’ status as a country on the EU grey list has not changed since May 2018.


According to the European Commission, 25 countries from the original screening process have been cleared; The Bahamas is not one of those countries. The Bahamas remains on a grey list of countries that will continue to be monitored in 2019 and is listed among 34 jurisdictions that have already taken steps to comply with the requirements under the EU listing process. The EU has directed that jurisdictions on this list must complete this work by the end of 2019, to avoid being blacklisted next year.


The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) reiterates that the current administration continues to adopt a myopic approach to the second pillar of our economy. The government has taken the view that the avoidance and removal from adverse listings by international agencies is their priority over developing a growth action plan for the industry. They are squandering an opportunity to truly govern for the Bahamian people by rebranding, refocusing and reviving the financial services industry.


As we have seen in times past, the goal posts will continue to shift as new standards will be established to undermine the value proposition of The Bahamas as an International Financial Centre (IFC). It would be naïve for the government not to realize that the next standard or hurdle is imminent and inevitable. We submit that it is even more egregious for the government to adopt a reactive approach and kick the proverbial can of comprehensive tax reform down the road.  It is an open secret that the ultimate goal of certain global organizations is the demise of the Bahamas' financial services industry. The government cannot be complicit in this endeavor by continuing to capitulate to the extra territorial demands of multilateral ‎bodies until we have no financial services business to regulate. 

 

The discussion about a global taxation standard has commenced and it is only a matter of time before this becomes the new agenda. In the interim, The Bahamas must be proactive and strategic in shedding the tax haven label while articulating a vision for the future of our financial services industry.


It is common knowledge that we have a tax system that is regressive and oppressive to the detriment of the masses. The middle class and vulnerable in society bear the brunt of the tax burden imposed by a government that has worsened the misery index. The question on the lips of Bahamians is when will this FNM administration start governing for them rather than special interest groups and international agencies?


Arinthia S. Komolafe, Leader

Democratic National Alliance


BPL shrouded in controversy under FNM Administration

  • Unanswered questions on Shell RFP

  • Probe into BPL Board termination outstanding

  • Wartsila deal not transparent

  • No guarantee that $95M will be recouped

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) has long advocated for reform within our energy sector to reduce the cost of doing business and its negative impact on the disposable income of Bahamians. The pain and suffering placed on the backs of the masses by the current administration as a result of the 60% increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) rate has further worsened the financial situation of most Bahamians.


It is against this backdrop that the DNA supports any effort aimed at improving the reliability of power supply and reducing the cost for our people. However, the government must ensure that its initiatives are not covered in secrecy and controversy as shown in the recent award of a $95 million contract to Wartsila.


This FNM administration does not seem to learn from its mistakes or simply does not believe that it should be accountable to the populace. Having failed to answer pertinent questions surrounding the Request for Proposals (RFP) process that led to the selection of Shell, BPL has again been found wanting in the selection process and plans for the installation of a 132-megawatt engine power plant by Wartsila. This follows the tainted process involving the selection of the Town Centre Mall as the new location of the main post office and the initial botched handling of the Nassau Cruise Port management RFP.


The Chief Executive of BPL was recently quoted as stating that the company will likely take an equity ownership interest in Shell’s new power plant in return for the investment of $95 million of taxpayers’ funds. This is bearing in mind that no commercial terms have been agreed and an agreement has not been signed following the execution of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This latest move suggests that BPL under the FNM operates in an ad hoc and incoherent manner. How could BPL invest $95 million of our funds to generate 132 of the 220 megawatts required of Shell without a commitment or undertaking by Shell that we will be reimbursed or given an equity stake in the new power plant? It is unacceptable that BPL is speculating on the method of recovery of our investment and we call on them to state unequivocally that the $95 million will in fact be recouped from Shell.


Many Bahamians still recall the Alstom SA/BEC bribery scandal that occurred under a previous FNM administration. Our nation’s reputation was not enhanced by this debacle and it is important that our government continues to dispel any notion of impropriety or corruption. This is why we are concerned that a negative trend has emerged in relation to BPL under the FNM.


The unceremonious termination of the previous BPL Board amid allegations of political interference and unethical behavior remains unaddressed. This is despite the Prime Minister’s promise of a probe into the matter.


There are pertinent questions that the DNA wants answered concerning this matter. Are Bahamians being trained to operate BPL's engines, if not, why not?  What is Shell’s official position’s on this matter.


The DNA calls on BPL to address these matters forthwith. We implore this administration to desist from paying lip service to transparency and accountability in governance. Their actions have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted, and their word is not their bond. The Bahamian people deserve better and the DNA remains the only vehicle for the institutionalization of good governance in The Bahamas.

Buscheme Armbrister, Deputy Leader

Democratic National Alliance



Government must remove blemish from FBI probe

  • Corruption perception impacted by FBI probe

  • No update provided after meeting with US

  • Government must treat matter with urgency

  • Lack of moral authority not excuse for inaction

The Minister of Finance expressed shock following the recent release of Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perception Index. While there has been several allegations of conflicts of interest, cronyism and unethical conduct levied against members of the Free National Movement (FNM) administration, the government seemed to have been surprised that The Bahamas ranking’ had deteriorated since they assumed office.

According to media reports, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has materials in its possession that reveal bribery and corruption with the Bahamas’ Department of Immigration. It is unfortunate that following the announcement that a Bahamian delegation was headed to Washington to meet the FBI, there has been no update provided by the government.

The Bahamas is a country of laws with due regard for the rule of law. It is vital that this matter is given the utmost attention and urgency to demonstrate our commitment to good governance. The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) calls on the government to address this matter without further delay. The full weight of the law should be brought to bear on any and all persons that have been implicated in this probe. This matter should not be politicized or swept under the rug; the chips must fall where they may.

While the FNM may feel constrained to ignore the findings of the FBI probe because it feels it has no moral authority to do so following the actions of its members, we submit that such an approach is not an option. The reputation of The Bahamas and the integrity of our people is on the line. The government must do all within its power to remove any blemish that this probe may have put on our country.

The DNA awaits the government’s response to these allegations and findings.

Omar Smith, Chairman

Democratic National Alliance


Government imposed hardship not delivering desired results

  • Lazy approach to governance continues

  • Bahamians will not forget hardship FNM imposed

  • DNA warned government on projections

  • Revenue shortfall was foreseeable

  • Poor planning, poor execution and incompetence impacting credibility

The Free National Movement (FNM) opposed the imposition of Value Added Tax (VAT) while in opposition and described the introduction on taxes on the Bahamian people as a lazy approach to governance. In true fashion and living up to their reputation as hypocrites, they increased the VAT rate by 60% on the backs of the struggling masses.

The Bahamian people will not forget the actions of a government that passed a budget of hardship. A government that focuses more on numbers than economic growth and the people that are impacted daily with rising cost of living.

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) warned the government against embarking on an overly aggressive timeline for eradicating the fiscal deficit and urged them to develop an economic growth action plan. We further advised them that based on elementary economics, it has been proven that an increase in tax rate does not automatically yield a corresponding increase in tax revenues.

It comes as no surprise that the Minister of Finance has finally admitted that the government will fall short of its projected revenue for the 2018/2019 fiscal year by seven percent or a whopping $185 million.

The argument that the renegotiated tax structure for gaming houses, lower than expected VAT collections and delay in the establishment of the Revenue Enhancement Unit is responsible for the shortfall is simply unacceptable and inadequate. It speaks to the poor planning, unreliable assumptions, incompetence and poor execution by the government. The FNM administration cannot talk this away or minimize their failure in meeting projections that have been relied upon by Bahamians, investors and international agencies. This could negatively impact the credibility and trust reposed in our nation’s projections in future.

While their admission is commendable, it was always foreseeable and does not exonerate them from this embarrassing outcome. Having placed Bahamians and taxpayers under intense unnecessary financial strain to meet their own self-imposed targets, the DNA submits that an apology is warranted.

As part of its budget of hardship and pain, the government had sought to extract an additional $500 million out of the private sector and by extension the economy. The Minister is now hopeful that they will collect about $400 million in extra revenue as a result of the increases in VAT, fees and other taxes. It is unfortunate that this administration’s focus is not the people but rather making the figures look good; an objective they are also failing to achieve.

The Bahamian people are still waiting for this administration to unveil its economic growth plan rather than grandiose announcements and public rewarding of special interest groups and political supporters.  In the absence of a plan, the government is still struggling to get its fiscal house in order. A priority item for any administration should be addressing the burden and inefficiencies State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) impose on the public purse and ultimately the Bahamian taxpayer. It is common knowledge SOEs receive subsidies and subventions to the tune of approximately $400m annually.  The Government has announced that further studies and analysis will be commissioned in the coming months. This is in spite of multiple studies and reports on SOEs over several years and successive administrations. After almost two years in office, they still lack a comprehensive strategy or plan for SOEs and continue to pontificate with political rhetoric while wasting taxpayers’ funds.

There is nothing to celebrate in the mid-year budget statement for the average Bahamian who continues to struggle to make ends meet amidst rising unemployment. Any commentary on the reduction in the fiscal deficit year on year must be considered in the context of a massive increase in taxes by this government. They continue to pat themselves on the back at the expense of the masses that have seen a decrease in their disposable income and spending power while special interests’ pockets continue to be lined. The Bahamian people are simply not impressed with this uncaring government.

The DNA calls on the government to shape up and harken to the voices of the people. As the saying goes “Time is longer than rope”

Arinthia S. Komolafe, Leader

Democratic National Alliance


No More Delay - Implement Marco's Alert & Sex Offenders Registry!

“No form of violence can ever be excused in a society that wishes to call itself decent, but violence against children must surely rank as the most abominable expression of violence” - Nelson Mandela

 
  • Marco’s Alert pilot project successful yet no implementation

  • National Security Minister fails to understand importance of full implementation

  • Government agencies must do what is necessary to get the job done

  • DNA demands full implementation of law and enforcement of strict penalties

  • Swift justice for victims should be priority


Over the past few months the country has seen a rise in abduction and sexual assaults on children with the most recent case being that of an eight-year-old girl on Sunday March 3rd, 2019 and before that a three year old boy sometime in February. These are just the reported cases and it is only by the grace of God that these children did not lose their lives.


In 2016, the Mandatory Action Rescuing Children Operation (Marco’s) Law was enacted nearly five years later after the disappearance and murder of eleven-year-old Marco Archer with a commitment from the former Minister of National Security to move with haste for the implementation of the legislation inclusive of a Sexual Offences Registry and Alert system to be included.  To date, Marco’s Alert pilot project has been tried and proven yet there has been no implementation of the system.

The Bahamas with all its resources and examples to draw from in neighboring countries such as the United States of America should not delay or hesitate any longer for the full implementation of both a Sexual Offenders Registry and alert system. Our children need and require the full protection of the law and they need it now! The moral fiber of our country is at stake, the future of our nation is in danger and thus far, our government has failed to provide the adequate precaution and protection for our children.


With the successful pilot project of Marco’s Alert behind us, one can only assume that the Minister of National Security has dragged his feet or simply fails to see the importance to move with urgency for the implementation of this most crucial law.  Further, The Child Protection Act lays this law squarely at the feet of the Minister of National Security and The Commissioner of Police.

In May 2018, the Tribune reported that there were ‘differences’ between the Office of the Attorney General and the Ministry of National Security that prevented the full implementation of the Sexual Offences Act.  Attorney General Carl Bethel indicated that the Act would have been fully enforced after the budget period of that year, yet here we are today and several violations of our children later without the promised protection.

We demand an end to the pointing of fingers and excuses and implore the relevant government agencies to get the job done.  Although we may not be able to completely prevent violence against our children, we can make a concerted effort and cause offenders to think twice before they commit a crime.


The Democratic National Alliance is advocating for zero tolerance on this matter and we demand immediate action to the full extent of the law as it relates to the abduction and sexual violence on children. A report following Marco’s Alert should prompt swift justice for victims, stiff penalties and inclusion on the Sex Offenders Registry with no exceptions if or when the offender is released from prison.

Stephanie N. Lightbourne – President Women’s Alliance

Democratic National Alliance

Government must own its failures in Frank Smith case

SUMMARY

  • Case marred by gross incompetence

  • Perception of corruption fed by unethical conduct

  • All eyes on the Prime Minister’s response

  • Taxpayers funding inefficiencies and recklessness


Our democracy was deepened but a dangerous precedent was set in a case involving former Senator Frank Smith. The DNA had followed this matter since inception but reserved comment on the same due to the confidence we have in our judicial system. It is our view that the independence of the judiciary as demonstrated in this matter further deepened Bahamian democracy. However, the involvement and implication of two sitting Cabinet members and Members of Parliament has cast a dark cloud over the executive and legislature.

There could not have been a better description of the actions of both the Minister of Health and the Minister of National Security than that offered by the learned Chief Magistrate Ferguson-Pratt who found their conduct to be egregious and unorthodox. On the heels of the recent lower ranking of The Bahamas on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), this comes as an embarrassment and disgrace to our commonwealth. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet must respond to these serious actions or risk tainting their administration and facing permanent condemnation before the Bahamian people.

Observers of the recently concluded legal matter would have been shocked by what appeared to be gross incompetence and clumsiness displayed by the entities involved in making and arguing the case on behalf of the Crown. It is our view that this is not an indictment on the hardworking professionals of our government departments/agencies; rather, it is testament to the unethical conduct and political interference of the executive arm of government.

Regrettably, the hard-earned funds of taxpayers have been and continues to be expended on the inefficiencies and reckless habits of an administration that is alien to good governance, transparency and accountability. We submit that it is high time that the FNM administration took ownership of its failures. They must acknowledge the error of their ways, apologize to the Bahamian people and make a true commitment to adopting the DNA’s good governance platform. The Bahamian people deserve nothing less from an administration that seems determined to tarnish our good reputation.

All eyes are on the Ministers cited in this matter as honorable men, to do the honorable thing by resigning in accordance with the conventions of the Westminster system of government. The Bahamian people and the international community are waiting and watching.

Geoffrey Deleveaux, Spokesperson for Good Governance

Democratic National Alliance