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


Where there is no vision, the people sweat!

  • BPL’s failures have become predictable

  • Working class feels the brunt of electrical challenges

  • Bahamians not getting good value for money 

  • DNA to put forward new position paper on energy


The rash of power outages spreading across The Bahamas is highly unacceptable. The excuses that have been proffered are nothing more than a continuation of excuses that have marked the incompetence that has been going on at BPL/BEC for decades. The question is, will anyone be held accountable for this fiasco? Will anyone be held accountable to The Bahamian people? 


This perennial debacle is a reflection of inept government policies and decisions that are made based on political expediency and relationships with special interests who benefit from these government policies. The Bahamian people are sick and tired and have had enough of the suffering that has been inflicted upon them by successive PLP and FNM administrations. Every year, millions of dollars are paid by the Bahamian people in the form of taxes and fees for inconsistent essential services. Special interests have continued to get wealthier off the backs of poor and working class Bahamians who could ill afford these outrageously high electricity costs, much less the standby generators that the wealthy use to avoid the inconveniences at BPL.


The declining level of service rendered to the Bahamian people is not only cruel, but symptomatic of the way in which BPL and BEC has been managed. The shady deals and corrupt practices that have been common place has dictated the level of service that The Bahamian people have been receiving. The Democratic National Alliance DEMANDS that the government open all of the operations of BPL to the daylight of public scrutiny, so that all of us can see the details of the agreements that were supposedly made on behalf of the Bahamian people. We challenge the government of the Bahamas to prove that best practices were followed in the procurement of these new generators, the service contracts and the fuel purchasing contracts. What are the rates being paid for these rental generators and to whom are we paying?


As part of our good governance pledge in our platform, The DNA assures The Bahamian people that the suffering, exploitation and fleecing of The Bahamian people will come to an end when we are in office. In our forthcoming position paper on energy, The Bahamian people will see our bold vision that includes, among other things, renewable resources and alternative forms of energy generation. There will be brighter days under the DNA!


Omar Smith

Chairman

Democratic National Alliance

Budget 2019/20 – Much Ado About Nothing

  • Budget communication falls flat

  • Government has credibility deficit

  • No relief in sight for hurting masses

  • Focus on figures at the expense of Bahamians

  • Duty reductions will have minimal impact after VAT


The Minister of Finance delivered his third Budget Communication in the House of Assembly yesterday to a nation in desperate need of hope and some positive news. Once again, the Free National Movement (FNM) administration showed its lack of compassion and disconnection from the plight of the masses. The delivery of the communication was both uninspiring and underwhelming, while the extended rendition of shallow pronouncements was painful to watch.


In a communication that fell flat for most Bahamians, the government’s idea of positive news was the continuous reminder that the Value Added Tax (VAT) rate will not be increased again. In the aftermath of a 60% increase in the VAT rate in the previous year, this heartless administration expected nationwide jubilation for choosing not to worsen the financial condition of the Bahamian people.


Bahamians can now confirm that the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) was right in its assessment of the 2018/2019 budget of hardship when we stated that the government would fall short of its revenue projections and the economy would be negatively impacted. The admission by the Minister that the government fell short of its revenue target by hundreds of millions of dollars is testament to the accuracy of our prognosis a year ago.


The government is projecting that the GFS deficit for 2018/2019 will come in at $229 million dollars despite the revenue shortage as a result of spending cuts. We note that this administration was forced to admit that the Minister of Finance’s deficit forecast for the 2017/2018 fiscal year was higher by $105 million dollars. Hence, the government has a credibility deficit when it comes to projections on both revenue and expenditure.


We witnessed another episode of self-aggrandization and pats on the back by politicians who have forgotten that they are not doing taxpayers any favors but rather spending our hard-earned dollars on projects they select. The reduction in customs duties to the tune of $28 million in the face of the massive increase in taxes to the tune of $500 million last year is a slap in the face of struggling Bahamians. A closer look at the reduced tariffs and the affected items for the 2019/20 budget will show that they will have minimal impact on the finances of majority of Bahamians.


It was noted that the deficit is at its lowest in 10 years and the Minister demanded some commendation for this achievement. What he failed to mention is that 10 years ago, the government’s revenue was half (about $1.3 billion less) of what it is today, and total expenditure was $1 billion less than it is in 2019. Hence, within a decade, successive administrations have significantly increased taxes on the backs of the Bahamian people to fund their insatiable appetite for spending and wastage.


The current administration is out to lunch and oblivious to the dilemma of Bahamians challenged to make ends meet daily. They believe that eliminated tariffs on pencils, crayons and sharpeners is worthy of praise while being convinced that several Bahamians have the disposable income to embark on the purchase of new furniture and appliances. This follows a recent international report that notes that The Bahamas is the fourth most expensive nation in the world to live in. While taxes and fees have continued to rise, so have unemployment figures while the income of average Bahamians have remained the same or lowered.


The budget communication perpetuates the practice of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) which places the burden of taxation on the poor and the middle class. The pontification on tax fairness is disingenuous when taxes are not based on individuals’ earnings and ability to pay. The current system of governance for special interest groups will not change until there is campaign finance reform in The Bahamas. Until then, he who pays the piper will continue to call the tune and the decimation of the Bahamian middle class will not cease.


The highlight of the show that was the budget communication was the suggestion that the FNM is committed to meritocracy. This follows several conflicts of interest, failure to provide details on spending, appointment of FNM cronies to high-paying jobs, award of contracts to supporters without a transparent bidding process and political interference in government agencies among others.


The DNA will be taking a deeper dive into the numbers within the actual budget in the days ahead and provide the Bahamian people with the key themes from a budget that is anything other than the people’s budget.


Arinthia S. Komolafe

Leader

Democratic National Alliance


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


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


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