Set for Charlotte Street South from 3 to 8 pm, the block party with a cause is part of an increasingly vocal campaign for a Freedom of Information Act. It is being organized by Save The Bays in partnership with a combination of diverse business and civic groups including the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, Citizens for a Better Bahamas and the Coalition for Responsible Taxation with numerous sponsors including Van Breugel’s Restaurant, Bristol Wine & Spirits and Sands.
“The momentum demanding passage of a Freedom of Information Act is gaining strength every week with more individuals and groups signing petitions, talking about transparency and urging legislation that will prevent all governments – not just this government, but all governments — from engaging in secret deals in which the very public being affected do not even have the right to participate in decision-making that will impact their lives,” said Joseph Darville, Education Director for Save The Bays. “The public has a right to know and to participate in the public’s business.”
Darville’s claim of growing momentum in the demand for transparency is supported by the activity Save The Bays, the Chamber of Commerce and other groups have experienced. More than 6,000 people have signed the online petition at www.savethebays.bs calling for passage of a Freedom of Information Act, an Environmental Protection Act and other measures and Save The Bays’ Facebook page has set a record for a local non-governmental organization with more than 17,000 friends and fans.
Chamber Chairman Robert Myers said freedom of information is one of the basic tenets of the Chamber’s platform.
“The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation is proud to support the efforts of civic society and the private sector who strive to promote open, transparent and accountable governance,” said Myers. “It is through the legislation of a Fiscal Responsibility Act that includes freedom of information, whistle blower and ombudsman acts, and the enforcement of the rule of law that The Bahamas will attain the kind of open governance and stability required to provide real progress and opportunity for its people and the country at large.”
The party, free and open to the public, will feature performances by The Bahamas’ best-selling musical artist, KB and the Rhythm Band. In addition to music, there will be food, drinks, t-shirts and other entertainment.
According to Save The Bays CEO Lindsey McCoy, interest in legislation bringing government into the sunshine has mushroomed since the first demonstration in March in Rawson Square.
“The day of the demonstration we had a terrible downpour and yet even that did not dampen spirits,” she said. “When we counted the groups and how many people they represented – including union chiefs from the country’s largest unions and associations of unions – we realized that more than 60,000 people were represented. And it was amazing to see how many visitors coming off the cruise ships or walking through historic Nassau were interested – most stunned that we did not already have Freedom of Information.”
Proponents of transparent government, particularly in approvals of developments impacting lifestyle, culture and the environment, have consistently pointed to the small number of countries still operating in the dark. Among them are North Korea and Guyana, the latter, however in the process of implementing legislation. Other hold-outs that recently enacted freedom of information legislation include Brazil, El Salvador, Malta, Mongolia and Yemen.
“The Bahamas is in the company of a diminishing few outliers,” said McCoy. “We hope that all this attention will bring results and make it possible for all informed citizens to take part in the processes that impact them.” She also encouraged
Because of tight security at both the north and south ends of Charlotte Street, which will be closed off for the block party, numbers will be limited for any given hour. Vendors are being invited to take part and offer food, crafts and t-shirts supporting the cause.
Open Letter to Governor Dakin
Dear H.E. Governor Dakin,
The time has come for us as a nation to stand as a unified front on matters regarding our beautiful country, the Turks & Caicos Islands. Our country, as it stands, is in a state of turmoil and I am afraid that if we do not act now, all will be lost. As such, I write on behalf of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands, who are feeling neglected by this Government, the Commissioner of Police, and, regrettably, yourself.
Your Excellency, while crime prevention is a shared responsibility, it is expected that the relevant authorities and persons placed in key positions for crime prevention would have the strongest impact. However, I am sure that you are aware that the citizens have lost complete faith in our police force and continue to live in fear in what is supposed to be a peaceful and safe Turks and Caicos Islands. This only causes one to wonder, what can and should be done to regain control?
The People’s Democratic Movement has, on a number of occasions, stated our position on this crime matter, even offering a number of solutions to combat crime, for instance, the parties’ 12 point crime plan approach. The sad reality is that crime will always exist in any country, but as leaders we must ensure that the right deterrents are in place to reduce the risk.
I am no expert in the field of combating crime, but I do know that by taking the basic preventative measures, such as those that have been mentioned by my party and many citizens alike, we will see a swift reduction in crime.
Nevertheless, I call on you, Your Excellency, to stand on your role in national Security, as we all have come to the realization that the current approach isn’t working. Your Excellency, we are nearing a state of emergency. As you are responsible for national security of which crime is included, we need you to make those bold decisions, even if this means requesting the assistance of the military. I hereby also offer these measures that should be implemented in the interim:
- Construct new Police stations in each community on the island of Providenciales, with a minimum of two patrol units stationed within those communities, with daily patrols and adequate staff.
Investment of 30-50 new patrol units.
Investment of a mobile police station that can be visible in other areas at various times throughout each day. We need more police officers on the streets, who can be accessible by our citizens.
Your Excellency, I say again, the current approach is failing. We need experts who will come to work and not use the opportunity to vacation. Let’s also invest in hiring some of the best experts who can assist with solving these crimes and bringing closure to the families who have lost love ones. The fact of the matter remains – there are too many unsolved cases in this country! The people of this beautiful country are not asking for much, we just want those in positions to do what they are being paid to do.
We cannot have our people living in fear, Your Excellency. I believe we need stricter penalties in place, such as the approach Jamaica recently took with a mandatory 15 years in person if caught with an illegal firearm. In addition, we can consider cancelling all bail applications for serious crimes offences. These are the kind of approaches that just may reduce or have one second guessing their decision before committing criminal acts.
In closing, I ask that you provide the people of Turks and Caicos with some reassurance, not in the form of words in a speech but swift and effective action. Your Excellency, please also note, that if these matters aren’t addressed prior to your departure as Governor, then you would have also failed the great people of Turks and Caicos Islands.
I thank you for your time and I do hope that this letter resonates with you and encourages change.
People’s Democratic Movement
BFN urges Bahamians to pay attention to hunger ‘crisis’
Great Commission Ministries thanks network for nearly a decade of support
#TheBahamas, September 26, 2022 – Bahamas Feeding Network (BFN) director, Mario Carey, is making an urgent plea to the public to pay attention to the hunger crisis that many face in The Bahamas.
Carey made the comments as he and BFN Executive Director Archdeacon James Palacious paid a visit to Great Commission Ministries, one of nearly 100 feeding centres that BFN regularly supports and a beneficiary of the network for nearly 10 years.
“It’s sad and shocking to see the extent of this issue in The Bahamas,” said Carey.
“This is a crisis that isn’t being adequately addressed. How is it that in The Bahamas so many people go hungry every day and it’s such a struggle to feed them?”
The plea came just days ahead of the BFN’s inaugural golf tournament, ‘Tee Off for Hunger’ which BFN hopes will raise funds to provide more than 50,000 meals in the fight against hunger.
In recent months, BFN has been providing more than 70,000 meals per month to the most vulnerable in The Bahamas. And Palacious said the hunger problem in the country continues to be a dire one.
Palacious said the demand BFN is facing has remained steadily high, particularly as Bahamians continue to struggle with an increasing cost of living and continued high unemployment.
“It’s concerning to see the extent of the need in our country,” said Palacious.
“And at the Bahamas Feeding Network, we do all we can to provide assistance, but the demand is great and ceaseless. We deeply appreciate and ask for the continued support of the business community and the public at large to be able to carry on our work in these difficult times.”
Bishop Walter Hanchell, founder and president of Great Commission Ministries, said the organization has been seeing a sustained increase in people seeking help with the basic necessities in recent months.
Great Commission Ministries provides hot meals to roughly 500 people each day, in addition to distributing meals to the sick and shut-in, as well as the provision of grocery packages to struggling families.
Hanchell, who has been helping to feed Bahamians for over three decades, said the past few months have been challenging, as more and more new faces show up seeking assistance. Although the organization receives monetary and in-kind support, the need frequently outweighs the supply.
“Every day you see it,” said Hanchell. “And we are seeing more middle-class people who are now struggling. We help as many as we can, but of course we have limited resources.”
Carey said Hanchell’s observations point clearly to a worsening problem.
The Bahamas Feeding Network spends over $120,000 on its monthly efforts. And Palacious said a generous patron who covers the network’s monthly rent helps to ensure that just a small percentage of donations goes towards administration costs.
Carey said now is the time for everyone to take the issue of hunger in The Bahamas seriously.
“This is beatable,” he said. “We can beat this if people buy into it and everyone makes a contribution.”
Hanchell echoed his sentiments, noting that homelessness is another serious issue that he is working to combat, with plans underway to construct a 100-bed shelter next year.
“We are going to be asking a lot of corporate Bahamas, and the government and private citizens to make that happen,” he said.
Hanchell added, “In November we celebrate 35 years of nonstop ministry and we thank God for the Bahamas Feeding Network and all that they have done to support us over the years. They have been a tremendous blessing.
“It’s not been an easy road but the Lord has been with us.”
Photo Caption: Bahamas Feeding Network (BFN) representatives visit long-time beneficiary Great Commission Ministries. L-R: Great Commission Ministries Elder Mina Hanchell, Great Commission Ministries President Bishop Walter Hanchell, BFN Executive Director Archdeacon James Palacious, BFN Director Mario Carey, Aventus Ventures CEO Kevin Hobbs, Great Commission Ministries Operations Manager Maxine Bethel
CHTA President calls for “Dynamic Tax” to address high cost of air travel
#CaymanIslands, September 26, 2022 – The President of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) is recommending a tiered “dynamic taxation system” as a novel and potential solution to address ongoing concerns about the high cost of air travel within and to and from the region.
Calling for a flexible approach to levying airline taxes, CHTA’s President Nicola Madden-Greig said one of the major constraints facing Caribbean travel is the heavy burden of taxation, and governments could well consider successful revenue management tactics employed within the tourism and aviation sector.
Understanding that the full removal of taxes may be challenging, the CHTA president suggested a tax policy that is responsive to international travel demand seasonality. “For example, governments can affix a higher airline ticket tax in the peak winter season and lower taxes in the summer when demand is weak,” she said, adding that giving consumers better prices to drive visitation during the slow season could boost tourism, commerce and intra-regional VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) travel.
Speaking recently at IATA Caribbean Aviation Day in Grand Cayman, the successful Jamaican hotelier said the economics of such a variable policy may in fact result in a net gain in tax revenue to Caribbean governments. “As travel becomes more affordable and we stimulate more travel, this will result in more local spending, and consequently an increase in local tax collections,” she said, underscoring there will be an overall net benefit to the consumer thanks to lower ticket prices.
“I think it’s a concept that should be explored,” said Madden-Greig, who argued that a well-developed strategy could address diverse perspectives on taxation. “There’s a way to do it that allows for flexibility so you still have taxation on the front end, but when you need to drive demand, you can reduce those taxes and make up the difference on the tail end,” she said. The taxation details however must be transparent, she warned.
Madden-Greig, the Jamaica-based Group Director of Marketing & Sales at The Courtleigh Hospitality Group, said she hopes to explore the “dynamic taxation strategy” at the upcoming Caribbean Travel Forum, taking place at CHTA’s Caribbean Travel Marketplace in San Juan, Puerto Rico, October 3 to 5, 2022.
“This could definitely answer the call for reduction in taxes, but not a reduction necessarily all year-round,” the CHTA president explained, suggesting that policy makers could consider alternate tax regimes for regional and international flights in order to drive multi-destination and intra-regional travel.
She admitted that research is required on the technological options to implement the system: “It may not be an immediate solution, but it’s a solution we can work towards.”
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