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


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

PM Address Falls Flat for Bahamians

Summary:


  • Speech was uninspiring and underwhelming

  • No new ideas or information for economy

  • Government fails to articulate economic or financial services growth plan

  • Address failed to demonstrate strategy to return Bahamas to investment grade

  • Silence on WTO and OBAN deafening


In the immediate aftermath of the release of labor statistics which show that unemployment is on the rise, many Bahamians looked forward to the Prime Minister’s address to the nation. The widely publicized address was supposed to focus on the government’s plan for the economy and outline plans for its revitalization.

Regrettably, the speech fell flat as it failed to inspire hope among the Bahamian people or offer innovative ideas for the resurgence of an economy with stunted growth. The PM sought to spin the unemployment narrative by touting a reported fall in joblessness in Grand Bahama and Abaco but glossed over the approximately one percent rise in New Providence. This is despite the reported record increase in tourism numbers for 2018 and announcements of multiple foreign direct investments.

It was disappointing to watch the nation’s leader make a feeble effort at justifying his recent visit to Europe with a delegation. The PM could only report that the bilateral talks were constructive, and the objective was to ensure that the European Union (EU) understands the government efforts in meeting the EU’s demands. There was no communication of a Financial Services Growth Action Plan (FSGAP); rather, the government has maintained its reactive and myopic approach to this vital sector of our economy. The government seems to have resorted to presiding over the demise of our financial services sectors through the proverbial thousand cuts.

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) welcomes any initiative that is aimed at improving the ease of doing business in The Bahamas. In this regard, improvements in the operations at the Department of Inland Revenue (DIR) come as a relief to businesses. We submit that while the creation of a promotional arm of the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) could provide some gains, there are operational inefficiencies plaguing the BIA and modernization is long overdue.

Bahamians anticipated a report on the economy that included an update on the economic impact of the austerity measures imposed via the budget of hardship for 2018/19. Unfortunately, no accountability or report on stewardship of the people’s money was provided; consequently, an opportunity to distinguish the FNM Government from its predecessor was squandered.

The PM spent a considerable portion of his address on listing several intended or proposed projects and investments. The challenge here is that we’ve seen this script before with successive administrations outlining multiple projects across our archipelago of islands with a vast amount never coming to fruition for the foreseeable future. The simple response of the Bahamian people to these grandiose announcements is that the proof is in the pudding and we will not count our proverbial eggs before they hatch.

Commentaries on the Commercial Enterprise Act (CEA) have become monotonous to the populace. We call on the government to provide the Bahamian people with a report on the economic impact of the CEA including the capital injection or inflow to date, local and permanent jobs created, work permits issued, and government revenue derived from the increase in economic activity following the enactment of the legislation.

Public utterances and lamentation on the ease of doing business in The Bahamas vis-à-vis opening of bank accounts and the blue economy by the government constitute nothing more than grandstanding. We implore the PM and his government to simply get the job done rather than communicating with his ministers and stakeholders via a national broadcast.

In his national address, the PM failed to inform the Bahamian people how he and his cabinet will position The Bahamas’ credit rating from a junk bond status to investment grade.  Further, the PM was silent on the topic of The Bahamas’ accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the OBAN deal which has resurfaced in recent times. This deliberate silence was deafening and telling for a government that campaigned on transparency and accountability. Has the government concluded that the WTO and OBAN are not priority areas and will not positively impact the Bahamian economy in the manner that they’ve been touting? The nation’s leader missed a rare chance to address the concerns of the Bahamian people. While many had minimal expectations for the PM’s address to the nation, we are saddened that he proved them right and delivered yet another underwhelming speech.

Arinthia S. Komolafe, Deputy Leader

Democratic National Alliance