The Bahamas: A Perfect Financial Storm Brewing in Tourism Paradise

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By Norman Trabulsy Jr.

The Bahamas is entering a period for which I see a Perfect Storm gathering, and this is unfortunate. A Perfect Storm comes about when a number of factors synergize to exacerbate what would otherwise be a mildly disruptive event. Although a number of other supporting realities strongly buttress my view, for the sake of brevity I will base my analysis and prediction of a Perfect Storm on the following.

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Implementation of a value-added tax (VAT)

It does not take a Sherlock Holmes to figure out who owes hundreds of millions of dollars to the Bahamian government in uncollected property taxes. Value-added tax is being implemented because the government has failed in its job and been unable, or unwilling, to collect even half of the taxes it is owed. The VAT is a consumer-based and regressive tax, meaning that it hits the poorest the hardest.

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The estimated revenue from the VAT assumes that the economy will remain roughly at its current level. I strongly suggest that the Bahamian economy will take a very hard hit for several years due to the high cost of VAT compliance, higher prices, fraud, and the overestimate of the tax revenues to be collected, causing the government to further tighten its belt, all contributing to a dangerous shrinking of the economy. This: before the risk of any hiccup in the tourism sector, which accounts for 80 percent of The Bahamas’ gross domestic product (GDP). It is rather naive to suggest that the tourism sector is immune to rising prices, when survey after survey show that the No. 1 complaint of tourists is high prices. Sun, sea and sand have a value, but there is a limit, and we are pushing it.

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Legalization and proliferation of gambling web shops

In The Bahamas, a social epidemic of gambling appears to be a symptom of the larger desperation of being unable to make a decent living and provide for one’s family by holding an average job. But more on that later. I predict that the net effect of a proliferation gambling web shops will be a continued drain on the real economy and an increasing transfer of monies into the hands of web shop owners. The health of an economy is based on the amount of money that freely circulates within it. As more money leaves the real economy via the web shops, the net result is unarguable: a rapid and decisive transfer of wealth into the pockets of those who produce nothing.

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A software designer for some of the web shops told me that, for every winner, there are 8,000 losers. Ponder these odds for a moment. I live on a small family island, and I have paid attention to this matter for nearly a decade. I cannot count the times Bahamians who do not gamble have said to me, “These web shops are going to take this country down.” Perhaps they say this because, like me, they have seen the dashed hopes, the unfinished houses, the children whose lunch moneys were squandered by their parents’ spinning, and the money leaving this small island on a weekly basis that could have gone to so many worthy causes and needs. The language should be more honest: gambling is not an industry, it is a Ponzi scheme, and it should be called what it is.

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Downgrading of the credit worthiness of The Bahamas by Moody’s

Moody’s recently downgraded the credit worthiness of the Bahamas due to the unlikely probability that it will reduce its 50 percent debt-to-GDP ratio. We are unlikely to do this because for the past 10 years our country has only grown by six percent, and we continue to borrow more money. Moody’s rightfully wonders where the government will find the money to pay off its increasing debt. The prospects are bleak. I liken this situation to the following conversation. A friend comes to me and says, “You owe me $500 today.” I ask, “Why is that?” He answers, “Because 50 years ago your grandfather borrowed $500 from my grandfather and he said you would pay me the $500 your grandfather owed him.” Who doesn’t think this is absurd? Yet, what do the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and Free National Movement (FNM) do each year to the citizens of The Bahamas? How is this any less absurd than what our well-educated economists, politicians and lawyers are proposing to us today? When politicians take out these big loans, with interest, who winds up paying for them?

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State of the global economy

Not enough honest people have spoken out about the implications of what the major players in the financial sector and government officials have been doing. Since the global financial crisis in 2008, the United States in particular, has pumped trillions of taxpayers dollars into the banks and financial institutions there and around the world, in an attempt to “save” the economy that was put in danger by, you guessed it, the banks and financial institutions. Soon the consequences of this policy will become yet more apparent in rising inflation, increasing inequality, and a greater impoverishment for most of humanity. Any prudent government would have, after assessing the crisis and its causes, broken up the largest of banks and nationalized those that had done the most harm to society.

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The largest banks, financial institutions, and here in The Bahamas even the web shops, have completely captured our politicians and the political process. Consider the phrases: Too Big To Fail and Too Big to Jail. Justice has become lopsided and no longer applies to the rich and powerful. This is the reality today throughout the world, and it is contrary to any concept of democracy. The people of The Bahamas said “No” on the referendum regarding web shops. Yet, what did our Prime Minister do? Who do the politicians really work for? Does democracy exist in The Bahamas, or anywhere? Answer honestly. Now, what are you going to do about it?

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Increasing poverty rate in The Bahamas

The realities about poverty in The Bahamas are probably worse than the government statistics suggest. For an indicator of the real state of our economy and the hurdles that must be overcome to change our course, speak to any social service worker. They will tell you that they are seeing an increasingly depressed, despondent and hopeless people who come for assistance. Yet the government is cutting back on social services to balance the budget, so that there will be even less resources to help the rising numbers of people who need them. The economic considerations are in themselves sufficient cause for concern, but it is also reasonable to expect that, as the poverty rate increases, the crime rate will increase, and public safety, the quality of life and tourism will decline.

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Increasing emphasis on the “financial services industry”

The so-called financial services industry is the second largest contributor to the GDP of The Bahamas, after tourism. It is not an industry but a scheme to attract people who don’t want to pay taxes in their own countries and need a place to hide their money. The Bahamas levies no income tax, no corporate tax, no inheritance tax, no capital gains tax, and it seems that property taxes are very low and not collectable. The money to run the government comes, for the most part, from the working people of The Bahamas. The rich pay a minuscule percentage of their incomes to live in paradise: sort of like going to Disney World for free.

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If the tax policies here in The Bahamas actually created an incentive for investment, an improvement in the job market, and a healthy economy, wouldn’t there be better results after all these decades of such policies? Instead, our politicians, lawyers, bankers, the financial services representatives, all of them, have become beholden to big money. Who, in their right mind, can possibly say that things here and around the world are going well and that the future looks bright for most of the world’s people? The “financial services industry” produces little to improve the lives of ordinary people. There is no reason to give the rich a free ride in this country; the benefits of living here are too great to be given away for free. I say: make them pay their fair share. The Bahamian people need to stand up and call for these changes, because not one person in the government has the guts to tell it like it is.

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Aspiration to join free-trade organizations

Generally speaking, free trade in today’s world is a way for transnational companies to subvert a county’s legal system and destroy its sovereignty. The result of almost every modern free-trade agreement has been the destruction of a country’s agricultural and manufacturing base and its replacement by highly subsidized foreign corporate ownership, gutting of environmental laws and crushing of organized labor. Any complaints and lawsuits must now be handled by an extra-judicial group of corporate lawyers with loyalties to big business. This idea of The Bahamas joining these free-trade agreements will only further the interests of those businessmen, lawyers and politicians who are pushing them. They will not help the tourist economy or manufacturing economy of The Bahamas or create more and better jobs for Bahamians. These issues must be known to the Bahamian people before our politicians sell this country out from under our feet.

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Lack of leadership

Anyone old enough to remember, or who has gone to YouTube to hear, the words of Martin Luther King Jr. understands that we have no statesmen in this world today. Do not be duped by the words of the first African-American US President. He is not even worthy to stand in the shadows of MLK Jr. Listen to the words of our own politicians in The Bahamas: mere words, poisonous words, for they are meant to trick us into believing that they have our interests in mind. Nowhere in the world is there a leader with the integrity, honesty, courage and fortitude required to govern. Each and every one is beholden to the moneyed interests in the world today. I have heard the expression, “We get the government we deserve.” If this is true, I am saddened by where we are as a people. If we can rise up, and create a better society, it is time to do so. Let us get rid of the charlatans, the spineless, the greedy, the dishonest and egotistical excuses for public servants that we now have. This isn’t about one political party or another. Wake up people! I believe we are staring a Perfect Storm in the face. It is up to us to do something for ourselves to avoid the impending crisis.

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Editor’s Notes: Norman Trabulsy Jr. is an expecting father, restauranteur, sailor, captain, carpenter and naturalist living in The Bahamas. His writing generally focuses on environmental issues concerning tropical marine ecosystems and economics. 

Photographs one, four and nine by Thomas Hawk; two, five and fourteen by Albyan Toniazzi; three and ten by Susan; seven and thirteen by Bruce Tuten; eleven and twelve by Shutter Runner; six by Jordon Cooper, and eight from the IMF archives.

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35 Responses to The Bahamas: A Perfect Financial Storm Brewing in Tourism Paradise

  1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Addison Chan
    October 14, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    How does the Bahamian Government justify their rationale of imposing the tax “…to mitigate the extraordinary increase in the cost of goods” doesn’t adding a tax just make things that are already expensive even more expensive?

    • +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Norman Trabulsy Jr.
      October 16, 2014 at 5:54 am

      Addison,

      Good to hear from you. Yes, your logic is spot on. Adding the tax will definitely make things more expensive. I suspect most businesses will add on a bit extra to cover the uncertainties, like the additional money it will cost for compliance. As well, the government has stated that this is only an “introductory rate” which will likely increase to as much as 15% in the near future. Also, businesses that charge VAT will be able to recapture what they have paid by holding on to what they have collected, making it a completely consumer (regressive) tax. Coupled with the explosion of the local gambling houses, instabilities in the global economy, and an overall increase in basic consumer goods, I feel the Bahamian economy is really going to feel the pinch. Economy is a rather cold word. The realities are that the Bahamian people are really going to suffer. We all know the social implications of what this will mean.

      The mechanisms for our politicians, read all politicians, being able to do this are wholly encouraged by the biggest banks. Some call it kicking the can down the road. A completely immoral, untenable, and what should be illegal, way of handling a country’s finances. Which goes back to my original claim of there being no statesman in the world today. Not just here in the Bahamas, but everywhere. Were the government expense honestly used to kick start local businesses and stimulate the local economy we would certainly see different results. Instead, graft and corruption between government officials and their crony friends in business take a huge chunk of these government expenditures. Nothing new to those paying attention. Look at the military industrial complex in the US. Same thing.

      Norman Trabulsy Jr.

  2. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1philip sealy
    October 22, 2014 at 2:48 am

    I’m excited to see sensible individuals, hitting the issues head on, with little or no fear of backlash, and being correct. I fear that this brilliant piece will be like smoke in the wind. Not many will read it, because it’s not nonsense gossip. There has been a progressive dumbing down in our nation, and I believe its intentional. A dumb population is one that is easily distracted, and very controllable. We have been raped as a nation by those who have been sworn to protect us, and the masses don’t even realize it.

    • +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Norman Trabulsy Jr.
      October 23, 2014 at 6:07 pm

      Philip,

      How right you are about the dumbing down of the population. Many years ago, I naively believed that all I had to do was to keep writing about the ills of the world and that eventually the message would get out, we would wake up, all come together, and change things for the better. I guess that was before Dancing with The Stars, the 200 channels of sports, wives cheating on husbands reality shows, and all the other mindless distractions that have distracted and poisoned our minds. It’s not just The Bahamas, it seems pervasive no matter where you go. At least the Bahamian government isn’t all over the world slaughtering innocent civilians like some I know.

      • Vote -1 Vote +1Michelle Dunn
        November 27, 2014 at 9:19 am

        Please do not stop writing. Many of us are listening and sharing.

  3. +5 Vote -1 Vote +1Theo Tsavoussis
    October 22, 2014 at 5:14 am

    Thank you Norman! Your points are right on the money. People all over the world need to wake up and smell the coffee.

    Unfortunately, the media is so well controlled and the message so hypnotic that most are lulled to sleep.

    Unless we the people can gain control of our governments, the outcome will be disastrous for generations to come.

    —————————-
    We need to stand up and implement something like this (See Ted Talk on “how to upgrade our democracy for the internet era”).

    • +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Norman Trabulsy Jr.
      October 23, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      Theo,

      Thanks for your compliments. I agree 100% with your comment on “the media being so well controlled and the message so hypnotic that most are lulled to sleep”.

      However, as pertains to our governments; I feel that if we continue to allow money in politics, and the rich keep getting richer, as is the case, politicians will always be beholden to the moneyed interests. For instance, in the US, Obama’s campaign raised a Billion dollars. Where did that money come from? Is it any surprise that the criminal bankers who helped orchestrate the global financial meltdown walked away with their fortunes intact, when they should be penniless and in jail? The free documentary available online, Inside Job, made this clear to me and also made my blood boil. We need a complete revamping of the global banking system before democracy can even be considered. Consider the statement attributed to Mayer Amschel Rothschild, “Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation and I care not who makes it’s laws”. I believe that a government official found to be taking bribes should be hung in public, for it is a crime of the highest nature. A bit harsh, but can true democracy ever exist with the corruption we see today, especially here in The Bahamas?

  4. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Becks
    October 22, 2014 at 5:31 am

    The whole VAT issue is going to be a disaster in every way one can imagine. Collect the Real Property Taxes owed… not too complicated! Collect all Casino Taxes owed… again not too complicated. BEC… collect all corporate, i.e. hotels and businesses monies owed. Remove all duties on components for home solar-power generation.

    • +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Norman Trabulsy Jr.
      October 23, 2014 at 5:29 pm

      Becks,

      Exactly right on the VAT issue. I fear the same.

      However, I recently imported a solar PV system and components from the US and there was no duty applied. So, I have to give credit where credit is due. Though there are some stumbling blocks to the net metering issue here in The Bahamas.

  5. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Kate
    October 22, 2014 at 10:48 am

    Never before has such truth been told. Thank You!

    • +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Norman Trabulsy Jr.
      October 23, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      Thanks very much Kate!

  6. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Dennis Dames
    October 22, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Outstanding piece Mr. Trabulsy. It’s worth noting and reading again.

    It is also worthy to be shared with all other Bahamians, no matter where they might be just now – hence please also find our republication at Caribbean Blog International under the title “Wake Up My Bahamian People!”

    Continue to help emancipate us Bahamians for a prosperous tomorrow, where every capable citizen is productive and committed to national self sufficiency through innovation and plain old commonsense.

    • +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Norman Trabulsy Jr.
      October 23, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      Dennis,

      Thanks for reposting on Caribbean Blog International and thanks for your comments and what you stand for. I started reading some of your poetry today. I especially liked the one on Peace. Reading some of your work gives me that small glimmer of hope that all we have to do is to connect with those who dream the same dreams for positive change to occur. It seems that the powers that be want us to think we are alone, so as to keep us apart and isolated. Were only a fraction of us who had like-minded ideas to come together, there would be no stopping the positive changes which are desperately needed. I hope we get to meet someday.

  7. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Jason
    October 22, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Excellent article. I am saddened that we have not built an alternative sector to contribute to the GDP. You would assume that we would have learned from other growing developing nations. Think about it: India, across the world, has bad human rights and women’s rights, but its cheap labor and an “educated” population with perceived skill sets are displacing United States workers. Why did we not have the foresight to develop a force to provide services to American market? I also point out that the system in place does not trust the youth or allow them to lead with guidance and learning from the mistakes of others who are adapting to a changing environment. The old will not let go of their mindset. Will not or cannot change. Is destruction necessary for growth? Will it be too late, the pit too deep, and the mistakes of our forefathers too great to overcome? I pray for the future and our youth. I fear that we will not be able to afford to live in our own nation.

    • +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Norman Trabulsy Jr.
      October 23, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      Jason,

      I, too, see the day coming when Bahamians will not be able to afford to live in their own country. However, it seems quite plausible that around that same time there may not be much of the Bahamas that are not underwater. See the News Junkie Post article by Dady Chery on rising sea levels and other related data that suggests that it may be mere decades before we see a 10 foot sea level rise. Think about this for a minute.

      Not only, as you point out, will the old not let go of their mindset, I don’t know if it is even possible. So, I’m with you 100% on focusing on the youth. But, they are still poisoned by influences in the home and on TV that thwart the radical changes needed. I guess we must have patience and stay focused on the youth. Thanks for your comments.

  8. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Cooper
    October 22, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    Mr. Trabulsy,

    Your story about the Perfect Storm is a perfect prognostication about the future of the Bahamas.

    If I may add an observation about the state of affairs in this country, let me say that today’s politicians, corrupt lawyers, and financial experts are the “house slaves”, and the poor people or the working class are the “field slaves”.

    There is a new form of mental and economic slavery that is having a profound effect on the future of the Bahamas. We are doomed if the “field slaves” do not revolt to change the direction in which we are headed.

    Because most Bahamians have -never- dealt with -real racism- they are too passive to get up off their sorry, lazy, asses and demand accountability from the government they so blindly elected.

    I have never seen so many suckers fall for anything that their candidates tell them at election time; it sickens me to see how stupid so many people can be.

    Once VAT is a reality, and poor people can’t afford to eat, sleep, pay bills, or take care of their basic necessities in life, and it hits them smack in their faces that they can’t survive, perhaps anarchy will rise and that will be the beginning of the end. The rich will be killed and robbed at random and there will be no stopping the poor masses of people who far outnumber the rich.

    Mark my words, The Bahamas is doomed if we don’t wake up now! Tomorrow will be too late.

    • +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Norman Trabulsy Jr.
      October 23, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      Cooper,

      I see things very much as do you. Especially your slavery analogy. I would take it one step further and suggest we are all slaves, regardless of our color. Once one studies how money is created, how the elite bankers control all governments and all people, it allows one to be a bit more lenient on our politicians. They are really just puppets who think they have power. Imagine a Bahamian politician standing up to the US government. How long would they be alive? And, the US president is the same. Imagine Obama standing up to the bankers. He wouldn’t last the day.

      While I do not wish to see bloodshed and fighting, I am for whatever it takes to bring justice to this world. If things must be destroyed, so be it. If we have lost sight of the suffering in this world, lost our compassion, love our money too much, then we shouldn’t complain when the poor rise up. It’s not as if we didn’t see it coming. I usually get ignored or condemned when I say the things you have said, yet, in my heart of hearts I feel the same way. So many go to church, yet so few understand what true justice is. Martin Luther King Jr. made clear that there can be no racial justice without economic justice. These beliefs and his speaking out against the Vietnam war are what got him killed. Sound familiar.

  9. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Wayne Farquharson
    October 23, 2014 at 4:20 am

    Excellent piece!

    • +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Norman Trabulsy Jr.
      October 23, 2014 at 4:51 pm

      Thanks Wayne. Much appreciated.

  10. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Orjan Lindroth
    October 23, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Hard and clear analysis of the issues facing the country.

    Attracting enterprises in banking and shipping certainly have merit, but to grow the economy, we need to look at fuel and food imports. Both offer opportunity for substitution with domestic production. Organic farming to supply the local market and also the millions of visitors with no food miles and transport costs.

    What about replacing mid-East or Venezuelan oil with homegrown sunshine: yes, solar? The transition from fossil to 21st Century requires a shift in thinking and reallocation of resources, but is the only long-term option.

    Have you seen any figures on Bahamian debt to Venezuela? I saw in an article that it was $3 billion.

    Let us not forget that education is the cornerstone of all, and economic progress is directly related to education.

    I just saw an interview with Malala who was, in between classes, talking about receiving the Nobel Peace prize and about solutions to terrorism. She said the problem of terrorism can only be solved by education, not violence, which breeds more violence. From a young girl: wisdom that all should pay heed to.

    • +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Norman Trabulsy Jr.
      October 23, 2014 at 4:50 pm

      Orjan,

      Yes, I agree 100%, especially as relates to fuel and food, as you stated. Not only for creating jobs, but to head towards a day when The Bahamas is truly a sovereign nation. I do not agree with your banking comment. From my perspective, all banks should be publicly owned. I believe that the majority of the world’s problems stem from the greed of the banking elite, from economic inequality, poverty, war, hunger, on down the line.

      While I certainly agree with you on the educational emphasis, we must remember that the greatest crimes against humanity have been those perpetrated on us by the most highly educated. I am not discounting education, it is just that many of the world’s universities and educational systems have been taken over by corporations and the elites for the sole purpose of creating a populace that thinks like they do and accepts the nonsense that they claim are facts and wisdom.

      As pertains to your comments on Malala, the Pakistani girl who co-won the Nobel Peace prize, I agree wholeheartedly. What is rarely mentioned about her viewpoint and outspoken comments is the fact that she is a diehard Socialist. She believes that the only way forward for humanity is to adopt a socialist economy and she believes that we need to have a peaceful revolution to accomplish this. I happen to agree. But, the world’s people have been so brainwashed to believe that Capitalism is fair, Christian, sustainable and the best economic system, that it will take a generation or two of intellectual enlightenment if it can even then be achieved.

  11. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Albert Wilson
    October 23, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    This is indeed a great article concerning the current debate on the issuance of VAT in The Bahamas.

    However, I’d like to first address some of the points you made regarding the US monetary policies following the 2007 financial crisis and the 2008 recession, relative to its open market operations through quantitative easing. You stated that this policy would effectuate inflation (as per the Quantity Theory of Money). On the contrary, the US inflation, though mildly fluctuating throughout the years following the 2008 recession, has generally stabilized to around 2% which is the targeted inflation rate in most countries, specifically those in the EU. Furthermore, quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve is not expected to induce high growth in inflation rates in the future. Hence, I would not create hysteria regarding inflation, particularly in The Bahamas as its inflation rate is positively correlated to that of the US, and expected inflation is deleterious to both consumption and investment.

    Another point I would like to address is your ideas on free trade. I think it is a common misconception that free trade is more detrimental than it it beneficial. Import barriers actually disincentivise exports by lowering the domestic relative price of exports, changing wages and rental rates that are absorbed by the export sector, and increasing the cost of imported intermediate inputs used by the export sector. Essentially, free trade, on this premise, would facilitate the creation of new production industries that require imported intermediate inputs. The detriments of free trade can be alleviated through export subsidies. At the very least, multilateral trade agreements, which provide price stabilization, allow for a more efficient allocation of resources. The essence of trade barriers is to protect domestic industries but, in the case of the majority of the Bahamian imports, trade barriers are primarily a source of revenue for the government. This is analogous to adding VAT in a country that is economic is more service orientated than goods orientated.

    This brings me to my final point. To say the issuance of VAT will have increasing repercussions is almost baseless without a full analysis of the changes in the other variables pertinent to both fiscal and monetary policies and, ultimately, real GDP. Hence, though VAT does make goods and services more expensive across the board at a flat rate, economies are not static: other variables such as disposable income*, government spending, investment, and net exports (the constituents of real GDP) have to be taken into account. I do believe that austere measures need to be taken in order for the economy to become self-sufficient, much like that of Switzerland and Norway. Positive economic growth will in turn influence the society at large.

    Needless to say, I am not pro-VAT or anti-VAT, as the discussion is still one-sided. Again, thank you for opening the debate to this topic as it is important that the public is informed of both sides of the argument instead of egregiously proclaiming just one effect the issuance of VAT will have on The Bahamian Economy.

    • +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Norman Trabulsy Jr.
      October 24, 2014 at 7:40 am

      Albert,

      I can’t tell you how pleased I am that you took the time and careful thought to respond to this article. While I differ in much of your analysis, I believe that we both wish the best for humanity. That is a perfect starting point for all healthy, civil and democratic dialog.

      As relates to the Quantity Theory of Money and the US Quantitative Easing program; You are quite right that inflation has averaged around 2%. However, the very idea of why, and where, that bail out money has gone is a crime, in and of itself. It has not been inflationary because the banks and financial institutions have not put it back into circulation. They have used it to prop up their own dismal balance sheets and to buy back their own stocks which explains the phenomenal stock market performances the last few years while the real economy continues to suck air. There is a great article on Counterpunch this week by Mike Whitney, and many other writers over the years, which help explain this. Also, the whole idea of Quantitative Easing was to ease credit constraints to get the economy going again. Many thinking economists suggested putting the money directly into consumers’ hands, not the banks, which would have actually helped “people”, as well as, stimulated the consumer demand within the economy much more directly. This idea was shunned because it didn’t completely bail out the banks and financial institutions, leaving them whole and unaccountable for their crimes of fraud which are well established. There are numerous books out that substantiate these crimes. Totally unpunished, though serious crimes against the world’s working people.

      As an aside, I am convinced after looking into the eyes and listening to the likes of Alan Greenspan, Timothy Geithner, Hank Paulson, Angela Mozila, Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, Dick Fuld, James Cayne and many others, that they are sociopaths that should have been stripped of every penny they had and made to start over, never being allowed to come near a financial institution again. Of course that’s just a personal opinion which you may criticize me for, but I’m making it anyway because that’s how I honestly feel. You also state, “Furthermore, quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve is not expected to induce high growth in inflation rates in the future”. According to whom? The same people who said on camera prior to the financial crisis that they couldn’t have seen it coming? That housing prices would never fall? That deregulation was great for everyone, especially the banking and finance sector? The very same people you are suggesting we listen to now?

      While I appreciate your comments in favor of free trade, you suggest that “The detriments of free trade can be alleviated by export subsidies.” Free Trade by definition means no subsidies. This very idea is antithetical to free trade and one of the reasons it is so damaging to smaller nations. We have to go no farther than Mexico or Haiti to see their effects. If NAFTA was such a great idea, why is Mexico still in economic shambles and people still are flocking over the border? Because for one, subsidized corn from the US was dumped onto them putting thousands of farmers out of business while they became dependent on US corn. Once that happened, US farmers could raise the price of corn because Mexicans had no choice anymore. Exactly what happened. So Ross Perot was right, wasn’t he? Why did Bill Clinton apologize to Haiti? Because he allowed their rice farmers to be put out of business and thrown into poverty when the US dumped subsidized rice onto their market having disastrous effects on their farmers, their economy, their poor people.

      I agree that import barriers are a source of revenue for the government of The Bahamas. But, it is no secret that many of the richest business owners here pay no duty on the goods they import for resale here in The Bahamas? My point remains, despite the graft and corruption, that the working people completely support the government of The Bahamas while the richest get a free ride. This is happening all over the world. We are led to believe that we must be thankful for the rich providing jobs, rather than believing that the rich owe their riches to the many people working for them that produce their profits. Simple enough, but educated out of our heads, right? A mere fairness in taxation would solve the problem. Instead, it is claimed that those of us who want change want a complete redistribution of wealth into the hands of the lazy poor people who produce nothing. This argument grows old.

      The biggest problem I have with these trade organizations and trade agreements are that they utterly and completely strip the very idea of democracy and sovereignty from all nations. That is why they are written and passed in complete secrecy and why Obama is pushing to “fast track” them. Precisely so that Congress can be bypassed and they can remain secret until they are signed and underway. Free trade agreements completely strip away the consumers right to have a say in what is added to their food, how it is labeled, how it affects their environment, their labor organizing rights, and the list goes on giving transnational corporations the right to sue sovereign governments, like The Bahamas, in a court that is packed with unaccountable corporate lawyer judges who are appointed by big business. All governments will be meaningless in the face of these free trade agreements. Having looked closely at these “free trade” agreements for many years now, I remain wholly convinced that they are the absolute worse things that can be done to the people of any nation. Corporations are not people, yet we have slanted our entire world’s economy in their favor. Instead of free trade agreements, I would strip all corporations of this silly notion of personhood that has allowed unelected sociopaths to control our political process and to thieve the world’s resources for a chosen few. If you can’t tell Albert, I feel sort of strongly about this issue. I’ve studied these free trade agreements and am certain that they are a death knell for humanity as we know it. Go to Trade Watch .org to hear the other side of these issues you won’t find on the mainstream media.

      As regards your final point on VAT and the need for governments to implement austerity programs. We all know what these austerity programs entail. They have been utterly disastrous for the world’s people, sending millions into poverty, despair, homelessness and suicide, despite these people having fulfilled their social obligations completely throughout their lives. These austerity programs solely benefit the corrupt politicians and bail out the vulture financiers who continue to get richer at the expense of the working people of the world. Using Norway and Switzerland as examples of governments that have become self-sufficient is disingenuous for many reasons. Prior to Norway becoming a petro-state they were a poor fishing country. Switzerland has gained it’s revenue, not by producing things which have real value, rather by it’s banking system, which I’ve alluded to is a criminal enterprise. Yes, the world’s banking system is a criminal enterprise.

      I am neither pro-VAT or anti-VAT, rather just trying to look around the corner and see what is coming for the Bahamian economy and its people.

      What is clear to me is that the monetary and fiscal measures being suggested by you are anathema to the world’s working people and will only further the flow of money and wealth into the hands of the world’s financial elite. Exactly what has been happening for many decades now, despite having listened, acted upon these erroneous, mislabeled and misguided “conservative” measures.

      I believe that our entire economic system, from its “great” thinkers and educational curriculum to the fiscal and monetary policies now in place have utterly failed humanity. For me, the proof is in the pudding. Unfortunately, the mass of the world’s people have been lulled to sleep and the “educated” have been thoroughly brainwashed.

      Peace,

      Norman T

    • +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Norman Trabulsy Jr
      October 24, 2014 at 8:44 am

      Mr. Wilson,

      Please also see an excellent piece that was published today, Oct. 24, in CounterPunch, titled “The Medicine of the Trans Pacific Partnership”, regarding trade agreements.

      Thanks,

      Norman Trabulsy Jr.

  12. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1alvardo bethel
    October 23, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    If we let this piece die, we let our nation die. We can use this piece to rally an occupy movement because TAXES NEVER GET REPEALED EVER!!!!

    • +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Norman Trabulsy Jr.
      October 24, 2014 at 7:49 am

      Alvardo,

      I guess that is the issue. Whether we can come together to create change, to build a world we all can live in for years to come. Ultimately, an Occupy-like movement has great appeal. Yet, we must learn from the mistakes of past Occupy movements and realize that we need to have a coherent message and specific demands. Unfortunately, as I watched the US brutally suppress Occupy free speech and dissent, it seems as if the world’s superpowers have other ideas. It is not far fetched to suggest that if things heat up here in The Bahamas, the government will ask for US assistance in quelling the protests, riots and unrest. Look up Ferguson, Missouri to see how this will play out. The US police are totally militarized, and the US military has ample experience in training some of the most ruthless death squads the world over. Good luck on that one. Just saying….

  13. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Mario Martin
    October 24, 2014 at 4:38 am

    Here is my question, after that beautiful presentation and all of the spot on point. What are we going to physically do to correct what is going on in this country? All we do every day is talk about how our government is screwing us over. Well, you guys talk about the dumbing down of the population. You are saying what most intelligent persons in the country are saying. What will we do to make a change and hold the people responsible accountable for what they have done? Based on the way people feel in this country at this time, thee persons who will stop talking and actually pull the people together will get a great following. I am ready to put all of my resources to back any real movement to stop this government from railroading the Bahamian people. Enough talk, action is needed.

  14. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Norman Trabulsy Jr
    October 24, 2014 at 10:55 am

    Mario,

    You pose the million dollar question that I have struggled with all of my life. I wish I could say it was a straightforward process that we would see the results of in our lifetime. But, I don’t believe we will. I don’t believe this for the following reasons. One, we have placed little to no emphasis on teaching our youth critical thinking. I am absolutely shocked by how many Bahamian kids can’t even add or subtract, can’t carry on an intelligent conversation, can’t even think on their own. I do not mean to pick on Bahamian kids, for I see the same thing occurring in the US and elsewhere. We, as societies, simply expect people to follow authority, be it in the military, in school, in church, from our politicians. No thinking, just do as I say.

    Also, we continue to witness the breakdown in family and family values. The crime rate, especially violent crime, will continue to escalate, not only due to the worsening financial situation, but because we have managed to raise abundant children who respect nothing. No respect for adults, for education, for life, for property, no respect for anything. We continue, as adults, to act in ways contrary to the bible, to law, to human decency, and expect good outcomes for our children.

    In many ways I see The Bahamas as a failed state. There is a lack of honesty and trust among our people. Our governmental leaders always have their hand out and play the very worst type of petty politics to the complete detriment of this country’s people. The rich get away with anything they wish. There is virtually no accountability, which is why so much money is stolen from the hospital, the banks, the utilities, and right on down the line. And, nobody goes to jail. Murderers walk the street, robberies, rapes, break-ins are on the rise. Am I exaggerating?

    We could come together and change things if there were enough people who would work together. But, we are divided and uneducated as a whole. Years of ignorant neglect cannot be changed overnight. That is why it is incumbent upon us to educate ourselves and to mentor children to think critically. To challenge authority and to break away from the conventional wisdom that has gotten us to where we are today.

    Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps there are enough educated, learned, motivated and cooperative people here to throw the political rascals out and find some real statesman to lead this country onward, forward and upward together. But, I doubt it based on my observations. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. It is difficult the world over to find free-thinking, justice-seeking selfless leaders willing to step up to the plate. It takes bravery, courage and fortitude to wade in among the deceit, corruption, and mendacity that pervades all politics everywhere.

    Mario, I truly wish I had a better answer. However, I do know that the very best of human nature is most evident when we are faced with a disaster. I have seen it in the aftermath of hurricanes. Somehow, during and after these devastating events, people from all walks of life come together to help each other, regardless of race, politics, or social and economic status. These basic human needs galvanize the very best in each of us and there is little doubt as to who we really are deep down. Modern society, whether by design or accident, continues to pit one against the other to the point where we are little better than rats in a cage. Whatever it takes, I truly dream of a day when our humanity; compassion, cooperation and empathy can rise again. The human spirit is strong, our virtues amazing, and our brotherhood and commonality are undeniable.

    Perhaps it will be extreme crisis that liberates the best in us. Sad that it may take that, but at this point I would welcome whatever it takes that we may come together as a people and truly work together for the betterment of us all. I know one thing for sure, Mario. we are at our very best when we are truly working in the service of others, and truly helping our fellow brothers and sisters. There is no greater reward in life.

    Regards,

    Norman T

  15. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Patrice E. Russell
    October 24, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Norman,

    Great article, very insightful with reality staring us in the face.
    It is true that there are very few statesman left, it seems ambition and greed have overcome the best intentions.

    Many Bahamians have become materialistic and are more concerned with keeping up with the Jones’ rather than guarding the values that made this nation great.

    It amazes me, the level of criticism levied at the government, current and prior. We are the government; candidates are drawn from our pool; they reflect were we are as a people. We elect politicians with our eyes wide open. If we don’t like the direction the nation is headed, then we as a people need to get out of our comfort zone and do something about it. Comfort is the enemy of change and as long as we are comfortable, the water will boil until we are no more, poor frogs.

    May the eyes of Lord continue to find favor in this nation and with our people.

    I’m looking forward to your next article.

    • Vote -1 Vote +1Norman Trabulsy Jr
      October 31, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      Patrice,

      Thanks for your kind words. Comfort is the enemy of change. Isn’t that the truth!

  16. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1A. S. Anderson
    October 26, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Excellent piece, I am about to share it on my page. I am presently living on a Family Island where goods are already expensive. I see where persons will not be able to provide basic goods for their families. I have been encouraging those I know not to spend extravagantly over the holidays that is purchasing gifts etc. (as we Bahamians are known for), as they may regret not investing their funds in the basic needs for their family come January 1st.

  17. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Anonymous
    October 27, 2014 at 10:16 am

    This is such a great article!

    Expedia reports that the Bahamas is the most expensive Caribbean destination and this is -before- the VAT implementation. There is so much corruption in the government that I can understand why people don’t want to take the time to try to change things. The gambling houses are destroying the middle class. Some Bahamians truly care and try to make a difference, but many whom I’ve spoken to like to be upset about everything but are unwilling to do the work necessary to create change. Very few people are willing to step up and take responsibility, and -all- of the political parties are corrupt, full stop.

    The customs and duties are so complex that they create an opportunity for fraud with each and every shipment. We’ve lost our ability to grow our own food and take care of ourselves, and our utilities are the highest in the world. Net metering still hasn’t been worked out, and we still live in a technological dark age compared to the rest of the world. We are environmentally unsound, and our people have very high rates of cancer and diabetes (maybe from our environment?). For instance, there is no recycling program at all on our island and all of the waste gets burned at the dump, putting all of those chemicals back into the air and water supply. Most local farmers still use “dust” as an insecticide which is toxic to marine environments. It’s almost too much to bear, to watch this beautiful country and its people fall into decay.

    There are a few simple solutions to some of the problems:

    – Eliminate the complicated and frustrating duty system and VAT and move to a simple, across the board, flat tax of 15-20%.
    – Start collecting hotel tax from owners who rent out their properties.
    – Pass net metering to allow for the generation of solar power.
    – Establish a recycling program for the country and prohibit the use of toxic chemicals that continue to damage our environment.

    This is just a start, but doing these steps would show that the government has common sense and is working for the people. Bahamians in general, need to stop living for just today and realize that everyone’s actions affect our nation’s future and our ability to take care of ourselves.

  18. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Graham B. Knowles
    October 28, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    Great article and very well written. As far as who put us in debt…ahhh…let’s look to all those great politicians we admire so much who borrow all this money for crap projects. $200 million for roads? Really? Why not upgrade the school system? Better education, better health care. And then yes, who gets to pay it back? Us! I agree 100% of Bahamians -have- to wake up. Kick these suckers out! Time for some new blood. Real leaders who care about the Bahamas and Bahamians. Perry is the last of the old breed. But who is going to take over after him? I hope McCartney gets in. At least someone different. And as far as the number houses…ahhhh…no brainer. Tax them. We’re losing millions by not doing so. Bahamians are gambling and will gamble. This is a fact. Wake up people. Legalize it and then tax it, and while you’re at it legalize marijuana, as just about every other country is now doing, and tax that too.

  19. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Cordell W. Riley
    October 30, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Small islands in the region are facing similar problems. Strange how politicians seem to think that gaming is the answer when its track record is less than stellar.

  20. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Alan Macqueen
    November 4, 2014 at 10:54 am

    You do an exceptional job of laying out the impact to society by the political landscape in “paradise”. Unfortunately it reminds me a to great degree of the US. Governments are increasingly driven by the financial forces of greatest benefit to the few with the general population being mined for their social and economic resources.

    The downward spiral of quality of life for the current and coming generations appears to be driven in part by the lack of emphasis and funding of quality education. It seems there is an infinite thirst for “entertainment”, and almost none for knowledge. Without education our ability to make good choices on all scales is greatly diminished. The un- and under-educated have a harder time pushing back and demanding quality governance.

    When making life choices, the more educated are likely to make better choices. Gambling is one of those choices. Those who can least afford it participate the most. The 8000:1 relationship has eluded them. Sad that the referendum was ignored, as it is always easier to promote those with financial incentive than rescind those without
    .
    With advocates such as yourself, I hold hope for your beautiful nation of islands and water.

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